Volume 58 Number 56 
      Produced: Sun, 08 Aug 2010 12:50:32 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Chillul H-shem? 
    [Mordechai Horowitz]
Conservative Judaism 
    [Ira L. Jacobson]
Is Rabbi Daniel Sperber a posek? 
    [Mordechai Horowitz]
Magical Influences on Halacha 
    [Russell J Hendel]
Women Rabbis 
    [Russell J Hendel]
Writing to a non-religious paper about halachic matters 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Mordechai Horowitz <mordechai@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Chillul H-shem?

Martin wrote (MJ 58#48):

> I think Mordechai is being a bit unfair to assume that his Rabbi is
> motivated by financial considerations. Since the wealthy retired
> Conservative Rabbi has left the Conservatives now attends his Orthodox shul,
> we should be melamed zchut [make the best interpretation about him] and
> assume he has done teshuvah [repented] on his previous connection with the
> Conservative movement

You forget he is a real person who sits right behind me in shul.  He is 
proud of the way he lived his life and like many of his generation he 
believes that being in the Conservative movement was a good thing and 
that he contributed to bringing people closer to Torah. His behavior was 
quite common in his era when Orthodoxy looked to by dying and the 
Conservative movement was a lot more traditional than it is today.

My gripe is not with my friend the retired Rabbi but with the hypocrisy 
of my shul Rabbi who honored him at the shul dinner and spoke 
glowingly of his life, then sat down at his table where he sat next to another
millionaire and his non-Jewish wife.

All at the same time he was enforcing a ban on another congregant 
leading davening even when he was a mourner for leading services 3 times 
a year at a Conservative shul.


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 8,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Conservative Judaism

In MJ 58 #54, Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...> stated the following:

> I agree that the percentage of Conservative Jews who are halachically  
> observant is not as high as the movement would wish, but the movement itself 
> calls for halachic observance, even though details of its opinions on certain 
> aspects of kashrut might not match the Orthodox definition.

I have culled a few gems from the Web to indicate the adherence of this group to
> In consideration of fellow Heichal Baoranim congregants and others attending 
> Heichal Baoranim's pot luck seder on April 11th who may be observing Passover 
> dietary restrictions, below are some guidelines ...

> Weekday morning minyans
> Please contact Beth Ami's office (360-3000) a week in advance of the date you 
> would like to have services held (to say Kaddish, read Torah, memorialize a
> special event) and we will do our best to secure a minyan. Time for these 
> services would be Mondays-Fridays at 7:30 am, Sundays at 8:30 am. 
> Torah reading occurs on Mondays and Thursdays.

These should set us back to reality rather than let us indulge in wishful thinking.



From: Mordechai Horowitz <mordechai@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Is Rabbi Daniel Sperber a posek?

Michael Rogovin writes (MJ 58 #49):

> Very strong words and very misleading. First of all, while he may be a
> daat yachid [isolated opinion of a single person], Rabbi Daniel Sperber
> is an Orthodox poseq and has been for many years. While his reasoning has
> been challenged by others (most recently by Rabbis Riskin and Rabbis Dov
> and Aryeh Frimer, the latter available online at the RCA blog)

Who considers Rabbi Daniel Sperber a posek?  He's a college professor 
not a Rosh Yeshiva. That he has a daughter who is the founder of Bat Kol a 
lesbian group that claims to be Orthodox might suggest he has a personal
interest in these "egalitarian" practices.

As, from what I can tell, he is unwilling to dissociate himself from such 
activity he marginalizes himself to the point of being irrelevant to the 
larger debates within the Torah community, regardless of the strength of 
any argument he makes.  Leaders on the left of the Torah community such 
as Rabbi Riskin, Rabbin Henkin, Rabbi Brovender and even Rabbi Weiss are 
keeping themselves in the mainstream while pushing the needed issues 
relating to womens issues, womens learning and womens leadership, leading 
to them being actually effective in meeting the needs of the Centrist 
Orthodox Torah community.

Yes the non-orthodox Union of Traditional Judaism likes him 
http://viewpoints.utj.org/?p=593 but you don't see anyone in the Torah 
community following Rabbi Sperber.

Personally I think Rabbi Weiss's biggest mistake in ordaining Rabba 
Horowitz was including someone as questionable as Sperber in the process.


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 8,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Magical Influences on Halacha

Several people (e.g. Susan Kane, MJ 58#43) seem now to argue:
> I understand that you are a rationalist and respect that, but ... why can't
> the rest of us have a little fun? To me, a religion without ritual and a bit
> of superstition is like health food 365 days of the year.  I know it's good
> for me, but it has no "ta'am" (taste).

