Volume 57 Number 52 
      Produced: Wed, 16 Dec 2009 22:37:35 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Becoming a Minhag (2)
    [Martin Stern  Orrin Tilevitz]
Behaviors around the Sepher Torah (2)
    [Orrin Tilevitz  Martin Stern]
Bowing at gadlu 
    [Eitan Fiorino]
How much did he pay (2)
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz  Leah Aharoni]
    [Russell J Hendel]
Judith and Chanukah 
    [Ben Katz]
Middle Names 
    [Bernard Raab]
THIS Jordan? 
    [Lisa Liel]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Dec 7,2009 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Becoming a Minhag

Further to my remark in mail-jewish Vol.57 #51:

> To get round this problem Yeravam ben Nevat (the prototype of those who are
> chote umachti et harabbim [sin and cause others to sin] who have no chelelk
> in olam haba [no place in the world to come] -Sanhedrin 90a) posted sentries
> to prevent such people entering thereby ensuring that objectors did not
> exist.

The whole affair suggests a completely new way of understanding the verse
(Ps. 19,14) Gam mizeidim chasoch avdecha, al yimshlu bi az eitam venikeiti
mipesha rav - Also guard Your servant from presumptuous sinners, let them
not rule over me, then will I be justified and be clear from the rav's
iniquity [perhaps a better translation of the last phrase is "from much iniquity" 

May a Hoshea ben Ela [who removed the sentries shortly before the
destruction of the Northern kingdom] come speedily and remove the

Martin Stern

From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 8,2009 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Becoming a Minhag

From: Susan Kane:
> I think we discussed recently that Sepharadim follow the ruling that one should
> always maintain one own's minhag.

By speculating that Sepharadim (and those who daven nusach sefard) were
expansionists I was merely observing, not criticizing. But surely you will
concede that loudly asserting one's minhag in a foreign shul is more likely to
result in others following than the reverse.

> You could just as easily say that Jews "insist" on keeping kosher even though
> Gentile willingly eat in our homes.

I don't understand the comparison.


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Mon, Dec 7,2009 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Behaviors around the Sepher Torah

> Another example: The shul in which I grew up, the gabbai would hand the Sefer
> Torah to the Shaliach Tzibur as he started to return the Sefer Torah after the
> leyning / haftorah. Is this Minhag, courtesy to the shaliach Tziubr, 
> practicality, or koved to the Sefer Torah?

I don't know about Carl's shul, but when the sefer is heavy and/or the shatz is
clumsy or elderly, as the gabbai I regularly pick up the top of the sefer
(remember, it's lying on the shulchan at this point) and stand it up on the
shulchan in front of the shatz. It's a lot easier on everyone.

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Dec 7,2009 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Behaviors around the Sepher Torah

SThere seem to be two minhagim regarding whether the person who takes out the
Sefer Torah shuts the Aron after handing it over to the shatz. Those who
keep it open until he leaves the Duchan to go to the Bimah stand sideways so
as not to have their backs to the Aron and remaining Sifrei Torah and turn
to it for Gadlu. According to the other custom of shutting it immediately,
turning to the closed Aron seems pointless. Can anyone suggest a reason or
is it merely a copying of the procedure of those who keep it open?

Also I have noticed that in certain places, the person taking out the Sefer
Torah takes it down the steps to hand it to the shatz. Surely this is not
correct and the latter should go up to fetch it in order to give honour to

Similarly, in some places the Sefer Torah is taken to 'important' people to
kiss rather than that they should go forward to it. Is this not also a
denigration of the Sefer Torah as though the person is more important than

Martin Stern


From: Eitan Fiorino <afiorino@...>
Date: Mon, Dec 7,2009 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Bowing at gadlu

Regarding this discussion - I was told many years ago by an extremely learned
fellow that one is permitted to bow during tefila only at the places that chazal
were m'taken that this was required, and nowhere else.  He mentioned this to me
with regard to bowing while one one says barchu before birkat hatorah during
keriat hatorah (an example, he said, of a situation in which one should not bow).  
If this is indeed correct it would very likely be the case as well for the
chazan bowing during gadlu (most of the verses recited during the removal of the
torah are fairly late additions; Ruth Langer has an article or two on the
development on this portion of the liturgy in the medieval period). 

However, I've not heard this principle cited ever in the 10+ years since I heard
it and I've lost touch with the person who made the claim in the first place, so
I am curious if others have heard this or even better have a source for it. 

Tony Fiorino, MD, PhD


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Mon, Dec 7,2009 at 10:01 AM
Subject: How much did he pay

From: Robert Israel <israel@...>
> Avraham's time was not only before the introduction of floating exchange
> rates, it was before the invention of national currencies. Note that
> Avraham "weighed out" (vayishkol) 400 shekels of silver, rather than
> counting out coins. The shekel was primarily a unit of weight, rather
> than a unit of money. The first known coins (i.e. pieces of metal
> stamped by a government as guarantee of value) date from the seventh
> century BCE.

However, the point that I was trying to make was that different
kingdoms could have adulterated the silver ingots that they used so
that weighing them would not be sufficient to determine the value.
Consider the description of gold as 14 karat etc. Thus, the "over
lasocher" would be silver ingots whose purity is trustworthy and
therefore whose weight would be accepted as a particular value.

