Volume 56 Number 78 
      Produced: Sun, 14 Jun 2009 08:57:39 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A mathematical conundrum (2)
    [Lisa Liel  Martin Stern]
Gravestone Question 
Limitations on G-d (2)
    [Akiva Miller  Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
Why is Shavuot never on Shabbat? (4)
    [Elie Rosenfeld  Ralph Zwier  Jack Gross  Arie Weiss]
you must be joking! 
Zemanei Hayom on the Plane 
    [Abe Brot]


From: Lisa Liel <lisa@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 10:01 PM
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?

The question is inherently timebound.  We say in Pirkei Avot that 
Hashem made the various supernatural things during the week of 
creation (pi ha-aton, pi ha-be'er, etc.).  It seems to me that this 
means Hashem made exceptions in the fabric of existence for 
specifically those things (and things we may not know about yet that 
defy nature).  Things that could not have come into being otherwise.

And if you ask, well, suppose Hashem decided *after* Creation that He 
wanted to do yet another supernatural thing, couldn't He have done 
so?  But that's a timebound question.  There is no "after Creation" 
for Hashem.  If Hashem wanted to do another supernatural thing, of 
course He can do it.  The way He does it is by creating the potential 
for it during the week of Creation.

R' Chaim Zimmerman ztz'l referred to laws of natures as being laws 
from our point of view, and shavuas from Hashem's point of view.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Jun 12,2009 at 10:01 AM
Subject: A mathematical conundrum

Michael Frankel <michaeljfrankel@...> wrote:
> 6 + 1 also equals 3(mod2), gets you to all the other odd numbers
> too.  

In mod2 arithmetic there are only two numbers 0 and 1, so 6+1 is a
meaningless operation in it.

Martin Stern


From: SBA <sba@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Gravestone Question

Stu Pilichowski wrote:
> Another interesting and wonderful minhag that I don't think was mentioned
> that many families followed in my former community in Northern NJ was
> composing an acrostic of the deceased name for the stone.

This Minhag is generally practiced in our Kehilla - which is made up mainly
by families of (greater)-Hungarian background.

Talking of matzeva minhagim [tombstone customs], we usually add at the
bottom of the inscription

"Shin-Alef" (= shem imo - mother's name) Plonis [so-and-so].

The father's name is up there with the name of the deceased - ben/bas Ploni
[son/daughter of so-and-so].



From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 11,2009 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Limitations on G-d

Ari Trachtenberg asked:
> What does it mean for G-d to be "kol yachol" (omnipotent).
> Clearly, it seems that He may impose upon Himself restrictions
> (e.g. not sending another flood, the covenant with Abraham,
> not giving us a different Torah) ... but what prevents Him
> from changing these restrictions later on?

In his introduction to his Igros Moshe (at the beginning of the first Orach
Chayim volume), Rav Moshe Feinstein gives a very interesting explanation of the
halachic process. Specifically, he responds to people who worry that the rabbis
might have misunderstood the Torah, and perhaps Hashem will call us to task for
that. But I think his words are an equally good response to those who worry that
He might change His mind about this or that.

I found it to be a very worthwhile piece, but for those who are unable to read
it in the original, here is my translation of some of what Rav Moshe wrote
there, in the fourth paragraph, beginning
"Uvazeh". (The emphasis, and what is inside the parentheses, are mine.)

> Hashem made the letters of the Torah into kings. Every sage
> will work, and compare one thing to another, and decide the
> halacha according to how he understands the letters of the
> Torah. When there will be a disagreement, they'll act
> according to the understanding of the majority of Torah Sages,
> despite the possibility that they did not understand it
> correctly, and did not (interpret) Hashem's intention right.
> For the Blessed Holy One gave the Torah to Israel, that they
> should act according to how they understand (both) the
> writing and that which was given orally at Sinai, as they
> understand it. AND NO LONGER will Hashem, blessed be He,
> explain or decide the laws of the Torah, because "It is not
> in Heaven". (Devarim 30:12) Rather, He agreed IN ADVANCE to
> whatever the Torah Sages would understand and explain. It
> turns out that the letters of the Torah are kings, because we
> act according to how the Torah sounds to the Sages, EVEN
> THOUGH that might not be what Hashem meant ...

In other words, we do not need to worry that He might change His mind, because
He made a committment not to.

I suppose one might still ask, "Yes, but what if He breaks that commitment and
changes His mind anyway?" Well, I'm really not sure how to answer that. My
inclination is to note that "It is not in Heaven" is directly in the Torah
itself, and if so, then (according to Rav Moshe's explanation) if He would make
any changes, then that would mean that our Torah is *not* eternally true.

One might even go so far as to say that even entertaining the *idea* that He
even *might* change the Torah, is already a rejection of the Torah's eternal
truth.  To me, that's kind of scary, and it is ample cause for me to rest easy
that this *won't* happen. But it is really an emotional response, and I don't
know what to offer someone who wants something more logic-bound.

