Volume 59 Number 61 
      Produced: Tue, 19 Oct 2010 01:56:48 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A punctuation question (2)
    [Sammy Finkelman  Jack Gross]
Friday night Kiddush: Ashkenaz vs. Sphard  
    [Martin Stern]
Halakha for Special Agents (4)
    [Mark Polster  Josh Backon  Michael Rogovin  Yisrael Medad]
Martyrdom and suicide 
    [Akiva Miller]
Ruth as a Hebrew Name 
    [Orrin Tilevitz]
Special Agents / Women and Language 
    [Leah S.R. Gordon]
Webshas gemorah and Halacha index (a work in progress) 
    [Sammy Finkelman]


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Mon, Oct 18,2010 at 04:01 PM
Subject: A punctuation question

Orrin Tilevitz asked (MJ 59#57):

> Which is correct:
> "vehasheiv et haavodah lidvir beitecha vi-ishei yisrael, utfilatam be-ahava
> tekabel beratzon"
> or
> "vehasheiv et haavodah lidvir beitecha, vi-ishei yisrael utfilatam be-ahava
> tekabel beratzon"?
Elazar M. Teitz replied (MJ 59#59):

> The very last Tosafos [Talmudic commentary] in Maseches [Talmudic tractate]
> M'nachos brings both opinions, and does not decide between the two. The Gr"a
> in his commentary to Shulchan Aruch prefers the first version.

That's not what it looks like to me that Tosfos says.

Josh Backon referred us to a website by Abe Katz


He translates Tosfos as

...Midrashim are divided in their explanation of what Micha'el does.
Some Midrashim report that Micha'el offers the souls of righteous people as a
sacrifice Some Midrashim report that Micha'el offers sheep of fire. This is what
is meant in the Bracha of Avodah in Shemona Esrei when we recite the words:
V'Ishai Yisroel Oo'Sifilasam Mihaira B'Ahava Sikabeil B'Ratzon. Others hold
that the words: V'Ishai Yisroel should be joined with that which is
recited before it; i.e. V'Hashaiv Es Ha'Avodah Li'Dvir Baisecha V'Ishai Yisroel.
I did not find anymore.

But I would read it more like this:

.. And this [dispute between Midrashim] is [the same dispute as] what
we say in the Shemona Esrei in the Bracha of Avodah: V'Ishai Yisroel
Oo'Sifilasam Mihaira B'Ahava Sikabeil B'Ratzon. And there are those
who say [only] what we have before: V'Hashaiv Es Ha'Avodah Li'Dvir
Baisecha, and V'Ishai Yisroel we don't find any more [in their
machzorim]   (i.e., it and what follows is omitted)

It could be that this was the basis for the Rabbinical Assembly
(Conservative Judaism) omitting those words in its Siddur. It would be
interesting to find out if they actually cited this Tosfos.

That meaning of Tosfos, after all, is what would follow from the
Gemorah: that maybe if you study Torah you don't need korbanos.

The commentary of Rabbi Dr. Elie Munk Volume I Daily Prayers (Phillip
Feldman translation from the French) has:

"Retzai: This Bracha called Avodah was already part of the service
during the days of the Temple. According to the Mishna (Tamid V, I)
the priests recited it  as they completed the sacrifices,
correspondingly we say it at the end of the Tefilla, which, as has
been pointed out before, replaces the sacrificial services. The
wording of the Bracha, of course, has been changed. After the
destruction of the sanctuary, the hope for the reinstitution of the
Temple Service was substituted for the pleas for its maintenance
previously contained in this Bracha."

While I don't think this is entirely correct (I have to say first that
I don't find anything in Mishnah Tamid except that the entire Shemonah
Esrei was said when they brought the Korban) and I don't think maybe
that there was any plea then for the maintenance  of the service it
makes sense that  the wording we have now is a revision. Any time
asomething gets revices the result may not quite sound right.

Originally it said maybe something like this:  Accept your people
Israel and their korbanos, and receive their prayers with love and
favor and it should always be acceptable etc.

It makes a great deal of sense that what had to be acceptable, was the
sacrifice because that is a big concern in Tanach.

The original wording had to be changed from acceptable sacrifices to
prayers and something had to be added for restoration. Now there was
nothing in the bracha about the sacrifices. So that was added to the

The comma should be later, and accepting Tefillos winds up being
mentioned twice, while originally tefillos were mentioned once and
sacrifices were mentioned twice. Now why were sacrifices mentioned
twice? First, that it should not be regarded as a bad thing - that's
all that Retzai means - and then it should be regarded as something

The end of the Brachah originally had nothing about Korbanos. Avodah
is a word that can apply to service both with and without korbanos and
maybe even wasn't there before the destruction.

