Volume 59 Number 23 
      Produced: Sun, 12 Sep 2010 11:35:44 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"Statement of Principles" regarding homosexuality 
    [Orrin Tilevitz]
Clapping and Dancing on Shabbat 
    [Akiva Miller]
Entering a church (2)
    [Orrin Tilevitz  Frank Silbermann]
Five Dates of Rosh HaShanah 
    [Richard Fiedler]
Rambam's change of mind (2)
    [Avraham Walfish  Avraham Walfish]


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: "Statement of Principles" regarding homosexuality

Avie Walfish wrote (MJ 59#22):

> Shabbat violation is undoubtedly a very serious transgression, but ... it is
> common practice in many shuls, ... 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).

The case of shabbat, which many posters have cited as an analogy in this
discussion, is a red herring. For one thing, as serious a transgression as it
is, it is not in the category of yehareig ve-al yaavor. For another, at least in
the past, many who committed that transgression felt that the alternative was
starvation for themselves and their families, That is not the alternative to
abstaining from sex. For a third, even today there are Orthodox shuls with few
or no Sabbath-observing congregants beyond the rabbi, at least congregants
capable of acting as shelichei tzibur. There are also specific sources, which
Rabbi Fuchs quotes, that permit sabbath-desecrators to receive aliyot.

As far as chazzanim goes, there seems to have been a perverse eastern European
tradition of chazzanim as rogues. See the I.L. Peretz short story (which I am
told is based on folk motifs), Neilah in Gehenna.

> 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.

Despite my persistent questioning, Avie does not say why he thinks the halacha
permits distinctions to be made between homosexual conduct and forbidden
heterosexual conduct.

> 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.

That is a non sequitur. That there is no technical halachic prohibition does not
mean that the halacha is indifferent or that it is a matter to be decided by the


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Clapping and Dancing on Shabbat

Yechiel Conway (MJ 59:19) wrote:

> The Minchat Elazar (1:29), however, takes the view that according
> to all authorities, including the Ashkenazim who follow the Rama
> (the language used is a pun on Shemot 14:8), it is permitted to
> clap and dance on Shabbat whenever a mitzvah is involved.  Nowadays,
> according to the Minchat Elazar, clapping and dancing is part and
> parcel of the mitzvah rejoicing of Shabbat enjoyment (the term used
> is "simcha shel mitzvah shel oneg Shabbat") and is therefore
> permitted as an accompaniment to vocal singing.  The Minchat Elazar
> would not have allowed clapping by way of applause because this has
> nothing to do with the "simcha shel mitzvah shel oneg Shabbat".

I would like to ask a question about the last of these quoted sentences. You
wrote (emphasis mine) that "The Minchat Elazar WOULD not have allowed clapping
by way of applause..." It sounds to me like the Minchat Elazar did not
explicitly write about applause, and it is only your comment that he would not
have allowed it. I'd like to know if this is in fact what you mean.

The reason I'm asking is this: The authorities do have many discussions about
clapping hands on Shabbat, but from what I've seen, it is ALWAYS in the context
of music. This is significant, because I understand this to be a part of the
prohibition against musical instruments, and the question is whether or not this
prohibition goes so far as to cover a sort of music which is produced ONLY with
one's body, and involves no musical instrument whatsoever. But does applause
even count as music at all?

I recall mentioning this to someone who made an interesting distinction between
European applause and American applause: In Europe, the audience tends to clap
in unison, and by synchronizing one's clapping with the group, a regular beat
develops, and this could be forbidden. In America, however, the clapping is
totally random, is not musical in any way, and would be allowed.

According to this logic, the Minchat Elazar might still allow American-style
applause. Even though it has nothing to do with the "simcha shel mitzvah shel
oneg Shabbat", it doesn't NEED that to be allowed, because only musical applause
is forbidden to begin with.

Akiva Miller


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Entering a church

Lisa Liel wrote (MJ 59#22):

> 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.

I have heard this position and have had difficulty understanding it. Does it
mean that the act is only prohibited to Jews or that it bears the punishment of
yehareig ve-al yaavor [accept martyrdom rather than transgress - MOD] as real
avoda zara [idolatry - MOD]? If so, how is that possible? Btw, in that small
minority is the Meiri, hardly a minor figure.

