Volume 58 Number 12 
      Produced: Tue, 11 May 2010 00:35:11 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

a problem in Yekum Purkan 
    [Martin Stern]
    [Stuart Wise]
are the burkas on back order? 
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
    [Martin Stern]
electronic stuff, etc. 
    [Bernard Raab]
marriage and separation 
    [Art Werschulz]
meat or milk 
    [Menashe Elyashiv]
    [Alex Heppenheimer]
    [Jeanette Friedman]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, May 5,2010 at 02:01 AM
Subject: a problem in Yekum Purkan

Yisrael Medad wrote:
> It is well-know that the Aramaic of the Zohar is very problematic
> grammatically and syntactically and that fact is used to prove that the
> Zohar could not have been authored by Rav Shimon Bar-Yochai.

This may well be so but AFAIK [as far as I know --MOD], the first Yekum Purkan
was composed as a 'misheberach' [prayer for a person's wellbeing --MOD]
for the Resh Galuta [head of the exile --MOD] and scholars of Bavel and is not
derived from the Zohar. It is cited already in the Machzor Vitry from the school
of Rashi several centuries before the Zohar appeared (was written or revealed
depending on one's point of view).

Martin Stern


From: Stuart Wise <Smwise3@...>
Date: Thu, Apr 29,2010 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Adultery

A popular Jewish newspaper recently ran a series of columns dealing with a  
married Orthodox man who was cheating on his wife with a married Orthodox 
woman.  The man got a dressing down for boasting of his cheating activities 
and how there are even support groups for people like himself. Then the 
woman wrote how remorseful she was and broke it off. The woman acknowledged 
that if her husband found out, they would be forced to divorce. My question is 
whether that is actually the halachah -- that if her husband is unaware, or 
there were no witnesses, that she is not considered an adulterous.
Stuart Wise


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Thu, May 6,2010 at 04:01 PM
Subject: are the burkas on back order?

Carl Singer <carl.singer@...> wrote:

> I'm seeing a disturbing trend -- and don't know that is furthers halachic
> observance or is heading us toward burkas ...
> I was helping one of my sons set up kiddish at shul when in walks a young
> man (mid-20's) and states -- "Will you set up a separate table for the
> women, many won't be comfortable ...."

My shul tends to have separate tables for the men and women as well as
a "children's table". However, this is more a matter of the necessity
of multiple tables anyways. It does appear that in a social context,
the men tend to talk to the men and the women talk to the women. I do
not think that it is a matter of halacha as a matter of socialization.

> resistance movement. We read of the young married man who wouldn't take out
> the garbage because he was "learning" and other examples of a retrogression
> of roles.

The story that I originally heard is that the young man asks his rav
if his status as "learning" meant that he should not take out the
garbage as it was not "proper". The rav agreed that if he felt it was
"beneath his honor", he should not take out the garbage. The next day
there was a knock on his door. It was the rav, since it was "beneath the
young man's honor" to take out the garbage, the rav had come to do so,
so that the wife would not have to. The young man got the message.

   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, Apr 27,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: education

Shoshana L. Boublil wrote:
> I'll never forget the case of a Kallah [Bride --MOD] (I met her when I was in
> Sheirut Leumi [National Service --MOD]). We met her a week before her wedding
> and discovered, while discussing a related issue, that she had NO knowledge of
> human biology in general, nor of female biology in particular - nor how women
> become pregnant - and this was a week before her wedding!  When we asked her
> how could this be, she said that when she tried to ask, she was shushed for
> raising untzniusdik [immodest --MOD] questions.

Unfortunately, this sort of Victorian prudery has been spreading in certain
chareidi circles but has nothing to do with Torah values. The Torah and
Chazal [the sages --MOD] are quite open on such matters, where they are
relevant, even if they sometimes use circumlocutions to avoid being too
explicit. One bookseller wouldn't stock my book "A Time to Speak" because it
contains a reprint of a paper I once wrote that had appeared in an educational
journal on designing a computer program for hilchot vesatot [the halachically
relevant regularity-patterns in menstrual cycles]!

Incidentally, there will be, iy"H, a book signing session at Torah Treasures
in Golders Green Road on Sunday 16 May from 10 - 1 and I would be very happy
to meet any mail-jewish members who come along.

Martin Stern


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Thu, May 6,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: electronic stuff, etc.

I must confess that I was motivated to begin this discussion as a result
of a question from my eldest son, a man with three children of his own. He had
just acquired a new ebook reader and asked me if I thought that he could use it
on Shabbat. I assumed that he was speaking theoretically, and was not seriously
contemplating doing so, but I ducked the issue by reminding him that I am not a
rabbi or a posek, something that he hardly needed reminding of. (BTW, he and I
are both physicists.) However, I knew perfectly well what his answer would be if
he applied to his LOR.