Akiva Miller

From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 11,2009 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Limitations on G-d

>>   Ben Katz
>> Most medieval Jewish philosophers agreed that even God cannot do
>> that which is logically impossible (eg making 6 = anything but 7).

> From: Ari Trachtenberg<trachten@...>
> I'd appreciate any suggestions for how to present halachically-valid
> answers to kids about this.

I would use the analogy of a person who gives his word.  Just as it is 
theoretically possible for someone to break his word and violate his 
oath, so too can Hashem *theoretically* go back on His word.  *However*, 
Hashem is emes (truth), thus when He "gives his word", it is a fixed 
decision and indeed becomes part of the "laws of nature". If Hashem says 
that He has "taken on a restriction", then the only way He "can retract" 
is if the retraction conditions are in the original statement.  That is 
why Hashem warned us about being "vomited out of the land" if we 
transgressed in certain ways.  Once Hashem said that another flood would 
not come, then it is part of the laws of nature that Hashem maintains in 
existence just like the rising and setting of the sun.

Part of this explanation of "laws of nature" can be used to explain why 
we are allowed to calculate the calendar (can't Hashem change the time 
of the molad arbitrarily?) or expect that day will follow night in a 24 
hour (approximately) cycle. Similarly, the torah states that only the 
pig has split hooves and does not chew its cud.  This is emes and will 
not change.

This also involves the discussion of creation and evolution that the 
goyim totally misunderstand, but that is a subject for another day.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz | Said the fox to the fish, "Join me ashore"
<SabbaHillel@...> | The fish are the Jews, Torah is our water


From: Elie Rosenfeld <erosenfe@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 10,2009 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Why is Shavuot never on Shabbat?

David Curwin asks:

> 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?

Briefly, the Jewish calendar is fixed such that each of the major
holidays can only fall on four out of seven weekdays - e.g., Rosh
Hashanah can never start on Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday. These three
options are eliminated to avoid the following undesirable situations,
- Hoshanah Rabbah falling on Shabbos
- Yom Kippur falling on Friday
- Yom Kippur falling on Sunday

Since Hoshanah Rabbah comes out the same day as (the previous)
Shavous, since the former can't fall on Shabbos, neither can the

Hope this helps!

Elie Rosenfeld

From: Ralph Zwier <ralph@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 10,2009 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Why is Shavuot never on Shabbat?

On a lighter note, Hoshana Rabbah and Shavuot share a common food minhag, 
if you think about it. Both days have a custom of eating a ground-up animal 
product covered by a vegetable/grain-based covering. Kreplach vs blinches! 
Fleishig (meaty) and Milchig (milky) versions of the same thing. 

Given that this custom happens at the daytime meal, it could only become 
established universally if the day never falls on Shabbat, because of the 
prohibition of cooking!

The same is true for two other days when we have a custom to eat kreplach 
during the day: Erev Yom Kippur and Purim. Neither of these days can fall 
on Shabbat either.


Ralph Zwier

From: Arie Weiss <aliw@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 10,2009 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Why is Shavuot never on Shabbat?

I've been following this thread for a while now, and am surprised that no 
one mentioned the atbas"h (which i learned in 4th grade in rjj as a curiose 
and only discovered years later that the mechaber brings it in O"H 428/3) 
which dictates that the shavuot falls out on the same day as the second day 
of pesach. Pesach, we know, is ruled by "lo bdu pesach" ie first day pesach 
can't be bet (mon) dalet (wed) or vav (fri). So the second day of pesach, 
and shavuot, cannot be on shabbat.
(doesn't explain why not substantively, i admit)

atbas"h says that certain chagim will fall on the corresponding
days of  pesach. Take seven days of pesach, and line them up against the last 7 
letters of the aleph bet in reverse order:

day of pesach       matching letter       corresponding chag
-------------       ---------------       ------------------
aleph                    taf              tish'a b'av
bet                      shin             shavuot
gimmel                   resh             rosh hashana
dalet                    kuf              kriat hatorah (simchat torah in chul)
heh                      tzadi            tzom kippur
vav                      peh              purim (previous, not next)

interestingly, atbas"h in the O"H ends with vav, but in modern times can end 
with zayin,

zayin                    ayin             atzmaut - yom haatzmaut !!


From: Jack Gross <jacobbgross@...>
Date: Fri, Jun 12,2009 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Why is Shavuot never on Shabbat?

