Volume 58 Number 34 
      Produced: Sun, 27 Jun 2010 22:57:18 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"magical" influences on halacha (3)
    [Rabbi Meir Wise  David Guttmann  Yehonatan Chipman]
another request for help 
    [Martin Stern]
biblical division into chapters and verses 
    [Ira L. Jacobson]
fish and worms 
    [Michael Frankel]
Kashrus magazine 
    [Ari Trachtenberg]
kosher in Arizona 
    [Batya Medad]
more on eating before alot hashakhar 
    [Dr. William Gewirtz]
the reverse influential Kabbalah phenomenon - case study kedusha 
    [Yisrael Medad]
transcendental meditation and Jewish prayer 
    [David Tzohar]
yehi ratzon/acheinu kol beit Yisrael 
    [Asher Samuels]


From: Rabbi Meir Wise <Meirhwise@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 23,2010 at 03:01 PM
Subject: "magical" influences on halacha

If one learns the Hilchot Avodah Zarah of the Rambam with the  
commentary Yad Peshuta, one realises that the prohibitions of nichush,  
divination, necromancy, astrology, black cats, tea leaves, birds  
twittering,throwing dice, tiles falling off roofs, etc. etc. are all  
based on the same mistake (to put it mildly)!

Hashem created man with freewill and this involves making (sometimes  
difficult) choices and accepting responsibility for those choices and  
living with the consequences.

Many people will not or cannot accept personal responsibility for their  
lives and prefer to place the responsibility on some external force of  
chance. By doing so, they are denying their humanity and opposing the  
nature of God's creation and that is the ultimate avodah zarah.

In this age of rationalism and high tech we have seen the growth of  
interest in "kabbala", mysticism, cults, mind altering drugs - all as  
way of avoiding taking personal responsibility and making rational  
sometimes hard choices.

There are entire "ologies" including sociology and psychology to  
explain why no person is responsible for his or her actions.

Some people even misuse and abuse the term "daas Torah" (see the  
essay on daas Torah - what is it? in the Sefer Darkah shel Torah of Rav  
Nachum Rabinovitch) to avoid making decisions.

Meanwhile, in the real world, there are no shortcuts in Torah study  
and the practise of it's mitzvot, nor any way to avoid making choices  
and living with those choices.


Rabbi Meir Wise, London

From: David Guttmann <david.guttman@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 27,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: "magical" influences on halacha

I have been following on and off the discussion about magic in the Talmud. I
agree with Dr. Russel Hendel in the practical Halacha that ALL superstition
and magic is prohibited and as Rambam rules that even magical tricks should
be prohibited (probably as a rabbinic preventative rule). The problem is how
is superstition defined? What makes something magical? To my understanding
magic and superstition are defined as Sheker (falsehood). Anything that
contradicts scientific facts is considered magic and prohibited. As science
is developing, matters that in certain eras and cultures were considered
scientific facts or in the simpler parlance of the time, when science was
not yet defined, were considered to be reality, the prohibition of magic
does not apply to that belief. Once it was shown to be against science or
unscientific it becomes Magic. The Torah teaches how to search for the
truth, that is the proper translation of "Torat Emet", and superstition and
magic are falsehoods and therefore anathema. 

The rabbis in Babylonia where spirits populated their understanding of how
reality functioned, these beliefs were not Halachikally forbidden; for us
who know reality differently it is forbidden. The issue how to deal with
halachot that found their way into the Shulchan Aruch based on these
outdated understandings of how the world operates is a very complex issue
and there is no clear cut approach amongst the great poskim. Interestingly
Rambam ignores all such halachot that went against the science of his time.

For a good basic exposition of this understanding (though not this
particular issue) and the sources in Rambam see my article in Hakirah at

David Guttmann

From: Yehonatan Chipman <yonarand@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 27,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: "magical" influences on halacha

It's not Russell's own opinion,  He's obviously following  the approach of 
Rambam, who in this case is, it is true, outnumbered by the other Rishonim
[earlier mediaeval authorities - MOD], indeed almost a "da'at yahid" (singular
opinion) but nevertheless a very important view to  be taken with great
seriousness.  See Hilkhot Avodat Kokhavim Ch. 11, esp 11.14.

