Volume 59 Number 22 
      Produced: Wed, 08 Sep 2010 10:07:29 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"Statement of Principles" regarding homosexuality 
    [Avraham Walfish]
Crumbs of comfort for Rosh Hashonoh (2)
    [Carl Singer  Frank Silbermann]
Easiest Mitzvah 
    [David Tzohar]
Entering a church (3)
    [David Tzohar  Josh Backon  Lisa Liel]
Rabbi Jochanan and Resh Lakish (Was Bullying - Verbal Abuse) (2)
    [Leah S.R. Gordon  Yisrael Medad]
Rambam's Change of Mind (2)
    [Russell J Hendel]


From: Avraham Walfish <rawalfish@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: "Statement of Principles" regarding homosexuality

In response to Orrin Tilevitz's posting on MJ 59#21 regarding the Statement
of Principles on Homosexuality:

I will not respond point by point to Orrin's long posting, but will focus on
what I regard as the main passages:

> I simply asked:
> (i) whether the same principles espoused by the SOP were intended to
> apply to deviant heterosexuals and 
> (ii) IF SO, whether the SOP was intended to have the halacha adapt to
> prevailing societal attitudes.

> (3) Without answering the first question, Avie initially denied that the
> SOP was intended to have halacha adapt (58:70), but then contradicted
> himself in 58:78, admitting that

>> those paragraphs regarding which the halakhah accords
>> great weight to the attitude of community (synagogue membership,
>> participation, and leadership) will not apply equally to all types of
>> transgressions, because the attitude of the community to the transgression
>> and the transgressor is a determinative factor

> but instead are specific to homosexuals, as oppose to deviant heterosexuals.

If Orrin thinks that taking communal attitudes into account in areas where
the halakhah allows for it amounts to calling for the halakhah to "adapt", then
I plead guilty - yes, where the halakhah allows for flexibility, it should adapt.

> Setting participation to the side for a moment, while synagogue membership
> and leadership are normally manners within the community's discretion, IMHO
> [In My Humble Opinion --MOD] that discretion does not permit the community to
> substitute values that are alien to the Torah for values mandated by the
> Torah.

Let us distinguish between actions mandated by or forbidden by the Torah and
"values that are alien to the Torah". Shabbat violation is undoubtedly a very
serious transgression, but great rabbis such as Rav Kook and the Hazon Ish (and
many others) have made clear that in contemporary society it is possible and
advisable to relate to such people without expressing the revulsion expressed by
the Torah and by Hazal to such transgressors. Moreover, it is common practice in
many shuls, headed by many accomplished rabbis and talmidei hakhamim, to let
such people get aliyot and other synagogue honors (although
presumably in Orthodox shuls, they would not be selected as hazzanim for
yamim noraim - although in my youth I saw that in an Orthodox shul as well).

> Avie asks whether the exclusion of open, notorious sinners -- we were
> discussing examples such as Bernie Madoff -- from these honors is normative
> halakhah. Rabbi Fuchs, in Hatefilah Betzibur 5:28, quotes the teshuvot
> [responsa --MOD] of the Chacham Tzvi 38 as saying hachotei beyad rama [one
> who sins publicly (?) flagrantly (?)] is not counted in a minyan, and it
> follows could not get an aliya. I have not seen the actual teshuva (could
> someone provide it?). I asked my LOR [Local Orthodox Rabbi --MOD], a
> respected charedi rosh bes din [fervently observant head of a Jewish judicial
> court --MOD] who sees his share of non-compliant characters, two questions.

> First: if Bernie Madoff escaped from jail and showed up in shul, could he
> get an aliya? My LOR, who did not know the teshuva, responded that while
> technically he could, he (the LOR) would not permit it.

I thank Orrin for proving my point - technically there is no prohibition,
but the LOR would not permit it - i.e. this is a matter where the halakhah
leaves room for communal discretion. I share LOR's sensibilities, and would
certainly advocate the same in my own community, but there is no halakhic
warrant to determine this as obligatory policy for the entire community at large.

Ketivah vahatimah tovah to all!

Avie Walfish


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Crumbs of comfort for Rosh Hashonoh

Batya Medad in (MJ 59#21) notes that in Israel people do not throw
anything into the precious water and:

> There would be a major "international incident" if we threw anything
> towards the "well" we face saying Tashlich.  It's in a nearby Arab
> village.

