Volume 57 Number 94 
      Produced: Sat, 20 Mar 2010 23:45:29 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

biblical exegesis 
    [Russell J Hendel]
candle lighting time 
    [Wendy Baker]
education for potential convert 
electronic stuff etc (4)
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz  Ari Trachtenberg  michael perl]
Green Eggs and ham for Purim 
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
halachic relativism (3)
    [Martin Stern  Michael Frankel  Martin Stern]
Wedding Rings 
    [Gershon Dubin]


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, Mar 7,2010 at 07:19 PM
Subject: biblical exegesis

I recently asserted that FILLING IN is an important component of reading the
Biblical text. (So when reading the Adam/Eve story it would be flippant to
assume that Eve simply felt like sinning and Adam simply listened to her...it is
important to find persuasions - such as the snake pushing Eve into the tree and
convincing her that touching the tree doesn't lead to death or the poking of
Adam with the branch - especially when these persuasions have textual support)

No one commented on this idea of mine (that FILLING IN is important). While
leining [reading --MOD] the megillah 13 times I noticed a very good example.
Achasveirosh call Vashti the Queen in to "display her beauty." When she refused
he executed her. This encourages a FILLING IN - why should Vashti have risked
her life!?

Our sages (Chazal) THEREFORE explain that "displaying her beauty" is literal -
the King ordered her in nude. (They further FILL IN by suggesting that at the
wine party Achasveirosh argued with other kings on which nationality of women is
most beautiful). A 3rd FILL IN occurs when they explain that Vashti came from a
royal family and accused her husband: "My father could hold liquor better than you."

There is NO OTHER textual support for this Midrash. An important aspect of
understanding it or defending it is identical with the issues in the Adam / Eve
story: People are PRESUMED not to behave foolishly and therefore the
commentators are urged to FILL IN. I think an awareness of this would help some
of the discussions on Mail Jewish.

Russell Jay Hendel; Ph.d ASA http://www.Rashiyomi.com/


From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Mon, Mar 15,2010 at 04:01 PM
Subject: candle lighting time

Martin Stern wrote:
> Menashe Elyashiv wrote:
>> One has to light before sunset (of course this is according to the Geonim,
>> not R. Tam).  However, if one brings in Shabbat at Plag time [a set time
>> before sunset --MOD], candle time is at Boei Kala or Mizmor Shir time.
> This is not entirely accurate. One may light candles, and bring in Shabbat,
> as an individual from plag haminchah [one and a quarter hours before sunset
> or night according to another opinion)]. This is the earliest time.

Is this one and a quarter secular hours or 1/2 of the daylight hours?  This 
could be important because it is in the summer when the daylight lasts for 
well over 12 hours that people are most likely to want to bring shabbat in 
early so the children can have dinner with concomitant Shabbat kiddush, 
bentching and singing at a reasonable hour and be put to bed.

Wendy Baker


From: <rogovin@...>
Date: Wed, Mar 10,2010 at 11:01 AM
Subject: chumrah

Communal chumrah [stricture --MOD] can be created two ways.  If enough
individuals in a community adopt a chumrah, it can eventually become the norm in
that community and not be perceived as a chumrah.  Over time, it may become
obligatory, even if the original purpose for the churmah no longer applies.
Examples of this might include ("might" because I have no historical data to
support this thesis): the extra week of niddah, kitniyot, Ashkenzim waiting 6
hours rather than one between eating meat and milk (even though the 1 hour rule
is what the Rama codifies in the SA [Shulkhan Arukh --MOD]). However, there is
another way that communities seemingly adopt chumrot, in this case without their
informed consent.  Using kashrut as an example this works as follows.