From: Jack Gross <jacobbgross@...>
Date: Mon, Oct 18,2010 at 09:01 PM
Subject: A punctuation question

Orrin Tilevitz (MJ 59#57) asked:

>Which is correct:
>"vehasheiv et haavodah lidvir beitecha vi-ishei yisrael, utfilatam 
>be-ahava tekabel beratzon"
>"vehasheiv et haavodah lidvir beitecha, vi-ishei yisrael utfilatam 
>be-ahava tekabel beratzon"?

It is obvious (at least to me) that our Birkat Avodah originated during the
time of the Mikdash (cf. the Berachot that the mishna says were recited by
Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur after reading the parasha), and was later refitted
to the post-churban era.  

There is no reason to assume any content (other than the original
conclusion) was dropped;  it is natural to assume the revision was
accomplished by inserting additional words and phrases into the original
text.  Reconstructing, based on today's nusach Ashkenaz, the
before-and-after appears to be as follows:

1. R'tzei ... b'ammecha Yisrael [u'v'tephillatam],
2.                              [v'hashev et ha'avoda...],
3. V'ishshei Yisrael            [u'tephillatam]            b'ahava t'kabbel
4. U't'hi l'ratzon tamid avodat Yisrael ammecha
5.                              [v'techezena eineinu b'shuvecha l'tzion
6. Baruch ...
  (harotze ba'avoda? She'otecha l'vaddecha b'yir'a na'avod?)
                                [hamachazir shechinato l'tzion]

The original form was a prayer for *acceptance of the temple service*, which
we no longer have the opportunity to perform.  The post-churban revisions
reshaped it into a prayer for [1] acceptance of the *prayers* we offer today
in place of the Temple service, and [2,5,6] the *restoration* of the
tample's sacrificial service.  

Under the revisions, the direct object of t'kabbel ("Thou accept") in [3] is
shifted from the *current Avodat Korbanot* (sacrifices), to the Avodat
Korbanot and Avodat Tephilla (prayer) that will take place together in the
restored Temple.  (Note that the *current tephilla* is already the subject
of the previous weekday Beracha, Shema Koleinu.)

That's how I see it, and my vote thus goes to #2.

-Jack Gross


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Oct 18,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Friday night Kiddush: Ashkenaz vs. Sphard 

Bob Kosovsky <kos@...> wrote (MJ 59#60):
> If one compares the nusach of Friday night Kiddush between Ashkenaz and
> Sephard, one can see that several words are not said in the latter.
> ...
> Is there a reason why those words are omitted in nusach Sephard?

I have heard that the version in nusach Sephard is that preferred by the
Arizal who, for mystical reasons that I do not understand, wanted the
berachah to have the same number of words as Vayekhulu.

Martin Stern


From: Mark Polster <polsterm1@...>
Date: Mon, Oct 18,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Halakha for Special Agents

When I began following Mail-Jewish some fifteen years ago, I viewed it as a
wonderful forum in which to become informed and, periodically, inform others
about a variety of interesting, if somewhat arcane Jewish issues.  What drew
me to the forum was the fact that, with few exceptions, those who chose to
weigh in on issues did so based on source-based knowledge and an abiding
respect for others who participated.  Regretfully, this has become
increasingly less true over the years, and most recently, this forum has
become one in which a increasingly small group of people use it as a vehicle
by which to get on their soap boxes and rail against others with whom they
disagree on the issues du jour.  Gone in many cases are posts that provide
source-based expertise, those having been replaced by opinion-based screeds,
often including personal attacks with little or no basis in actual fact.

I share these feelings in response to all three posts regarding the recent
article by R Ari Shvat (MJ 59#59).  What is clear to me is that none of the
three correspondents have actually bothered to read R' Shvat's article
(which can be found, in Hebrew, at
http://www.zomet.org.il/?CategoryID=266&ArticleID=639&Page=1 )  and yet have
concluded that his position on the matter is "offensive" (per Ms. Gordon,
though I believe she may be referring to Yisrael Medad's characterization of
R' Shvat's article rather than the article itself), indicative of the fact
that "he especially" hates women (Ms. Friedman) and "difficult to believe"
(Mr. Stern).

Having both known Ari Shvat for the better part of three decades (though
I've not spoken to him about this particular issue) and having actually *
read* the article in question, I share the following:

1.  The notion that he "hates women" is so ridiculous as to be laughable.

2.  Contrary to Mr. Stern's assumption, R' Shvat is, in fact, discussing
precisely the possibility of a Jewish woman "deliberately lur(ing) a non-Jew
into a sexual encounter" in the context of intelligence gathering for the
protection of the land and people of Israel.

