Volume 58 Number 11 
      Produced: Sun, 09 May 2010 13:40:39 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

    [Martin Stern]
kashrut agencies 
    [Akiva Miller]
marriage and separation (2)
    [Chana  Yisrael Medad]
mikveh (was marriage and separation) 


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Apr 20,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: chumrah

In Vol.58 #02 Digest, I wrote:
> In summary, I would suggest that the spread of these, and many other, humras
> is a result of people not having a masoret [family or communal tradition]
> and thereby accepting any wild statements from those who have one to be
> strict in any particular matter as if they are universally accepted. This
> then distorts the "market" to the disadvantage of those who have such a
> masoret to be lenient in a particular case - sales are maximised if the
> goods have a wider appeal.

Perhaps there is one other factor in the current polarisation between the
machmirin [those taking a strict position] and meikilin [those taking a
lenient position], that people from many different regions, who had
previously had little direct contact, have come to live in close proximity.

Each community had adopted certain chumras but not others and this was
always accepted under the general rubric of minhag hamakom [local custom].
With the disruption of family traditions due to war conditions and
migration, people were no longer clear as to their own traditions. Also
these population movements made people became more aware of the practices of
others. This gave rise to two reactions, either the acceptance of the other
people's chumras [strictures --MOD] in an attempt to be yotsei lechol hadeot
[make every effort to avoid any possible infringement] or to look for the lowest
common denominator i.e. drop chumras previously practiced.

As I remarked above, traders tended to maximise the appeal of their goods by
adopting the former. After all, the meikilin would not object to the kashrut
of foodstuffs acceptable to the machmirin, whereas the latter would not
accept the leniencies of the former. Though they might object to any added
cost, it is not clear how significant that might be once one takes into
account the economies of scale that the wider acceptance might produce.

Martin Stern


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Tue, May 4,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: kashrut agencies

Michael Rogovin wrote:

> The OU/RCA did 2 things: (1) they only certified glatt meat and
> (2) they perpetuated the myth (directly and through their member
> community rabbis) that only glatt meat was reliably kosher.

Can you offer any evidence for this?

Back in the 70's, and perhaps even later, the OU certainly did certify non-glatt
meat, although I concede that I do not remember the brand names.

In my experience, we can talk about three periods in time: When I was young, it
was not at all difficult to find both glatt and non-glatt sources which OU/RCA
rabbis would consider to be reliably kosher. Nowadays, I concede that it is most
common to hear (as Mr. Rogovin says) that only glatt is reliable. But there are
a time between these two, during which it was said that some non-glatt sources
are reliable, but they are getting rarer and rarer.

That is history as I remember it. And if those memories are accurate, then the
changes were not rabbi-driven, but market-driven. Can Mr. Rogovin offer any
examples of where the OU said to a non-glatt company, "You're going to have to
upgrade to glatt, or we'll drop you as a customer," or where they told an
applicant, "Your procedures are fine, but we can't accpt you because you're not

> I do not believe this came organically from the laity and thus
> was market driven (at first). There is no similar market demand
> for chalav yisrael milk [milk supervised by a Jew --MOD] BECAUSE
> the OU certifies chalav stam [otherwise supervised milk --MOD]
> as well as Chalav Yisrael milk.

I think there is a big difference between the two cases, namely that there are a
very large number of milk producers, and a very small number of kosher meat

There were a small number of kosher meat producers, some producing glatt-kosher,
and other producing non-glatt. All of them were looking for a competitive edge,
like any good business would do. Once a few of them went glatt, market demands
took over, and it sort of snowballed. Many customers stayed with their familiar
favorites, but as the years went on, new customers went with the glatt brands,
which were (or were perceived as) "more" kosher. With only a small number of
competitors, their market share dwindled, and they couldn't keep up.

A very similar thing is now happening with the use of matzo meal in Pesach food:
Since there are a limited number of manufacturers, some of them - especially new
companies - are avoiding matzo meal in order to capture as much of the market as
they can. Significantly, Streit's (under the Kaf-K) and Manischewitz (under the
OU) still produce matzo meal products, and my prediciton is that they will
continue to do so for many years, because their customer base is very different
than that of the new manufacturers.

