Volume 56 Number 86 
      Produced: Wed, 01 Jul 2009 17:37:24 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Distancing The World, Part 1 of 2 
    [Yaakov F Shachter]
Esther (4)
    [Ben Katz  Martin Stern  Matthew Pearlman  Matthew Pearlman]
How Many Halachic Jews Are There? (5)
    [Carl Singer  Tal S. Benschar  Alex Heppenheimer  Frank Silbermann  Wendy Baker]
JOFA - Request for Proposals 
    [Rose Landowne]
Sink Drain Strainers (2)
    [Haim Snyder  Carl Singer]
Women Rabbis (3)
    [Rose Landowne  David Ziants  Rela M. Geffen]


From: Yaakov F Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 17,2009 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Distancing The World, Part 1 of 2

In response to an article appearing in this forum, which had offered
up the notion that it is better to introduce a non-observant male
friend to a non-Jewish woman than to introduce him to a Jewish woman who will
not practice the laws of nidda, Alexander Heppenheimer suggested in v55n60 that
non-observant Jewish women are very likely to practice the laws of nidda without
realizing it, so it is a false choice (there are other members of this
mailing list who made the same point, but in a few minutes it will be
clear to at least some readers why Mr Heppenheimer has been chosen to
represent them).

The halakha is perhaps one that should not be taught publicly.  In
fact, unmarried readers are requested to put down this article now,
and read no further.  It is well known that a Jewish woman, who allows
a Jewish man to know her carnally, subjects both herself and her
victim to the punishment of excision ("kareth" in Hebrew), unless she
has totally immersed her body in either a reservoir ("miqveh") or a
stream ("ma`ayan") following the end of her last menstrual period.
What is considerably less well known is that many of the requirements
of immersion are Rabbinic, not Scriptural; and it is only Scriptural
violations that carry the risk of "kareth".  In particular -- and it
is undoubtedly this to which Mr Heppenheimer referred -- the Torah
does not require that the immersed body be nude.  Total immersion is
required, but the immersion is valid, on a Scriptural level, even if
large parts of the body fail to come in contact with the water,
because they are covered by barriers ("xatzitzot") such as, e.g.,
tight-fitting clothes.  Only a majority of the body, e.g., 50.1%,
needs to come into direct contact with the water, for the immersion to
be valid.

On top of this, there is also a widely (although not universally)
accepted opinion -- but one rarely taught in public -- that something
does not count as a xatzitza even Rabbinically, if one does not mind
it (one would say in Hebrew, if there is no "haqpada" about it) in
situations where one is normally naked.  Thus, if you do not generally
take off your wedding ring when you shower, or when you make love, or
in other circumstances when one is normally naked, then you also do
not need to take it off when you wash your hands before eating bread,
or when you immerse in a miqveh.  Since there is no haqpada, there is
no xatzitza.  This opinion is not universally accepted, but if you
rely on it, you are in respectable company.

It follows from the above that any Jewish woman who goes swimming in
an ocean or lake or river while wearing a two-piece bathing suit is
afterwards in no danger of violating Leviticus 20:18, provided she
went totally underwater for a fraction of a second, and provided
enough time has passed since the end of her last menstrual period.
This is common summertime behavior even in cold climates, and in
warmer climates it is common behavior all year round.

	          Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter
                      <jay@...>  http://m5.chicago.il.us


From: Matthew Pearlman <Matthew.Pearlman@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 22,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Esther

In response to my question as to why Esther is traditionally
transliterated with "the", Yisrael Medad said:

> a) I doubt this has anything to do with Halacha

I would probably differ with this.  1) I think that ancient
transliterations have a lot to teach us about the pronunciation of words
in past times.

2) One can fulfill the obligation by reading the megilla in English (or
Greek, on which the transliteration is presumably based).  When it comes
to the name "Esther" should one then read it in "the way that we all
know it should be pronounced based on the Hebrew", ie "Ester", or the
way that it is written with "th".

> b) Maybe the first person lisped?
I am not entirely sure how lisping changes "Ester" to "Esther"

>c) Transliterations are notoriously subjective, remember the "z" with a
dot underneath for a "tzadi"? or the similar "h" for CH?

