Volume 58 Number 23 
      Produced: Thu, 03 Jun 2010 20:35:04 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

biblical exegesis - Vashti's execution 
    [Russell J Hendel]
chumras (was kashrut agencies) 
    [Martin Stern]
electronic stuff, etc. (2)
    [Bernard Raab  Martin Stern]
Log Ba`Omer arrangements 
    [Ira L. Jacobson]
mikvah (was "cohabitation outside of marriage") 
    [Rabbi Meir Wise]
public retraction 
    [Yaakov Shachter]
tefillin bag 
    [Akiva Miller]


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, May 16,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: biblical exegesis - Vashti's execution

I want to thank Robert (v58#13) for his excellent point that "you may not appear
before the King" is used in the book of Esther in a manner not indicating
"execution." Again I encourage Mail Jewish readers to actively participate in
"FILLIN" exegetical discussions. Todays discussion will give interesting insight
into domestic violence. As is known all Biblical study leads to relevance in our

Let me review. Achasveirosh ordered Vashti to appear before the king. She
refused. Achasveirosh was advised to a) prohibit Vashti from appearing before
the King and b) give her queenship to someone who respected men. The Talmudic
Rabbis explain that Vashti was executed. 

I suggested that I) she took the risk of violating the Kings orders because she
was asked to appear naked (actually unveiled) before the King while he and his
buddies were drunk and she was worried where it would lead to. II) Her "not
appearing before the King" is a euphemism meaning death.

Robert points out that "not appearing before the King" occurs elsewhere in the
Book of Ester and does not mean executed. 

Excellent point. Robert has forced me to rethink WHERE I derive the execution
from and HOW the execution take place. I first cite some Biblical phrases and
then offer my new theory (Which is consistent with modern approaches to domestic

(A)First Achasveirosh BESIDES prohibiting Vashti to appear before him also "was
to give her queenship to someone more appropriate." I dont believe Persian law
allowed transfer of queenship while a current queen was alive. (B) More
importantly Esther 2:1 states three things: "Afterwards...when Achashveirosh
CALMED DOWN he (B1) Remembered Vashi (B2) Remembered what she did and (B3)
REMEMBERED what had been decreed on her" (Note the passive).

I think then that Achashveirosh did not order her executed because she wouldnt
appear unveiled. I think he lost his temper and said something like "Vashti
should not appear in the palace; if she appears without the Kings permission
execute her." Presumably after he calmed down their marriage could have
continued. Vashti, since she was queen and since people knew that her husband
couldnt hold his liquor, didnt think any of his guards would take the order
seriously. She came the next day or week into the palace and was executed. She
didn't expect that to happen (And her husband didnt expect her to come). The
people executing her were simply following orders without checking.

Ester 2:1 describes this: B1) Achashveirosh remembered Vashti his wife as she
was - a regal person from a royal family who gave tone to things B2) He
remembered what she had done- she said no to drunkedness and refused to be
publicly immodest B3) Finally he remembered how it happened...he simply lost his
temper and wanted to put his foot down.

I think this a more reasonable approach. As I mentioned this is consistent with
modern approaches to domestic violence. A lawyer once told me that 50% of
murders happen because there is a fight in the house and a gun happens to be
nearby and one of the angry parties use it. It is so to speak accidental under
the influence of temper.

Thus this story teaches us that marital fights should (when they have to happen)
take place outside of any environment with weapons.

More could be said but I think it instructive how this discussion about
Achasveirosh leads to such basic understandings.

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA http://www.rashiyomi.com/


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, May 14,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: chumras (was kashrut agencies)

On Sun, May 9,2010, Mordechai Horowitz wrote:
> Lets stop treating this chumras as if they are Torah.  They aren't.  I
> would say in most cases they are violations of Torah. Creating new
> prohibitions is as much a violation of Torah as ignoring the real ones we
> have.

Though Mordechai was talking about kashrut stringencies,this applies
perhaps even more in other aspects of piety.

One example that springs to mind is spending considerably longer over
shemoneh esrei than anyone else in the community. While added devotion to
our prayers may be admirable, it can have a downside. For example, the
person in front of such a person may be unable to step back after finishing
his prayer and is stuck until he eventually does finish as well. Also people
cannot sit in his immediate vicinity which might be a problem for someone
feeling slightly unwell. Fortunately most people are unaware of these
regulations but someone aspiring to a higher level of practice in bein adam
lemakom [relationship to G-d] should also do so in bein adam lechaveiro
[interpersonal relations].