In contrast, if government supervision is enough for milk to be kosher, then
there are thousands of suppliers across the nation, none of which needs constant
rabbinic inspection. Some manufacturers cater to the niche market which prefers
(or demands) rabbinically supervised milk, and they have indeed captured that
part of the market. But the kosher dairy products market is so large that they
don't need to worry. No matter how many Jews choose to insist on rabbinically
supervised milk, Hershey's chocolate will not notice. They and all the others
will survive, and I believe that there ill still be a demand for reliable kosher
products made with government-supervised milk, long after the demand for
reliable non-glatt meat dried up.

It is possible, of course, that at some future point, the rabbis at the OU will
choose to "upgrade" their standards, and stop certifying such products. And I
admit that this *might* have happened with non-glatt meat; I just haven't seen
any evidence of it.

Akiva Miller


From: Chana <Chana@...>
Date: Wed, May 5,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: marriage and separation

Carl Singer writes:
> Not to in any way minimize civil adultery statutes -- but for
> clarification, "dina demalchuta dina" is specific to monetary / business
> laws -- not law in general. Although there are ample good reasons for 
> obeying ALL of the "laws of the land" -- "dina demalchuta dina"
> isn't the catch all.

The language of the Rema in Choshen Mishpat siman 369 si'if 8 is as follows:

"... there are those who say that we do not say din demalchuta dina [the law of
the land is the law --MOD] except for taxes and property that is dependent upon
land since the king decrees that one should not live in his land unless he
proceeds in this manner, but in relation to other matters no [i.e. we do not say
dina d'malchuta dina] (Rosh perek 4 of Nedarim in the name of haRam, and the
Mordechai Perek HaGozel Batra) and there are those who disagree and explain that
we say in every matter dina d'malchuta dina (the Morderchai in the name of the
Tosaphot and the Trumat HaDeshen siman 309) and thus a lender on collateral is
able to sell it after a year since this is dina d'malchuta dina (there in the
name of the Ri bar Peretz) and this is the ikkar [essential ruling] as is
explained above in siman 356 si'if 7."

Further down in that siman in si'if 11 he says:

"One who marries a woman in a place where they judge according to the laws
of the non Jews, and his wife dies, the father of the woman or the rest of
her heirs are not able to say: anybody who married a woman his intention was
to marry her according to the custom and the matter is judged according to
the laws of the non Jews, [but rather] that if she dies her husband inherits
her or similar to this, and there is not in this because of dina d'malchuta
dina (Bet Yosef siman 26 in the name of the Teshuvat haRashba) as we do not
say dina d'malchuta dina except in a matter in which there is hana'ah
[benefit] to the king, or where it is a [takana] decree of the people of the
country, but not that he should be judged according to the laws of the non
Jews, because if so, he will nullify all of the laws of Israel (Meharik
shoresh 185/186)."

So, at least based on the two positions brought in the Shulchan Aruch, I do
not quite understand how you are getting to a statement that "dina
d'malchuta dina" is specific to monetary/business laws.  Even according to
the first opinion brought in the Rema (ie the Rosh), that it is limited to
taxes and property dependent on land, one would have thought that, for
example - speeding would be caught by dina d'malchuta dina.  After all, if
the king doesn't want you going too fast through his land, he would seem to
be entitled to demand that you not do so (and all the more so in countries
where the state picks up the cost of a national health service, ie will find
itself paying for your injuries or others you may damage if you do go too

And the Rema indicates that the majority opinion is not like this, but
rather that dina d'malchuta dina applies in all matters - just that he then
qualifies it to say that we are talking about something where the king (or
State) legitimately gets a benefit (again, picking up a lot of laws such a
speeding where there is clearly a perceived benefit to the State) or where
it is a takana of the people, just not where we are talking about applying
what in English/American law would generally be called common law.  Now were
adultery to be merely a common law crime, then you might have a point, but
it was suggested that this was a statutory crime in the various American
States mentioned.  If the people of the state got together and decided to
regulate their morality by way of statute, that would, it seems to me, fall
within the characterisation of a decree of the people of the country. And
hence at least in the Rema's view, that of dina d'malchuta dina.

