Volume 59 Number 55 
      Produced: Fri, 15 Oct 2010 03:59:07 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Christians and Moslems 
    [Eitan Fiorino]
Halacha for Special Agents 
    [Orrin Tilevitz]
Left-over korbanot (2)
    [Gershon Dubin  Alex Heppenheimer]
Prohibition of entering a church 
    [Frank Silbermann]
Prohibition on entering a church 
    [Mark Steiner]


From: Eitan Fiorino <afiorino@...>
Date: Thu, Oct 14,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Christians and Moslems

In MJ V59 #54 Akiva Miller asked:

> Is it possible that prior to the rise of terrorism in recent decades, maybe
> we saw Moslems more as cousins than we do today?

There was indeed a very long history of Moslem tolerance for Jews and Jewish
populations thriving under Moslem rule.  For example, the golden age of Jews in
Moslem Spain, and about 500 years later, the invitation of Sultan Bajazet of
Turkey for the Jewish exiles from Spain to settle in Turkey (and many thousands
accepted the offer, turning Salonica and Constantinople into major Jewish
centers of commerce and learning).  I would suspect that in many middle eastern
countries, it was not until the rise of of modern anti-semitism in the late 19th
and early 20th centuries that relations began to seriously deteriorate (though
there are exceptions - King Mohammed IV of Morrocco refused to deport Jews
during World War 2, and when his son King Hassan II died in 1999, many Morroccan
Jews in Israel observed shiva).

It must be understood, though, that in Moslem countries, Jews (and Christians)
had an official status as dhimmis - they were subject to a special tax in
exchange for a right of residence and had fewer rights than Moslems.  Dhimmis 
could not practice their religions in a way that was particularly noticible to
the Moslem populace, faced restrictions on the building of places of worship,
clothing, housing, etc.  In certain times and places (eg, the Ottoman empire
post-expulsion) the enforcement of some elements of dhimmi status was lax,
whereas at other times and places it was strictly enforced - this obviously
impacted "quality of life" in a substantial way.



From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Thu, Oct 14,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Halacha for Special Agents

As to Yisrael Medad's post (MJ 59#53) on Rav Schvat and honeypot missions, my
daughter, who had Rav Schvat as a teacher, reports:

"He had a student who was approached by the Mossad for this purpose several
years ago. We had a shiur on how hatzalat am yisrael trumps pretty much
everything, and he used the Yael, Yehudit and Esther stories as proof. At the
time however, he paskened that it was better for a non-religious girl to do it
than a religious one. His reasoning was that the secular girl would probably
sleep around anyway, and this way she would at least get a mitzvah for it."

With regard to another current thread, hatzalat am yisrael is, btw, one of the
reasons given for permitting Jewish leaders to enter churches.


From: Gershon Dubin <gdubin@...>
Date: Thu, Oct 14,2010 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Left-over korbanot

The phrase used in the Gemara is that it should graze until it gets a mum
(blemish) so presumably it won't starve.


From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Thu, Oct 14,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Left-over korbanot

In MJ 59#54, Stuart Wise <Smwise3@...> wrote:

> I overheard a conversation that questioned the halacha of an animal that 
> was designated for sacrifice that can no longer be used must be let out to 
> pasture to die. The question was whether this means letting the animal live 
> out its life, or just stop feeding it until it dies of starvation. One of the 
> conversants asked how could it be the latter, when that would constitute 
> tzaar baalei chaim (causing pain to living creatures).

> Any elucidation?

This is actually conflating two different categories: four cases of unofferable 
sin-offerings (chataos), and unofferable offerings of all other kinds.

The latter are sent out to pasture until they develop a blemish that 
disqualifies them as a sacrifice, and in most cases they are then to be sold and 
the money used to purchase another (unblemished) animal for that type of 
sacrifice. Nothing may be done to hasten their death or disqualification, 
though; they might well live for years this way.

With the chataos, the halachah is indeed that they are to be left to die; Rambam
(Laws of Disqualified Offerings 4:1) states that this is done by putting the
animal in a room, locking the door, and leaving it there until it dies. He goes
on to stress that this is a law received by tradition going back to Moshe 
Rabbeinu (who received it from G-d). So just as the Torah tells us "do not 
murder" but then carves out exceptions for warfare, judicial execution, and the 
like - in much the same way, the same G-d Who tells us to be solicitous for 
animals' well-being is the one who tells us that this case overrides that 

Kol tuv,


From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Thu, Oct 14,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Prohibition of entering a church

As reasons why Jews should not enter churches, Chana Luntz (MJ 59#51) brought up
aspects of the Catholic Eucharist, pointing out that they believe the bread and
wine to be transformed into Jesus' body and blood, and that:

>  (ii) is offered on the altar (and is considered a re-enactment of
>      Jesus' supposed original sacrifice in sacrificing his life analogous to
>  the lamb offered as korbanos in the Beis HaMikdash);
> ...
>   (iv) it is then eaten by those participating in the service as
>   analogous to the way the priests in our temple ate from the sacrifices.

