Volume 58 Number 01 
      Produced: Fri, 16 Apr 2010 14:57:38 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

    [Ari Trachtenberg]
absorption of food by utensils (3)
    [Akiva Miller  Eitan Fiorino]
authority of the Shulchan Aruch 
    [Michael Frankel]
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
    [Michael Frankel]
Looking for a book 
    [N. Yaakov Ziskind]
    [David Tzohar]
Sefirat HaOmer 
    [Eliezer Shemtov]
Subject:  Waiting for Milk 
    [Frank Silbermann]


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Fri, Apr 16,2010 at 12:01 AM
Subject:  Administravia

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From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Tue, Apr 13,2010 at 11:01 AM
Subject: absorption of food by utensils

Dr. Seth L. Ness M.D., Ph.D. asked:
> Is anyone aware of any experiments ever being conducted studying
> the absorption of (presumable radioactively labeled) food/water
> by various cooking utensils (pots, pyrex etc)?

On many occasions, I have purchased an ordinary glass bottle of apple juice from
my supermarket, and tried to use it as a refillable water bottle after the juice
was finished. I was never able to remove the apple juice taste from the bottle.

No matter how well I tried to clean the bottle, and no matter how many times I
told the bottle about the rabbis who insist that glass does not absorb flavor,
the bottle always gave a small but noticeable apple juice flavor to the water.

I'll be the first to admit that this was NOT a rigorously controlled scientific
experiment. On the other hand, the threshold of such things is a lot lower for
disproving than for proving.  And the idea that "glass never absorbs" was
disproved quite well in my opinion.

If anyone *has* successfully gotten the apple juice flavor out of such a bottle,
I'd love to know what their cleaning method was.

Akiva Miller

From: Eitan Fiorino <afiorino@...>
Date: Tue, Apr 13,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: absorption of food by utensils

Seth Ness wrote:
> Is anyone aware of any experiments ever being conducted 
> studying the absorption of (presumable radioactively labeled) 
> food/water by various cooking utensils (pots, pyrex etc)?

There have been no techniques or assays yet developed capable of measuring the
metaphysical absorption of metaphysical particles!

But seriously - I think for any cooks out there who have used cast iron or
unglazed ceramic cookware, it is obvious that in the time of chazal [earlier
sages --MOD] when they talked about a meat or dairy taam ["taste" --MOD] being
absorbed into the pot, they were really talking about a physical, detectable
taste.  These kinds of cooking materials clearly absorb food elements - and in a
time in which there were no detergents for cookware, these flavors did not come
out so easily.  Cast iron, for example, should be cleaned by rubbing the salt
onto to pot or pan - basically, a process of abrasion - and the cookware becomes
"seasoned" with increasing use.  In truth, a grill on a barbeque is the same and
perhaps this is an example more accessible for the non-gourmet chefs out there.

For Teflon or other non-stick coatings, or aluminum pots cleaned with brillo -
well, there is for sure no detectable taam left after cooking, if the person
doing the cleaning is at all competent.  Nevertheless, I believe few if any
poskim [Jewish deciders --MOD] have been willing to claim that some cookware
cannot absorb, except for glass and maybe Pyrex.  And even though glass is
pretty much assumed to not absorb, few if any poskim are willing to condone its
lechatchila [before the fact --MOD] use for meat and dairy.

Thus - if we know definitively that certain surfaces do not absorb, at least in
the way chazal understood the absorption of taam, yet we persist in halachically
characterizing such materials as absorbing - then one must redefine the nature
of "taam" - it no longer refers to an ACTUAL taste, as it surely did in the time
of chazal, and thus bliot must be non-physical in nature, and thus independent
of any actual, detectable taam being present in the cookware.  I for one find
that view difficult to reconcile with that of chazal - but if one reads chazal's
bliot [~"taste particles" --MOD] as having been physical entities, and chazal's
taam as refering to detectable flavor - then one must either concede
non-absorbing cookware can be multi-functional or find other, perhaps less then
convincing, reasons to prohibit such use.  Rabbi Howard Jachter quotes Rabbi
Aharon Soloveitchik as stating bliot are physical and Rabbi J. David Bleich as
stating they are metephysical (see

From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Tue, Apr 13,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: absorption of food by utensils 

Seth L. Ness wrote:
> Is anyone aware of any experiments ever being conducted studying the
absorption > of (presumable radioactively labeled) food/water by various cooking
utensils > (pots, pyrex etc)?

