Volume 55 Number 04
                    Produced: Tue Jun 19  5:52:38 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Expanded definition of Kashrut
         [Irwin Weiss]
Handicapped Accessible shule / bimah
         [Alex Herrera]
kol beseder
         [Leah Perl]
Lo BaShamayim He (was: Fiat Libellus Repudii)
         [Alex Heppenheimer]
Msorevet Leget
"Tuition Bill" - Support? (2)
         [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz, Dr. Ben Katz]


From: Irwin Weiss <irwin@...>
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2007 08:39:37 -0400
Subject: Expanded definition of Kashrut

One difficulty that I have with the Conservative Rabbinate creating a
further requirement for Kosher food (see recent message of Janice Gelb)
is that it is illogical to create this requirement for food, but not for
other products. For example, is a sweater made in a shop in Asia where
the wages and working conditions are not up to the standards of the
Conservative Rabbinate a non-kosher sweater?  Will the Conservative
Rabbinate send economists and labor experts around the globe to inspect
the working conditions?

It is hard enough to be confident of the Kashrut of one's chickens (See
prior Monsey NY fiasco).

That's just one problem.

Just my 2 cents as a Conservative Jew.
Irwin Weiss


From: Alex Herrera <odat@...>
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2007 12:19:11 -0500
Subject: RE: Handicapped Accessible shule / bimah

Carl Singer <casinger@...> writes:

> (2) if stairs are involved there must be sturdy hand rails and stairs
> wide enough for a helping hand -- and hopefully not too many stairs.

It works for me. 

I am handicapped and I am often thwarted by ramps made for the
wheelchair-bound. Sloping floors or ramps can cause me to topple and
fall. I call such ramps "leg-breakers". So when a synagogue attempts to
accommodate one type of handicap, they will invariably create
difficulties for people with other types of handicaps.

Fewer steps with a wide enough tread for a "walker" would be fabulous.
(Build each step like a landing so that a walker can rest safely on
it. Most handicapped folks can get up those steps themselves.) Then one
could safely manage a wheelchair up a step or two with a little help.

It is humbling to ask for help but that may be why G-d has made me
handicapped... to teach me humility... to force me to reach out to my
fellows and ask for help. It also provides an opportunity for
able-bodied congregants to collect "mitzvah points".

There is something wrong with the able-bodied ignoring the needs of the
handicapped. There is something equally wrong with the handicapped
refusing the able-bodied to lend a helping hand. Your personal
participation is required... handicapped and able-bodied alike.

After I recited the blessing for an aliyah, I stepped away and almost
collapsed. A man reached out and held me up. He put his arm around my
shoulder and carefully guided me back to my seat. I was grateful. I was
grateful for the help and for the touch of a caring human being... my
fellow Jew. And he was given a chance to prove himself before G-d and
the congregation. He is a good man. I never doubted it, but one never
knows for sure until one is proven. He passed the test.

Alex Herrera


From: Leah Perl <leahperl@...>
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2007 09:15:08 -0400
Subject: Re: kol beseder

According to my sister in law, kol beseder derives from copacetic, and
was originally 'kol btzedek'.  I don't know if this is true, or a bove

Leah Perl 


From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2007 15:16:38 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Lo BaShamayim He (was: Fiat Libellus Repudii)

In MJ 54:99, Brandon Raff wrote in response to R' E.M. Teitz:

>>What was the case of R. Eliezer and R. Yehoshua?  A case arose
>>which was not explicitly covered, and R. Yehoshua pointed out that
>>heavenly signs could not replace human reasoning based on existing Torah
>>principles in resolving the dispute. Further, to say that "though the
>>will of the majority, they have an ability to understand and interpret
>>the Torah, even if their understanding is wrong" is meaningless, since
>if the majority understands the Torah's intent in a certain way, then by
>>definition, that is the correct understanding.