David Tzohar wrote (MJ 59#22):

> I think that Orrin Tilevitz (MJ 59#21) lets the minim (xtians) off much too
> easily... Catholics who kneel before idols (crucifixes) and Eastern Orthodox
> who pray to icons are definitely ovdei avodah zara [idol worshippers -MOD].

I was responding largely to Josh Backon's dogmatic post, and particularly to his
assertion that entering a church is biblically forbidden, an assertion that
takes several leaps of faith (no pun intended) since we believe that the Bible
antedates the Christian church. My point is not that no form of Christianity
is avoda zara (I dont believe that), or that it is perfectly acceptable for a
Jew to enter a church (it isn't). It is that the issue is not black and white,
as Josh paints it, and that the prohibition of entering a church is not a
particularly severe one. 

I also wonder about the extent to which the responsa asserting this ban,
including modern responsa that rely on the earlier ones, resulted from two
factors that are, or may, be non-issues today. The first is forced baptisms of
Jews, which occurred in Europe at least into the mid-nineteenth century.
Typically, the church would assert that the conversion was voluntary. It would
certainly be helpful for the Jewish leadership, when it approached the church
or the government to attempt to reclaim the victim, to be able to assert that
no Jew would ever voluntarily enter a church. Forced baptisms seem to be a thing
of the past. Second is the fear that one who enters a church may be influenced
to convert. That is highly unlikely to be true today for anyone who would listen
to a responsum.

By the way, AFIK, minim are not xtians but Judeo-xtians, of the J for J type.

Josh Backon wrote (MJ 59#22):

> 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.

Even less clear. I refer you to an email exchange between Rabbis Michael Broyde
and Kenneth Auman at 
about whether it is permitted to enter a church for hatzalat yisrael, and
exactly what that phrase means in this context. Suffice it for the present
discussion that, according to Rabbi Broyde, many chief rabbis have attended such

From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Entering a church

Orrin Tilevitz wrote (MJ 59#21):

> ... 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. ...

Josh Backon replied (MJ 59#22):

> You have conflated what is permitted for gentiles vs. what is forbidden to
> Jews.
I don't see anything being conflated here.  The discussion concerns a Jew
entering a church, not a Jew engaging in Christian worship.
Josh posted opinions that were based on the principle that we should not benefit
from anything designed for use in idolatry.  I don't think this applies to
generic items such as coins that may have once been placed in an idolator's
collection basket. And obviously, there must be exceptions, such as those which
allow a Chabad congregation to purchase a church building and convert it to a
shul.  But I digress...
Let's assume that Christianity is forbidden as idolatry for Jews but not for
gentiles. Though it might follow that we should not benefit from an item
designed for a _Jew's_ use in Christian worship, we would not necessarily be
forbidden an item used by a gentile in a practice which for him is not idolatry.
(As analogy, candy bars produced by a gentile-owned factory may be certified
as kosher even if the factory operates seven days of the week and on Yom Kippur.) 

Orrin Tilevitz (MJ 59#21):

> 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.

Josh Backon (MJ 59#22):

> I will reiterate what I posted here last week: ... 
What on earth is the point of reiterating? Are you adopting the Pee Wee Herman
style of argument -- competitive repetition to see who tires first?

Frank Silbermann ........... Memphis, Tennessee


From: Richard Fiedler <richardfiedler@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 12,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Five Dates of Rosh HaShanah

Here are five dates which are indicative of the origin of the Hebrew Calendar.

358 CE - Traditionally this has been identified as the initiation of the Hebrew
Calendar. From Wikipedia "There is a tradition, first mentioned by Hai Gaon
(d.1038 CE), that Hillel b. R. Yehuda "in the year 670 of the Seleucid era"
(i.e. 358-359 CE) was responsible for the new calculated calendar with a fixed
intercalation cycle. Later writers, such as Nachmanides, explained Hai Gaon's
words to mean that the entire computed calendar was due to Hillel b. Yehuda.
Maimonides, in the 12th century, stated that the Mishnaic calendar was used
"until the days of Abaye and Rava", who flourished ca. 320-350 CE, and that the
change came when "the land of Israel was destroyed, and no permanent court was
left."  With Sacha Stern's book where he expresses the doubt that Hillel b. R.
Yehuda even existed from a scholarly point of view this date has fallen to
disrepute. Certainly however most Rabbis if asked would support the Ramban's
claim that this was when the Calendar started.