No, but R H Schachter opined that stainless steel pots probably do not absorb
and that all the Rabbis should get together to determine a change vis-a-vis
kashrut issues (don't hold your breath).
Joel Rich


From: Michael Frankel <michaeljfrankel@...>
Date: Tue, Apr 13,2010 at 11:01 AM
Subject: authority of the Shulchan Aruch

Eitan Fiorino wrote:
> ...Lastly, I would like to understand, according to David, by what halachic 
> principle a TEXT (by its very nature static) can be viewed as a replacement
> for POSKIM who are deciding the issues before their eyes?  Indeed, the
> rishonim [early leading rabbis --MOD] (if I recall mainly in Ashkenaz but on
> this I am not certain) adopted the principle of hilcheta kebatrai ("the law
> is like the later ones") to buttress their own ability to poskin [decide
> --MOD] against earlier generations, an innovative and novel application of
> the concept.  So too did the RID apply the concept of "dwarves standing on
> the shoulders of giants" to lend authority to the later generations in
> deciding halacha as they saw fit.
>  While there is indeed enormous weight given to precedent within the halachic
> process, the halachic principles with which I am familiar all empower the
> contemporary posek to determine halacha as he sees fit given the circumstances
> before him.  ..-Eitan
The connection between the dwarf-on- shoulder metaphor and hilkhisoh k'basroi
-HK- [literally, "the decision is taken according to the latter authority",
hilcheta kebtrai in the quote text --MOD] is even more intimate, at least
according to the late Prof Ta Shma who believed the former actually enabled the
latter.  i.e.  precisely the infiltration of the metaphor into the Ashkenazic
cultural world following the Tosofos Rid promoted expansion of the Gaonic "rule"
to post-talmudic authorities, previously applied only to Amoraim [3rd - 6th
century Jewish scholars who "told" the Oral law --MOD] after the time of Abbaye
and Rovoh.  HK was then - according to Ta Shma - first deployed in post-talmudic
mode by one of Rabbeinu Asher's sons (the other guy, not the Tur) who claimed it
to give his father's opinion precedence over somebody else.

As the metaphor never gained cultural currency in the broader S'faradic world
(Tosofos Rid cribbed it, as he readily acknowledged, from Rashi's slightly
younger contemporary and countryman, Bernard of Clairvaux.  Mixed feeling about
the latter - saved Jews during Second Crusade, but also caused the problem in
first place), the S'fardim in turn never accepted this broadened use of halokhoh
k'basroi,substituting instead a decision methodology that simply relied on rov
(literally, majority - of decisors rendering an opinion on subject)- as in the
Shulchan Arukh's intro.  Expansion of the principle's application proceeded
apace (it included a requirement that latter authority had actually seen the
words of earlier authorities - otherwise no shoulders to stand on) up to and
including the present day when some would seek to apply it to very recent
generations or even very near contemporaries. 

According to this view then, dwarf on shoulder was the underlying rationale for
Ashkenazic p'saq [ruling --MOD], investing authority in the decisions of
contemporary bais dins (jewish law courts).  The S'faradim invested authority in
their contemporary decisors to make binding decisions utilizing the methodology
of rov but with the quite different underlying rationale of "yiftach b'doro
kish'muel b'doro" (literally - "Jeptah in his generation is like Samuel in his
generation", i.e. the legal principle that asserts each generation's judges
carry full legal authority to decide matters even if they don't measure up to
stature of judges in previous generations).

Ta Shma's perspective was challenged by pointing out that it was davka (in
context - "precisely") a S'faradi, R Avrohom ben HaRambam, who provided an
explanation of HK in terms of accumulation of knowledge, thus providing a
similar sounding explanation for the ability of a later generation to dispute a
former, as well as pointing to the complete absence of any reference to the
dwarf on shoulder metaphor by any generations following the Rosh.

The alternative view of the expansion of HK principle to post-talmudic times
comes in experience of the black death in Ashkenaz, with its widespread feeling 
that the chakhomim [wise ones --MOD] who toiled after the time of the black
death were qualitatively lesser than those before it.  (This then also the
origin of the halakhic periodicization and of the transition from "Rishonim"
(lit- early authorities) to "Acharonim" (lit - latter authorities) by the black
death, as argued by Dinari in his Hebrew volume "Chakhmei Ashkenaz B'shalhei
Y'mei Habbeinayyim"- Ashkenazic Scholars in the Latter Middle Ages).   This
enormous respect for their immediate predecessors led to expansion of HK to
apply to this last and greater-than-themselves generation across the gulf of the
black death. (S'faradim in turn thought this whole post-talmudic expansion of
HK was ridiculous, where would it then stop - with the guy who just outlived
his contemporary by a week?- Sh"ut Maharam Alshaqar, #54).