>I think there is a gross misunderstanding of the argument between R'
>Eliezer and R' Yehoshua (and the Sages). The issue is NOT about
>following the majority even if they are wrong. Surely R' Eliezer was
>well aware of the rules that a) the Halacha follows the majority and b)
>"lo bashamayim he". That being the case why was he arguing against the
>majority and calling upon shamayim for proof?


>Regarding the dispute with R' Eliezer, he was using 'shamayim' as proof
>that he was on a higher madrega than the Sages and accordingly the
>majority rule is not relevant. That is why the Bat Kol did NOT say that
>the oven is tahor - it said that in all matters the halachah agrees with
>R' Eliezer.

I would like to first protest against the lack of kavod ha-Torah in
labeling as "a gross misunderstanding" a statement by R' Teitz, a talmid
chacham and a community rav. At least a disclaimer such as "b'mechilas
k'vodo," or the English parallel "with all due respect," might have been

The Yerushalmi (Moed Katan 3:1) already deals with the question of how
R' Eliezer could overlook "acharei rabbim lehatos" (the rule of
following the majority). The answer is given that he objected to the
fact that they burned the objects that he declared tahor (which had
touched this oven). I don't quite understand this statement, since (a)
that doesn't seem to be a valid reason to override "acharei rabbim," and
(b) the sequence of events was that first the other Sages disagreed with
him, then they overruled his opinion, and then they burned the taharos,
not the other way around. In any case, though, it seems pretty clear
that the Yerushalmi did understand this as an issue where "acharei
rabbim" is germane.

If I'm understanding Maharsha (on Bava Metzia 59b) correctly, he's
saying something similar to what Mr. Raff writes, that R' Eliezer was
attempting to prove (via the carob tree, the water conduit, etc.) that
he was on a higher level than the other Sages and that his reasoning
should therefore outweigh theirs. On the other hand, I see where Doros
HaRishonim (vol. 3 of the Israeli ed., p. 206 and 288) gives a more
"down-to-earth" reason: R' Eliezer was the "chacham havaad," whose role
was to give practical halachic rulings; since the full Sanhedrin was
unable to assemble (due to Roman persecution), he held that majority
rule is not operative and that he was entitled to rule according to his
own opinion. This would seem to be more in accordance with R' Teitz's
comments. (The Gemara there also makes a point of mentioning that R'
Eliezer first tried bringing "all the arguments in the world" to support
his view but was unable to convince the other Sages. In other words,
then, to put it in R' Teitz's terms, since R' Eliezer's "human reasoning
based on existing Torah principles" had proven ineffective, heavenly
signs were meaningless. If R' Eliezer was arguing on the basis that he's
on a higher level, he wouldn't have needed all of those arguments in the
first place.)

>Finally it is worth noting that R' Yehoshua ruled that the oven was
>tamei, a safe position to take because if he were wrong no harm would
>have been caused. It is easier to be strict than to be lenient in

I'm not sure this is correct, for a couple of reasons:

* The Gemara states that they burned "all of the things that R' Eliezer
  had declared tahor." If these were non-sacred objects, there would
  have been no need to burn them: they could have been dipped in a
  mikvah (or for foods and other objects that can't be purified that
  way, they could simply have been used or eaten in a state of
  tum'ah). Evidently we're speaking of terumah or other sacred food,
  which is no longer usable (except as fuel or animal feed) once it
  becomes tamei.

Now, it's true that R' Yehoshua holds (Terumos 8:8) that
doubtfully-tamei terumah may be exposed and destroyed; but he's just one
opinion among three, the other two being R' Eliezer (who holds that on
the contrary, it must be protected) and Rabban Gamliel (who says that it
should just be left as-is). If R' Yehoshua was acting on the basis of "a
safe position to take," then for him to have gone ahead and burned the
terumah would have been to do exactly what R' Eliezer had just been
excommunicated for - following his own opinion rather than that of the
majority. (Indeed, the halachah follows Rabban Gamliel - Rambam,
Hil. Terumos 12:3.) Evidently, then, R' Yehoshua held that the terumah
is definitely tamei. That's not at all a safe position, because if that
was wrong and the terumah was tahor after all, then he would have been
violating the mitzvah (in this week's parashah, Bamidbar 18:8) of
guarding terumah.