I responded (MJ 59#53):

> I don't think these points are relevant.  The (question as to whether
> the Catholic Eucharist is idolatrous any moreso than some other part
> of their service  depends on)  whether the bread and wine are being
> worshiped, not whether they are being used in worship.
> As an analogy, it was a sin for the Israelites to worship a calf, but
> it was not a sin to offer one on the alter.

Chana Luntz (MJ 59#54) replied:

> It is only a sin not to offer a calf on the altar *if and only if* the
> offering is made to HaShem. It is unquestionably a sin to offer a calf
> (or anything else) as an offering to an idol. If, indeed, the Christian
> conception of what they are offering to is halachically deemed idolatrous,
> then they are making offerings to an idol ....

Isn't that begging the question?  In the context of worship by gentiles,
if the Christian concept of G-d is idolatrous then we've already answered
the question -- so the Eucharist is irrelevant.  And if the Christian concept
of G-d is not idolatrous for gentiles, then perhaps neither is the Eucharist.
Noting that Christians perform this service therefore adds no evidence
either way.
Frank Silbermann             Memphis, Tennessee


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Thu, Oct 14,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Prohibition on entering a church

I had not intended to post again on this subject, but Chana's long
piece (MJ 59#51) on the matter deserves some comment.  I won't be able to
discuss the entire article; in particular her comments on what I wrote about
doing business with Christians on their holy days (Tosafot 2a) will have to wait
for a later reply.  Here I will attempt to achieve greater agreement between
us on the question of Christian worship: whether the Baalei Tosafot regarded
this worship as a.z. (idolatry) for Gentiles as well as Jews.  (In the
meantime, I have shown my thoughts to Prof. Berger - -whose work on
Christianity I previously submitted -- and he was kind enough to make useful
comments, which I have incorporated in what follows.  He also wrote an
entire posting on the attitude of medieval Ashkenazic Jews to Christianity,
which he asked me to submit in his own name - I am happy to append this at the
end of mine.)

Since Chana agrees with me that the Tosafot to Tractate Avoda Zara 14b does seem
to state that the Christian mass is a.z. for Gentiles (perhaps
because I cited the tosafot there as saying that liturgical books -- i.e.
mass-books, or missals -- are not to be sold to priests, so as not to put a
stumbling block), I will focus on Tosafot to 50 a/b which is the focus of
her own discussion.

Chana argues as follows: it is true that the Tosafot and Rishonim
hold that wax candles lit as part of a worship service are forbidden to be
used if blown out by a Jew (if the priest himself blows them out, this might
be called "bitul" [nullification] of the prohibition).  Yet Tosafot to 50
a/b rule that the loaves ("wafers"?) that are offered during a Christian
service are permitted.  Given the obvious sacrificial nature of the mass
ceremony, which Chana explains in detail, and the law that "tikrovet"
(sacrificial offerings) are strictly forbidden (and in fact the wafer can be
regarded as the flesh of their divinity itself, and therefore an a.z), one
needs to explain this heter.  Chana concludes that the Tosafot on 50 a/b
were written by scholars who believed that Christianity is not idolatry for
Gentiles, and thus the loaves were not sacrificed to a.z.  To the question:
why then are the candles (so long as they do not undergo bitul by the
priest) forbidden, Chana replies that Tosafot are not talking about
Christianity at all, but about another 13th century religion which was
indeed idolatry.  Or if they are talking about Christianity (since Chana
understands that there is zero evidence for such a 13th century religion
outside Christianity), this is not the mass: the mass is not a.z., lighting
candles on candlemas is.

To understand why this argument is not valid, let me recall a recent
story.  R. Eliashiv, regarded as the decisor of the generation by his
disciples, reversed an earlier decision and suddenly announced a prohibition
on Indian wigs (sheytls).  Wigs from India, he said, are tikrovet a.z.,
because Indian women sacrifice their shorn hair to a.z. in a temple.  As a
result, within a few hours, I didn't see a single wig in Geulah (in Mea
Shearim women are not allowed to wear wigs in any case), while women
scrambled to find sheytls with a "hechsher."

