Volume 54 Number 46
                    Produced: Fri Mar 23  6:18:54 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Looking for sexism in all the wrong places?
         [Leah S. Gordon]
Mi she-Berakh for Agunot (6)
         [Richard Dine, Brandon Raff, Guido Elbogen, Freda B Birnbaum,
Jonathan Baker, Aliza Berger]


From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 08:18:36 -0700
Subject: Looking for sexism in all the wrong places?

When I asked if there was a sexist flavor to the criticisms of Yael's
desire to protect her creative work, everyone thought that this was not
the case, which I can respect.

However, I would like to respond to Eitan, who said I didn't "have" to
ask the question and risked being seen as too quick to call something
sexist.  Of course no one has to question things, but I saw some
fledgling evidence that this might have a bit of sexism, so that is why
I did so:

1. Yael was asked (IMO with a bit of hostility) "why" she wanted to have
credit/control over her work.  This is sometimes asked of women in all
kinds of fields, as though it's not quite nice to want credit, and thus
not quite feminine.  This has, for instance, been documented about
authorship in scientific papers and who gets credit in print.

However, I trust Avi when he says that he would ask a man just as much,
so that is fine with me.

2. The substance of the prayer is about a women's issue.  Oddly, SBA
confirmed my worries by saying he wondered "when feminism would be
raised" so I guess he felt the twinges of a gender issue also, if not
from the same vantage point.  In my experience, people are sometimes
less respectful of prayers/statements that seem to come from a feminine
perspective (e.g. the way people talk about women's megillah readings,
or women's wishes w.r.t. public observance, etc.)

Again, I trust the respondents who have said that this was not an
ingredient in their criticisms of Yael and her copyright claim.

I think that in our culture, there is often a risk that women's voices
and concerns will be minimized, and it is better to question about
sexism than to ignore a possible occurrence.  I think that this is
particularly true on M.J considering directions taken by certain topics
of conversation that I've seen in my 15+ years on the list.  And, I'm
willing to listen when people say "not sexist this time" :)

--Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Richard Dine <richard.dine@...>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 07:48:47 -0400
Subject: Mi she-Berakh for Agunot

While I certainly claim no understanding of who is right in this intense
debate, perhaps a lighter point may be of interest.  In the recorded
English language version of S.Y. Agnon's "Betrothed" is a booklet in
which the following story is told: "One day a member of the press asked
Agnon: 'Tell me, sir, what exactly did you mean when you wrote this
story.'  Agnon answered: 'I would love to tell you what I meant.  But
you know there is a fellow over here at Bar Ilan University whose job it
is every day to tell his students what I mean. So if I were to explain
my work to you, I would be taking away this man's parnassa.'"

Richard Dine

From: Brandon Raff <Brandon@...>
Date: Thu, 22 Mar 2007 13:46:32 +0200
Subject: Re: Mi she-Berakh for Agunot


There was never a question concerning the authorship of the
prayer. Anyone, other than the author, claiming authorship of that
prayer may very well fall in the ambit of Geneiva in
Halacha. Furthermore as I quoted in my previous submission, Chazal teach
us that "Whoever reports a saying in the name of its originator, brings
redemption to the World." (Megillah 15a).  Therefore it is in our
interest to attribute the authorship to its rightful person.

Having written many essays, I find constructive criticism very
important.  It is never easy listening to it and I try extremely hard to
hold myself back from defending myself and my statements, but without
such criticism I would never be able to improve the quality of my
work. The fact that mistranslations / misunderstanding of your prayer
arise should give you pause to consider whether there would be a more
effective expression that could be used to portray the intention of the
prayer without giving rise to the confusion. As you said, you "bemoan
the fact that Orthodox Jews do not see it as a priority to be fluent in
Hebrew," yet it is these same Orthodox Jews whom you would like to
recite the prayer. The prayer is not a literary essay that only the
elite would read, it is written for the general populace, and if they do
not understand the prayer on a simple translation level, they are not
going to recite it. They are not going to look to an authoritative
translation unless it is published with along side the Hebrew.

