Volume 56 Number 23
                    Produced: Fri Jan  4  5:31:20 EST 2008

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Characteristics of Frum Businesses
         [Leah S. R. Gordon]
Flowers and Shmittah (5)
         [Akiva Miller, Frank Silbermann, David Riceman,
chips@eskimo.com, Avi Feldblum]
Hatumei Mitzrayim and magic
         [Richard Fiedler]
Sheva Brochos If One Hasn't Eaten Bread
         [Immanuel Burton]
Wine and Shmittah - Interesting Question
         [Alex Heppenheimer]


From: <leah@...> (Leah S. R. Gordon)
Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2008 05:21:32 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Characteristics of Frum Businesses

> From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
> What you are experiencing is classical economic theory at
> work--nothing to do with frumkeit or lack thereof. In Los Angeles and
> New York there is enough competition to raise the average level of
> service and quality. In Israel, where I am now on an extended visit,
> the kosher supermarkets are at the highest level seen anywhere in the
> States, and we just returned from a white-tablecloth restaurant with
> superb food and service. That has everything to do with the level of
> competition in this town (Raanana), where there are literally dozens
> of kosher restaurants at every level of cost and service.

So you would think, except I have been to ample numbers of NYC kosher
restaurants as well, with terrible service (often better food than we
get in Boston, but service just as bad).  Also, NYC kosher restaurants
are not very clean, to say the least.

In Israel, I find that restaurants, even tiny ones, are often cleaner
(and often have soap and paper towels available at the hand-washing
sinks, which is an excellent sign of hygiene awareness).  Of course, the
food in Israel is fantastic at almost every place I have gone to eat, at
all price points.  The service at Israeli restaurants is variable, but
if you subtract the sabra friendly-surliness, I agree that it is better
than the average US kosher restaurant service.

As for kosher grocery stores, I cannot agree with your assertion.  I
have never had service at a Super-Sol (Shufra-Sol?) that rivaled that at
my local Shaws, let alone something like Trader Joe's or Hannaford's,
both of which are known for excellent customer service.  I do agree,
though, that Super-Sol, most makolets, and for that matter the guy who
tries to wash your car windows at the underpass, all have better service
and more hygiene than kosher grocery stores in the United States.

Some of it, too, must be related to local priorities.  In Boston, for
all of our lack of good kosher dining options, we have a range of Jewish
educational options to rival any city in the world, in my opinion.
There is probably a connection to the sense of "intellectual elite" that
is local to Boston.  Perhaps in cities like Los Angeles, there is a
culture of eating out and entertainment that puts more pressure on the
kosher restaurants to be reasonable attractions.  For that matter, there
may be less of a labor shortage in Los Angeles, so that waitstaff
etc. are more easily hired/fired.

What I cannot understand is why even "upscale" kosher restaurants are so
dismal in service.  I used to think that restaurants were mostly just
like that, unless you went to a super-fancy place.  But then I went a
couple of times to Friendly's (a northeastern US chain with hechshered
ice-cream) for sodas/ice-cream and I could not believe what excellent
service we had, even on a bill of maybe six dollars for four of us.  The
hostess/waitress smiled at us, seated us promptly, gave us crayons for
the kids, cheerfully brought extra napkins and water to drink...the
bathroom was clean and well-lit and not locked...they gave us no trouble
when we needed change for a $20 bill...just normal good service.  And
woe that I almost just described it as "good regular goyish service".

--Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2008 03:47:23 GMT
Subject: Flowers and Shmittah

In Mail-Jewish digest 56:22, in the thread "Wine and Shmittah", Avi
Feldblum asked:

> It appears that Israel is now a significant player in the
> world market for certain types of flowers, to the extent
> that they may have about 30% market share for some flowers.
> If that is correct, he says that creates a miut hanikur - a
> significant minority status, and during shmittah, such
> flowers are forbidden to be purchased.
> A quick Internet search indicates that while Israel flowers
> are a significant portion of the EU imports, they have
> decreased as a percentage from 2000 where they may have been
> at the 30% mark to a significant lower number now. I was not
> able to find any good numbers. If anyone has additional info,
> I would be interested.

