Volume 59 Number 78 
      Produced: Fri, 12 Nov 2010 03:30:21 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

An interesting article that might provoke discussion 
    [Jeanette  Friedman]
Changing psak / practices / observance 
    [Ben Katz]
Electricity on shabbat 
    [Meir Shinnar]
Halacha for Special Agents (2)
    [Avraham Walfish  Michael Rogovin]
Learning to a tune 
    [Josh Backon]
Pikuach nefesh on Shabbat 
    [Ari Trachtenberg]
The frumkeit of our generation (4)
    [David Tzohar  David Tzohar  Stuart Wise  Mark Steiner]


From: Jeanette  Friedman <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 11,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: An interesting article that might provoke discussion

The following article by Hillel Fendel on the appeared on the Arutz 7 website on
11 Nov. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/140579

Shas MK: Torah Students Should Support Themselves 

MK Chaim Amsalem "still a  member of the Shas party, though apparently not 
for long" brings letters from  one of the leading Sephardic Torah sages, 
Rabbi Meir Mazuz, stating the need for Torah scholars to support themselves 
via their own labor. 

Amsalem, who  served in the past as rabbi of a large synagogue in Geneva, 
has been outspoken in taking non-Shas-like stances on various issues, 
including most recently the matter of Torah study and work. Amsalem feels that 
Kollel members [married men who study Torah full-time] must not rely on 
others to support them. This morning, he displayed letters from Rabbi Mazuz, one
of the most highly-regarded Sephardic Torah giants, supporting this position as

One letter, which Rabbi Mazuz wrote as an approbation for a book by 
Amsalem, states, students must be taught as early as age 16 various trades such 
as shechita (ritual slaughter), milah (circumcision), hazzanut (the art of 
being a cantor), writing Torah scrolls and the like, in order that they not 
be forced to rely on the public. 

Rabbi Mazuz, Dean of Yeshivat Kiseh Rachamim in Bnei Brak, further wrote 
that the university students' protests against the government stipends to 
hareidi-religious families is proof that the situation nowadays is even worse
than in the past. The protests have been renewed in full force in recent days. 

Another letter from Rabbi Mazuz to Rabbi Amsalem notes that Torah scholars 
traditionally supported themselves and did not rely on the public. He 
specifically noted the scholars of Jerba, who engaged in business or 
silver-crafting; the author of Chaye Adam; and the Chazon Ish, who supported 
his family only from the sale of his books. 

This method of the woman working to support her husband [while he studies Torah]
was unknown to the Sages, except in the most special cases, Rabbi Mazuz wrote.
Aside from Rabbi Akiva and his friends, the Sages of blessed memory supported
their wives, and not vice-versa, as is written in the ketuba [marital contract]:
I will support and feed, etc. 

MK Rabbi Amsalem concludes: Since the law permits Torah students of age 23 and
up to study 45 hours a week and to work some hours [without jeopardizing their
army-free status], they should do so, rather than have the Torah be scorned
because the scholars have to beg for meager stipends from the government. 

Amsalem is apparently planning to leave Shas and start his own, more liberal,
hareidi-religious party.

Jeanette  Friedman, EIC
The  Wordsmithy


From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 11,2010 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Changing psak / practices / observance

Deborah Wenger <debwenger@...> wrote (MJ 59#76):

> Carl Singer (MJ 59#73) asked:

>> It seems that communities have less problems with going machmir.  Can
>> any of the MJ readers give examples of machmir to maikel [less stringent]

> The one that strikes me the most is the observance of Sefirat Ha-Omer (counting
> the Omer). When I was growing up (many many years ago), everyone I knew observed
> ALL of Sefirah, except for Lag Ba-Omer, refraining from making/attending
> smachot, going to musical events, etc.

> These days, though, people seem to choose to observe Sefirah either 

> (1) from Pesach to Lag Ba-Omer or 
> (2) from Rosh Chodesh Iyar until the end of Sefirah. 

> However, I have seen many rabbis pasken that if you're invited to a simcha
> during (1) if you hold (2) or vice versa, it's OK to go. This essentially
> reduces Sefirah to just the period between Rosh Chodesh Iyar to Lag Ba-Omer.

It is OK to go, but you must observe the full "other" sefirah.  The kula
(easement) here is that you can switch minhagim (customs) for 1 year to go to a
simchah.  This was a famous teshuva (responsum) of Rav Moshe Feinstein, I
believe in the early 70's.