Another area relevant to Shavuot is the almost universal custom of not
davenning [praying --MOD] ma'ariv, or at the least making kiddush, on the first
evening until after night which in northern latitudes can be extremely late. In
Germany this was not the custom and the Yosef Omets remarked already 400
years ago that he had never seen it practiced among the gedolei Ashkenaz
[German rabbis]. This was brought as a practical ruling by the Melamed
Leho'il in answer to a sha'alah [halachic question] about 100 years ago.
Unlike the foodstuffs to which Modechai took exception, finding a minyan
that will daven ma'ariv early at plag haminchah, as on Friday evenings in
the summer, is virtually impossible and one is compelled to either daven at
home or wait until that late hour.  I am not objecting to other people
taking on this chumra for themselves, only to their making out that it is a
matter of strict halachah and that there is something wrong with acting

Martin Stern


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Mon, May 24,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: electronic stuff, etc.

I am overwhelmed and thrilled by all the great ideas and suggestions advanced in
this discussion. I would offer some comments for each poster, with great thanks
to all:

Sam Gamoran wrote:
> Bernard Raab wrote: 
> > ... 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 wonder if this would be a place for a novel application of an electronic
> analogue to the concept of Techum Shabbat (the distance from one's location at
> the start of Shabbat that one is permitted to travel [walk] throughout the 
> Shabbat)....
The problem here of course is that once you leave the local area network you 
have no way of knowing where the data source might be. It could be in some 
server in Katmandu, wherever that is.

But you have an innovative analogy to T'chum Shabbat. Thanks!

Carl Singer wrote:
>I think we should consider an orthogonal approach -- not what is
>the "physics" of the situation, be it magnetic card key, room
>thermostat or electronic book -- but what is the impact on
>the "necessities" of life... Consider specifics:
> 1 - It is necessary to walk to shul on Shabbos --  in many neighborhoods
> doing so involves walking past security cameras (perhaps unknown to the
> pedestrian) and more overtly past electronically controlled lighting...
> 2 - Many modern appliances are controlled by microcomputers (not
> computers in the sense of the PC)...Every time the door of the new modern
> refrigerator is opened sensors recognize this event and the microcomputer
> digests this data, makes algorithmic decisions and causes things to happen
> (say, the compressor to start).  There are "Shabbos refrigerators" being
> marketed -- but is there an halachic response.  Similarly, stoves that turn
> themselves off after 24 hours (a safety measure).
> 3 - The magnetic hotel card key --  by now old news....
> 4 - Temperature controls in rooms / homes are now quite sensitive --
> entering or leaving a room or home is, again, "sensed" and responded to by
> the microcomputer that manages the heating and air conditioning.

All good points. The problem with the "necessity" argument is obvious: one 
person's convenience is another's necessity. Not only is this subjective but it 
is also event-related.

My observation is that the responses to your items 1, 2, 4 have been pretty much
accepted by the tzibbur [public --MOD]: Actions that trigger some electronic
response of which we are not even aware in most cases, and which we have no
intention of triggering, are muttar [permitted]. If we can avoid such response
by deliberate action, we do so. For example, I slightly alter my path home from
shul on Friday night to avoid triggering a motion-sensor-activated light, but I
do not have a Shabbos refrigerator and do not plan to buy one, since the heter
[leniency --MOD] for opening the refrigerator door is now long-standing.  We
find no ill effect from taping over the light switch, but our new refrigerator
is not one of most hi-tech now available.

The oven situation is different, however, since when we activate oven controls
we intend to do so, and the response is a direct result of our action. When we
renovated our kitchen some 15 years ago I became aware of the automatic shutoff,
then 12 hours, and this was before the advent of "Shabbat-mode" oven controls,
now widely available. We recently bought a new oven (we moved) and the automatic
shutoff is now 8 hours from the last time that you open the oven door. The
Shabbat mode version was available at much increased cost, but we declined since
we learned over the last 15 years that we could easily do without it. Lo and
behold, we discovered that the oven as delivered (without the Shabbat mode) does
now include a fairly easy way to defeat the automatic shutoff! 

Regarding the magnetic key card and all the other new microelectronic 
applications, my suggestion for where to draw the line was clearly stated: Local
data transfer applications should be permitted but any information transfer
involving remote communications (e.g., telephones, cellphones, internet, etc.)
should continue to be banned. My fear is that unless some such rule is
established, our children (or grandchildren), will just do it all.

Stuart Cohnen wrote:
> ... the opinion of the Chazon Ish that opening and closing a switch is the
> melocha of bonei (building) still stands. Whether it applies to a electronic
> switch such as is found in most modern electronic equipment, as opposed to the
> light switch that the Chazon Ish saw, is best left to the gedolei hador
> [leading Halachic decisors --Mod.] to pasken [issue a decision
> regarding --Mod.]. 
Since you appear to deny the more recent opinions of R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach 
and others who deny the applicability of the "boneh" argument, perhaps this will
change your mind: One of my first jobs in a physics lab (many, many years ago)
was to measure the current which leaked across the most common insulators, such
as is found in most commercial switches. We had a project which required much
better insulation, and we had some advanced technology meters which allowed us
to measure such miniscule currents. I learned then (to my extreme surprise, I
might add) that even the best insulators allow some current to flow, so that
there is no real "boneh" of something new by closing a switch.

