Volume 58 Number 75 
      Produced: Tue, 17 Aug 2010 17:19:25 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"statement of principles" regarding homosexuality 
    [Akiva Miller]
Agunot as "victims" 
    [Elazar M. Teitz]
Converts (2)
    [Batya  Medad  David Tzohar]
Homosexual as a Cantor/Shat"z 
    [Martin Stern]
    [David Tzohar]
Partnership Minyan halakhic process answers 
    [Leah S.R. Gordon]
Rashi and Yiddish 
    [Sammy Finkelman]
Reish Lakish 
    [Elazar M. Teitz]
Shidduchim (Was Mental Health Needs) 
    [Carl Singer]
Wedding invitations 
Who is a Posek? 
    [ David I. Cohen]
Who married Cain?  (2)
    [Bernard Raab]


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 16,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: "statement of principles" regarding homosexuality

Russell J Hendel wrote in MJ 58:72:

> On the other hand, I objected mildly to #5,#10. I strongly
> demurred to #7-#9,#11-12.

I suspect that all of Russell's objections are based on his presumption that
when the statement used the word "homosexuals" it referred to "those who engage
in homosexual activity". My belief is that this was not their intention, and
they merely meant to refer to "those who are attracted to the same gender"
regardless of whether they act on those attractions.

I could go into detail on each of these items, but I think that if anyone would
reread those paragraphs with this in mind, the statement would be clearly less
objectionable that it appears to Russell.

On a side point, Russell wrote:

> What would have happened to Talmudic Judaism if Resh Lakish (who
> according to many opinions was homosexual) did not marry Rabbi
> Jochanan's sister.

This is the first time I've ever heard anyone claim any sage to be homosexual.
Can anyone show where these opinions are recorded?

Akiva Miller


From: Elazar M. Teitz <remt@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 03:57 PM
Subject: Agunot as "victims"

Referring to the problem of aguna, Naomi Graetz writes (MJ 58#74):

> It is the rabbis of today who by their  refusal to solve this problem are
> party to the perpetuation of the tragedy of aginut.  It is well-documented
> that in earlier generations, our rabbis were so lenient that they accepted
> the testimony of one witness (rather than two), a child, a woman (even the
> wife) rather than allow her to remain an agunah, so that she could get on
> with her life (see the discussion in Yevamot 116b). 

As a rabbi who spends a good part of his time trying to resolve problems of
iggun, and who deals with many other rabbonim who do likewise, I take umbrage at
the accusation that the rabbis of today are "refus[ing] to solve this problem."
 There are two ways a marriage can terminate: death and get.  The leniency
referred to in Yevamot did not create a third method.  All it did was to lower
the level of proof necessary to establish that one of the existing methods,
death of the husband, did indeed take place, but it is his death, not the
leniency, which terminates the marriage.  (Parenthetically, the sages added
harsh consequences if it turned out that the death did not take place, and
relied on the expectation that the wife would therefore thoroughly investigate
the truth of his death before remarrying.) 

There is no "magic bullet" for ending a marriage (unless one shoots the
husband).  The methods that have been offered, such as Rabbi Rackman's, are
unfortunately halachically unfounded.  There are some prohibitions for which
legal loopholes can be found; e.g., we are prohibited from owning chametz on
Pesach, and we can circumvent its destruction by selling it to a non-Jew. 
However, not every prohibition allows circumvention; for example, there is no
loophole permitting the eating of pork.  Ending a marriage falls into the later
category.  For the future, the solution is the use of a halachically and legally
valid pre-nuptial agreement. For existing cases, unfortunately, only social and
financial pressure can be brought to bear, and is not always successful; but it
does not justify extra-halachic means. 

Miss Graetz concluded her remarks by stating 

> What is "sad" is that the great mitzvah of "matir assurim"(freeing prisoners)
> which in the past lead to kulot (leniencies) are today being replaced by a
> tendency to humrot (stringencies). 

    It should be pointed out that great as the mitzva is, one cannot be "matir
assurim" (freeing prisoners) by being "matir issurim" (permitting that which is

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From: Batya  Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 03:56 PM
Subject: Converts

Deborah Wenger wrote (MJ 58#74):

> If that is the case, why do some organizations - National Council of
> Young Israel, for one - prohibit converts from becoming shul rabbis
> or shul presidents? If, as Martin (correctly, IMHO) states, a convert
> and a born Jew are equal, why should a convert who has achieved a
> level of learning that qualifies him to be a rabbi be prohibited from
> being one in a shul? Wouldn't this be contrary to treating the convert
> equally, not to mention bringing up his past, which is also prohibited?

As far as I'm concerned, Young Israel has made a very serious mistake in
their reading of Hebrew.  "Ger" is stranger, but "ger tzedek" is
convert.  We are midarayta forbidden to discriminate against converts.


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 03:56 PM
Subject: Converts

Converts are not completely equal to born Jews. 

A woman convert cannot marry a cohen. 