R. Eliashiv had earlier ruled, however, that the wigs are permitted,
because even though the worship of the women who offer their hair is clearly
a.z., the hair itself is not considered a sacrifice.

Note that BOTH opinions presuppose that Hindu worship is a.z.,
because the object of veneration is not Hashem -- the question is the
technical one of whether the appurtenances and accessories to the worship
fall under the category of tikrovet, meshamshim, etc.  (I refer the reader
to Chana's discussion of these categories.)

We must then distinguish between the object venerated and worshiped
and the mode of such worship.  In the case of Christianity, all Jews
understood that the Gentiles venerated Jesus of Nazareth as a divinity.
They even venerated images of Jesus to which they attributed also divine
properties, acts which by themselves are avoda zara.  They were well aware
that the Christians tried to evade the accusation of avoda zara by the
doctrine that actually the Son and the "Father" are one and the same.  Thus
worshiping Jesus, they claimed, actually is worshiping Hashem.  The Jews of
Ashkenaz, as we see from the polemical literature published and discussed by
Prof. David Berger,  rejected this specious reasoning as sacrilegious,
reasoning that it is so patently absurd, that it doesn't even have the
exculpatory effect of making the Gentiles "shogegim," i.e. inadvertent
idolators.  (In Spain, the Ramban, in his famous debate with the apostate
Jew, remarks to the King, in a much more philosophical vein than the rabbis
of Ashkenaz would, that the Trinity (i.e. the doctrine that the same object
could be human and divine at the same time) does not even qualify as a
"belief", because it is entirely incoherent.  In other words, the Ramban is
saying that the Trinity is not even a doctrine.)  

Thus worship of Jesus, even when accompanied by "explanations" like
"Incarnation" or "Trinity," counts as pure a.z. with no terutzim [excuses],
for Gentile and Jew alike.  (Cf. Prof. Berger's contribution on this subject
at the end of my own words.)  The only question remaining, and it is this
that the Tosafot deal with, is the halakhic status of the artifacts of this
idolatrous worship: the statues (which Chana doesn't deal with), pictures,
censers, chalices, wax, loaves, etc., for Jews.

Note that before we get into details, the very discussion by the
Tosafot of these matters, like the discussion of the wigs by R. Eliashiv,
shlita, makes no sense at all if we assume that the Christians are
worshiping Hashem.  Thus, the prohibition of candles on Candlemas
presupposes that worshiping Jesus is forbidden the whole year round.  Even
permitting the (extinguished) candles presupposes that the worship itself is
avoda zara.

Now, what about the loaves or wafers?  The Tosafot are very clear
that they believed that, like the wigs in R. Eliashiv's earlier opinion,
although the wafers play a role in the service, they are not technically a
sacrificial offering to the "Son," but rather are an offering to the clergy,
a kind of gratuity.  They had no access to Wikipedia, did not attend church
services, and hence were not aware of the details of the mass and of the
actual role of the wafer as an avoda zara itself (the flesh of Jesus).  They
are not perfectly persuaded that this explanation is correct, and so if you
look at the end of the Tosafot you will see another strategy they use to
permit the wafers, similar to R. Eliashiv's earlier wig psak.  The entire
Tosafot, however, makes no sense if we don't assume that any form of worship
of the "Son" is forbidden for them as well as us.  Had the Tosafot believed
that the wafers were permitted because worship of the Son is not avoda zara
at all, because they bought into the Christian argument that the belief in
the Trinity is actually a monotheistic belief (at least for the Gentiles),
they would have said so on the spot and saved themselves much wasted time in
halakhic pilpul.

The preceding paragraph was written under the assumption of Chana
and myself, that the "loaves" Tosafot is talking about in 50a/b are in fact
the communion wafers of what is called the Eucharist.  I would like here to
append a comment by Professor Berger, in a communication I just received,
which throws an entirely different light on the matter:

"I'm not sure that the kikkarot in the Tosafot in AZ 50 refer to the
Eucharist at all.  Monks and priests received a praebenda, or allotment of
food and wine.  I can't look into this now, but I assume that this was
sometimes (usually?) donated by laymen. The wine praebenda is mentioned in
Nizzahon Yashan, p. 99 of my translation.  Praebenda took on a broader
meaning as well, but I would not be at all surprised if the bread ration is
what Tosafot refers to here, in which case their characterization is
absolutely accurate."

If Prof. Berger is right, then a fortiori the leniency with respect to the
loaves certainly does not prove any leniency with respect to Christian
worship, i.e. worship of Jesus as divine.