Rabbis and rabbinical organizations with control over kashrut adopt as their
standard a chumrah. Imposing this as the only acceptable standard, the market is
then denied the opportunity to purchase foods that are kosher according to
normative standards (or at least, the amount of foods available under the
normative standard decreases substantially). Not surprisingly, sales of the
normative kosher product decrease since less and less is available, major kosher
markets cannot carry it, rumors that it is not under acceptable supervision
abound, etc.  As a result, the while the Rabbis who started this will say that,
yes it is true that some find the normative standard acceptable, it is really a
kula [leniency --MOD] (not true - not adopting a chumrah is not a kula) and the
fact is that that the market demand for products with such a standard has shrunk
so much as the public demands the higher (sic) standard that really this is the
communal standard and one should not separate oneself from the community by
adhering to or adopting a lower (sic) standard. 


(1) labeling a product as dairy even though it is parve but made on equipment
that is used for dairy (Oreos, sorbet)
(2) glatt kosher (the OU actually supervises the production of non-glatt meat,
they just don't certify it)
(3) saying one should not use a toothpaste containing chametz on pesach while at
the same time saying that toothpaste is not considered food and need not be
checked for pesach
(4) gebrochts (the OU will not certify products with gebrochts and now claims
(2010 pesach guide) there is no demand for such products as the communal
standard has changed)
(5) classifying peanuts and quinoa as kitniyot (the former is certainly
disputed, the latter odd since it is a fruit not a grain and was unknown in
Europe - as a general rule we don't add to established chumrot, though in
fairness corn should also not be included yet it is)
(6) no longer certifying mei kitniyot products (oils, syrups) as was done in the
past (even peanut oil, which the  OU certified through the late 1990s has been
withdrawn to to "lack of demand" and "confusion")

Much as I believe that rabbinical leaders are owed respect, it seems to me that
it is easy to say no, but with leadership comes responsibility to do the hard
thing. Why our Rabbis feel that the community benefits from chumrot I cannot
fathom, except that it benefits small kosher producers who make low quality and
unhealthy foods (driving up costs and restricting the products available). It
would seem to me that expanding products and lowering prices would benefit the
larger community and be a higher priority. Those that want to keep chumrot, may
they merit blessings. But don't impose them on the rest of us.


From: Chaim <chaimyt@...>
Date: Fri, Mar 19,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: education for potential convert

I have a student that I learn with over the phone.  We're in different states.
(I'm in Seattle <Outer Golus>, he's in a small town outside St(eve) Louis)

Here's the issue:
   * His wife is not Jewish. 
   * She shows interest in Judaism and asks a lot of questions, but would prefer
to talk with a woman.
   * She has "considered" conversion.

Does anyone know of an organization, or even an individual woman, she could use
as a resource?

Certain recent scandals didn't help any, and some organizations will only talk
to people who are already Jewish.



From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Sun, Mar 7,2010 at 07:20 PM
Subject: electronic stuff etc

Bernard Raab wrote:
> ... 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 would consider that being locked out of a hotel room is no worse
than being locked out of a house because one is living in a place with
no eruv (halachic enclosure to allow carrying on Shabat). In any case,
if there is no eruv, one could not carry the magnetic key to begin
with, just as one could not carry the mechanical key.

Another problem would be that inserting the magnetic key would turn on
a light showing that the door has been unlocked. I would say that this
is analogous to turning on the light in the room when entering. As a
result, even if it were permissible to use the magnetic key to unlock
the door (which may not be the case), there is an aspect which would
not be permitted.

> 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
> microelectronics.

However, they still cause effects on the macro level such as turning
lights on and off,

> 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.

But since the display screen is lit up and "pictures" in the form of
letters are created, they should still not be allowed, just as turning
on a light should not be allowed. I do not think that paper books will
disappear as they are still needed.

> 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...

Please note, that I am not a posek (halachik decisor) nor do I pretend
to be knowledgeable enough to actually discuss the matter on more than
a basic logical manner. However, I think that turning on the light,
and displaying pictures on the screen would be forbidden in any case.
Additionally, even though we now allow a clock to turn lights on and
off, the fact that the person would be activating the display and
giving commands would make it forbidden. Additionally, consider the
idea that using a clock to turn on a television is forbidden because
it is not a "proper" action for Shabbos, even if the user has "removed
the knobs" so as to prevent himself from adjusting the volume or
changing the channel.

