Volume 54 Number 33
                    Produced: Mon Mar 19  5:30:35 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Ethics, Morality and Halacha
         [Meir Shinnar]
Mi she-Berakh for Agunot (3)
         [Yael Levine, Orrin Tilevitz, Avi Feldblum]
Purim Costumes
         [David Neuman]
Rabbinic authority (previously Conservative Responsa)
         [Barry S Bank]
Shehechiyanu on Shoes?
         [Leah S. Gordon]
Steinsaltz Controversy
         [Richard Schultz]
"We" and "They"
         [Shmuel Himelstein]
         [Orrin Tilevitz]


From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2007 14:04:27 -0400
Subject: Re: Ethics, Morality and Halacha

      Shaya Goldmeier says

      Jeanette says: "but then again, I have discovered that ethics and
      morality don't often have anything at all to do with halacha."  I
      would ask that Jeanette amend her statement to read "but then
      again, I have discovered that todays (or present) ethics and
      morality don't often have anything at all to do with halacha."
      Ethics and morals throughout the ages has been subjective and
      ever-changing. To make an inflammatory statement as this about
      todays ethics is unfair. The Torah ascribes a certain ethical
      system and allows for us to adjust it under certain conditions. 
      This statement though, while typed in obvious frustration, is
      simply incorrect.  

I would amend Jeanette in a different way (which I think that she might
even agree with).  ethics and morality often don't have anything at all
to do with how many rabbis interprete and apply halacha.

The issue isn't that the ethics or morality being discussed is perhaps
against true torah morality - there are instances that one can adduce
for that as well, but the problem is that, especially today, many poskim
take no cognizance of moral issues - even when thos moral issues are
solidly based on halacha. In Halachic Man, Rav Soloveichik could
legitimately claim that his grandfather, widely recognized for his
tremendous impact on halachic study - was also the quintessential moral
man. Today, that is a claim that few can make - and there is wide
divergence between halacha and morality.

eg, it is widely recognized that R Menashe Klein is responsible for
morally irresponsible decisions regarding agunot - yet many rabbis
continue to cite him as a halachic authority - therefore stating that
morality and halacha are two separate realms.

Recently, R David Cohen, a well known major posek, came as a scholar in
residence to Teaneck, and talked at length about how gezel akum and
cheating and stealing from the government and nonjews is perfectly mutar
if one can get away with it - and yet he is still considered a major
posek with no wide outrage. After all, he is a posek...

Rav H Schachter, a major figure at YU, spoke publicly (available on YU's

that klal yisrael - the only people who should have a vote on any issues
regarding the land of israel - are only those who keep the 13 ikkarim.
Other Jews are still Jews - which means (as he explicitly says) that one
can't sell them chametz on pesach or use them as a shabbes goy - but not
have any say, as they are not part of klal yisrael (presumably they can
also be cannon fodder for the decisions of klal yisrael ...). there was
(and is) no outrage

It is this disjunction between halacha, poskim, and morality that
Jeanette Friedman rightly comments on - and given her suffering as a
victim of this disjunction, she has earned the right to criticize, and
criticize loudly and publicly.

Meir Shinnar


From: Yael Levine <ylevine@...>
Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2007 19:48:35 +0200
Subject: Mi she-Berakh for Agunot

Brandon wrote: 

> Why would you want to copyright a prayer? If your reason for writing
> the prayer is altruistic, surely you want it freely distributed so
> that everyone can pray to Hashem to have mercy on the agunahs?

I'd first like to state that I'm pleased that the prayer has been well
received in such a short time, and it was composed for the benefit of
solving the agunot problem.

According to the present copyright law, a work is copyright by the
author in any case, i.e. whether he appended a copyright sign or not, or
in any other instance. So there is no need to undergo any legal
procedure in order for an author to copyright a work. As I stated in the
initial email, the prayer may be recited freely, and for that purpose
printed out freely. Additionally, as I have written, I will favorably
consider requests for printing the prayer in written sources, but
printing it in such sources does require written permission. I believe
if you had read that email carefully, there would have been no question.


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2007 19:42:18 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Mi she-Berakh for Agunot

Yael Levine complains that Lisa Liel infringed her copyright on the
prayer she composed by publishing Lisa's unauthorized English
translation on the web.

It is true that publishing an unauthorized translation may infringe the
author's copyright.  However, there is an exception in copyright law
called the "fair use" doctrine.  According to the U.S. Copyright Office:

Section 107 [of the copyright law] contains a list of the various
purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be
considered "fair," such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching,
scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be
considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:

   1.  the  purpose and character of the use, including whether such use
is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
   2.  the nature of the copyrighted work;
   3.  amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the
copyrighted work as a whole; and
   4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the
copyrighted work.

The distinction between "fair use" and infringement may be unclear and
not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or
notes that may safely be taken without permission. . . . .

I am no copyright lawyer, but it appears to me that Lisa's translation
may be within the fair use doctrine.  While Lisa translated the entire
work, the translation was not for commercial purposes; the translated
work is a short prayer intended for uncompensated public dissemination,
and there is no possibility that the public will purchase Lisa's
translation as opposed to Yael's original, because as I understand it
Yael's original was never intended to be purchased.  I believe the
fourth factor is regarded as the most important one.

The basic purpose of the copyright law is to protect authors' economic
interests. As I understand the situation, Yael has no economic interest
at stake.  Yael seems to be doing nothing more than asserting the
exclusive right to tell people what the prayer she has written for them
to recite means.  That is, she seems to be trying to use the copyright
law for no purpose other than to control people's thought processes.
That may be a misuse of the copyright law and another reason why there
is no infringement here.

