Volume 56 Number 69 
      Produced: Thu, 04 Jun 2009 17:51:24 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Asher yatsar 
    [Martin Stern]
Asher Yatzar after childbirth 
    [Batya Medad]
Baruch Hu U'varuch Sh'mo 
    [arie weiss]
    [Michael Gerver]
Der Yid Hakadosh 
    [J Friedman]
    [Martin Stern]
The Apotheosis of R. Wein 
Too much bitachon? 
    [S. Wise]
Unfortunate Examples 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Wearing a Kipa at Work (2)
    [S. Wise  Ben Katz]
Woman Rabbi (2)
    [Martin Stern  Ben Katz]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 2,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Asher yatsar

On Sun, May 31,2009, Yakir <yakir@...> wrote:
> I can think of a number of reasons why saying Asher Yatzar after childbirth
> would not be the most appropriate bracha.
> However, I am fairly sure that, if I was a woman I would be rather upset and
> disturbed by the connotations of having to say Asher Yatzar after
> childbirth, notwithstanding various logical and anatomical explanations.
> (I don't even think I will ask my wife about this, I can anticipate the
> response).

Shayna Kravetz <skravetz@...> wrote also (ibid):
> I am surprised that no one has pointed out that, since 'asher yatzar'
> refers to a condition that makes it 'impossible to exist', it is not
> appropriately applied to the birthing of a child.  There are plenty of
> human beings who exist and who have not either begotten or born
> children.  Indeed, three of the foremothers had 'womb troubles' and
> managed to exist for many years until God granted them the gift of a
> child.

I feel that Yakir's response is based on the fact that the berachah, asher
yatsar, is said after eliminating bodily wastes. However its text does not
really refer to that at all but to the marvellous way the body is formed. In
fact the use of the wording "if any of them is opened or closed [at an
inappropriate time] it would not be possible to survive even for one moment"
is rather far fetched when applied to constipation yet is highly relevant to
obstructed labour, the major cause of perinatal maternal mortality in the
not too distant past. The squeamishness to which he alludes is more related
to our usage than the wording of the berachah itself.

I think Shayna is also confusing the issue. The term 'impossible to exist'
does not imply a total impossibility but is referring back to the implied
condition that the orifices be open or closed at the appropriate time. The
lack of pregnancy to which Shayna refers might be understood, as the Torah
seems to do, as the inappropriate shutting of the womb, as Rachel says in
reference to her condition "give me children or I shall die". In fact after
her second childbirth she did pass away though I would not be surprised if
someone links this to her previous statement as a case of "Al tiftach peh

Martin Stern


From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 2,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Asher Yatzar after childbirth

The custom here is "benching gomel," since technically, medically and
halachikly there are serious dangers to life for the mother. If I'm
not mistaken at the time of the Mishkan and Beit HaMikdash a woman
gave a Korban Chattat. In some (or all if you're looking for a new
custom) cases, a Se'udat Hodaya would be a good idea. A neighbor
holds by the psak that the post partum mother may bench gomel with a
minyan of women.

Batya Medad


From: arie weiss <aliw@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 2,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Baruch Hu U'varuch Sh'mo

> From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
> In congregations where one does say this after certain brochos,
> what is the basis for the custom of abbreviating the phrase to "Shmoy"?

"shmoy" isn't an abbreviation. it's what you hear when someone quickly
says "baruch hu uvaruch shmoy". also sometimes heard as "uv'shmoy".
so what probably happens is little kids (or older more impressionable
and less knowledgeable people) say what they hear, grow up and pass it



From: Michael Gerver <mjgerver@...>
Date: Sun, May 31,2009 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Calendar

W. Gewirtz asks, in v56n64,

> the accuracy of the lunar month used by r. adda, however is off less than 1/2
> second per month or an hour every 600 years. the hard question is how so
> accurate a number was known.

This question isn't hard to answer. The figure for the length of the
month is identical to that given by Ptolemy in the Almagest, the
standard astronomy book used at that time, so most likely that is
where R. Adda got it from, though it is possible that he got it from
an independent measurement made by Jews, using the same method that
Ptolemy used. Ptolemy's method, which he explains in his book, is
based on observations of lunar eclipses, mostly in Bavel, over a
period of about 800 years, roughly from 700 BCE to 100 CE. The
mid-point of a lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is exactly opposite
the sun in the sky, and the timing can be determined, to within about
10 minutes, using water clocks. The accuracy can be improved somewhat
by taking into account the known (to Ptolemy) variations in the rate
of motion of the moon and sun around the zodiac, due (we now know) to
the eccentricity of the earth's orbit around the sun and the moon's
orbit around the earth, and the effect of the sun's gravity on the
orbit of the moon around the earth. Ptolemy, of course, attributed
those variations to epicycles. If you know the timing of 10,000 months
(about 800 years) to within about 10 minutes, then you know
the timing of one month to within about 1/1000 of a minute, i.e. less than 0.1
seconds. The figure given by Ptolemy, and used by R. Adda, is actually
accurate to within better than 0.1 seconds, for the period during
which those eclipse observations were made. However, since then, due
to the slowing down of the earth's rotation caused by tidal forces,
and due to slow periodic changes, over tens of thousands of years, in the
length of the month caused by gravitational perturbations of other
planets (mostly Venus and Jupiter, I think), the length of the month
in days has decreased by about 0.5 seconds since that time.