       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: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Mon, Mar 8,2010 at 11:01 PM
Subject: electronic stuff etc

Bernard Raab wrote:
> Their use of electricity is on the molecular level, more akin to how the body
> cells or the brain cells use electricity.

I found this comment extremely interesting.  Certainly, our body 
utilizes electricity and chemical (and biological) reactions all
the time, even on Shabbat.

Is there a principle that activity that occurs naturally within
our bodies must be permitted, even outside the body?  There
is some logic to it (after all, we cannot stop these activities
on Shabbat), but there also appear to be counterexamples, such as
forbidden milk-meat mixtures that happen naturally within the digestive


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Tue, Mar 9,2010 at 10:01 PM
Subject: electronic stuff etc 

Batya Medad wrote:
> Bernie R. wrote:
> > 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.
> Sorry, Bernie R, but you're going much too far.  Please, don't set
> yourself up as our posek [halachic decider --MOD].
> I wouldn't be so quick to bury paper books.  They've outlived so many
> modern information/data storage methods.  Books will be around a long,
> long time.  Ebooks will go the way of instamatic cameras,  cassettes,
> walkmans, filmstrips etc.

Of course I should have made it clear that I do not pretend to be any kind of a
posek. That is why I am free to speculate, to suggest, and to imagine. A
fundamental problem, of course is that any respected posek will open himself up
to vicious attacks from the right for even considering such issues, and who
needs that--better to sidestep these problems.

My intention is to illuminate some technical "softspots", e.g., permitting local
information transfer, which a true posek might be able to develop and elaborate.
It is much too easy to deny, to refuse any use of electricity even in
applications which are worlds removed from the original prohibitions. This
leaves the observant lay public with little guidance, other than
avoidance-advice and pleading for special help from non Jews with questionable
halachic bases.

Some new thinking is required. It is useless of course to debate the future of
ebooks. Time will settle the debate all too soon. The proper analogies, however,
would be say that ebooks will go the way of computers, ipods, gps, etc. (does
anybody still buy books of maps?) rather than the list that Batya offers. Yes,
books will be around a long time: as collections in libraries, although only a
few years in public libraries, once all the books therein are scanned into
memory servers.  There are many other issues of this general nature, such as
proximity sensors, security cameras, motion detectors, radio-frequency key fobs,
the previously discussed magnetic door keys, etc. which "assault" us continuously.

Many of our brethren are truly suffering from our leaders' refusal to deal with
these issues. We can continue to seek increasingly difficult ways of avoidance,
or our poskim can enter the 21st century and try to reexamine the sources of our
current condition. It is well to remember that in the field of electric power
our "mesorah" dates back only some 100 years, and in the field of
microelectronics, a totally different animal, only some 20 years or less.

Thank you Batya--more comments welcomed--Bernie R.

From: michael perl <michael_perl9@...>
Date: Thu, Mar 11,2010 at 12:01 AM
Subject: electronic stuff etc

Rabbi Meir Wise wrote:
> Bernard Raab's V57#90 argument about electronic locks is very subtle. When 
> murder was forbidden guns were not invented therefore murder with guns 
> must be permitted!
> And why is he so dismissive of the Amish? I don't know much about them 
> but they seem like harmless Godfearing folk?

Reading this comment above as well as two other comments from the last edition
(Batya and Judith) I feel compelled to comment and defend Bernard Raab. Are we
really so afraid of change and challenge? 

Judith made the suggestion of amiro l'amiro [tell a gentile to tell another
gentile --MOD] as a way of getting around using the lock and while this maybe
useful in a one-off situation, are we not better off trying to analyse the
possibility of allowing these sorts of devices? Batya accuses him of going too
far and trying to be our posek and then jumps to the defence of paper books
without ever offering anything useful or constructive on the matter. Worst of
all, Steven Oppenheimer asked if people really believed that halacha changes
because certain situations become inconvenient.

