Volume 57 Number 96 
      Produced: Thu, 25 Mar 2010 23:17:00 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A change or violation of Halachah? 
    [Richard Fiedler]
Chaz"al about the man the Xtians believe is Mashiach? 
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
chumrah (2)
    [Ben Katz  Orrin Tilevitz]
community standards 
    [Carl Singer]
electronic stuff etc  
    [Michael Rogovin]
execution of Vashti 
    [Mordechai Horowitz]
hair/modesty (2)
    [Meir Shinnar  Shoshana L. Boublil]
HaLachma Anya Translations 
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
halakhic relativism (2)
    [Frank Silbermann  Joel Rich]
kosher wine 
    [Bernard Raab]
on which commandements does one make a prior blessing 
    [Russell J Hendel]
q&a about Jewish life and learning 
    [Isaac Moses]
quinoa in Israel on Pesah 
    [Ephraim Tabory]


From: Richard Fiedler <richardfiedler@...>
Date: Tue, Mar 23,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: A change or violation of Halachah?

[Regarding Sammy Finkelman's question in mj57#94 --MOD]

First you have to understand that some rules applied before there was a fixed
calendar and even then when there was a fixed calendar some of the dehiyot
(rabbinical postponements) only started in later periods.

In Perek 4 the Rambam is dealing with the rules when there was no fixed
calendar.  Read the 1st Halacha in Perek 5 where the Rambam states that:

> "When, however,there is no Sanhedrin in Eretz Israel, we establish the
> monthly calendar and institute leap years solely according to the fixed
> calendar that is followed now."

The problem as to when a fixed calendar began is a very interesting one and I
have devoted an entire website to this:  www.sodhaibur.com

Most Rabbis believe it was started 358 CE based on a quote 
 . . until the days of Hillel b. R. Yehuda in the year 670 of the Seleucid era
(358/9 CE), from when they did not bring forth or postpone, but kept to this
cycle which was at hand . . . This from a responsum of R. Hai Gaon (early
eleventh century) cited by R. Avraham b. Hiyya. 

Sacha Stern in his book Calendar and Community believes that Hillel II never
existed and it happened much later. I believe it happened much earlier.  The
Rambam never mentions Hillel II.

In the gemora Holin 95b:
> [Shmuel] wrote and sent to [R' Yochanon] the calendar calculations of sixty
> years.
Shmuel lived a hundred years before Hillel b. R. Yehuda and this is indicative
that Jerusalem (or Yavneh) was using a fixed calendar.
It is impossible to write up a calendar for 60 years if it is subject to an
unpredictable event such as a famine.

Richard Fiedler


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Wed, Feb 24,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Chaz"al about the man the Xtians believe is Mashiach?

Leah S. R. Gordon wrote:
> 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).

I think that the point that is being made is that the references in
the censored parts of the Talmud would not necessarily all be
referring to the same "person". For example, if the "name" y'shu (Yud
Shin Vav) is a rashei teivos (initial letters of a phrase) rather than
a name, then the different references would be to different people.
Even if it were a name, it could be a generic name or refer to
different people of the same name (especially since many details

If any of the references are to the student of Rabbi Yehoshua ben
Perachiah, then the time is so different that they are either
different people or ...

In any case, the stories that the goyim tell in their book, even taken
as a description of an "historical" person, show that they cannot be
used as a basis for our ideas about such a person.

Thus, the only source that we currently have is their book, and we
cannot learn anything from it.

Similarly, it would be a greater "insult" to accept that the censored
parts of the Talmud refer to their "messiah" than to just say that the
whole matter is irrelevant. It would be like explaining the Roshei
Teivot explicitly whenever the name is mentioned.

       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: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Mon, Mar 22,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: chumrah

<rogovin@...> wrote in mj 57:94:
> ...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)...

The above piece is very well written.

What most people don't realize is that probably at least since the end of the
Talmudic-Geonic period, practice evolved bottom-up (from the community: similar
to what Dr. Solevietchik called the mimetic tradition) rather than top down
(from the Rabbis; similar to what Dr. Soleveitchik called the text tradition).

Rabbis were not "in control" of many incredibly important aspects of Jewish
life, such as writing sifrei Torah (controlled by guilds; there is even evidence
that the famous Ben Asher family of Masoretes were Karaites) and authoring
teffilot (the piyutim [liturgical poems --MOD] were largely written by
non-Rabbinic figures, hence the antipathy to them in the yeshivah world).  Even
the calendar was probably not completely under Rabbinic control (see Sacha
Stern's masterpiece, Calendar and Community).