Let me relate what turned out to be a humorous incident that took place
many years ago.  An acquaintance then serving as an Air Force Chaplain,
along with another Rabbi were in Japan for Rosh Hashanah.  They were
doing tashlich (throwing nothing) when stopped by the police.  When
questioned they pulled out their trusty Japanese-English dictionaries and
said they were throwing their "sins" into the water.  It turns out that in
this particular dictionary the word for "sins" was the Japanese word for

Much clarification was needed to reach a "happy" conclusion.


From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Crumbs of comfort for Rosh Hashonoh

Batya Medad wrote (MJ 59#21):

> The throwing of actual food/crumbs/loaves etc into water isn't done in
> Israel. I have vague memories of my first Tashlich in Great Neck, NY,
> going with some family to some water and everyone throwing things. But
> in Israel I've never seen such a thing. Water here is so precious and
> rare it would cause pollution. Finding a place for tashlich in
> Jerusalem and other mountain areas, like Shiloh isn't easy.

Not to mention that huge outcry a few years back when people
noticed New Yorkers' sins washing up on the New Jersey beaches.
Frank Silbermann...........Memphis, Tennessee


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Easiest Mitzvah

Andy Goldfinger in MJ 59#31 wrote that the easiest positive commandment is
listening to the sound of the shofar, even easier than sleeping in the
sukkah. I disagree. The mitzvah of shofar is not to simply hear, but to
listen and let that sound fill our consciousness and connect our inner
selves to the experiences of the binding of Isaac and the giving of the
Torah on Sinai. This takes tremendous kavannah (concentration-devotion).
Sleeping in the sukkah is completely passive. Even part of the soul leaves
the body when we sleep. The commandment of sukkah is "to live in it as in a
temporary dwelling" and one of the definitions of dwelling is sleeping. This
takes no concentration or devotion,rather by your very being there you are
scrupulously performing a positive commandment.
David Tzohar


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Entering a church

I think that Orrin Tilevitz (MJ 59#21) lets the minim (xtians) off much too
easily. First of all besides the tosfot he quoted which considers worshiping
other gods along with Hashem somewhat less than avodah zara, other rishonim
including Rambam considered it avodah zara lamehadrin [100% - MOD]. Some later
authorities make distinctions between the various denominations, but
Catholics who kneel before idols (crucifixes) and Eastern Orthodox who pray to
icons are definitely ovdei avodah zara.

Rav  Tzvi Yehuda Hacohen Kook ztzl and his talmidim R'Aviner,R'Tau and
R'Ariel all shlita, hold that it is completely forbidden to enter a church
under any circumstances. They are also of the opinion that if we didn't fear
retaliation, we would be commanded to destroy xtian places of worship. When
the real Messiah comes (may it be speedily in our days) I'm sure that he
will take care of it.

David Tzohar

From: Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Entering a church

Orrin Tilevitz wrote (MJ 59 #21):

> Others on the list can speak more knowledgeably about this, but there is a
> Tosafot in, I think, Sanhedrin, raising the idea of shituf, the idea that
> Christianity is not considered idol worship because Hashem is being worshiped
> together with someone else. There is another Tosafot at the beginning of Avoda
> Zara explaining why today we can trade with Christians on their religious
> holiday even though the gemara bars one from trading with idol worshippers on
> such days. One of the excuses, I think there, is that idol worshipers today
> are not nearly as frum [adukim] as they once were. Statements by ashkenazic
> rishonim and poskim that Christianity isn't avoda zara could be viewed as 
> mere apologetics.

You have conflated what is permitted for gentiles vs. what is 
forbidden to Jews. Note that according to the Mechaber in Yoreh Deah 141:1, a
crucifix has the din of Tzelem.

> And when I once asked Rabbi Jacob Kret, z'l, about attending a funeral
> service in a church for a colleague, he responded that if there are
> business reasons to go, it's ok.

I will reiterate what I posted here last week: it is categorically 
prohibited to enter a church used for services (even if there is no crucifix):
See Pri Hasadeh II 4. Also: Sefer Chassidim 335; Chochmat Adam Klal 84 #16;
Birkei Yosef YOREH DEAH 142:15; Yechaveh Da'at IV 45; Iggrot Moshe YD III 129;
Mareh ha'Bazak III 114; Tzitz Eliezer XIV 91; SHU"T Chaim B'Yad 26. 

And this prohibition is even in the case where a major non-Jewish dignitary
(ruler, president, king) dies and a rabbi is invited to the funeral.

There is 1 lenient position (in Asei Lecha Rav) that permits entering an
*empty* church that hasn't been used for services for many years (e.g
a museum). And even that is on a need for one's livelihood (e.g. a student
of architecture or art history).

