Volume 59 Number 88 
      Produced: Wed, 29 Dec 2010 08:57:35 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A Chanukah Thought (2)
    [Mickey Rosen  Gilad J. Gevaryahu]
Academic Study on Synagogues 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Full moon in halacha 
    [Bob Kosovsky]
Kibbutz Dati 
    [David Ziants]
Salaries for public charity leaders 
    [Ari Trachtenberg]
    [Yisrael Medad]
The Straightforward Meaning 
    [Yaakov Shachter]
Video on Gay Orthodox Jews (2)
    [Joseph Kaplan  Avraham Walfish]


From: Mickey Rosen <mrosenpsi@...>
Date: Thu, Dec 16,2010 at 10:01 PM
Subject: A Chanukah Thought

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 59#87):
> perhaps bederech drush [homiletically] one could say that the
> singular is used to indicate that the Jewish people were completely united
> like a single person and that was the reason why they were successful. Had
> they been split into factions, as happened in the latter days of the
> Chashmonaim, they would not have been able to overcome the Greeks. I have
> never seen this explanation and wonder anyone has met it. If it is valid it
> would be a lesson for our own times.

It is a lovely drash [loosely interpretation --MOD] but most modern historians
understand the Hasmonean rebellion as not a fight against the Greeks but a war
that was primarily a civil war between the Hellenizers and the more traditional
factions. So one could say, nothing has really changed.

Mickey Rosen

From: Gilad J. Gevaryahu <gevaryahu@...>
Date: Fri, Dec 17,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: A Chanukah Thought

Martin Stern questions (MJ 59#87)  the use of "beyad" in "Al Hanissim," and would
have liked to see the plural form "biydei".

I suggest the Marten look at Bereshit 30:35 Vayiten beyad banav, or Bereshit
32:17 Vayiten beyad avadav, or Shemot 14:8 uVeney Israel yotzim beyad rama. 
This is standard Biblical Hebrew use.

Gilad Gevaryahu


From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Thu, Dec 23,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Academic Study on Synagogues

On occasion, while surfing, I will come upon something which might 
interest members of the Mail Jewish list and since I missed distributing 
channukah gelt this year, here is a dissertation summary on the topic:

The Origins of the Synagogue: A Socio-Historical Study by Anders Runesson 
Lund University, Sweden

In the first century CE, synagogues existed not only in the land of 
Israel but in all parts of the Roman Empire where Jews lived. Although 
incorporating a number of activities, the most characteristic features 
of this institution were the public reading and teaching of torah, 
making the synagogue an unparalleled institution in the ancient world. 
But how, when, where, and why did this unique institution originate? 
Which historical, social, or political factors determined its rise and 
development? Since the dawn of modern history writing, scholars have 
wrestled with these questions, not least since the synagogue informs on 
the earliest history of two world religions, Judaism and Christianity; 
in fact, the influence of this ancient institution is still felt in 
large parts of the world through the impact of these religions.

However, no one solution to the complex problem of its origins has yet 
been accepted by the majority of scholars. Taking into account literary, 
epigraphic and archaeological material, and adopting a socio-political 
perspective towards the sources, the present study constitutes a new 
approach to an old enigma. The investigation spans from the sixth 
century BCE to the second century CE and argues that behind the word 
'synagogue' in the first century, there are concealed two types of 
institution: the public village assembly and the so-called voluntary 
association. The former originated as a result of the radical 
implementation of Persian imperial policy in Yehud, while the latter 
developed when Hellenistic influence was felt in the region.

In the Diaspora, synagogue liturgy gradually replaced Jewish sacrificial 
cult so that temples eventually were transformed into synagogues. The 
results of this study not only touch upon questions of how Judaism was 
formed in the Persian period, but also affect the understanding of the 
social situation in the first century and the relation between different 
Jewish groups, such as the Jesus movement and the Pharisees.



From: Bob Kosovsky <kos@...>
Date: Mon, Dec 20,2010 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Full moon in halacha

The rare occurrence of the full moon/winter solstice with an accompanying 
lunar eclipse brings to mind a question I've had.

While the new moon certainly plays a big role in Judaism, the full moon seems to 
play a very minor role.  In fact, the only thing I can think of is the 
occurrence of the first night of Pesach.

