Volume 59 Number 12 
      Produced: Wed, 01 Sep 2010 11:37:24 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"Statement of Principles" regarding homosexuality  
    [Frank Silbermann]
Fixed Seat in shul (2)
    [Frank Silbermann  Martin Stern]
Is Minyan Biblical or Rabbinic? (2)
    [Meir Shinnar  Chana]
Reish Lakish 
    [Leah S.R. Gordon]
The Torah view on homosexuality 
    [David Tzohar]
Welcoming visitors 
    [Jeanette  Friedman]
Women Davening (2)
    [Mark Steiner  Shoshana L. Boublil]


From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: "Statement of Principles" regarding homosexuality 

Among the speculated causes of homosexuality, I am surprised that no one in
the general scientific community has speculated on pollution by the plastics
industry as a cause. I've read that some of the synthetic molecules have
estrogen-like properties, and this may be causing both harm among fish and
amphibians, and a reduced sperm count among men. Could it be possible that
this is also affecting pregnant women, or infants, leading to an increased
incidence in incomplete development of masculinity among boys (and, hence, a
growing community of homosexuals)?

If such an effect were to be discovered, we might both discover a way to
reduce homosexuality (through pollution controls) and a reason to conclude
that "something has changed" (albeit, artificially) in our natures regarding
homosexuality since the Torah was given.

Frank Silbermann......Memphis, TN


From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Fixed Seat in shul

Subject:  Fixed Seat in Shul
If a visitor is sitting in your usual seat and you ask him to move, do you have
any obligation to help him find a seat that is _not_ someone's regular place, or
are you allowed to leave him on his own after you displace him?
What if every seat is someone's regular place?  Is the visitor condemned to
wander from seat to seat each time someone else arrives until he's finally in a
seat belonging to someone who didn't happen to show up that day?
Frank Silbermann ...............Memphis, Tennessee

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Fixed Seat in shul

Carl Singer <carl.singer@...> wrote (MJ 59#11):

> 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 sort of thing is unfortunately all too common. One large shul near me
has minyanim going on all day with up to 1000 men coming in all every day.
Unfortunately the majority are not paid-up members, even though they use the
facilities on a regular basis, and the shul suffers financially because of this.

Martin Stern


From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Is Minyan Biblical or Rabbinic?

Robert Schoenfeld wrote (MJ 58#99):

> Another reason for ten men is a minyan is that Avraham Avinu 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

S Abeles (MJ 59 #11) responded:

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

because feminists know Rashi, and know that Avraham Avinu included the
woman in his count.... (eg, his statement that 8 was too few we know
from Noah - 4 men and 4 women didn't save, and Sdom didn't have nine
(Hashem being the tenth) - he counts up Lot, wife, two daughters, and
two married daughters with husbands..) - so if this was really the
proof text, women should count in a minyan...

From: Chana <Chana@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 1,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Is Minyan Biblical or Rabbinic?

Robert Schoenfeld wrote (MJ 58#99):
> Another reason for ten men is a minyan is that Avraham Avinu
> 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

And SBA replied (MJ 59#11):

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

Not strange at all, because according to the midrash (and as Rashi brings on
Breishis 18:32) AA was including women in the count.  As Rashi explains
there, AA did not seek to ask for less than ten, because at the time of the
flood, there were eight righteous, Noach, his three sons and each of their
wives but a ninth righteous person he did not find (which would have made ten by
including Hashem).

But if you only include men in the count, then at the time of the flood
there were only four righteous, and this whole reference makes no sense.

Of course this also illustrates the dangers of treating Torah references as
a real basis (and not just an asmachta [homiletic support -MOD]) for our prayer
concept of minyan.



From: Leah S.R. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Reish Lakish

Martin Stern writes in response to me (MJ 59#06):

> Leah S.R. Gordon <leah@...> wrote (MJ 58#98):
>> To all the people shouting down Russell Hendel for discussing the opinion
>> that Resh Lakesh was gay:
>> You may never have heard this interpretation, or belief, but it is very
>> widespread commentary outside of the Orthodox world.  I myself was a bit
>> surprised that Dr. Hendel was williing to espouse the view, but he has
>> many companions in this view even if not necessarily on M.J.
> Perhaps the fact that this interpretation is very widespread outside of the
> Orthodox world is a symptom of the desire to undermine the shalshelet
> hakabbalah [authentic tradition], on which Orthodoxy is based, by discrediting 
> its leading proponents of previous generations in order to authenticate the 
> various heterodox theologies claiming to be valid versions of Judaism.

