Volume 56 Number 71 
      Produced: Fri, 05 Jun 2009 06:04:38 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A mathematical conundrum 
    [Shmuel Himelstein]
Asher Yatzar after childbirth 
    [Leah S. R. Gordon]
Psak on use of sink strainer on Shabbat 
    [Haim Snyder]
Wearing a Kipa at Work (3)
    [Mark Polster  Elazar M. Teitz  Mark Goldin]
Wearing a kippah at work, and being "out" Jewishly 
    [Leah Sarah Reingold Gordon]
Woman Rabbi 
    [Lisa Liel]
Yosef's dream vs Paro's dream? 
    [Alex Heppenheimer]
Zman Shacharis/t on the plane (2)
    [David Ziants  Joel Rich]


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 4,2009 at 07:01 PM
Subject: A mathematical conundrum

In rearranging my library, I came across a booklet put out about 30 or
more years ago by the Beis Yaakov Seminar in Bnei Brak, entitled
"Limudei Chol al Taharat HaKakodesh," which has the laudable aim of
showing how one can bring Hashem into whatever one is teaching. As a
former teacher of mathematics, I turned to that section first. There I
noted how this admirable aim can be accomplished. I will quote in
direct translation a short section of the Hebrew:

"How many days are there in the week? Seven. Hashem made it that six
plus one will equal seven."

I realize we always talk of Hashem as being "Kol Yachol," i.e.,
Omnipotent, but am I heretical to say that even Hashem could not make
6 + 1 equal to anything but seven in the conventional meanings of six,
one, and seven?

Shmuel Himelstein


From: Leah S. R. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 4,2009 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Asher Yatzar after childbirth

I agree with Mr. Stern, about "asher yatzar" being appropriate after
childbirth.  In fact, I had pondered this after each of my three sons
was born.  Indeed, everything does have to open and work just right for
birth to proceed!  As to the comment about "my wife wouldn't like me
to say that she should say A.Y." I don't get that, particularly.  It
seems perfectly reasonable.

Since every M.J reader knows I always attack with a feminist
bent, I started reflecting in this post about the general loss to our
tradition of some of the medieval special prayers that women used to
say around special women's events, e.g. breastfeeding, having babies,
and so forth.  I am in no way suggesting that this should be the sum
total of women's religious expression, by the way, but just that it
has been lost to some (most?) modern communities.

Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Haim Snyder <haimsny@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 4,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Psak on use of sink strainer on Shabbat

In Vol 56 No. 66, Carl Singer posed the following question:

> May you use an in sink strainer on Shabbos? (I'm referring to the
> round metal mesh or metal grate-like thing that keeps garbage from
> going down the kitchen drain.)

He requested the answer and the process for arriving at the answer.

The answer is Yes. The process is as follows:

The melacha (task) which might prevent this is 'Borer' (separating).
However, Borer is defined as extracting something you want from
something you don't want. An example is pouring salt from a shaker
that has rice in it to absorb moisture. The holes let the salt
(wanted item) out and keep the rice (unwanted item) in. In the case
of the sink strainer, the sieve just separates solid waste from liquid
waste. One doesn't "want" either of them (as implied by the wording
of the question "keeps garbage from going down the kitchen drain").
Therefore, there is no melacha of Borer here.

Haim Shalom Snyder


From: Mark Polster <mp@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 4,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Wearing a Kipa at Work

First let me join the chorus (perhaps belatedly) of those thanking Avi
and welcoming back Mail-Jewish.  It has been sorely missed.

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

Most of the responses have focused on the wearer of the kipa and
whether doing so would jeopardize job prospects, work relationships,
etc. Perhaps a slightly different perspective...Years ago I remember
speaking to a ER/trauma doctor (whom I respect enormously and whose
religious observance is beyond reproach) who shared that he had chosed
NOT to wear a kipa at work for the following reason.  During the
course of his average day he was often in a position to give patients
and their families horrible news.  Human beings being human, they
often indelibly associate the bad news with its bearer and he felt
that if he were wearing a kipa, that would make it easier for others
to associate their pain with "that Jewish doctor" or "that Orthodox
doctor" as opposed to "that doctor". He preferred not to "wear it on
his sleeve" (almost literally).

Though not in the medical profession, I, too, in the course of my
business dealings, many of which are in different countries of the
world where business ethics and practices differ, often must negotiate
in a very hardnosed manner that frequently leads to hard feelings on
the other side. I would prefer that any such feelings be associated
with me and not my Judaism. Yes, others may still know about the fact
that I'm Jewish due to kashrut, Shabbat, etc., but it is not nearly as
"in your face" as wearing a kipah (not to mention that there is no
wiggle room on kashrut and Shabbat, but certainly is with kipah).