3.  The article itself is a comprehensive, meticulously sourced review of
relevant halachic literature spanning 1500+ years and attempting to deal
with the halachic implications of a Jewish woman faced with the unfortunate
but very realistic circumstance of the "honeytrap" scenario.  It focuses
on the halachic implications of such a situation and what steps, if any, can
be taken in advance to minimize the halachic impact of such a scenario on
the women and, if married, on her marital status.

4.  R' Shvat's comments with respect to non-frum vs frum women are limited
to a single sentence in which he observes that "Given that, by the very
nature of these matters it is more likely that such a task will fall to
somebody who in any case acts in a more promiscuous manner, it is likely
that the subject of this analysis is only theoretical - nonetheless, is is
incumbent upon us to develop halachic solutions for such a time that the
State and its citizens will conduct themselves in full accordance with
halacha" (translation mine).

5.  Contrary to Ms. Friedman's disdainful characterization of R' Shvat's
position (which she clearly has not read) as "better to use non-frum girls
to give sex to Israel's enemies", nowhere does he assert a value judgement
that it is "better" for non-frum women to be put in this situation than for
frum women - he simply observes that such is more likely to be the case in
the real world as it currently exists.  That said, the entire point of his
article is the premise that if such actions are necessary for the national
security of the Jewish people (which, in any case, I would characterize very
differently from Ms. Friedman's "giving sex to Israel's enemies" formulation
- no matter *who* is doing it), we must deal with the halachic implications
of frum people performing such acts *precisely* because it is unconscionable
to simply say "let the non-frum worry about these things".

I apologize for the lengthy nature of this post but felt that a detailed
response to both the content and the tone of the subject posts was
warranted.  Furthermore, I would encourage all participants in this forum to
return to the practice of suspending both judgement and comment until they
themselves have appropriately researched the topics upon which they wish to
share their opinions.

Kol tuv,

Mark Polster
Cleveland, OH

From: Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Mon, Oct 18,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Halakha for Special Agents

Dr. Russell J Hendel asked in horror (MJ 59#60):

> I was rather shocked at this thread. First: One person questioned whether we
> should believe the student reports of teachers that a Rabbi allowed sex for
> intelligence matters.
> Second: The idea of a "report" on clandestine intelligent operations seems
> like a contradiction. We are not going to find out what really happened. So
> I doubt the story.

The article by Harav Shvat "Gilui arayot l'ma'an bitachon hamedina"
appeared in the halachic journal Techumin (Volume 30, page 68). You
can read the full article here:

The Mossad has a full time rabbi. There are a number of dati people
who work there. Let's just say I know this from personal experience. Which
reminds me of the joke about Moishe a top agent of the Mossad who is
told he has to rendezvous in a certain foreign city with a guy named
Cohen. Moishe gets to the address in the foreign city and to his
consternation, sees there are 3 Cohen families living in the building. He
knocks on the door of the first Cohen and says, "Chocolate tastes
delicious in the springtime". The guy looks at him and says, "You want

Josh Backon [what did you expect? Irving Bond?]

From: Michael Rogovin <mrogovin118@...>
Date: Mon, Oct 18,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Halakha for Special Agents

Russell J Hendel  (59 #60) commented on the thread about a psak [halachic
opinion] that a Jewish woman working for the Mossad could have sexual
relations with the enemy, and that it would be a meritorious act. Russell
claims that:

> c) Although we are at war with Hamas, no woman is targeted for rape and
> therefore no woman can consent to have sex for intelligence purposes.
> d) Jewish law is very clear on the requirements of martyrdom. I have heard
> that female Jewish soldiers carry suicide pills in case they are captured ...
> The request to violate the laws of family purity requires martyrdom. The
> sages have declared all relations with a non jew as if they violated family
> purity laws. Martyrdom is required.

In a recent public lecture on the laws of war, Rabbi Michael Broyde
(who occasionally monitors this list and can certainly comment for himself
if he feels I mis-characterize his statements) stated that war is
essentially a suspension of the prohibition against murder and that this
necessarily includes a suspension against any lesser prohibitions. Thus, he
concludes, any act that is 

(1) necessary for the conduct of the war in order to win, 

(2) is approved by the military leadership following chain of command (how high
up was not specified, but clearly higher than a field officer), would be
permitted (possibly excluding acts of idolatry).

Martyrdom would not be required if these 2 preconditions were met.

Therefore, he concluded, citing the psak that is the subject for this
discussion, if the military leadership felt that this was an essential
mission and we were in a war (he did not opine as to the halachic status of
the current conflict), it would be an appropriate assignment for any
soldier, male or female, religious or not. If one can murder, one can
certainly torture, send soldiers on "suicide missions," or do anything else
that is necessary to win. There might be consequences (probably not a good
idea for the wife of a Cohen, for example). Losing a just war in order to
uphold our rules for ethical peacetime conduct, is not, in his view, a
positive Jewish value.