I think this is a more modern phenomenon. In older times, the idea of a
transliteration was to render the words that the speaker heard in a
foreign language into the best equivalent in their native language.

Matthew Pearlman

From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 25,2009 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Esther

Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
> Thus, if you want
> to know why `aza is spelled Gaza in the English bible, look at the LXX.
As Dr. Steiner implies, 'aza is transliterated Gaza due to the original guttural
pronunciation of the ayin, although not every word that begins with an ayin is
transliterated that way (eg gan eden).

Ben Katz

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Jun 26,2009 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Esther

On Sun, Jun 21,2009, Alan Cooper <amcooper@...> wrote:

Subject: Esther

> One of my teachers proposed a Persian etymology for the
> name in which the /s/ would have been followed by a schwa, leading to
> the spirantization of the following /t/.  Perhaps the Greeks heard it
> that way and transliterated accordingly.  Another possibility is to
> consider the "gentile" version of the name propounded by R. Nehemiah
> in B. Megilla 13a, namely /'sthr/, the medial /h/ suggesting that
> some aspiration was heard following the /t/, consistent with the
> Greek and Latin transcriptions, and ultimately yielding the English
> spelling of the name.

While I am not familiar with Old Persian, this sounds the most convincing
explanation. Perhaps someone with the requisite knowledge could comment.

This leaves the problem of why the Hebrew has a dagesh in the tav. Might I
venture to suggest that this is similar to my query regarding the name Plimo
which may be derived from the common Greek name, Philemon. In both cases a
bgdkp"t letter appears in the original in the fricative form, which is
against the rules of the Hebrew language when at the beginning of a
syllable, and is, therefore, changed to the plosive. The authors of the
Septuagint, unlike ourselves, may well have been familiar with the original
Persian (or possibly Sumerian or Elamite) form and used the theta to
represent the letter for that reason.

This way borrowed words become distorted to fit to the phonological patterns
of the guest language is a common linguistic phenomenon.

Martin Stern

From: Matthew Pearlman <Matthew.Pearlman@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 30,2009 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Esther

One of the great joys of MailJewish that I missed during its absence was
its ability to open up new areas that I had never considered looking at

I had three responses to my question as to why Esther is spelled in
English with "th".  All of these pointed to the Septuagint ("LXX") the
Greek translation of the Bible, which transliterates the Hebrew Tav by
the Greek Theta.  Two of these then pointed to the Vulgate, the Latin
translation, which follows suit by transliterating theta by "th".

This then led me, from the comfort of my armchair, to explore various
online versions of LXX, Vulgate, and the English - King James Version
("KJV").  These do indeed show that Tav is usually, but not always,
rendered by theta in LXX; and theta is usually, but not always, rendered
by th in the Vulgate.

Starting with Esther: in LXX this becomes Esther (note that I am using
th for theta; below I will use t for tau). In the Vulgate, this becomes
Hester.  Note that in fact, contrary to my respondents, the Latin 't' is
closer to the original Hebrew.

Take another example: Vashti becomes Astin in LXX, and Vasthi (yes -
spelled like that) in Vulgate.  Not entirely clear to me why the Vulgate
uses th when LXX has t.  Also seems clear that KJV Vashti is closer to
the original Hebrew than either the Greek or Latin.

Tabulating these and a few more examples:

Hebrew --> Greek --> Latin --> KJV
Ester - Esther - Hester - Esther
Vashti - Astin - Vasthi - Vashti
Naphtali - Nephthali - Nepthalim - Naphtali
Shealtiel - Salathiel - Salathihel - Shealtiel
Ashtoreth (ie soft tav) - Astarte - Astharthen - Ashtoreth

Admittedly this is not an exhaustive treatment, but it seems to me that
KJV is far closer to the original Hebrew than either LXX or Vulgate.
The Vulgate does often follow LXX, but not exclusively.  I suspect that
my final example - Ashtoreth - may be a little false as I assume that
the LXX version "Astarte" is based on a pre-existing Greek name rather
than a transliteration, and possibly the Vulgate is based on a different
Greek source.