There is no innate objection to Shavuot falling on Shabbat; the restrictions
on when Shavuot may fall are a side-effect of restrictions regarding the
scheduling of the holidays in Tishri. The calendar is constructed so that
Hoshana Rabba should not fall on Shabbat, nor Yom Kippur on Friday or
Sunday.  Accordingly, 1 Tishri (Rosh HaShana) never falls on Sunday,
Wednesday or Friday ('Lo AD"U Rosh'). Because the months from Tevet
through Tishri have fixed lengths (only Cheshvan and Kislev vary in length),
6 Sivan occurs exactly 113 days (=16 weeks plus 1 day) before 1 Tishri.
Given that fixed one-day offset, once 1 Tishri is precluded from falling on
Sunday, it follows that 6 Sivan never falls on Shabbat.

Incidentally, the variability in length of Cheshvan and Kislev serve two
purposes -- it provides some leeway to allow the year to closely track the
lunar cycle, but is also essential to confining 1 Tishri to fall on day 2,
3, 5 or 7.  

The adjustment allows a simple (12 month) year to have 353, 354 or 355 days
(=50 weeks and 3 days, 50w 4d, or 54w 5d) -- 353 if both Cheshvan and Kislev
are short (29 days long), 355 if both are long (30 days), and 354 if they
follow the normal alternating pattern of the rest of the months.  

For a leap year (with an extra 30-day month), the year's length may be 383,
384 or 385 das (54w 5d, 54w 6d, or 55w).

So, for example, when Tishri of a simple year falls on day 2 (Monday), the
three possible arrangements (353, 354 or 355 days) would result in the
following 1 Tishri falling on days 5, 6, 7 respectively; since day 6 is not
permitted, the year's length cannot be 354.  OTOH, if a simple year starts
on day 3 (Tuesday), the results are 6, 7, 1 (resp.); since 6 and 1 are not
permitted, the year's length must be 354.  

In all possible cases (12- and 13- month years, with 1 Tishri falling on one
of the four permissible days, 2 3 5 or 7), only one or two of the three
possible lengths for the year will lead to a valid transition, such that 1
Tishri of the following year also falls on 2 3 5 or 7.  


From: <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 09:01 AM
Subject: you must be joking!

> He too lost his life in the 2004 Columbia
> disaster, but  miraculously, his sefer of tfillot was recovered on the Texas
> landscape  months later. Is KB"H telling us that Jews should not venture 
> beyond
> our home  planet? Personally. I agree.

I cannot believe this statement! Bernie, what you are saying is that these  
people deserved to die because they were Jewish and flew into outer space. 
Why  should they be punished? Because you think money is wasted on space 
exploration?  Do you honestly believe that Jews are forbidden to travel in 
space craft?  Do you believe that Jews die as a punishment?
Let's follow your logic.
Jewish people die in planes. No planes.
Jewish people die in boats. No boats.
Jewish people die walking in the street. Don't walk.
Jewish people die in their beds.  No beds.
Jewish people choke to death while eating, don't eat.
Here's the message: Life happens. Death happens. Don't crawl into G-d's  
brain and make judgments on why people died. People die everyday. That's a  
logical conclusion to life. Some earlier, some later, some in accidents, and  
some by murder, and some in their beds.
Hashem created the creators. We are the creators. We create our reality.  
Following your logic, we shouldn't exist.


From: Abe Brot <abrot@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 10,2009 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Zemanei Hayom on the Plane

During the last few years I had two experiences that emphasize to me
the importance of knowing zemanei hayom [times of halachic importance]
while flying.

The fist incident occurred about 5 years ago when a neighbor, who
happens to be a rabbi, asked me to help him. He would be returning to
Israel from Chicago aboard a non-stop El-Al flight on the evening of
the 17th of Tamuz. His question to me was how far into the flight may
he still eat and drink. Using the expected takeoff and landing times,
I layed-out a probable course, and checked zmanei hayom at about 1
hour intervals.  I discovered that when the plane reaches England, it
would already have crossed over "amud hashahar" [daybreak] (which occurs at
true local midnight at that time of the year). Therefore, I advised him not
to eat or drink from that point of the flight.  Later, as the plane
travels southeast towards Israel, it will slip back into night and
again cross over to amud hashahar about an hour before landing at
Ben-Gurion Airport. My feeling was that once you crossed into day
(amud hashahar) the fast began for you. He later told me that he
followed my advice but some other dati [observant] passengers requested to
get their breakfasts a bit earlier than usual, so they could eat before
reaching amud hashahar time in Israel.

My second experience occurred two years ago during July aboard a
non-stop El-Al flight from Ben-Gurion to Los Angeles. I knew that I
would have a difficult time davening at LAX, and I would be very rushed
since I was on my way to an important meeting. Before the flight I
reviewed the route and concluded that when the aircraft flies between
Iceland and southern Greenland (which it usually does),down below it
will be morning, well within the parameters of Shaharit.  At that point
I left my seat and davened a leisurely Shaharit alone in the back of
the plane, with bright sunlight all around. Later, as the aircraft
flew southwest, it got dark again and only shortly before landing, it
became morning again.

Best regards,
Abe Brot
Petah Tikva


End of Volume 56 Issue 78