My answer to that is a resounding yes, especially when the prohibitions are
rabbinic so long as it is within the normal accepted boundaries of our poskim. 
All four responses reek of fear of change and the attitude that the old ways are
better.  Why wouldn't we want this outcome? Our fear to engage in any change
with electricity IS unsophisticated.  Perhaps we are afraid to make changes for
fear of following the slippery slope of the Conservative movement and I
understand this but there has to be discussion and some areas of change
otherwise Orthodoxy becomes more and more unworkable and we lose our marginal
members.  This would be a great shame.

Perhaps Bernard's suggested understanding of halacha is wrong but let's discuss
it as I find his idea meritorious. Are we so simple that rabbis feel we will not
be able to distinguish between uses of electricity so that a blanket prohibition
is warranted?  I am shocked that the only comments Bernard seemed to have
generated were ones opposing his suggestion out of hand as I felt this group was
a lot more open minded than that.  With the attitude of Rabbi Wise, we may as
well be Amish. Imagine comparing the use of electricity to murder? Even if it
was for literary effect, it is disrespectful.

The use of electricity has been discussed a number of times on this list but
Bernard was presenting a nuanced argument which surely is not beyond the realm
of our poskim to consider. Not being a scientist, I do not feel as if I can add
a lot of value there but I know we have many on the list who could. 

Related to this topic is the notion that our forefathers (as in prior
generations) were holier than us and at a higher level, making it difficult to
change their rulings. While we retain great respect for our elders, why do we
need to believe they were holier or on a higher plain? 

Kol tuv,
Michael Perl


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Sun, Mar 7,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Green Eggs and ham for Purim

Sorry it is so late. This assumes that the eggs are kosher

[This has appeared in many venues on the Internet, for instance

*Green Eggs and Ham**   *

A new ending, especially for Jewish children, to the Dr. Seuss book Green
Eggs and Ham:

Ham and Eggs,
I'll Never see,
They are not KOSHER,
So let me be!

I will not eat green eggs and ham.
I will not eat them, Sam-I-am.
But I'll eat green eggs with a biscuit.
Or I will try them with some brisket.

I'll eat green eggs in a box.
If you serve them with some lox.
And those green eggs are worth a try
Scrambled up in matzoh brie!

And in a boat upon the river,
I'll eat green eggs with chopped liver!
So if you're a Jewish Dr. Seuss fan,
But troubled by green eggs and ham,

Let your friends in on the scoop:
Green eggs taste best with chicken soup!

      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: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Mar 9,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: halachic relativism

Bernard Raab wrote:
> Halacha evolves, even in Orthodoxy, although in recent years the evolution
> seems to be always toward the right. There seems to be little objection to
> this as "relativism". One hundred years ago the education of women was
> regarded as strictly forbidden by all "recognized rabbinic decisors".

It is not that halachah evolves but that social structures change and new
technology produces new situations.  When halachah is applied this can lead
to an apparent changed ruling but this is because it is being applied to a
changed reality.

Martin Stern

From: Michael Frankel <michaeljfrankel@...>
Date: Fri, Mar 19,2010 at 01:01 AM
Subject: halachic relativism