So it all brings me back to my original question - why does Esther have



From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 29,2009 at 10:01 PM
Subject: How Many Halachic Jews Are There?

Let's back up a bit here -- Define "halachic Jew" -- is the reference to
Jews who keep (Observer) halacha or to people who are defined a Jewish
according to halacha.

Locating and counting the latter might be quite challenging.  There are many
people whose maternal lineage is Jewish (their Mother's Mother's Mother ....
was Jewish) who may not know or consider themselves to be Jewish.


From: Tal S. Benschar <tbenschar@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 29,2009 at 11:01 PM
Subject: How Many Halachic Jews Are There?

I think there is some confusion between the question and Mr. Olivestone's
response.  Does the phrase "Halakhic Jews" mean 'Jews who observe halakha' or
does it mean "Some whom halakha would consider Jewish, regardless of his or her
observance."  There are a great many more of the latter than the former.  If you
use the second definition, I don't think 3 million is such an off estimnate.

From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 29,2009 at 11:01 PM
Subject: How Many Halachic Jews Are There?

In MJ 56:85, David Olivestone <david@...> wrote:

>Leah Aharoni wrote that she had heard about a Charedi-sponsored study that
>put the number of halachic Jews in the US at under 3 million.

I think that the study to which Leah referred uses the term "halachic Jews" not
in the sense of "Jews who follow halachah," but rather "people who are Jewish
according to halachah, regardless of their level of observance." If indeed there
are five million people in the US who identify as Jews, it's not that
far-fetched to say that 60% ofthem are indeed halachically Jewish.  If anything,
I would have expected the percentage to be higher, since most children of mixed
marriages do not identify themselves as Jews.

Kol tuv,

From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 30,2009 at 08:01 AM
Subject: How Many Halachic Jews Are There?

David Olivestone <david@...>:

> Leah Aharoni  wrote that she had heard about a Charedi-sponsored study that
> put the number of halachic Jews in the US at under 3 million. ...

What are we talking about here -- the number of American Jews who live by halacha,
or the number of Americans who, halachicly, are Jewish (including non-Orthodox
Jews whose mothers are Jewish according to halacha).

Frank Silbermann, Memphis, TN, USA

From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 30,2009 at 02:01 PM
Subject: How Many Halachic Jews Are There?

I have not been in this discussion, but I wonder if we have a 
definitional issue here.  By Halachic Jews are we referring, as David is, 
to some form of observant, Halacha following Jews or are we referring to 
Jews who are the children of a Jewish mother or converted by and Orthodox 
bet din?  Clearly, in a self-identified Jewish population of 5,000,000 
there would not be 3,000,000 observant  Jews, but, perhaps, the number of 
those the Charedi consider halachically Jewish might be that number.

Wendy Baker


From: Rose Landowne <Roselandow@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 22,2009 at 04:01 PM
Subject: JOFA - Request for Proposals

June 22, 2009

JOFA (the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) invites submissions for
its Seventh International Conference on Feminism and Orthodoxy to be
held in New York City on March 13th and 14th, 2010.

Leadership within the Modern Orthodox community has, for too long,
been the domain of men.  Halakha has been used by those in power to
exclude women from positions of authority.  Traditional values and
social conservatism have reinforced narrow interpretations of Jewish
law.  Despite this historic reality, over the past few years, we have
begun to see a serious effort to change this monolithic male power

Halakhic progressive minyanim, such as Shira Hadasha in Jerusalem,
where women lead parts of the service, have emerged as a viable
alternative to traditional synagogues.   A woman has recently been
ordained as a member of the American Orthodox clergy and is serving in
a rabbinic role in an Orthodox synagogue, and women are members of the
religious staff of a number of Orthodox synagogues.  More women are
founding and leading serious schools of learning where women are being
trained as halakhic decisors.   And, in the home, more women and men
are sharing responsibility for ceremonial and ritual practice,
previously performed by men only.

