Volume 56 Number 75 
      Produced: Tue, 09 Jun 2009 20:01:17 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A mathematical conundrum  
    [Bernard Katz]
Asher Yatzar after childbirth 
    [Alex Heppenheimer]
Asher yatzra after childbirth 
    [Leah Aharoni]
Jewish Chaplains 
    [Carl Singer]
Necessity of Kippah for Berakhot 
    [Akiva Miller]
Not Treating Fellow Jews like a slave? 
    [Carl Singer]
Psak on use of sink strainer on Shabbat (2)
    [Carl Singer  Irwin Weiss]
Shavuot not on Shabbat 
    [Shmuel Himelstein]
Why is Shavuot never on Shabbat? (2)
    [Akiva Miller  Alex Heppenheimer]


From: Bernard Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 10:01 AM
Subject: A mathematical conundrum 

Shmuel Himelstein asks:
> 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?

The more general question is, Does Gd have the power to do something that is 
logically impossible? Does He have the power to bring about a state of 
affairs that violates the laws of logic?

This raises interesting questions both about the nature of divine power and 
the nature of logic. Those who think that Gd does have the power to do what 
is logically impossible usually do so because they think that: i) a 
limitation in divine power would be a limitation divine perfection; and ii) 
the inability to do what is logically impossible would be a limitation in 
divine power. The standard view, however, is that while i) is true, ii) is 
mistaken. According to this view, logically necessary truths do not reduce 
power but  mark boundaries beyond which it makes no sense to speak of the 
exercise of power.

The Rambam's account of the matter is representative of the standard view. 
He contends that it is a confusion to suppose that what figures in the 
realms of the possible and what in the realm of the impossible are due to, 
or depend on, the act of an agent. For this reason, he says, it would be a 
mistake to suppose that the power of Gd extends to bringing about what is 
impossible, for example, to producing a substratum with contrary properties; 
but this fact, he argues, 'signifies neither inability nor deficiency of 
power on His part'. See The Guide, pt. III, ch. 15.

Bernard Katz 


From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Asher Yatzar after childbirth

In MJ 56:74, Stu Pilichowski <cshmuel@...> wrote:

>But then I read Leah's posting below. I'm ignorant of the "medieval special
>prayers that women used to say."
>There really were? Why did it stop? Social reasons? How do minhagim
>fall by the wayside?
>> 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.

They were called "techinos" (or tkhines, or techinot, or however you'd want to
transliterate it); various collections of them were published from the 17th
century onward. Most were written in Yiddish. [Some of these have been reprinted
in modern times, often with a translation. I assisted a bit with one such
publication, "Techinas - A Voice from the Heart," by Ruth (Rivka) Zakutinsky,
Brooklyn: Aura Press, 1992.]

In many areas they fell out of fashion when Yiddish stopped being spoken (for
example, the 18th and 19th centuries in Western Europe). In other areas, once
increased Jewish education became available for women (beginning with Sarah
Schenirer's Beis Yaakov movement) and they were better able to read Hebrew, the
techinos seem to have been supplanted by prayers from the regular siddur.
However,there are some communities where techinos are still popularly recited.

Kol tuv,


From: Leah Aharoni <leah25@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Asher yatzra after childbirth

Aliza Lavi has put out a book compiling little-known prayers said by
women throughout the ages. It is called Tefilat Nashim. An English
edition, A Jewish Women's Prayer Book, was recently published by
Random House.

Leah Aharoni
Email: <leah25@...>


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Jewish Chaplains

> I have a friend who received semicha via a popular Orthodox online
> program, which brags [that] it trains people for semicha without a need
> to know Hebrew.
> He can't learn a daf of Gemora with Artscroll but he's an Orthodox Rabbi
> now and if he were a few years younger they would happily get him a job
> as a Jewish chaplain in the US military.

The last clause - re: Jewish Chaplain - is both inaccurate and
troubling to me for multiple reasons.

1 - It might be considered a "snide remark" demeaning military chaplains.

2 - This covertly asserts that being accepted as a chaplain in the US
Military is some litmus test of smicha.  Or at least a minimal standard for

3 - This reflects a misunderstanding of role of a Chaplain in the US

The purpose of a Military Chaplain is to provide spiritual and moral support
to troops - regardless of their religious affiliation.
(I have a letter in my files from a Presbyterian minister asserting that I
keep kosher .... - there was no Jewish Chaplain on my Post)
If you do a "google" search you will find that even Wicca's (members of a
"non-traditional" religion) are to be serviced by chaplains.