The fact is that new microelectronic devices, different in kind from the
older applications of electricity, are beginning to replace various devices in
everyday use, and the continued restriction of their use on Shabbat (and Yom
Tov as well) will begin to impose ever-greater, and perhaps unnecessary,
hardship on the observant community. Two early examples that have emerged in
our discussion is the widespread use of magnetic keycards to operate hotel room
doors, and electronic thermometers that seem to have completely replaced the
mercury-in-glass type for personal use, as they have long ago for hospital use.

I also suggested that before too long new paper books will be completely
replaced by ebooks. Some have been surprised, even shocked by this suggestion,
and object that "real" books have been with us for hundreds of years, and will
continue to be used indefinitely. For these skeptics, I have but two examples:

For literally thousands of years, up until the first part of the 20th century,
horse-drawn vehicles were the primary means of public conveyance. Within just
100 years, their replacement by motor vehicles has been complete. (Once again
the Amish come to mind-possibly the last holdouts against modernity.)

Within the last five years, digital cameras have smoothly and almost completely
replaced film cameras, the dominant imaging technology for about 200 years.
(Even X-rays are now mostly film-less.)

Clearly, longevity is no indicator of permanence in this era of rapid
technological change.

One obvious stumbling block that has been raised by several of our discussants
is the activation of a light on Shabbat, which accompanies many or most such
applications. A good example is the following input from Hillel (Sabba)
Markowitz (V57/n94):

> 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.

Clearly, the issue of indicator lights is one that will have to be
addressed if any microelectronic applications are to be allowed on Shabbat. 

A second problem, particularly with regard to ebooks, but also perhaps
to other applications such as the electronic thermometer, is the issue of the
display screen, where figures are continually "created" and "erased". Both of
these issues are discussed further below.

Other objections that have been raised by discussants from historical
sources (e.g.; David Tzohar V57/n98) cite the prohibitions based on the
concepts of "molid" [creating something new that did not exist before Shabbat]
or "boneh" [building] both of which are prohibited on Shabbat from the Torah.
To this Ben Katz responded (V57/n99): 

> "The Hazon Ish's position on electricity has been discussed many
> times before on this >forum. Most poskim do NOT agree that closing a circuit
> is boneh [building--MOD] any more than closing a door is boneh."  

Ari Trachtenburg summarized earlier discussions (V58/n02):
> As has been discussed on the list earlier, R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach
> (and later, based on this, R' Broyde) analyzes a number of possible
> prohibitions of electricity, including fire, creation of something
> new, building, striking a final hammer blow, sparks, adding fuel,
> and producing heat (see, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org
> /wiki/Electricity_on_Shabbat_in_Jewish_law), and appears to roundly reject 
> them all (although he does not ultimately permit the use of electricity on
> Shabbat).

I have not advocated the abandonment of all restrictions on the use of
electricity on Shabbat on polemical (i.e., lifestyle) grounds, even if there
might be technical arguments for doing so. I have tried to restrict the
discussion to the newer applications in which electricity functions as a
data-transfer medium, much as it does in the human body, for example, rather
than as a light source or as a mechanical or sound amplifier, as it does in
most earlier applications.

One of these applications that occupied the attention the many poskim
some 50 years ago was the question of the permissibility of the use of
microphones on Shabbat. In those years, quite a few orthodox rabbis were
offered pulpits where the congregants insisted that the rabbi use a microphone
for his sermon. The impulse of most poskim was to prohibit, in keeping with the
by then blanket prohibition of all uses of electricity.

The pre-eminent Israeli posek Rav S.Z. Auerbach ZT"L, decided to
investigate further.  A recent issue of the Text & Texture blog of Tradition
magazine relates how Rav Auerbach was tutored in the physics of electricity by
an Israeli scientist, in return for which R. Auerbach taught the scientist some
high-level torah.  The blogger (Shlomo Brody) quotes R. Auerbach's
consequent position as follows:

"It is difficult to understand, on a theoretical level, what is the
definitive issur [prohibition --MOD] of using electricity on Shabbat, and
certainly in terms of altering a current."  S. Brody continues: "Rav
Shlomo Zalman's basic approach adopts the general position of poskim, as
observed by the minhag ha-olam [widespread practice], to
be machmir [strict], but recognizes the fact there is perfectly good
reason, on an intellectual level, to believe that we can be mekil
[lenient], especially when there is a compelling ethical/sociological/halakhic
reason to do so".