I should also mention that we learn that Yaakov set up coinage in
Shechem as part of his making it a place to settle.

       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: Leah Aharoni <leah25@...>
Date: Mon, Dec 7,2009 at 05:01 PM
Subject: How much did he pay

Gershon Bar Kochva, an Israeli military historian and a resident of Hebron,
discussed this topic in a recent lecture.
According to Bar Kochva, at the time of Avraham, the standard practice was
to carry precious metals in pre-cut slabs (sort of like Toblerone chocolate
bars) and break of as many pieces as was necessary for a particular
transaction. In Hebrew, this breaking off was call btziya, hence the Hebrew
expression "betza kesef."
According to Bar Kochva, Avraham's 400 shekels were equivalent to
approximately US$ 700,000.
Leah Aharoni
Email:  <leah25@...>


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 8,2009 at 09:01 PM

There have been several postings dealing with the Hebrew root Ayin-Nun-Hey
especially as it appears in Ex32-18. These postings raise GENERAL issues about
the proper way to read the Bible, translate the Bible and innovate translation.
I think this is an important useful topic and therefore am writing a separate
posting addressing two previous postings.

One post cited a prestegious website. The website cited some Midrashim and used
them to innovate the idea that Ayin-Nun-Hey might mean ASSIST. Here are two
examples: Ex18-19 [Context: The revelation of the decalogue]....Moses spoke and
God ASSISTED HIM (Ayin-nun-hey) with voice. Hosea 2:23-24 "...I God will ASSIST
the Heavens (Ayin-nun-hey).

My response to this is three-fold. #1) The translation ASSIST for Ayin-Nun-Hey
is not found in classical sources such as the Radack, Rashi or other
translational resources. #2) With almost any root you can take a handful of
verses and throw in some new meaning (not found in classical sources) and use
the verses to prove your point. That doesn't justify the new translation. It
also doesn't justify "publications" of something new. #3) However I don't think
these exercises are worthless. I think they justify suggesging a NUANCE of the
new meaning. The challenge to the researcher is to INTEGRATE this NUANCE with
EXISTING meanings. Even if there are Midrashim that seem to suggest this new
meaning I would still take it as a NUANCE of an EXISTING MEANING which
INTEGRATES with existing meanings.

Let us return to Ayin-Nun-Hey. The fundamental meaning is ANSWER/REFRAIN. Now
consider the following two translations a) Moses spoke and God ASSISTED (the
connotation being that God the King assisted servant Moses) vs b) Moses spoke
and God REFRAINED him (here REFRAIN has a NUANCE of assistance...but REFRAIN is
different than ASSIST -- REFRAIN suggests that God as it were was subordinate to
Moses...we can justify this...the people were afraid of God and preferred Moses
speak to them (Deut. 5 20:24) In fact God explicitly declared that one of his
goals was to enable the people to "believe in Moses" (Ex. 19:09). So indeed "God
REFRAINED Moses" is a better more accurate translation than "God ASSISTED Moses.")

A similar analysis can be applied to Hoeas 2:23-24. Not I God will ASSIST the
heavens but rather "I God will REFRAIN the Heavens (e.g. refrain the heavenly
prayers uttered by the people) and they will REFRAIN the earth And the earth
will REFRAIN grain...." In fact Hosea 2:18 declares the famous goal that in the
Messianic era "She will not call Me MY POSSESSOR but MY MAN" Here Hosea plays on
images between an OWNER-OBJECT marriage (Baal) vs. a MALE-FEMALE (i.e. SHARED)
marriage. So the correct nuances in the verses is not King God ASSISTING heaven
but rather God having a SHARED relationship with the Jews by REFRAINING their
heavenly prayers.

SUMMARY: In both verses the translation REFRAIN has a nuance of ASSIST but the
more correct translation is REFRAIN.

Now let us return to Ex32-18. The verse speaks about a VICTORY REFRAIN, WEAKNESS
REFRAIN and GENERAL REFRAIN (which I have translated as Mob Hysteria). Is this
approach correct. One person dissented and cited a commentary on Rashi who seems
to be hinting at a translation of TORTURE. They point out that the verbs used
are in ACTIVE vs INTENSIVE mode **suggesting** possibly different translations.
Fair enough. This is a good question. But there are ways of answering it.

To do my research I a) looked up examples in the Biblical Konkordance, b) looked
up examples in Radack, and c) looked up commentaries in the Torah Shlaymah (A
wonderful resource when doing Midrashic(exegetical) research). The Torah
Shlaymah cites one commentary that cites Isiah 27:2 "A vineyard for heavy wine
WILL THEY REFRAIN" In this verse the INTENSIVE mode of Ayin-Nun-Hey is used.
EVERYONE (no exceptions) agrees that Ayin-Nun-Hey in this verse means REFRAIN.
So this verse justifies that the ACTIVE and INTENSIVE both mean REFRAIN. In
other words there is not MUCH of a difference between them (This is qualified below)

But is that true? Doesn't the intensive of Ayin-Nun-Hey means rape and more
generally torture. That is a good question but if we apply Talmudic methods we
see that rape is INTENSIVE (or CAUSATIVE) REFRAIN. The rapist is seen (as in
English) as "making his victim answer to him" Part of the rapists crime (besides
the physical violence) is a theft of will ...the victim MUST RESPOND/REFRAIN to
what he demands there is nothing shared. SImilarly e.g. with the meanings
POVERTY (Ayin-Nun-Yud) and TORTURED we have a situation of FORCED RESPONSE.

