Volume 57 Number 61 
      Produced: Wed, 23 Dec 2009 13:27:28 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

    [Alex Heppenheimer]
Charedi light 
    [Ginzberg, Joseph]
Chareidi Internet (3)
    [Mordechai Horowitz  Frank Silbermann  Alex Heppenheimer]
How much did he pay 
    [Sammy Finkelman]
Judith and Hanuka 
    [Shayna Kravetz]
Personal Introduction; Biblical and Talmudic Botany 
    [Jon Greenberg]


From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Al-Hannissim

In MJ 57:58, Mark Symons <msymons@...> wrote:

>It seems to me that it would make more sense if Al-Hannissim (in the 
>Amidah) were inserted one verse before, ie before the verse hatov ki lo 
>chalu rachamecha ... me'olam kivinu lach. That verse is really a 
>postscript to the list of 5 things we thank G-d for in the paragraph 
>beginning Modim anachnu lach, introduced by Nodeh lecha u'nesaper 
>tehilatecha, the first preceded by the word Al, the subsequent ones by 
>Ve'al, ie chayeinu..., nishmoteinu..., NISSECHA sheb'chol yom (DAILY 
>miracles)..., NIFLE'OTECHA v'tovotecha she'b'chol eit (thrice daily 
>wonders).... .

>It would flow better to then move straight on to the SPECIAL miracles of 
>this time; also, that way, the introductory Ve'al before Hannissim is 
>included in the list.

Perhaps that's exactly the point: "hatov ki lo chalu..." is summarizing the
daily miracles that Hashem performs for us (which "never cease" and "never
end"); it would be inappropriate to insert there the mention of a miracle that
did "cease" and "end," since it occurred at one time in history (and which we
therefore celebrate for only one, or eight, days each year).

>Once we have finished the list of things we are thanking G-d for, we 
>then, with that verse, take a diversion from thanking, and ASK that 
>G-d's mercies continue.

Do we, though? It seems that the wording there is descriptive ("The benevolent
One, for Your mercies never cease..."), not in the form of a request. And
indeed, this is supposed to be a blessing of thanks, not of petition.

>With (Ve)Al hannisim becoming a stand alone paragraph, then the Al 
>doesn't have a referent. It's now lost its connection to Nodeh lecha. 
>("and for the miracles".... what?)

>Unless these nissim are regarded as being included amongst the kullam of 
>the following paragraph that Gd's name is blessed and exalted for, and 
>that is the referent. But that seems unlikely, as that is a new paragraph.

The paragraphing doesn't necessarily prove anything; that's largely a printing
convention. So yes, "ve'al kullam" may well be meant to include both the daily
miracles and the one-time ones. (And perhaps this is why Nusach Ashkenaz has "al
hanissim" rather than "ve'al" - to make it clear that this is the beginning of a
new thought.)

Kol tuv,


From: Ginzberg, Joseph <JGinzberg@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Charedi light

Rabbi Meir Wise wrote:
> I was brought up in the Mizrachi but wear a frock and homburg on
> shabbes and yom tov but casual during the week. Sometimes tzitzis in
> sometimes out.

While I do realize that the quote above was submitted in jest, I can't resist
pointing out that once again we find even the open-minded Frum defining
themselves by their clothing, rather than their beliefs.  I know it's a small
thing, but I find it very telling- not only a causative factor in splitting our
communities, but also in perpetuating the stereotype.

Would it not be so much better to have written "I grew up in Mizrachi, and
learn and teach Torah and try my best to be mekadesh shem shamayim and
fulfill sheyihe shem shamayim miskadesh al yadcha"?

Yossi Ginzberg


From: Mordechai Horowitz <mordechai@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 22,2009 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Chareidi Internet

Akiva wrote:

> My feeling is that it is the rabbi's JOB to watch out for our spiritual 
> health, and to warn us when we are doing things that are bad for us. 
> We may not like it.
> We may not listen to them. Sometimes they might even be wrong. But for them to
> be silent on the issue? Why? What do YOU think a rabbi's job is?

Obviously by virtue of still using the internet we all reject this 'psak'

The problem with it is it makes no sense and IMHO makes the Rabbis look 
like fools.  Which brings disrespect to Torah. If you want to see how haredim
are ignoring it en masse go to shemayisrael.com,  aish.edu, ohr.edu, torah.org etc.

Anything can be misused.  Get rid of your phone you might call a woman 
to have an affair,a friend for loshon hora or learn Torah with it.

