Volume 59 Number 11 
      Produced: Tue, 31 Aug 2010 08:32:35 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

    [Jeanette  Friedman]
Fixed Seat in Shul (5)
    [Joseph Kaplan]
Intersex states 
    [Josh Backon]
Is Minyan Biblical or Rabbinic? 
Oral Sex 
    [Yisrael  Medad]
Shaliach Tzibur Practices 
    [Sammy Finkelman]


From: Jeanette  Friedman <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 30,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Bullying

Robert Book wrote (MJ 59#09):
> Going beyond my personal experiences, there are many institutions that
> attempt to "educate" so-called straight people by subjecting them to
> public humiliation to "sensitize" them.  (The most recent  widely
> publicized program of this sort was at the University of  Delaware;
> there have also been instances in public K-12  schools.)
Where I come from, this and almost everything else you describe is good  
old-fashioned, disgusting bullying, which is on the increase across the  
board -- from political and sexual points of view, to religious bullying by
anyone who thinks they are better than you are--especially when they use the 
internet to destroy another person. Among young people this has caused a rash of
In my experience bullying accomplished one of two things: it either creates 
more bullies, who get worse the older they get and refine their "bullying" 
so it is not always seen as bullying, though it is always manipulation of 
the thought  processes of others (creating a fear factor, preventing a 
person from telling the truth, infringing on the rights of a person to act of 
his own free will) or it creates wounded people who have no self-esteem or 
worse, get to the point where they commit suicide. (see my website and all 
the media stuff on bullying.  Not a day goes by when it's not an issue, and 
everyone is trying to cope with it everywhere on every level).
Jeanette  Friedman 


From: Chips <chips@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Fixed Seat in shul

Carl Singer <carl.singer@...> wrote (MJ 59#09):

> Does anyone contend that occasionally not sitting in one's makom kevuah (for
> a supposedly valid reason) negates that mitzvah, or that the mitzvah (if it
> is one) of giving one's seat to a guest (thus the mitzvah of welcoming a
> guest or a stranger) should be ignored at the expense of this mitzvah?

a: Carl should define "occasionally" more precisely

b: I'm pretty sure that how a male views a 'makom kevuah' depends 
on how highly it was regarded in the place he went to shul as a child 
and/or the Yeshiva he went to. Some people AND Rabbis are not so 
dismissive of the concept. I know of shuls and yeshivas where guests 
were required to move. In my years it has happened to me and I was not 
insulted or put upon in the least when "asked" to move.

That being written, it does seem to me that a person forfeits the 'makom 
kevuah' if they come a few minutes late and a guest would have a 'right' 
to argue against moving - especially if it meant moving to an area of the 
shul with talkers.

Life is tough some times and some times you have to pick the lesser 
poison or no poison at all. (yes, I have left shuls that were noisy)

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Fixed Seat in shul

Alexander Seinfeld <seinfeld@...> wrote (MJ 59#10):

> Carl Singer <carl.singer@...> wrote (MJ 59#09):
>> Does anyone contend that occasionally not sitting in one's makom kevuah (for
>> a supposedly valid reason) negates that mitzvah, or that the mitzvah (if it
>> is one) of giving one's seat to a guest (thus the mitzvah of welcoming a
>> guest or a stranger) should be ignored at the expense of this mitzvah?
> Or how about the prohibition against embarrassing someone? It is highly
> embarrassing to be asked (told) to move when you are a stranger in shul.

IMHO this could be avoided if *all* members saw it as their *duty* to greet
visitors and offer them a place that they know will be free (together with a
siddur and chumash). Also it might be a good idea to put up a prominent
notice in the entrance saying something like "We welcome visitors and
reserve seats for them. If you need hospitality, we would be thrilled to
offer you a meal. Please do not feel embarrassed to ask anyone present for help."
> If you ever asked someone to move out of your seat, you may have been guilty
> of a serious aveira (sin) and need to ask their forgiveness.

If, after instituting the suggestions I have made, a visitor insists on
choosing to sit in someone's fixed place, then I would suggest that they
have brought any such embarrassment on themselves.
> By the way, most people think that "makom kavua" means a specific seat. It
> actually means within 4-amot (about 6 feet) of your normal seat. So if you
> sit in the row in front or behind, you are still 100% in your "makom kavua".
> Therefore needing to be in an exact seat is more of a conceit than a Jewish
> concept.

This is all very well except where assigned seats have storage facilities
and the owner keeps his tallit and tefillin in them. In such cases, it is an
inconvenience, to say the least, to find it occupied by someone who does not
have the courtesy to move, though one would hope that nobody would actually
prevent the owner from retrieving his things.

There are two sides to every problem.