So indeed we can take the fundamental meaning of Ayin-Nun-Hey as
and connotes a mob gone wild where people REFRAIN on everything without thinking
(Which accounts for Chur's murder...no one killed him...the mob killed him...and
the mob had no will ...just refrain).

It is true Rashi uses the word TORTURE. But I think the emphasis is on the
general VOICE (a refrain of macho talk such as we find with mob). The use of the
word Torture is possibly accidental.

We can also understand the Radack (Since one dissenter misquoted this I cite it
in full) "And the INTENSIVE (Piel)on this matter (Ayin-Nun-Hey), examples such
as Ps 88:1, Isiah 27:2, Ex32:18 [GENERAL MOB REFRAIN]--ALL verses refer to
RAISING THE VOICE IN SONG. And some verses IN MOURNING  such as Isa 13:22...and
from this matter the ACTIVE INFINITIVE (Qal) as in Ex32-18 [VICTORY REFRAIN,
WEAKNESS REFRAIN]." As can be CLEARLY seen from this citation The Radack
explicitly IDENTIFIES the ACTIVE and INTENSIVE mode (Qal, PIel) which is why I
called the grammatical point OBSCURE...it really doesn't matter.

Enough for one posting. I hope I have showed people some of the "dos" and
"donts" of Biblical translation which is a rich, vibrant living field.

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA; http://www.Rashiyomi.com/


From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Mon, Dec 7,2009 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Judith and Chanukah

I have a comment and a question for this learned group:

The RMA on the shulchan aruch siman 670 dealing with Chanukah states that there
is a custom to eat dairy because of the miracle that occurred with dairy after
Judith fed it to the enemy.  The mishna berurah adds that Judith was the
daughter of Yochanan the high priest and there was a decree about forcing
espoused women to have immoral relations with "tafsar" (I am not sure who that
is) and so Judith cut off the head of the chief antagonist.

Comment: This is not the story in the book of Judith.  Milk is only mentioned in
the Judges story with Yael, and there is no immoral decree in Judith.
Question: What is the source of the story the SA and the RMA are familiar with?
 How did the story of Judith get linked with Chanukah?  According to the book
itself the story takes place in the immediate aftermath of the return from
Babylonia in 586 BCE.  There are historical problems with the book and many
scholars believe it actually was written in the Maccabean era to bolster morale,
but how did it get accepted Jewishly?

Chanukah sameach.

Ben Z. Katz, MD
Professor of Pediatrics
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Mon, Dec 7,2009 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Middle Names

> On Thu, Dec 3,2009, Carl Singer <carl.singer@...> wrote:
> >> If one has two names both should be used-"nisht tzu farshemen di mes" not
> >> to shame the person after whom he is named.
> > 
> > This is understood when one is named after two different individuals.
> > However, in many cases this is not the case -- the Tzvi Hersh, for example,
> > is not named after grandfather, Zvi and uncle, Hersh -- but after a single
> > individual.

> From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
> On the contrary, this principle would apply even more to such a case. If the
> person after whom he was named had a double-barrelled name like Tzvi Hersh
> than not using the full name might be an insult.

So many of these double-barreled names are simply Hebrew-Yiddish couplets of the
same name; Tzvi Hersh (Hirsch is deer in German) among them. Other very common
examples are Aryeh Leib (my father) and Dov Ber (myself). Somehow, when I was
named my parents decided to drop the Yiddish appendages, despite the fact that
Yiddish was their first language, and so I am simply Dov b. Aryeh. This must
have been very avant-guard in the day, because a still recall some of the
older-generation gabboim automatically using the couplet form and being
surprised at my insistence on the single form. Obviously, my parents did not
feel that they were "fershemen" their ancestors by simplifying my name. I am
grateful to them; I subscribe to the "brevity-wit" equation.


From: Lisa Liel <lisa@...>
Date: Mon, Dec 7,2009 at 10:01 AM
Subject: THIS Jordan?

>From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
>In Sedra Vayishlach, Yaakov Avinu says "Ki vemakli avarti et hayardein HAZEH
>- I have crossed THIS Yardein" (my emphases) which would seem to imply that
>there is another Yardein which he did not cross. I am unaware of any other
>river of that name yet none of the meforshim I consulted commented on this
>apparently superfluous word nor could anyone I asked offer an explanation.
>Can anyone suggest why the word HAZEH is used here and in several other
>places in Tnakh?

I remember learning that most rivers flow south to north.  And that 
the Jordan river was called Yarden because it runs "backwards" from 
the norm.  Which would also explain why what looks like a proper noun 
takes a definite article.  Because it was descriptive rather than a name.



End of Volume 57 Issue 52