The challenge we now face is to both accelerate these changes and at
the same time make them an accepted part of the mainstream Orthodox
experience.  In this conference, we will explore historical precedents
that can serve as models for women's empowerment today.  We will
engage with texts to develop a balanced view of the halakhic
dimensions of women's leadership in communal and religious life.   We 
will examine novel approaches to facilitate change within Orthodox
institutions and traditions. We will hear from Orthodoxy's young
female leaders and scholars.   Finally, we will discuss how to
maximize the new facts on the ground to create a more vibrant,
inclusive and democratic view of leadership within the Modern Orthodox
community.  We hope to address these issues through diverse
perspectives and especially welcome proposals for interactive
sessions, as well as those that focus on innovations in life cycle

Please submit a short abstract of your proposed presentation, as well
as a brief CV via email to: <conference@...>  The final date for
proposal submissions is October 15, 2009.


From: Haim Snyder <haimsny@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 28,2009 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Sink Drain Strainers

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.)"

There is an authoritative book called "Shmirat Shabbat K'Hilchata"
(Observing the Sabbath According to Law) which is referred to by both laymen
and rabbis here in Israel.  In the second edition (the more stringent) in
Chapter 12, paragraph 19, it says specifically that it is permitted.  It
cites eminent posek Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ztz"l who uses the comment
of Rabbi Moshe Isserles to the Shulhan Aruch O"H siman 319 para 3 that
separating things which are the same by size is permissible as his source.
Clearly, the material at the bottom of the sink is all waste and, therefore,
halachically the same. He further states that, since the purpose is just to
avoid clogging the sink's drain pipe, there is even less of a question of
the permissibility of this.

Haim Shalom Snyder

From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 28,2009 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Sink Drain Strainers

Haim Shalom Snyder wrote:
> There is an authoritative book called "Shmirat Shabbat K'Hilchata" (Observing
> the Sabbath According to Law)which is referred to by both laymen and
> rabbis here in Israel...

Haim -- thank you for your response --

Again my question was not whether one could use the sink strainer -- the
answer is HOW does one reach the determination of whether or not one may use
the sink strainer -- or more generically, how does one make / reach such
decisions.  [Perhaps I wasn't clear enough in posing my question.]

My contention is (and this goes back to postings several years) that one
consults their community (shul, kehilla, shtut) Rav.



From: Rose Landowne <Roselandow@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 29,2009 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Women Rabbis

Rose Landowne <Roselandow@...> wrote:
> it is difficult to break through the red
> tape, without the title of "Rabbi".  I recognize that there are two
> issues here, one personal title, and one job title, but what
> suggestions might be made to solve the dilemma?

Alexander Seinfeld replied:
> How about Rebbetzin?

The problem is that Rebbetzin is used as the title of a woman who is  
married to a rabbi.  Can a woman whose husband is not a rabbi use that  
title, or is it misleading? How about a single woman? Same problem for  
the title Rabbanit, though I thought it otherwise would have been the  
title of choice.

From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 30,2009 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Women Rabbis

Alexander Seinfeld wrote:
> How about Rebbetzin?

The problem with this solution is that a "Rebbetzin" or "Rabbanit" is the
Rabbi's wife.

If we are talking about a lady visiting people in hospital like a Rabbi does
(very institutionalised in the diaspora but is also done in Israel), why not
just let her have the title "Jewish Chaplain".

Although my pocket Bantam-Megiddo dictionary translates "chaplain" as "komer
malchuti" [malchuti= "state"; komer= "priest (Christian), parson"  when
translating in reverse using same dictionary], and although I feel very
uncomfortable with the title of "chaplain" for Jewish religious
personnel - the mainstream communities in England, and I understand
also the USA, do not have any problem using this term.

There is a lady in the community where my parents lived, who is actually more of
a social worker, and she uses this title when doing the hospital rounds.

David Ziants
Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel

From: Rela M. Geffen <rela1@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 30,2009 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Women Rabbis

On Women Rabbis - The term Rebbitzin refers to the spouse of a rabbi,  
a title not necessarily connected to qualifications in learning.  
(Though of course many Rebbitzins are learned.) In Israel they use  
Rabba.  I think Rav is the correct term just like Doctor or Professor -  
we don't feminize these titles (as would be done in some languages  
like German) but use them for both genders.

Dr. Rela Mintz Geffen, Professor Emerita
Baltimore Hebrew University


End of Volume 56 Issue 86