The progeny of two converts have the din of converts until one of
them marries a born (see the first simanin in Tur, SA Even HaEzer).

A convert cannot hold any position of authority. Obviously this would
include a pulpit Rabbi along the lines of the American model where the rabbi
is a community leader. 

Converts can be talmidei chachamim and even Gedolei Hador as were Shmaya and
Avtalion (some say that they were sons of converts).


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 03:56 PM
Subject: Homosexual as a Cantor/Shat"z

Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...> wrote (MJ 58#74):

> Well, just to test the waters, my friend's son is a homosexual, he is
> married to his partner and they have a child from India, from a woman
> impregnated by one of them.

As far as halachah is concerned, Yisrael's friend's son's arrangement is not
a marriage. If he is Jewish and the mother of the child was not, as seems to
be implied by Yisrael's words, then he is not considered to be its father at
all, however it was conceived. Hence this case is entirely irrelevant to our

Martin Stern


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 03:56 PM
Subject: Innovations

Bernard Raab in MJ 58#73 praises the Bais Ya'akov movement and rightly so.I think
there is no comparison between Bais Yakov in the realm of education and the
demand of women in the 21st century c.e. for equality in the realm of
halacha regarding ritual, marriage and divorce.

A good present day comparison would be to the Bais Yakov movement is the
training of toanot rabbaniot, who learn the halachot of family law in order
to represent women in the Rabbinical courts. IMHO this has nothing to do
with societal change.

As for "letting the genie out of the bottle", this is a poor choice of
metaphor. After all in Arabic folklore the genie was a kind of demon and
therefore we would say that it is from the "sitra achra" (the other,
demonic, side).
David Tzohar


From: Leah S.R. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 16,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Partnership Minyan halakhic process answers

I wrote (MJ 58#66):

> There was a large contingent of people who felt that it undermines any
> idea of "waiting" at all, if you go ahead with just the count of men;
> others felt that this was absolutely clear according to the Orthodox halakha, 
> and must be decided so.  Yet others felt that we could avoid the problem by
> taking different interpretations (e.g. chabad) for making zmanim late enough
> to avoid the question.  One group believed that it is a social problem,
> and that any shul worth its salt should get the 10/10 by zman with no
> issue.In fact, this last group has a point; the wait/not-wait issue has not
> come up in practice yet.

David I. Cohen replied (MJ 58#71):

> I am confused. If the Rav who was the posek for this minyan ruled, how
> is it that different contingents could differ? After all, wasn't the rav who
> gave his imprimatur to allow this service in the first place? Without that, 
> what gave your group the halachic sanction to proceed?

The Rav in question is for our minyan, Minyan Tehillah.  He is our Local
Rav, not the general permission-giver, if there is such a person, for
minyanim in general.  If you meant to ask, how could different contingents
differ in opinion in our own minyan, um...have you ever been to a shul
meeting?  ;)  Obviously, people had different opinions on the issue and
made them known, until the psak was given, and then everyone has been

David I. Cohen continued:

> Second point of confusion: Some felt you could avoid the time issue by
> adopting Chabad's practice as to times of prayer. Are you saying that
> Chabad approves Partnership services?  If not, isn't this choosing various
> halachik positions to drive an agenda? That would, IMHO, not be the halachic
> method.

As a matter of fact, that is what our Rav told this group of people.  I'm glad
we have some common ground.

Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Rashi and Yiddish

Perets Mett <p.mett@...> wrote (MJ 58#68):

> Rashi almost certainly spoke a language which ultimately transformed into
> Yiddish.

Martin Stern replied (MJ 58#69):

> AFAIK, Rashi spoke Old French, evidence for which is that his lo'azim
> (translations) are in that language.

> Yiddish seems to be derived from Old German, which Rashi describes as
> Lashon Ashkenaz, not Old French even if a few words were borrowed from
> that language.

But Rashi knew that too.

According to the book "the Rishonim" edited by Rabbis Nosson Scherman
and Meir Zlotowitz (Mesorah Publications 1982), a very good book which is easy
to consult (there was a follow-up book the the Early Acharonim which I don't
know if it is still in print and no further was written), Rashi (which
stands for Rabbi Shlomo Itzchaki) grew up in Troyes, where there had
been many scholars for over 40 years before his birth. He then
traveled to Mainz and Worms to study under the students of R' Gershom
"Meor Hagolah" . They name 3 Rabbis he studied under.

At the age of 25 he returned to Troyes to get married but constinued
to travel abroad to learn more,  despite great personal deprivation.

Perets Mett <p.mett@...> responded (MJ 58#70):

> The Yiddish-language scholar Solomon Birnbaum (and others) consider 
> Zarphatic (Judeo-French) to be the forerunner of Yiddish.

Maybe a few words and terms, like maybe bench and daven originated
there, but I don't see how you have say any form of Old French was a
forerunner of Yiddish.