The Erev Rosh Hashana issue of (the American edition of) Hamodia
contained a whole special magazine section about Shemittah. Page 26
began a four-page article titled, "Q&A: Harav Belsky Responds -- Piskei
Halachah that apply to the mitzvah of shemittah from Hagaon Harav
Yisroel Belsky, shlita, Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivah and Mesivta Torah
Vodaath in Brooklyn, NY"

The very first of these Questions and Answers is as follows:

> Q: Since over 30 percent of the American supply of flowers
> comes from Eretz Yisrael, is one mechuyav to verify the
> source of flowers before buying them? Is a non-Jew believed
> if he says that a fruit Is not from Eretz Yisrael? (This
> question is applicable all year.)
> A: When one buys from a vendor who carries no packaging
> (boxes in which the flowers were shipped) he may assume that
> the flowers are not sheviis, provided that a solid majority
> (rov) of at least 60 percent of the kind of flower being
> marketed is not from Eretz Yisrael. If the vendor has the
> packaging, the customer should ask to be allowed to go to
> the back to take a look. The country of origin will appear
> on the box. Public-minded organizations should provide
> regular information about the percentages and have them
> posted properly. Stores that cooperate in allowing
> observation by mashgichim should be publicized so that one
> could shop at them (if they carry sheviis-free products only)
> and avoid all problems. Non-Jews are not acceptable as
> witnesses and their word is insufficient.

In the several months since reading that, I have been watching ads in
the Jewish Press, HaModia, Yated, and I have not seen any advertisements
or announcements about flower shops which are selling non-Shemittah
flowers. I am wondering: Have there been announcements that I have not
seen? Or perhaps other poskim have taken a different position on this?

Is it possible that other people have other data, suggesting that Rav
Belsky's "30%" figure is unduly high and alarmist? For example, I have
learned elsewhere that Hilchos Shemittah only applies to *fragrant*
flowers. Could it be that Rav Belsky's "30%" includes non-fragrant
flowers, and that the actual percentage of fragrant Israeli flowers is

For a community that seems to love latching on to whatever chumros it
can find, I've been very surprised by the silence on this issue. I hope
that others have heard more than I've heard, and I hope they will share
it. Thank you.

Akiva Miller

From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2008 10:05:54 -0600
Subject: RE: Flowers and Shmittah

I had never thought about it before, but everything I've heard over the
years about shmittah left me with the impression that this was something
that applied to food, specifically, plant-based food.  I never thought
to ask whether it applied to lambs born during the shmittah year, to
wood chopped down from trees during the shmittah year, or minerals mined
during the shmittah year.

Flowers are plants, but they are not food.  If flowers are subject to
shmittah, then what about firewood?  What about little bags of soil from
Eretz Israel collected during the schmittah year for burials outside of
Israel?  What is the limiting rule here?  (I don't think the annual
nature of a plant is the deciding factor, since grape vines are not
annuals and grapes most definitely are an issue.)

Frank Silbermann         Memphis, Tennessee

From: David Riceman <driceman@...>
Date: Wed, 02 Jan 2008 09:34:55 -0500
Subject: Re: Flowers and Shmittah

Who eats flowers?

David Riceman

From: <chips@...>
Date: Tue, 1 Jan 2008 20:01:10 -0800
Subject: Re: Flowers and Shmittah

   Whoa, wait a minute here - are the flowers fragrant or do they just
look nice.  There is a difference in how they are treated in regards to

From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
Date: Fri, 4 Jan 2008
Subject: Re: Flowers and Shmittah

To clarify, as noted by a few people, I should have stated clearly that
I was only talking about fragrant flowers. They are one of the exception
cases in Shmittah, where the kedusha halachot hold, even though the item
is not eaten.