Of further interest to our discussion, the blogger adds the following

"Moreover, it allows us to deal with the many challenges that an
increasingly electronic world presents to the observant Jew.  This goes
well beyond issues of convenience, like opening a hotel room door with a swipe
card. We are speaking of basic issues of security, health care, and
economics.  Using the more machmir position - which is less
intellectually compelling and partly inspired by polemics - will haunt us for
many years to come. " --Text & Texture, March 7, 2010

It should be noted that although R. Auerbach was concerned with the use
of microphones in shul on Shabbat, he recognized the connected issue of
speaking to someone who is wearing a hearing aid, since this also involves
speaking into a microphone. It appears he might have allowed the former in the
case of great need, but was strongly in favor of allowing the latter, to the
extent of severely criticizing another highly respected Rav who had issued a
psak [ruling] which prohibiting speaking to a person wearing a hearing-aid on

This was well before the developments of microelectronics of which we
speak, but perhaps can offer some courage (or comfort) to a modern posek.

In addressing the lifestyle issue, Ben Katz wrote (V57/n99):
>"Had the incandescent light bulb not been essentially the first
> electrical device invented, electricity may not have been seen as fire and
> hence prohibited on Shabbat. Clearly the nature of Shabbat would have been
> different had electricity been permitted, but it is not certain (at least
> to me) that this NECESSARILY would have been bad, the same way Yom Tov is
> at least as enjoyable as Shabbat even though one is permitted to cook and
> carry."

Ben Katz makes an interesting observation, but I for one would be loathe
to open the floodgates to unrestricted telephone or Internet usage on Shabbat,
which is why I suggested that such microelectronic usage be restricted to local
communications only; i.e., those applications which transfer information only
within a local network. This would permit the use of keycards or ebooks, for
example, provided the book has been downloaded before Shabbat, of course, but
would restrict any use of communications to the world at large.

Interestingly, I have recently been told that the Torah Temimah (Rabbi
Y.M.L. Epstein, who, toward the end of his life, witnessed the introduction of
electric power) analogizes an electric circuit to a water pipe, and asserts
that just as a water tap can be opened and closed on Shabbat, so can an
electrical switch. In fact, the analogy of electricity to water flow is one
that is commonly used in physics textbooks. Perhaps one of our listeners can
research this claim regarding the Torah Temimah.

My focus on the new microelectronic applications is intended to avoid
the "mesorah" argument, that was the issue that influenced R. Auerbach to
respect the "minhag ha-olam", although at the time this minhag was just a few
decades in tenure.

With regard to the troubling indicator lights, the new light-emitting
diodes (LEDs) are as different from incandescent lights as radar guns are from
"real" guns.  LEDs uniquely produce light without heat, a breakthrough
technology. I suggest that there is no mesorah on this technology as yet. (In
the interest of completeness I am obliged to mention other lighting
technologies, such as fluorescent lights and neon lights that may be viewed as
transitional technologies.  Like LEDs, these do produce light by atomic
transitions rather than by heating, and are thus forerunners, to this extent, of
the LED.)

That leaves us with the issue of the displays. Thus far none of our
posters has offered any thoughts on this issue. Absent any such input, I quote
from the unquestioned 21st century authority, Rav Wikipedia:

(Concerning the use of computers) "One might be concerned that the acts
of writing and erasing are performed, since one's actions on the keyboard or
other control instrument impact what is displayed on the monitor. However, as
Rav Gedalyah Rabinowitz pointed out in Halachah Urefu'ah (vol. V), words which
appear on a computer screen are actually flickering many times a second. {The
screen is actually rewritten at the refresh rate-typically either 60 or 120
times per second-BR) Therefore, the text on a computer screen can hardly be
compared to written text. Text that appears on a computer console is not granted
any permanence at all. In fact, words on a console cannot even be classified as
semi-permanent writing, which may not be erased due to rabbinic decree (Shabbat
120b); it is not considered writing at all and one may even "erase" one of the
Holy Names (of God) if it is displayed on the screen. It is also questionable if
the use of a keyboard, or other control instrument, to change what is displayed
is a direct effect. Additionally, some of the action on the screen that occurs
while the controls are manipulated are based on the preprogrammed behavior of
the device rather than the person's actions. Even if the display was turned on
prior to the start of Shabbat, and the on/off status of all lights remains the
same throughout, other acts may constitute some violation."

Further comments?-Bernie R.


From: Art Werschulz <agw@...>
Date: Sun, May 9,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: marriage and separation

Orrin Tilevitz wrote:
> Second, while Yaakov probably is correct that adultery is not prosecuted, that
> does not mean that it is de facto permitted or that violating this law has no
> legal consequences. For example, it may be grounds for a "fault" divorce. So
> unlike some laws, this one may be enforced, albeit civilly rather than
> criminally, and so again not removed from dina demalchuta.

Indeed, adultery is one of the five grounds for divorce in New York State, which
is the only state in the US not having no-fault divorce.  (Courtesy of my wife,
who learned this last year in preparation for the NY State Bar Exam.)

