Volume 59 Number 20 
      Produced: Tue, 07 Sep 2010 01:06:50 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Bullying - Verbal Abuse - (Was Rabbi Jochana and Resh Lakish) 
    [Russell J Hendel]
Conservative Judaism 
    [Janice Gelb]
Crumbs of comfort for Rosh Hashonoh (6)
    [Carl Singer  Alan Rubin  Martin Stern  Ira L. Jacobson  Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
HOMOSEXUALITY - lesbianism, prohibitions, chemical tests, hard wiring, 
    [Russell J Hendel]
Rambam's change of mind 


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 6,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Bullying - Verbal Abuse - (Was Rabbi Jochana and Resh Lakish)

I just wanted to set the record straight on the "insults" between Rabbi Jochanan
and Resh Lakish. What I said before is correct. The people dissenting misquoted
Jewish law and sources.

We start with a Talmudic citation in BM 84a (Davka translation)>>And when is
their manufacture finished? - R. Johanan ruled: When they are tempered in a
furnace. Resh Lakish maintained: When they have been furbished in water. Said he
to him: 'A ROBBER understands his trade.'<<

As can be seen, Rabbi Jochanan REMINDED Resh Lakish of his past, a ROBBER.

Rambam, Laws of Sales, 14:10-11 explicitly states >>If a person repented, one
should not tell him 'remember your early deeds'>>

Rambam (ibid) explains that this a violation of verbal abuse >>Just as there are
laws of monetary abuse (overcharging) there are laws of verbal abuse as it says
Lv25-17 Don't abuse a person his friends FEAR GOD I AM GOD<<

True the Rambam formulates this as "remember your early deeds" while Rabbi
Jochanan only mentioned this in passing >>A robber knows his trade<< But Rashi
very clearly states (ibid) >>Why does this commandment say FEAR GOD I AM GOD
[the phrase FEAR GOD I AM GOD only occurs in 5 commandments). Because one can
subterfuge 'I was trying to complement him/help him/constructively point out
faults' Therefore it says to FEAR GOD<<

We infer from this that Rabbi Jochanan violated the verbal abuse laws by
reminding Resh Lakish of his past.

Resh Lakish became sick. Note: Sickness due to depression from such reminders is
normal. His wife begged him to forgive him. Here is the passage >>Resh Lakish
fell ill. His sister [sc. R. Johanan's, the wife of Resh Lakish] came and wept
before him: 'Forgive him for the sake of my son,' she pleaded. He replied:
'Leave thy fatherless children. I will preserve them alive.'  'For the sake of
my widowhood then!' 'And let thy widows trust in me,'  he assured her.<<

Here Rabbi Jochanan violated a Biblical prohibition of causing ANY anguish to a
widow (Ex22-23). 

Thus, Rabbi Jochanan violated two very important interpersonal commandments -
the prohibition of teasing and the prohibition of causing anguish to a widow. I
regard Rabbi Jochanan's subsequent death (mentioned in the Talmud) as a
punishment (this is consistent with Ex22-23:24).

A recent mail Jewish posting mentioned "bullying" I think it important that
Rabbis are not immune from this as shown in this Talmudic passage. I think it
important that people do die.

[And in passing; This is the MAIN reason why I think there was something sexual
between Resh Lakish and Rabbi Jochanan when the two of them were naked in the
lake. Most people forgive when the abuser is sick. Sexual abuse is one of the
few things which is not forgiven. No one has ever answered my question>>What was
Rabbi Jochanan so angry about<<. I will go into this more next time but just
wanted to clarify]

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


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 10,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Conservative Judaism

Ira L. Jacobson wrote:
Janice Gelb stated the following in mail-Jewish Vol.58 #59:
>> I don't want anyone to think I'm trying to avoidhaving to answer questions
>> about Conservative Judaism and I am happy to communicate privately 
>> with anyone regarding my beliefs and opinions about the value of the
>> movement and why I have thrown in my lot with them :-> 
>> However, I don't think that Mail-Jewish is the correct venue in which to
>> discuss this subject. [snip]
> Second, Ms. Gelb has refused to discuss with me off-list her "beliefs and
> opinions about the value of the movement and why [she has] thrown in [her] 
> lot with them." Rather, she states, "I'm really not interested in discussing
> this or trying to explain myself any further." This is of course 
> her right, but it seems out of step with her offer.

This is [wrong]. Ira contacted me privately to talk about my comment regarding
having a chiyuv [requirement --MOD] as an avel [mourner --MOD], claiming that I
was trying to mislead members of this list into believing there was a chiyuv for
women and thus deliberately  contravening the mandate of the list.  After
several messages back and forth in which it was clear that neither one of us was
going to change our interpretations of what my comment meant and why I had
posted it, I sent him a message containing the above phrase. (I would be glad to
send copies of the complete correspondence to anyone who would like to see the

Contrary to Ira's [comment], I remain willing to discuss Conservative Judaism
off-list, as Stuart Wise, who just received a long response to his request that
I do so, can testify.