Yehonatan Chipman


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 23,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: another request for help

May I thank everyone who responded to my request for help (58#29) in getting
copies of the Journal of Halachah and Contemporary Society.  I am now in the
process of obtaining them.

In view of that successful appeal, I wonder if anyone can help me get the
volumes (5 and 8) of the out-of-print Siddur Hageonim Vehamekubbakim (21
volumes published in Jerusalem between 1970 and 1982) by the late Rabbi
Mosheh Yair Weinstock that I am missing?

Martin Stern


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 27,2010 at 04:01 AM
Subject: biblical division into chapters and verses

As stated succinctly in Wikipedia:
> The current division of the Bible into chapters and the verse 
> numbers within the chapters has no basis in any ancient textual 
> tradition. Rather, they are medieval Christian inventions. They were 
> later adopted by many Jews as well, as technical references within 
> the Hebrew text. Such technical references became crucial to 
> medieval rabbis in the historical context of forced debates with 
> Christian clergy (who used the chapter and verse numbers), 
> especially in late medieval Spain. Chapter divisions were first used 
> by Jews in a 1330 manuscript and for a printed edition in 1516. 
> However, for the past generation, most Jewish editions of the 
> complete <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_Bible>Hebrew Bible 
> have made a systematic effort to relegate chapter and verse numbers 
> to the margins of the text.

On the other hand, the Gemara tells us (Megillah 22a):

> Rav holds that a verse that Moses did not leave in the middle we may 
> not split; but Shemuel says that we may. So, according to Shemuel 
> may we stop in the middle of the verse? Did not Hanania Kara say: I 
> had great trouble when I was by R. Hanina the Great, who did not 
> permit me to stop in the middle of a verse, except for the 
> schoolchildren, because I had to teach them?

Now, we hold that the division into chapters and verses is halakha 
leMoshe miSinai.  But how did our ancestors know where a verse 
started and ended, before 1330 CE?  Is there some contradiction here 
between the two sources?



From: Michael Frankel <michaeljfrankel@...>
Date: Fri, Jun 25,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: fish and worms

Steven Oppenheimer wrote:
> This teshuva and explanation regarding the kashrut of fish that contain
> worms was just published.  It may be helpful for the readers. 
> http://matzav.com/rav-belskys-stance-on-the-kashrus-of-worms-in-flesh-of-fish

While I applaud R. Belsky's reasoning and shall continue to chomp into all
manner of fishies it is noteworthy that it contains two chiddushim I find
untenable.  One has no particular halokhic consequence while
another does. 

The first - which would not seem to have a consequence- is R. Belsky's
apparent insistence that Chazal [the Talmudic Sages - MOD] could not have erred
as far as their acceptance of spontaneous generation (SG). The fact we know, in
R. Belsky's words, "there is no such thing as spontaneous generation in any
shape or form" can hardly lead to his conclusion that "it is proven with
complete certainty that the words 'minei gavli' [spontaneously generated - MOD]
means something else", unless the missing logical step that Chazal could not
have believed in something we scientifically apprehend to be untrue is assumed
as well. This is both unlikely and unnecessary. It is unlikely, since SG was a
common belief and there is no reason to assume Chazal knew a more 'correct'
science. It is unnecessary, since no "proof" is really required as R. Belsky's
reading of gavleih [generation - MOD] is reasonable on its own merit (Rashi's
comment as it affects SG seems ambiguous to me). 

The second, which would have some consequences is his explanation of the louse
which is not poreh v'roveh [does not reproduce in the usual way - MOD]. R.
Belsky's explanation - I realize it's filtered through another's representation
rather than his own - seems to exempt lice because nits live off human protein
and cannot survive on their own. But were that the halakhic basis, killing any
parasite would also qualify for Shabbos exemption. (When he says ainoh b'firyoh
v'rivyoh [do not reproduces in the usual way - MOD] is "commonly translated"
referring to SG, he indicates he himself rejects the common translation. This is
strained) .  