Avi Feldblum


From: Richard Fiedler <richardfiedler@...>
Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2008 01:27:25 -0500
Subject: Hatumei Mitzrayim and magic

In our parsha this week we have a lesson in the power of Egyptian
science at least with regard to frogs and turning rivers into blood.
Only this science fails to work on lice not because pharaohs magicians
could not work on such small creatures.

No had the Torah simply said that the magicians could not duplicate
Moshe's act I would see nothing conflicting here but when the Torah says
v'asu chain b'lachushtom v'lo yachlu, one must scratch his head and
wonder if our miforshim have this right. How can one do something with
secret arts and then not be able to do it. Why should we think that this
asu chain was different then the asu chain for frogs or blood that in
each case only the appearance of the act took place and not the reality
of the act, just that in the case of lice they got caught.

And this must be the case for otherwise if we accept great power to
egyptian magic all we ever proved was that Moshe was a better magician
than the Hatumei Mitzrayim and the whole basis of the proof of our faith
through revelation is destroyed because we can say that Moshe was even
better than Cecil B. demille in producing the illusion of Sinai itself.

This must be the opinion of the Rambam and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef who hold
that there is no such thing as real magic as opposed to the majority of
Ashkenazi Rabbis. Thus halachically when the Torah forbade magic it was
forbidding trickery and Magicians at parties should be forbidden which
is not true in ashkenazi communities.

This is evidently because the majority of hazal did believe in Magic.

But I must wonder if modern man even modern frum man really believes
that Ancient Egyptian Science really contained the power to turn rivers
into blood.


From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2008 10:12:25 -0000
Subject: Sheva Brochos If One Hasn't Eaten Bread

I was recently present at Sheva Brochos at which there were only 9 men.
To make the required minyan a neighbour was called in at dessert time.
He ate some mezonos in the form of cake, and then we benched and had
Sheva Brochos in the normal manner.  The tenth man who had not benched
the full benching on account of not having had bread was honoured with
reciting one of the Sheva Brochos.

I have been thinking about this for a while, and am wondering whether
the person who had not benched was eligible for this honour.  He could
not have led the zimmun itself on account of not having had bread, and
so could not have said the seventh of the Sheva Brochos, which is the
blessing over wine.

Normally when a procedure involves wine, the blessing on the wine is
recited first, and then the procedure is carried out.  For example,
kiddush and havdoloh are recited between the blessing for wine and the
drinking of the wine.  An exception to this is benching - the blessing
over the wine is recited after benching.  I suppose this is because the
benching in effect terminates the power of the blessing - for example,
if one benches with the intention of having a cup of coffee afterwards
one would still have to recite a blessing over the coffee, as the
benching has terminated the power of the ha'motzi blessing one made over
the bread at the beginning of the meal.

When the Sheva Brochos are recited under the chuppah, the blessing of
wine is recited first, and then the remaining six blessings are recited,
following which the wine is drunk.  The blessing over wine during the
week of Sheva Brochos, however, is recited at the end, which leads to me
to believe that the Sheva Brochos are part of the benching, and not a
stand-alone procedure.  I am therefore coming to the conclusion that it
was incorrect to have offered the non-bread-eater the honour of reciting
one of the Sheva Brochos.  Is my conclusion correct?

Immanuel Burton.


From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Tue, 1 Jan 2008 21:11:59 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Wine and Shmittah - Interesting Question

In MJ 56:22, <chips@...> asked:

>> [...]
>>  (especially since nowadays shemittah is rabbinic in nature),

>It is? Does Shemittah need a declaration like Yovel ??

No, but it is dependent on Yovel. When the latter is not in effect
(since the exile of the tribes of Reuven and Gad), then Shemittah is
mandated only by Rabbinical law (Rambam, Hil. Shemittah ve-Yovel 10:9).

Kol tuv,


End of Volume 56 Issue 23