I think this is extremely unlikely, because these same people are not anyone
who thinks it "discredits" someone to interpret their sexual orientation as

--Leah S. R. Gordon


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: The Torah view on homosexuality

I have refrained until now from entering the discussion which began with the
"Statement of principles on homosexuality since I think it has strayed from
what the Torah says about this subject and has deteriorated into a
free-for-all debate on the general legitimacy of a homosexual lifestyle. To
get back on the track I think that it is necessary to reiterate the clear
and simple view of the Torah. From the Torah through the Shas and poskim
homosexuality is considered a "toeivah", usually translated as "an

This is over and above the aveirot of the specific acts whose severity ranges
from karet to the lesser levels of issur. It is an affront to creation and the
Creator. It completely undermines the concept of family which is the basis of
society in the Torah. It makes absolutely no difference whether this orientation
is the result of some genetic disorder or a result of psychological environment
or both - it can not be tolerated and certainly not legitimized. 

The open acceptance of a homosexual lifestyle is one of the most extreme
expressions of the permissiveness and degeneracy of modern western society which
has divested itself of the remnant of Torah values that remained in the general
society. The same is true for heterosexual promiscuity and the "option" of
adultery as a legitimate alternative to normative family life. 

All this does not mean that homosexuals should be hunted down or persecuted.
Those who seek help should be given the utmost consideration. But those who
openly flaunt their abhorrent, aberrant lifestyle and are "proud to be gay"
(what profoundly pathetic terms), must be excoriated by the Jewish community,
until they are ready to  do teshuva before God. 

In this season of repentance and mercy I pray that God will forgive all those
who have lost their way. It is never too late for teshuva.

David Tzohar


From: Jeanette  Friedman <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Welcoming visitors

Martin Stern <md.stern@...> wrote (MJ 59#11):

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

>> 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."
I realize that not many of you have ever been inside a church especially
during services. And I am certain that there are people on this list who do 
not believe in "Mipnei Darkei Shalom" (for the ways  of peace) as the Me'iri 

But when my college mentor died, (she helped me live through the 
aftermath of being raped by an intruder in my apartment who had broken in 
from a fire escape window during a snowstorm and she helped me learn my 
profession as a journalist and got me jobs etc.) I had to attend her funeral 
service in a black church in Bed-Stuy. I also had to attend the funeral 
service for the guard who was murdered at the door of the United States 
Holocaust Memorial Museum in a black church in Virginia, and my best friend's 
mother's funeral in a Catholic cathedral.  

I don't know much about the Catholics, because there was not much in the way of
welcoming strangers to the service (I was just  flabbergasted at how much of
what they pray are "our" tefillot). BUT...in the two black churches everyone was
greeted as they walked in the door. They were welcomed by ushers who led them to
seats, they were made to feel welcome and wanted, and then after the services,
from the pulpit, there were the equivalent of "shout outs" about people who that
week would need help as shut ins or being lonely in a hospital or just plain in
need of assistance financially or otherwise.
The only time I experienced anything like this in a shul was not in  an 
Orthodox congregation. It was in a chavurah that was held in a community  
center that was rented from a church because the local shuls "didn't have room"
for a chavurah.
Why we do not behave and welcome people to our shuls is beyond me. We treat 
people we don't know who come to shul as if they are intruders, there to 
make  trouble and we ignore them or worse, as Carl had described. To me the 
whole thing just proves that we have gotten so far away from "Bein Adom le 
Chavero" that there is no point in going to shul. I stopped going to shul 
when they considered Baruch Lanner for the pulpit at Keter Torah, long after 
we had gone to the RCA with our complaints about him and were thrown out
- with my friends forced to apologize to him.  It took almost 20 years to get 
Seems to me something is very upside down in the Jewish community and has  
been for a very long time.