* There's also the mitzvah of "bal tashchis" (not to destroy things
  needlessly), and the general consideration that "ha-Torah chasah al
  mamonam shel Yisroel" (the Torah is solicitous about Jewish
  property). For the Sages to burn "all of the items that R' Eliezer had
  declared tahor" just because of a chumra would be a violation of this
  mitzvah. (Before anyone objects to this statement on the basis of the
  matter with the sheitels a couple of years back, bear in mind that
  that was a situation of possible avodah zarah, about which the Torah
  itself is more stringent.)

Kol tuv,


From: Anonymous
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2007 09:24:53
Subject: Msorevet Leget

A very good friend of mine from high school days is in this situation.
We attended a main-stream right-wing girls school.  She was one of those
kids who never defies authority, and is always super-respectful of

Her husband is emotionally dysfunctional.  She went for marriage
counseling, but he refused to go.  Before she left him, she spoke with
rabbonim, in order to insure that she would not be a moredes.  It is
half a decade later, and she still has no get.

Today, she is cynical about rabbonim, has lost respect for the beis-din
process, and does not have confidence that the dayanim are upholding
Toras Hashem.  Her issue is not with HaKadosh Baruch Hu, it is with
those who claim to representing His Torah.  Because she is careful about
not speaking lashon hara, she has never shared explicit details, but it
seems that there are bribes being passed, and communal pressure from her
husband's well-known family, as well as threats of public shunning
directed toward those who know the truth about her situation.  This is
the problem, then -- the fallibility of bassar vedom -- not the
'fairness' of Hashem's rule -- on that, we can have no questions.

Because of the confidential nature of this, I am asking that I be
anonymous so as not to reveal her name or identity.  I would not want to
do anything to 'shter' her case.


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabba.hillel@...>
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2007 05:18:06 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: "Tuition Bill" - Support?

From: <leah@...> (Leah S. R. Gordon)
>[cut to save bandwidth]
> And if it's not public school money you're planning to redirect to
> personal tuition, then it's even more questionable.  Why should the
> roads, prisons, electricity, or other state services be less funded
> because of Plony's tuition bill?
> The only reason (aside from personal greed) that would still stand
> would be if someone thinks it is a public good for the state of New
> York, for more kids to have a financial incentive to attend private
> school.  What is the public good that people see in that incentive?
> A result I could see happening from such a law would be anti-semitic
> resentment of "rich Jews not paying their fair share".  By the way,
> New York Jews have traditionally been very supportive/participatory in
> the public school system.  This has led to high cultural awareness of
> Jewish life in the public sphere, possibly beyond what would have
> happened merely from a high Jewish population.

I should point out that everywhere we *do* pay the same taxes for public
school tuition that those who send their children to public school do.
The private school tuitions are over and above that.  As a result, those
who send their children to public school actually pay twice.  Thus, any
tax credits or tuition vouchers or any other means of helping private
school students does come out of public school money.

One of the arguments in favor of vouchers (or tax credits or deductions)
is that it would make the public schools more accountable.  As more
people "vote with their feet" and leave the public school system, the
schools, according to this argument, will come under pressure to improve
and work to attract the students back.  Under the current system, the
schools are under no pressure to improve and are often under the control
of doctrinaire theorists who use the schools as a laboratory for their

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz | Said the fox to the fish, "Join me ashore"
<Sabba.Hillel@...> | The fish are the Jews, Torah is our water

From: Dr. Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2007 09:39:26 -0500
Subject: Re: "Tuition Bill" - Support?

I don't usually disagree with Ms. Gordon, but I believe here she does
not know all the facts.  In IL (and I assume the NY bill as well) the
tax credit is for all private schools, the argument being that we all
pay taxes to support public education, and that those who use private
schools should also get a little tax break (which in no way "makes up"
for the amount we pay out to support public education, which, of course
is vital to the functioning of a democracy).


End of Volume 55 Issue 4