Mark Polster
Cleveland, OH

From: Elazar M. Teitz <remt@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 4,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Wearing a Kipa at Work

> 1) You SHOULD ALWAYS say a beracha on food. EVEN if you are not wearing
> a kippah. So if FOR WHATEVER REASON you are not wearing a kippah and
> you are eating then make all customary beracoth (It is not necessary
> to cover your head or any other "silly thing")

The above is explicitly contradicted by the Mishna B'rura, in
Orach Chaim 2:12.  He writes that it is absolutely prohibited to make
a b'racha or learn Torah with an uncovered head.  Further, putting
one's hand on the head does not suffice; rather, he should, if nothing
else is available, pull his sleeve over his head. (Obviously, he does
not consider it a "silly thing.")  Only if nothing else is available
does he say that he can put his hand on his head for a b'racha -- but
he absolutely should not say it with completely uncovered head.

> 2)I have heard that Rav Hirsch paskined that you do NOT need a Kippah
> in doors. His logic was that a kippah is not a POSITIVE requirement
> but a NEGATIVE requirement. The requirement is not to have your head
> bear since it is an affrontery to heaven. IT FOLLOWS, argues Rav
> Hirsch, that this affrontery only occurs outdoors and therefore
> indoors there is not even a requirement to wear a kippah. (In other
> words the building ceiling functions as your kippah)

There are many in the German community who indeed do not cover
their head indoors.  However, that is only in regard to fulfillment of
the Shulchan Aruch's ruling that one should not walk four cubits with
uncovered head.  When they learn, daven and make b'rachos, they do not
distinguish between indoors and out, covering their head in both.


From: Mark Goldin <goldinfamily@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 4,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Wearing a Kipa at Work

I appreciate all the helpful and inspirational responses!

Observance of this is all across the board, but clearly the posters
have made some real sacrifices, and I guess that's part of what it
means to be a Jew.

I didn't mention - and should have - all the positive things that have
happened as a result of wearing the kipa in a work environment.  It
can really bring people out.

We can save for another day the questions of size & color!  8-)



From: Leah Sarah Reingold Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 4,2009 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Wearing a kippah at work, and being "out" Jewishly

I am fascinated by the discussion of wearing a kippah to work,
and of being "out" Jewishly at various points in professional
relationships.  As a woman who does not wear a kippah (and btw I
don't know of any women who are not Rabbis who do wear kippot as
daily wear, unless perhaps schoolchildren??), I find it is
awkward to figure out how/when to broach being an Observant Jew in
public, and at work.

I do wear long skirts to work, but pretty much no one notices, since
it is within the range of what professional women might wear.

When my husband (then boyfriend) and I started dating in college,
I was really happy that he started wearing a kippah all the time,
particularly since I crocheted some for him.  My sister was dating
an Observant Jewish ROTC student at the time, and she crocheted him
some kind of special regulation kippah as well; perhaps Carl can
elucidate what those requirements would have been?

Sometimes I have been nervous about my husband wearing a kippah in
public, particularly traveling in Europe.  And while in Israel,
I feel like it makes more difference what *kind* of kippah you are
wearing, lest you inadvertently make some kind of political/religious

We now have three sons, and the older two wear kippot almost all the
time, or sometimes caps.  When traveling, I am unsure as to what to
recommend for them (ages 11, 7, and a toddler, who is not relevant to
this yet).  My biggest kippah-related musing is about my oldest,
who will likely be attending a public or non-denominational school
after his Jewish day school ends in 8th grade.  I think at that age
it will be mostly up to him what he does, but I have mixed feelings
as to what would be best.  As a teacher, I am totally opposed to him
wearing a baseball cap instead, by the way.

Personally, I felt very self-conscious starting jobs, about things
like shabbat and chag and absences, food, etc.  My first job was
extremely awkward in that way, because my supervisor was a young woman
who was in the process of rebelling against her Judaism, including
marrying a non-Jew, embracing German culture, etc.  She would do things
like buy pork rinds for snacks and toss them on the table and say,
"Oh, I forgot they're not *KOSHER*."

At my second job, people seemed to peer at my lunch and comment on it
all the time, but it was totally normal things like PBJ sandwiches,
just not the cafeteria/restaurant kind of food.  And when I left that
job, my "going away" present from my department was a kosher cook book,
though I had never given any impression that I cooked (and I don't;
that is the job of my handmade-kippah-wearing husband LOL).

