Volume 55 Number 62
                    Produced: Mon Sep  3  8:54:45 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Ari Trachtenberg]
Halakhic reasoning vs. reward/punishment calculations
         [Nachum Klafter]
Rabbi Brovender Parsha Shiur -- New Location!
         [Jeffrey Saks]


From: Ari Trachtenberg <bodek@...>
Date: Sun, 02 Sep 2007 10:42:22 -0400
Subject: Re: Correction

As two readers have noted, I have, quite ironically, made a major mistake
in my correction of another reader's comments.

> First of all, my understanding is that karet is only punished for
> relations during menses, and, even then, one would require witnesses,
> knowledge, etc.  If a woman never goes to the mikveh, but does not
> have relations during her menses, it's not clear to me that the
> punishment would be so severe.

The halachah seems quite clear that a woman is considered not only
t'meah ("impure") but also nidah (translation?) until she immerses in a
kosher mikveh, and that the penalty of karet is applicable for all
purposeful, knowing relations until that point.

My apologies for the confusion.  Shana tova,


From: Nachum Klafter <doctorklafter@...>
Date: Sun, 2 Sep 2007 02:47:54 -0400
Subject: Halakhic reasoning vs. reward/punishment calculations

Jay Shachter wrote a provocative post (MJ 55:57).

The gist of his post is that he feels that intermarriage is not as
serious a problem as marriage between two non-observant Jews.
Therefore, it is better to fix up a Jew with a non-Jew than to set up
two non-observant Jews.  His reasoning is the two non-observant Jews
will be continuously violating the mitzvah of niddah, which is
punishable by karet, whereas intermarriage incurs no such punishment.

He states that HaRav HaGaon Yaakov Kamenetsky, z"l, used this case as an
exercise to demonstrate the limitations of naive logic.  Rabbi
Kamenestky was clear that intermarriage is a tragedy, and that marriage
between two non-observant Jews allows the Jewish people to continue and
leaves open the hope for teshuva.  Jay Shachter feels that Rabbi
Kamenetsky is incorrect about this, and that the cold, mathematical
analysis of sin and punishment should demonstrate that intermarriage is
less of a problem than violation of niddah.  He characterizes Reb
Yaakov's thinking as emotional, as opposed to his own "logic" and he
says, in a caricature of Litvak ethos:

      "We're supposed to decide halakha with our heads, not with our
      viscera, and we're supposed to obey the dictates of our intellect
      no matter what our viscera have to say about them. "

Then, Jay wildly extrapolates.  He imagines that Rabbi Kamenetsky would
ALSO conclude that it is better to set up a Jewish man with a married,
Jewish woman than to set him up with a non Jew.  (This is patently
absurd and there is no question that Jay is absolutely wrong about

Jay concludes: 

      "...perhaps the best that you can hope for is not that they marry
      a nice Reform Jewish boy or girl.  Perhaps the best that you can
      hope for is that they will marry non-Jews."

There are so many flaws in this preposterous argument that it is
difficult to know where to begin.  I am reminded of a great physicist
who said, "Some theories in physics are so flawed that they don't even
rise to the level of being wrong."

Well, I'll try:

1. Marriage between two Jews is mitzvah and a cause for simcha.  This is
also true where both Jews are non-observant.  The fact that
non-observant Jews will in all likelihood NOT observe the mitzvah of
niddah does not change the fact that mariage is a mitzvah.  The halakha
does not stop us from marrying Jews with one another even when they are
both not observant.  We are not causing or assisting their violation of

2. Halakha is not determined simply by calculations calculations of
reward and punishment.  Nor are most of our decisions in life.  For
example, failing out of professional school is not a sin and obviously
carries no punishment.  By Jay's logic, perhaps I should NOT study hard
the night before my law school exam, but I should, rather, take challah
with a beracha repeatedly all night long.  If I grow weary of taking
challah all night, I can take a break and go perform shiluach ha-ken in
my backyard, which carries the reward of a long life.  After all, taking
challah and shiluach ha-ken are mitzvot, but studing for my exam is not!
(This should sufficient to demonstrate the absurdity of this line of
thinking.)  Priorities and problems in life have many different
dimensions.  Reward and punishmnt is only one of them.  Halakha
acknowledges the complexity of such priorities, and does not simply
perform a cost benefit algorithm based on reward and punishment.