-- Janice


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 6,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Crumbs of comfort for Rosh Hashonoh

For several halachic reasons, many hold that one does not throw anything
into the water during tashlich.


From: Alan Rubin <alan@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 6,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Crumbs of comfort for Rosh Hashonoh

Following on from Elozor Reich's posting about throwing crumbs of
bread in to rivers at Tashlich and in all seriousness; isn't this a
minhag taus (a mistaken custom)? I think that not only is this
custom of doubtful provenance but that it may be forbidden to feed
fish that are not ones own property on Yom Tov.

Near where we live there is a brook which passes under a busy road.
After Rosh Hashonah it looks like a trash dump with a mess of bread
scattered around the banks of the brook. I believe that this is a
mistaken custom, that is probably against Halacha and should be

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 6,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Crumbs of comfort for Rosh Hashonoh

Marilyn Tomsk <jtomsky@...> wrote (MJ 59#19):

> "Elozor Reich: TASHLICH is performed during the High Holiday season throwing
> crumbs of bread into a body of water. Some people have been known to ask what
> kind of bread crumbs should they throw: - - "
> I think that it is a joke list but this is ridiculous!  Instead of throwing
> bread into the water, why not do a good mitzvah and take it to a food center
> or a food kitchen for the poor.  I am sure God would approve of that rather
> than this waste nonsense.  Children and hungry homeless would appreciate that.
> You would be saving lives instead of wasting.  That makes more sense.  If you
> want to be generous give a little more.  That would be a blessing to the
> hungry.

While we would all agree with Marilyn that throwing away perfectly edible
food while some people may be starving is immoral but she is taking such
righteousness to extremes when she suggests that this should apply to a few
insignificant crumbs.

Naomi Graetz's description (MJ 59#19) of the posting as tantamount to theft
is also rather over the top. In view of her later comments that the original
had been floating around the Internet without any attribution, it is hardly
fair to blame Elozor for not knowing who wrote it originally.

Clearly, he meant this as a joke and to take offence at it as if it were a
serious posting betrays a lack of a sense of humour that is, unfortunately,
all too prevalent on this list.

Wishing everyone a ketivah vechatimah tovah and may HKBH judge us all in the
most favourable way.

Martin Stern

From: Art Werschulz <agw@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 6,2010 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Crumbs of comfort for Rosh Hashonoh 

Marilyn Tomsk <jtomsky@...> writes (MJ 59#19):

> "Elozor Reich: TASHLICH is performed during the High Holiday season throwing
crumbs of bread into a body of water. Some people have been known to ask what
kind of bread crumbs should they throw: - - "
> I think that it is a joke list but this is ridiculous!  Instead of throwing
bread into the water, why not do a good mitzvah and take it to a food center or
a food kitchen for the poor. 

Most people I know cast leftover bread scraps (e.g., from their holiday meals)
into the water for tashlich.

Art Werschulz  

From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 6,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Crumbs of comfort for Rosh Hashonoh

Naomi Graetz <graetz@...> stated the following in v59 #19:

> Dick participates in an email mailing list for rabbis, and sent a 
> copy to the list.

Naomi probably meant "participated," since Dick passed away in the 
summer of 2000.   See http://www.bricklin.com/crumblist.htm


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 6,2010 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Crumbs of comfort for Rosh Hashonoh

I found the website at http://www.bricklin.com/crumblist.htm with the 
following note.

This page was posted on this web site in early 1999. Tragically, Dick 
passed away in the summer of 2000. May his memory be a blessing! You can 
read remembrances of him on a tribute web site. 

       Sabba     -          ' "        -     Hillel
Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz 


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 6,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: HOMOSEXUALITY - lesbianism, prohibitions, chemical tests, hard wiring,

Some comments on Lisa's comments on my posting. Most of her comments are
insightful in the precise sense that they give greater acuity to the differences
between us and/or give indicated tightening of certain statements that I made
(Which didn't have such tightness)

1) When I said MESOLLELOTH means CLIMBING, I was referring to the original
Biblical meaning of the word as in e.g. Psalms 68:5. What Lisa said is perfectly
fine for translating the PHRASE "NASHIM MESOLLELOTH" - I just thought it
appropriate to cite the Biblical meaning of "climbing"

2) >>Oral sex is a biblical prohibition on those forbidden relations enumerated
in Lv18. Hence, it [may|does] not apply to Lesbians.<<

That certainly is a correct inference from what I said. (I state below the
reason for possible doubt in #3, but basically, Lisa's argument is sound and I
so intended)

3) Here is my problem. The Rambam refers to oral intercourse as "intercourse by
way of organs" This might be referring to oral sex (sounds reasonable). Since he
refers to oral sex as "intercourse" it is arguable that NATURAL INTERCOURSE
refers to male-female-vaginal intercourse while BOTH anal-intercourse and
oral-sex would be classified as UNNATURAL INTERCOURSE. Again: The source of my
doubt is the use of the legal term "INTERCOURSE" for oral sex. And again: I have
not found sources one way or another. 

