Volume 57 Number 62 
      Produced: Thu, 24 Dec 2009 18:26:03 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Botany and the Menorah (Candellabrah) 
    [Russell J Hendel]
Chareidi Internet (2)
    [Stuart Wise  Akiva Miller]
Global Warming 
    [Harlan Braude]
Judith and Hanuka 
    [Eitan Fiorino]
New Website: My Hebrew Programs 
    [Jacob Richman]
THIS Jordan? (2)
    [Sammy Finkelman  Sammy Finkelman]
Two Birkat Hamazon questions 
    [Alex Heppenheimer]


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Botany and the Menorah (Candellabrah)

John: Welcome to Mail Jewish. What a charming change. I really enjoy
conversations about spousal abuse, the meaning of Biblical passages as well as
discussions  on the Charedi community. 

So it is a welcome change (and I hope other Mail Jewish members feel that way)
to discuss the beauty of the plant world especially as it applies to our Torah.

I myself am familiar with botany from two sources. First as a mathematician I
participate in discussions and write papers on math and art. You and other
mail-jewish people are invited to peruse the math-art website at
http://www.bridgesmathart.org/ We have many historical presentations at these
conferences and perhaps you or other mail jewishers would like to present at
them. Are you or other mail-jewishers aware of the exquisite book "The
Algorithmic Beauty of Plants" devoted to computer generaation of a variety of
plant forms.

My second interest in Botany is the application of the symbolic interpretation
of botany to the Torah. I invite you and other mail-jewishers to peruse my
article "The Menorah - Its Laws, construction and symbolic meaning" at
http://www.Rashiyomi.com/menorah.pdf. The article is based on the symbolic
methods of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Please feel free to post a link on your
website to this wonderful article.

Looking forward to many interesting postings from you
Russell Jay Hendel;http://wwww.Rashiyomi.com/


From: Stuart Wise <Smwise3@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Chareidi Internet

Alex writes:
> 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.

What mitzvah here are you talking about exactly? Part of your response is  
headed in the wrong direction. Here are group of rabbonim who have taken 
upon  themselves to impose a prohibition that may or may not have anything to 
do with  keeping the mitzvos. Adding chumros when not linked to a mitzvah 
and at the same  time taking away a person's choice, to me, weakens those with 
authority.  Look at the guidelines Agudah introduced for weddings and how 
much they are  disregarded. Is it not a principle not to impose a prohibition 
when most  people are not likely to abide by it?
Stuart Wise

From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Chareidi Internet

Mordechai Horowitz wrote:

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

Not "all" of us. Yes, I obviously do use the internet. But I do not "reject"
that psak. I respectfully listen to their point of view, and I thank them for
pointing out those dangers, and then, even when I am using the internet, I
remind myself of its dangers.

In any case, it's not clear to me what point you're trying to make. What
difference does it make whether everyone rejects it, or if only some reject it?
Either way, maybe I'm right, and maybe I'm wrong.

> The problem with it is it makes no sense and IMHO makes
> the Rabbis look like fools.

Foolishness is in the eyes of the beholder.

> 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 to.

I see no evidence that they are trying to make it "go away". What they are
trying to do is to protect the people in their communities from being affected
by it.

Akiva Miller


From: Harlan Braude <hbraude@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 22,2009 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Global Warming

In mail-jewish Vol.57 #59 Digest, Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz wrote:
> Similarly, there are many other political arguments going on in the
> world that people turn into a matter of "belief" rather than logic. We
> should all be careful not to fall into that trap.

The problem, as I see it, is that there is no way to avoid this trap in any
pursuit, political or otherwise.

Even when presenting logic (or "facts"), where there is more than one 
position, then acceptance of a position comes down to a matter of faith, a
decision as to which facts are to believed over others.

Essentially, I'm stating that there is no such thing as absolute Human 
"knowledge", just belief. Perhaps this is a just matter if semantics (after all,
how else is one to understand the term "V'yadata" in Devarim 4:39?)

There may be overwhelming proof in support of certain positions (for 
example, mathematicians often speak of "proofs"), but can one validate a proof
in the absolute?

One accepts those arguments that convince - a choice no doubt influenced by
one's upbringing (education, experience, etc.) or by putting one's "faith" 
in the source (i.e., the person promoting the position one has accepted).


From: Eitan Fiorino <afiorino@...>
Date: Thu, Dec 24,2009 at 04:01 PM
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?
> Shayna wrote:
> 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.

I thought I had been more specific in my follow-up posting.  Let me go through
the hypothesis again.