Now I agree that where the issue gets difficult is if the people of the
country were to get together and make a decree to uproot a Torah law (eg
everybody must drive on Saturday) - and that is where one can see a big
distinction between monetary Torah laws and others, because minhag hamakom [the
local custom --MOD] can uproot Torah monetary laws but not generally other types
of Torah laws.  But in a case, such as this one, where there is no issur
[prohibition] in the Torah for the non Jews to make adultery a crime (and in
fact it may be an obligation under the sheva mitzvos bnei noach [laws incumbent
on non-Jews according to the Torah - MOD]), why would this not fit within the
Rema's second category - that of a legitimate takana [rectifying decree --MOD]
of the people of the country?


From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Wed, May 5,2010 at 03:01 PM
Subject: marriage and separation

An anonymous person, presumably a real question with a real opportunity
to enter into a liason with a married on-Jewish woman, asked:

> I am looking for halachic opinions on the following scenario. I am a
> single man who is friendly with a non Jewish woman. She wants to proceed to a
> sexual relationship, which I would like. Her situation: living in her home,
> separated from her husband. He also lives there but they have been separated 
> for two years.  What lines do I cross if I cross the line.

In my opinion, a good Rabbi, combining both Halacha and a sense of the
real world, should ask the man the following to get to know a little

a. is she pretty?
b. is she rich?
c. are you bigger & stronger than the husband

And the purpose of those questions is to jolt some sense into the man.
As for (a) and (b), I can't think of a good reason, Halachically or
otherwise, to enter into an affair with a married non-Jewish woman
unless she is either pretty or rich.  And if the husband is still
around, if only for pikuach nefesh [to prevent sever bodily damage from
being done], I would want to know if Anon. is capable of taking care of
his physical well-being.

Maybe this line of questioning, even if some consider it facetious,
would 'speak' to the man even more than a quotation from the Rambam,
Shulkhan Arukh or Rav Moshe Feinstein, one way of another.

Yisrael Medad


From: Chana <Chana@...>
Date: Thu, May 6,2010 at 09:01 PM
Subject: mikveh (was marriage and separation)

Anonymous writes:

> Manhattan is filled with women in all manner of hair-covering and
> over-the-elbow sleeves and with husbands in yarmulkes who take pride
> in finding a mincha minyan at the office. But the mikva'ot, while not
> empty, are not exactly filled to capacity.

And then further writes:

> Mr. (or Rabbi?) Stern, I say it with a friendly (and rueful) smile,
> not, heaven forbid, with scorn: if you had been to as many women's
> mikvaot as I have, as many times as I have, for as many years, you,
> too, might well say "goodness--the numbers just don't add up." 

I am sorry, but this is an extraordinary accusation, and I think it requires
some response.

Firstly, the two examples are not at all comparable.  Mikvah is required to
be, according to the halacha, private, and people go to great lengths, some
more and some less, to maintain that privacy.  If anybody (except the mikvah
lady in a single mikvah town) is in any position to tell whether the numbers
add up or not, then there is something going wrong somewhere.  Mincha
minyan, on the other hand, is by definition a public activity, where in
contrast the man is required to stand up and be counted.

In addition, in order to add up the numbers, one would first have to know
how many mikvos there were in any given place.  Now I have no experience of
the mikvos in Manhattan, as when I lived there I was single, but if it is
like anywhere else in the world with a sizeable Jewish community, I would
suspect that as well as the very public mikvos, ie the ones that advertise
so that strangers can find them, there are also any number of private
mikvos, those that may only be known or accessible to the community or group
that uses it.  One would need to take those into account if one were to be
sure that the numbers did not add up.