Finally a note on the assumption that Chazal -through ruach haqqodesh [Divine
enlightenment -MOD]?/mesorah [tradition -MOD]? - knew things we only know today
at a time other Ancients thought otherwise, the apparent belief of some of our
more fundamentalist brethren. If it were true it would seem Chazal would be
morally culpable for not applying knowledge when it would have done some good. 
Think of the boon to Torah study, liberation from drudgery and increase in human
happiness  that could have been fostered by an earlier introduction of the power
grid, the printing press, ice cream, and the internet (but there goes yontov
sheni). Doubtless Chazal would have thought long and hard about the cost/benefit
of the introduction of some innovations (explosives, nuclear power, loud rock
music) but antibiotics alone could have alleviated so much human misery it would
seem a great calumny to suggest Chazal deliberately refrained from sharing such

Mechy Frankel


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Thu, May 27,2010 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Kashrus magazine

A mail-jewish reader claims that some mail-jewish material was published in the
March 2010 issue of Kashrus magazine in an anonymized fashion.  I do not get
this magazine, and I have not gotten a response from the magazine itself about
this issue.

1.  Can anyone else confirm this publication?

2.  If the material was republished, did the authors of the published posts
provide permission for this reuse of their posts (I did not, and I do not
believe any of the other moderators did)?

Many thanks, in advance,


From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Sat, Jun 26,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: kosher in Arizona

I'll be in the Tempe, Scottsdale, Phoenix AZ area in two weeks for a few
days and would appreciate all information concerning kosher restaurants,
stores, coffee places etc.  I'll just be there weekdays, not Shabbat,
for family reasons.  And the family isn't connected to the Jewish
community at all.  (I'm the problem.)


From: Dr. William Gewirtz <wgewirtz@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 27,2010 at 02:01 AM
Subject: more on eating before alot hashakhar

Sammy Finkleman writes commenting on my last entry:

>> ..about 40 minutes earlier.

> Closer to 36 minutes earlier. The 72 minutes Alot Hashakhar 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 latitude.

First, I was only approximating. 36 is exactly correct according to calculation
this year in NY being so close to the summer equinox it is within a minute or
two of the maximum.

Second, 10.2 degrees for misheyakir [the time when a person can first recognise
an acquaintance] is the most stringent position except for R. Feinstein ztl. I
tend to favor ~ 11.5 degrees. If you examine poskim in various locales and
equate to a depression angle, you will observe a difference between poskim in
the Middle East and Europe. The depression angle of most Middle Eastern poskim
is greater than 11.5 degrees and that of most European poskim is less. One can
easily conjecture as to why poskim differed by region. (Some poskim have
suggested that now that we have the precision of depression angles and clocks,
we need not wait for misheyakir (certainly in case of need.)

Third, his comment about 40 versus 31-33 degrees is not correct. Using
particular depression angles, you get the identical level of illumination at any
latitude; the time at which that occurs differs, growing non-linearly away from
sunrise and sunset as one travels further from the equator. There is significant
seasonal variation as well. IMHO, depression angles measure Chazal's intent when
speaking of illumination and darkness as accurately as a watch measures time.

Fourth, I can trace depression angles back to R. D.T. Hoffman ztl and R. N.T.
Berlin ztl . R. Y. M. Tukatzinsky ztl institutionalized them in the Jerusalem
calendar, I believe almost a century ago. I would guess that the formula in Prof
Lev's Halakhic Times are the basis for the Internet calendars. The calendar you
referenced (myzmanim) has the haskama [approbation --MOD] of R. Y Belsky, (a
rebbe of mine in HS [high school --MOD] years back!)

For those addicted to this topic, I will have two lengthy posts on zemanim
[times --MOD] on the seforim blog in the next month or so.


From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Fri, Jun 25,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: the reverse influential Kabbalah phenomenon - case study kedusha