Martin Stern

From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Fixed Seat in shul

Alexander Seinfeld wrote in v59 #10:

> By the way, most people think that "makom kavua" means a specific 
> seat. It actually means within 4-amot (about 6 feet) of your normal 
> seat. So if you sit in the row in front or behind, you are still 
> 100% in your "makom kavua". Therefore needing to be in an exact seat
> is more of a conceit than a Jewish concept.

We know (from Gesher HaHayyim) that a mourner must change his seat by 
at least four cubits.  And Arukh HaShulhan 90:23 (also MB 90:26) tell 
us that every four cubits is regarded as a single place, so that 
would seem to be the definition of a fixed place in a synagogue.  Or 
in practical terms, perhaps a circle centered on one's regular seat 
with a 4-cubit radius.  Or perhaps three seats away from one's 
regular seat in any direction -- depending on the size and spacing of 
seats and rows.

I had stated the following in V59 #08:

> On the other hand, I have heard of a shul that set a rule to the 
> effect that if you come after Barukh She'amar, you have no right to 
> ask the occupier of your seat to move.

After being questioned off list on the accuracy of this description, 
I therefore wish to restate more clearly.  On the other hand, I have 
heard of a shul that set a rule to the effect that if you come after 
a certain point (since this was not my shul, I don't recall if it was 
Barukh She'amar (Ashkenaz) or Hodu (Sfard), or Shokhein Ad), you have 
no right to ask the "trespasser" to move.

My assumption here was that I think the sheli'ah tzibbur begins with 
the berakhot (and so, it's a fairly long time even until he reaches 
Barukh She'amar on Shabbat and Yomtov, and especially if the Nusah is 
Sefarad).  By the way, the term is Birkhot Hashahar (semikhut).  (See 
note below.)

While I hardly think that changing one's seat rather than keeping a 
permanent place is a capital crime, the halakha as I understand it is 
clear with regard to having a fixed seat, as it is with regard to 
mishkav zekhur (lehavdil).

On the theme of Hebrew grammar, I am reminded that I have seen in MJ 
several various versions of the Hebrew term for the male homosexual 
act.  It should never be performed by a Jew, but it should be written 
and pronounced "mishkav ZEKHUR," where the second word is written 
sheva-zayin, khaf refuya, qubutz, resh.


From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Fixed Seat in Shul

Menashe Elyashiv <Menashe.Elyashiv@...> wrote (MJ 59#10):

> BTW, last year, we were not able to open the womens section because we
> received our new building on Erev Rosh Hashana afternoon. On Yom Kippur
> towards Ne'ela, some non religious soldiers came with their female 
> officer. I went outside to explain to her that even though no women came
> this year,..."

I found this BTW story interesting and am curious about a few things:

1.  What was the community using for a shul before the new building? Did it have
a place for women to daven?  If it did, could it not have been used for the
Yomim Nora'im so women could daven with the community on those days as well?

2.  What did the women of the community think about not being able to daven with
the community on the Yomim Nora'im?

Joseph Kaplan

From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Fixed Seat in shul

David Ziants (MJ59,#10) and others discuss the payment structure in their

Having corresponded with David off-list, it seems there are two key
differences between things in his Israeli community and the U.S. communities
that I've lived in for the past many decades:

(1) we are urban and have many shuls within walking distance -- thus people
attending our shul frequently are "locals" who may or may not be members --
non-members who attend David's shul are usually guests of members.  It turns
out that some of these non-members have what is in effect a fixed seat by
dint of habit.

(2) In David's shul he and his wife pay for year round seats.  Apparently,
also, purchasing a year round seat may include adjacent seats for one's
children. Here, in contrast, seats are purchased only for the "High
Holidays",  Rosh HaShannah & Yom Kippur. Depending on the shul, two HH adult
seats may be included in the annual membership dues or not. There is a
complicated pricing structure for additional HH tickets.  Tickets for
children of members vary in price with age (child, teen, college) and
tickets for family member guests may also be discounted.  Non-members who
wish to purchase seats (if they are available) pay a premium price.  A
seating chart is posted for the HH and mailing labels are affixed to seats
to indicate who sits where (it may vary from year to year as families grow,
married children may leave, etc.)  My HH seat may or may not be the same as
my normal Makom Kevuah (Shabbos & voch seat.)

Thus David has purchased a year round seat and I have, in contrast,
purchased an annual membership and (only) a High Holiday seat.

I cannot speak for David, but for myself, I'm troubled that we have some
locals who use the shul that I belong to on a regular basis and don't
contribute either as members, via donations, or via the pushke.

This discussion and several other postings may have taken us far afield from
issues of Makom Kevuah.  To get back onto that topic -- is there an halachic
trade-off between always sitting in one's Makom Kevuah and perhaps giving up
one's seat to a guest.  For example, if the person who normally sits next to
you brings his father, does he now have to find two adjacent seats elsewhere
in shul, or should you move elsewhere?