From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 11,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Electricity on shabbat

WRT the debate on electricity on shabbat, and the opinion of Rav Moshe
Feinstein, one data point. In 1971-2, while at Columbia, I learned at a yeshiva
(one of  the  Ho Chi Minh yeshivot, whose contributions to growth of Torah in
America have been undervalued :-) - (I was the only one in the school not
there for a draft deferment.....). The rav teaching was a Rav Felder, one of the
sons of Rav Gedalya Felder from Toronto, who was in NY learning with Rav Moshe
Feinstein. In one of the shiurim, he said that Rav Moshe viewed the Chazon Ish's
opinion about electricity as strange (he used a much stronger term - I don't
remember the precise word, but closer to bizarre), and not one that one had to
worry about in practice.

Meir Shinnar


From: Avraham Walfish <rawalfish@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 11,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Halacha for Special Agents

Russell wrote (MJ 59#77):

> Posters have consistently ignored my objection to the permissibility of
> honeypot intelligence operations, on the grounds that the threat is not
> direct.

Russell, your point was not ignored. The point that you are failing to
address - which was mentioned in an earlier posting - is the difference
between threats to the individual and threats to the nation as a whole. Both
the evaluation of what constitutes a threat and the halakhic requirements
accruing therefrom are assessed differently in the private and the national
arena. For example, many poskim permit police activity on Shabbat to prevent
theft and vandalism, even though these do not constitute immediate or direct
danger to anyone's life, arguing - based on a Ran in Massekhet Shabbat -
that danger to the property of the public at large is halakhically
equivalent to pikuah nefesh.

> Even if there was logic and precedent (which I have questioned in other
> postings) - is there danger? What is the danger to the women seducing?
> Also how certain is she that she will get information? Is such information
> gatherable otherwise?

As I noted in an earlier posting, we have no alternative but to accept the
assessment of intelligence-gathering professionals (Army intelligence,
Mosad) both as to what the potential danger might be and as to weighing the
risk-benefit ratio. The considerations here are similar to those that apply
to any soldier patrolling a security fence, civilian patrolling his
settlement, or policeman patrolling his beat - the chances that on any given
patrol he will encounter a potential danger are slim, but if he stops
patrolling, in the long run there will certainly be significant danger. Both
as soldier and civilian I have "violated" Shabbat on innumerable occasions
for security considerations, and not once - barukh Hashem - was I actually
involved on Shabbat in any kind of real immediate threat to life
(occasionally I was involved on weekdays).

> Even further, isn't she ENDANGERING her life by consorting with a terrorist?
> After all they are not stupid. Why should a Jewish girl (presumably because 
> she was sent) subject herself to this?

This too was already answered. Every soldier and every agent endangers life,
limb, and freedom in order to protect her country's security. There is
halakhic basis for compromising her purity as well. If this is stupidity,
then I can only applaud the stupidity of those who are sent - or volunteer -
to do so.

> I am in rather a state of shock at how much support R Shvat's decision is
> getting. What has gotten into everybody? Does anyone really believe that
> this is a Jewish Psak and consistent with Jewish law? Why are there no
> stronger protests?

I am in shock that you think that a state can be maintained without such

Avie Walfish

From: Michael Rogovin <mrogovin118@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 11,2010 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Halacha for Special Agents

Russell J Hendel writes (MJ 59#77):

> We are discussing violating a core Jewish value, chastity, to POSSIBLY
> obtain information, in a non-war situation (we have a terrorist situation but
> there are no direct attacks on the people volunteering).
> Even if there was logic and precedent (which I have questioned in other
> postings) - is there danger? What is the danger to the women seducing? Also
> how certain is she that she will get information? Is such information
> gatherable otherwise?
> a) how much danger there is
> b) how much intelligence we are getting
> c) whether we are not endangering ourselves further
> d) why about yayharayg veal yaavor (incurring martyrdom rather than
> surrender to sexual sin) can be waived.
> I have to also ask: What has gotten into everybody? Does anyone really
> believe that this is a Jewish Psak and consistent with Jewish law? Why are
> there no stronger protests?

With all due respect, I think these questions are part of the FACTUAL process of
determining when a honeypot operation would be permissible, but are not a part
of determining the underlying permissibility of such an operation.

I don't think (though I did not read through the psak) that anyone is saying
that this is not a disgusting, abhorrent thing to do, or to ask/order a
soldier to do, or that anyone can make a determination to order an operation
of this type. But there are other operations that are just as abhorrent to
the civilian ear: such as ordering a soldier to kill another person who is a
non-combatant or at least is not currently engaged in a battle or posing an
immediate threat. Yet we do this all the time without blinking. Does Dr
Hendel think that killing someone who is not a rodef when not at "war" (such
as a targeted killing of a terrorist) is really an easier case? Is killing
not also yayharayg v'al ya'avor? And are not the soldiers putting their lives at
risk for a benefit whose scope is undetermined (or where things may get worse)?