I would like to know what happened to the rabbinic principle of has rabanna al
mammona diyisrael (loosely translated as "the Rabbis were very careful when it
came to Jews' pocketbooks".)  The danger of the current situation is rabbinical
organizations losing touch with and the respect of the observant laity.

From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Tue, Mar 23,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: chumrah

>From <rogovin@...>:
> (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)
> ...
> (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")

>From Elazar M. Teitz <In summation: halacha cannot be changed>

>From Martin Stern:
> It is not that halachah evolves but that social structures change and new
> technology produces new situations.

I may have missed the statement in the OU guide that the OU no longer certifies
gebrochts [matza that has absorbed liquid --MOD] because there is no demand for
it since "community standards have changed".

There is an article on gebrochts in that guide, and while it says that
based on what is available on the Pesach supermarket shelves, the
non-gebrochts-adherents are commanding an increasing market share, it also
says that the majority of Klal Yisrael conducts themselves in accordance with
the halacha that gebrochts may be eaten on Pesach. But Mr./Ms. Rogovin is
correct that the OU once certified peanut oil for Pesach, and does not any more
- the OU says so on its website. The OK does, or did on the basis of a
responsum of R. Moshe Feinstein that peanuts are not kitniyot. See
http://www.ok.org/Content.asp?.  (BTW, according to Rav Henkin z'l, neither are
string beans.)

But if Mr./Ms. Rogovin is correct that "community standards have changed"
and as a result no longer permit what they once did, or permit what they once
did not, and if it is not true with regard to gebrochts, it is certainly true
with regard to such things as women's hair covering, mixed dancing, mixed
swimming, not sitting in the sukkah on shemini atzeret and many other
things--doesn't that demonstrate that halacha does change independent of changes
in technology or social structure?


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Mon, Mar 15,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: community standards

Ms. Baker's mention of Peanut Oil brought back pleasant, tasteful memories.

It seems an important aspect is to define "community" -- THEN and NOW.
(Not sure how long ago "THEN" is.)

*** Pre WW-II

Was community a small city (Shteitel) with a Shtut Rav which resulted in a
consistent level of observance and practice.

Or a Chasidishe community with their Rebbe.

*** Post WW-II America -- 40s & 50s

Was community your neighborhood and those folks, mostly lantzmen [people
with origins in the same European region or "Community": - a cyclical
reference] who davened [Prayed, talked, congregated] in your shul.

Perhaps "community" was "neighborhood"

*** Today in the age of global communications (yes - even the internet :)

Is community anything we wish to make it to be -- geographic proximity
having little to do with which community we belong to or which "community
standards" we consider our own.  And what happens when people from
disparate tele-communities (A term I just coined at the keyboard) happen to
be geographically proximate and daven in the same shul.

Wishing all a Zeesun Pesach [sweet Passover --MOD].

Carl A. Singer, Ph.D.
Colonel, U.S. Army Retired
see my website www.ProcessMakesPerfect.net


From: Michael Rogovin <mrogovin118@...>
Date: Tue, Mar 23,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: electronic stuff etc 

It is not at all clear to me that LEDs (such as on a hotel door lock)  
or eInk would be prohibited, at least d'orita (as a biblical level  
violation); at most they would seem to be on a rabbinic level if  
poskim [Jewish legal deciders --MOD] were to so rule. This would be
similar to fluorescent lights  (and according to some, incandescent bulbs
as well).  They are analagous to fire only in that they radiate visible light,
but there is certainly no combustion or anything analagous to ignition as in a  
fire. I believe that the issue of boneh (building) may also be more  
like redirecting the flow of an irrigation canal, which I thought was  
permitted. It seems to me (as an undereducated lay person) that the  
issue here is more appearance than actual violation.

I doubt that publishers will ever cease to make sfarim [Jewish books --MOD]
in paper book form, and I think that paper books have a longer life left than
many predict. However it will be interesting to see how the halacha  
develops. I suspect there will be great resistance to any attempt to  
treat LEDs, LCDs or eInk differently from other electronic devices,  
even if the strict halacha would permit it. It just goes against the  
conservative grain of decision making that leans toward chumrah  

Michael Rogovin


From: Mordechai Horowitz <mordechai@...>
Date: Tue, Mar 23,2010 at 10:01 PM
Subject: execution of Vashti

Naomi writes
> I find it amazing that in the 13 times you read the megillah you discovered
> that Vashti was executed.  Nowhere does it say this.