Carl Singer


From: Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 30,2010 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Intersex states

Dr. Hendel wrote in Mail-Jewish Vol.59#07:

>Jewish law does not allow bi-sexual people to marry either men or 
>women (Because of their doubtful status). They can't even marry other
> bi-sexual people. I don't know much about this topic - it is rare but
> it is also unexplored.

OY! [This reminds me of a joke. See last paragraph below.

You must be referring to intersex states (what in halachic terms is called

There are 4 opinions in the Talmud on the status of the androgynos:

a) doubtful male and doubtful female [Tana Kama in Mishna Bikkurim 4;
R. Yosi in the mishna in Yevamot 81a and Resh Lakish in the gemara there]

b) a *birya* [creation] unto itself and its status has not been determined
[Braita in Yevamot 83a; Ramban in last section of Yevamot and in his
Hilchot Bechorot Chapter 6; ROSH Bechorot Chapter 6 Siman 8]

c) partially male and partially female [Tosfot Yevamot 83a; RAAVAD on Rambam
Hilchot Shofar 2:12 and in Hilchot Terumot 7:16]

d) definite male [R. Eliezer in the Mishna Yevamot 81a]

Most halachic decisors have ruled as per #1 (doubtful male and doubtful
female) [RIF in Yevamot; Rambam Hilchot Mila 3:6; Rambam Hilchot Ishut
2:24; TUR Orach Chaim 331 # 5; TUR Yoreh Deah 194; BACH in TUR Yoreh
Deah 265; GRA Even haEzer 172 s"k 18].

The androgynos is required to observe all mitzvot (even "she'hazmna gerama").
Many of the laws are detailed in the Encylopedia Talmudit under *androgynous*.

PLASTIC SURGERY: by halacha it is forbidden to perform plastic surgery
to change the sex to female even if chromosomal tests indicate female gender
[Tzitz Eliezer Chelek XI Siman 78]. Many reasons are given for this
prohibition. See also the article in ASSIA (Volume 1 pg. 142) by Rav Moshe
Steinberg. The Nishmat Avraham [Even ha'Ezer 44 #3] however, indicates
that *if* all internal reproductory organs are female then one may perform
plastic surgery [as per decision of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach]. This 
was the case too in the Tzitz Eliezer  XI 78 when he in fact permitted surgery
when all organs were female

And now for the comic relief:

It's the 1920's when the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts were the
wealthiest families in the United States. One day a little old
Jewish lady on the Lower East Side living in a one room unheated
tenement gets a phone call. There's a very British sounding voice on
the other end. "Good morning madam. This is Jeeves the butler. I'm
terribly sorry to inform madam that Mrs. Rockefeller and Mrs.
Vanderbilt cannot come today for tea." And the old lady responds in
a thick Yiddish accent: "OY MISTER, HAVE YOU GOT A WRONG NUMBER !!!"

Dr. Josh Backon
Consulting Editor
Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology


From: "SBA" <sba@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Is Minyan Biblical or Rabbinic?

Robert Schoenfeld wrote (MJ 58#99):

> Another reason for ten men is a minyan is that Avraham Avino bargained
> with HaShem about the destruction of Sodom. The bargain got down to ten
> men but Avraham couldn't even find ten good men in Sodom

Strange that feminists haven't raised a hue and cry that AA didn't try for
10 good women...



From: Yisrael  Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 30,2010 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Oral Sex

Russell J Hendel writes (MJ 59#07):
> It would therefore follow that oral sex with any prohibited sexual
> entity is a violation of a negative prohibition.Perhaps oral sex is
> a form of UNNATURAL SEX. At any rate oral sex is definitely prohibited
> under Jewish law. If anyone would clarify the various issues I have 
> raised I would appreciate it.
I would think that one should not combine two spheres of deliberation,
the first being "prohibited sexual activity" and "unnatural sex" and the
matter of "destruction of seed".  Most of Russell's post would seem to
link the two.  The prohibited sexual activity, as David Feldman pointed
out over 40 years ago in his "Marriage Relations, Birth Control and
Abortion in Jewish Law", was mainly prohibited because it led to a
situation whereby semen didn't go where it was supposed to go (he refers
to the Drisha at Tur, Even HaEzer 25:3).
The Shulchan Arukh, EH, 25:2, has R' Moshe Issreles adding "um'nashek
b'chol ever sh'yirtzeh (and he may kiss whatever body portion he
wishes)" whereas, for example, the Beit Shmuel there notes "lav davka kol
ever d'ha b'oto makom assur (not every body portion for in that place
[the euphemism for vagina] is it prohibited".  Moreoever, the majority
opinion is that it is prohibited even to look at that place physicaly.  The
Raivad in Baalei Nefesh, Shaar HaKedusha, takes the more strict
interpretation of mores in marital union.  