I suppose the two "tu" days (15 Shvat and 15 Av) might have some relationship 
to the full moon, but I don't recall ever hearing/reading about it, if in fact 
there is any.

Are there any other days or ideas/concepts that depend upon a full moon?

Bob Kosovsky


From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Sun, Dec 19,2010 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Kibbutz Dati

Ben Katz <BKatz@...> wrote (MJ 59#87):

> David Ziants<dziants@...>  wrote (MJ 59#86):

>> As a side remark from what I observe, Kibbutz HaDati on the whole has become
>> more Torani [give emphasis to stricter practice and Torah learning] over the
>> decades.

> I still enjoy using the radical Yom Ha-atzmaut machzor published by kibutz
> ha-dati in the 70's.  They included a Torah reading as well as inserting the
> first generic line of al ha-nissim into the amidah.

I also have their Yom Ha'atzmaut machzor (3rd edition - 5736), although 
I do not use it - rather follow the more accepted Rinat Yisrael order 
and say full Hallel with b'racha.

You are right that in the body of the sh'moneh esreh, there is the first 
generic line, with the instruction "yesh omrim" [some say]. There, it refers
to page 101 with a full blown text, two paragraphs long and substantially longer
then the traditional al hanisim we have for Chanuka and Purim.

Although I find the special k'riat hatorah and some of the other not so 
accepted  festive additions difficult to understand, I am surprised that 
a version of al hanissim (hopefully shorter) was not introduced into 
Rinat Yisrael and became more acceptable to those who celebrate the day 
as a day of thanks to Hashem.

In Rav Sh'lomo Goren's notes (in the preface), he says that although he 
supports the endeavour in general (as is well known) he does not endorse 
saying al hanissim (as well as k'riat hatora with b'racha unless the 
rabbanut harashit would fix this as a permanent rite for everyone). So 
this possibly explains why it was not incorporated into Rinat Yisrael - 
so a better question is why did Rav Goren not like a new al hanissim 
when in principle he is open minded to changing the text under different 
circumstances (classic example is his nusach achid for the army) - of 
course composed under learned Rabbinic supervision?

David Ziants
Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel


From: Ari Trachtenberg <bodek@...>
Date: Sun, Dec 19,2010 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Salaries for public charity leaders

The Jewish forward recently published salaries for the top professionals
in a number of public Jewish charities:


Frankly, the salaries stagger the mind.  The best argument I have heard
in defense of these salaries is that they are necessary to attract the
"best talent" to run these organizations.

Anyone know of any halachic guidance on the amount of income one may properly
draw from a public charity (I am not commenting on non-charity or for-profit



From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Fri, Dec 17,2010 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Shuckling

David Tzohar touches on shuckling (MJ 59#87). 

[Mod.'s note: to put Yisrael's subsequent response into context, here are two
sentences from David's published post: "...Rocking back and forth can be a
problem for men since the friction with clothing can cause physical arousal.
There are those who say that it is more mechubad (appropriate) to stand
perfectly still as one would if he were standing before a king...."]

a) forget the clothing, the wooden box or sthtender is the problem.

b) we once dealt with this over a decade or more and I recalled that in 
a biography of Rav Moshe Feinstein I had read (probably Rabbi Shimon 
Finkelman, Rabbi Nosson Scherman. /Reb Moshe: The Life and Ideals of 
HaGaon Rabbi Moshe Feinstein/. Brooklyn, NY: ArtScroll Mesorah, 1986) 
that after an experience with a Russian (?) gov't official in an attempt 
to obtain exit papers (I think) he was forced to stand rigidly still 
after an order was barked to him by the official.  He recalled that he 
never felt more fear than at that moment and decided that he would give 
up schuckling and it was more fearful to stand stock still.



From: Yaakov Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Sun, Dec 19,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: The Straightforward Meaning

In MJ 59#49, Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...> wrote:

> ... the sins that the Tanach attributed to our ancestors were much
> exaggerated because great people are held to high standards.
> For example ... Reuben was described in Genesis as sleeping with
> his father Jacob's wife Bilhah, when all he really did was move
> Jacob's bed out of her tent.