Jeanette  Friedman 


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Women Davening

Chana writes (MJ 59#10) at the end of a typically learned and useful discussion
of the obligation of women to "daven" (I assume the word need not be translated):

> Again though, this is not the position of the major poskim in
> Ashkenaz, such as the Mishna Brura and the Aruch HaShulchan who are
> unequivocal about women's obligation to daven. 

I am a little offended by the absence of any other but Lithuanian
poskim -- after all we Galitsyaners, Hungarians, and other proud citizens of
Franz Josef's empire, produced the "real" poskim of Ashekenaz, the ones
that the Mishna Berura doesn't mention.  The "yeshiva world" has brainwashed
all of us.  But let's stick to the ones Chana mentions, together with the
other Litvak, the Shaagas Aryeh.

Codes aside, what did women actually DO?  All the major poskim in Ashkenaz
state that women did NOT normally daven, nor was the shemoneh esrai, to the
best of my knowledge, translated into Yiddish, so you would expect the
(Professor Haym) Soloveitchik fans and history buffs to weigh in with the
"mimetic tradition," "local custom" and inveigh against the "chumra of the
month."  Prof. Soloveitchik explains that the Mishna Berurah ignores local
traditions (even Lithuanian traditions, to say nothing of my traditions), so
we would not be surprised to see him urge women to daven as an obligation
(however, there is a tradition in the Lithuanian world that the Chofetz
Chayim's son said that his father z"l told his wife that she didn't have to
daven while raising small children, since doing one mitzvah exempts one from
another -- yes, he obviously held that this argument does not apply to men,
i.e. he was not a "feminist").  The Litvishe Bais Yaakovs have all adopted
the Chofetz Chaim's position on this and teach the girls that they must
daven twice a day, so you see, "texts" changed "history."

But I was rather surprised to read in Chana's posting that the the Arukh
Hashulhan requires women to daven three times a day as an obligation.  This
would contradict Prof. Soloveitchik's claim that this author attempts to
justify Ashkenaz practice as a matter of principle even when it seems to go
against the plain meaning of the sources (cf. his valiant attempt to justify
the practice of eating "chodosh" (new wheat until Pesach which is forbidden)
in Europe even though the Mishna says that it is forbidden "bekhol makom",
everywhere).  So I took a look myself and my own reading does not
corroborate Chana's:

After a discussion in which, as Chana says, the Ashkenazic rishonim (Rashi
and Tosafot) are understood by the Arukh Hashulhan as requiring women to
daven (even three times a day), as distinguished from Rambam and the Rif
(all of this is clearly elucidated in Chana's post), he then says something,
in Rashi script:

"...And according to this it is difficult to justify the practice of our
women not to daven three times a day -- according to Rashi and Tosaphot, but
according to the Rambam and Rif it is fine [proper, all right = ati

Those familiar with the language of the Arukh Hashulhan and his general
approach will understand that he thinks that women have a perfect right to
follow their minhag of not davening all the tefillot, once an established
minhag relies on major rishonim.  (Otherwise, nobody could carry in an eruv,
since the established minhag to do so contradicts the view of many rishonim
that one does not need 600,000 travellers daily to creat a "public domain."
Typically, the Mishnah Berurah urges his readers to go beyond the minhag and
not carry in any eruv which includes a wide street.)  In other words, what
has been omitted in the discussion of "halakhic reality" is the concept of
historical reality or minhag; we don't assume that my grandmother and two
thousand years of frum women did something wrong by not davening the formal
prayers, just as I assume that my grandfather didn't do anything wrong by
standing for kiddush (like millions of Galitsyaners)--"Litvaks" who
introduce sitting for kiddush, by the way, are invited to sit under the
chupa when they get married, for the same reason.

I will add here that the Arukh Hashulhan didn't mention that actually the
Rambam changed his mind on women's tefillah.  In his Commentary to the
Mishnah, Kiddushin 1:7, the Rambam states that prayer is a time based
commandment and DESPITE THIS FACT, women are obligated to pray.  This seems
to indicate that he had "our" text, that tefillah is "rahamei", so that
women are obligated nevertheless.  He lists prayer together with other
mitzvot like matzah, simcha on festivals, hakhel, megillah and hanukkah
candles which are time based, but women are obligated to do anyway.  He
changed his mind in the Mishneh Torah and said simply that tefillah is NOT
time based -- perhaps he decided to emend the text.  The word "rahamei" that
Chana discusses is indeed a disputed addition to the text.  In a manuscript
located in the Vatican, which can be viewed at:


(use Explorer)  we find the Rambam's final reading but another scholar added
the word "rahmei" between the lines.

