Volume 58 Number 29 
      Produced: Mon, 14 Jun 2010 23:14:37 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"magical" influences on halacha 
    [Richard Fiedler]
chumras (was kashrut agencies) 
    [Alex Heppenheimer]
hiddur mitzva 
    [Elazar M. Teitz]
marriage and separation (2)
    [Russell J Hendel  Orrin Tilevitz]
Moabite women in the desert 
    [Frankl Silbermann]
morah d'asra vs. mara d'atrah 
    [Y. Wise]
request for help 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Richard Fiedler <richardfiedler@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 13,2010 at 03:01 PM
Subject: "magical" influences on halacha

Gilad J. Gevaryahu <gevaryahu@...> wrote:

> Russel Hendel wrote:
>> My understanding is that we are REQUIRED to base our actions on scientific,
>> rational, and/or common sense criteria. The belief that reality communicates
>> symbolically is prohibited. I don't see this as a "view of Rambam"; I see 
>> this as a biblical requirement...........
> I am puzzled by Russell Hendel's view. Doesn't Russell think that our 
> Talmudic sages knew about this topic as much as he does? 

In a shiur that was recorded, Rabbi Dani Rapp discusses Magic & the Supernatural.


Rabbi Rapp certainly is supporting Gilad and if memory serves me Rabbi Rapp
paints this as a machloket between Ashkenazi and Sephardi p'sak as to one doing
fake magic (conjuring).

According to the Rambam there is no such thing as real magic thus when the Torah
prohibits magic it is forbidding fake magic, i.e. card tricks may be an Issur
Deorita. IMHO implicit in Avodah Zarah is the idea that there are powers outside
of HaShem and that is exactly what is implicit in performing magic. Worse, Rabbi
Rapp believes that reality is defined by the beliefs of our Meforshim and this
seems to dominate the views now taught by Yeshiva University. Strangely Yeshiva
University's motto is Torah Umadda ("Torah and secular knowledge").

Let me bring into this discussion three facets.

1. Spontaneous Generation

Dr. Zvi Shkedi <http://knol.google.com/k/torah-science-and-greek-philosophy>:

"A computer search of the texts of the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Talmud Yerushalmi,
did not reveal any explicit indication of a belief in natural (non miraculous)
spontaneous generation. The Talmud Bavli and later writings, on the other hand
do mention it, probably under the influence of the Greek theories. For example:
snails appear from rain (Sanhedrin 91a); worms, lice, and flees spontaneously
appear in various foods, soil, and sweat (Rambam, Hilchot Shabat, ch.11, 2-3 ;
Rambam, Maachalot Asurot ch.2, 13-18); and, lice do not multiply through
procreation (Shabat, 107b). The belief in spontaneous generation was so strong
that the Rambam cited it as an explanation for the permission to eat worms which
were spontaneously generated inside a picked fruit or a dead fish or standing
water in a dish (Rambam, Maachalot Asurot ch.2, 13-18)."

Here is something that the Rambam would for sure now disavow. But what interests
me is that the idea is absent in our original sources, Mishnah, Tosefta, and
Talmud Yerushalmi.

2. R' Hiyya and the Old Moon (Rosh HaShanah 25a):

R' Hiyya once saw the [old] moon in the heavens on the morning of the
twenty-ninth day. He took a clod of earth and threw it at it, saying, "Tonight
we want to sanctify you, and are you still here! Go and hide yourself!" 

Here we have a principal Talmudic sage magically controlling the Old Moon.

The Yerushalmi portrays this incident a bit differently: 

R' Hiyah the Great walked by the light of the old moon 4 miles.  Rabbi Avon
threw stones at (the old moon).  And said to it: "Do not upset the children of
you Master (i.e. the Jews), tonight we have to see you from this side (i.e. the
new moon), and you are seen from here (the old moon is still visible).
Immediately it disappeared."

You can use this link to see how I show that this incident was in fact quite
rational: http://sodhaibur.com/r-hiyya.html.

3. Angels in Tanach

Angels did not have names in our sources until the Babylonian exile. 

All these examples point to magic influencing us coming from an idolatrous


From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Fri, Jun 4,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: chumras (was kashrut agencies)

In MJ 58:23, Martin Stern wrote:

> 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].

I'm not so certain that this is such a good example, though. Consider the
following story, from the Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashanah 2:5 and Sanhedrin 1:2) -
paraphrasing a bit:

"R' Chiya bar Ba was standing and praying, when R' Kahana entered, stood behind
him, and began to pray at great length. When R' Chiya finished his prayer, he
was unable to sit down or even to pass in front of him. When R' Kahana finished,
R' Chiya said to him, 'Is this the practice where you come from, to trouble your
superiors?' He replied, "Rabbi, I am from the family of Eli, of whom it is said
(I Sam. 3:14) that due to their sins, [they will die young, and that this doom]
will never be forgiven via sacrifices, only via prayer. [So I prayed at length,
because my life depends on it.] R' Chiya subsequently prayed on behalf of R'
Kahana [that he should live long], and indeed he attained so great an age that
his nails became red like an infant's."

