Volume 58 Number 52 
      Produced: Thu, 05 Aug 2010 16:57:09 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim (4)
    [Meir Shinnar  Eitan Fiorino  Michael Rogovin   David I. Cohen]
Certification of Scotch Whisky  (2)
    [Mark Steiner]
Conversion among Knesset members; the proposed Conversion Law 
    [Ira L. Jacobson]
Mystical and spiritual influences on halacha 
    [Eitan Fiorino]
Tikkun on a Yahrzeit 
    [Gershon Dubin]


From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 5,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

WRT I Balbin's response (MJ 58#51) to my post (MJ 58#49), he misunderstands my post.

As I noted, there are many (probably most) rabbis who are opposed to
these partnership minyanim, either on technical or public policy
grounds.  The RCV and ORA, who do not approve, fall into that
category.  With respect to whom one allows to have kibbudim in their shul 
- each shul has their own standards - (personally, I would be happier with a
standard that focused on ethical issues, but that is a different
issue) - and given that I suspect that public policy issue is a big
factor in this decision, this is a way of enforcing public policy.
That is a quite different issue than a personal attack - that the
person is not Orthodox - rather than that the person follows an
opinion that the community rav disagrees with and thinks is dangerous.

With respect to motivations - yes, it sometimes has a role in halachic
discussions. However, a psak based on an analysis of motivations will be
questioned when people who have more first hand knowledge of the people involved
(to use the tshuva of Rav Moshe cited , I would not presume to
criticize the halachic reasoning - but can (and many have) criticize
the metziut (reality) described..), and it is difficult for someone who
is not part of that community to accurately describe the motivations.
Furthermore, if you read Rav Sperber's article, much of it is
detailing the spiritual and religious motivations behind the Shira
Chadasha movement. One may not accept his halachic arguments - but he
has far more first hand knowledge of the people involved than the

In a non halachic venue, for people to just assume and impugn
motivations is very problematic and counterproductive.  To play the
other side, if I claimed that much of  the opposition was driven by
misogyny (which is a fairly widely held belief, and I would add that
the discussion on mail jewish bolsters those who hold that belief), it
would be  highly nonproductive for a discussion of the issues.

Meir Shinnar

From: Eitan Fiorino <afiorino@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 5,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

Stuart Wise <Smwise3@...> wrote

> I  don't know, I may be old fashioned but it occurs to me that our 
> matriarchs  didn't have concerns, at least that we know of, their place  
> in Torah observance. Through centuries, frum women accepted their role 
> -- not as inferior or as if they were being deprived of something -- but
> as what halachah assigns to them. 

I have to provide a historical reality check here.  The reality is that women's
role in halachic Judaism has been far more diverse than defenders of the current
status quo are interested in understanding.  It is very simple to project
backwards some idyllic vision of happy, contented Jewish women who never had
even the slightest inkling to demand more out of their spiritual lives than what
men told them they were capable of getting.  But this is just false, it is
simply historical revisionism that not only sells short Jewish women of the
past, it also unfairly shackles Jewish women of today.  Avraham Grossman's book
"Pious and Rebellious" about Jewish women in medieval Ashkenaz should be
required reading for anyone who is going to opine on the historical reality of
what Jewish women accepted, didn't accept, battled against and supported (I have
heard that the Hebrew original, published in 2001, is a more scholarly read, but
I've never seen it).  This is of course only a glimpse at a small segment of
Jewry over a relatively modest period of time.  I've not yet read Elisheva
Baumgarten's "Mothers and Children" covering that same geography and time
period, but I am certain there is much of value to be found there as well.  S.
D. Goitein's "A Mediterranian Society" contains many fascinating glimpses into
the activities of women in a different place and partially overlapping time,
based on documents in the Cairo Geniza.

In my opinion, the fact that Orthodox Jewish women desire same level of
spiritual involvement and satisfaction from their religious experience as they
do from their careers, academic achievements and families is something to
celebrate and be receptive to.  Rav Soloveitchik - hardly a feminist, but
someone with a keen insight into human nature - recognized a truth decades ago,
that contemporary women have limitless opportunities for success and achievement
in the secular world, and we will lose them if they cannot make the same strides
in Judaism.  On this basis, he long supported the teaching of Gemara to women if
memory serves, initiated the Gemara curriculum at Stern College by giving the
first shiur there. His stance may have been pragmatic, but he certainly did not
dismiss the issue as being driven by anti-halachic ideology or argue that this
is simply not the way Jewish women have ever behaved.

