Volume 57 Number 85 
      Produced: Tue, 16 Feb 2010 20:39:03 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

almemar (5)
    [Ilana Rosansky  David Ziants  Ira L. Jacobson  Yisrael Medad]
belief in Jesus-the-man 
    [Leah S.R. Gordon]
Chaz"al about the man the Xtians believe is Mashiach? 
    [Josh Backon]
Chaz"al about the man the Xtrians believe is Mashiach? 
    [Martin Stern]
    [David Riceman]
halachic relativism (3)
    [David Tzohar  Susan Kane  Michael Gerver]
non-mevushal wine 
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
On Adam's Abuse 
    [Yisrael Medad]


From: Ilana Rosansky <ilana@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 12,2010 at 02:01 AM
Subject: almemar

Ari asked about almemar. Dictionary.com even lists "bimah" as its meaning
and also indicates that the word comes from Medieval Hebrew!.
[See http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/almemar]

Ilana Rosansky

From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 12,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: almemar

Ari Trachtenberg wrote:
> In my edits of a recent post, I translated "almemar" as pulpit and was
> castigated by one of our readers.  Does anyone know of a more accurate, short
> translation of the word into English...


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 12,2010 at 04:01 AM
Subject: almemar

Ari Trachtenberg wrote:
>In my edits of a recent post, I translated 
>"almemar" as pulpit and was castigated
>by one of our readers.  Does anyone know of a more accurate, short translation
>of the word into English ...

Well, you are in good company: see, for example, 
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/almemar :


From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 12,2010 at 04:01 AM
Subject: almemar

Regarding Ari's request for translation assistance for the term almemar:
First, thanks for alerting me that there was such a term.
Second, an online dictionary provides the following:
> al...me...mar - noun 
> Origin:   Ar al the + minbar stand, platform
> bi...mah
> "noun 
> a platform in a synagogue holding the reading table used when chanting or
> reading portions of the Torah and the Prophets.
> Also, bema, bima.    Also called almemar. 
> Origin:Yiddish bime < Heb bmh < Gk bma BEMA 
[remaining citation snipped --MOD]
So, now that I am a bit mixed up, I nevertheless presume that pulpit is wrong as
that is where the Rabbi stands.  Lectern could be used alternatively.
But if we are referring to the object and its surrounding area where the Sefer
Torah is read from, Almemar would do fine as an English term.
Bimah comes in second.

From: <gevaryahu@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 12,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: almemar 

Almemar is the bimah, where the Torah is read form (central pulpit?). The
etymology of it is from the word almanber in Arabic al=the, manbar=platform or
pole where the preacher stands. You can see it used on the 14th takanah (=rule)
of the Altneuschul in Prague (www.Gevaryahu.com)

Gilad Gevaryahu


From: Leah S.R. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 5,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: belief in Jesus-the-man

I don't know the answers to the historical/Talmudic angle of the Jesus
existence question, but Mr. Raab's enlightening story (about the museum
education) reminded me of probably the funniest scene I have ever seen
on television, on the geeky space/future show _Futurama_.

In it, the characters attend a "BOT mitzvah" [for a robot coming of
age] wherein you see lots of robots dancing horas, listening to
Klezmer, etc.  The main character says, "Wait, is it true that you guys
don't believe in Robot Jesus?"  And the robot rabbi answers, "Well,
we believe that he existed, and that he was a very well-programmed robot,
but we do not believe that he was the Messiah."

--Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 12,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Chaz"al about the man the Xtians believe is Mashiach?

>Ben Katz stated the following in mail-Jewish Vol.57 #80 Digest:
> > There is a terrific book that collects all of the statements re
> > Jesus in chazal (including the censored talmudic passages) by the
> > great Christian Hebraist Robert Travers Herford...
>Robert Travers Herford was a Unitarian minister in Stand, near 
>Manchester. Since
>many Christian denominations do not consider Unitarian to be a form of
>Christianity, perhaps he should be described as a great non-Jewish 
>Hebraist and
>not as a Christian.

There is a sefer entitled CHESRONOT HA'SHAS (reprinted by 
Kest-Lebovitz) that lists every reference to Jesus in Shas and Rishonim that was
censored by the Vatican and was prepared by someone living in Amsterdam about
350 years ago.  Herford may have used this text.