Now, I think we can reasonably assume that R' Kahana, a prominent Talmudic
sage, was as careful with "bein adam lachaveiro" as with "bein adam lamakom."
But after all, "chayecha kodmin" - saving your own life is of paramount
importance(Bava Metzia 62a), and certainlyit trumps someone else's momentary
discomfort; so R'Kahana'sactions were quite justified. (Although I don't know
why he had to stand specifically behind R' Chiya -maybe there was simply no
other spot available.)

Similar considerations, then,may well apply when you see nowadays someone doing
the same thing. Rather than mentally castigating them for taking on a chumra at
others' expense, consider that they may have a vital reason for praying at
length, which - where there is no other alternative (and they should indeed try
to find one, such as standing elsewhere)- overrides considerations of "bein adam
lachaveiro." This, of course, is something that the person themselves has to
honestly evaluate.

>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

Well, your beef is really with the major commentaries on Shulchan Aruch, because
they state this as a halachic requirement, not simply a custom: Taz (Orach Chaim
494) regarding maariv, Magen Avraham (ibid., citing Ayin-Hei and Mem-Beis,
though I don't know who those are) regarding kiddush. And the major
post-Shulchan Aruch Ashkenazic halachic compendia (such as Shulchan Aruch Harav
494:2, Aruch Hashulchan 494:3, and Mishnah Berurah 494:1) follow suit.

This doesn't mean, of course, that we should disparage the German minhag; by all
means,one who comes from this tradition has every right to follow his or her
ancestral custom, and recite maariv and kiddush at the normal time. But by the
same token, those communities who pray late are doing so in order to follow the
actual halachah - not some kind of recent chumra- as determined by their
halachic authorities, and they should not be criticized for doing so.

Kol tuv,


From: Elazar M. Teitz <remt@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 13,2010 at 11:01 PM
Subject: hiddur mitzva

> A rabbi once pointed out that not every mitzvah need be or even should be
> beautified.  This concept applies only to certain mitzvot, and our tradition
> tells us which ones.  (His answer was in response to my question as to whether I
> should buy athletic shoes that were really really nice to wear on Tish B'Av, to
> beautify the mitzvah of not wearing leather shoes.)

Wearing leather shoes on Tisha b'Av is a prohibition.  There is no more mitzva
in wearing non-leather shoes than in wearing no shoes at all.  Since wearing the
non-leather shoes is no mitzva, there is nothing to beautify.  Should one always
wear beautiful clothing, in fulfillment of a mitzva not to wear sha'atnez [a
blend of wool and linen]?  Should one own a beautiful car in fulfillment of a
mitzva of not driving it on Shabbos?  We beautify objects of mitzva, not objects
which signify our refraining from aveirah [sin].


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From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 2,2010 at 11:01 PM
Subject: marriage and separation

In v58n20 REMT (Rabbi Elazar M Teitz) demurs to my criticism of Jay Schachter
(JS). It would appear that REMT makes the same mistake as Jay which as I
explained is "normal" among people trained in scholarship. I am answering his
posting in detail since it affords an excellent opportunity on how to combine
biblical reading with Talmudic law. As I previously explained there is a
weakness in Jewish higher education - the Bible is frequently overlooked in
discussions of technical legal matters. I believe my responses below illustrate
this and show a new way to read Talmudic texts.

First let me state what started this. I cite the Bible at Deut. 7:3-4 which
> makes it clear that premarital sex with a non-Jew results (1) in HIS 
> (singular) deviating from Me and (2) THEY (plural) (the children) worshipping 
> other gods. Jay undoubtedly reads this verse with "Talmudic eyes." The Talmud 
> simply speaks about the children having non-Jewish status. BUT THE TALMUD DID 
> FROM THE JEWISH PEOPLE And this is not a "joke" which one can call rabbinic.

REMT demurs
> While the Torah is manifestly the primary source for d'oraisa
> (Biblical law), the Torah's meaning can only be understood by its explication
> in Torah sheb'al peh (the Oral law).

RESPONSE: Then REMT **agrees** with me (So far). Since I have NOT CONTRADICTED
the Talmudic reading of the verse which interprets that the children are
not-Jewish. Rather I have SUPPLEMENTED the Talmudic reading by showing that the
verse states two things: (1) HE (Singular) will deviate from me and (2) THEY
(plural) the children will worship other gods. The Talmud focuses on clause (2)
while I reminded JS and REMT that there are two clauses to the verse.  