We can all create fantasies about what we think Sara imeinu or Rashi's daughters
or whomever thought, believed and acted.  It is an exercise in futility that
fails to bring the conversation forward.  We have real live Jewish women who are
telling us how they feel today, in our world, right now.  It is disrespectful
and unproductive to simply tell them "well, those feelings are wrong because
Jewish women never felt this way before" - particularly galling is the fact that
this statement is a myth.


From: Michael Rogovin <mrogovin118@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 5,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

Orrin Tilevitz wrote (MJ 58#51):

> By contrast, Orthodoxy believes that halacha, if it can change at all,
> needs a far better reason than that. In Orthodoxy, that something hasn't
> been done, at least not in any systematic manner, in 2000 years is ordinarily 
> sufficient reason why it shouldnt be done today. By this test, synagogue 
> innovations with women leading parts of the davening or requiring a superminyan
> to daven, whatever their technical basis, are not Orthodox.

I disagree with this test. If that were true then sermons would be
unorthodox, certainly in the vernacular. So would Bat Mitzvah celebrations.
Carlebach-type services. Kabbalat Shabbat itself. Singing Yedid Nefesh. I am
sure there are more examples. Under your definition, any of these would
render a service or a minyan/synagogue non-orthodox. There may be reasons to
oppose partnership minyanim, but the fact that it introduces something new
is not, in and of itself, a breach of orthodoxy. Chadash Assur Min haTorah
(loosely translated in context as "innovations are prohibited by the Torah")
is not considered universal normative halacha.

From:  David I. Cohen <bdcohen613@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 5,2010 at 04:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

The halachic debate over the permissibility of "Partnership Minyanim" seems
to boil down to, is there a "posek" (a decisor) who allows it? Of course,
it then begs the question who is a "recognized" posek, i.e. one of
sufficient stature that you can follow his p'sak (decision)? And the further
question, are you following his p'sak because it coincides with your
pre-conceived philosophical bent (e.g. Western notions of equality vs.
stricter adherence to traditional norms) or because of that persons gadlut
(great expertise) in Torah?

What I feel that our discussion has lacked is the question of, does the
entire zeitgeist behind the "Partnership" idea or the movements typified by
JOFA etc. include the voluntarily assuming obligations, or is it just being
used as a to express spirituality when you want to, or "when the spirit
moves me"?

Let me see if I can explain: I am currently in the midst of the year of
aveilut for my father. This not only entails being at a minyan twice a day
(something which I did regularly anyway) but also, at least in our
congegation the "chiyuv" (obligation) to lead the davening usually for all 3
services daily. Frankly, although I know it is certainly a huge zechut for
my father's neshama, after a while it is too much, and I find myself being a
bit thankful when there is someone else to take over for a service.

So I wonder, have those who so enthusiastically support and participate in
"Partnership" also taken upon themselves to be a regular at shul every
morning or evening? I realize they they may have no obligation to do so, but
so what? If it is all about finding ways to come closer to God, and, since
we believe that public prayer is the best path to do so, where is everyone?
Friday night they are at Partnership, but nowhere near any kind of minyan
on Wednesday?

I cannot look into anothers mind and see motivation. All I can judge by is
actions. And what I see in the Partnership service is a method by which a
person gets to fulfill a personal desire without any corresponding voluntary
acceptance of obligations and responsibility. Jewish spirituality is not
just what I can do, it is also what I must do.

David I. Cohen


From: Jeremy Conway <jeremy.conway@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 5,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Certification of Scotch Whisky

In response to Immanuel Burton's post in MJ v58 n51, I believe that the London
Beth Din is saying that it allows all types of Scotch whisky, based on the
responsa of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, but it recognises that some people who rely
on Rabbi Moshe Feinstein's heter (dispensation) in relation to Scotch whisky
produced by the "old process" will not necessarily rely on it in relation to
Scotch whisky produced by the new process, for the reasons stated.
I have not reproduced the original post because I do not wish to breach the
London Beth Din's copyright.  I did not reply to Immanuel Burton's earlier post
for the same reason.
Please note that I have the same English name as the London Beth Din's kashrut
director, but I am not the London Beth Din's kashrut director, and I am not
related to him.
Regards from Leeds, England.
Yechiel Conway.

From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 5,2010 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Certification of Scotch Whisky 

I wasn't going to write on whisky any more, lest people think I drink daily.
But the LBD communication is a little confusing.