As I noted earlier, R. Broyde posits that in war, all normal prohibitions
are suspended and we can do whatever is necessary to win the war, SO LONG AS
it is really necessary to win the war and that this determination is made by
those military leaders of sufficient stature and authority, and with
sufficient training, both militarily and morally, to make such decisions.
The principle is a matter for rabbis; the application for generals (may we
be blessed with generals whose military and moral stature is of the highest
caliber and may we be blessed to have very few opportunities for decisions
that put our soldiers at risk). If we can order soldiers to kill (or for
that matter to sacrifice their lives for a greater cause, I am not sure that
a honeypot operation is really that much worse, as horrific as it is.


From: Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 11,2010 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Learning to a tune

In a recent post on Mail-Jewish, I had written (re: learning to a
tune): See Pirkei Avot 6:6 on *arichat sefatayim*. 

The MAHARAL in Derech Chaim 6th Perek indicates that learning by reciting out
loud "mo'il l'havanat ha'davar heitev" (greatly benefits learning). It just
dawned on me that HUMMING may be the key factor. Humming was found in 2002 to
greatly increase endothelial nitric oxide [see: Weitzberg E, Lundberg JO.
Humming greatly increases nasal nitric oxide. American Journal of Respiratory
and Critical Care Medicine 2002;166:144-45; and Maniscalco et al, Assessment of
nasal and sinus nitric oxide output using single-breath humming exhalations.
European Resp J 2003;22:323-39]. 

A simple search on http://scholar.google.com for: 'humming nitric nasal' will
show more recent research. 

BTW we demonstrated last week that 1 minute of humming drops systolic blood
pressure by 12 points and diastolic blood pressure by 5 points in hypertensive
males. [And eNOS also kills viruses and fungi. Humming has been shown to be
effective in treating refractory chronic sinusitis]. Since endothelial nitric
oxide (eNOS) has also been shown in extensive research to potentiate learning
ability and cognition [again do a search on http://scholar.google.com for:
'endothelial nitric intelligence']. It would be intriguing if someone on
Mail-Jewish in academia (education or special education) would be willing to
test this hypothesis. It will make a great doctoral dissertation for your grad

Dr. Josh Backon
Hebrew University
Faculty of Medicine


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 11,2010 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Pikuach nefesh on Shabbat

Rabbi Meir Wise wrote (MJ 59#77):

> Anyone who needs a nebulizer to breath is also in the category of  
> safek pikuach nefesh and anybody who delays providing one is an  
> ignoramus and guilty of standing idly by the blood of their neighbour.
> The fact that the two situations turned out ok does not alter the  
> Halacha.

This is not the way civilized people discuss a halachic point on mail-jewish.
It is wholly inappropriate and unproductive to engage in such name-calling.
If you have a strong position, please support it with facts, citations,
and logic.


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 11,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: The frumkeit of our generation

Yisrael Medad (MJ 59#77) brought two talmudic sources to prove that the
generations of King Hezkia and the Tannaim were greater in learning than

This would be true if you are of the opinion that Aggadita (non-halachic
talmudic literature) is literal historical truth. We learn Torah outlook,
Mussar and Yir'at Shamayim from aggatita and midrash, not history. According
to historians literacy was not widespread until much later.

David Tzohar

From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 11,2010 at 03:01 PM
Subject: The frumkeit of our generation

Stuart Wise wrote (MJ 59#76) that the claims I made about the learning and
frumkeit in our generation are unsubstantiated and were made in the hope that no
one would challenge them. Mr. Wise however did not bother to refute those
claims. I challenge him to do so.

Mr. Wise also bemoans the lack of gedolim in our generation. It seems that
Rav Goren, Rav Shach, Rav Eliyahu all ZTZL and Rav Elyashiv, Rav Tau, and
Rav Ovadia Yosef (considered by many to be the greatest of Sefardi Rabbanim
since Maran HaShulchan Aruch), all SHLITA are not "gadol" enough for him. It
takes no small amount of yuhara (arrogance) to belittle the gedolei Torah of
our generation in this way.

From: Stuart Wise <Smwise3@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 11,2010 at 10:01 PM
Subject: The frumkeit of our generation

Carl Singer writes (MJ 59#77):

> One  doesn't need statistical data to make such observations either in
> behavior  bayn Adam L'Makom, or bayn Adam L'Chavayrot.