I think this objection should be answered. How should it be answered? First, let
us find what fundamental need is being met by these superstitions which are
driving people like Susan to have non-halachic fun. Then we will ask how Judaism
meets these needs. My position is that if people like Susan met their needs
through Jewish ways they would no longer feel the need to have fun in
non-halachic ways.

Susan claims she is having **fun** through superstitions. What type of fun.
Certainly not sexual or gastronomical fun. I would submit that she is having fun
and fulfilling the human need to express deep seated desires **symbolically.**
Man has symbolic needs especially for serious emotions. If he belongs to a
country he needs to express this symbolically with its flag. Placing a key in a
baked challah is engaging in symbolic gestures to express our deep needs. It
gives us what Susan calls **taam.** As Rav Hirsch pointed out, we need not even
be aware of the symbolic meaning of the act when we perform it. The symbolism is
either conscious or latent and positively affects us.

(In passing, the opposition to symbolism came from figures like Immanuel Kant
who saw no value in them. Most people are unaware that Kant was never married.
All married couples engage in symbolic gestures to express their love towards
one another. This symbolism gives the marriage **ta'am.** Kant denied  symbolism
because he lacked certain adult emotions Like most non-symbolists he was a
brilliant technician and made significant contributions to particle physics.)

But now that we have identified an emotional need -- symbolic expression -- I
can ask how Judaism meets that need. It turns out, besides the numerous symbolic
commandments, Judaism advocates meeting symbolic needs through dreams. Dreams in
Judaism are considered as coming from the spiritual world. All dreams when
properly interpreted give us spiritual insights. Non-prophetic dreams are
mentioned in the Bible (e.g. Joseph's and Pharoh's dreams) as influencing
history. Science (the so-called rationalists) also has many dream stories (e.g.
the hexagonical structure of the benzene dream was first inspired by a scientist
dreaming of a snake biting its tale---till that time molecules were conceived as
sets of connected atoms; benzene introduced the idea of geometrical
configuration of molecules).

So returning to Susan's request for **fun**: I would suggest she keep a dream
diary and try and understand her own dream symbols. All dreamers attest to
having fun with dream interpretation. I believe if Susan engages in this her
need to play games with keys and challahs will go away.

Susan asks:

> Why does it bother rationalists so much if other people worry about the
> evil eye or mazal or segulot?  No one said that you have to do it.

Well first: I have not been advocating rationalism - I have been advocating
symbolic engagement. Second the reason it bothers me and should bother her is
the God-man relationship. I have previously explained that the prohibition of
superstition is a prohibition of symbolically interpreting the real world vs.
the dream world. God wants man to be in two worlds - the spiritual dream world
and the real physical world. They cannot be blurred. For one thing by placing
keys in challahs one is disturbing the God-man relationship. Instead of
passively dreaming and **listening** to the communication of the **spiritual**
world, we are imposing our own desires. To use Buber's terminology we have no
I-Thou relationship. We are demanding things from God without listening to what
he wants.

The above are basic ideas and themes. This could be developed into a thread. I
believe modern Judaism has forsaken dreams and we modern orthodox (all flavors)
are suffering. 

In closing let me just address Rose Landowne's statement (MJ 58#44):

> I think these practices help us to focus on what our hopes and dreams are,
> and enable us to express our goals in a way that makes it clear that we
> recognize that the outcome depends both on our actions and God's plan for us.

I think the correct halachic response is that individuals can create individual
symbols to reinforce their desires. But if a symbol initially had superstitious
origin (like placing keys in challah) it should not be further continued even
with correct intentions.

I look forward to further discussion.

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


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 8,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Women Rabbis

It might be worthwhile to discuss WHY women can't be Rabbis. 

First things first. It has nothing to do with ability. Women CAN be prophets and
prophecy requires a very high intellectual ability. Furthermore WOMEN prophets
are seen as superior to men in several contexts (e.g. Sarah vs. Abraham on the
banishment of Ishmael, Deborah vs. Barak on the war activities, Ester vs.
Mordechai on appearing before the king). Bottom line: Judaism considers women
EQUAL to men in intellectual ability and for that matter prophetic ability.

Of course the official reason that women can't be Rabbis is that the thrice
REPEATED word KING (masculine) in Dt. 17-14:15 creates an emphasis that the King
must be male not female (If it just said KING once it would not exclude females)
. Then using the Rabbi Ishmael GENERALIZATION rule we infer that all PUBLIC
positions must similarly be male. (There is a separate prohibition of female
witnesses which I don't believe affects this).

