Volume 58 Number 33 
      Produced: Sat, 26 Jun 2010 23:43:57 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"magical" influences on halacha  (3)
    [Sammy Finkelman  Elazar M. Teitz  Gilad J. Gevaryahu]
certification of scotch whisky 
    [Immanuel Burton]
    [Martin Stern]
eating before a fast before dawn (and correction about date this year) 
    [Sammy Finkelman]
making ice cream on shabbat (2)
    [Wendy Baker  David Tzohar]
Southern Comfort (2)
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz  Orrin Tilevitz]
The Emmanuel girls' school controversy 
    [Janice Gelb]


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 23,2010 at 08:01 PM
Subject: "magical" influences on halacha 

Russell Hendel wrote:

> I recently posted that Jewish law prohibits NICHUSH, DIVINATION, which
> refers to irrationally basing future actions. Here "irrationally" refers
> to, for example, basing ones future actions on symbolic interpretations
> of reality (e.g. A _black_ cat crossed my path and hence I should not go
> to work today else my day be black (bad).

Gilad in v58n27 responds as follows:
> I am puzzled by Russell Hendel's view. In Talmudic times people believed
> in ruach ra'ah (=bad spirit) shedim (=ghosts) etc., and the Talmud is full
> of these "unscientific" stories and rules, and this is an essential part of
> our heritage. We believe in the Torah shebichtav (=written Torah) and in 
> the Torah she-be-al Peh (=oral Torah). For example in Masechet Pesachim
> (around page 111) one can find the following:...3.  Discussion that it is
>  a bad omen for a woman, or a dog to walk through a group of men....

> In fact Russell says that this kind of material quoted above is a
> violation against Nichush. Doesn't Russell think that our Talmudic sages 
> knew about this topic as much as he does?

Gilad is only strengthening my question. Let me re-ask it by enumerating

1) There is a biblical prohibition of divination which includes prohibiting
basing future actions based on symbolic interpretations of reality (such as
the black cat example) (NOTE: Gilad did not dispute this or explain it

2) There are Talmudic statements of the form "it is a bad omen for a woman
.. to walk through a group of men." (NOTE: **I** do not dispute this - the
controversy between me and Gilad is not on the existence of the statement)

The difference is simple. In the first case, interpreted most favorably,
what you are trying to do, is force God to give you an answer. In the second
case, the "message" was not solicited by you.

From: Elazar M. Teitz <remt@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 23,2010 at 09:01 PM
Subject: "magical" influences on halacha 

The following is an abbreviated citation from Vol.58 #32:
> ... There are Talmudic statements of the form "it is a bad omen for a
> woman  to walk through a group of men"  ...  I would simply suggest that "a
> woman walking through a group of men" symbolizes unnecessary sexual suggestion
> (After all isn't there a natural temptation to crack jokes about the lone woman
> among the men). The statement that "it is a bad omen for a woman to walk between
> men" simply (symbolically) means "If you can avoid sexually suggestive
> situations (even if no actual sin is involved) then do so lest sexual slurs
> (symbolized by bad omens) result."

     That might be a possible, though far-fetched, explanation, except for one
minor complication: there is no such statement in the Talmud.   

     What is actually stated in Pesachim 111a (refernce to which elicited the
above explanation) is, "Three things should not pass between two men, nor should
a man pass between two of them: a dog, a palm tree and a woman; others say also
a pig, and others say also a snake."   I doubt that there is concern of
suggestivenes, slurs, etc. when one walks between two palms.

     The immediately preceding and the immediately following statements in the
Talmud deal with concerns of k'shafim [sorcery].  It is obvious from context
that the statement in question, too, is concerned with sorcery.


From: Gilad J. Gevaryahu <gevaryahu@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 23,2010 at 10:01 PM
Subject: "magical" influences on halacha 

Dr.Russell Hendel writes (v58 n32):
>> RESPONSE: I agree with Gilad that **people** believed this. But the Talmudic
>> Rabbis were not the people. They were men of great vision who fought improper
>> views, combating them with the Biblical prohibitions against such beliefs. 
>> Just to be emphatic: **I** don't dispute that **the masses** believed in such
>> things.  But why should anyone suggest that the Talmudic Rabbis themselves
>> believed in them. (I have presented alternative psychological
>> interpretations in my article cited above.)

Russell assumes that it is only the people "**the masses**" who believe in
unscientific items but not the Rabbis.  But the Rabbis believe in this as much
as the amcha (=common people). 