3. Setting up two Jews with one another is not a sin.  It is a mitzvah.
It is not a case of lifnei iver.  It is not a case of mesayeya lidei
ovrei averah.  It is not even a case lifnei d'lifnei.  The fact that
those two Jews are likely to violate the laws of nidda is totally
irrelevant. Facilitating their marriage and wedding is a tremendous
mitzvah.  It is the mitzvah of hachnasat kallah.  Their tahara and
kedusha during marriage is their own concern, not ours.  On the other
hand, it is a violation of lifnei iver to (or depending on the
circumstances, messayeya lidei ovrei averah) to assist a Jew to

4. You could Jay's same logic to decide that we should not introduce
Jews to one another unless they all observe the laws of shemirat
ha-lashon.  If not, they will violate myriad mitzvot in their gossip
mongering!  Better that they should gossip with non-Jews!  Or perhaps if
I work as an examiner for the Department of Motor Vehicles, I should
deliberately fail all the non-observant Jews, or else they will drive on
Shabbos!  (You get the idea.)

5. Adultery, aside from being a terrible sin, destroys marriages and
families.  To suggest that Reb Yaakov would be "less opposed" to
adultery than to intermarriage is absolutely ludicrous.  Both are
horrible tragedies.  (I should not need to state that Reb Yaakov find it
equally impossible to set up a Jew for either of these catastrophes,
chas ve-shalom.)

If you are so worried about mitzvat niddah being violated, then give
money to your local community kollel for educational programming related
to mikvah and taharat ha-mishpacha.  But by no means should you
encourage intermarriage as a method to prevent the sin of relations
during niddus!  That is a great illustration of the maxim, "Don't cut
off your nose to spite your face."

Finally, as far as using our "heads" and the "dictaces of logic" rather
than our "viscera" to decide halakha, I must point out that Jay's
analysis violates countless principles of halakhic methodology.
Besides, it is not the "dictates of logic" we need to follow, but the
methodology of halakha!  This is essentially a question of lifnei iver
and mesayeya.  It is cold, halakhic reasoning which leads us to the
following conclusions:

a) It is a mitzvah help non-observant Jews find spouses.
b) It is forbidden to assist Jews in intermarriage.
c) You don't need to be a Talmid Hakham or a Manhig Yisrael to understand

Nachum Klafter MD
University of Cincinnati


From: Jeffrey Saks <atid@...>
Date: Mon, 3 Sep 2007 11:08:13 +0300
Subject: Rabbi Brovender Parsha Shiur -- New Location!

Rabbi Brovender Weekly Parsha Shiur
New location! Ohel Nehama

ATID and Ohel Nehama are pleased to invite lovers of Torah to a weekly
Parsha Shiur in English with Rabbi Chaim Brovender. Thursday evenings from
8:00 - 9:00 PM at our new location: Ohel Nehama, 3 Chopin Street, Jerusalem,
followed by Maariv. Click here for map:
Visit www.atid.org/shiur to sign up for Podcasts or to download the audio
files (will be uploaded on Thursdays around 11:00 PM Jerusalem time).
The shiur is free of charge and open to men and women.

To receive the sources in advance, send a blank email to:
For more details contact ATID at 02-567-1719 or <atid@...> or visit

Rabbi Jeffrey Saks
Director, ATID - Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions
9 HaNassi Street, Jerusalem 92188 Israel
Tel. 02.567.1719 | Cell 052.321.4884 | Fax 02.567.1723
Email <atid@...> | www.atid.org


End of Volume 55 Issue 62