Volume 55 Number 06
                    Produced: Tue Jun 19  6:02:03 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Agunot/Msorevet Leget
         [Chana Luntz]
Kosher Witnesses
         [Alan Green]
Pre-Tachanun Viddui: How Widespread?
         [Art Werschulz]
Shabbat Zemirot
         [Joshua Hosseinof]
The uniform of the day is ....
         [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]


From: Chana Luntz <chana@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2007 23:45:28 +0100
Subject: Agunot/Msorevet Leget

David Mescheloff writes (I have cut and pasted a bit, so as to respond
in different order to various of the matters he raised):

> 2 - Chana suggests that rabbis cannot be held responsible for the 
> current mesorevet get crisis because it is dictated by Hashem through 
> the Torah law that requires that a man give a get of his own free 
> will.

Sorry, I think you are overstaing my position here.  I think that one
can indeed criticise people for failing to do things that will
ameliorate the situation both more generally and in relation to
individual cases.  You can certainly argue that "the rabbis" or at least
some rabbis who carry weight and influence, are not doing enough, either
on a case by case basis or more generally, to try and ensure gitten are
given.  You can also argue that there are more global actions (such as
encouraging prenuptial agreements) that could be explored.  However,
there has been calls for "a solution", and it seems to me that in order
to even think about "solutions" not to mention "a solution", one has to
first truly understand the nature of the problem.  And in order to do
that, one has to grapple with the pasuk in Devarim, and understand the
blatent inbalance of power inherent in the divorce mechanism.  And then
one has to look at the halachic literature, how the pasuk is understood
by the Talmud, and further understand how the rabbonim over the ages
have attempted to deal with abuses of this imbalance of power - because
such abuses are not new, and what other pressures were of concern to

This is why I think it is important that people understand the machlokus
between the Baalei Tosphos and the Rambam, and how it has played out
historically - because saying that if it weren't for civil society
everything would necessarily be OK because you can beat a husband to a
pulp is not an accurate rendition of the halacha as she has developed.

There clearly are things that the rabbis, at least in theory, can do.
Arguably, for example, they might, at least theoretically, be able to
reinstate the takana of the Geonim (to the extent it even needs
reinstating and not just an identification that the conditions are
similar)). But in order to understand the bases for this, there has to
be first an understanding of the pressures, both pro and con, on the
system.  One needs to understand why the Geonim felt the need for a
takana in the first place (now that bit is not difficult, but it does
presuppose understanding there being no remedy from the straight din of
the talmud), and why the view of the rishonim post Geonim was to let it
lapse, or say it did not apply, and that also therefore means getting
into the machlokus between Rambam and Tosphos as to why all this is not
intrinsic in halacha.  And then one needs to answer the Rosh's question
as to why stick one's head between the opposing views of the Rambam and
the Baalei Tosphos to matir an eishes ish.  Which is why an
understanding of only the Rambam's position a seems not to be helpful in
getting a global perspective.

> Thus the problem arises as to how to relate to a get written and
> delivered with no apparent IMMEDIATE coercion at the moment of the
> ceremony, yet where coercion was applied PRIOR to the formal ceremony.
> Clearly if every such get were to be accepted as valid, the brutality
> of "the wild West" would pale compared to that of our Jewish
> world. For this and several other reasons, over many centuries our
> sages developed an intricate system for measuring and defining degrees
> of freedom and of unacceptable versus acceptable pressures prior to a
> formal divorce

But it seems to me that this is a bit circular.  If men knew that they
were absolutely required to give a get, and merely as a secondarly
matter if they did not they ran the risk of being beaten to a pulp, then
it is hard to see how a get would ever be withheld, it would be just
something people did - in the same way that nobody is going to avoid
paying taxes if they know they can get beaten up by people who will
certainly find them for not paying - without any degeneration to the
Wild West.  Nobody likes paying taxes that they are obligated to pay,
but also nobody says one has to pay taxes because one wants to and
therefore people need to be put into the position of "wanting to" by
force if necessary (or alternatively by pursuasion).  It is only because
of the insistance that there be an element of volition that you end up
in the position we are in.  Ie due to the first of the 10 principles
from the Torah that the Rambam enumerates in the first perek of Hilchos
Gerushin - shelo giresh haish ele brotzono [that a man does not divorce
except out of his own free will].  It is because of this that one then
gets into questions of what is meant by brotzono in a way one does not
when it comes to paying taxes (or most other halachic obligations, for
that matter).  The one notable exception that I can think of where there
is a similar volition requirement is in relation to the giving of a
korban, and the linkage between gitten and korbanos is pretty explicit
in the first few dafim of Zvachim.

> How could one know who stands in a father-child relationship?
> Perhaps, since Hashem wanted the family bond to be at the foundation
> of Jewish life, as it is to this very day, it was necessary to create
> a family arrangement in which the woman's bond to the man is
> characterized by her willingly giving up her right to be with another
> man, and granting the man the exclusive right to return this right to
> her (as long as he is alive).

Yes, but if one wants the family bond to be at the foundation of Jewish
life, then there would seem to be nothing more dangerous to that bond
that an coterie of women who are neither married (as they are not living
with their husbands and have as little interaction with them as
possible) and yet not divorced (because they have not been given a get).
In the msorevet l'get case we are almost invariably talking about cases
where there has been, to use the common law phrase, "an irretrievable
breakdown of marriage".  The temptations toward the tarbut ra'ah [bad
company - not sure if that is the best translation] of the Gaonim would
seem rather obvious - assuming living conditions were such that it was
possible for a woman to physically separate from her husband and survive
financially.  So while one might be concerned to diminish the likelyhood
of a woman fancying another while continuing to live with her husband,
because of the potential damage to the family bond - having that bond
continue beyond the point when the woman has clearly and irreversably
set out on her own would seem desperately counterproductive.  So
something about this understanding does not seem right.  However, I
think that, fundamentally, the question is more important than the
answers - well at least it is more critical that it is articulated and
thought about.

