Volume 59 Number 58 
      Produced: Sun, 17 Oct 2010 05:48:08 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Christians and Moslems 
    [Ira L. Jacobson]
Prohibition of entering a church (2)
    [Eitan Fiorino  Chana Luntz]
Shiddach Crisis (was Beshert) 
    [Carl Singer]


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Sun, Oct 17,2010 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Christians and Moslems

Eitan Fiorino stated the following (MJ 59#55):

>There was indeed a very long history of Moslem tolerance for Jews 
>and Jewish populations thriving under Moslem rule.

This is a common misconception, which has been dispelled in a new 
book, "In Ishmael's House," by Martin Gilbert, Yale University Press.

I admit to having read only a review of this book, so I am supplying 
some examples from other sources, to indicate that Muslims and/or 
Arabs have rarely accepted Jews as neighbors.

Muslim-governed Andaluci'a in southern Spain, of which Cordoba was 
the capital city, ceased being tolerant (relative to contemporary 
Christian Europe) by about the year 1000.  In 1011, there was a 
Muslim pogrom against the Jews of Cordoba.  And even earlier, between 
850 and 859 CE, 50 Christians were beheaded in Cordoba for blasphemy 
against Islam.  As for the Indonesia (in which the young Barack Obama 
saw Christians worshiping freely), that country was almost as secular 
under Suharto as Turkey was under Ataturk.  So, the question remains: 
Are there examples in the last 1,000 years of a religious Islamic 
regime governing a society that was tolerant of non-Muslims or 
dissenting Muslims?  (President Obama provided none.)

In Tripolitania in 1785, Ali Burzi Pasha murdered hundreds of 
Jews.  In Algiers, Jews were massacred in 1805, 1815 and 1830; and in 
Marrakech, more than 300 Jews were murdered between 1864 and 
1880.  Decrees ordering the destruction of synagogues were enacted in 
Egypt and Syria (1014, 1293, and 1301) and Yemen (1676).

Despite the Quran's alleged prohibition, Jews were forced to convert 
to Islam or face death in Yemen (1165 and 1678), Morocco (1275, 1465 
and 1790-92), and Baghdad (1333 and 1344).

Muslim "protection" meant only that they did not kill and rob Jews as 
vigorously as Christians.  But not being a cannibal does not 
necessary mean being a vegetarian.  The number of the pogroms 
perpetrated by Muslims against Jews is not very much fewer than the 
number of pogroms perpetrated by Christians.

The first of them was carried out by the so-called "Islamic prophet" 
Muhammad; when the Jews of Medina refused to recognize Muhammad as 
their prophet, two of the major Jewish tribes were expelled, and the 
third, Banu Qurayza, was exterminated.  In 627, Muhammad's followers 
killed between 600 and 900 of the men of the tribe -- prisoners of 
war -- and divided the surviving Jewish women and children among 
themselves (Bat Ye'or,"The Dhimmi," NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson 
University Press, 1985, pp. 43-44).

In the ninth century, Baghdad's Caliph al-Mutawakkil designated a 
yellow badge for Jews, setting a precedent that would be followed 
centuries later in Nazi Germany (Bat Ye'or, pp.  185-86, 191, 
194;  Norman Stillman, "The Jews of Arab Lands," PA: The Jewish 
Publication Society of America, 1979, p.  84; Maurice Roumani, "The 
Case of the Jews from Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue," Tel Aviv: 
World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, 1977, pp. 26-27; Bat 
Ye'or, p.  72; Bernard Lewis, "The Jews of Islam," NJ: Princeton 
University Press, 1984 p. 158).

On 30 December 1066, Yosef HaNagid, the Jewish vizier of Granada, 
Spain, was crucified by an Arab mob that proceeded to raze the Jewish 
quarter of the city and slaughter its 5,000 inhabitants.

In 1465, Arab mobs in Fez slaughtered thousands of Jews, leaving only 
11 alive.  The killings touched off a wave of similar massacres 
throughout Morocco.

Mass murders of Jews in Arab lands occurred in Morocco in the 8th 
century, where whole communities were wiped out by the Muslim ruler 
Idris I; North Africa in the 12th century, where the Almohads either 
forcibly converted or decimated several communities; Libya in 1785, 
where Ali Burzi Pasha murdered hundreds of Jews; Algiers, where Jews 
were massacred in 1805, 1815 and 1830, and Marrakech, Morocco, where 
more than 30.000 Jews were murdered between 1864 and 1880 (Stillman, 
pp. 59, 284).

In the 19th century, Jews in most of North Africa (including Algeria, 
Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Morocco) were forced to live in 
ghettos.  In Morocco, which contained the largest Jewish community in 
the Islamic Diaspora, Jews were made to walk barefoot or wear shoes 
of straw when outside the ghetto.  Even Muslim children participated 
in the degradation of Jews, by throwing stones at them or harassing 
them in other ways.  The frequency of anti-Jewish violence increased, 
and many Jews were executed on charges of apostasy.  Ritual murder 
accusations against the Jews became commonplace in the Ottoman Empire 
(G.E. Von Grunebaum, "Eastern Jewry Under Islam," Viator, 1971, p. 369).