The Mumar (apostate) who did the original censoring a few hundred 
years ago went through every Rashi, Tosafot, Peyrush ha'Mishnayot of the Rambam,
Meharsha, Rosh, Kitzur Piskei ha'Rosh, and even the RAN (in Nedarim).

I wonder if there is any research who the apostate was.

Josh Backon


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sat, Feb 13,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Chaz"al about the man the Xtrians believe is Mashiach?

Lisa Liel wrote:
> Bernard Raab wrote:
>> To deny that "he" ever existed is a huge insult to Christians, akin
>> to those Arabs who deny our own cherished history in the holy land.
> I'm not aware of any Jewish sources which suggest that we should
> engage in false statements because the truth is a huge insult to
> Christians.  Nor is there any reason that I can see to compare this
> with Arab denialism.

Furthermore there are no independent sources that mention him (it is
generally accepted that any apparent ones such as in Josephus were later
Christian interpolations) unlike the archaeological and other evidence for a
Jewish connection with the land of Israel.

Martin Stern


From: David Riceman <driceman@...>
Date: Sat, Feb 13,2010 at 07:01 PM
Subject: hair/modesty

Leah S. R. Gordon, citing someone citing Rabbi Broyde

> With regard to Rabbi Broyde's quoted comments about how fifty years ago,
> it was "not considered immodest" for women to have uncovered hair

If you accept the opinion that only married women must cover their hair, how can
the law be related to modesty? Aren't all Jews, of both genders and any marital
status, required to dress modestly? Why should the definition change with
marital status?

If the moderators will permit three Hebrew terms, is this a din [law] concerning
tznius [modesty] or ervah [I'll leave that for a more competent translator]
[nakedness?  --MOD]?

David Riceman


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 9,2010 at 03:01 PM
Subject: halachic relativism

Meir Shinnar wrote:
> I would add that there is a greater danger - that of being motzi la'az
> [slandering with evil imputations? --MOD] on entire generations of people
> whose commitment and knowledge of halacha is not in doubt  - which is a clear
> issur d'oraita (torah prohibtion) according to all - far worse than relying on
> minority opinions in hair covering.  We are not the first generation to be able
> to read standard halachic texts - and it is far more dangerous to
> assume that those who don't (or didn't) conform to our reading are
> deviant.

 It is precisely in these areas ie questions of modesty in halacha that the
problem of halachic relativism is most acute. It does not matter whether you
live in a society where women must wear a veil or one where women go  around
in halter tops and miniskirts.  The halacha as brought down from the talmud to
the rishonim [leading rabbis from 11th to 16th century --MOD], the shulchan
aruch and acharonim [leading rabbis from 16th century on --MOD] determines what
is considered modest.  As far as I know there was never and is not today one
major posek [Jewish legal decider --MOD] who does not say that hair covering for
married women is obligatory. This is not a minhag. There may be questions of
whether it is deoreita [Torah-bound --MOD] or derabbanan [rabbinically-bound
--MOD] but lekulei alma (according to the whole halachic world ) it is obligatory.
     As for slandering a former generation. If what they were doing was
wrong we must not shy away from the truth but say so. Not to do so would be
putting a stumbling block before the blind. Using the practices of a former
generation to justify lenient rulings and behavior today is exactly what I
am worried about.

From: Susan Kane <suekane@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 9,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: halachic relativism

When I was first learning about observance - at age 17 (over 20 years ago) - I
was told by the rabbi of my modern orthodox shul that hair covering was due to
modesty and that modesty was culturally determined.  What was modest in one
century was no longer relevant to modesty in another. Still, all the married
women in this shul covered their hair in shul and some did outside as well. 

Lately, I've heard that women's yeshivot teach that kisui rosh [head covering
--MOD] is a chok [statute --MOD] that we learn from the description of Sotah. 
It is not necessarily related to modesty nor is it culturally determined. 

I don't know if this reasoning - which was new to me - is based on new thinking
or perhaps older interpretions that have become popular.  It is clear though
that those are two very different understandings of kisui rosh. 

Certainly, for a lot of women (myself included) the idea of following a rule
because it mysteriously brings us closer to G-d is more appealing than following
a custom because you must be careful not to enflame the yetser ha ra [evil
inclination --MOD]. 