> 3 - One returns to the general philosophical question as to whether
> Hashem could have given a Torah that would create unsolvable problems
> for some people.  I failed to be brief enough above, so here let me
> just point to the Rambam's statement (and others agree) that the
> Torah's laws - like all laws - are designed to work well "for the
> majority".  That means there will always be some who are hurt by the
> law.  This is the rationale behind the more general requirement to do
> all one can to solve the problems the law inevitably creates for some
> individuals (or large minority groups).  In most cases, the solution
> cannot be spelled out in advance within the law; good minded people -
> and rabbis - must work hard (preferably in cooperation) to find the
> solutions.  I believe many such people - and rabbis - are doing their
> utmost in the case of the "aguna - mesorevet get" problem.  This is an
> especially difficult problem, with many aspects, and different people
> are working on different aspects.  It seems to me unreasonable to
> expect that some single-dimensional act would solve all aspects of the
> problem at once.

I agree with all of this last paragraph.  What perhaps I have not
articulated clearly enough is that it seems to me that the very first
thing one ought to be doing if one is concerned about this issue is to
try and understand the parameters of the system - and that means
grappling with the sources as they are, as it seems to me that without
understanding what the laws are and how they work and what the
constraints are and where they come from, you struggle to have a
meaningful discussion - so perhaps one of the best things that people
can do if they are concerned about this issue is to try and learn the



From: Alan Green <rabbialan@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2007 22:36:32 -0500
Subject: Kosher Witnesses

If there are three witnesses to a Mikvah conversion--all male, all
Sabbth observant, all learned in Torah--but one witness is related to
the convert through marriage (i.e. as a stepfather), is the conversion
then invalid?


From: Art Werschulz <agw@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2007 08:30:32 -0400
Subject: Pre-Tachanun Viddui: How Widespread?


SBA <sba@...> wrote:
 > Most of us also say "Oshamnu etc" most days.

ISTR that viddui was not being mentioned in the Birnbaum siddur (I no
longer have a copy of same, so I can't double-check).

ArtScroll (Ashkenaz, chu"l) says that "some congregations" say viddui.
Moreover, the fact that said viddui is on pages 119a/b would lead me to
guess that this pair of pages is a later insertion into the ArtScroll
siddur.  ISTR it not being in an older printing of ArtScroll, but this
could be my memory playing tricks on me.

Finally, the chu"l version of Siddur Rinat Yisrael says (pg. 79) that in
Eretz Yisrael, vidui and the 13 Middot are recited before tachanun.

So how widespread is the practice of reciting viddui every day before 

Art Werschulz (8-{)}   "Metaphors be with you."  -- bumper sticker
GCS/M (GAT): d? -p+ c++ l++ u+ P++ e--- m* s n+ h f g+ w+ t+ r-
Internet: agw STRUDEL cs.columbia.edu


From: Joshua Hosseinof <JHosseinof@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2007 13:54:00 -0400
Subject: Shabbat Zemirot

Does anyone know the reason why the zemirot in Ashkenazic benchers are
usually divided by category of Friday night, Shabbat morning, Seudah
Shlishit.  Most of the sephardic benchers I've seen do not categorize
the zemirot by when is the appropriate time to sing them.  On some
occasions I've been told when suggesting a particular song that "Song x
is only sung during the day/night, and right now it's night/day".  The
one I recall in particular is "Tzur Mishelo", which from it's text is
clearly a song for right before birkat hamazon, and nothing from the
text mentions Shabbat at all, let alone a reference to Friday night or
Shabbat morning.

Looking at the text of the zemirot, one can see that some of the Shabbat
morning zemirot have the words "Yom Hashabbat" which gives a hint as to
the reason for some of the songs.  My question is more as to who made
the classification and when, as opposed to why.

Josh Hosseinof


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabba.hillel@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2007 05:01:38 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: The uniform of the day is ....

From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
> You should be aware though, that the majority of the students there,
> do not wear a suit (nor tie) at all. This is typical of all non-haredi
> Israeli yeshivot. Also the majority of people in the shuls I frequent
> do not wear suits and ties, neither on Shabbat nor during the week. I
> feel proud to belong to this sector and I haven't worn a tie nor
> jacket since being in B'nei Akiva in my teens.
> A secondary school teacher, in London, once told me that although I
> refused to wear a school tie then, I would do so on my wedding day.
> Approx. 25 years later was my wedding day, and I didn't wear a tie.

Actually, in the sense that the phrase is meant, *you did*.  When you
were in school, you were rebelling and refusing to be part of the group
(or rather insisting on belonging to a different group).  At your
wedding, you wore the uniform of the group to which you belonged.
Similarly, someone who wears a white shirt (no tie) on Shabbas is
"dressing up" for Shabbas even though it is not a suit and tie.
Consider the pictures of Israelis in the 1950's and 1960's who wore a
jacket and no tie, with the white shirt collar on the outside.

The point is that we tend to use references to clothing of particular
styles as meaning certain group membership, *because* people tend to
wear the uniform of the group to which they belong.  In fact
"non-conformists" tend to be the most conformist in dress.

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


End of Volume 55 Issue 6