Volume 55 Number 53
                    Produced: Sun Aug 26 19:04:06 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Can moral debt trump other things? (2)
         [Akiva Miller, Carl Singer]
Hebrew language / accents
         [Carl Singer]
New Israeli Educational Stamps Posted Online
         [Jacob Richman]
On-line and Shabbos
         [Carl Singer]
         [Michael Perl]
Standing for Vayivarech David
         [Joel Rich]
Teaching in Hebrew
         [Perry Zamek]
Torah and Ivrit
         [Rabbi Meir Wise]


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2007 15:44:57 GMT
Subject: Re: Can moral debt trump other things?

Meir asked:
> A person A has his life or his child's life in severe danger
> and a stranger S saves it. ... Does A owe S a debt such that
> A should (or may) help S escape recapture and imprisonment
> and maybe execution?

This sounds very similar to the relationship between Moshe Rabenu and

One of my teachers once explained Bamidbar 25:17 as follows: HaShem
tells Moshe to antagonize Midian. It is significant that HaShem tells
this directly to Moshe - not to the people, nor to the people via
Moshe. Furthermore, HaShem uses a singular form of the verb, not a
plural form, thus making it very clear that Moshe is to take care of
this personally, not to delegate it to others.

Nevertheless, Moshe understood that HaShem could not possibly have meant
that. Moshe was in debt to Midian, for giving him a hideout while
Pharaoh's men were looking for him. Thus, Moshe understood that he could
not take an active role in the war against Midian. He did, however, take
a passive or advisory role in it, and certainly did not do anything to
help Midian win that war.

To apply this to Meir's question, my guess would be that A is in debt to
S, and ought be passively silent, not revealing S's hideout to the
authorities. But to say that A should actively help S escape would be
going too far, especially if S is in fact guilty, as Midian was.

Of course, others may read that verse differently.

Akiva Miller

From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2007 11:06:55 -0400
Subject: Can moral debt trump other things?

> From: <meirman@...> (Meir)
> A person A has his life or his child's life in severe danger and a
> stranger S saves it.  This is undisputed.
> Then A learns that S has been found guilty of murder by a USA criminal
> court, or a by a Halachic court in a Halachic Israel, and is supposed to
> be in jail, or maybe executed.  S says that he is innocent, or doesn't
> say that.
> Does A owe S a debt such that A should (or may) help S escape recapture
> and imprisonment and maybe execution?
> This was the theme of every episode of "The Fugitive", but I've never
> heard it discussed from a Halachic pov.
> What if S only saved A from a serious property loss, but he risked his
> life or risked recapture to do it?  What if A is convinced that S really
> didn't kill anyone?  Is there such a thing as a "moral debt" and what is
> that called in Hebrew?

It's easy to get caught up (aka sidetracked) in the theoretical details,
namely to what extent has S "saved" A, and to what extent is A convinced
of S's guilt or innocence....

Fundamentally, we're asking not about A's moral debt (if there is such a
thing) and to whom this debt is owed -- to society? or to individual S?
-- but how A should behave given a set of circumstances.

Getting atop my high horse (where I am both very knowledgeable and have
no compunction about telling other people how to act) it would seem to
me that one's behavior is governed by absolutes, not by the
circumstances of the instance.

Ask: Should A act differently towards S than towards B (another stranger
with whom A has had no prior interaction.)  And by extension, does the
A:S relationship permit A to violate either law and / or halacha by, for
example, helping S escape.  (Vice helping B escape, which we must
presume is a "no-no." -- to use technical vernacular.)

Given the construction that I've used, I believe the answer is a clear,
resounding, NO.

As to terms for "moral debt" -- perhaps HaKoras HaTov flits around the 
edges of this concept.



From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2007 10:46:10 -0400
Subject: Hebrew language / accents

The discussion to date has focused on what is / should be taught in
American and I presume by extension ANY schools in the diaspora.