But loaves are not the only items mentioned in our Tosafot. If we
look at the other Christian artifacts that the Tosafot to 50 a/b discuss, we
see that they forbid the use of Christian censers (in which incense as in
our Bais Hamikdash was offered) because they are accessories (meshamshim) to
avoda zara.  From this we see that the mass was understood "even" by Tosafot
to 50 a/b as avoda zara pure and simple, where the incense brought is a
classical form of sacrifice.  They on the other hand permit the chalice (and
they use this Latin term) used in the mass.  Here, too, it is probable that
the Tosafot did not have the correct information on the mass and the role of
the chalice in it, as it is supposed to hold the blood of their divinity -- I
doubt that Tosafot knew this, and had they known it, they would have
probably declared the chalice too, not just the censer, forbidden. But all
this is not to the point.  Tosafot knew that the entire Christian worship
was a.z. regardless of the details of tikrovet etc., because they knew that
the object of their veneration was not Hashem, the Christian protestations
to the contrary notwithstanding.  They discuss, by the way, the (beautiful)
vestments of the priests, whether they are permitted for Jews to trade in.

It is thus clear that Tosafot to 50 a/b is (with the possible
exception of the "loaves," see Rabbi Berger's comment on them above)
discussing the mass, whether they had accurate information of what went on
in it, or of what the Christians thought went on in it. And it is clear that
they thought that the mass was idolatrous worship -- which is why the censers
are forbidden, and why the "loaves" WOULD HAVE BEEN forbidden if they were
deemed to technically fall under the category of tikrovet.  But the reason
they thought that the mass, candlemas, and every act of Christian worship
was forbidden for Gentiles as well as Jews was that they held that Christian
worship does not venerate Hashem, but something else.

I now append the following posting by Rabbi Dr. Berger (for those who don't
know, he is the Dean of the Bernard Revel Graduate School of YU, former
professor at the City University of New York, former president of the
Association for Jewish Studies, and, of course, an ordained rabbi).  You
will see that he agrees with my reading of the Tosafot in question, but I
ask the readers to judge what I have written above solely on the basis of
the cogency of my logic or absence thereof, and not because of any
authority.  As I said, he asked me to post this in his name, and I am
honored to do so:

"I would like to approach the discussion of Christianity as avodah zarah
from a somewhat different angle. Medieval Jewish texts from various subcultures
speak of punishments up to and including destruction and hellfire awaiting
Christians because of their belief in Jesus' divinity, the trinity, and
associated religious praxis. None of this is comprehensible if these Jews
believed that Christian worship is permissible to non-Jews.  The degree to which
these texts are or are not technically halakhic does not bear on their
significance.  It was not in the Jewish interest to make insincere assertions to
Christians that the latter are doomed because of their theology, nor does it
make sense to assume that Jews would make such insincere protestations for an
internal Jewish audience. Here are some examples:

Nizzahon Yashan in my edition, The Jewish-Christian Debate in the High
Middle Ages #233, English section, p. 222 and parallels in my notes there,
including the passage in Joseph Kimhi, Sefer ha-Berit, Talmage's ed., pp.
29-30; Nizzahon Yashan #50, pp. 75-76, discussed in my recently published
collection of articles, Persecution, Polemic and Dialogue: Essays in
Jewish-Christian Relations (henceforth PP&D), pp. 132-133; Nizzahon Yashan
#39, pp. 67-68, and my notes there; D. Goldschmidt, Seder ha-Selihot
ke-Minhag Lita..., p. 91 noted in PP&D, p. 133, note 43; Simon b. Zemah
Duran's Keshet u-Magen, ed. P. Murciano, pp. 107-108 (PP&D, p. 132);
Abarbanel, Ma'yenei ha-Yeshu'ah, Ma'ayan 8, Tamar 8, Perush al Nevi'im
u-Ketuvim, pp. 347-348 (PP&D, pp. 132-133). Note too the passage from Meir of
Narbonne in my The Rebbe, the Messiah and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference,
English version, p. 160 = Hebrew version, p. 166.  And so on.

There is, moreover, no doubt in my mind that Mark Steiner is correct
to say that the Tosafot passages under discussion make sense only in light
of the underlying conviction that Christianity is avodah zarah even for

There is more to say, but I will end with a methodological point.
Given the overwhelming evidence that medieval Jews, Ashkenazic and
Sephardic, saw Christianity as avodah zarah, we should certainly give
preference when confronted with an ambiguous text to the interpretation that
is consistent with the demonstrable consensus."  End of Prof. Berger's

I will end by expressing total agreement with Chana's exposition of the
halakha of entering churches, which I just read now before posting the
present contribution.


End of Volume 59 Issue 55