From: Elazar M. Teitz <remt@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 03:57 PM
Subject: Reish Lakish

Russell Hendel writes (58#72):

> What would have happened to
> Talmudic Judaism if Resh Lakish (who according to many opinions was homosexual)
> did not marry Rabbi Jochanan's sister.

This parenthetic remark, disparaging one of the greatest Amoraim [post-Mishnaic
scholars in the Talmud], is not one that can be passed over lightly.  Dr. Hendel
owes it to us to cite the "many opinions," and if he cannot, he owes it to Reish
Lakish and to k'vod haTorah [the honor of the Torah] to issue a public mea culpa.



From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 03:56 PM
Subject: Shidduchim (Was Mental Health Needs)

Martin Stern (MJ58#74) notes

> I think Frank is generalising a bit too much. While it is undoubtedly the
> case that too many parents are put off by isolated cases of mental illness
> in a family, but where there are several cases it might suggest some
> hereditary tendency. In that case, it would make sense to ask for further
> information. Would he wish to risk one of his children getting married to
> someone who later developed a serious personality disorder or have children
> similarly afflicted.

Note please,  Downs syndrome is not a mental health issue, but nonetheless
is relevant to the above discussion re: heredity and genetics.

I know a family with 5 children (the youngest is now 30ish)

The two eldest children are physicians - both very bright.  #3  is a teacher
/ housewife,  #5 is a successful professional in the financial services

#4 has downs syndrome

One would think, theoretically that #4 child's condition would have no
bearing on the shidduch opportunities for the others.  Genetics vs. social

Fact is it DID -- in a fertile sidduch world (Greater NYC)  #4 was an
immediate turn off to many families.  Rational? No!   Actual? Yes!

Since my wife is a former school principal I am aware of (not by name due to
privacy)  parents who denied their children diagnosis and treatment lest the
word get out and impact the shidduch chances for this child and his / her



From: Chana <Chana@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 03:56 PM
Subject: Wedding invitations

Martin Stern <md.stern@...> writes (MJ 58#65):

> There is an even more obnoxious custom in certain chassidic circles to
> omit the name of the bride as well. I was told that this is because of the
> fear that mentioning a female name might arouse the passions of males who
> might be led to sinful thoughts or even actions! 

Well if this is indeed the case then as a necessary consequence, we must
stop all men reading the Torah, because that document contains any number
female names (Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah spring to mind).  Clearly
therefore men should be prohibited from learning Torah lest it become
k'tiflus [like sexual foolishness/immorality] (if not indeed tiflus [sexual
foolishness/immorality] itself).

On the other hand Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...> writes (MJ 58#66):

> But my preferred guess is that the above is *not* the reason for this
> practice. Tznius - modesty - is not only about hiding one's body to avoid
> arousing passions. In its fuller sense, tznius is about stepping out of
> the limelight, and not being the focus of attention. This perspective makes it
> simpler to understand why some women might not want their named publicized.

Indeed, and as we all know, today's women are on a higher level of tznius
than the aforementioned Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah.  Presumably, instead
of crying over her children, Rachel Imanu was crying over her inclusion in
the Torah by HKBH by name (!) and the blow to her tznius that resulted
(presumably HQBH, or was it Yermiyahu (being a mere man), just didn't
understand and got it all wrong).

Chana Luntz


From:  David I. Cohen <bdcohen613@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 03:56 PM
Subject: Who is a Posek?

IN MJ 58#70 I wrote:

"It is reported that Rav YB Soleveitchik began to give his shiurim at YU in
English when he found out that one of his students did not understand

Obviously the last word should read "Yiddish".

David I. Cohen


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 03:56 PM
Subject: Who married Cain? 

Scott Spiegler wrote (MJ 58#74):

> I was having a discussion with a friend about the problem of who married
> Cain. I read somewhere that Cain and Abel each had a twin sister, and so
> each married the other twin. Whether or not that posed genetic problems, it
> seems to me that that answer only begs the question of who married Cain's
> children and so forth.
> I would be interested in hearing some discussion about this dilemma and how
> Chazal provides solution(s).

And who was Cain fearful of, that "they" would kill him? Rashi suggests the
animals, but would the animals have been able to recognize the mark which haShem
gave Cain to protect him? And who did he build a city for, in the land of Nod? I
asked these questions as a child in Talmud Torah and my rebbe then said that Gd
had created other people which He didn't bother to tell us about. I asked the
same question last year at a shiur by a prominent MO rabbi who teaches at YU,
and he said that my rebbe's answer is correct. I was astonished, not at his
specific answer, but at the thought that our rabbis still (again?) cling to the
literal interpretation of "maase bereshit", even if it requires some creative
embellishment. Is this further evidence of the overwhelming influence (or fear?)
of the charedi community?

Bernie R.

From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Who married Cain?

Scott Spiegler asked (MJ 58#72)

>  Who married Cain's children and so forth.

It says in the Torah for every generation from Adam "Vayoled Bonim
U'Vanos" - and he (gave birth to - what's the right English word here)
sons and daughters.


End of Volume 58 Issue 75