From: Eitan Fiorino <afiorino@...>
Date: Fri, Oct 15,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Prohibition of entering a church

In MJ 59#55 Mark Steiner cited David Berger:

> "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 non-Jews.
> 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 contribution.

Dr. Berger is not available to respond to my comments, but I will anyway point
out that nothing he says here addresses the far more pertinant issue - which is,
does it make any sense at all to rely on the psak of Rishonim regarding medieval
Christianity, a religion with which they were engaged in a life or death
struggle?  Would any of us hold by the Maharam miRutenburg's suggestion that
murdering one's children is permissible?  I think it is highly questionable to
bring the highly charged anti-Christian rhetoric of medieval Ashkenaz as a
relevant source for addressing the halachic question today.  

Yes, we can establish through halachic and non-halachic sources that medieval
Jews really, really hated Christianity, and they had good reason to, since
Christianity was a major source of anti-Jewish sentiment that frequently played
out disasterously for Jews.  And given the dramatic differnces in the size,
stature, socioeconomic status, etc. it is not surprising at all to find medieval
Jews denigrating Christianity as a repulsive avodah zara (indeed, their
occasional acts of suicide and filicide at the prospect of conversion speak far
more loudly about the depths of this revulsion than the written word could ever)
- after all, assuming a posture of religious superiority was just about the only
way a medieval Jew could imagine himself as occupying a higher rung than
Christians in the universe (particularly since the Christianity offered an
especially troubling question, which was "if God had indeed not abandoned the
Jewish people, then what could account for the destruction of bayit sheni and
the ascendency of Christianity?"). 

My position remains - given this milieu, the Rishonim can be no more relied upon
as the major source of a psak on the status of Christianity than they can be
relied upon as the major source for a psak on a complex scientific or medical
question.  The debate over the views of the Baalei Tosafot or other Rishonim is
an interesting historical/academic exercise, but in my view, is at most
background reading for this question.


From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Sat, Oct 16,2010 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Prohibition of entering a church

Mark Steiner (MJ 59#55) writes:

> 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.

Um, I hadn't thought I had done that either, actually.  Although this thread
has all along been entitled "Prohibition on entering a church", and I have
not changed the heading for continuity sake, what I have been discussing
has, almost completely, been about the understanding and discussions of
Christianity to be found in the Rishonim (although there was a divergent
thread into the days of the week).

To turn to the topic that actually started this thread, the entering of a
Church, it is indeed true that the overwhelming majority of modern decisors
(Rav Moshe, the Tzitz Eliezer, the Bnei Banim, etc etc) prohibit entering a
Church.  It is also true, from my observation, that many many Orthodox Jews
(whether you want to call them Modern Orthodox or not) are indeed prepared
and do enter Churches.  Now the question becomes, are they just "not very
frum", or is something else going on here.

Now it seems to me that Rabbi Wise asked a very important question (albeit I
suspect he actually asked it rhetorically, whereas I am asking it for
real): Why would any Jew want to enter a Church?

Now historically I cannot think of any reason why a Jew would indeed want to
enter a church other than the reason discussed in the teshuva of the Rosh
(19:17) which was to save one's life (given that Christians allowed their
churches to be used as refuges). And indeed one of the ironies about this
discussion is that a very common motif, particularly on the great Cathedrals
of Europe but on many other churches as well, can be found on either side of
their front doors (so one need not enter to see it, one just needs to walk
past in the street).  The motif is known as Ecclesia et Synagoga and
comprises statues of two maidens, one on either side of the front door.  The
maiden on the left labelled Ecclesia is standing upright bearing a crown,
chalice and staff in the form of a cross and is shown triumphant, looking
confidently ahead, the maiden on the right labelled Synagoga is blindfolded
and clearly broken and defeated with a broken staff and crown slipped off
and with tablets (of the law) falling out of her hand.  This motif is seen
all over Europe (although I first saw it outside the Cathedral in
Strasbourg, but later in Paris and Prague and other places) and a bit of
googling shows that this motif goes back to the eleventh century (ie to the
beginnings of  the times of the Rishonim).  Leaving any theological
discussions aside, would anybody really want to give even tacit assent to
such a position?  

But today, it is worth exploring why would a Jew might want to enter a
Church?  And there are a number of reasons and examples that can be given.
That does not mean that it is necessarily permitted, but it does allow some
greater understanding of the dynamic here:

