Volume 57 Number 90 
      Produced: Sun, 07 Mar 2010 00:16:33 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

New mail-jewish home page 
    [Ari Trachtenberg]
Biblical Exegesis 
    [Heshy Summer]
Chareidi Internet 
    [Shoshana Ziskind]
electronic locks 
    [Bernard Raab]
Gemaras "beyond our comprehension" 
    [Ben Katz]
halachic relativism 
    [David Tzohar]
kosher wine (2)
    [David Ziants  David Tzohar]
Making Seder of the Seder 
    [Mark Steiner]
Megilla Dvar Torah on "Amad" 
    [Neal Jannol]
On Adam's Abuse 
    [Yisrael Medad]
spousal abuse - gender 
    [Leah S. R. Gordon]
    [Yisrael Medad]


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Sun, Jan 31,2010 at 09:01 PM
Subject:  New mail-jewish home page

Please note that the old mail-jewish domain name has expired.
You may now view mail-jewish information, including policies,
ground rules, and submission information at


You may check the status of your submissions at



From: Heshy Summer <hhandls@...>
Date: Wed, Mar 3,2010 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Biblical Exegesis

Jeanette  Friedman wrote:
> Chava didn't touch the gorgeous tree or eat the fruit until the  snake told
> her she would have the power of knowledge ...

In my opinion, Jeanette's message is timely and relevant given the recent
revelations surrounding Rav Eilon.  The point is having the power to say "no". 
Unfortunately, people use power in other ways too.

Heshy Summer
Beit Shemesh


From: Shoshana Ziskind <shosh@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 16,2010 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Chareidi Internet

Somebody questioned why Aish and Ohr Samayeach have websites. For the  
former two, you could use the argument that it's aimed at people who  
are not chareidi in order to mekarev [bring closer to faith --MOD] them, but not
aimed at the chareidi crowd. Of course I know plenty of people who are already  
frum [observant --MOD] who have sent me links to aish but it is a valid argument.

-Shoshana Ziskind


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Thu, Feb 18,2010 at 12:01 AM
Subject: electronic locks

> Bernard Raab wrote:
> > The use of magnetic keys is now ubiquitous, and badly needs to be judged
> > mutar [permitted --MOD] if we are to avoid becoming latter-day Amish. The
> > blanket prohibition of all forms of electricity is the easy way out. A more
> > sophisticated approach is long overdue.

> Steven Oppenheimer responded:
> I was puzzled by this bizarre comment.  Do people really believe that
> halacha changes because certain situations become inconvenient?  Electronic
> locks do present a very real challenge and it is becoming harder and harder
> to find a hotel that does not have them.  There are, however, halachic
> guidelines that can be followed to deal with this and other challenges.
> Criticizing our poskim [Jewish legal adjudicators] as being unsophisticated is
> not the answer, IMHO.

Inconvenient? How long do you have to be locked out of your hotel room before
"inconvenient" becomes "intolerable"? Pray tell what halachic guidelines there
are to deal with this situation. And please do not tell us the guidelines are
"avoid such a situation". Our premise is that we live in the real world and we
are obliged to cope with it.

I never said or implied that our poskim are unsophisticated (although many are).
What I said was "a more sophisticated approach" is needed. Let me elaborate: 
over the past 10-20 years new forms of electric appliances have proliferated
which are different in kind from everything that preceded them. Their use of
electricity is on the molecular level, more akin to how the body cells or the
brain cells use electricity. The applications all involve signaling and
information transfer enabled by the phenomenal recent developments of

Am I suggesting that all such applications be permitted? No. I think we would
all recoil at the suggestion that cellphones or internet communications should
be allowed on Shabbat. That would seem to be a serious game changer. But
applications that are strictly local information transfer, such as the magnetic
key card [that] started this discussion, might well be permitted. For another
example, electronic book readers (ebooks) are just beginning to be mass
marketed, but it can be predicted that within a very few years these will
completely replace books printed on paper.  The economics, as well as the
environmental advantage, makes it inevitable.

My suggested guideline would prevent downloading a book on Shabbat, as this
would not only involve a remote communications link but the much more
traditional restriction on commerce. However, reading a book which is already in
local memory might well be permitted.  Clearly, these ideas are departures from
what we have long regarded as traditional practice.  But the original blanket
prohibition on the use of all forms of electric power which was made some 100
years ago without much understanding of the phenomena or the consequences, needs
to be seriously reexamined at this time.  I welcome further discussion--Bernie R.


From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Wed, Feb 24,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Gemaras "beyond our comprehension"

Stuart Wise wrote:> 
> 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?...

Good question.  As a Maimonidean and a rationalist, please permit me this short

It is odd, to say the least, that books should be written without anyone being
able to understand them.  Even Rambam's Guide was written for someone (his best
student, and presumably those like him).  ArtScroll's "black box warning",
mindlessly reprinted at the bottom of many pages of the maaseh merkavah section
of their Ezekiel commentary I find laughable, even though there were traditional
commentators who gave up on their Ezekiel commentaries when reaching chapter 40.
 The vast majority did comment on both the maaseh merkavah section and the last
9 chapters of the book.