The explanation of the Rema (and expansion by the Mishna Brura; both based on
the Kol Bo and the Ran) for the custom of eating dairy on Hanuka turns out to be
an amalgam of different stories, some relating to Hanuka and some not.  To my
mind, the fact that different motifs were combined in this way, seemingly for
the first time, in order to explain this custom of eating dairy suggests that
the Kol Bo and Ran were confronted with a custom without a clear reason, and
they stretched to put something together that would explain it.   The fact that
these two 14th century sources are from somewhat discrete geographical regions
(Provence and Catalonia) would also suggest that there may have been an earlier
or contemporaneous common source.  Clearly, according to my hypothesis, the
custom and its initial impetus must have happened some time earlier, so that
enough time had passed for the initial impetus to have been forgotten.  Since
Rashi cites part of the story in his gemara commentary in explaining how the
women of bnei yisrael were involved in the miracle, without mentioning either
Judith or dairy, suggests that in 11th century France the custom and/or the
later reason for it were unknown.  Perhaps this helps narrow the scope a bit in
searching for the origin.

Thus - the question is not "was there any meat to be eaten at all in Europe in
the winter during the medieval period?"  That was a sort of tongue-in-cheek way
that I suggested an alternative possibility for how this mysterious custom of
easting dairy on hanukah arose.  Really, as I thought I laid out in a subsequent
posting, the question is if there was in medieval Europe a time in which some
communities did not have access to meat on hanukah and thus developed a diary
cuisine that, after some time had passed, became associated with the holiday
itself, so that by  the time of the Kol Bo and Ran, all that remained was a
custom to eat dairy foods, which must have seemed entirely random (and so was
buttressed with the amalgamated Judith story).  As one "for example," it so
happens that the Synod of Avignon in 1209 forbade Jews from eating meat on
Christian fast days.  And I previously noted that Hanuka falls out during the
period of Advent, which at one time was marked by fasting similar to that of
Lent.  Could there have been places in which under this ruling, Jews were
forbidden to have meat during all or parts of hanukah, and so the use of dairy
became tied to the celebration of the holiday?  But 100 years later, the
prohibition was long forgotten but the practice of eating dairy was not?

This is a testable hypothesis, at least for a historian of medieval European
Jewry, which I am not.  Hope it is clear now.



From: Jacob Richman <jrichman@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 07:01 PM
Subject: New Website: My Hebrew Programs

Hi Everyone!

I created a new website called:
My Hebrew Programs

This new site includes updated versions of two useful programs.

The Hebrew Sign Maker 
Print Hebrew signs without Hebrew support. 
There are 11 fonts and two sizes to choose from. 
There are two special script trace fonts that will help
your students learn how to write Hebrew script.

In Memory Of
When you visit a Jewish grave site, it is a Jewish tradition 
to read selected Tehillim (Book of Psalms). There are fixed 
verses and special verses that are read for each letter of the 
person's name. The special verses are called "Otiyot Neshama".
The program also includes an option to print a transliterated and 
translated English version of the mourners' Kaddish.

Please share this new educational resource with friends, relatives
and co-workers. 
Thank You!

As always, feedback is welcome!

Have a good day,


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 08:01 PM
Subject: THIS Jordan?

>>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.

It's not just this. In many places starting with the last word of
Parshah Chukas (Bamidbar 22:1)
it is stated that before they went into eretz Yisroel, the Bnai
Yisroel were camped  at "M'EVER L'Yareden Yericho"  - beyond the
Yarden of Jericho.

This is sometimes translated as across the Jordan at or by Jericho but
the meaning clearly is, as Onkelos translates, the Jordan of Jericho.
Which sounds like there is another Jordan that is not associated with
the city of Jericho.

Now the best answers it seems to me so far were from Yisrael Medad:

YM> I would presume that the use of "this" is simply for emphasis of importance.

But this would not explain Yarden Yericho.

And from Arthur G. Sapper:

AS> I am no linguist, and certainly no expert in biblical Hebrew, but
> I wonder if
> the phrase "this Yardein" might reflect an ancient Semitic meaning of the word
> "yardein."   The root seems to be y-r-d, which means to descend to a lower
> point.   The Jordan River lies in the Jordan Valley, which is a low point and
> lower than the nearby mountains, such as Mount Nebo.

There isn't any river on earth that descends any lower - it goes down
well below sea level.