Elazar M. Teitz wrote:
> David Tzohar writes: 
> > There are relatively few instances where halacha has been changed
> > significantly because of changes in the social or cultural climate. A few
> > examples:..
>      In summation: halacha cannot be changed.  In order to effect change in
> practice, it must be done within the framework of what halacha permits and
> prohibits.  EMT
Observing the debate between REMT and Mr Tzohar about instances of halokhic
change reminds me of conversations I used to have with Richie the Rabbi when I
was a teenager.  Richie, whose family was a stalwart of our shul - the
Washington Heights Cong - was a bit older than me and on a trajectory to enter
JTS,  an ambition he subsequently executed (I read somewhere that he retired
recently after a distinguished career as a Conservative rabbi somewhere in NJ).
I remember a conversation where we argued halokhic change.  Mirabile dictu I
mouthed much of the same argumentation that REMT has deployed (though I'm sure
not as gracefully).   I denied halohkoh had changed, occasionally resorting in
the face of richie's undeniably correct examples to the contrary (I no longer
remember what they may have been), to a catch all response that said "change",
accomplished within the halokhic process was not to be deemed a real "change". 
This of course was mere sophistry but it is interesting that I felt obligated to
deny that "change" could have occurred.  In hindsight I believe I was merely
mouthing ill considered slogans, remnant "talking points" by which the Orthodox
of that era pithily differentiated themselves from the Conservatives, taken
seriously back then as a force worthy of notice and argumentation, who believed
in the "evolution" of halokhoh - so naturally we didn't.  Hence we could not
acknowledge the Conservative semantic  of "change".  Certainly back then I,  a
poop-for-brains teenager, would have been incapable of dealing with the issue
outside of a few mindless talking points.  Getting past the semantics however,
it is abundantly clear there have been changes in halokhoh over the years due to
changing social circumstance.  
That being said, not all changes/"changes" are equal and REMT is certainly
correct to dispute the label for such as RMF milk hetter [permission --MOD],
which merely clarified the parameters of cholov yisroel, rather than discarded
it.  I shall however offer two famous historical examples of clear changes in
settled talmudic halokhoh due to changed external socio-economic-political
circumstance.  Both stem from gaonic times.  The first dates to 786 CE, when the
gaonim decreed that henceforth a widowed woman trying to collect her k'suvoh
[marraige contract --MOD] from her late husband's inheritors (as well as other
debts owed by the heirs) could be collected from m'talt'lin (movable property)
as opposed to the talmudic law which restricted such debt payments to come only
from real estate.  With the change in bovel [Babylonia --MOD] from an agrarian
to a more urban communal existence, absent this halokhic change, more and more
widows and debtors would have been unable to collect anything.   The other
famous gaonic/savoraic taqqonoh [edict --MOD] is known as taqqonas moreddes
(dated by r. shriroh gaon back to 651 CE to the period immediately after the
muslims took over in bovel), whereby a woman who demanded a divorce and,
according to the talmud, placed herself in the category of a moreddes -  a
"rebellious" wife - was to be granted a divorce immediately (by pressuring the
husband to do so), instead of waiting the prescribed year, and she was also to
be granted the financial terms specified in the k'suvoh, instead of losing it as
prescribed by the talmud for such a moreddes.  R. Shriroh indicates the change
was driven out of concern for the social consequences should impatient would be
divorcees turn to the new muslim courts for intervention.  This taqqonoh spread
very nicely and was endorsed widely in Ashkenaz as well, including by Rabbeinu
Gershom.  (you can read about it in Grossman's book, chasidos u'mor'dos).   So -
change due to circumstances - absolutely.
Of course REMT may dispute these are changes at all, having recourse to the
notion that a change effected "within the framework of what halacha permits and
prohibits" is loa sh'mei change.  Not that I disagree with that sentiment
either, but I simply am no longer hung up the semantics of the thing.  I lost
track of Richie some forty five years ago, so I'm probably not going to track
him down to tell him that, in retrospect, I think he had the better of that
Mechy Frankel

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Mar 19,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: halachic relativism

David Tzohar wrote:
> Since the Shulchan Aruch was compiled in the sixteenth century it has
> been considered the definitive basis for all halachic decisions.  No present
> day authority can pasken (make a halachic ruling) against the Shulchan
> Aruch. I must in all humility transfer the burden of answering this question
> to the broad shoulders of today's great halachic authorities: Rav Mordechai
> Eliyahu, Rav Ovadia Yosef, Rav Elyashiv, Rabbi Hershel Shachter to name a
> few.
> These gedolim (greats) are most certainly "flesh and blood" but we are
> obligated to listen to them as "the judges in your generation".

Perhaps David could have added the principle of "Yiftach bedoro kiShmuel
bedoro - Yiftach was as authoritative in his generation as Shmuel in his"
(Rosh Hashanah 25b) which, in essence, means we must accept our present-day
leadership even if it is of a much lower calibre than that of previous
generations and would hardly have been acceptable in those times.

Martin Stern


From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Mon, Mar 15,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Wedding Rings

There is absolutely no requirement for a married woman to wear her wedding ring
if she doesn't feel like it (or has some other reason not to).



End of Volume 57 Issue 94