For an English translation of Ptolemy's Almagest, with detailed notes
that explain Ptolemy's calculation, see Ptolemy's Almagest, translated
by G. J. Toomer, Princeton University Press, 1998.

Although R. Adda used the same length of the month as Ptolemy did, he
did not use exactly the same time for the molad, but rounded off the
time of the molad of Tishrei for year 2 of the Hebrew calendar (the
first molad after the creation of the world, which occurred on 25 Elul
of year 1) to exactly 8 a.m. on Friday.

One interesting consequence of Ptolemy's eclipse data is that, if you
assume the observations are accurate, it can be used to disprove the
theory of the "missing 135 years" implicit in the chronology of Seder
Olam, since the timing of the eclipses in Ptolemy's raw data is given
in terms of the reigns of Babylonian and Persian kings, and the
chronology of Seder Olam would be inconsistent with the eclipse data
if there were even 20 minutes missing, let alone 135 years. However,
you can find conspiracy theories online, which hold that the text of
Ptolemy's Almagest was doctored by evil secular humanists, etc.

In another post by W. Gewirtz in v56n64, he suggests that Shmuel may
have used March 25 for the vernal equinox, rather than March 21, in
order to avoid saying Birchat Hachama on a Zoroastrian holiday. This
is a good idea that I hadn't thought of.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: J Friedman <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 2,2009 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Der Yid Hakadosh

I knew about Reb Simcha's eye sight, Buber referred to it often. I
assume it was macular degeneration.

About Der Yid....when is his yahrzeit? Anyone know?  To the best I can
figure it had to be toward the end of Sukkos.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 2,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Ordination

In mail-jewish V56#66, Alan Rubin <alan@...> replied to Yisrael Medad:
> Yisrael Medad asked
>> On another issue Martin keeps bringing up, - "The fact that, on his own
>> admission, he had never obtained hatarat hora'ah (formal rabbinic
>> ordination) may well explain his obvious sensitivity in such matters."
>> Forget about Ashkenaz customs, what synagogue/congregation hires a Rabbi
>> who basically isn't a Rabbi or is Martin referring to something else
>> other than a plain Yoreh Yoreh or even Yadin Yadin?
> This might relate to something that I was thinking about. I am not
> familiar with Martin's community but some googling suggests that the
> Rabbi is a former Rosh Kollel. This may well explain the lack of
> formal ordination. Someone learning at a high level in a Kollel might
> not see the formal studying of Shulchan Aruch for examination as
> relevant to their learning.

Alan is not entirely correct. The rabbi in question was previously a maggid
shiur in a yeshivah ketanah not a Rosh Kollel, a title he has taken after
his new appointment. He had previously learned in a kollel but never
enrolled in the semichah class.

The reason I have raised the point is because, though he has not been
granted the "plain Yoreh Yoreh", he nonetheless insisted in his reply to the
Av Beit Din of Manchester BD, Dayan Berger, a rabbi of world renown, that he
"was not and is not prepared to put his Halachik decisions to a court of

> The next question is whether this career path is suitable for a
> community Rabbi. It might produce someone who can give an excellent,
> high level shiur which may in itself attract a certain type of member
> to the community but it is not the best grounding for pastoral care or
> even for paskening shailos.

I entirely agree with Alan that, for the purpose of giving shiurim or
drashot, this lack of proper ordination may not be particularly important
but it is relevant to the right to make "changes intended to change the
ethos of a shul", the halachic propriety of which is questionable at the
very least and, according to Dayan Berger's ruling, is not permissible in
the present case.

Martin Stern


From: Chips <chips@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 2,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: The Apotheosis of R. Wein

In mail-jewish V56#67, Michael Frankel <michaeljfrankel@...> wrote:
> Since in the pre-resurrection days of MJ the conversation occasionally
> strayed to R. Wein, i thought the chevra might be interested to know of a
> recent - i really don't know quite what to call it - breakthrough?
> milestone? i was giving a talk in Minneapolis the other week and dropped
> in to the local shul for minchoh maariv (apparently it was the more modern
> of the two local shuls) and the rav was out of town on some errand. as is
> customary in many places a d'var torah is on the agenda for the
> intervening five minutes before maariv and with the rav absent, a member
> of the congregation filled in. you can imagine my surprise (make that
> slack-jawed amazement) when the lecturer opened up his sefer - which turned
> out to be one of R. Wein's coffee table history books - and proceeded to
> read out loud a paragraph from the book. after completing this recitation of
> r. wein's prose, the qohol proceeded to stand and recite qaddish d'rabbonon.
> and nobody seemed to think anything extraordinary had happened. had i stayed
> longer perhaps i would have had the opportunity to observe whether many of
> the reverential courtesies common in some circles to the handling of
> chumoshim - no piling on top of other books, turning it over so the front
> cover is on top, even a quick kiss if inadvertently dropped? - were
> accorded R. Wein's tomes. i do not really know if this reflects some
> broader sociological current, but there it is.
> Mechy Frankel
> <michael.frankel@...>

Well Mechy, you should avoid coming to Seattle when the Rabbi is not
there, as many times someone "just reads" from one of Rabbi Twersky's


From: S. Wise <Smwise3@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 2,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Too much bitachon?