Art Werschulz


From: Menashe Elyashiv <Menashe.Elyashiv@...>
Date: Wed, May 5,2010 at 02:01 AM
Subject: meat or milk

Batya Medad wrote:
> The custom of eating dairy on Shavuot is not universal at all.  It's
> Ashekaz.  Our Tunisian branch of the family eats meat, as do many of our
> neighbors of various "Eidot."  [Communities --MOD]

Same by us - We are careful not to bring milk to the Shavuot night 
learning because supper was meat. We do make early morning Kiddush with 
cheese cake, but the main meal is with meat. The Rama seems to hold that 
the day meal starts with milk and then passes to meat, this way the bread 
is changed, and it is a zecher (hint) to the shetye halehem (Shavout 2 
breads in the Temple). Of course in Temple time, one ate sacrifice meat.


From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Thu, May 6,2010 at 02:01 AM
Subject: sotah

In MJ 58:06, Mark Steiner <markjaysteiner@...> wrote:
>Recently there have been posts making statements that might be interpreted
>to the effect that the Sota ceremony is designed either to punish the woman,
>to make her confess, etc. This makes the Sota ceremony into a
>extra-judicial "trial by ordeal" as in the Middle Ages. (Even as such, by
>the way, there is a difference, as the Torah's ordeal uses harmless water,
>rather than many trials by ordeal, in which the suspect had to create a
>miracle to save himself.)

>An objective look at the sources shows that this view is untenable.

Not so.

* That it is designed to punish the Sotah is stated in the Mishnah and the
Gemara (Sotah 8b-9a): each step of the Sotah procedure is "midah keneged midah,"
measure-for-measure corresponding to her deeds. "She adorned herself for sinful
purposes, and Hashem disfigures her; ...she stood at the doorway of her house to
be seen by [her paramour], therefore the Kohen makes her stand at the Nikanor
Gate and displays her shame to all; ... she extended her thigh to him, therefore
her thigh falls away ..."

* That it is designed to make her confess is also stated in these sources. When
a Sotah is first brought to the Temple for the ordeal, the court urges her to
plead guilty rather than drink the water (ibid. 7a). Later on during the ordeal,
she is put under physical strain (she is made to walk back and forth through the
Temple courtyards (ibid. 8a), and afterwards to hold the heavy basket containing
her meal-offering (ibid. 14a)),in order to tire her out and induce her to give
up and come clean. (As the Gemara points out there, this is not just in order
toavoid having to erase Hashem's name, because according to one opinion she is
made to hold the basket until after she has drunk the potion containing that

>The Sota process (including the humiliation of the Sota) has no goal other than
>an extra judicial procedure to prove the woman innocent, despite strong
>evidence to the contrary (namely, her husband warned her before witness not
>to seclude herself with X, and then she did so, also before witness, long
>enough to commit adultery).


>Hazal [The sages --MOD] put it best: God allows his Holy Name to be erased
>(into the bitter waters) in order to make peace between husband and wife. This
>is not only "agadah" [rabbinic folklore --MOD] but also "halakha." [law --MOD]

That is indeed one of its purposes, and you're correct: were it not for the
importance of re-establishing marital peace, the Torah might simply have
declared her forbidden to her husband, because her willing seclusion with
another man (and this after her husband warned her not to do so,presumably
indicatingthat he had some reasonto suspect an illicit relationship between
them) is in itself prima facie evidence ("raglayim ladavar," in Talmudic
terminology) that she was unfaithful.

That the Sotah procedure had this positive purpose is also shown by the fact
that it worked only if the husband himself was free of any sexual sins (ibid.
28a), and that it had to be discontinued when immoral behavior was on the
rise(ibid. 47a-b).

At the same time, though, if that was all there was to it, then the whole public
rigmarole would be unnecessary; Hashem could have provided some other method of
demonstrating her innocence, and it could have been done in privacy between
the husband and wife(or at most, with a couple of witnesses for verification).
That it has to be done in full view of a large crowd, and that her guilt causes
her to die a gruesome death,make it indeed a two-part punishment (and like all
Divine punishments, a corrective) for her improper behavior:  the publicity
penalizes her for her seclusion with her suspected paramour, and her death for
her unfaithfulness. Even if all that happened was seclusion and nothing else,
she has to undergo this ordeal in return (and as atonement) for that act; then,
rather than just leaving her relieved that her life has been spared, Hashem does
her the extra kindness of granting her blessings for childbirth.

Kol tuv,


From: Jeanette Friedman <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Tue, Apr 13,2010 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Vashti

> In my  Megillat Esther there is not execution of Vashti...
> I think that in the  non-modern western world, in all times, human life was
> not that "valuable"  and people were killed right and left.  So way would 
> the King keep  her alive?  Vashti was a leftover from the Babylonian regime, 
> and the  King was over happy to have her removed.
Who said human life has value in the 21st Century? Are you kidding me?  
Human life and value in the same phrase? When pikuach nefesh [saving a
life --MOD] is meaningless, esp. in cases of domestic violence?


End of Volume 58 Issue 12