REMT continues: 
> Thus, the criticism of Yaakov Schachter is completely
> invalid. ...  the verse referred to is irrelevant to the matter at
> hand.  It does not discuss premarital sex with a non-Jewish woman; it
> discusses _marrying_ her, which (as Yaakov duly noted) is indeed prohibited
> at a Biblical level.  If Dr. Hendel feels that the same is true of an
> extramarital relationship, he will have to cite some other verse, if he can
> find one.  He would also have to explain Rambam, who states explicitly what
> Yaakov wrote.

RESPONSE: I have 3 responses.
(A) The Rambam (Forbidden relations 12:1) does NOT say "The Bible only
prohibited to marry" but rather says "The Bible only prohibited (sex) IN THE WAY
OF MARRIAGE". In other words Rambam does NOT require a FORMAL marriage for the
prohibition of the verse to apply. Rather Rambam only REQUIRES the WAY OF
MARRIAGE for the prohibition of the verse to apply. BOTTOM LINE: According to
the Rambam: If the couple is living together they are having relations THE WAY
OF MARRIAGE and the verse applies...there is Biblical prohibition even if there
is no marriage.

(B) I was invited to find another verse! But the "prostitution with
Moab" is such an other verse (Nu 25). Note that the verse states "The Jews were
in Shittim and they began to PROSTITUTE with Moabite women....they invited the
Jews to their religious parties...and the Jews clung to the Peor God." These
were casual affairs. No one got married!

(C) Now someone could respond....well the anger of God is on the
idolatry mentioned in Nu25-03. To answer this I cite Rav Hirsch (paraphrased).
"Idolatry? But the golden calf was idolatry. God only smote 3000 people by the
sin of the golden calf. By contrast in the matter of Moab God smote 24000 people
- 8 times as many! We see from this that affairs with non Jews is a much graver
threat to Jewish survival than idolatry." There could be some debate here...but
I think a PRIMARY component of the Moabite sin was casual sex, not just
idolatry. At any rate Nu25-01:03 EXPLICITLY links (i) prostitution with moabite
women (ii) idolatrous parties (iii) idol clinging. In other words it is the
affair that is the culprit that causes the idolatry. This is also Rav Hirsch's

REMT continues his argument:
> Furthermore, contrary to Dr. Hendel's statement,
> the verse says nothing about removal from the Jewish people for engaging in
> premarital sex, nor, for that matter, for intermarriage. There is nothing in
> the verse about removal from the Jewish nation; it speaks only of "turn[ing]
> away from after Me," which usually has the meaning of causing a failure to
> worship G-d and keep His commandments.

RESPONSE: I would respond on 3 levels.
(A) The Rambam (undoubtedly citing the verse) EXPLICITLY says (FORBIDDEN 
RELATIONS 12:7) "...and this matter ...(casual affairs/serious affairs) causes 
people to (i) cling to the non Jews (ii) to turn from God and (iii) to rebel 
against God." Note the skillful insertion of clause (iii) "to rebel against 
God!" Rambam READS the Biblical verse Dt07-04 not as indicating "failure to 
worship God" but rather as rebellion.

(B) There are many verse sets which indicate that "turning from God" ultimately
results in rebellion. Perhaps the most famous is the 6 stage "turning away from
God" mentioned at Lv26-14:15 (My reading is based on Rashi based on several
explicit Sifrays) Not the exquisite and skillful psychological beauty in deftly
sketching the path to outright rebellion against God: "(i) And if you stop
learning and (ii) then stop performing meticulously all commandments (iii) If
you find non rational Torah laws upsetting, (iv) If you make fun of findings of
Jewish civil courts (v)If you stop participating in communal observances then
ultimately after (i)-(v), (vi) you will annul my convenant (apostasy)."

(C) I challenge the statement 
> "turn[ing] away from after Me," which usually has the meaning of causing a
> failure to worship G-d and keep His commandments.

As I have just shown (2 examples) "turning away from me" refers to a complicated
psycho-social interaction leading to apostasy and rebellion against God. I
invite those who think otherwise to find verses supporting their contention.

REMT continues the avoidance of the Biblical text in his next statement: >>It is
only in the Talmudic explication of the verse that there is any mention of
removal from (or, better stated, of non-belonging to) the Jewish people, and, of
course, it refers to the progeny rather than to the progenitor.>>

RESPONSE: As I have clearly shown above the SIMPLE meaning of the text is that
there are TWO consequences to LIVEINS with non Jewesses: (1) He (singular) will
turn from God (which as I have shown and as Rambam comments means rebellion and
apostasy) and (2) They (plural) the children will serve other Gods (because 
they are not jewish).