Josh Backon

From: Lisa Liel <lisa@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Entering a church

Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...> wrote (MJ 59#21):

> Others on the list can speak more knowledgeably about this, but 
> there is a Tosafot in, I think, Sanhedrin, raising the idea of 
> shituf, the idea that Christianity is not considered idol worship 
> because Hashem is being worshiped together with someone else.

That's a common understanding.  But a closer look (Sanhedrin 63b) 
shows that Tosfot merely says that it's permissible to enter into a 
business partnership with non-Jews who *swear* in the name of their 
saints and JC.  Because when they say "God", they're referring to the 
One God who created everything.  There's no indication in Tosfot that 
*worshipping* something other than Hashem is permissible even for non-Jews.

And even according to the small minority view which says that 
Christianity, as such, is not idolatry for non-Jews, it certainly is for Jews.



From: Leah S.R. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 7,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Rabbi Jochanan and Resh Lakish (Was Bullying - Verbal Abuse)

In M.J 59 #20, Russell Hendel writes:

> [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]

On the contrary, I did answer this question.  To me, all of the dialogue in
the story strongly supports a thesis of unrequited love.  Re-read
R' Yochanan's comments from a lens of frustrated love for Reish Lakish (and
perhaps, but less obviously, vice versa).  In fact, the more I look at this
story, the more I think that Reish Lakish might have been pretty happy
married to his wife, and maybe it is R' Yochanan who was romantically
miserable.  Certainly the wife/sister was happy with R"L.

However, in spite of the fact that apparently the couple (R"L and sister of
R"Y) got along in the end, I think it is pretty misogynistic that R"Y just
decided that his sister would marry this stranger/brigand he had just met.
What a ridiculous exercise of power for a brother!  That actually further
supports my questioning of R"Y's care for women in general and in particular

Have any of you noticed, or questioned, this business of "promising" your
sister as a wife to the robber who has just accosted you?  It reminds me a
bit of Lot's story.

As a last aside, I think it is bizarre when people say, "don't say a Sage
was gay because that denigrates them or allows moderns to think their
badness is supported".  This is bizarre for at least three reasons:

1. People don't interpret a Sage as gay either to denigrate them, or to
support anything in particular, at least I don't - I am trying to find the
truest meaning of the text, plain and simple, and my mind is open to the
possibility that there may have been normal human-ness in the time of the

2. In the event that a gay person says, Oh, there's a gay Sage like me, I
think this is more about trying to identify with the Sage, about trying to
feel that there is a spot for the reader in Judaism, than about trying to
justify anything.

3. Remember - people like me do not think that being gay denigrates someone,
and we also do not think that being gay is something that needs to be
"justified" because we believe it is as inborn as blue eyes.

--Leah S. R. Gordon

From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 7,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Rabbi Jochanan and Resh Lakish (Was Bullying - Verbal Abuse)

Russel writes in Vo. 59 No. 20: 
> No one has ever answered my question: What was Rabbi Jochanan so angry
> about?
And I am not sure that we are obligated to accept the frame of reference 
that is set before us.
Was R' Yochanan indeed angry?  Was he angry at Reish Lakish, or just
upset that his pupil didn't grasp his system?  This reading (in Hebrew)
treats the 5 part story,

(http://daat.ac.il/daat/sifrut/agadot/ararat1-2.html ) 

and suggests he was angry at himself for not being the proper educator and for
being jealous at Reish Lakish's character traits.
Yet another approach sets the dispute not on the personal level but on
the way in which Talmudic reasoning and deciding is based and this was
the divide between Reish Lakish and R' Yochanon which had nothing to do
with any sexual innuendo in the waters of the Jordan
(http://www.etzion.org.il/vbm/archive/yomyom/dafyomyomi/2009-07-18.php )

Yehuda Libes, however, does view the story as one of erotic tension and
an attempt at rape as does here:


and here

<http://www.tchelet.org.il/article.php?id=394&page=2> &page=2) 
here is Libes:

w&ct=clnk&gl=il> &cd=2&hl=iw&ct=clnk&gl=il 
or this shortened link version:  http://tinyurl.com/2uezdna 


From: Chana <Chana@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Rambam's change of mind

Avi Walfish writes (Vol.59 #21):

> your comments sent me back to have another look at the sources -
> which to my mind confirm and strengthen the usual reading of the Rambam
> in Mishneh Torah. First, I believe that careful reading of Rambam Hilkhot
> Tefillah 1:1 is clear and straightforward, even without adding "oh, by the
> way...". At this point, the Rambam has mentioned ONLY the Torah commandment
> to pray once daily, and has specified (1:1) that the number of prayers
> is NOT from the Torah. He does not discuss the rabbinic requirement of
> three prayers a day until 1:5. Hence, without any ambiguity, when 1:1
> states "hence women... are obligated in prayer, because it is a
> non-time-bound positive commandment", it means the Torah requirement of
> once daily.