You can go to webyeshiva.org and learn talmud or you can go to playboy.com

The internet is a tool we can use for good or evil.  Its no different 
than any other tool.  It won't go away no matter how much the extremists 
in the haredi world want it too. And fighting its existance rather than 
harnessing its power only makes the old men in black, look like clueless 
old men rather than just religious leaders.

From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Chareidi Internet

Stuart Wise asked:
>> but whom are we dealing with? Children? If not, then why aren't adults
>> treated with enough respect to decide things for themselves?

Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...> Vol 57 #59 
> Do you also think that the rabbis should treat adults with enough respect to
> decide for themselves whether or not it's a good idea to eat chicken with milk?
> ...whether or not it's a good idea to play musical instruments on Shabbos?
> ... whether or not it's a good idea to say the Shmoneh Esreh three times a day?
> ... to decide for themselves whether or not it's a good idea to avoid eating >
food cooked by non-Jews (also known as "bishul akum")?
> Why? What do YOU think a rabbi's job is?

A rabbis job is to tell me what obligations I have to G-d.  As for building
fences, I think we have to distinguish between rabbis who have sufficient number
and greatness to remove fences that are no longer needed, versus those who lack

The former have the greatness needed to institute new fences.

> My feeling is that it is the rabbi's JOB to watch out for our spiritual 
> health, and to warn us when we are doing things that are bad for us. 

Warn, yes.  Forbid, maybe not.

Frank Silbermann

From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Chareidi Internet

In MJ 57:57, inter alia, Jeanette Friedman <friedmanj@...> wrote:

>Perhaps it would make sense to reexamine the real history of Chanukah to 
>find out how and what really did happen when religious zealots, in order to 
>destroy "the assimilationists." ran rampant in Judea. Both times the Jews 
>were engaged in civil wars--fighting with each other about religious 
>extremism--and the enemy took advantage. ie. Divide and conquer. 

May I ask for some evidence to substantiate this claim? At no time during the
era of the Second Temple do we find "the religious zealots" trying to destroy
"the assimilationists."

Argue with them, as we find many times in Megillas Taanis (for example, entries
for 1-8 Nissan, 8-22 Nissan, and 24 Av, cited respectively in the Gemara,
Menachos 65a and Bava Basra 115b) - certainly.

Demand the execution of people who had instigated the murder of innocent Jews
(Josephus, Ant. XIII:16:2: "the Pharisees... desired that she would kill those
who persuaded Alexander to slay the eight hundred men; after which they cut the
throat of one of them, Diogenes; and after him they did the same to several, one
after another") - absolutely.

But "running rampant in order to destroy the assimilationists"? Never happened,
except in the fevered minds of those assimilationists (see continuation there in
Josephus). It was always the other way around, as indeed was the case with the
Hellenist persecutions of the loyal Jews during the years before and after the
Chanukah miracle, and the Sadducee persecutions of the loyal Jews (including the
killing of the above mentioned eight hundred) during the reigns of Yochanan
Hyrcanus and Alexander Yannai.

Nor did the fighting during the years before the destruction of the Beis
Hamikdash, between the various "Zealot" factions, have anything to do with
religious differences. In fact, we find (Gittin 56a) the Sages, led by R'
Yochanan ben Zakkai, doing whatever they could to get the Jews to surrender
rather than continue warring against each other (and, according to some
historians - this was discussed a couple of months ago on Mail-Jewish - the
Zealots murdered R' Shimon ben Gamliel when he got in their way).

* * *

One more point, regarding Jeanette's (and Stuart's) larger issue with chumras:

Fewer halachos and chumros doesn't necessarily equal more contentment with the
Torah. Consider the period when the Jewish people were in the desert, when they
hadn't even been taught all 613 mitzvos yet, and of course few if any Rabbinical
mitzvos had been promulgated. The Jews still complained about the restrictions
of forbidden relations (Bamidbar 11:10 as understood by the Gemara, Yoma 75a),
and Korach gathered a whole following by claiming that Moshe and Aharon were
making up laws to trouble the people and to enrich themselves at their expense
(Yalkut Shimoni, Bamidbar 750). Closer to our time, reformed Judaism, purified
of all of the detritus of centuries and placed on a rational basis, still
eventually proved too much for some: quite a few of the early leaders of Reform,
or their children, gave up entirely on Judaism and became Christians. When
keeping mitzvos is viewed as a burden - when we forget Who gave these mitzvos,
and Who gave the Rabbis the authority to apply it to contemporary situations -
then even one mitzvah is too many.