It is also worth bearing in mind the statement of Chazal: (Pirkei Avot

Hillel Said: " do not make a statement that cannot be easily understood on 
the ground that it will be understood eventually"

[translation per Artscroll Siddur, apologies to Hillel for any
mistranslations if applicable :-) ]


From: Guido Elbogen <havlei.h@...>
Date: Thu, 22 Mar 2007 15:47:01 +0200
Subject: Re: Mi she-Berakh for Agunot

I feel very sorry for Yael. She has quagmired herself in intellectual
discussions on the extremely hazy secular judicial aspects of non
commercial copyright in general and intellectual property rights in

Except for comments of dina demalchuta dina, and hasagos gvul, little of
this discussion seems to be halacha based. I would hope that given the
chance Yael would not prefer to battle her case in the law courts of the

If the halacha doesn't seem to deal with IPR in detail, could it be that
either it isn't a concern, or perhaps non commercial public domain
duplication is halachically permitted?

As a side issue, did Onkelos, Rashi, Tosephos have a problem with
translation and interpretation long before the days of the printing

The first major teshuvos in the early days of the printing presses after
two printing companies aimed to print the same sefer. Even in those days
the issues were commercial and not IPR.

With advent of Xerox machines, text duplication while relatively
expensive, no longer was an artisan craft leading the secular judicial
world to create a fictitious entity called intellectual property and a
bundle of laws to protect their owners. The few teshuvos relating to the
issue were generally concerned that full scale duplication would lead to
financial loss.

And then came the Internet...and the free public domain!  The halachic
accountability of financial damage to personal property in the reshus
harabim is limited. But where finance is not a problem, then surely the
dictum "let the owner beware" applies.

Most astute researchers will allow abstracts on the Internet, but the
basis of their work is usually kept far from public scrutiny.

IMHO very few teshuvos have been written on non financial loss
duplication leading me to believe that many of the gedolim do not
consider intellectual property rights an inherent entity.

And as far as dina demalchuta dina is concerned, we are only bidden to
follow those laws for the public good if they do not clash with halacha.
However halacha generally takes no account of secular law in halachic
judicial proceedings.

I hesitate to get involved in Yael's presumption that any Cohen, Levi,
Yisrael can choose a pressing topic and have it instituted as a prayer
without the agreement of Am Yisrael in general and gedolei Torah in
particular. Our order of prayers are time hallowed and not given to be
added to or altered at random.

The problem of the sorev netinat get is that of the secular courts not
recognizing the authority and legality of a beth din. As such it would
appear that Yael's mishiberach is a Tefillas Shav


From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 09:43:01 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Mi she-Berakh for Agunot

Avi Feldblum comments on the content of Yael's prayer for agunot:

> To respond just to this point, I think the implication Lisa sees in the 
> text is very clear to me as well. Here is the approximate english 
> translation of the Hebrew that I think clearly makes this implication:
>   God who releases prisoners [], give in the hearts of the judges of
>   Israel a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of good advice
>   and courage, a spirit of knowledge and fear of God, that they may
>   release all chained women and those who have been refused a writ of
>   divorce from their bonds
> [...]
> The statement I see being made is that if the judges of Israel where to 
> have the proper spirit of knowledge and fear of God, then they would be 
> able to release all chained women. To my understanding, I view this as a 
> slander on many well meaning Rabbanim who are full of fear of God, but 
> are not able to "release all chained women". On the contrary, many of 
> the people who have made these type of statements basically state right 
> out, that if the Rabbis don't "solve" this problem, we should just 
> change the law. Some of these people are also the ones that say that the 
> concept of Mamzer is old fashioned and should be abolished. In this 
> context, I do not agree that I could support saying this text, as 
> written, in shul.

It didn't strike me that way when I first read it.  I took it as a
general request for those qualities in our leaders, that they may then
approach these cases in a proper spirit.  I will add that it often seems
that it is not a question of being ABLE, with the proper halachic tools,
to release women who are being refused a get, but of being WILLING to do
so.  So for those who do not "yet" have a proper spirit about it, it is
a request that they should get it.

Also, at least this bit of it, does refer to the get-refused and not to
the MIA-type of agunah, which, as you point out, is a whole other issue.