Science comes to support the significance of this date. The Molad of Tishrei for
Rosh HaShanah 358-359 CE was Shabbat 23h 233p or Sept 19, 0358 at 5:12 PM. The
Lunar Conjunction was Sept 19, 0358 at 9:41 PM. Erev Rosh HaShanah the Old Moon
rose at 3:50 AM with sunrise at 5:24 AM and with 41 hours and 51 minutes to the
conjunction this would be one of the most significant Old Moons in the last 2000

120 CE - The conflict between Rabban Galmiel and Rabbi Yehoshua. This date was
not given in the Mishna but considering the claims made by the witnesses there
are no other likely dates between 100 CE and 136 CE. The Molad of Tishrei was
Yom Sheni 21h 601p Sept 10, 0120 at 3:33 PM. The Lunar Conjunction was Sept 10
at 5:04 PM. Erev Rosh HaShanah the Old Moon rose at 3:52 AM with sunrise at 5:17
AM and 39 hours and 12 minutes to the conjunction,

198 CE - R' Hiyya walked by the light of the old moon 4 miles according to the
Yerushalmi. This was identified by Rashi as Erev Rosh HaShanah. This date is the
only date consistent with the facts and the period in which R' Hiyya lived. R'
Hiyya was a student of Shmuel who said the calendar was calculated.  The Molad
of Tishrei was Yom Sheni 22h 126p Sept 18, 0198 at 4:07 PM. The Lunar
Conjunction was Sept 10 at 6:18 PM. Erev Rosh HaShanah the Old Moon rose at 3:42
AM with sunrise at 5:23 AM and 38 hours and 34 minutes to the conjunction, with
an hour and a half to walk the 4 miles.

835 CE - The Exilarch's Letter is discussed in detail on my website. Bavel was
having a major battle with the Karites and this documented date can be seen to
have been a date in which the Old Moon was clearly seen Erev Rosh HaShanah. The
Molad of Tishrei was Yom Shishi 22h 660p Aug 27, 0835 at 4:36 PM. The Lunar
Conjunction was Aug 27 at 9:40 PM(Bavel). Erev Rosh HaShanah the Old Moon rose
at 3:48 AM with sunrise at 5:33 AM and 39 hours and 10 minutes to the
conjunction, all times in Bavel. No doubt the Karites rejoiced with this
apparent error.

All of these dates are well founded and have in common that the Old Moon would
be clearly seen belying the presumption that witnesses were the determinant
factor in Rosh Chodesh.

923 CE - The conflict between Saadia Gaon and Ben Meir. The Molad of Tishrei was
Yom Shabbat 18h 237p Sept 13, 0923 at 12:13 PM. There was no problem of an Old
Moon being seen. I believe the motivation of Saadia Gaon was to eliminate future
such problems such as one which would occur in 934 CE.

Had the Molad Zaqen rule been in place from the beginning all instances there
would never had been a conflict with Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Yehoshua.

The Molad Zaqen Rule eliminates any sighting of the Old Moon. The Molad Zaqen
rule applies to 25% of all Molads of Tishrei but it prevents the 3.75% of the
cases were the likely sighting of an Old Moon would conflict with the perception
that Rosh HaShanah was determined by witnessed testimony.


From: Avraham Walfish <rawalfish@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Rambam's change of mind

Chana Luntz wrote (MJ 59#22) in response to me (MJ 59#21):

> In every context I can think of, where women are exempt from something,
> the Rambam specifically says so...  Here he makes no such statement.

I don't have time to do a thorough study of this subject, but here's one
counterexample off the top of my head: in Hilkhot Hanukkah Chapter 3 I don't see
any explicit statement exempting women from reciting Hallel, even though 3:14
makes it clear that women are in fact exempt. I suspect that the Rambam is less
consistent in this matter than you think, and there may be also be a
differentiation here between Torah mitzvot and rabbinic enactments.