See for example "amar Rav Ashi: Hazina leRav Kahana deParesh miKulhu tuli" (=Rav
Ashi said I saw that Rav Kahana did not [walk, sit, stay] under any shade). Rav
Kahana is a major figure in Babylon and he would not place himself 
in any shaded places for the danger they pose.(Pesachim 111), "amar Reish
Lakish: four things done by people are dangerous, and whomever do they risks his
own life: He who defecate between a Palm tree and the wall, he who walks between
two palm trees....(id.), Rabbah bar Nachmani insisted on bringing the table back
in order to ascertain that he did not drink in pairs.(id.) This section I quoted
(Pesachim 111) of the Talmud had the following Rabbis participated in the
discussion of the sheidim (=ghosts): Ulah, Rava, Abaye, 
and many more of the most important Rabbis in Babylonia.  Russell suggested that
we put the question as two texts and see how to resolve the issue. The two texts
which he proposes one the Torah, which says "Jewish law prohibits 
NICHUSH, DIVINATION," vs. the Talmud which is suffused with such a material.

The problem is that his original material was about superstition (that is, items
that we understand today to be superstition, but were considered factual by the
Talmudic Rabbis), which I stated is used throughout the Talmud, whereas Russell
now wants to put that against nichush (i.e., divination). I agree that 
nichush is prohibited, but that was never the topic of discussion. I further
have a methodological problem with his approach, as one needs to use two
different texts of the same level, not Torah vs. Talmud, but Talmud vs. Talmud
or Torah vs. Torah.  If the Talmud says this is how we understand the Torah, but
Russell understand it differently, then it does not work.

I state again that the Talmud is full of what we call today superstition and
unscientific data. Unscientific could mean that at the time of the Talmud the
rabbis understood nature one way and now we understand it differently, or a
variety of other explanations.  Nonetheless the Talmud is the source for
halachah and for understanding of the Torah, as well as the source of legends,
folklore etc.

Gilad J. Gevaryahu


From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 24,2010 at 09:01 PM
Subject: certification of scotch whisky

In Mail.Jewish Vol 58 #32 it was written in response to my original posting:

> I do agree that it is unfortunate (for us consumers and laypeople) that the
> agencies compete for business, but I don't know if there's anything assur
> (forbidden) or immoral about it. Don't all businesses compete to a certain
> extent?

This is a most interesting argument, and seems to assume that kashrus licensing
is a for-profit business and not altruistic at all.  Be that as it may, though,
what are the halachas of poaching a customer from someone when they have
negotiated at length with another supplier and are ready to close the deal?  Is
that ethical behaviour???

> All this leads me to wonder what the point of this post is, and -- more
> importantly -- why this post doesn't count as lashon hara (forbidden gossip). 
> If you have a point to make, please state it more clearly, and give us the 
> *facts*, without words like "allegedly" and "pretty much implied".

I had thought that I had expressed my point clearly.  I was asking whether it is
right for a kashrus agency in one country to encroach on the authority of the
kashrus agency in another country, ESPECIALLY if the kashrus agency in that
second country is a division of the Beis Din.  I cited the Glenmorangie case to
show that this is not a hypothetical situation, but it appears actually to have

It was also written in Mail.Jewish Vol 58 #32 by another poster:

> I suspect that the distillery learned that OU supervision is more widely
> recognized than that of the LBD, and decided that its interests would be 
> better served by using the OU. Not wishing to admit its lesser standing,
> the LBD chose to blame the non-existent "corporate hands" of the OU.

I take exception to this, and am very surprised indeed that the moderators
allowed this comment.  Since when is the London Beth Din of  "lesser
standing"???  Is the London Beth Din any less qualified to oversee kashrus
issues, or does their "lesser standing" mean that their kashrus standards are
also lesser and therefore should not be used if there are other "better" options?

Immanuel Burton.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 22,2010 at 04:01 PM
Subject: chumras

On Sun, Jun 20,2010, Immanuel Burton wrote:
> The other question that came to my mind is that now that Glenmorangie has an
> OU, how long will it be before it will be deemed that all whisky (and whiskey)
> needs a hechsher?  After all, isn't today's chumrah [stringency] tomorrow's
> kulah [leniency]?

I presume that Immanuel means 'normative halachah' when he writes 'kulah'.
Once a product is marketed with a hechsher, certain people tend to think
that there is some question about the kashrut of similar products without
one. The next stage is that those who are not careful only to use the one
with a hechsher are considered somehow not really frum [observant --MOD].
Eventually everyone tows the line so as not to be perceived to be suspect and,
after a couple of generations, people find it difficult to believe that anyone
ever used that product without the strictest supervision.

This is similar to the examples I cited previously of German minhagim [customs
--MOD], such as waiting three hours between meat and milk or davenning maariv
before night on the first evening of Shavuot, being looked at askance.