As to the gemara, many problems relate to faulty manuscripts (esp. when it comes
to the Jerusalem Talmud) and beliefs (including superstitions) that no longer
"resonate" (many of which the Rambam ignored or modified when codifying the
halacha in his magnum opus).


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Mon, Feb 22,2010 at 12:01 AM
Subject: halachic relativism

There are relatively few instances where halacha has been changed
significantly because of changes in the social or cultural climate. A few

 1-Rabbi Yehudah Hanassi writing down the oral law
 2-Hillel the elder enacting the prosbul(a bill permitting the collection of
private debts by the courts during the sabbatical year)
 3-discontinuing the practice of levirate marriage
 4- The outlawing of bigamy by Rabbenu Gershom Maor hagolah (accepted only by
 5- Mechirat Chametz (the selling of baked goods to a goy before pesach)

and in modern times
 1-The hetter mechira of Rav Kook which allowed "selling" the land in Israel
to goyim in order to circumvent the prohibition of working the land on the
sabbatical year (not accepted by the charedi community)
 2-the hetter of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein allowing use of milk from non-Jewish
dairies (not univesally accepted)

What all of the above have in common is that they are takkanot (ad hoc
enactments) most of which, except for the last, change halachot which are
d'oreita (derived directly from the torah).  They were enacted by some of the
greatest halachic authorities of all time. There are no rabbinical
authorities in our generation with shoulders broad enough to enact anything
nearly as important, perhaps with the exception of Rav Ovadia Yosef (for
Sepharadim) - see his rulings on accepting the Ethiopians as Jews which are
full of astounding chiddushim (halachic innovations).
    Do not expect any big changes on issues like agunot [wives whose husbands
are unable or refuse to give a divorce --MOD] or giur [conversion --MOD]. There
is simply no one with the authority to take on such a task.
David Tzohar


From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Wed, Feb 24,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: kosher wine

Two posters answered or raised issues that I was also going to post, and 
so I now revise my posting being able to relate to what they say:-

Meir Shinnar wrote:
> > ... But you have not answered the question on how rabbis and kashrus orgs >
> > can allow non-mevushal [non cooked] wine to be served by gentiles or
> > irreligious Jews.
> Gentiles is a problem. However, irreligious Jews come to the basic
> issue of how do we deal with irreligious Jews in our times - do we
> apply the traditional standard of viewing them as being public sabbath
> violators, or as being tinokot shenishbu (people raised since
> childhood in a non-Jewish environment - and therefore not responsible)
> - or somewhere in the middle - and there are many who do permit
> irreligious Jews. (this goes already back to the nineteenth century
> and the binyan tziyon in Germany). RSBA comes from a community that
> does not permit - but there are other standards...
I think that this is one of the big divides between the charaidi [= ultra
orthodox] sector and the modern-orthodox and is one of the reasons why a
chareidi would not want to rely on standard rabbanut hechsher [=kashrut

Stephen Phillips wrote:
> Here in London it seems the practice of the kashrus organisations that their
> supervision at functions does not extend to the wine that is served. 
I remember this in London, in the 1960s and 1970s, with the little cards on the
table attesting to this fact. I thought, though, that nowadays the kashrut
organizations would have improved in their standard.

What halachic precedence do they have to let this go?  Surely the kashrut
organizations should be taking a leadership role. 

This means that the host of the function, who might be unaware of the finer
points of Jewish law, could order whatever non-kosher
wines and spirits he wanted (also whisky that was in Jewish possession over
Pesach), and no one has the power to say "no this is not allowed". 

In the 60's and 70s, when it was common practice for the family to make sure
that the bar-mitzva or wedding meal was kosher, the general attitude of the
orthodox Jewish community in the UK, even though many were ignorant of the
technicalities of Jewish Law, was to respect whatever the standards the Rabbinic
establishment set down.

Thus, if it was the case that only kosher drinks were acceptable, I think most
people would just understand and go along. No one wanted the shame of the
Rabbi not being there (as well as many of the guests) because the meal was not

(During that period it was considered standard practice to hire the Rabbi to
come along to the bar-mitzva celebration and recite "grace before meals" - 
i.e, "netillat yadayim" and "hamotzi" as well as "grace after meals" - i.e.
zimun and "birkat hamazon" (and 7 b'rachot if a wedding) and to be motzi [=have
in mind to include in the berachot [=blessings]] ] everyone there.)

Nowadays, there unfortunately might be less shame involved if the meal is not
kosher. I still think this is even more reason to maintain a kashrut standard
in all aspects of the function - including hard drinks - because it is
"orthodox" kashrut that is being paid for.

