Volume 57 Number 40 
      Produced: Tue, 03 Nov 2009 20:28:20 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Aramaic kamatz 
    [Ben Katz]
    [Menashe Elyashiv]
Cameras and sensors (5)
    [Ari Trachtenberg  Carl Singer  Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz  Janice Gelb  Martin Stern]
Cameras, sensors and elevators 
    [Carl Singer]
Is there a halachic concept of "take one for the team"? 
    [David Curwin]
Kaporos (2)
    [Alex Heppenheimer  Alex Heppenheimer]
New edition of the MOFET JTEC Jewish Education Portal Newsletter 
    [Reuven Werber]
NOT stopping traffic on Shabbos 
    [Akiva Miller]
Shabbat Elevators 
    [Shmuel Himelstein]
Why doesn't Avraham tell Sarah about the prophecy of Yitzchak's birth? 
    [David Curwin]


From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 28,2009 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Aramaic kamatz

In M-J V57#38, Ira L. Jacobson wrote:
> Is there any book that tells of the actual work of the original 
> Masoretes, ben-Asher and perhaps his predecessors?  What prompted 
> them to do the work at all, and what pronunciation of the time, if 
> any, were they applying to the text?

I think the best book is "History of the Tiberian Mesorah" by Yeivin.


From: Menashe Elyashiv <Menashe.Elyashiv@...>
Date: Sun, Oct 25,2009 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Birds

In MJ 57/37 Bob wrote:
> This ritual may be a remnant from the Bais Hamikdosh (temple) The Kohan 
> Gadol (high priest) may have done this before sacrificing a dove or other 
> bird

There is no Semicha on birds.


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 2,2009 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Cameras and sensors

From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...> wrote:
> Here's a thought: Despite Einstein's famous objection to Quantum  
> Theory that "G-
> d does not play dice with the universe", it is well-accepted today  
> that at the
> atomic level, the level at which electricity operates, there is  
> really no
> determinism. As with the grama switch, the response appears to be  
> instantaneous,
> but the reality is that there is an indeterminate quality to all  
> electric usage.

Nice idea ... but you don't need quantum mechanics for this.  For any  
activity, there
is a (much higher) probability of simple failure.  Flip a light  
switch: there is a chance that
the switch was (or will) short; strike a match:  there is a real  
chance that the phosphorous
won't ignite.

Ultimately, the question is how much indeterminism is needed for  
halachic significance.

Ari Trachtenberg, Boston University
http://people.bu.edu/trachten mailto:<trachten@...>

From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 2,2009 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Cameras and sensors

>About waiting for someone else to activate a door, assuming that most
>people are not Jewish, it is irrelevant since it is forbidden to allow a
>non-Jew to do a m'lacha [forbidden Sabbath work --MOD] for your benefit.

My apologies, in advance, if this appears to be paskening.

I believe the above is an overstatement of the prohibition.

Al Regel Achat [briefly] the normal prohibition is that it is forbidden for
me to derive benefit from work that a non-Jew does  *at my request* (and for
my benefit.)

If, for example, a non-Jew happens to walks into a dark room and turns on
the light, I may derive benefit from said light - this was not done at my
request.  Clearly, I cannot tell the non-Jew to walk into the room and turn
on the light (request & benefit.)  I might, however, tell the non-Jew that
there is a book in that room that is of interest to him / her.

In my hospital (electronic) door example, if a non-Jew who is entering the
hospital for their own purposes, (not a my request) sets off the sensor
which in turn activates / opens the door -- I can enter via that opened
door.  (There are, of course, complications, am I (too) setting off the
sensor, etc.)


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 2,2009 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Cameras and sensors

On Mon, Nov 2, 2009 at 4:11 PM, Mail-Jewish <mj@...> wrote:

> From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
> Date: Wed, Oct 28,2009 at 03:01 PM
> Subject: Cameras and sensors

> About waiting for someone else to activate a door, assuming that most people
> are not Jewish, it is irrelevant since it is forbidden to allow a non-Jew to
> do a m'lacha [forbidden Sabbath work --MOD] for your benefit.