I wanted to bring up a related issue and this is accent and

As a child in the 50's my Rebbeim were all lamdim (most who had careers
in other fields pre-war) and were, figuratively speaking, from Minsk &

The bright eyed young boy who finishes our davening with Adon Olum,
sounds like a native Israeli -- only because his Hebrew teacher is,
indeed, a native.

Is it today a matter of linguistics or "social politics" that seems to
lead us to the various Hebrew pronunciation themes.

With the advent of radio and television, for example, regional English
pronunciation differences in the U.S. have diminished -- we
mid-westerners same to be the accepted middle ground.  Why, then, the
marked differences among Hebrew speakers



From: Jacob Richman <jrichman@...>
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2007 01:31:15 +0300
Subject: New Israeli Educational Stamps Posted Online

Hi Everyone!

I scanned and posted on my website the new Israeli stamps 
that were issued in August 2007.
I included the stamp itself, the first day cover,
and an English and a Hebrew flyer about the stamp.

- Festivals 2007 - Women in the Bible

- Moroccan Jewry Salutes the Royal Family 
  Rabbi Chalom Messas 

- Israel Reserve Force - Israel's Elite

- Hashomer

- Tel Aviv Centennial, Dizengoff Circle - Souvenir Sheet

- "My Own Stamp" - Blue and White

The new stamps are located at:

If you do not see the August 2007 section on the page,
hold the control key and press the F5 key to refresh 
your browser.

Have a good day,


From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2007 17:37:22 -0400
Subject: On-line and Shabbos

A young single just told me of a new transatlantic "game" being played
on some of the Jewish dating websites.  People in the U.S. log on Friday
afternoon (after it's already Shabbos in Israel) to see if people they
know are possibly being mechalel Shabbos.  Similarly, he went on to tell
me that Motzei Shabbos in Israel, Israel-based people return the favor,
so to speak -- checking for U.S. based singles who might be on Shabbos
Afternoon (US time.)

One person (data point) is insufficient -- but is this really happening? 
   And what are the halachic implications?



From: Michael Perl <michael_perl9@...>
Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2007 12:30:48 -0400
Subject: RE: Pronunciation

> Why do we get so excited about shvo no/noch while mispronouncing the
> komats in uv(e)shOkhbecha?
> Perets Mett

I once raised this point on MJ and found little interest in it but will
ask again.

Further to Perets' point below, why is it that in America, there seems
to be no distinguishing between the kamatz and the kamatz katan (or
chataph-kamatz as it's sometimes called)?

I have lived here for 9 years and attended two different shuls where
many a koreh and even the rav does not seem to realise with one
exception, the word kol (with a caf). The most common example recited
aloud is "begAvhei meromim" in Aleinu, instead of begOvhei.

One theory I have is that here, many of the Ivrit teachers are locals
whereas in other countries they are imported or at least educated in
Israel so the error is passes on from one teacher to the next.

I have raised the issue a few times to rabanim , barmitzvah teachers and
others but there is little interest.

Anyone have any reasons for why it is considered irrelevant and how it
might be changed?  At times I thought I was wrong and perhaps not
everyone differentiates in this matter of dikduk but then why pronounce
kol and not kal?

Shabbat shalom


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2007 12:45:34 -0400
Subject: Standing for Vayivarech David

We've discussed this previously in regard to standing for the chatan
(here perhaps standing for the tzedaka collector).

In the new R' YBS R"H machzor the following note appears:

"These verses are included because the earliest blessing, Blessed are
You Hashem the God Israel our Forefather is cited here.  The precedent
constitutes our own license to recite blessings.  Because blessings in
general are recited while standing, the congregation arises for the
recitation of these verses."