Note: If oral sex is intercourse, then the prohibition of lesbianism would
include lesbian oral sex. However as Lisa noted above (and as I hope was clear
from my posting), if oral sex is not intercourse then the Biblical prohibition
or oral sex only applies to the enumerated categories in Lv 18).

4) RE: Rambam - Ramban controversy. You can't just say "Ramban disagrees" You
have to also account for how deals with the Rambam's sources (This is standard
in interpreting controversy). The Rambam's derivation comes from 2 places: a) an
introductory verse - DONT COME NEAR to the prohibitions - DONT UNCOVER and b)
the blatant contrast DONT UNCOVER DONT UNCOVER...(to a menstruant) DONT COME
NEAR. The emphasis NEAR-UNCOVER expands the legal prohibitions of the entire
chapter (This is a standard exegetical rule).

No one has ever explained to me HOW Ramban could disagree with explicit verses.
(I have heard that Ramban simply takes the INTRODUCTORY verse as an INTRODUCTORY
verse not as a prohibition....but as I showed above there are two textual

My own opinion is that there is NO controversy on textual inferences. Rather
there is a controversy on EXTENT. Rambam holds that ALL NEARNESS is biblically
prohibited (Lisa's shoulder kiss and oral sex) while Ramban holds that oral sex
is biblically prohibited but shoulder kisses might only be Rabbinic)

At any rate, the important thing to emphasize here (often overlooked) is that we
can't discuss this without discussing the textual verses. They DO have to be
dealt with.

5) Rambam definitely believes in commandments of feeling and belief. His exact
language on the commandment to Love God (Foundations, Chapter2 ) is >>How do you
love God....by learning....<< Here Rambam indicates a cause-effect between
action - feeling. The act of learning leads to the feeling of love and therefore
the learning is a fulfillment of the commandment to Love.

As to BELIEF: It is well known that the word YADAH (to know) in Biblical Hebrew
first Decalogue commandment not as a commandment to ONLY believe but rather as a
commandment to KNOW AND FEEL (The connotations of KNOW).

I might add that Jewish law always identifies FEELINGS with ACTS (e.g. the
commandment to Love and Revere ones parents) However it never negated the
FEELING aspect of the commandments - it simply added how to achieve it.

6) My apologies for misusing the word "bi-sexual"

7) Lisa and I disagree here. I do believe that the Torah makes scientific
pronouncements in Psychology. I also believe that the Torah's scientific
pronouncements of psychology take precedence over science. (This is a separate
posting maybe a book). 

Just to recap the applicability: Since the bible uses "TOAYVAH" with
homosexuality and bestiality, (actually it uses tevel) it seems to single out
these two ACTS from all other forbidden acts. I therefore argued (especially
since TOAYVAH refers to emotional states) that the Bible is singling them out
because of their emotional unnaturality.

8) Lisa and I definitely disagree on alcoholism. I believe alcoholics are
totally cured and changed. This is consistent with the Jewish view of repentance
- change in BOTH action and personality as well as orientation is possible. 

I also think there is an experience issue here. I know alcoholics and
homosexuals / lesbians who have changed their orientation.

Finally: It is important to emphasize that our disagreement does not reflect
sexual hang-ups either of us have. We have a disagreement on the extent to which
a person can change. This difference affects numerous areas.

9) I agree that Society SHOULD change its orientation and be more tolerant (on
single people) Note: When I called Lisa single --- under Jewish law, that is her
LEGAL status. Jewish law recognizes a legal status of "married" between a man
and woman who underwent a marriage ceremony. If you are not married you are
single (You might be divorced and/or widowed). One of the reasons that Rabbis
object to use of the term couple on lesbians (or male homosexuals) is because it
contradicts Jewish legal terminology. This is an important point. It is not that
someone wants to negate other's feelings. It is ok to like Beethoven or rock or
whatever you like.  But it is not OK to take a term RESERVED for a specific
relationship - the term marriage/husband/wife/ and the associated terms of
family - and apply them in situations not legally recognized by Jewish law.