[One] doesn't write Midrash [one] writes fiction. One major difference between
the academic approach to Judaism the the traditional approach of halachic
Judaism is that in the academic world they see the text as being independent of
the Oral Tradition and therefore modern day people can write their own stories
and consider equal to the Midrash of Chazal.   Torah Judaism had a different
approach.  We no more can write Midrash today than we can write Mishna or
Gemorrah.  All we can do is write commentary.

Russel's ideas aren't something he makes up.  Rather they have clear sources in

For example Midrash Rabbah Chapter 9
> Rav Huna It had come the time for her (Vashti) to be killed.

Chapter 15
> Says Rav Yochanon from when Vashti was executed until Esther entered was not >
forgotten the anger of Achasverus.

I'm not going to tell you not to make up stories if you want.  But don't confuse
your stories with real Midrash of our sages.


From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Thu, Mar 11,2010 at 12:01 AM
Subject: hair/modesty

> Leah S. R. Gordon wrote:
> > When I read this, the obvious question is the same one Golda Meir asked
> > regarding a curfew on women to avoid rape: why are we
> > restricting the women when we should be restricting the men?
Alex Heppenheimer responded: 
> I am sure this was inadvertent, but you do realize that you've just compared a
> man who has a (perhaps unconscious) reaction -to a rapist?

The issue is not the unconscious reaction - but the subsequent actions, and the
comparison, although extreme, is actually quite apt... (I have no knowledge of
the original intent).  Outside of actual halachic requirements, the onus should
be on the men.

Meir Shinnar

From: Shoshana L. Boublil <toramada@...>
Date: Thu, Mar 11,2010 at 02:01 AM
Subject: hair/modesty

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz wrote:
> My wife had to renew her passport just before Purim. A picture with a
> hat or other head covering is invalid according to the State
> Department. A wig was acceptable (probably for the reason that you
> gave).

Actually, I had the same problem - and discovered that the actual demand is 
that the ears be visible despite the head gear.

So, I wore a hat that did not cover my ears - and the picture was approved.

Shoshana L. Boublil


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Tue, Mar 23,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: HaLachma Anya Translations

Mark Symons wrote:
> I seem to recall that several years ago someone posted to MJ information
> about a database of translations of HaLachma Anya into several languages
> - either on the internet or in a personal file... I'm
> particularly interested in a Finnish version.

"Google is your friend"

   * http://whyisthisnight.com/addl.html
     (300 Ways to Ask The Four Questions: From Zulu to Abkhaz)

   * http://whyisthisnight.com/addl-more.html
    (Additional language translations...)

   * http://hadassahsabo.wordpress.com/2009/03/26/mah-nishtanah-multilingually/

But so far, we have found (and I take NO responsibility for the
accuracy of the translations)


> Mik tekee tst y erottuu kaikki [muut] yt?
> 1) Kaikkien yt meidn ei tarvitse dip viel kerran, ja tmn y
> teemme niin kahdesti!
> 2) kaikkien yt symme chametz tai matzah, ja tss y vain matzah.
> 3) kaikkien yt symme kaikenlaista vihannekset, ja tm y maror!
> 4) kaikkien yt symme istuu suorassa tai Siell he saavat levt, ja
> tss y me kaikki loikoa!

Other languages:  
English, Hebrew, Yiddish, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Ladino,
Dutch, Afrikaans (with thanks to Kerstin), English Pig Latin, Hebrew Pig Latin,
Tagalog, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Estonian, Hungarian, Norwegian,
Polish, Romanian, Swedish, Turkish, Vietnamese
       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: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Thu, Mar 11,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: halakhic relativism

Martin Stern V57 N 92 wrote:
> ... the word for to kill would be tiktal not tirtsach but there is an
> interesting difference in the punctuation of the phrase...
> Perhaps the fact that this hint is only conveyed in the ta'am elyon 
> [Higher or Divine understanding] is to teach us not to take the law into our own
> hands on our own ta'am tachton [lower understanding].

I do not understand Martin's hypothesis.  What is the meaning 
of "taking the law into our own hands" in the context of halacha?

In the context of halacha, what is the difference between Higher versus Lower

And what is the difference between an individual doing something on his
higher understanding versus an individual doing something on his lower

Frank Silbermann              Memphis, Tennessee

From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Mon, Mar 15,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: halakhic relativism

> Rav Moshe created a category of 'cholov haCompanies' as a subset of 'cholov
> akum'. There were a couple of qualifications that needed to be met in order to
> be categorized as 'cholov haCompanies'.  Suffice it to say that one can not
> just walk down the road in Thailand and get some milk from the non-Jewish
> farmer.