My third job was at a Jewish school, and I felt like I was physically
released from this huge stress of hiding who I was; I still work there
sometimes, but my current [hopefully permanent!] job is at a public
school where diversity is truly respected.  I did go for a few months
carrying my "Jewish calendar" date book hidden/face-down,
so that people wouldn't read it and know I was Jewish.  But that ended
up being silly.  The first time my father or husband visited me, wearing
a kippah, lots of people had only positive things to say to me/us about
it, and most said nothing and/or didn't notice.

I have had the most positive responses to who I am, from religious
gentiles, as Carl alluded to in his post.  My current boss is a religious
Catholic, and he is wonderful about this sort of thing.

My husband has also worn his kippah throughout his work life, and as
far as I know, it has all been positive.  There was one work contract
where his company was hired by an Arab company that refused to
work with Jews, and I don't remember how that was resolved, but it
can't have been awful or I would remember it.  :)

I do think that a huge ingredient in all of this is regional difference.
My first two jobs were in southern California, where honestly I have
to say that I experienced the only anti-Semitism of my life.  In addition
to the workplace experiences, the graduate housing office at Caltech
was surprisingly bigoted about whether a kosher-keeping graduate
student could be placed in a non-Jewish dorm as an advisor.  (I had done
that job with rave reviews back at MIT.)  A few years later Caltech
did get a kosher kitchen, and I guess future students won't have that
problem.  It was also in the LA area that I heard lots of "big nose"

Now we live in the Boston area, and there is a definite sense of both
ethnic diversity and Jewish presence.  Both are hugely relevant to
this topic, I think.

--Leah Sarah Reingold Gordon


From: Lisa Liel <lisa@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 4,2009 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Woman Rabbi

On Tue, Jun 2,2009 at 06:01 AM, Martin Stern <md.stern@...> wrote:
>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.

With all due respect, I'd like to see some evidence for that.  It was 
during the Hadrianic persecutions that smicha was outlawed, on pain 
of massacre, by the Romans.  There was a Nasi even after this, and 
Justinian certainly did increase the shmad, but that doesn't mean 
that smicha survived until his time.



From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 4,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Yosef's dream vs Paro's dream?

In MJ 56:58, David Curwin <tobyndave@...> asked:

>Is anyone aware of any midrash, commentary or other source that compares
>(and contrasts) the alumot (sheaves) in Yosef's dream and the shibolim
>(stalks) in Paro's dream?

There's a talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l (in Likkutei Sichos, vol.
3, pp. 807ff) where he contrasts the activity in Yosef's first dream
(binding sheaves) with the passivity of Pharaoh's (the cows emerging
from the Nile and the grain growing, both while Pharaoh simply
watches), and states that this illustrates the difference between the
holy (which demands effort to obtain G-d's blessing) and the profane
(which receives undeserved Divine bounty, albeit - so to speak -
grudgingly on G-d's part, and with no permanence to it).

The Rebbe further explains that the work of binding sheaves - joining
together separate stalks of grain - symbolizes the ultimate purpose of
life and of mitzvah observance: to gather the disparate resources of
our physical and mental worlds and unite them under the service of

An interesting adaptation of this talk is at

Kol tuv,


From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 4,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Zman Shacharis/t on the plane

Time issues can also be relevant when not on a plane.

There was a question of two babies who were born simultaneously around
sh'kiya time, one on the top floor of haddassa ein kerem hospital
(which is a tall building) and one at the bottom floor. I  think it
was Rav Shmuel Zalman Aurebach zatz"al who gave the p'sak that the
brit of the bottom floor baby should be the day after that of the top
floor baby because the birth time is determined from where one is
physically positioned.

Unlike the time for shacharit, the day of a brit is a d'oraita
(directly in the Torah)  issue.

Is being on a plane similar to the above story?

I was once on a plane flying home eastwards, and I had forgotten that
from that morning would start the minor fast of shiva asar b'tamuz. I
only remembered this when I was off the plane, and was eating when I
was on the plane still flying and if I had remembered I would have
looked at the calendar for times and maybe done some calculations.
When I ask a she'ela afterwards whether my fast counted because of the
doubt I had in my head, or whether I need to do calculations,  I was
told that if it seemed dark outside (which it did) when I was in the
air and eating, then I was OK with the fast.

David Ziants
Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel

From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>

>  Many hold it goes by what you would see from the ground if you dropped a
> plumb line from the plane to sea level.
> KT
> Joel Rich

From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 4,2009 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Zman Shacharis/t on the plane

Bernie R. wrote:
> Forgive my innocence please, but why is it necessary to check times and
> data tables when the rising of the sun is always and immediately visible
> from an airplane at 30,000+ feet? ...

Many hold it goes by what you would see from the ground if you dropped a
plumb line from the plane to sea level.
Joel Rich


End of Volume 56 Issue 71