Chaplains are vetted by various organizations as meeting the ordination
standards of that organization.

There is a shortage of Jewish Chaplains in the US Military - but apparently
an overabundance of Orthodox Chaplains.    The shortcoming here is that some
look to this as a well-paying job rather than a "calling"  -- some orthodox
chaplains find conflict between their duties and halacha.  For example,
abstaining from leading or participating in a mixed seating "minyan" -- a
dereliction of duty (in my not so humble opinion)  while others daven
privately and then lead a "minyan" for the troops.  (In a manner similar to
that of many Y.U. Smicha Rabbis of yesteryear who were encouraged to take
Conservative pulpits.)

Carl A. Singer, Ph.D.
Colonel, U.S. Army Retired


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Necessity of Kippah for Berakhot

Avraham Walfish wrote:

> Rabbi Elazar Teitz cited the Mishnah Berurah Orah Haim 2:12 ...

> ... MB does not mean to say that one who has a strong reason
> that militates against covering his head should refrain from
> reciting berakhot or from learning Torah. In fact he continues
> by arguing that if one gets up in the middle of the night to
> drink and has no headgear available then he may simply cover
> his head with his hand (which is usually unacceptable
> to the MB). I believe that careful reading of MB will
> corroborate that he agrees that, if and when a person has
> legitimate reasons ... for not covering his head, this in no
> way should prevent him from reciting berakhot or learning
> Torah.

Indeed, the MB does say that, but I believe that you may be extending his
reasoning farther than the MB himself would.

I believe that careful reading of MB will corroborate that he agrees that, if
and when a person has legitimate reasons for not covering his head, then the
biggest leniency allowable is to say these brachos while covering his head
merely with his hand, but not to say them with a totally uncovered head.

On a practical level, one might think this to be an odd posture, with one's
elbow stuck in the air, and one might be dissuaded from this leniency for that
reason. But I'd suggest that if one is sitting at a table, then he can put his
elbow on the table, and his forehead in his lower palm, so that his fingers
reach up to the top of his head. This is a not-uncommon position used when
people are a bit tired, and as long as he doesn't close his eyes, he can say his
brachos and people won't think he's sleeping on the job.

(I admit that if one eats his lunch with the same coworkers every day, they may
notice a pattern. Another option is to say the brachos in a more private area,
and start a nibble of the food, with intention to continue eating in the common

Akiva Miller


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Not Treating Fellow Jews like a slave?

> I once heard a shiur that said that there's a prohibition against
> treating a fellow Jew like a slave. The example given was that you
> shouldn't leave something for someone else to clean up (in a
> restaurant for example), just because they're an employee.

I have no sources -- but I thought this referred to respect and attitude.

If this is a restaurant where there is a (Jewish) busboy, one does not clean
up as this busboy's parnuseh is earned by cleaning up.
On the other hand - one doesn't allow one's child to squirt ketchup on the
walls knowing that the busboy is there to clean up.
If it's a fast food restaurant where people are expected to bus their trays
to the garbage can then one should do so.

An egregious example that I recall (and believe I posted many, many years
ago) was when two young yeshivus couples were in a popular pizza shop in my
town.  The merchant had just handed a heated knish to the one young man who
then said "thank you" -- and he was admonished by his chaver "when you're
paying you don't say thank you."  -- This is an example treating your fellow
Jew like a slave.

Carl Singer


From: Irwin Weiss <irwin@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Psak on use of sink strainer on Shabbat

With regard to the salt and the rice in the salt shaker, I am not a
scientist, but I assume that the rice absorbs moisture even when the
salt shaker is standing by itself dormant, so to speak. I don't think
that turning it upside down causes additional moisture absorption.
So, if that is the case, the salt shaker is perpetually at work, so to
speak. Flipping it upside down so that salt comes out of the little
holes doesn't sound like borer to me. You are "separating" the salt
in the shaker from the salt not in the shaker, but certainly since you
can pour wine from a bottle and separate the wine that is in the
bottle from the wine that is not in the bottle, this is not borer.

Irwin Weiss
Baltimore, MD

From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Psak on use of sink strainer on Shabbat

Clearly I wasn't clear enough in my original posting.

I am not focusing on the halacha (or the "physics" if you will) of the sink

My question deals with the halachic process for getting a psak.  Who do you
contact for an answer (and / or psak) - what is their role?



From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Shavuot not on Shabbat

David Curwin asks why it is, that since the Torah was given on Shabbat
(Tractate Shabbat 86b), why it can never fall on Shabbat.

