Volume 57 Number 86 
      Produced: Tue, 23 Feb 2010 20:05:53 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Call for Submissions:  Purim Edition 
    [Ari Trachtenberg]
    [David Curwin]
    [David Riceman]
Biblical source for married women's hair coverings 
    [Jon Greenberg]
Chaz"al about the man the Xtians believe is Mashiach? (3)
    [I. Balbin  Bernard Raab  Michael Poppers]
Gemaras "beyond our comprehension" 
    [Stuart Wise]
hair/modesty (4)
    [Batya Medad  Yisrael Medad  Carl Singer  David Tzohar]
historical Jesus (2)
    [Yisrael Medad  <leah@...>]
Honorary Jews 
    [Shmuel Himelstein]
Is this purim torah? 
    [Shmuel Himelstein]
kosher wine 
    [Akiva Miller]


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Mon, Feb 22,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject:  Call for Submissions:  Purim Edition

We are soliciting submissions for the mail-jewish Purim edition, to come out
this Friday. Please send any purim torah with the subject line "PURIM:" for an
accelerated review.

   -Ari, as part of the MJ moderation team


From: David Curwin <tobyndave@...>
Date: Thu, Feb 18,2010 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Almemor

Yechezkel Kutscher in his book "Milim V'Toldotehen" (Words and Their
History), discusses the interesting history of the word Almemor, and how
from Arabic (originally Ethiopian actually), it was used by Rashi (Avoda
Zara 16b, Sukkah 51b, Sota 41a, Megila 26b), and then eventually into the
Yiddish of Eastern Europe.

By the way, I discussed the case of bimah and bamah here:



From: David Riceman <driceman@...>
Date: Wed, Feb 17,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: authorization

I am the proud owner of a set of books which are called, both on the 
spine and on the title page "Sefer Ba'al HaMaor" [the book by the author 
of "HaMaor"].  It's a very nice edition, and I do recommend it to 
friends, but I'm troubled by the word "baal" [author] in the title.

R. Zerahia HaLevi, the author of Sefer HaMaor, wrote other books as 
well.  Nonetheless, this book is indeed an edition of Sefer HaMaor.  
Other than creative ambiguity, what did the editor and publisher achieve 
by adding the word "baal" to the title?

David Riceman


From: Jon Greenberg <jon@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 16,2010 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Biblical source for married women's hair coverings

You can find this in Sifre on Num. 5:18 and Torah Temimah's discussion of it,
but this seems to be an asmachtah rather than a true proof-text.

However, the distinction that the discussion has been making between a chok and
a culturally-influenced policy-based practice of modesty is unnecessarily stark.
Halachah does not need to be confined to one extreme or the other. Hair
covering after marriage can be both a Biblical commandment and a form of
modesty, just as other Biblical commandments (e.g., prohibitions of murder,
theft, superstition, etc.) are both commandments in their own right and
practices with a clear social benefit (mishaptim, rather than chukim, if you

Jon Greenberg


From: I. Balbin <Isaac.Balbin@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 16,2010 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Chaz"al about the man the Xtians believe is Mashiach?

Josh Backon wrote:
> 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.

It can be viewed/downloaded from here


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Wed, Feb 17,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Chaz"al about the man the Xtians believe is Mashiach?

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.

Lisa Liel wrote:
> > 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.

Martin Stern wrote:
> 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.

Perhaps "they" cannot prove that he existed. but if we wish to maintain that
their claim is false, we must be able to prove that he did not exist. Clearly
impossible.  Regarding independent sources, it may be safely assumed that
essentially all of those censored and deleted passages of the Talmud and
rishonim refer to such a person, although obviously not as a deity, else why
would the censors have bothered? I once attended a class in which the lecturer
(an orthodox rabbi-teacher) taught some recovered text material that was claimed
have been deleted from the Talmud. As I recall (and I wouldn't want to be
cross-examined on this--the class was on Shabbat and I do not have notes) it
spoke of a student who left the yeshiva and preached in opposition to the
corruption in the Bet Hamikdash among other things. He was disparaged and
regarded by Chazal as a maverick who had betrayed his people. It seemed clear
that Chazal thought that they were describing the young man who was later to be
hailed as the messiah by his followers. This would have been written
contemporaneously with at least some of the gospels (1-3 C CE), and could be
counted as an independent source. In any event, the censors obviously thought
so, or thought that others might think so.  I knew I would catch flack with my
remark about Arab denialism, and I thank you for not disappointing me. My point
is simply that each group has own national or religious narrative. We expect
others to respect our beliefs even if they do not share them. We become furious
if someone questions our story. We may haul out our archeological evidence, but
in reality our core beliefs (and our original claim on the land, i.e., G-d's
promise to Avram), is based on faith. If it were otherwise it would be history
or science, not religion. I merely suggest that we afford the same respect to
other faiths. The era of religious wars is well left behind us, even if our Arab
"friends" are not quite ready for it. Bernie R.