A month ago, the Radziner rebbe, a chasid, died suddenly, leaving
behind a widow with 10 children ages 15 years to 5 months. I was in a
shul Sunday where an appeal was made for the family, and in it the
speaker explained how he was a big talmid chacham, spending his whole
days studying Torah, and who lived in utter poverty. The speaker said
there is no furniture in the house and the children sleep on the
floor. It was heartbreaking to hear. But what I don't understand how
the father of a large family did not work harder to support his family
with basic necessities, or, as the rabbis have been urging, to take
out life insurance in the event of tragedy. Certainly we have bitachon
that Hashem will take care of our needs, but don't we all need to make
our effort, and not come to the situation where a family like this
must suffer not only the loss but also the shame of becoming a charity

Any thoughts?
Whoever can help this family, it would be a big chesed, as it would be
for any family in such dire need



From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Sun, May 31,2009 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Unfortunate Examples

In Volume 56 Number 62, May 24, Martin, referring to my previous post, 
used rather unfortunate examples:
"the situation of the Jews in Germany in 1933", "removing them from 
society" and "a policy of a 'night of the long knives'".
I truly understand and sympathize with his predicament but, as Joseph 
Kaplan followed my line, I feel confident that my remarks were logical.  
I am sure that if Martin has been arguing with his fellow congregants in 
the manner he did above by using Nazi-related metaphors, then I can now 
understand the opposition to him.
Quite a regrettable choice of historical parallel even if he descends 
from German Jewry although I am not sure the Blackfoot Indians would 
have been a better choice.



From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 2,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Wearing a Kipa at Work

Mark Goldin wrote:
> I wonder if many Mail-Jewish readers in the US have struggled with the
> decision to wear a kippah to work.

I think there are many personal decisions re wearing a kippah at work.
As a doctor I often have to go in to the hospital when on call on
shabbat (roughly 1/6 [of] weeks) and for me, a major reason not to wear a
kippah at work is that I do not see the point of wearing it when I am
going to the hospital on shabbat. Another reason is that I remember my
grandfather a"h would feel uncomfortable with a doctor who wore a
cross, so I try not to broadcast my religion.

One last point: since wearing a kippah is "only" a custom (albeit a
very strong one, and one that I try to keep 100% when on personal time
(because I look terrible in any kind of a hat), I would rather say a
beracha at work before eating without a kippah than eat without a

From: S. Wise <Smwise3@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 2,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Wearing a Kipa at Work

Living in New York, I have never thought twice about wearing a
yarmulke. Early in my career--perhaps my second interview ever--an
elderly woman asked, "What is that hat on your head," and was pretty
astounded that in New York someone wouldn't know what a yarmulka is in
1974. At a different job interview, the interviewer looked at me then
kept his head down the rest of the interview.  A frum woman working
there warned me he wouldn't hire me, but who would want to work at a
place where every religious observance to take off becomes an ordeal.
BH, in 35 years I have worked in just 4 places--one for 22 years--and
the yarmulka or my observance was never an issue. I do know of frum
people living here in Brooklyn, who take it off when they get on the
subway, and other who won't wear it in the gym. I won't begin to
understand it but to each his own.

I decided early that I have to be comfortable at work with my
yiddishkeit, so when it comes to a Yom Tov, I don't have to go into
heavy explanation--they can see that I am observant, and it is
something to be proud of.

S. Wise


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 2,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Woman Rabbi

On Wed, May 27,2009, Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...> wrote:
> It can't be because women can't get "semicha", because "semicha" as
> defined in the gemara died out during the Hadrianic persecutions. Our
> ordination, whatever it's called, isn't "semicha".

Sorry for being pedantic but that semichah only died out during the
Byzantine period when Theodosius suppressed the post of Nasi and, slightly
later, when Justinian forbade the teaching of deuterosis, i.e. Mishnah and
Midrash, in an attempt to 'persuade' Jews to convert to Christianity by
undermining the oral tradition.

Our present system called heter hora'ah was introduced in the late Middle
Ages to prevent incompetent persons exercising rabbinic duties, something
that still happens to this day as I have experienced and described

> The problem with this answer is increasingly,
> especially in charedi Brooklyn on the outskirts of which I live, I run
> into people with yeshiva ordination, who are called to the Torah as
> "harav", and may even be religious functionaries, who refuse to pasken
> halacha because, they say, they never learned how--and in fact they
> can't answer typical questions I'd pose to a shul rabbi.

At least these gentlemen are honest and do not take on positions in shuls
requiring such ordination. Problems arise when they do.

Martin Stern

From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 2,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Woman Rabbi

Orrin Tilevitz wrote:
> The following question was immediately prompted by an article in
> Haaretz at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1087780.html, although
> I've thought about it before: just why can't a woman be an Orthodox
> "rabbi"? ... 
> Where have I strayed?



End of Volume 56 Issue 69