>> 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.

The exclusion of minors from 1:2 is for an obvious reason - the status of
minors has nothing to do with the nature of prayer as a non-time-bound
commandment, which is the main point of 1:1. The inclusion of ketanim (minors)
in 6:10 has troubled many commentators, especially in light of Rambam's
formulation in Hilkhot Keriyat Shema 4:1 that ketanim are exempt, but fathers
are obligated to educate them to do it. Rambam seems here to be following the
language of Mishnah Berakhot 3:3, which exempts minors from shema but obligates
them in prayer, but Rashi and Tosfot already noted that this mishnah seems to
contradict itself - if viewed from the perspective of personal obligation, the
minor should be exempt from both, but if viewed from the perspective of father's
educational duty, he should be obligated in both. Neither Rashi's nor Tosfot's
answer seems to fit the Rambam's differentiation between educational
obligation for shema and personal obligation for prayer. Rav Kappah quotes
Sidrei Moshe, who argues your case - 1:1-2 is Torah law, from which minors are
exempt, but 6:10 is rabbinic, and minors are included. He further draws your
conclusion that women are obligated according to Rambam in 3 daily prayers. They
don't do so, he argues, because women can't properly concentrate and in 4:15,
Rambam forbids praying under such circumstances. I think this is a problematic
reading, because even if 6:10 is referring to the rabbinic thrice-daily
requirement of prayer, the Rambam still should have noted that the requirement
of children is due to education, as he did in Hilkhot Keriyat Shema (and
elsewhere). To my mind, Rav Rabinowitz in Yad Peshuta to Keriyat Shema 4:1 (pp.
111 ff.) has a better reading, which differentiates between mitzvot where the
rabbis imposed the educational obligation on the parent and mitzvot where the
educational obligation devolves on the child himself. In Rav Rabinowitz's view
(p. 113), this has nothing to do with whether we are discussing rabbinic or
Torah dimensions of prayer.

> 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.

There is indeed an odd mix of nashim, avadim, ketanim, insofar as the reasons
for obligating and exempting of the former two differ from the reasons regarding
the minor. However, the Rambam here, as usual, is simply citing the language of
 the Mishnah, which lumps the three together - and creates a complicated
exegetical problem. It should be noted, however, that this trio is often brought
together in the Mishnah, and it is far from unlikely that the literary desire to
keep the trio together overrode the different halakhic
logic applying to each. Some Rambam commentators (I forget where I saw this)
suggest that "ketanim" in this formula does not really belong to this halakhah,
and is simply cited together with its usual partners as a catch-phrase (similar
to some citations in the Mishnah of *gerushah vahalutza*, *mamzer venatin*, etc.).

Avie Walfish

From: Avraham Walfish <rawalfish@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 8,2010 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Rambam's change of mind

Russell wrote (MJ 59#22):

> 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.

I have a hermeneutical disagreement with Russell here. I have less faith
than he in the reader's ability to assume that he knows the REASON, and I
believe strongly that one has to be highly attentive to all the textual nuances
before he can presume to interpret (or reinterpret) the text on the basis of

> 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.

It is not as clear as Russell assumes that the daily sacrifice included all
of Israel. Certainly women were included in the atonement provided by the
sacrifice, but unlike men, they had no active involvement in it - neither as
kohanim or levi-im, nor even as participants in the *ma'amadot* of Israelites.
They were not even required to donate the annual half-shekel from which the
daily sacrifices (and all other public sacrifices) were purchased, although
they were allowed to donate if they wanted to. Hence, it is far from
self-evident that the rabbinically-instituted daily prayers necessarily included
them. Here I come back to my earlier point. No doubt a case could be made that
Russell's assumption that women were included in ALL of Israel is more plausible
than my counter-argument. But how can we be sure that the Rambam agreed with
Russell and not me, absent any textually-based proof. This is
precisely why we have to privelege textually-based readings over REASON-based

Ketivah Vahatimah Tovah.
Avie Walfish


End of Volume 59 Issue 23