David Ziants
Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel

From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Wed, Feb 24,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: kosher wine

As a part time mashgiach (kashrut supervisor), I can say that in Israel in
order to get a kashrut certificate the wine must be opened and poured by an
observant Jew, even if the wine is mevushal [boiled --MOD]. Once at a wedding
(which was not under my supervision), I noticed that the man pouring the wine
was not wearing a kippa. I asked him if he observed shabbat and when he replied in
the negative, I informed the caterer who apologised profusely and begged me
not to tell the mashgiach. There are no compromises on this issue.
David Tzohar


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Wed, Mar 3,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Making Seder of the Seder

In getting ready for the seder, it is probably well to know what the word
means.  In my opinion, it means to "go through," "set forth," etc.  The end
of the seder has the words: "Just as we have merited to go through (lesader)
[the Passover sacrifice], may we merit actually doing it."  I don't have
time to go through the entire rabbinic literature, but we find this idea of
lesader as distinguished from doing, e.g. setting forth in one's mind the
prayers, before actually reciting them.  In other words, since we don't
actually have the korban pesach [Paschal sacrifice] we go through it
verbally, so that we shall be ready when Moshiach comes, amen.


From: Neal Jannol <njannol@...>
Date: Thu, Mar 4,2010 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Megilla Dvar Torah on "Amad"

Has anyone seen a dvar torah on the rather odd use of the word amad (to
stand) in the megilla.  It is used by mordechai to refer to some other method
of the Jews salvation, used to refer to Haman getting up, and Harvona in
referencing the gallows.

Neal B. Jannol


From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Fri, Mar 5,2010 at 02:01 AM
Subject: On Adam's Abuse

I fully accept Dov Bloom's approach - as at least equally correct to my
I have now gone to my other edition of the Midrash Rabba, of the Vilan
Rohm Press, and taken my father-in-law's magnifying glass in hand and
have been able to read both the (very small letters of) Matanot Kehunah
(Yissachar Ber Katz, known as Berman Ashkenazi) and the Maharaz (Zev
Volf Einhorn of Grodna) who define "Derech Eretz" as sexual relations
and the Maharaz accepts the physical response of man to such activity is
usually sleep.
My cursory reading was not altogether incorrect as the language of the
actual Midrash continues by having Adam taken on a flight by God to
observe locations for Bet Neta (where trees are to be planted) and Bet
Zera (where soil is to be developed) - both indicating agricultural
work, an act referred to obliquely in Berachot 31A as explaining how
come we know that certain trees were from Adam's time.


From: Leah S. R. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Wed, Mar 3,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: spousal abuse - gender

Russell Hendel states below:

> I would like to emphasize that Shoshana is not just saying "Spousal
> abuse HAPPENS among non-poor" or "Spousal abuse HAPPENS to men also."
> Rather the correct statement is that "Spousal abuse EQUALLY HAPPENS among
> all economic groups," "Spousal abuse EQUALLY HAPPENS among all genders."

...and he cites two African studies that would seem to support his thesis.
I would like to remind the M.J readership that in fact, men abuse at about
6-7 (rates vary in studies from 2-9) times as much as women do.  The thing
that *seems* not to vary "by gender" is whether the spouse is abused,
given the gender of the abusive spouse.  In other words, some studies show that:

   * Man abusing male homosexual partner EQUALLY HAPPENS vs. Man abusing female
     heterosexual partner

   * Woman abusing male heterosexual partner EQUALLY HAPPENS vs. Woman abusing
     female homosexual partner

However, it is most certainly *not* the case, and thousands of studies
back me up, that men and women abuse their partners at the same rates.

It is further a misleading argument tactic that Russell lumps
gender with religion and socio-economic class as 'things that we should
not generalize about'.  First of all, disenfranchised women [by religion
or class] generally *do* suffer higher rates of abuse.  Second of all,
gender is a significantly different category than these others.  Third of
all, none of these statistics requires a slippery-slope toward racist
generalizations, which to my mind was the original objection of the poster
(Shoshana?) whom Russell quoted.


If you look at the American Bar Association that Russell referred to,
you will see a phrase, "...equally among men and women" but if you read
the context, you see that this was their sample selection.  In fact:
"nearly 25% of women and 7.6% of men were victims", "intimate partner violence
is 20% of the nonfatal violence to women and 3% of nonfatal violence to men"
84-86% of partner abuse victims are *women*

There is also some interesting race data there
(http://new.abanet.org/domesticviolence/Pages/Statistics.aspx) but that is
perhaps less applicable to our Jewish community.

Regarding socio-economic class, it seems that women in the USA on
public assistance are indeed about three to four times as likely to be
abused by partners.

--Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Fri, Mar 5,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Teeth

Yehonatan Chipman in his Purim humor asks if someone who doesn't have
all of his teeth - through extractions, root canal therapies, implants,
etc., - is to be exempt from the corresponding mitzvah (if all 32 teeth
are counted separately as part of the corresponding 248 mitzvot).

Three comments: 
1.  Aren't they counted among the other 365?
2.  There is a machloket [disagreement --MOD] exactly which mitzva corresponds
to the wisdom tooth, the molar, etc., so it's all theoretical.
3.  And we already accept that principle for, as we read in the Hagadah -
"knock his teeth out!"


End of Volume 57 Issue 90