From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Mon, Oct 18,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Halakha for Special Agents

RJ Hendel writes in MJ 59#60:

> I have heard that female Jewish soldiers carry suicide pills in case they are
> captured (Please confirm or deny this WITHOUT making fun of me...I really heard
> it).

As the person who introduced the thread, I thought it was clear that the article
was published in the new Techumin volume, a prestigious journal of Halachic
discussion.  Here is the link:

As for what you heard (and I won't make fun of you but I'd love to know from who
you heard that), I haven't heard that, and I served with female soldiers,
although very few in combat roles, for about a quarter of a century. I knew Yael
Rom, Israel's first female combat pilot (of the Sinai Ca,paign) and never heard
anything like that. Today, there are many more female soldiers in frontline
units or combat units and I have never heard that.  And I don't think the
Military Rabbinate would even halachically permit that.



From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Mon, Oct 18,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Martyrdom and suicide

Russell J Hendel (MJ 59:60, in the thread "Halakha for Special Agents") wrote:

> d) Jewish law is very clear on the requirements of martyrdom. I have
> heard that female Jewish soldiers carry suicide pills in case they are
> captured (Please confirm or deny this WITHOUT making fun of me...I
> really heard it).
> The request to violate the laws of family purity requires martyrdom.
> The sages have declared all relations with a non jew as if they violated
> family purity laws. Martyrdom is required.

It is my understanding that in a situation where halacha requires martyrdom,
what this means is that we must not violate the halacha, even if we are
threatened with being killed. But I have not heard that we must commit suicide
to prevent the enemy from forcing the violation upon us. In fact, I have heard
that suicide is forbidden even in such a case.

Am I mistaken? Does anyone actually hold the halacha to endorse suicide in these
cases? Many people praise the Jews of Masada for their suicide, but I don't
think I've ever heard a rabbi approve of it. Has anyone else?

Akiva Miller


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Mon, Oct 18,2010 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Ruth as a Hebrew Name

I just discovered that my late Aunt Ruth's Hebrew name wasn't Ruth -- it was
Rochel something-or-other. That did not surprise me, I guess, because I was
under the vague impression that Ruth was primarily a name for converts. I
checked quickly with my LOR, who performs gittin [Jewish divorces} and he had to
think hard before coming up with someone whose Hebrew name was Ruth. Any Ruths
(Hebrew name) who aren't converts and subscribe to MJ? Anybody know any other
Ruths (English name) with non-matching Hebrew names? And any idea why someone
born in the U.S. before 1920 would be given a biblical English name that didn't
match her Hebrew name?


From: Leah S.R. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Mon, Oct 18,2010 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Special Agents / Women and Language

In MJ 59#60, Orrin Tilevitz quotes me as saying that one should not
refer to grown women as "girls," as well as other comments, and then states:

> I have said this before, but it would be really helpful if people read posts
> before they commented on them. As for Leah's comments, they should be
> directed to Rav Schvat, not me.

This is an unfair accusation ("not reading") especially in light of the fact
that Orrin goes on to do exactly what I asked him not to, in his own words:

> Think Esther. Or Yehudit. Or, for that matter, Yael. Nonetheless,
> evidently Rav Schvat paskened that it is better to use non-religious girls
> for that purpose. One can debate that psak, but it is hardly "difficult to
> believe".

Orrin, let me be more clear:  You, in addition to Rav Schvat or anyone else,
should please be aware that "woman" is the proper term for any female old
enough to be using her sexuality, going on Mossad missions, etc.   And you,
in addition to Rav Schvat or anyone else, should please refrain from
language that objectifies women, as in "it is better to use [people]".

--Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Mon, Oct 18,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Webshas gemorah and Halacha index (a work in progress)

http://www.webshas.org is another index (in English) to Shas and
should be a very good resource. I stumbled across it today in the
process of trying to find a reference in Shas.

It is produced by Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner. It is far from complete though.

He also has another site: http://www.hamakor.org, which is basically a
guide to information on various topics telling you where something is
mentioned in Tanach (or at least there is a field for it) and in the
Talmud  Midrash,  Mishneh Torah, Rishonim, Tur, Shulchan Aruch
commentaries and various Achraonim and even Recent Authorities and
Recent Articles where he has them.

It's still very incomplete.

Here is what he has on the issue of "Does belief in a Trinity qualify
as Avodah Zarah?":


Maybe people can look at it and comment on how good it is (and maybe
add sources).

And besides all this he writes a blog. http://rechovot.blogspot.com/


End of Volume 59 Issue 61