The Shulkhan Arukh, OH, 125:1 makes it quite clear that the first
'sentence/section' of the Kedusha during the repetition of the Amidah
Prayer is to be uttered solely by the Shaliah Tzibbur [shatz]/Chazan.
The congregation is quiet.  In essence, they must pay strict attention
to what he is saying/singing and the next section, "kadosh, kadosh,
etc.", is actually an 'answer' to that first part which is said aloud.
The Mishneh Brurah explains {there is no Rama) that if the chazzan or
shatz is to be an emissary, an agent, how can he be so if he repeats
something they have said?  In his Sub-Paragraph 2, he further explains
that despite the tendency to ease on this stricture and the congregant
can say along with the shatz as the Taz wrote (comment: he writes "im",
i.e., "along with" - does that mean he can't say it before?), the
"correct custom" is as Rav Moshe Karo fixed it.  He also bases himself
on the GRA (Gaon Rav Eliyahu).  In the brand new edition of Ma'aseh Rav,
of the customs of the GRA, Par. 44, the GRA notes "from 'nekadesh' or
'na'aritzach' until 've'amar' only the shatz says alone and the
congregation is silent and they hear it from the shatz".  The new
commentary there notes that the source is a Responsum of the Rosh 4:19.
One sure source for not acting in a silent manner but saying prior to
the shatz the first section of Kedusha is the Ari zal.  In the new
edition of the Shulkhan Arukh of the Ari zal, "Ariel", Paragraph 125:1,
based on Sha'ar HaKavvanot, Inyan Chazarat HaAmida, #3 (p. 39), as well
as the Pri Etz Chayim, end of Chapt. 2 of the Sha'ar Chazarat HaAmida,
we find that the Ari zal said the first section before the shatz and
quite out loud.  His reasoning is based on the verse "and I became
sanctified amongst the Children of Israel as I am the Lord who
sanctifies you" (VaYikra 22:32 and btw, the S'forno there notes "to do
together with them great wondrous things"), that this is a mitzva, a
commanded act, as elucidated in the Zohar, Emor, and that this
sanctification is uniting man with G-d and it is a joint/shared act and
so the congregant cannot remain passive and by saying aloud the first
section of "nekadesh" or "na'aritzach", he is achieving this unity of
bringing together the sanctity from above to that of below.
Now, to the Reverse Influential Kabbalah Phenomenon.  It is clear that,
at the very least, those praying in Nusach Ashkenaz should remain quiet
during Keduasha and only say aloud from the second section, "kadosh,
kadosh.".  But it is my experience, and I ask the list members to
confirm or otherwise, that the overwhelming practice is not as dictated,
that is, most say aloud the first section prior to the shatz and are
definitely not silent.  
And so, due to the interpretation of the Ari zal based on the Zohar and
Kabbalah, those who usually reject the Kabbalah as a Halachic authority,
have come to accept a turnabout in the Halacha regarding reciting the
Kedusha that began in the 1570s, since that is also the time the
Shulkhan Arukh's influence began.
I would appreciate comments on this and on its ramification regarding
other customs as I am sure there are academic and rabbinic articles on
this that I have not yet seen.


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 23,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: transcendental meditation and Jewish prayer

R'Aryeh Kaplan in his book Jewish Meditation, discussed points of comparison
between Eastern meditation and Judaism especially Hassidism comparing the
technique of chanting mantras with Hassidic niggunim. I had dismissed this
as being irrelevant to Jewish prayer since our prayer is linked to the
content of the Siddur whereas mantras are chants comprised of unintelligable
words and syllables in atonal chants I changed my mind after having an
interesting experience.

Recently I attended services at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue where the great
Cantor Chaim Adler was conducting the service accompanied by a full male
choir. I enjoy cantorial music but I find that it makes it difficult to
concentrate on the prayer. I decided to try one of R' Kaplans meditation
techniques during one of the long cantorial passages. I tried to put
everything out of my mind. I closed my eyes tightly and started taking deep
breaths. My head seemed to be filling up with the music and my body started
feeling very light almost floating. Then when the cantor and choir came to
the crescendo on the word "Halleluya" the pinpricks of light on the insides
of my eyelids came together to form the Tetragrammaton, the Holy Name,

This was a transcendental and almost hallucinatory experience. I think what
I felt there was the Kabbalistic concept of bittul hayesh (negation of the
self). Once you have totally vacuated your conscious self it leaves room for
another spiritual entity within.

Has anyone had a similar experience? Does anyone know anything else about
transcendental meditation and self-hypnotism as it relates to Jewish

David Tzohar


From: Asher Samuels <asher.samuels@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 27,2010 at 02:01 AM
Subject: yehi ratzon/acheinu kol beit Yisrael

What is the original source for these additional paragraphs added on Monday
and Thursday after Kriat HaTorah [Torah reading --MOD]?  Are they from the same
source?  When were they added to the tefilot?

Asher Samuels


End of Volume 58 Issue 34