Volume 58 Number 77 
      Produced: Wed, 18 Aug 2010 04:22:23 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

    [Mail-jewish team]
Agunot as "victims" 
    [Avraham Walfish]
    [Steven Oppenheimer]
Origins of Bat-Mitzvah Ceremony 
    [Judith Weil]
Rav Yoel Bin-Nun 
    [Aryeh Frimer]
Statement of Principles 
    [Orrin Tilevitz]
Think about these examples carefully. 
    [Jeanette  Friedman]


From: Mail-jewish team
Date: Wed, Aug 18,2010 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Administravia

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done so, please resubmit as an email instead.


From: Avraham Walfish <rawalfish@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 18,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Agunot as "victims"

Rabbi Elazar Teitz wrote (MJ 58#75):

> 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 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...  However, not every prohibition
> allows circumvention...

> Ending a marriage falls into the latter 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.
I sympathize with Rabbi Teitz's umbrage, and I agree that Ms. Graetz has
overstated her case. However, I think Rabbi Teitz has also overstated his. There
is a justified sense that many rabbanim have not gone nearly as far as the
halakhah allows in promoting solutions for *mesoravot* (and *mesoravei*) *get*.
This is readily apparent in *Eretz Yisrael*, where rabbinic courts have
greater leeway in compelling a husband to divorce his wife, but where
leading rabbinic figures have opposed pre-nuptial agreements - which Elazar
supports - and have discovered a range of questionable restrictions on the
authority of the court to compel divorce. 

It is well-known that the recently-retired R. Shlomo Daichovsky, a leading
rabbinic judge, was the most sympathetic rabbi to the plight of *mesoravot get*,
and his halakhic approach to these matters has been spelled out in recent
volumes of *Tehumin*. Unfortunately, the current leadership has a different
approach. I have had personal contact with several women who have languished for
years without a *get*, when more forceful rabbinic leadership could easily have
produced a halakhically valid divorce much much earlier.

I believe, based on second-hand information, that similar differences in
rabbinic philosophy can be observed in the US as well, but I have no
first-hand information regarding this.

Avie Walfish


From: Steven Oppenheimer <steven.oppenheimer@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Hungarian

Szighet was in the county of Marmarosh and technically this was
Transylvania.  My maternal grandfather, A"H was born in Szighet into a
Chasidishe family.  (My sandek was the Szigheter Rov who later became the
Satmarer Rov).  As was common in Chasidishe homes, Yiddish was spoken at
home.  However, education was financed by the government and so learning
Hungarian was compulsory, even in Cheder.

That is why so many Jews of Hungarian origin speak Hungarian among
themselves, even if they also speak Yiddish.

When my grandfather got together with his Hungarian cronies, he spoke with
them in Hungarian.  Furthermore, they all had Hungarian names in addition to
their Hebrew names.

A well known Rabbi in our community (very involved in the Hashgacha world)
who was Hungarian and from a Chasidishe background also spoke Hungarian with
his Hungarian cronies.

This is different than my father, A"H who was born in Germany.  For the most
part he spoke English, even with his German-Jewish friends.

BTW, Maharam Schick wrote a teshuvah defending a rabbi who gave drashas in
the vernacular and not in Yiddish.  He would hardly be considered radical or

I lived in Cleveland from 1970-74 (I was in Dental School at the time) and
davened at the YI in Cleveland Heights (known as the Academy since it was in
the Hebrew Academy).  The Marmarosh Shul had closed and was
being resurrected as the Green Road Synagogue.

I remember people speaking English , Yiddish and Hungarian among themselves
but to the best of my recollection, Rabbi Spero (who spent one Shabbos in
Cleveland Heights and one in University Heights) gave his drashas in

Steven Oppenheimer, D.M.D.


From: Judith Weil <weildj@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 18,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Origins of Bat-Mitzvah Ceremony

Chana wrote (MJ 58#76), regarding a Hamodia report regarding class bas-mitzvo

"Knowing the history, isn't this quite extraordinary.  I wonder how many
other Beis Yaakov's are today doing likewise."

I live in Israel and, as far as I know, something of this type is the norm
at Israeli Beis Yaakov schools. Certainly I have attended such events during
my granddaughters' bas-mitzvo years.