If you visit forums at sites, you can even find Rabbis' instructions that you
can kiss very close to 'that place' but not the actual 'place'.  It would follow
that normative Ultra-Orthodox practices disallow oral sex although one site I
located indicated that fellatio is permitted as long as no semen is

The problem begins with the understanding of the Talmud, Nedarin 20a-b
which records, in the Soncino edition: 

"R. Johanan b. Dahabai said: The Ministering Angels told me four things: People
are born lame because they [sc. their parents] overturned their table [i.e.,
practised unnatural cohabitation]; dumb, because they kiss 'that place'; our
Sages said: The halachah is not as R. Johanan b. Dahabai, but a man may
do whatever he pleases with his wife [at intercourse]: A parable; Meat
which comes from the abattoir, may be eaten salted, roasted, cooked or
seethed; so with fish from the fishmonger. A woman once came before
Rabbi and said, 'Rabbi! I set a table before my husband, but he
overturned it.' Rabbi replied: 'My daughter! the Torah hath permitted
thee to him - what then can I do for thee?' A woman once came before Rab
and complained. 'Rabbi! I set a table before my husband, but he
overturned it.' Rab replied; Wherein does it differ from a fish?"

This parable serves to express the absence of reserve that may
characterise the mutual and intimate relationship of husband and wife
without offending the laws of chastity.

So, what does the Talmud suggest?  From other readings, I would suggest
that even if we discount the magical influence the Talmud applies to
certain sexual acts on the children born of such a union as inapplicable
today, and therefore oral sex can be permitted, there still is the
matter of not acting in a manner that would cause shame or simply one
version of exactly what sanctity is between two people.  In that sphere
of spirituality, the field is wide open.



From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 25,2010 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Shaliach Tzibur Practices

Elie Rosenfeld <rosenfeld.elie@...> wrote (MJ 58#82):

> I've been wondering about the following set of practices/customs by the
> shaliach tzibur [prayer leader], each of which is typically done in one
> of two ways:

>  My question is not about the details behind each specific alternate
> practice, but rather I'm wondering if the following observation of mine
> is correct.  Namely, that until recent years, the standard practice in
> Ashkenazic shuls was Option A in each of the above.  However, within
> the past 20 or 30 years, Option B in each case has become increasingly
> prevalent....

> 1) Blessing of "ga'al yisroel" before Amidah of shacharis:

> A) End of blessing not said aloud, to avoid a the congregation answering
> "amen" which would interrupt between "geulah" and "tefilah"

> B) End of blessing said aloud

We (or the person acting most often as a Chazan) did start saying a
silent Ga'al Yisroel sometime probably around 6 to 8 years ago, not

Rabbi Phillip Harris (PInchas) Singer ZT'L told me, when I said it
silently, that if this was done this way it should only be done this
way on weekdays but not on Shabbos.

>  2) Insertion in 2nd blessing of Amidah during rainy season:

> A) Last word pronounced "gashem"

> B) Last word pronounced "geshem"

Are you sure you haven't got A and B reversed? Geshem is the one with
the segol and the older way of pronouncing it. Gashem I think is a
hypercorrection, like saying "between you and I"  the idea is it is
Biblical, but the tefillos were composed in Lashon Chachomim (Mishnaic
Hebrew) so it is wrong even if Gashem is more ancient.

I don't think we've switched over on this, at least not for long.

> 3) The paragraph of "Modim" during the repetition of Amidah:

> A) Shaliach tzibur recites in a semi-undertone until the last several
> words, while congregation recites "Modim d'rabannan"

> B) Shaliach tzibur recites entire Modim aloud

I think I had a tendency to skip it or sound like I did. I didn't
actually skip it, but said it quickly in an undertone, the way I
always heard it done,  so as not to drown out the people saying it.

When I did it this way a couple of years ago Rabbi Singer told me not
to do it this way. It is supposed to be heard.

> 4) Ends of blessings in the musaf Amidah of Rosh Chodesh and Yom Tovim:

> A) Sung to usual nusach [tune] for those holidays

> B) Tune is truncated at the ends of blessings, presumably to avoid the
> congregation's answering "amen" before the blessing is fully complete.

I don't notice any difference, but I am not all that perspicacious
about what people are doing. I even came up with a new Klal or
chiddush - that Kaddish isn't said after Krias HaTorah on days when
Musaf is said - and that is all wrong, although many Siddurim omit it
and it's easy not to hear. I took a lot of notes about different
Siddurim but haven't written it up.


End of Volume 59 Issue 11