Martin Stern


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Fri, Jun 18,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: eating before a fast before dawn (and correction about date this year)

I wrote:

> The Agudath Anshei Mamod small wall calendar gives the starting times and
> ending times of the fast in new York. For instance, this year, in New
> York,the fast of the 17th of Tammuz on June 30, starts at 4:15 AM and 
> ends at 9:26 PM.

Actually the calendar has that for Tuesday, June 29, which is the correct
day but at this time of the year there is very little difference from day to
day, or even week to week.

Dr. William Gewirtz wrote:

> It is important to note that the time for alot hashachar [daybreak - MOD] 
> given above probably represent 72 minutes before sunrise.

The My Zmanim calendar indeed indicates this is even minutes and has the time
3:39 AM (Daylight Savings Time) T for 16.1 degrees.(You can get them at
http://www.myzmanim.com. Just register with a name and password and you can get
a full month calendar)

> 72 minutes is the normative time before sunset defining halakhic dawn
> in the Middle East around the spring/fall equinox. It would seem preferable
> to consider it dawn when is it equivalently light/dark out in the summer and
> in NY. Calculating that using a 16% degree depression angle would end up with
> dawn about 40 minutes earlier.

Closer to 36 minutes earlier. The 72 minutes Alos Hashachar time is also about
10 minutes before the earliest time for Talis and Tefillin, which is based on
the sun being 10.2 degrees below the horizon; I don't know why.

> Given the nature of what is being done, using the earlier time seems
> entirely appropriate. Many rabbis, largely unaware of some simple science
> in this area, allow one to eat at a time that is well past dawn (defined as
> the first light of the day.) I have even heard learned defense of this fixed
> 72 minutes position,but it is likely a common but very fundamental error. 
> There are yet stricter positions, but given this being a rabbinic fast, they
> are probably not required.

One problem with using the same number of degrees, is that sunlight is less
direct (or strong) further north, so you wouldn't get the same degree of
illumination at 16.1 degrees below the horizon in New York at 40 degrees north
latitude as you would in Israel or Babylonia at around 31 to 33 degrees north

Now when Olos Hashachar [daybreak - MOD] was originally defined, if it was
defined, nobody had any clocks. The real criteria was the degree of
illumination. Nowadays, of course, in most cities, and in most places for that
matter, you can't judge when the day starts by visibility at all, since there is
so much extra light, and visibility never goes below a certain level, and, in
many cases, stars are things people only read about in books, with maybe three
or four exceptions.

You can't use the time it takes to do something because this is BEFORE
something happens not after, although you could use star positions if you
were a real expert. But basically if you don't use the degree of
illumination you see, you can only do this with clocks and calculation.

Here is the myzmanim website on this subject matter, which bears you out:


I see more definitions at http://kehillatisrael.net/hcal/zmanim.html.

This seems to have been copied by Chabad at


unless it is the other way around. I would think Chabad was first but the first
one is better formatted and more detailed. It hard to believe that
kehillatisrael.net, a Reconstructionist group, originated it and in fact it
makes a reference to  'M"A being used as an abbreviaion "in the tables" and
there are no tables there.'

It seems to me that they both took it from somewhere else but the
kehillatisrael text is an earlier and better version. (This has been quoted
other places too but I think mostly people got it from Chabad, which is a
poorer version than the kehillatisrael.net one.)

It would be nice to find out where this came from and who wrote it. It seems
likely it was some website that gave Halachic tables. The original may no
longer be on the Internet.

That piece of writing says that the earliest time for Talis and Tefillin, as
well as Shema,  is "when one can recognize a familiar acquaintance" from a
distance of approximately six feet, which they say is approximately 11
degrees. Hanetz Hachamah [Sunrise - MOD] is when  "one can recognize a familiar
acquaintance" but it doesn't define Alot Hashachar at all beyond saying it is
dawn and that fasts begin at this time and that Magen Avraham "calculation of
the day begins from that time."


From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 22,2010 at 11:01 AM
Subject: making ice cream on shabbat

Carl Singer wrote:
> Has anyone seen a Halakhic discussion about making ice cream on Shabbat...
> Just speculating - is there an issue related to boneh (building / creating)
> -- you're taking a liquid (cream) and changing it into a solid mass.