From: Aryeh Frimer <frimera@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 03:56 PM
Subject: Rav Yoel Bin-Nun

Regarding Rav Nin-Nun's position on Women accepting mitzvot from which they are
exempted: See my review of Tamar Ross's book "Guarding the Treasure: 
A Review of Tamar Ross, Expanding the Palace of the King - Orthodoxy and
Feminism, Brandeis University Press, Waltham 2004, xxiv + 342 pp.," Aryeh A.
Frimer, BDD - Journal of Torah and Scholarship, 18, English section, pp. 67-106
(April 2007). 

PDF file of the as published article available online at

http://www.jofa.org/pdf/uploaded/1206-DQLN0171.pdf; pp. 94-98
and extensive notes theretoo, where I discuss R. Bin-Nun's position at length.


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Statement of Principles

I wrote (ML Jewish 58:69):

< I have a question, directed in part at signatories who
are list members: would the same set of principles apply if each time the
document said "homosexual orientations or same sex-attractions"
(or the equivalent) one substituted the broader term, "alternative sexual
lifestyles"? I have in mind, say, spouse-sharing, bigamy, polyandry, and
more. If the same set of principles would not apply, why not?

. . .Is this document intended to have the halacha adapt to
the societal attitudes reflected in this case, and no more?>

Freda Birnbaum wrote (ML Jewish 58:70): 

< . . . the situations are not analogous because the
choices to do the "right thing" are not as difficult as for gay
people. Most of the people who hold with a position similar to the
signatories' believe that the preference/orientation for same-sex relationships
is hard-wired, biological, and not simply "preference".>

That is not a valid distinction. Paragraph 5 of the statement of principles says:

< Whatever the origin or cause of homosexual orientation, many individuals
believe that for most people this orientation cannot be changed. Others believe
that for most people it is a matter of free will. Thus, the signatories to this
document did not base its citation of homosexuality and not other deviant sexual
practices on the notion that homosexuality is unique among deviant sexual
practices in being hard-wired.>

In any event, does Freda have any evidence that this is the case?

Avie Walfish wrote (ML Jewish 58:70):

<The response to the second question is NO. Perhaps Orrin can cite verbatim from
the document which section seems to him to call for adaptation of the halakhah,
and then we can have a meaningful discussion of this point.

In response to the first question - in principle, my answer would be Yes, and I
would add the same for mass murderers and serial rapists: a God-fearing
halakhically-observant Jew should roundly condemn the actions but should respect
the *kevod habriyot* [human dignity - MOD] even of such individuals (par. 1).>

Actually, I am concerned about paragraph 8, which implies that openly practicing
homosexuals should be given full synagogue ritual honors, even if they are not
recognized as members (at least if they . . . accept and fulfill all the
responsibilities of such membership, including those generated by communal norms
or broad Jewish principles that go beyond formal halakha, although I do not
understand how that is possible); and paragraph 9, which implies that it is up
to the congregation to decide whether openly practicing homosexuals may be
shelichei tziibur, even on High Holidays. It is possible, for all I know, that
they may be permitted (although, while I have no access to my seforim at the
moment, I am reasonably sure that the rule that a shatz must be merutzeh lakahal
[acceptable to the congregation, although it means more] does not mean that
anybody who is merutzeh lakahal may act as the shatz), but I would appreciate
clarification either that the signatories of this document felt that these two
items apply equally to practitioners of other, equally halachically forbidden,
sexual lifestyles, or if not, what is the distinction.

I have difficulty believing that Avie, or very many of the signatories,would
welcome into their shuls, let alone call to the Torah or permit to act as
shelichei tzibur, serial rapists, mass murderers, or for that matter people of
the ilk of, say, Baruch Lanner or Bernie Madoff, to take just two of the most
notorious examples of Jews who have hurt other people financially or
emotionally. My question is limited to people who are engaging in a particular
type of sin that is bein adam laMakom, not bein adam lachaveiro.

I also find troubling that this document appears to propose that a shul will
decide halachic matters "whether a practicing homosexual may be a shatz" by
vote. My recollection is that the Conservative movement permitted a congregation
to decide by vote whether to count women in a minyan.

Akiva Miller wrote (ML Jewish 58:75):

<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.>

Ah, but it was their intention. To understand this, you need to read paragraph 8:

<8. Accordingly, Jews with homosexual orientations or same sex-attractions
should be welcomed as full members of the synagogue and school community. As
appropriate with regard to gender and lineage, they should participate and count
ritually, be eligible for ritual synagogue honors, and generally be treated in
the same fashion and under the same halakhic and hashkafic framework as any
other member of the synagogue they join. Conversely, they must accept and
fulfill all the responsibilities of such membership, including those generated
by communal norms or broad Jewish principles that go beyond formal halakha.