From: Michael Poppers <MPoppers@...>
Date: Wed, Feb 17,2010 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Chaz"al about the man the Xtians believe is Mashiach?

Dr. Josh Backon wrote:
> 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).

Mei-inyan l'inyan (from this topic to a related one): listmembers may be
interested in one example of censorship (and some history) -- see
http://seforim.blogspot.com/2010/01/what-was-bothering-censor.html .

All the best from
--Michael Poppers via RIM pager


From: Stuart Wise <Smwise3@...>
Date: Thu, Feb 18,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Gemaras "beyond our comprehension"

More than a few times I have heard from different magidei shiur (those who  
deliver [a lesson --MOD]) that a difficult gemara is "beyond our comprehension." 
Sometimes the gemara is troubling or outside the realm of the human experience. 
 My question, then, is, who was the gemara written for and given to if it 
is not within our ability to comprehend? This sounds similar to passage in 
Navi, which also are regarded as off-limits, such as the maaseh merkava in 
the book of Yechezkel.

Stuart Wise


From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 12,2010 at 01:01 AM
Subject: hair/modesty

Leah S. R. Gordon wrote:
> With regard to Rabbi Broyde's quoted comments about how fifty years ago,
> it was "not considered immodest" for women to have uncovered hair, it
> appears to me that hats were even more in style at that time for women
> in the U.S. than they are now.  I'm not making a call on the tshuva
> [responsum --MOD], or the hair-covering issue, just on the apparent
> assertion that "modest" women in the U.S. now would be wearing hats de
> facto - I do not think that this is correct.

50 years ago, being properly dressed did include some hat for a woman;
the teased beehive hairdo made that very difficult, and hats lost their

Just because few married women used to cover their hair doesn't
legitimize going bare-haired at any time, today, yesterday or the
future.  Men and boys didn't wear Jewish head-covering either.  They
wore hats/caps.  Ethnic pride, as part of the 1960's, played a role in
Jewish dress.  Tzniyut [modesty --MOD] was also on a much lower level then.  I
went to a number of OU Dinners in the mid-late 1960's representing NCSY, and
women wore sleeveless and low-cut gowns.  At my 1970 wedding, my great-aunt
added sleeves to some of the dresses worn including a bridesmaid.  It took a
while for women to have the guts to demand gowns with both sleeves and high
necks from stores.

The Lebovitche Rebbe promoted the halachikly controversial sheitel over
a cloth hair-covering, because he knew that it would be an easier sell
to women.

Today, I enjoy living in Israel where it's so much easier to dress

Batya Medad
Shiloh Musings

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

On Leah S. R. Gordon's fashion observation:
Since I can remember standards from about 55 years ago, I can attest
that women coming to schule, no matter how irreligious, usually on the
High Holy Days, would always cover their heads with a hat (and oh what
hats!) and at the very least, a doily-type covering so, obviously, the
idea of hair being covered as a sign of orthodoxy if not modesty was
well known and accepted as a norm

From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 12,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: hair/modesty

This topic may be fraught with controversy -- perhaps each of us considers
the norm (or perhaps better worded "proper") mode is determine by what we,
our spouses or our parents do / did.

In my subject line I list 4 factors:   halacha, modesty, style, social
norms  - there is overlap, of course.

Placing in context (in the U.S. at least, perhaps in other locales) what
happened 50 (actually closer to 60 / 70 years ago for historical context)
there were to major changes / the influx of "new" Jews to the U.S. -- those
who like myself came in the late 1940s post the churban in Europe and those
whose coming might be attributed to events surrounding the 1956 Hungarian

Communities changed -

halacha didn't change (in one sense the halacha is immutable) but accepted
interpretations and resultant behaviors changed

modesty -- is, I believe, a derivative factor when considering the other

style -- given that one covers their hair, style might dictate how one does

social norms -- this is perhaps the most dynamic factor.  When we look at
archival photos of weddings or perhaps religious conventions we see change.
Listening to those in their 50's discuss what THEIR mothers did, one hears
of change -- there are in many instances observant women whose husbands were
learned Rabbaim and Roshei Yeshiva who originally (at marriage) did NOT
cover their hair - who eventually transitioned to covering their hair.

Let us ask if this transition was due to Psak or due to social norms.

A few questions for future discussion:

1 - What other artifacts of behavior have similarly changed over time?  (I'm
preparing a list)

2 - How do we as a members of a community (?) judge or "grade" others by
outward manifestations?

3 - To what extent do we and our children succumb to social norms / social
pressures in acceptable styles of dress, davening, behavior?