With all due respect, I am not that much younger than you, and I have made  
observations, but I would not be so presumptuous as to make your conclusions 
since  there is a danger in extrapolating from what is still a very limited 
sample. In addition, the fact that there are many more shiurim does not mean 
that those attending absorb and know more. It is just what it is: more 
My mother, a"h, who grew up in the early part of the last century in New  
York, would tell how working people would come home and would study gemara for 
4 hours every night. There were no shiurim to spoon feed or English aids, 
so it is very difficult to compare qualitatively the level of learning and 
knowledge then and now.
Mr. Silbermann (MJ 59#77), if what you say is so, then we're in trouble. But
stories of gedolim testify that they did indeed study in yeshivos so I don't buy
the home-schooling path to greatness. Having a brilliant father may contribute 
to one's life but not be the sole reason for a person becoming a gadol.
Sadly, the bigger problem are the rebbeim hired to teach. From what I have  
witnessed personally and heard from others, there are many an unqualified 
people running the classroom, whose only qualification for being a teacher 
is that they studied in kollel for years. Sure, there are some natural 
teachers, but pity the kids who get one of the large minions who are not natural.
Stuart Wise

From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Fri, Nov 12,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: The frumkeit of our generation

Shmuel Himelstein (MJ 59#77) has touched a very sensitive nerve in asking why
there are no stringencies in the mitzvoth that regulate the relations between
people (bein adam lahavero).  

The way he asked this question, however, there are answers: there are people who
set aside 20% of their money for charitable purposes, which is certainly a humra
(though the Vilner Gaon urged this practice on his family).  Furthermore, in
human relations, even without humrot, the Jew is supposed to live at an
extremely high level.  For example, it is forbidden to bear a grudge against
someone who has wronged me, even if I do not take revenge.  To fulfill this
commandment is not an easy matter, and it is not a stringency--it is absolutely
required.  (R. Israel Salanter z"l, argued that the only way to avoid bearing a
grudge, is to do good to the person who has wronged us.  If so, this is not a
humra, but required.)  

I would put Shmuel's question a different way:

(1) Why are we so lax in observing the basic mitzvoth (without humrot)
concerning our fellow Jews (and non-Jews) when we look for humrot in the
mitzvoth concerning God?

(2) Why do we tolerate gross violations of Jewish ethics, where we would not
tolerate violations in other areas?  We are so inundated with Hillul Hashem
nowadays that we have become inured, God save us, to the spectacle of
Orthodox Jews being led away in handcuffs.  We should be horrified at these
violations, and, if we are God-fearing Jews, should be afraid of His wrath
upon us.

I will give two examples:

(1)  A respected rabbi in Monsey, New York, who taught a daf yomi, sold
thousands of Perdue chickens (nivlat ha-of) to "frum" customers, including
rashei yeshiva, who relied on him to supply strictly kosher (mehedrin)
chickens.  When he was caught, he divorced his wife and ran away to Israel,
God save us, where he lives in the Rehavia/Shaarei Hessed area.  Claiming to
have done "teshuva," he actually found a woman willing to marry him, and he
now made a "new life" for himself, going to a daf yomi instead of teaching
it.  There are even shuls which will give him an aliya, I have heard.
Most people who are horrified by the story, correctly, are horrified at the
thought that a talmid hakham who sent his sons to "Brisk", could sink so low
as to feed nonkosher chickens to good Jews, including brides and grooms on
their wedding day.  How many of us are concerned at the fact that he
delivered goods that were not ordered and that now he has to make
restitution for thousands of chickens?  (Since he shipped many of them to
organizations and affairs, he must have a record of the sales.)  That there
is no way he can begin to talk about "teshuva" unless he pays back the

(2)  A respected rebbe in a prestigious Bnei Brak kheyder made a nice income
selling tefillin.  As in (1), good Jews, including rashei yeshiva, who
wanted to observe all the humrot connected with tefillin, paid $1,000 for
his "batim".  My nephew, who is in the batim business, visited Bnei Brak to
check out his merchandise.  When he opened the tefillin of this rebbe, he
found to his horror that the tefillin had been padded with torn socks
(that's right, socks, or sox).  This rebbe is still teaching in the
prestigious kheyder.  I wouldn't want my grandchildren learning in a kheyder
like that, but it doesn't seem to bother anybody else.  Again, the issue for
me is not just the fact that he sold tefillin that are maybe bedieved kosher
to people who wanted mehadrin, but that he sold tefillin worth maybe $50 for
$1000.  But it doesn't seem to bother anybody else.

Although these examples are both from the haredi communities, I would warn
against any haredi bashing on mail-jewish (which is also a sin bein adam
lahavero) -- all communities need soul searching on this matter, but I won't
bring any more examples.


End of Volume 59 Issue 78