Women have very different feelings on this issue; for other women, modesty is a
meaningful motivation through which they do draw closer to G-d. 

But I've never personally seen the evidence that kisui rosh is a chok based on

I have also never seen much evidence in classic sources for the popular idea
that women are more spiritual than men and naturally closer to G-d and therefore
do not need these extra mitzvot, etc. It is a lovely idea, but I have never seen
much evidence for it. 

If someone has sources for either idea - sources that date earlier than
Orthodoxy's response to modern feminism - I'd love to know more about them. 

Susan Kane
Boston, MA

From: Michael Gerver <mjgerver@...>
Date: Sat, Feb 13,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: halachic relativism

There is such a thing as preserving the integrity of the halacha, but it
does not mean not allowing halacha to be influenced by societal or cultural
conditions. I would say it consists of understanding past halachic
decisions, and the spirit behind them, as thoroughly as possible from
today's vantage point, and taking them into account seriously when making
halachic decisions today. Much the way the Supreme Court does with the US
Constitution, even when it adopts a new way of interpreting it. From an
Orthodox point of view, the Conservative movement could be criticized for
failing to do that in a serious way. But to expect the interpretation of
halacha never to change is to expect something that is humanly impossible,
and would not be desirable if it were possible, since in some cases it would
make it impossible to adapt to changing circumstances. And surely Hashem,
who made us (including halachic decisors) basar ve-dam [flesh and blood --MOD],
knows that and wants it that way. If He didn't, He could have assigned the
interpretation of halacha to angels.

This ongoing process of reinterpretation necessarily occurs in any legal
system where it is difficult or impossible to change the words of written
laws. Since the meaning of the laws must sometimes be changed to adapt to
changing circumstances, if the words cannot be changed, then there is no
choice but to change the meaning of the words as people understand them. If
this is done recklessly, it can indeed damage the integrity of the written
law, but if it is done properly, it may be the only thing that allows the
legal system to continue to function. Once it has been done, it becomes very
difficult to remember how the written laws were previously understood,
especially if it happened before you were born. It seems, rather, that the
new interpretation was always implicit in the written law, and all that
happened was that a decision was made to make use of that available

In addition to halacha, other examples of this phenomenon include the US
federal law, since the US constitution is almost impossible to amend in
practice, and Muslim law (sharia), where the words of the Koran and other
core legal texts are impossible to change. Certain popular writers on Islam
are fond of quoting certain verses from the Koran, or from other basic
Muslim texts, and arguing that these verses explain one or another negative
attitude associated with Muslims, and that this attitude can never change
because it is impossible to change the text. Or they argue that the attitude
in question can only change if Muslims decide to reject the Koran as a holy
text. Such arguments ignore the process of reinterpreting the meaning of
texts that occurs in any legal system based on unchangeable texts, and
underestimate how far such reinterpretation can go.  The problems in the
Muslim world today stem not from having an unchangeable legal text, or even
so much from the contents of that text, but rather from the societal and
cultural conditions in the Muslim world which affect how the text is
interpreted. Indeed, as Bernard Lewis pointed out in a talk I heard a few
years ago, the idea that suicide bombing is allowed in Islam is itself a
relatively recent reinterpretation of sharia.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 12,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: non-mevushal wine

Leah S. R. Gordon wrote:
> I think another question is, "how do you know the pourers are not religious
> Jews?"

Rabbi Wein said, in one of his tapes, that he once recruited the boys
in his Yeshiva to pour the wine.

   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: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Sat, Feb 13,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: On Adam's Abuse

Russell J Hendel goes into a convoluted Biblical Exegesis process to
suggest an early case of Spousal Abuse.  But Rashi is so much more "upfront". 
Chava was simply afraid that her husband would outlive her and so, just in case
the fruit really was poison and death-causing, she made sure he'd eat, too,
stick or not stick.
Assigning the task for your spouse to be a food-taster could for sure be
considered spousal abuse.  However, since according to one Abba bar Kuriyei in
the Midrash found at Breisheet Rabba 19:3,
> "and the woman said to the serpent" - and where was Adam at
> that time?  Abba var Kuriyei said: he had been working hard and was
> sleeping.
Since Adam was sleeping and not around when she needed him, maybe she
had good reason for her abuse (noted frivolously!).


End of Volume 57 Issue 85