I would ask about this because there is a difference between "amirah
l'akum" (asking a nonJew to do something for you, having the nonJew do
something for your benefit (without you asking at all), and having him
do something for himself that you can take advantage of. Another
analogy would be if the nonJew turns on the lights in a room so that
he can sit in a chair and read. IIRC you are allowed to sit in the
room and read as well. In this case, the nonJew has opened the door so
that he can enter. The fact that you use the open door to enter as
well has no effect on the matter. He would have opened the door
whether or not you were there.

It is only if he sees you standing there, activates the door so that
you can enter (without your saying anything to him) and then walks
away that there would be a question.

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

From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 2,2009 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Cameras and sensors

David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...> wrote:
> About waiting for someone else to activate a door, 
> assuming that most people are not Jewish, it is 
> irrelevant since it is forbidden to allow a non-Jew 
> to do a m'lacha [forbidden Sabbath work --MOD] for 
> your benefit.

I thought the whole point of this practice was 
that the non-Jew was doing the melacha for his/her 
own benefit, not yours. If someone else activates 
the door in order to walk through and you follow 
close behind while the door is still open, I don't 
see how their action is for your benefit.

-- Janice

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 3,2009 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Cameras and sensors

On Wed, Oct 28,2009, David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...> wrote:

Subject: Cameras and sensors
> About waiting for someone else to activate a door, assuming that most people
> are not Jewish, it is irrelevant since it is forbidden to allow a non-Jew to
> do a m'lacha [forbidden Sabbath work --MOD] for your benefit.

This is not relevant in this case since the non-Jew is activating the door
for his own use and the Jew is only taking advantage of its being open. This
is similar to the case where a non-Jew comes into a dark room and turns on
the light for his own purposes but not to benefit a Jew who also wants to
have light.

Martin Stern


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 2,2009 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Cameras, sensors and elevators

Thank you to the responders, both on this forum and back channel.

Seeing the varying responses attributed to several choshev [important --MOD]
Torah scholars one is reminded that the way one makes related determinations for
one's own derech and actions is via their own, personal Posek -- NOT via the
internet or, for that matter, via this forum.



From: David Curwin <tobyndave@...>
Date: Sat, Oct 31,2009 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Is there a halachic concept of "take one for the team"?

If there was a scenario where a number of people were likely to
unintentionally sin (shogeg), would it be permissible or required for one
individual to sin intentionally (mezid) to prevent it?

I'm sure there's a better example, but let's say that a group of people were
likely to walk on a certain street on Shabbat. They didn't realize that when
they crossed the street, they would be pressing on a button that would cause
a light to turn on somewhere else. The one person who knew about this setup,
on Shabbat, couldn't warn them, but he could pull the plug, which in itself
would be violating Shabbat. Should he? (Please ignore the potential details
in the case that might make it less relevant, like whether electricity here
is d'oraita [Torah law] or d'rabanan [Rabbinic law], etc.)

And if he would be allowed/required to perform such an act, what about doing
it against the will of the other people involved? Could he blow out a fire
on Shabbat that belonged to people who he knew would be using it to cook? 

-David Curwin


From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 28,2009 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Kaporos

In MJ 57:37, S.Wise <Smwise3@...> replied to me:

>What is the difference between 
>saying an angry deity who wants to kill you, or a realization that G-d will 
>kill you for disobeying him. Aside from that, how many acts are chayav misah, 
>deserving of death, that this should have become such a practice, that one 
>should feel he or should be punished by death? 

Hillel Markowitz answered quite cogently in 57:38. I would add the following:

* With a human king, the rule is that anyone who disobeys any command of his 
(unless it's against halachah), no matter how minor, is considered a rebel and 
is subject to the death penalty (Rambam, Hil. Melachim 3:8). In non-Jewish 
absolute monarchies, it is the same, and if anything more so. So a subject can 
indeed forfeit his or her life for a single act of disobedience to a human king; 
the Divine king deserves no less respect. (Granted that the monarch has the 
right to commute the person's sentence, but it would be foolhardy to rely on 
that.) While this mentality may be difficult for those of us living in Western 
democracies to relate to, it is no less true for all that.