Michael Mirsky wrote:
> ...I am an electrical engineer specializing in power engineering (the 
> electric power system - I work at an electrical utility).  From the 
> various shiurim [Jewish-learning lectures --Mod.] I've attended, it seems
> that the only area where there is a universal acknowledgment that turning on 
> electricity is halachically forbidden is switching on an incandescent light.  
> Other than that, there seem to be refutations to each halachic objection.
> The relevant melachot [Halachic categories of "work" --Mod.] I'm aware of are: 
> boer (burning), molid (creating something new), boneh (building), and mak'e 
> b'patish (putting the final finishing touch on a vessel to make it usable).
> Based on my knowledge of the power system, I was sure that "boer" was 
> the trump card.  The power system is in a constant delicate balance 
> at every moment between generation and demand.  When you turn on an 
> appliance, a generator somewhere in the system has to immediately 
> increase its output or the frequency of the system (60 Hz) will drop...In a
> large power system, devices everywhere are constantly turning on and off...

Wow, I am thrilled to have a real-life power engineer contribute to the 
discussion. His description of how a power plant responds to changes in demand 
was eye-opening. I am guessing that such responses are all automatic, and do not
require human intervention. Would that make a difference? Another issue: So many
of our microelectronic devices are battery-operated. What halacha should apply
to them? I just saw an ad for an ebook reader that claimed battery life of 48
hours before requiring recharging, so no Shabbat switching would be 

Another issue: Michael mentions hydroelectric generators as not 
requiring any burning of fuel. But the world is clearly moving toward the other 
cleaner carbon-free power of solar, wind, nuclear and other forms which do not 
burn fuel. Finally, both Stuart and Michael have concluded that only
incandescent bulbs represent an "issur d'oraitah" [torah prohibition].
This is good news since our government has decreed the demise of most 
incandescent light bulbs by 2014, and all but a few odd applications by 2020. 
This is pretty much a world-wide trend. Nevertheless, I still believe that the 
issur is based on a faulty analogy, perhaps induced by the fact that we 
universally use the word "burning" to describe the action of such bulbs. 
However, there is no combustion going on in a light bulb--none.

Thanks to all for a great round--Bernie R.

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, May 28,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: electronic stuff, etc.

On Sun, May 23,2010, Wendy Baker asked:

>> This is true for the old type of solar water heaters. However, the new
>> ones like we have on our building - are a Shabbat problem. 
>> In large buildings, the system is not private, it belongs to all the
>> apartments. Therefore, an electric pump is used for water flow. I asked
>> lenient Rabbis - and they prohibited use on Shabbat & Yom Tov.
> Wouldn't this actually forbid the use of any faucet, even for cold water,
> on Shabbat requiring the drawing of pots and bottles of water for Shabbat
> use (even rinsing hands for a Bracha) and filling the bathtub with water so
> toilets could be flushed?   Would filling a pail of water from the
> aforementioned bathtub also be some kind of melacha?

This problem could only arise in Israel and according to those who are
machmir [strict] not to benefit from any electric device on Shabbat (for example
leaving a light on that had been turned on before Shabbat) because the electricity
system may require a Jew to be on standby duty and intervene in emergencies.
Most authorities do not rule this way since an outage is unlikely to occur
and, even if it did, such emergency work would come under the heading of
pikuach nefesh [lifesaving action] since the loss of electricity might
affect hospitals or seriously ill people at home. In any case it would be at
most a grama [indirect causation] and a melachah she'eino mitkavein [work
done without deliberate intention] as far as the actual user is concerned.

Martin Stern


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Sun, May 16,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Log Ba`Omer arrangements

It has been claimed on MJ that there would be no problems to uphold
Torah observance in Meron for Log Ba`Omer this year.

However, "The Committee for Tohar Hamahane" announced in
the HaModia newspaper (Israeli Hebrew edition of 29 April 2010)
as follows (translation mine):
It is with pain that we announce, after clarifying with those
responsible for the Meron Operation, that we have learned that the
police are ignoring the needs of the Haredi community and have
shockingly and incredibly cancelled the tzni`ut [modesty]
arrangements that have been in effect for years, with regard to the
access paths to Derekh Hameadrin and the entrance to the sacred tomb.

The cancellation of these arrangements will prevent the Torah
observant community from reaching the tomb in a satisfactory manner
and will certainly cause a dreadful mixing that will disturb the
arrangements there.

We address the heads of the communities, the leaders of the public
and other relevant bodies to act urgently to prevent the awful
stumbling block in time, so that the masses of Jews will be able to
visit the tomb of Rebbe Shim`on bar Yohai in a manner suitable for
the holy site.