From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Mar 2007 04:54:32 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Mi she-Berakh for Agunot

On Sat, 17 Mar 2007, Orrin Tilevitz wrote:

> The basic purpose of the copyright law is to protect authors' economic
> interests. As I understand the situation, Yael has no economic
> interest at stake.  Yael seems to be doing nothing more than asserting
> the exclusive right to tell people what the prayer she has written for
> them to recite means.  That is, she seems to be trying to use the
> copyright law for no purpose other than to control people's thought
> processes.  That may be a misuse of the copyright law and another
> reason why there is no infringement here.

I too claim no legal qualifications, but from a lay perspective I
thought that copyright law also had as a purpose to allow the copyright
owner to maintain "artistic control" over their ceation. It seems to me
that this is what Yael is doing. She is not trying to "control people's
thought processes", but to control the artistic content / accuracy of a
derivative work, i.e. the translation.

That having been said, I do not see that Yael has responded to Brandon's
question. It does not seem to me that he is questioning whether you have
a legal right to claim copyright over over the prayer, but rather he

> Why would you want to copyright a prayer?

Lastly I would like to respond to Yael's response to my earlier
post. Yael identified 4 specific examples of faulty elements in the
translation that Lisa posted to the group. This was in support of her
claim that "This translation is entirely incorrect in the majority of
places". Of the items she identifies, only one of them, at least to me,
represents an element of translation that may significantly alter the
meaning of the prayer (rightly vs chains), where the purpose of the
translation was not as a public version to be read in place of the
prayer, but a vehicle to open a discussion on several points where Lisa
disagees with positions she sees Yael taking in the assumptions built
into the prayer. I think that the question of copyright and violation of
such has overtaken the basic thrust of Lisa's submission. For the
purpose of publicly reading the Mi she-Berach, we should wait for an
authorized translation either from Yael or approved by her.

Avi Feldblum


From: David Neuman <daveselectric@...>
Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2007 16:43:22 -0500
Subject: Purim Costumes

Shimon Lebowitz wrote   
> Assuming that the costume included a four cornered garment, that
> sounds correct. My question is why you think the Me-il was such a
> garment? All depictions I have seen show a *round* garment, and the
> Torah, in describing it, uses the word "saviv" ('around') quite a few
> times.

There is a machlokes how the meil looked. According to the Ramabam it
had four corners. The Minchas Chinuch ( MItzva 99:4) questions according
to the Ramabam why it did not have tztzis. However, none of his answers
apply to costumes. (The meiel of the costumes has four corners.)


From: Barry S Bank <bsbank@...>
Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2007 16:20:20 GMT
Subject: Rabbinic authority (previously Conservative Responsa)

In a posting on Fri, 9 Mar 2007, on the subject of Conservative Responsa,
Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...> writes:

> .....rabbis have never had the authority to nullify a toraitic
> ordinance....

If that were true, then we would blow shofar when Rosh Hashanah falls on
Shabbat, bench lulav and etrog on Shabbat Sukkot, and in the galut, we
would put on t'fillin on the last day of every chag -- all of which are
examples of mitzvot d'oraita (Toraitic ordinances) which were nullified
by rabbinic authority.

--Barry S. Bank


From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2007 09:00:52 -0700
Subject: Shehechiyanu on Shoes?

Perets Mett writes:

>This reasoning would not apply to shehecheyonu (though most people
>would not make shehecheyonu for new shoes anyway, since they are more
>of a necessity than an enjoyable experience).

LOL!  Whether or not new shoes are an "enjoyable experience" apparently
varies significantly by sartorial inclination, if not also by



From: Richard Schultz <schultr@...>
Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2007 16:12:45 +0200
Subject: Steinsaltz Controversy

In mail-jewish 54:31, Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...> writes

> Let me revise a point I made in my prior posting: unless there is a
> technical distinction I'm missing, I question the mindset of one who
> would view a Steinsaltz gemara as any more "sofek kedusha" than a
> Vilna shas.

Most of those people are probably unaware of just who was responsible
for preparing the Vilna Sha"s, and probably have never read the
acknowledgments at the end that inter alia give quite fulsome thanks to
the folks at the Vatican Library.  They probably also don't know about
the number of people who, at the time, refused to use the Vilna Sha"s
(for political reasons as well as religious ones).  It amuses me that
the ArtScroll gemara uses the Vilna edition as its text, with no
attempts at emendations such as restoration of censored passages -- do
they not know that the Vilna Sha"s was prepared by maskilim (aka
apikorosim), or do they not care?

> That's perfectly ok on one level, but Artscroll is intended to be a
> self-contained bubble for BTs and other less-learned folk who will
> always remain so.

I don't know about you, but that's why I find their tendency to distort
texts kind of worrisome.

					Richard Schultz


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2007 17:45:35 +0200
Subject: "We" and "They"

While Daniel Geretz points out the need for the Modern Religious and the
Haredi worlds "to be able to find some sort of common ground," I think
that there will always be a major impediment which almost definitely
precludes such an eventuality.

The problem is best encapsulated in a joke I heard decades ago, about a
Catholic priest and a Prorestant minister. The minister said to the
priest: "We really should work together. After all, we both serve the
same God." The priest replied: "You're right. You in your way, and I in

As long as the Charedi world refuses to grant equal Halachic legitimacy
to the Modern Religious world, there can be no common ground between

Shmuel Himelstein


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2007 07:51:21 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Zeicher/Zecher

What authority do you have for the proposition that those who pronounce
Hebrew in separadit--as opposed to Israeli street Hebrew--do not
differentiate between a tzeyrey (as in Fay Wray) and a segol?


End of Volume 54 Issue 33