Actually iiuc [if I understand correctly --MOD] Rav Moshe created a category of
'cholov haCompanies' as a subset of 'cholov yisrael'  - that is defining the
issue not as whether a Yisrael was there but whether there is a concern for

Joel Rich


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Sun, Mar 7,2010 at 07:20 PM
Subject: kosher wine

I. Balbin:= wrote;
> When it comes to alcohol, however, given the paucity of Mehadrin
> alternatives, and given that they are imbibed using a glass utensil thereby
> not presenting opportunities to soil the kashrus of crockery etc, it would
> appear to be sensible to permit those who already drink such items to
> continue to do so at a Simcha. 

Many years ago, alas, there were several famous resort hotels in the Catskill
mountains of New York which were regarded as strictly kosher in their dining
rooms but their night clubs served all sorts of wines and liquors.  As their
business dwindled they made greater efforts to attract the more religious crowd.
This led to a famous brouhaha when some of the "new" guests discovered that some
of the "old" guests would buy a bottle of "good" wine in the nightclub and bring
it into the dining room. Many in the Orthodox community and in the Jewish press
clamored for stripping the hotel's kashrut certification. My Rav at the time,
the most respected posek in our city and beyond, as well as a Rosh Yeshiva
Gedolah, did not see what the fuss was about. "Nobody is forcing you to drink
the wine", he said. "But", somebody protested, "what if some of it spills on the
dishes, or directly on your plate?" He replied: "If it spills on your food, you
should ask the waiter to replace the dish. If it spills only on the plate, just
wipe it off and enjoy the food." Clearly, he did not see any issue of "soiling
the kashrus of crockery".We tend to forget that kashrus of wine and that of food
are based on wholly different criteria.I do miss those famous hotels
--Bernie R. 		 	   		  


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Wed, Mar 10,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: on which commandements does one make a prior blessing

This question was raised by Avraham. It was answered by Rav Hirsch.
Rav Hirsch distinguishes two types of commandments

- SYMBOLIC COMMANDMENTS - The purpose in performing the commandment is not the
performance itself but something (a symbol) that the performance reminds you of.

EXAMPLES: According to the Bible I wear Tzitzis IN ORDER TO REMIND ME OF GOD'S
COMMANDMENTS. Similarly I wear Tefillin in order that GOD'S TORAH BE IN MY
MOUTH. These reminders are EXPLICITLY stated by the Bible.

- NON-SYMBOLIC COMMANDMENTS - The purpose in performing the commandments is the
performance itself. 

EXAMPLES: I give charity in order to give charity. True, the giving of charity
may e.g. remind me of Abarham or Jewish ideals but the purpose of giving charity
is to give the money.  Similarly the purpose of honoring my parents (according
to the Bible) is not e.g. to remind me of honoring God but rather that I should
honor my parents. 

Rav Hirsch gives a very succinct formulation with reason:

SYMBOLIC COMMANDMENTS require a prior blessing IN ORDER TO REMIND ME of the
symbolic purpose of the commandment.

NON SYMBOLIC COMMANDMENTS do not require a prior blessing since the goal of the
performance is the performace itself.

This explanation of Rav Hirsch is very clear and crisp and is often overlooked.

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


From: Isaac Moses <imoses@...>
Date: Tue, Mar 16,2010 at 12:01 AM
Subject: q&a about Jewish life and learning

I posted a couple of months ago about a new online community for Q&A about
Jewish life and learning that was in private beta at the time. Well, now
it's public, and you're cordially invited to come try it out:


We've got quite a bit of interesting content already, and a growing
collection of excellent community members. Come post a question!

Isaac Moses
Baltimore, MD


From: Ephraim Tabory <tabore@...>
Date: Tue, Mar 23,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: quinoa in Israel on Pesah

> In the States, quinoa is accepted as kosher for Pesah.  However, last year,
> the supermarket here in Jerusalem (Talpiyot neighborhood) covered the packages
> of quinoa, along with the chametz [leavened foods]...
> Can anyone shed any light on this issue?

It might be productive to ask your supermarket manager if you are really
interested in an answer. In the interim, you are welcome to shop at the
stores in Tel Aviv, and yes, even Bnei Brak that sell quinoa (albeit, listed
as kitniyot, just as canola oil is so listed--despite the efforts of some
rabbis to have these labels changed). Betayavon, and except for some
opinions, you will (if your LOR agrees) still have an Ashkenazi chag kasher
(and hopefully sameach) even when you use these products.


End of Volume 57 Issue 96