Freda Birnbaum

From: Jonathan Baker <jjbaker@...>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 11:58:14 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Mi she-Berakh for Agunot

From: Yael Levine <ylevine@...>

> Once again, outsiders are telling me and letting me know what the
> "kavvanah" in the prayer was. And again, for precisely such reasons I
> will not endorse any translation.

I'm sorry, but here I agree with Avi & Orrin - you're asserting the
right to control what people think when they read your prayer, and that
is a right that no author has.  Once an author releases a text to the
world, people will read that text through filters of their own
experience and learning. "Deconstruction ain't just a building project
down the street."  (by analogy with "Denial ain't just a river in

This is especially so with prayer.  Which is why Chazal were careful
with how they constructed their prayers.  Even so, prayers evoke
different ideas for different people.  E.g., how do you perceive "elokei
avraham, elokei yitzvhak, v'elokei yaakov"?  What aspect(s) of God's
relationship with each of the fathers comes to the fore?  Is it the same
every day, or does it change as circumstances in your life change?

> SBA quoted the Radak: "...kesheherim keren le'amoy, sheyotzi'em min
> hagolus veyekabtzem bo'amim, veyorem karnom al kol ha'amim...". This
> has nothing to do with the articulation in the prayer for Agunot, and
> "raise their redemption" is an erroneous translation. This is but one

Perhaps, if the translation is to be "literal".  "Raising the horn" is
literal, but "repayment in kind" is just as much an interpretation as
"raise them in their redemption above all other nations."  I looked
through some of your sources in RSR Hirsch's commentary, and he only
reads one of them as "repayment in kind" - ps. 112:9.  92:11 is
"military victory", 89:18 is "redemption", 148:14 is repayment in kind
for those who were loyal to Him, after the Redemption.  75:5 means
"having a haughty insolence."

So there is a lot of redemption, some repayment in kind.

> appearance, but the expression may be found in other places as
> well. See, inter alia, I Shmuel 2, 1; ibid. 2, 10; Psalms 89, 18;
> ibid. 92, 11; ibid. 112, 9; ibid. 148, 14; Divrei Ha-Yamim 25,
> 5. There is a different usage in Psalms 75, 5. In general terms,
> "yarim et karnan" in the prayer for Agunot means that after they are
> freed, Hashem will lift and raise them up, i.e. repay them in kind for
> their prior inferior existence and standing.

I don't even see that in the context of the line in the prayer.  I don't
see an implication that all the clauses in that sentence refer to what
happens *after* the women are freed.  In fact, it would seem to me that
"yarim et karnan" means "grant them victory" in their cases.

The King of Kings of Kings will:
  1) stand at their right hands
  2) raise up their horns
  3) raise up for them long life and health
and they will no longer have burden and breakage.

It really sounds to me like "God will give them strength and endurance
to see their cases through to victory", rather than "God will do all
four things after they are freed."

        name: jon baker              web: http://www.panix.com/~jjbaker
     address: <jjbaker@...>     blog: http://thanbook.blogspot.com

From: Aliza Berger <alizadov@...>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 11:55:26 +0200
Subject: Mi she-Berakh for Agunot

Orrin wrote:

> Over the years I've seen put on the shulchan, from where we say these
> prayers, a misheberach for Jonathan Pollard, for those who don't talk
> in shul, for Israeli prisoners, and numerous others.  I don't know who
> put them there, but as the gabbai I disposed of them all.  And the one
> for agunot would suffer the same fate.>>

I believe that one shul I know of alternates them--one Shabbat a month
the agunah prayer is said, one Shabbat the one for Israeli prisoners,

In the field of translation, the translator consults the author when the
author is available and knows the target language. The translator is
grateful to be able to do so rather than guessing. Yael is available and
fluent in English. Additionally, it would have been only courteous of
Lisa to ask Yael's permission to translate it in the first place. As
Yael has shown in her examples to Avi, a work of poetry or prayer has
many shades of meaning. In my opinion, someone else rushing ahead with a
translation is like their trampling on a carefully tended plant.



End of Volume 54 Issue 46