AS>   So perhaps the word Yardein in the verse orginally referred to a
> river valley, down which one would descend; it might by extension have
> become attached as well to any river in that
> river valley.  This would mean that the verse is saying, "I have crossed over
> this river valley [or valley river]."

Something like that maybe

AS>   In the Land of Israel, however, where this particular river
> valley and its river are the most prominent river valley and river,
> the word "y-r-d" would have eventually become a proper name for
> either the valley, the river or both.

It's not a proper noun at all!   The word Yarden has to mean a TYPE of
body of water.  Except for this - it may constitute a set of one.

Furthermore, where is the Jordan refered to as a river or anything
else at all?  No the thing what it is, is called a "Yarden"  I think a
LONG LONG time passed before Yarden was anything like a proper noun.
Maybe by Mishnaic times. Maybe somebody can find the earliest
surviving example.

In contrast, there is another term for a body water, which many think
is a proper noun, or at least that there is only one place having that
name but it's not.

That word is "Yam Suf"

There were actually two different places called Yam Suf - one near
Egypt at the head of the Red Sea, and the other at the head of the
Gulf of Aqaba. And not just in tanach, but in the Torah itself - the
five books of Moses.

The Yam Suf in Mishpatim - at Shemos 23:31, is not the same Yam Suf
that was split - mentioned in the Parshah Beshalach at 13:18 and so

The meaning in Mishpatim at Shemos 23:31 is that the potential
boundaries of Eretz Yisroel will run from the tip of the Gulf of Aqaba
to the Mediterranean Sea (called there - and maybe the only place it
is so called - Yam Pilishtim) and from the desert to the river (the

The other way - placing this Yam Suf near Mitzraim (Egypt) - this
posuk does not make any sense.  You'd have two west-east lines.

But I don't know of any commentaries that deal with this. Many times
when a commentator doesn't understand something he just doesn't say
anything at all.

From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 08:01 PM
Subject: THIS Jordan?

MS> Can anyone suggest why the word HAZEH is used here and in several other
MS> places in Tnakh?

Where else do see hayarden hazeh?


From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 23,2009 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Two Birkat Hamazon questions

Thanks to Mark Steiner for his comments (in reply to me) in MJ 57:56. One
observation, though:

>>"The source for the expression is in the Mishnah, Tamid 7:4; the
>>commentaries of Bartenura and Tosefos Yom Tov both explain that the "yom
>>shekulo Shabbos" is the seventh millennium since Creation, and that this
>>will be a time of "menucha lechayei haolamim," rest for [Hashem,] the Life
>>of all worlds. Indeed, the Gemara's citation of this mishnah (Rosh Hashanah
>>31a) omits the last three words."

>There is no question that this is correct, but it leads me to the opposite
>reading. The seventh millennium is Hashem's "Shabbat umenuha," and
>therefore it should be read: leyom shekulo Shabbat umenuha--lehayey
>ha`olamim. This reading is buttressed by the Kaufmann ms. of the Mishnah...
>where the text reads "Shabbat menuha" without the vav, which makes Alex's
>reading impossible. (The Parma ms also is missing the vav, ...

Actually, Bartenura's reading is the same as the mss. that Mark cites, without
the vav. Apparently, then, this reading doesn't contradict the idea that
"Shabbos" and "menucha" belong to separate phrases, rather than being a noun and
an adjective.

That said, Mark's suggestion:

>idea of the seventh millennium is a mixed blessing, since the Talmud states
>that the world will be destroyed and Hashem will remain in splendid
>isolation. (This idea appears in Adon `Olam also.) Why pray for the world
>being destroyed? Perhaps then the prayer is for us, not for Hashem--to give
>US eternal life "hayey `olamim" in the World to Come--which of course is not
>the intent of the Mishnah, from which this prayer stems. Again, only a

is reasonable enough: it may be that the composers of the text in Birkas
Hamazonborrowed the phrasing from the Mishnah but meant it in a different sense.

(Although there are places in Chassidic philosophy where the idea is developed
that this "yom shekulo Shabbos,"also called"chad charuv" - the millennium when
the world will be destroyed - doesn't mean the cessation of all life; it means
that we will indeed still exist, but on a far higher plane of closeness to
G-dliness than we do now. Compare also Sanhedrin 92b: "Should you object: during
the thousand years when Hashem will renew His world... what will become of the
tzaddikim? Hashem will make wings for them...." In that case, then, this may not
be so paradoxical after all, and perhaps the prayer is meant in exactly the same
sense as Bartenura explains the Mishnah.)

Kol tuv,


End of Volume 57 Issue 62