From: Rabbi Meir Wise <Meirhwise@...>
Date: Mon, May 31,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: mikvah (was "cohabitation outside of marriage")

I was interested to read Stuart Cohnen's posting relating the late  
Rav Soloveitchik's reaction the idea of cohabitation (using mikvah)  
outside marriage.

Apparently this question raised it's ugly head again in Israel where  
some "modern orthodox" rabbis even had the audacity to quote Rav Moshe  
Feinstein zatzal to support their permissive (or should that be  
licentious) views!

Maran the Rosh Yeshiva of Maalei Adumim speaks on the radio channel  
Arutz Sheva on Thursday evenings mainly on the haftorah of the ensuing  
shabbat. I became a Talmid of his in 1975 and for the first time I  
actually heard him raise his voice and feared for the effect that this  
was having on his health when he thundered: "do they think that the  
Geonim Rav Moshe or Rav Henkin said what they said or wrote what they  
wrote to do away with the berachah "mekadesh yisrael al yedei chuppah  

In my humble opinion anyone who even asks this question is a "naval  
birshut Hatorah" or worse.

Rabbi Meir Wise


From: Yaakov Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 2,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: public retraction

Many thanks to Rabbi Elazar M. Teitz and to Chana Luntz for publicly
correcting the misstatement of halacha, on the part of the
undersigned, regarding the appropriateness of using one's own husband
to supervise one's ritual immersion.  Special thanks to Chana Luntz
for providing citations -- the citation to Kitzer Shulchan Aruch
Siman 162 s'if 6 was dispositive -- but we must not disparage Rabbi
Teitz for not providing citations, because he is an amazingly busy,
and an amazingly effective, communal rabbi, and the mail.jewish
readership owes him a great debt of gratitude for taking the time to
correct misstatements of halakha that he finds there.

With regard to the category of men whose wives are entitled to sexual
relations at least once a night, the source for the halakha is the
undisputed mishna in Ktubboth 5:6.  It is significant, however, that
Rambam changes the language of the mishna, in Sefer Nashim, Ishuth
14:1.  It can be plausibly argued that when our Sages spoke of
"laborers", they were thinking of men who perform work that is
physically tiring, and that today's office workers, who do not
perform work that is physically tiring, resemble more the Mishnaic
category of an idler, than the Mishnaic category of a laborer.

Having stated the above, I nevertheless urge the mail.jewish
readership to follow the halakha as it has been stated by Rabbi
Elazar M. Teitz and by Chana Luntz (although a man who wishes to be
stringent upon himself is permitted to do so), because any halachic
analysis that reaches a different conclusion than theirs is
unquestionably incorrect; I have never known either of these two
scholars ever to make a public statement of halakha in error.

			Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter
			"Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur"

[MOD REMINDER:  The mailing list is not a halakhic authority, and no discussions
held on the mailing list should be relied upon in a situation where a p'sak
halakha [specific halakhic decision] is called for. In such a situation, whether
explicitly stated in the submission or not, the rule is: CYLCHA - Consult Your
Local Competent Halakhic Authority. ]


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Sat, May 29,2010 at 11:01 PM
Subject: tefillin bag

In the thread "candle lighting time", I wrote:

> For example, if I choose a particular design or picture for my
> tefillin bag, are my sons obligated to have that same picture on
> theirs? Certainly not! If their taste is for a different sort of
> design, surely they can use it, and we will all receive mitzvah-
> credit for enhancing and beautifying the tefillin.  I'd say that
> even if someone's taste is to consider an unadorned velvet bag
> as most honorable and dignified, then there's no accounting for
> taste, and Hashem will surely consider his actions in the spirit
> intended.

Chips asked:
> I don't think I've heard this before. Why would a tefillin bag be
> a hidur?

I did not mean to say that simply having a tefillin bag is a hidur, although I
think one could argue that it is not proper for the tefillin to be lying around

What I meant was that if one does have a tefillin beg -- or tallis bag, or
challah cover, or Chanuka menorah, or Shabbos candlesticks -- there is a mitzvah
to beautify it, and that the MANNER or style of doing so is totally up to the
individual, not subject to family custom.

The mitzvah we're talking about is called "Hiddur Mitzvah" (literally, enhancing
a mitzvah), and is derived from Exodus 15:2 - "This is my G-d and I will glorify
Him" - We don't just do the mitzvos, but we do them in a glorious way.

The point of my post was that one's person's sense of beauty is different that
the next person's, and if I prefer one sort of design on my tefillin bag, my son
should not feel obligated to copy it, but he should beautify his tefillin bag in
a manner that he considers beautiful. (I am willing to be corrected, if anyone
thinks that he does have to follow my choice.)

Akiva Miller


End of Volume 58 Issue 23