So far so good. But WHY? I would first mention Rabbi Manis Friedman's point in
his book "Doesn't anyone blush anymore" Rabbi Friedman points out that this is
the first generation that has a gender identity crisis. Men and women have
confusion about their gender identity. This has created numerous psychosocial

So you may not like this but the real reason why public positions are male is to
create an atmosphere that encourages the men to do research but not the women (I
have already made it abundantly clear that women can be prophets and that
requires excellence and erudition in learning - so this atmosphere is not
directed at the individual but rather as a majority social norm). Just to
clarify a "true" Rabbi doesn't press buttons to get an answer. Rather he spends
much time doing research. Furthermore the true Rabbi should spend much time each
day "reviewing" law sources so they are on the tip of the tongue. Such time
demands are inconsistent with the majority interest of women to raise children.
So without trying to prohibit women from learning we nevertheless want an
atmosphere where time consuming items are encouraged by males leaving women time
to raise children.

This analysis has several points which may go unnoticed unless made explicit. I
am NOT attacking women but MEN. Most male Rabbis "learn like women." They know
some sources and devote their Rabbinate position to social matters. They are not
living up to the true male conception of Rabbi. So the problem is not ordaining
a female Rabbi. The problem is straightening out the men. If ALL Rabbis spent
huge amount of times reviewing by heart Jewish law and doing research I dont
think very many women would want the job.

Second: Although my explanation may not be popular it is a criticism of modern
American values. The ideal American family (as revealed by statistics) has two
parties working, each with a "fulfilled job" but only has time for 2-3 children.
And no wonder Americans are so unhappy. Happiness does not come from a "job" -
it comes from the creation of people.

So I am all for criticizing ordaining female Rabbis PROVIDED the criticism is
accompanied by the two other criticisms above: (A) We must encourage large
families (and to do that we must make sure that women feel comfortable, not
trapped); (B) We must criticize traditional Male Rabbis as not learning enough.

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


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 8,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Writing to a non-religious paper about halachic matters

Last Friday, I had a letter published in the Jewish Telegraph, a local not
specifically religious weekly, in response to an article that had appeared a
few weeks previously:

> I WAS mystified by the mea culpa of your columnist Leita Donn over cleaning up
> the food that spilled recently on Shabbat.
> I cannot understand why she thought this must be an infringement of the
> prohibition of melachah (loosely translated work but really a technical
> term) on Shabbat.
> Even after spilling on to the floor, the food had not become completely
> inedible  I am sure the floor had been cleaned adequately.
> Even if one would not wish to eat it, one could still feed it to one's pet (if
> one had one) so it was definitely not muktsah (something that cannot be moved
> on Shabbat).
> However, should this not have been the case the spilled food would have had
> the status of a graf shel re'i (literally a chamber pot, but extended to
> include anything similarly unpleasant that disturbs one's enjoyment of
> Shabbat) which can be removed.
> So what she did when she "collected up as much as [she] could, but didn't give
> the floor a good cleaning till after Shabbat" was perfectly in order and was
> not, as she feared, "technically infringing our day of rest".
> This illustrates the truth of the saying that "a little learning is a
> dangerous thing".
> I would recommend that she take advantage of one of the excellent SEED
> programmes to broaden her knowledge of halacha so that she should understand
> the nature of melachah on Shabbat and not feel burdened by such unnecessary
> guilt feelings over doing something that may well be permitted.

This produced a response from a reader:

> I agreed with your comments about melacha, but I felt that your letter was
> misleading because (a) people might think that they can clean the kitchen
> floor on Shabbat in any manner they with, and (b) people might extrapolate
> from the case of a kitchen floor to the case of a carpeted floor.
> My view with regard to the kitchen floor is that the food is not a graf shel
> re'i until it starts to smell and that it is not muktzeh.

> I might write to the Jewish Telegraph, because I don't want people to jump to
> the wrong conclusions and inadvertently break Shabbat.  I think that it is
> important when writing to a non-religious paper about halachic matters to
> consider the issues in detail.

In reply, I wrote back to him:

> As regards (a), Leita Donn wrote (and I quoted her in my letter) that she
> "collected up as much as [she] could, but didn't give the floor a good
> cleaning till after Shabbat" and I commented on that that that was perfectly
> in order and was not, as she feared, "technically infringing our day of rest".
> I don't see why people should extrapolate from the case of a kitchen floor to
> the case of a carpeted floor. In any case I recommended that "she take
> advantage of one of the excellent SEED programmes to broaden her knowledge of
> halacha so that she should understand the nature of melachah on Shabbat and
> not feel burdened by such unnecessary guilt feelings over doing something that
> may well be permitted" which would apply to anyone else who reads it.

I agree that, perhaps, I should have given more emphasis to the fact that
the floor was in the kitchen (as stated in the original article) and the
same would not apply to a carpeted area but I still think it is valuable to
point out that not everything is chillul Shabbat and encourage people to
study the halachot to find out what is muttar and what assur.

What do others on mail-jewish think about using the non-religious press in
this manner?

Martin Stern


End of Volume 58 Issue 56