* In our relationship with Hashem, it's also not so much a matter of punishment 
as of consequences. If you give your child crayons to color a picture, and 
instead she uses them to draw on the walls, then you'll take the crayons away; 
this isn't a punishment, but simply a preventive measure so that she doesn't 
continue to misuse them. Well, then, since G-d gives us life, intellect, 
physical capabilities, and so forth, it follows logically that if someone uses 
these to disobey Him, then yes, by rights that life and those capabilities 
should be forfeit. The fact that this doesn't happen immediately, and that 
teshuvah is possible, is a special and supra-logical kindness of Hashem's. (See 
Yalkut Shimoni, Yechezkel 358: neither Wisdom, Prophecy, or Torah could conceive 
of teshuvah as a way to repair this breach, only G-d Himself.)

It is true that taking this idea too far can lead to an unbalanced view of 
Hashem as, G-d forbid, a vicious and angry deity. The fact is, after all, that 
we don't do kapparos every day, and neither did the average individual bring an 
offering in the Beis Hamikdash every day. There are many other avenues for 
developing a relationship with Hashem based on love and fear; these include the 
many other practical mitzvos that Hashem granted us, and the study of Chassidus 
or Mussar in order to infuse those actions with meaning. But it is surely 
appropriate, before the day set aside for our annual "performance review," to do 
something practical to drive home the reality of where disobedience to Hashem 
should naturally lead.

>All these comments in defense of the kapporos through bird seems more like 
>a rationalization than anything else. Many people don't use chickens, and I 
>would be hard-pressed to believe that everyone who uses chickens is so 
>overwhelmed by the thought that they are deserving of death and that this 
>actually makes a difference.

Perhaps not. But the possibility at least exists. (Not everyone who fasts on Yom 
Kippur is consumed by thoughts of teshuvah and humility either; should that too 
be abolished?)

>In this case, what took so long to start this minhag in the 
>first place, and why is it not universally performed?

A version of it actually goes back to the time of the Gemara (Rashi to Shabbos 
81b, s.v. [hai] parfisa). So it's a lot older than Ashkenazic Jewry. As for the 
fact that it's not universally practiced: there is a halachic opinion (Shulchan 
Aruch, Orach Chaim 605:1 - cited by Abe Lebowitz in MJ 57:38) that it is 
prohibited because of "darkei ha'emori" ("the ways of the Amorites" - i.e., that 
it is a pagan-like superstition). So those who follow this opinion are of course 
correct in doing so, all of the above discussion notwithstanding. Conversely, 
though, the other halachic decisors who do approve of kapparos are clearly not 
concerned about this consideration, and their opinion is equally worthy of 

Kol tuv,

From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 28,2009 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Kaporos

In MJ 57:38, Russell Hendel <RHendel@...> wrote:

>Just to respond and agree with S.Wise. The interpretation of Sacrifices as "We
>deserved to die so the animal is dying instead" is pagan and contrary to the
>Jewish point of view.

This interpretation is advanced by Ramban (in his commentary to Vayikra 1:9, and 
in his discourse Toras Hashem Temimah ["The Law of the Eternal is Perfect," in 
Ramban: Writings and Discourses, trans. Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel (New York: 
Shilo, 1978)], pp. 101ff.), based on a brief comment of Ibn Ezra to Vayikra 1:1. 
It is in turn cited by the Sefer HaChinuch, mitzvah 95.

Are you, then, saying that these Torah giants - including the Ramban, speaking 
to a Jewish audience in Barcelona shortly after his famous disputation there, 
and needing to strengthen their commitment to Judaism after being forced to hear 
a missionizing speech by the king of Aragon - knew no better than to give an 
explanation that is "pagan and contrary to the Jewish point of view"?! It is 
staggering to read such a thing on a forum devoted to Torah discussion.

The explanation you summarized from R' S.R. Hirsch is beautiful and explains a 
lot of details about the procedures of the korbanos, it is true (although I 
don't have his commentary at hand to compare your presentation with what he 
wrote). But I think he would blanch at someone using his viewpoint to attack the 

>So what do I think of Kaporos: I think someone who didn't understand sacrifices
>made them up. It is pagan-like as SWise says and is totally unjewish.

These "someones" include the Geonim, the Tur, the Rema, the Arizal, and many 
other Rishonim and Acharonim (earlier and later authorities). Would you have the 
nerve to look them in the eye (when Moshiach comes - may it be soon) and tell 
them that they "didn't understand sacrifices" but that you do?