Subsequent expansion into age of Acharonim (latter day authorities, up to the
present) was justified in turn by turning to the words of the Rif, who in the
course of explaining why decision of the Talmud Bavli was preferred to the
Talmud Yerushalmi, because they were basroi (latter) to Talmud Yerushalmi-
nevertheless allowed for the possibility of reliance on Yerushalmi if "qim l'hu"
(literally - "the matter could stand", i.e. with strong arguments.  

Dwarf-on-giant came to provide the rationalization for human progress, even in
the face of the obvious-to-them assumption that moderns were so intellectually
and spiritually inferior to their distant ancestors.  This perspective was
shared by the medieval Christians who faced the very same problem of
disagreement with more authoritative predecessors.  And not just medieval
Christians. Renaissance era guys also strongly believed in hisdard'rus haddoros
(literally - "the decline of generations").

Trying to throw off the yoke of Aristotle and the rest of those smarter-than-us
Greeks - how could one disagree with the science promulgated by such an
obviously superior people - helped catalyze and energize the new methodology of
scientific experimentation, as the poor substitute for the ancients' superior
intellectual insight and argumentation. The ancients, unlike us, could
rationalize their way to truth in the absence of any experimental facts. 

As some recent controversies have illuminated, it would seem that some number of
today's talmidei chakhomim [~Torah scholar --MOD] that still think experimental
facts are a poor second to allegedly ancient insights.  

Mechy Frankel 


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Thu, Mar 18,2010 at 09:01 PM
Subject: hair/modesty

Alex Heppenheimer wrote:
> So yes, that seclusion itself is immodest behavior (and she has been already
> proved guilty of it by the witnesses), and the consequences include having to
> suffer the embarrassment of having her hair uncovered in public. [The Midrash,
> Bamidbar Rabbah 9:13, makes the connection explicit: "The Kohen therefore
> uncovers her head, telling her, 'You left the way of Jewish women (whose
> practice is to keep their hair covered) and chose the way of the gentiles (who
> go about with uncovered hair); now you have your wish.'" We also see from here,
> incidentally, that a woman's keeping her hair covered is one of the many symbols
> of her dignity as a Jew, and that having it uncovered represents a loss of that
> dignity rather than a gain of freedom.]
> Whether she actually dies from drinking the bitter waters is something else
> altogether: that indeed depends on whether she actually had sexual relations
> with this man. (There is at least one recorded case of a woman who did so and
> died after the ordeal (Tanchuma Naso 6:6), so it is incorrect to say that "she
> was never found guilty... in actual fact.") But again, that has nothing to do
> with what's done up to that point in the ordeal (including the uncovering of her
> hair).
> Kol tuv,
> Alex

I remember a shiur once that addressed this issue from another aspect. 
This is from memory but a google search found 
http://www.torahweb.org/torah/2000/parsha/rhab_naso.html which I quote 
below. As we see the very procedure was designed to disconcert the woman 
and scare her back to the "straight and narrow". The implication is that 
if the woman is indeed innocent and it is the husband who is at fault, 
it would take a great deal for her to want to stay with him.

  "Vnikta vnizra zara" -- "and she shall be [found] innocent and 
[subsequently] have children (5:28)." With these words, Hashem 
guarantees that a woman suspected of infidelity to her husband who is 
cleared of the charges through the test of the mayim hamarrim -- the 
bitter waters -- will be blessed. If previously barren, she will now 
have children; if in the past, she had severe labor pains, now the 
birth-process will be easier (Rashi quoting from Sota 26a).