If we are to believe Prof. Michael Sokoloff (dictionary of Babylonian
Aramaic), and he is persuasive, the word "rahamei" here means, not mercy but
prayer itself,  i.e. the meaning of "tefillah is rahamei" is: the shemoneh
esrei is prayer.  Otherwise you get the tautology: prayer is prayer.  If so,
clearly women must recite the shemoneh esrai, as Chana states.  But, as I
said, the Rambam got rid of this word in time to write the Mishneh Torah....

As for R. Ovadia, it might be mentioned that he forbids women from
making the blessings before and after kriat shema -- and "Sefardi" (the
politically correct term is "Mizrahi") girls in Litvishe Bais Yaakovs (yes
there are plenty) who lead the davening (yes, they have daily WTGs) are
allowed to skip the berachot yotzer hameorot etc.  The rationale is that he
holds that these blessings belong to the shema, women are therefore exempt,
and the Sefardi minhag/psak is women are not to make a beracha on a mitzvah
they are exempt from performing, since it would be a falsehood to say
"vetzivanu."  I have been told, however, that he does not reflect the
consensus of all the communities from the "Mizrahi" groups.  I believe
furthermore that "we" hold that these blessings are actually tefillah, a
proof being that they can be recited as long as it is still time for
tefillah (4 hours).  And, of course, the word "vetzivanu" does not appear in
these blessings, vetzorikh iyun [and this requires further study - MOD].  And in
any case our Ashkenaz minhag is that women do make blessings on mitzvot they
perform even if they are exempt from performing them.

Let me end with a "chumrah" instituted by a woman, which was adopted
by all the gedolei hador: a story is told about a widow who used to daven in
R. Yochana's bais medrash in Tiberias.  When he asked her why she walked so
far when she had a shul next to her house, she answered: but what about the
reward of pesi`ot (each step towards a shul is itself a mitzvah).  R.
Yochanan loved this answer, and it was of course published in the Talmud as
a model for how a person should approach davening.  I assume furthermore
that if there were no mitzvah for a woman to daven in a shul, i.e. public
prayer, there would be no concept of the reward of "steps."  Thus we see
that a woman's prayers are counted as part of the tefilah of the minyan,
even though she herself is not counted for the minyan.

From: Shoshana L. Boublil <toramada@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 31,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Women Davening

Chana presents a wonderful discourse (MJ 59#10) on the issue of women davening. 

I would like to ask/comment on this.

>From my experience, and others I've talked to, I believe that a large
measure of responsibility for the fact that many women do not bother to pray
more than once  a day (if they pray Shmoneh Esreh) has a social reason for

When girls are in school, the school usually emphasizes Shacharit.  It is
easy to arrange, the kids walk into school and start the day with prayer.
Few schools spend as much time and effort on having organized Mincha, even
when school hours are long enough and Arvit is even more distant.

The fact of the matter is that while Shacharit is taught to girls already in
kindergarten, most don't start saying Mincha (if they do) until they are
older, usually around Bat Mitzva time.

But here is a thought of mine. In real life, post-marriage and when the kids
are around, it is far more difficult to daven Shacharit then it is Mincha or
Ma'ariv. First of all, the time period to pray is longer. Second, there is
more of a chance of praying mincha when the kids are resting (when they are
younger) or otherwise engaged, than in the morning, with all the household
responsibilities (and if a woman works, she has to deal with both the kids
and getting to work on time...). Also, most don't just daven Shemoneh Esreh,
they daven part of Shacharit, which takes longer.

Perhaps, our educational system should put more effort in teaching mincha to
girls at a younger age, and making sure that girls daven arvit at evening
get-togethers, so that women will feel more comfortable with these prayers
when they are wives and mothers, and not feel guilty for not davening
Shacharit, but never really getting around to praying the other prayers b/c
of lack of experience (for want of a better term).

Shoshana L. Boublil


End of Volume 59 Issue 12