Kol tuv,


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 22,2009 at 08:01 PM
Subject: How much did he pay

LA> Gershon Bar Kochva, an Israeli military historian and a resident of Hebron,
LA> discussed this topic in a recent lecture.

LA> According to Bar Kochva, at the time of Avraham, the standard practice was
LA> to carry precious metals in pre-cut slabs (sort of like Toblerone chocolate
LA> bars) and break of as many pieces as was necessary for a particular
LA> transaction.

Like they did with Spanish "pieces of eight" in the United States in
the 1700's.

Anyway we have the phrase "Over LaSochair" - which has to mean of the
standard type that was used in transactions. It's actually a bit of
misinformation to say the first coins were issued by Lydia around 610
BCE or some other place slightly before. That would be coins issued by a
government with (usually) the picture of the king on it. After that
happened, debasement became possible although that didn't really
happen for centuries.

LA>  In Hebrew, this breaking off was call btziya, hence the Hebrew
expression "betza kesef."

Where do we see this phrase?  I know there we have "Beka" Lagulgoles
at Shemos 38:26 for half a shekel.

LA> According to Bar Kochva, Avraham's 400 shekels were equivalent to
approximately US$ LA> 700,000.

Rabbi Hertz in his Chumash (1935 or slightly earlier) gives the following data:

At Berishis 23:15 - 400 shekels represented approximately 1,000 to
2,000 pounds in purchasing power. That would be some $5,000 to
$10,000. Let's say $10,000 as of the depression. That would be about
double by 1948, an additional 20% by 1957 and an additional 20% by

Shemos 25:39 - a talent of pure gold is approximately 100 pounds in
weight. And the value is about 6.000 pounds sterling

shemos 38:24. A talent equaled 3,000 shekels.

OK. 3,000 shekels is 100 pounds  1 pound is 30 shekels.  A shekel is
about half an ounce, or  53.333%  say half an ounce.

400 shekels = 800 ounces of silver - well, there were different things
to buy.  800 ounces of silver probably meant more then than 800 ounces
of silver would mean now, so it is difficult really to get a sense of

But anyway at today's prices we get:

Silver is now about $18 an ounce - we're talking in the range of
$15,000.  (A troy ounce is   1.09714286 regular ounces - that just
adds 10%. But a shekel was a bit more than a regular half ounce.)


From: Shayna Kravetz <skravetz@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Judith and Hanuka

In reply to a note from D & J Weil:
>  >Not to be completely mundane about this - but did they even have meat
>  > in the middle of the winter in Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries?

Judith wrote:
>I haven't been following this discussion from the beginning, so I may have
>missed something important. However, on the basis of what I have now seen, I
>don't understand the question. I assume the discussion is about places where
>they didn't have cattle nearby. However, if they had meat at any time of the
>year, what was the problem about having it in mid-winter? They knew way back
>about preserving meat by salting it or pickling it. And couldn't meat anyway
>have been deepfrozen in the ice or snow?

Speaking from an agrarian perspective, they were much /more/ likely 
to have meat in the winter than in the summer.  Animals could graze 
outdoors for summer, at the very least maintaining themselves or 
better yet fattening up, and also feeding their young from their own 
bodies.  However, they required feed during the winter -- either 
grains or grasses that had to be stockpiled and paid for in advance; 
otherwise, they'd spend the winter months losing their summer weight 
and shrinking in both size and commercial value.  The economics of 
cattle farming make autumn the most likely time for slaughter.

Kol tuv from
Shayna the carnivore in Toronto


From: Jon Greenberg <jon@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Personal Introduction; Biblical and Talmudic Botany

Dear fellow Mail-Jewish subscribers,

Hello! My name is Jon Greenberg. I have recently joined this list, and have been
enjoying reading your posts and learning about a number of interesting issues,
including some that I wasn't even aware of.

I would also like to introduce you to an interest of mine that may also intrigue
some of you. On my Web site, torahflora.org, I post my articles and
announcements of my public speaking and other events related to the subject of
Biblical and Talmudic botany. I am especially interested in situations in which
a knowledge of the natural world or agriculture can help to illuminate puzzling
or obscure questions in Tanakh and halachah.

I invite you to visit torahflora.org and look through the articles and
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events and new articles, please send me an e-mail and I will add you to my
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addresses, or spam involved).

Best wishes to all,

Jon Greenberg, Ph.D.
Biblical and Talmudic botanist


End of Volume 57 Issue 61