Kol tuv,


From: Reuven Werber <reuw@...>
Date: Thu, Oct 22,2009 at 04:01 PM
Subject: New edition of the MOFET JTEC Jewish Education Portal Newsletter

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The JTEC Portal Team
The MOFET  Institute


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 28,2009 at 10:01 AM
Subject: NOT stopping traffic on Shabbos

Carl Singer wrote (V57#38):

> Back from 2 years learning in Jerusalem, my son told me that on
> Shabbos one doesn't cross the street in such a manner as to cause
> a driver to slow down or stop on their account ...

[T]he above is a good description of how I act, even on weekdays, even in
non-Jewish neighborhoods.

If I am walking, and I am approaching a street corner, and I see a car 
approaching that same corner, I do not have the chutzpah to insist that he 
should wait for me. People do not walk as fast as cars move, and so in general, 
my crossing first would delay him for a good number of seconds. In contrast, if 
he crosses first, he is delaying me only a tiny bit, sometimes not at all.

The sum total is that less time is wasted, and the world runs more efficiently, 
if the car crosses before the pedestrian. Of course, safety is an important 
issue, and the pedestrian is at much more risk than the auto, so I try to make 
my intentions clear by making a slight diversion, and walking toward the rear 
end of the car, so that he has a clear path and need not worry about me. Again, 
my trip is delayed by much less than the delay he would have endured if I had 
walked across the front of his car.

My children have often expressed their opinion that I am wrong in acting this 
way, because it is not how the drivers expect the pedestrian to act, and this 
throws the whole system off kilter. I usually respond, "Yes, they're confused 
for a bit, but they still get home faster." But sometimes I tell them, "Yes, I'm
playing by different rules than they do. Now go look up 'Game Theory' in 

Akiva Miller


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Sun, Oct 25,2009 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Shabbat Elevators

What I find more than a little surprising is that the new Psak forbidding
the use of "Shabbat elevators," was made without anyone attempting  to check
with Machon Tzomet, which is specifically involved with checking both the
Halachah and the scientific data. In fact, Machon Tzomet has specifically
permitted some elevators for use on Sabbath, after rigorous investigation. 

And I say, on extremely good authority, that Machon  Tzomet was not
approached. Maybe it's because it's a "Religious Zionist" organization.

Check out: http://www.zomet.org.il/?CategoryID=274&ArticleID=48
which states that if this elevator is forbidden, then using a refrigerator
should also be forbidden on Shabbat.

For the full Machon Tzomet ruling, check:

Incidentally, part of the problem (see "Religious Zionist" above) is that,
for example, one of those who wrote about this on the Internet, referred to
"Rav" Rosen (the quotation marks are in the original), the head of Machon
Tzomet, rather than giving him the honor he deserves.

Shmuel Himelstein


From: David Curwin <tobyndave@...>
Date: Sat, Oct 31,2009 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Why doesn't Avraham tell Sarah about the prophecy of Yitzchak's birth?

At the end of Parashat Lech Lecha, Avraham is told by God that he and Sarah
will have a son together - Yitzchak. In the beginning of Parashat VaYera,  the 
angels come to Avraham and tell him about the upcoming birth of Yitzchak; Sarah
overhears and is surprised. It would seem to me from this that Avraham did
not tell Sarah about the prophecy he had only received shortly before. Why

One possible solution, in the approach of Rav Breuer z"l, would be that
these are two separate stories. However, I don't see this discussed in his
books that I have (such as Pirkei Bereishit), so I'm wary of making such a
claim on my own. 

If it is one story, I suppose it could be explained that Sarah was more
surprised by hearing the news from the angels than she was when Avraham told
her about the prophecy. But that just doesn't seem natural to me. It reminds
me of another story where I have difficulty accepting a common resolution:
In Shemot 32, Moshe is told by God about the sin of the Golden Calf. He asks
for forgiveness for the people and receives it. But then when he goes down
the mountain, he gets angry and breaks the tablets (and ends up asking for
forgiveness a second time). Here it is said that seeing (the sin) isn't like
hearing it - but it seems to me Moshe's reaction is one of someone
encountering the sin for the first time. He seems genuinely surprised - as
does Sarah!

Any explanations will be welcome,



End of Volume 57 Issue 40