4 - Which has the greater influence, Halacha or social norms?   Or perhaps
better asked - how do halacha and social norms interact and what is the


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Sun, Feb 21,2010 at 11:01 PM
Subject: hair/modesty

David Riceman asked if hair covering is because of tzniyut (modesty), or
erva (lasciviousness of the uncovered body). It is both. The gemarra says"
seiar b'isha erva"( A woman's hair is lascivious).  Only a married woman must
cover her hair because relations with a married woman are arayot (illicit
sexual relations punishable by death) and are therefore much more serious
than relations with an unmarried woman which is only the misdemeanor of
znut (promiscuity).  This is also connected with the ceremony of Sotah where a
married woman must publicly uncover her hair as a sign of her immodest
behavior.  Hair covering is not a chok (unexplainable law which must be taken
on faith), since there are two good reasons: erva and tzniyut.  Rather it is a
mishpat (law that is understandable by reason and logic). By the way in Yemen,
young single Jewish women were required to cover their hair. They
discontinued this practice after they came up to Israel

David Tzohar


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

Lisa asks:
> I can't think of a single Jewish source for the historicity of the
> character who appears in the Christian Bible.  When you said this to
> them, was it based on a source, or was it based on a desire to make them
> like us?
My copy of Chisronot HaShas is chock full of Talmudic references to
Jesus by name, by deed, etc., which the Chruch expunged from the Talmud.

From: <leah@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 12,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: historical Jesus

Regarding Mr. Raab's charming story about how he IMO engaged in
kiddush hashem [by helping Christian schoolchildren have a more
positive view of Jews and Judaism in the museum], Lisa Liel
writes below:

>>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.

1. The onus is on you [LL] to justify only using "Jewish sources" for
matters of historical record.

2. There are *many* Jewish sources that suggest we should mollify
Christians, and majority cultures in general, by not baiting them
with unnecessary insults.  You can look at general rules about speech,
all the way to ideas of avoiding certain topics lest someone come and
kill us.

3. The obvious reason to compare "this" with Arab denials of Jewish
historical claims, is to show that we as Jews give a significant,
rare value to acknowledging other people's feelings and beliefs.  And
someone who believes strongly in his/her own religion would
just feel terrible to have to hear it berated.

When Mr. Raab gave those children a chance to learn that a Jewish
person was kind and reasonable, that was a far better choice.  I am
happier to be represented by someone like him [as a Jew] than someone
who insists on denigrating another person's beliefs.

>>At the start of each tour I asked each group one question: What is
>>the difference between Judaism and Christianity? Almost invariably
>>they answered: "Jews don't believe in Jesus". My response was: "We
>>believe in the historical Jesus, but not in his divinity".
> What is your source for this statement?  I can't think of a single
> Jewish source for the historicity of the character who appears in the
> Christian Bible.  When you said this to them, was it based on a
> source, or was it based on a desire to make them like us?
> Lisa

Again, I believe that the onus is on LL to show that we only look at
Jewish sources for claims like did xyz exist/occur.  The only Jewish
relevance (as opposed to historical) for which we need to our our
religion as a guide, is in matters of the nature, "was he the Messiah?" (no).

--Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Wed, Feb 17,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Honorary Jews

A review of a book entitled "Capitalism and the Jews" (Jerry Z. Muller), in
the New York Times caught my eye. Evidently to overcome the Christian
restriction against taking interest, "Christian moneylenders were sometimes
legally designated as temporary Jews when they lent money to English and
French kings."

Shmuel Himelstein


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Sun, Feb 21,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Is this purim torah?

The latest edition of BeSheva, A Religious Zionist weekly, has a full-page
ad for children's Purim costumes, showing the different costumes available.
The 30 or so photographs in the ad show children aged 5 or 6 years. There is
one rather strange quirk in the ad. Every single photo of a little girl has
the face pasted over by a paper mask, lest we see the child's actual face. I
fail to understand why we of the Religious Zionist world have to adopt every
Chumra (stringency) of the Haredi world.

Shmuel Himelstein


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 12,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: kosher wine

Martin Stern wrote:
> I can confirm that when I acted as a locum supervisor at functions
> in Manchester, England, I had to inform hosts that I could take no
> responsibility for non-mevushal wine that they had brought in.

Did you also inform the *guests* about this? If not, why not?

(One of my pet peeves is kashrus supervisors who are unable or unwilling to
"Just say No!" and refuse to allow drinks which don't meet their standards. I
just don't understand. I had been attending weddings and such at many different
hotels and caterers for many years, when I finally learned that the supposedly
acceptable supervision applied only to what was served at the tables, and not at
the bars. Who knows what I and others innocently drank? In recent years I have
been at some affairs - mostly in Monsey and Lakewood, I think - where each table
has a card on it, addressed to the guests, explaining that the supervisory
agency is not supervising the bar. That's at least a step in the right
direction, but still falls woefully short. How do these organizations (I'd name
them, but I don't remember their exact names) get a reputation for being
responsible and reliable? I guess I just don't understand all the issues involved.)

Akiva Miller


End of Volume 57 Issue 86