Yes, I don't have a problem with that.

> In 1:5, in the context of the rabbinic thrice-daily requirement, the
> Rambam does not reiterate the obligation of women. Can it be presupposed,
> as Chana suggested, that whoever was included explicitly in the Torah
> command in 1:1 is implicitly included in 1:5 as well? Maybe, but I think
> the burden of proof is on you.

In every context I can think of, where women are exempt from something, the
Rambam specifically says so.  That is, it is the Rambam's style to set out
exactly which class of people are exempt where (for example, in hilchos
Krias Shema he has a special halacha (perek 4 halacha 1) saying women and
slaves and minors are exempt from krias shema, and I could go on and on).
Here he makes no such statement.  So you need to conclude one of two things
- for some reason he omitted to say what he would always set out in other
contexts, or he thought they were not exempt (and thought it was obvious
from other aspects of his discussion).

> Moreover, if you want to argue that 1:5 implicitly includes women, how
> about 1:6, which concludes with "... even so all of Israel in all places
> of habitation have the custom of praying arvit." Do you think that the
> women in places of habitation the Rambam was familiar with had such a custom?

Women may or may not be considered part of all of Israel (the Torah famously
distinguishes between the bnei Yisrael and the Beis Ya'akov, so the answer
is not so pashut).     

> I think the simpler and more convincing reading is that women are included
> in 1:1 and not in 1:5. (And 6:10 just refers back to the obligation about
> which we know already, namely 1:1).

Actually no.  6:10 adds in one key word that is not in 1:1 "Nashim, avadim
*vkatanim*" - women, slaves *and minors* are obligated in tephila.

Now, it is not at all surprising that katanim are not mentioned in 1:1 and
1:2, because the obligation of katanim for anything is generally understood
not to be from the Torah, but to be rabbinic.  If 6:10 is not talking about
a rabbinic obligation with respect to Nashim, but to the previously referred
to Torah obligation then the sentence is very odd, mixing up Torah and
rabbinic obligations in one go.  Again, a far more straightforward
understanding is that 1:2 is talking about a Torah obligation.  Women were
then implicitly included in the whole takana in 1:5, as one would most
normally assume.  Then just in case and to be specific to indicate that
women are included in the rabbinic obligation, he stated it again in 6:10,
and added in the one section of society where the matter is totally
rabbinic, that of minors, in its correct place.

>I certainly wouldn't rely on this one word to create an obligation on women
> to pray three times daily.

No, nor would I.

But I would not create a contradiction based on this one word when it seems
to me that the more simple reading of the Rambam is that women do have such
a rabbinic obligation.

Kativa v'Chatima tova


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Rambam's Change of Mind

RE: Rambam prayer 1:1 vs 1:5. If you look at my posting on "Mimetic, Textual and
Creative Halacha" (MJ 59#17) you will see Avie's question answered.

For it is NOT ENOUGH to simply read the text textually. That is what Avie is
doing. He is saying women are included in 1:1 but not textually included in 1:5
(1:6) and hence the burden of proof is on those who wish to include them.

One has to also look at reasons. The REASON for 1:5 is connection with the daily
sacrifice which included ALL of Israel. And yes, "The Jews became accustomed to
say Arvith..." in 1:6 includes all of Israel.

What will you counter-argue? That the commandment is time-bound? But then I can
respond to the counter-argument that >>EVERY TIME BOUND COMMANDMENT IN WHICH
THEY TOO (women) WERE INVOLVED APPLIES TO THEM>> So since the communal sacririce
involved the community including women we must apply 1:5 to women.

In other words: Either you read the text WITHOUT additions (the additional
observation of time bound) in which case women are obligated OR you do read the
text WITH all relevant additions in which case the two principles a) women are
exempt from timebound, b) provided they also did not participate in the miracle,
apply, in which case WOMEN are obligated.

I believe this the proper way to read the Rambam which I believe therefore
applies to women both at 1:5 and 1:6

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


End of Volume 59 Issue 22