Note: In classical Brisker terminology there are TWO types of deviation from 
God: There is the PSYCHOLOGICAL deviation when YOU ARE STILL JEWISH but you 
rebel. There is also FORMAL deviation when your children from a non Jewish 
mother ARE CLASSIFIED as not Jewish. The verse uses a two prong approach. The 
Talmud emphasized the 2nd one. But the first should be erased.

Finally REMT takes me to task for
> The manner in which it was stated, too, is
> highly improper, in view of the many times that Dr. Hendel himself has 
> castigated others for straying from a strictly scholarly manner of stating 
> disagreement.

RESPONSE: I think REMT is referring to my sarcastic statement "Premarital sex
REMOVES A PERSON FROM THE JEWISH PEOPLE And this is not a "joke" which one can 
call rabbinic." Why was I sarcastic?
Because a) we are not discussing what happens when drops of formula milk fall
into a pot of meat...we are discussing the plight of a Jewish man bound with a
non Jewish woman. Furthermore, b) I expect that all people should be aware of
passages like Nu25 (Prostitution of Moab).

SUMMARY RESPONSE: I believe the approach presented above -- coupling Biblical
reading with Talmudic/legal reading is fruitful. First we have found TWO
consequences in the verse. By using Biblical and Talmudic eyes we see the
DEVIATION FROM GOD as referring to outright Apostasy and rebellion explaining an
interlocution made by the Rambam. Because we have examined the spirit of the law
we see new meaning in the Rambam's phrase WAY OF MARRIAGE. Finally we have been
exposed to TWO TYPES OF DEVIATION FROM GOD-psychological and formal. BOTTOM
LINE: I encourage reading the Bible simultaneously with the Talmud as it
enriches the understanding of each.

Respectfully submitted

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

From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 8,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: marriage and separation

Martin wrote:
> Whether regular sexual relations with a non-Jewish woman (marriage as 
> such being halachically impossible), other than from the now no
> longer existent 7 Canaanite nations, is an issur de'oraita [prohibited by
> Torah law] is purely academic since it is clearly at least an issur derabban
> [rabbinically prohibited]. On an occasional basis, such activity would
> qualify as znut [harlotry] . . .

>> 2. Does the status of "nidah" [menstrually unclean] apply at all to a
>> non-Jewish woman, and if so is it removed by her immersion in a mikvah?

> Mide'oraita [by Torah law], the concept of tumah [ritual impurity] is not
> applicable to non-Jews. . . .

>> 3. Again if it applies, is having sexual relations with such a woman an
>> issur karet, as it is with a Jewish woman?

> Whether there is such a thing as karet derabban [rabbinically based punishment
> of excision] is an interesting question but, since it is of purely academic
> interest, it has no practical relevance.

First, I believe that the correct translation of "znut" in this context is not
harlotry, which implies sex for pay, but sexual promiscuity. That might matter,
because to the extent a rabbinical ruling that someone's proposed course of
conduct is permissible, or at least less bad than the alternative, depends on
how society would view a Jew's engaging in it, American and (AFIK) much European
society increasingly views promiscuity as perfectly OK (see, e.g., the regular
column in Thursday's New York Times Style section) and harlotry as, well, ask
Eliot Spitzer.

Second, I'm not sure it's only academic. Surely Martin will concede that if one
is forced to pick between two halachically forbidden alternatives, one should
choose the one that is forbidden only derabanan. If the choice is non-marital
sexual relations with a non-Jewish woman or a Jewish woman (and according to
Martin and other posters, recent decisors have forbidden use of the mikveh for
the latter), which isn't the first option better, or at least less bad?


From: Frankl Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 13,2010 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Moabite women in the desert

RE: mail-jewish Vol.58 #28 Digest

Russell J Hendel has made a number of posts generalizing from parsha about the
Moabite women that it is, in general, an act of war for gentile women to offer
themselves sexually to Jewish men.  If he is relying on our tradition for this
view, he should cite the opinions of all the commentators and halachists, both
pro and con.

If he is using his own reason and intelligence to arrive at this conclusion,
then intellectual and halachic integrity require him also to do his best also to
think of reasons why the analogy might NOT be apt.  Has he done this?

Frank Silbermann              Memphis, Tennessee


From: Y. Wise <Smwise3@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 10,2010 at 11:01 PM
Subject: morah d'asra vs. mara d'atrah


You explained that your pronunciation (Morah D'Asra vs. Mara D'Atrah) was from
your part of Judaism. However, the term is Aramaic and should be correctly Mara
D'Asra, not Morah D'Asra, which would be referring to a female teacher. At least
this how I was made to understand it.



From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 13,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: request for help

I would like to obtain volumes of the Journal of Halachah and Contemporary
Society from no. 54 (Fall '07) onwards but cannot find any bookshop in the
UK stocking them. Can anyone suggest a contact who might be able to help?

Martin Stern


End of Volume 58 Issue 29