We do not here address what synagogues should do about accepting members
who are openly practicing homosexuals and/or living with a same-sex partner.
Each synagogue together with its rabbi must establish its own standard with 
regard to membership for open violators of halakha.>

It says that Jews with homosexual orientations or same-sex attractions should be
given membership and ritual honors, and then qualifies this by saying that they
aren't opining as to whether openly practicing homosexuals shouldnt be given
MEMBERSHIP, NOT that they shouldn't be given synagogue honors.

BTW, I heard on a National Public Radio broadcast today that Princeton
University, which has a Facebook-like system for choosing roommates, forbids
posting photographs to avoid discrimination based on race or sexual orientation.
That's what the broadcast said. Wholly aside from my puzzlement, in my
innocence, as to how one can show sexual orientation in a photograph, perhaps
someone on the list can explain to me why homosexual males (for example) should
not be indulged in their preference to room together, while students with other
common interests should be permitted.


From: Jeanette  Friedman <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 17,2010 at 03:57 PM
Subject: Think about these examples carefully.

OK here's the game. I'll describe somebody from  my shul, and you tell me 
his sect. (There are 5 people -- answers at  bottom.)

(1) Shlomo is an absolute whiz at tanach, who also knows grammar and 
gemarah better than almost anyone I know.  He's got an encyclopedic knowledge of
midrash, too, but at times I've caught him  being disrespectful towards it. 
There's a rumor around the shul that his adult  daughters are a little 
modern - WTGs, I'm afraid - but no one has any proof,  and we're all too shy to 
ask him.  

Is Shlomo:

(a) Yeshivish

(b) Modern Orthodox

(c) Conservadox

(2) Moshe is a doctor, with big-time political  connections. He's also 
studied philosophy at a high level and knows quite a  bit about other religions.
I've never heard him say much about tanach, but  he's been through shas several
times. However, oddly enough, I've heard him  say that gemarah isn't really
relevant to people nowadays. He prefers the law  codes, and thinks they should
be emphasized instead. He agrees with me that  midrashim usually 
aren't to be taken literally. I've also caught him rolling  his eyes when the 
Rabbi says "There are no coincidences". 

Is Moshe:

(a) Yeshivish

(b) Modern Orthodox

(c) Conservadox

(3) Moshe Chaim is often asked by our Rabbi to deliver  musar-style sermons 
on fast days or during the 10 Days of Repentance. He's  certainly qualified 
to be a full-time Rav, but prefers to work in diamonds.  Other then that, 
about the only thing unusual about him is that he doesn't  wear a beard. 

Is Moshe Chaim:

(a) Yeshivish

(b) Modern Orthodox

(c) Conservadox

(4) Yonasan is charismatic, charming, and beloved by everyone. He's a  
serious learner, who knows Talmud and halacha as well as almost anyone, but he  
has a real soft spot for kabbalistic magic. He dabbles in amulets, and the  
like, sometimes at the expense of more concrete learning. Some of us think  
this is why his son and grandson both went off the derech. (His son, its  
rumored, became one of those street-corner messiah types who tell fortunes)  
Yonason has a full beard, and dresses extremely piously. 

Is Yonason:

(a) Yeshivish

(b) Modern Orthodox

(c) Conservadox

(5) Shimon used to work in a circus, and some people say he was also some  
kind of thief. All of that was before his marriage, which was arranged by 
one  of the local Torah scholars after a chance, slightly embarrassing meeting 
(the  less said about that the better) . Since the wedding, he's been 
learning  pretty much 24/7 and Shimon is far and away the most diligent learner
I know.  He says his formidable grasp of Torah devolves from the glimpse he 
once caught  of the godol hador, and believe me: he means it. 

Is Shimon:

(a) Yeshivish

(b) Modern Orthodox

(c) Conservadox


Shlomo is Rashi
Moshe is Rambam
Moshe Chaim  is Ramchal
Yonnason is Yonason Eybeschutz
Shimon is Shimon ben Lakish,  known as Resh Lakish
All details are true to their biographies
Jeanette  Friedman co-author with David Gold
Why Should I Care? Lessons from the  Holocaust
_www.whyshouldicareontheweb.com_ (http://www.whyshouldicareontheweb.com/) 
The  Wordsmithy


End of Volume 58 Issue 77