Historically, at least one woman threatened to utilize the sota process 
in order to be the beneficiary of this divine promise. The Talmud in 
Brachot (31b) elaborates on part of Chana's famous prayer to the Ribono 
Shel Olam [Master of the Universe --MOD] for children. "Master of the Universe,"
she cried, "you  created in my body organs designed both to give birth to
children and to nourish them; surely you did not create them in vain?
If you do not  grant me children, I will be forced to seclude myself with
another man and go through the sotah process in order to force You to grant me 

The Sages of the Talmud derive that Chana spoke audaciously to Hashem from the
phrase: "Vatitpallel al Hashem" -- "and [Chana] prayed to [literally: on] G-d.
(Samuel I 1:10)" The usage of al (on) rather than the more familiar el (to)
indicates that "hiticha dvarim klapei mala" -- she thrust words up to heaven.
Interestingly, though, Chanas prayer was answered immediately. Why would Hashem
reward a brazen request with a speedy reply?

       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: Michael Frankel <michaeljfrankel@...>
Date: Tue, Apr 13,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: in-laws

Mark Steiner wrote:
> In fact, there is no word for mekhutonim in any of the European languages,
> as far as I am aware.  The reason is, obviously, that the Christians do 
> not recognize mekhutonim as relatives: they don't seem to have to invite 
> them to baptisms, weddings, etc., as we do to circumcisions, etc.>

True story -
About two years ago I accompanied my then boss to a meeting with Senator
Joe Lieberman and some of his staffers.  Before we got down to our
business there, in the course of the introductory chit-chat, I
mentioned my m'chotonim [in-laws --MOD] - Mark's good friends Carl and Feige -
to Senator Lieberman since I knew they were all old friends.  

As [soon as ] I'd used that word, Sen Lieberman, seeing the puzzlement on some
of the faces, paused to explain to the assembled the meaning while extolling the
utility the term to express a relationship otherwise uncapturable in a single
English expression.  Following the meeting as we were waiting to be picked up in
the lobby of the Senate Hart Office Building, my boss - a former Presidential
Science Advisor of pure Scotch Irish ancestry- asked me about the word again. 
He explained that he and his own m'chotonim had invented the compound
"co-parents" to describe their relationship but he was much taken by this
neologistic opportunity.

I encouraged him, providing a quick tutorial on the singular and plural while
cautioning him of the difficulties likely to attend a deployment of a proper
ashkenazic "ch" (I felt any segue into gender distinctions would have led him to
abandon the thought on the spot)and he carefully wrote down a transliteration.
It is in fact such a useful word, that I'm surprised it hasn't achieved the
wider cultural penetration of e.g. "chutzpah".

Mechy Frankel


From: N. Yaakov Ziskind <awacs@...>
Date: Thu, Apr 15,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Looking for a book

... that my daughter liked. Her teacher from last year handed out a 
page every week.  The page had nine cartoon panels, on the parsha of 
the week. The page read, I believe, "Tell me the story of the parsha." It 
had the author's name as "R.Aron". One of the other teachers suggested
that the book was from Lakewood. Anyone have leads on buying this book?

Nachman Yaakov Ziskind, FSPA, LLM


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Thu, Apr 15,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: middot

Maxi Yedid wrote:
> "the totality of middot" (MOD measures) 

Artscroll pirkei avot translates middot "character types" - Koren
Siddur (R'Jonathan Sacks) translates "traits".  IMHO "measures" [the translation
provided by the moderator --MOD] is wrong.  In this context nothing is being
David Tzohar


From: Eliezer Shemtov <shemtov@...>
Date: Wed, Apr 14,2010 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Sefirat HaOmer

Maxi Yedid asked:
> 2. do you know a good sefer [book --MOD] that explains how to work on the
> personality traits according to the Kabbalah?

*Spiritual Guide to Counting the Omer*



From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Tue, Apr 13,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Subject:  Waiting for Milk

Menashe Elyashiv: V57 #99:
> In the Rishonim [leading rabbis from 11th-15th centuries], there are 2 waiting
> times: 1 hour & 6 hours. The Rambam holds 6, Tosafot and others hold 1. The
> Shulhan Aruch holds 6, the Rama holds 1 hour, but brings the 6 hours as a
> recommendation. It would seem that the 6 hours penetrated Eastern Europe and
> slowly pushed out the old Ashkenazi way of 1 hour. The German 3 hours is a
> custom, but not a known Rishonim opinion.

I'm not sure what point Menashe Elyashiv is trying to make.  Apparently, the
German community still relies on the Ashkenazi Rishonim' opinion of one hour --
but generally accepted a chumra (stringent custom) of extending it an extra two

Since when does a community require the backing of the Rishonim to adopt a chumra? 

Frank Silbermann                  Memphis, Tennessee


End of Volume 58 Issue 1