Is there an issue about using ice cubes during Shabbat?  Either putting 
one in your drink, or refilling the ice cube tray and putting it into the 
freezer would cause such a change from liquid to solid.  (As you can see we 
do not have an automatic icemaker in our fridge:-)

Wendy Baker

From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 23,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: making ice cream on shabbat

After seeing the YouTube clip on the ball ice cream maker it seems clear to
me that if one uses it on shabbat he is transgressing the law of "megaben"
(cheese making) from the av melacha of boneh (the general category of
constucting anything from disparate parts) the same rule applies to making
butter.  Making ice cubes is different since ice is only water in another
physical state / Some say this is a transgression of nolad (creating something
that didn't exist before shabbat-not one of the 39 torah categories) Others are
more lenient an permit making ice cubes on shabbat.

David Tzohar


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 23,2010 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Southern Comfort

Elazar M. Teitz <remt@...> wrote:
> The last digest had a most misleading item about the kashruth of Southern
> Comfort. The rabbi who posted it, and should have known better, neglected to
> mention that it is ONLY THE MADE-IN-IRELAND Southern Comfort which is made 
> under supervision, as is clearly stated in the web site whose URL he gave, 
> but did not quote. American-made Southern Comfort is not under supervision, 
> and is considered not kosher.

Google is your friend. I think that the full quote given below should
be sent out to explain the situation more clearly.


Southern Comfort

2 Tammuz 5770
June 14, 2010

According to noted authority on alcoholic beverages Rabbi Shmuel
Semelman, who is affiliated with the Jerusalem Religious Council
Kashrut Division, there are three categories of Southern Comfort .

1. Produced in Ireland, with a hechsher from Badatz Basel and Badatz
Beit Yosef. This is ONLY the case if the kashrut symbols are visible
on the bottles, which are parve. A special run has been imported with
approval via the Jerusalem Rabbinate due to the efforts of Rabbi
Semelman, BUT ONLY those exhibiting the hechsherim listed above and
they too are parve.

2. There is another bottled in Ireland, which is authorized by the
London Beit Din, but it is NOT under the organizations supervision.
This is categorized as dairy chalav akum.  (Produced in the USA and
bottled in Ireland. This is sold in Israel and in duty free. The
alcohol is distilled from whey - DAIRY)

3. The third is manufactured in the United States, and it is not
authorized, and it may contain non permitted wine. (produced and
bottled in the USA)

   Sabba   -     ' "    -   Hillel
Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz | 
From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 23,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Southern Comfort

Mark Steiner wrote:

> But there is a kashrus issue concerning whisky, mentioned in an early
> responsum by R. Moshe Feinstein to Rav Pinchas Teitz, whose son I believe
> is a participant here. The issue concerned the use of wine. Rabbi Feinstein
> z"l gave a rather sweeping leniency, according to which the proportion of
> wine to whisky needed to save the whisky from prohibition is one part in
> six, not the usual one part in sixty. . . Rav Moshe rejected R. Teitz'
> argument that since the wine was deliberately introduced for flavor, the
> law of bitul [nullification] does not apply altogether, let alone 1 in 6.
> Nevertheless, R. Moshe applauded R. Teitz' efforts to get a whisky made
> without any nonkosher ingredients, even though he held that one could
> drink the whisky without a hechsher, as stated.

Also, R. Teitz's very same son wrote

> American-made Southern Comfort is not under supervision,and is considered
> not kosher.

AFIK, the issue with Southern Comfort is that it has a wine base, or maybe that
it's fermented in wine casks. I know at least one Manhattan shul that still
serves Southern Comfort, on reliance on the principle of R. Moshe's reponsum if
not the responsum itself. Does anyone know why the major kashruth agencies do
not accept this responsum, and indeed seem to ignore it? Did they ever accept
it? And is it a leniency, or is the failure to accept it a stringency?


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 23,2010 at 02:01 AM
Subject: The Emmanuel girls' school controversy

Batya Medad wrote:
> Some chareidi friends sent me their take on it from a very
> different perspective:
> http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2010/06/girls-school-in-emanuel-anothe
> r-side-of.html 

This article was very interesting. However, it seems to imply that the only real
difference was in educational classrooms:

"Until this law suit came into being, the school had 2 tracks - the religious
track which serviced the religious girls i.e. the Slonimers and a handfull of 
Sefardi girls who are religious - and the non-religious track which serviced the
non-religious girls - all of them Sefardim. Both tracks were quite happy with
this arrangement."

Other articles that I have read, such as this one at
http://www.jpost.com/Home/Article.aspx?id=178028 indicate that there were much
more extreme 
separation measures used at the school:

"They built a wall in the middle of the school corridor as well as a fence in
the middle of the playground so there would be no contact between the girls on 
either side. To prevent the girls from even making contact with each other
through the fence, the hassidic parents covered it with blue-and-white fabric."

If this is true, I tend to doubt that the parents on both sides were "quite
happy with the arrangement."

-- Janice


End of Volume 58 Issue 33