The issue is very plain.  If you accept R. Moshe's teshuva (which is
accepted also by the Michas Yitzchok, or Dayan Weiss), it does not matter
whether the sherry is put in for taste, since the sherry is no longer sherry
once there is 1 in 6 against the whisky.  This point was clearly made by R.
Moshe against R. Teitz' objection which was indeed that the wine is
introduced for flavor.

On the other hand, if you don't accept R. Moshe's teshuva, the whisky is
forbidden because the entire cask has to be measured against the whisky
inside, and you then need 1 in 60, the usual figure, and you don't have 1 in
60 against the cask. And, it doesn't matter whether the sherry is put in for
flavor or not, since you don't have even 60.


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 5,2010 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Conversion among Knesset members; the proposed Conversion Law

Observe a stormy dialog between MK Michael Ben-Ari and Reform 
clergyman Kariv (head of the Jewish Pluralism Center), as broadcast 
on the Knesset channel in Israel.




From: Eitan Fiorino <afiorino@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Mystical and spiritual influences on halacha

David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...> wrote (MJ 58#48):

> If anyone was influenced by Gentile culture it was the later 
> Lithuanian Yeshiva world of Brisk culminating in the Thinking 
> of Rav Soloveitchik which reflected Western rationalist thought.

Oh, woe is me for continuing to dip my toes into this discussion, which is
certain to be unproductive, lead nowhere, allow all the principles to feel more
secure in their own positions and respect even less the positions of their
opponents.  But like a moth before a flame . . . 

I'll keep it brief.  Kabbalah is actually quite a "hot" area in academics/Jewish
studies, in contrast to David's remark that "it is not politically correct
especially in academic circles."  The only point I wish to make is that one
important theme among many in the vast sea of ink that has been spilt on kabbala
by the likes of Gershom Scholem, Joseph Dan, Moshe Idel, Elliot Wolfson, et al
is that there are enormous cross-cultural influences easily visible between
ideas expressed by kabbalists and mystical trends on other religions, in
particular (and not surprisingly), Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam.

I would love to see David cite some kind of support for his claim that the
methods of Brisk were influenced by non-Jewish culture.  Although David clearly
intended it as a slur on Brisk, I take no offense personally, as I am not a
Brisker and even if I was, I wouldn't find the claim insulting or inherently
problematic.  I'm mostly interested to learn if it is true and if so what were
the boader cultural currents that fostered this development.  I've not seen much
at all on the topic - a comparison to structuralism I've seen, but nothing
making a substantive causal association (I am not certain the timing works for
that anyhow - though both structuralism and Brisk could have emerged from a
common late 19th century European experience).

We've already seen that the RID co-opted the concept of "dwarves on the
shoulders of giants" from contemporary Christian philosphers.  I am always happy
to learn that our forefathers had no problem in grabbing onto a good idea when
they heard one, regardless of the source - unlike our community today which is
ahistorically and irrationally xenophobic regarding the flow of knowledge and ideas.

David, I eagerly await some sources to back up your claim.  If it was merely
intended as a rhetorical flourish, then perhaps you ought to retract it.  Just
for the sake of polite and civil discourse.


From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Tikkun on a Yahrzeit

Stuart Wise <Smwise3@...> wrote (MJ 58#48):

> Can someone provide me with an explanation behind the custom of provid-
> ing tikkun -- cake and schnapps in its most common form -- on a yahrzeit?

Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky said that it stems from the custom to make a siyum
(completion of a book of the Torah) in honor of the yahrtzeit, said siyum
being accompanied by, at least, a lechaim and cake. Somewhere along the way, the
siyum got lost, but the lechaim and cake remained.

> But what exactly does it mean to say L"chaim to the neshamah? It seems
> to suggest that somehow there is something we can say or do on earth
> that could somehow affect the soul of the departed? After a year, does 
> the neshama [soul - MOD] not receive its final reward?

We don't say lechaim to the neshama; we wish the neshama to "have an aliya".
This means an elevation in its state of spirituality/closeness to God. 
The soul receives constant reward for the positive influence the person had
during his lifetime on others. Thus, a son who learns Torah, as evidenced 
by the siyum, does so because his parents raised him in the proper way in 
being a committed Jew.

Just as any person is rewarded for what he does in this life for assisting/
influencing another to do good deeds (the converse is true as well, but not 
our topic), so is the soul rewarded for the good it has done that continues 
to have positive results. So, until the "final" day of judgement, there IS no
final reward after death, or after a year, but continued (vicarious)
opportunities for increased reward.

Hence the wish that soul be elevated at the time of the yahrtzeit which,
I believe, is one of the points at which an assessment of his good influences
is made.



End of Volume 58 Issue 52