      Joel Rich


From: Perry Zamek <perryza@...>
Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2007 17:44:50 +0300
Subject: Re: Teaching in Hebrew

Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...> wrote:
> At Maimonides in Boston, my son was taught limudei kodesh b'ivrit,
> meaning that 50% of each and every day was taught exclusively in Hebrew.
> <snip> The kids all rose to the challenge, supported by a teacher who
> stubbornly stuck to speaking Hebrew, 
> And ... to second what others have been saying ... I feel that one
> cannot properly understand Judaism without a solid understanding of
> Hebrew, without which one is at the mercy of a translation that
> necessarily limits or modifies the original meaning of a text.  It is
> interesting to note, for example, how various religions fundamentally
> affect the relationship between man and woman simply through their
> translation of the phrase "ezer k'negdo" (some translate that woman was
> created as a "help-meet" to man, others translate "servant" or "aid",
> and yet none really capture the meaning).

Let me add a couple of comments:

1. Ari is absolutely right, a lot depends on the teacher (but perhaps
this is true even when the proportion is only 25% of the school week).
However, even later in schooling, a good teacher can make the Ivrit
be-Ivrit experience a positive one for students.

2. Having been, in one of my previous gilgulim, a high school teacher at
a large Jewish day school, I would like to share a story. The school had
a policy of teaching all Jewish studies subjects in Ivrit. One day, I
was called in by the head of the department, who closed the door (in a
most conspiratorial fashion). He told me that there were a number of 8th
grade students who, because they had never managed to grasp the Hebrew
language, were also automatically failing Torah/Tanach classes. To him,
in spite of his Ivrit be'Ivrit commitment, this was an injustice - they
needed some Yiddishkeit as well. So, in a classic "don't ask, don't
tell" move, he allocated them to me, to get some Torah into them, even
if I have to teach it in (shudder!) English. The material that they had
to cover was not a lot, maybe 15 chapters from Sefer Shemot for the
year. I used the Aryeh Kaplan translation, which I thought they would
find very readable. I used the footnotes as their introduction to
"Rashi" - since the notes that I focused on *were* taken from Rashi. At
the end of the year, all but one (who probably had a serious learning
disorder) passed my final test. Perhaps the most telling comment came in
a thank-you note from one of the students (approximate text, remembered
from over 20 years ago): "Dear Mr. Zamek, Thank you for teaching me
Torah.  This is the first time I was able to understand anything in this

Ivrit be'Ivrit, yes, but with enough flexibility to make sure that we
"get a little Yiddishkeit into them" as well.

3. Ari refers to interpretations of the various translations of "ezer
ke-negdo" as contributing to attitudes toward women - let me add that
"Thou shalt not kill" as a mis-translation of "lo tirtzach" may have
contributed to pacifist opposition to action against the Nazis in the
lead-up to WW2.

Shabbat Shalom
Perry Zamek


From: <Meirhwise@...> (Rabbi Meir Wise)
Date: Fri, 24 Aug 2007 11:38:17 EDT
Subject: Torah and Ivrit

My own experience is that we were not taught Ivrit only Lashon Hakodesh,
Hebrew Grammar and Tenach. It is true that we spent a lot of time

When I became a teacher I was asked to teach in Ivrit ( I had become
nearly fluent with the help of some Israeli friends) as an experiment.
The Head of Department whilst not against Ivrit said that the rule of
thumb was not to sacrifice the standard of the Limmuday Kodesh for
Ivrit.  It seemed to make sense then and still does. In fact if I think
about it the same took place in the Yeshivot in Israel. When most of the
students understood Yiddish the shiurim were in Yiddish. Where most
spoke Ivrit and did not understand Yiddish the language of instruction
became Ivrit.  My sons went to Pardes House, Gateshead and Mir (Reb
Gedaliah Finkel was born in New York) but most of the instruction was in
English although they do have a decent Yiddish.

Without a good grounding in Hebrew Grammar and Tenach, I cannot see how
students can understand the Talmud. All the Sages from the Talmud to the
Lithuanian Roshei Yeshivot knew Tenach and Hebrew Grammar well.

kol tuv
Rabbi Meir Wise


End of Volume 55 Issue 53