10) Again: I oppose the use of terms >>family, couple, wife, spouse<< for people
of the same gender. Synagogues have a right to create atmosphere and reserve
certain language to reflect values they have. While I tolerate homosexuals and
lesbians (I really do:)) I do not want them >advertising< themselves as such in
synagogues. What does >advertising< mean? I am not sure at this point ...
suffice it to say .... no one ever put me on an ostracization committee. Also I
get the feeling that these things are done off the cuff and behind the scenes.
(I would prefer they be written as shule policy)

Finally following Josh Backon let me end with a true joke. When the economic
tsunami happened two years ago a Rabbi in upstate New York told one of the
Rabbis in Baltimore >>half my congregation was knocked out by this Tsunami ---
it is having all types of effects<<. The Rabbi in Baltimore responded >>That is
not our problem here<<.

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


From: Chana <Chana@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 6,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Rambam's change of mind

I wrote (MJ 59#15):
> Indeed, and like you, Rav Ovadiah just says that there are many cases
> where the Rambam says something in his commentary on the Mishna and
> then changes his mind in the Mishna Torah, and this is yet another case.
> But on the other hand if one is of the school that prefers harmony to
> contradiction,

And Avi Walfish replied (MJ 59#17):

> One doesn't need Rav Ovadiah to know that "there are many cases where
> the Rambam says something in his commentary on the Mishna and then
> changes his mind in the Mishna Torah". The Rambam's autograph copy of the
> Mishnah commentary is extant (serving as the basis for most of the Rav
> Kappah edition of the work), and in many cases (documented by Rav Kappah),
> you can see where the Rambam crossed out earlier versions and corrected
> the manuscript to correspond to what he wrote in the Mishneh Torah. That
> doesn't mean that in all cases we can automatically exclude a harmonistic
> reading, but a "school that prefers harmony to contradiction" would seem
> to contradict our current state of knowledge.

Where the Rambam himself crossed out the original text and brought it into
harmony with the Mishna Torah, then indeed one has to understand that
originally they contradicted, hence the amendment to the commentary on the

But nobody appears to be suggesting (as far as I am aware) that this was the
case for this particular matter (ie the source of women's obligation to

And indeed, the fact that the Rambam went back and corrected the text in the
original manuscript in a number of other cases if anything would seem to
provide stronger support for a harmonistic approach.  If the Rambam *didn't*
correct this bit, there are two options: 

(a) he slipped up and missed this one; or 

(b) *he* didn't think this particular case contradicted, ie he thought they were
in harmony.

Now it may well be that it is impossible to conclude (b) in every case that
the Rambam did not correct. In some cases it may be that the contradiction
is just too stark and harmonisation is impossible.  But even so, and even if
one has to conclude (a) periodically, I would have thought that the more
natural approach, especially given the level of brilliance and gadlus we are
dealing with here, would be to minimise those cases where we have to say
(a), and go with (b) where indeed there is a plausible way of harmonising
the two.

In our case there is indeed a plausible solution, based on the Shagas Arieh.
In fact it is a far more plausible solution, because if the Rambam really
wanted to say that women are exempt from three times a day prayer, and only
obligated on a Torah once a day basis, you would have expected him to say so
in the Mishna Torah.  The omission of such an important and key halacha
delineating the limitations of women's obligation in prayer from his magnum
opus of halachic codification, if one were really to believe that that is
what he held, is pretty extraordinary.  And remember, he states that women
are obligated in tephila twice, once in perek 1 halacha 2 and once in perek
6 halacha 10 (each of hilchos tephila).  And in neither of these places does
he say "oh and by the way, that means only the Torah obligation, not the
rabbinic enactment that I discuss elsewhere which means they only need to
daven once a day not three times".  If that is really what he held, why is
that statement not there?  It is one thing to omit a case because perhaps
you did not particularly consider it, or consider it important.   But if you
have taken the time and thought to change your mind from a position you held
earlier, it is hard to argue that the situation is not important enough to
mention explicitly.

And it seems to me that the only reason people do not want to follow this
position is so that they can justify the practices of women throughout the
generations.  I fully understand the rationale for wanting to do this, but
you do need to ask yourself whether it is truly fair to the Rambam,
especially given our current state of knowledge.

Of course there is also the secondary (post-modern) issue which is - if
people have relied for generations on their understanding of the Rambam,
even if that understanding is not in fact what the Rambam meant (ie if our
current state of knowledge of crossed out manuscripts gives us a better
understanding into the mind of the Rambam than they had), what then?
Especially once the Magen Avraham suggested that such an interpretation
might be possible.  That gets us into some very interesting issues as to the
role of history in halacha and the way halachic works may have a kind of
life that is greater than their authors.

Kativa v'Chatima tova



End of Volume 59 Issue 20