Thirdly, one needs to know the number of eligible users.  Now things may
have changed drastically since I lived in Manhattan as a single, but when I
was there, Manhattan was fundamentally a place for singles, and while there
were indeed some couples and families who lived there, the general pattern
was for couples upon marrying to move out to Riverdale or Queens or Brooklyn
or Long Island or wherever.  Certainly Manhattan was not the friendliest
place to have kids, and so even those who stuck it out as young marrieds,
tended to move out once the first child arrived.  On the other hand,
Manhattan was where all the prestigious jobs were, so that the common pattern
was for those who were married to commute in to work - filling the offices
(and the mincha minyanim at the offices), and then commuting home again.
One would not, however, expect a woman to go to mikvah in Manhattan (even if
she was working in Manhattan, and even more so if only her husband was
working in Manhattan, and once the kids arrived it was much more rarely the
woman who was still working in Manhattan) if in fact she lived in Riverdale
or Queens or Brooklyn or Long Island, she would go closer to home.

Fourthly, one would need to know the frequency of need of use.  It is by no
means necessarily once a month.  Most women who are pregnant do not need to
go at all for the duration of their pregnancy, and if they nurse, very often
only once after the birth and then not for many months.  Young women with
normal fertility (and the numbers of children in frum families tend to be
higher than the norm, sometimes much higher) do not in fact need to go that
often at all.  In addition, while there may be halachic issues regarding the
use of birth control, it should be noted that if birth control is being used
in the form of the pill, it can be used in such a way as to avoid regular
nida periods.  While there might be some eyebrows raised at such a practice,
it does not result in, in the words of Anonymous a couple "commit [ing]
issurei kares [prohibition deserving excommunication --MOD]," ... "for every
night of a sixty-year marriage (or, let's be reasonable, 3 or 4 nights a
week)".  That is, there are ways of avoiding mikvah use that does not
involve an issur kares.  Indeed, there are others.  I suspect if you look at
studies of marital activity amongst couples, especially couples with numbers
of young children, not to mention couples with numbers of young children and
fancy jobs that involve working late in places like Manhattan, one will
realise that the suggestion that 3 to 4 nights a week is reasonable is
something of a fantasy.  Far more likely, I suspect, is a scenario where she
doesn't go or delays going to mikvah that month because he/they are too
exhausted/are not interested/he is away from home working.  And the idea
that anybody is going to be using mikvah for sixty years is another
extraordinary suggestion.  Wikipedia suggests that the average age of
menopause is 51.  So even if a woman marries at 20 (which I suspect is
pretty unusual for the average inhabitant of Manhattan), you are still only
talking about 31 years or so.  If on the other hand you are talking about a
woman who marries at 35 (who certainly existed amongst the Manhattanites I
knew, as the Manhattan I knew was very much the haunt of the older single),
and has three to four kids (ie allowing time out for pregnancy and nursing),
you could easily be talking about a total mikvah usage of less than ten
years in total, even without any assistance from the pill and without any
diminution of interest.  So if you allow for a ten year usage at once a
month, you are talking perhaps about 120 visits in her lifetime.

So I suspect that Anonymous' inability to make the numbers add up is fuelled
by a misunderstanding of a) how many of the women with long sleeves and or
hair covering she sees around her actually live in Manhattan; b) how many of
them are in fact married (note btw that even hair covering is not a
guarantee, many hold that even a divorcee or a widow needs to cover her
hair, but nobody expects her to be using the mikvah); c) how often a normal
woman with average fertility needs to use the mikvah; d) how many mikvos are
in fact available; and e) how many women are in fact using any given
particular mikvah, given the lengths many will go to cover that up (if not
other factors that allow for even less frequent uses of mikvah).

And in the absence of hard data to the contrary, one woman's anecdotal
experience, even of many women's mikvos, does hardly hard data make.  And as
a consequence, this rather appears to me to be an extraordinary slur on the
daughters of Israel.




End of Volume 58 Issue 11