a)	a Jew might wish to enter a Church in order to go to the Church hall
(usually not via the actual sanctuary) where such a hall is the assigned
polling station in government and similar elections.  This hall may, or may
not, have motifs on the wall, and may, or may not, be used for overflow
services at various times (but clearly not at the time it is functioning as
a polling station).  Now I imagine this cannot occur in the United States,
due to the separation between State and Religion, nor of course will it
happen in Israel, but it can happen in other countries.  And perhaps the
correct result is to effectively disenfranchise the Jewish voters of this
place (sometimes there may be postal vote alternatives and sometimes
not), but perhaps one can understand from this why a Jew might *want* to
enter the Church, even if ultimately it was held that he or she shouldn't.
(Note by the way in this case everybody will know that it is polling day and
hence that the Jew is going in in order to vote, not to worship).
b)	a Jew might wish to enter a Church again in order to go to the
Church Hall on weekdays to engage in ball playing or martial arts or drama
or similar.  It is well known that many Churches raise money by hiring out
their halls to third parties who then provide these services.  Rav Moshe is
dead against it (see Igeros Moshe Orech Chaim vol 4 siman 40,26) the
question there being ball games for children, but you can understand why a
Jew might *want* to avail themselves of these opportunities.
c)	A Jew might want to partake of the education provided by theological
colleges (of course each centred on a church or chapel) which have over the
years acquired international renown as places of learning and scholarship,
despite the chapels or churches remaining fully active (ie no nullification
there).  Examples of these are Trinity Hall, Cambridge; Christ's College
(Cambridge and Oxford) and New College (Oxford), institutes that were
founded after the black death to provide education for the priests. It is
thus difficult to conceive of worship not taking place all over these
colleges in historical times, if less so today.  Indeed the alma maters of
the current Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, were Gonville & Caius College,
Cambridge <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonville_%26_Caius_College,_Cambridge> 
and New College, Oxford <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_College,_Oxford>
which both fall within these categories.  These buildings contain many
symbols of Christianity, as one might expect, both inside and outside, and
given Rav Moshe's opposition to ball playing in a Church hall, one might
expect a similar response here too (even assuming he would be willing to
permit secular University education in general, which he and many of the
other poskim who have ruled on this case might well not).
d)	Further on the topic of education, a Jew might want to view and
understand aspects of history (whether history of art or general history,
whether for a degree course or for general information).  The irony of the
current position is that while such a Jew is clearly permitted to take a
historical tour of the Pantheon, Stonehenge or other sites of historic idol
worship, a historical tour of ancient churches, which the Jew may regard as
hardly different, would seem to be forbidden.  If anything, it may feel to
the Jew that a ban give more credence to the vestiges of the worship that
goes on there than it actually merits.  In some ways tourism is the ultimate
put down (as many have commented), treating those surveyed as benighted
e)	A Jew may be a professional musician and be required by their
orchestra to give a concert in a church, and failure to do so may result in
him or her losing their job.  Again, maybe that is the correct result, but
one can again understand why a Jew might *want* to enter the church,
especially if jobs for professional musicians may not be so easy to come by.
f)	And of course, there is the aivah [hatred] question.  If, for
example somebody is the employer of someone who dies in tragic circumstances
(eg suddenly), it may cause serious unrest and animosity, particularly
amongst the remaining employees, if he or she does not go to the funeral
service (which may well take place in a church or in the grounds).  There
may be ways around it, depending on the customs of the individuals
concerned, but it may be that the only thing that constitutes a public
acknowledgement involves a church in some form or other.  Of course this one
could involve other considerations.  Even if one were to hold that
Christianity is full fledged idol worship, can the prohibitions on entering
a church (assuming obviously that no worship is actually being done by the
Jew) be waived in the case of aivah, as so many other prohibitions can?
(The Tosphos on 2a that Mark Steiner and I have been discussing, for
example, would seem to suggest that aivah can indeed cause a waiver of at
least some prohibitions on idol worship, as Tosphos appears to accept that
if aivah were the driving force behind the doing of business, then it would
be a valid reason to permit, but rejects this as the source of the general
heter, because hatred would not be generated if most of the transactions
that were actually being done on a regular basis were to be prohibited).

I may have missed a few, but I think that these are the kinds of reasons why
many Orthodox Jews, (as even demonstrated on this list), do indeed go into
Churches.  The question then becomes, do we say that all these people are
wrong, or are there in fact legitimate heterim "out there", ie people who
are prepared to take a more lenient stance than those decisors living in
places (like Israel and New York) where perhaps these questions are more
academic and remote.  I don't know, I am just observing, but it would not
surprise me if the recent crop of "Modern Orthodox" rabbis, who are now
increasingly defending their community's practices (such as vis a vis hair
covering) do not see this one as another case where the common folk (whom if
they are not prophets, are the sons and daughters of prophets) require
defending and where there are halachic defences available.

Shavuah Tov



From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Sat, Oct 16,2010 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Shiddach Crisis (was Beshert)

There are many ways to look at the "shiddach crisis" -- for those who have
found their beshert it is no longer, or never was a "crisis"

I'd like to throw another viewpoint - non-halachic - at the "mechanics" of
this crisis.

Some conjectures:

1a - in many communities and for many people there is an overabundance of

1b - in some communities and for some people there are very few choices

Looking at it from a queuing theory standpoint -- the system is highly inefficient:

Imagine a process by which one spends perhaps 1 to 3 months performing step
#1 (evaluating and arranging for a 1st meeting, if there is to be one)  and
then more often than not that first meeting (step #2) results in process

Processes usually are not run in parallel (that is step #1 is never
initiated when another step #1 is active.)

So at most out of a world of choices, perhaps 6 choices can be considered
per year.

It is a miracle that this process works at all!



End of Volume 59 Issue 58