My uneducated guess is that this is rather a function of Pesach, which
cannot fall on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. Since Shavuot falls on the day
of the week following the first day of Pesach, and since Pesach cannot fall
on Friday, Shavuot cannot fall on Shabbat.

Shmuel Himelstein


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Why is Shavuot never on Shabbat?

David Curwin asked:
> So when they fixed the calendar, setting Shavuot on the 6th
> of Sivan, why did they add a rule which prevents the 6th of
> Sivan from ever falling on Shabbat?

They did not make any such rule. At least, they did not make any rule for that
specific purpose, but other rules end up having that function.

Specifically, they made a rule that Hoshana Raba cannot fall on Shabbos. And
because (the first day of) Shavuos always falls on the same day of the week as
the following Hoshana Raba, the practical result is that Shavuos does not fall
on Shabbos.

But the discussion does not have to end there. The reason why Shavuos and
Hoshana Raba are linked is that there is no variation in the calendar between
those dates. There are three points at which the Jewish calendar varies:
Cheshvan having 29 or 30 days, Kislev having 29 or 30 days, and the year having
one Adar or two Adars. The result of this is that all the holidays from Purim to
the following Hoshana Raba are fixed in relation to each other, but the winter
ones are much more flexible. (For example, each of the other holidays are
limited to falling on four specific days of the week, but Chanukah can begin on
any day except Monday night / Tuesday day.)

My understanding is that there is a simple reason why Adar was chosen to be the
month that got doubled for a leap year. Namely, that Pesach needs to be in the
spring, and its not until the late winter that the Sanhedrin could tell (from
the weather patterns) whether or not Nisan should be pushed off another month.

But I don't recall ever hearing why Tishre and Cheshvan were chosen to be the
months which were variable between 29 and 30 days. If, for example, Nisan and/or
Iyar were chosen for this purpose, then Shavuos may well have had the ability to
fall on Shabbos. So I'd like to open the question to the group for discussion:
Why were Tishre and Cheshvan chosen for the 29/30 variation?

Akiva Miller

Bibliography: Most of this post was written based on my memory of how our
calendar works. But although I remembered that Chanuka could begin on any of six
days, I could not remember which was that day that Chanukah does *not* begin.
Google found me a good article on this point, and I was not surprised to find
that it is in Wikipedia. It's a pretty good article (though I hope to make it
even better in the next day or two). you can find it at

From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Why is Shavuot never on Shabbat?

In MJ 56:74, David Curwin <tobyndave@...> asked:

>> From my understanding, all opinions agree in the gemara (Shabbat 86a,
>> et al) that Matan Torah was on Shabbat.
>So when they fixed the calendar, setting Shavuot on the 6th of Sivan,
>why did they add a rule which prevents the 6th of Sivan from ever
>falling on Shabbat?

Ask a better question. We know that Adam and Chava were created on the sixth day
(Friday), which was either the first of Tishrei or the first of Nissan
(according to R' Eliezer and R' Yehoshua respectively). But neither of those
dates, in our fixed calendar, can ever fall on that day of the week!

There is an explanation according to Chassidus, that this reflects the
difference between the state of the world at Creation vs. afterwards. But on a
simpler level:

When the calendar was set up, one of the most important considerations was to
prevent Yom Kippur and Hoshana Rabbah from falling on certain days of the week,
because of the difficulties that would be caused thereby (see Rosh Hashanah 20a
and Sukkah 43a). This gives us the famous rule "lo ADU rosh" - that the first
day of Rosh Hashanah can't be on Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday. (The Rambam, Hil.
Kiddush Hachodesh 7:7, gives a different reason for this rule: it helps average
out the difference between the mean and true lunar conjunctions.)

Now, in our fixed calendar the lengths of the months from Nissan to Tishrei are
invariable, so that we don't get confused about the date of Shavuos (in the
observation-based calendar it could be anywhere from the 5th to the 7th of
Sivan), and so that the three periods of 40 days from Shavuos to Yom Kippur
(when Moshe was on Mount Sinai to receive the first Tablets, to beg G-d's
forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf, and to receive the second Tablets)
are preserved intact. So a rule about the permissible dates of the week of Rosh
Hashanah will necessarily affect all other dates from the beginning of Nissan to
the end of Tishrei; the fact that it prevents Shavuos from occurring on Shabbos
(and Rosh Chodesh Nissan from occurring on Friday) is aside effect.

Kol tuv,


End of Volume 56 Issue 75