"Shiv`im panim lattorah" -- "there are 70 faces to the Torah" -- is an
often-quoted rabbinic saying.  Just as the 2-dimensional cross-section
of a cylinder can be either a circle or a rectangle, depending on how
you look at it, a verse in the Torah can show you many things, depending 
on how you look at it.

However, another often-quoted saying is (Shabbath 63a) "eyn miqra
yotze' miydey pshuto" -- Scripture does not depart from its
straightforward meaning.  The stories of the Torah differ, in this
way from, e.g., the stories of Aesop or LaFontaine.  The stories of
Aesop and LaFontaine are true, they are profoundly true, they are more
true than anything you are likely to read in the newspaper, but they
are not literally true.  A fox did not literally mutter that the
grapes were likely sour, because foxes do not, literally, speak.  The
stories in the Torah, though, are factually true.  When Torah-loyal
Jews argue about, e.g., the length of time between the creation of the
universe and the appearance of humans on our planet, they are not
arguing over whether the Torah is didactic fiction.  They are arguing
over the straightforward meaning of the verses, because no Torah-loyal
Jew believes that the Torah is didactic fiction.  Thus, continuing the
example, Genesis speaks of a period of six "yamim", which is the
plural of "yom", a word that is usually translated into English as
"day".  When used as a unit of time, it usually means the average
period of time between consecutive sunsets, or consecutive sunrises --
i.e., twenty-four hours.  But there are occasions where it perforce
means a longer period of time (e.g., Genesis 2:17, 1 Kings 2:42, Job
15:32) and that is why Torah-loyal Jews can legitimately inquire into
the duration of Creation (and there are Jews who do believe that in
the Creation story "yom" does mean a 24-hour period -- typically the
Jews who so believe, also believe that the sun, which is needed for
the definition of that meaning of "yom", did not even appear in the
sky until the 4th "yom", but that is what doublethink is for).

As indicated above, understanding the straightforward meaning of a
verse does not mean that one must always translate a word the same
way, whenever it appears.  Consider English sentences such as "she has
her father's eyes".  Such sentences must be understood idiomatically,
but even in such cases, the straightforward (albeit idiomatic)
interpretation of a verse is easily distinguishable from a homiletic
or mystical one.

There are many Biblical verses, however, in which a straightforward
reading, even an idiomatic one, appears to be problematic to a
religious Jew.  Genesis 35:22 may be one such verse, but, if it is, it
is not the only one, nor is it the most problematic one, not by a long
shot.  The fact is that Judaism cares very little about what you think
about Reuven and Bilhah, but it does care very much about what you do,
practically, in the areas of your life that are governed by Scripture.
There is no denying, however, that the accepted halakha, in many
places, appears to flat-out contradict the "pshat", the straightforward
meaning, of many verses in the Torah.  You can think what you want
about Reuven and Bilhah.  You can even think what you want about the
duration of Creation, as long as you stay away from your children's
science education, and otherwise refrain from impairing your
children's ability to think clearly.  But you may not, if you are a
judge in a Jewish state, think what you want about Deuteronomy 25:12,
because Deuteronomy 25:12 appears to say that you cut off the woman's
hand, and the halakha (Bava Qamma 28a) says that you do not cut off
the woman's hand.

Well, one way to live with this is to decide that when our rabbis said
that Scripture does not depart from its straightforward meaning, they
were speaking generally, but that there are exceptions.  Most verses
can be validly understood according to their pshat, but there are a
few verses that just do not have a pshat, and can only be validly
understood according to a "drash", a homiletic explanation.

Another approach, however, is to decide that the pshat must not mean
what you thought it did.  This is plausible, because we are, after
all, dealing with texts that are thousands of years old.  That would
not be a problem if Hebrew were a dead language; the problem is that
Hebrew is not a dead language, Hebrew has been in constant use from
the beginning of the people of Israel until the present day, and
during that long period of time certain words have changed in meaning,
and we do not use them, today, as they were used in the Bible.

Yeshiva-educated Jews are aware of this, to a certain extent.
Yeshiva-educated Jews generally know, for example, that the verb l-q-x
in Talmudic Hebrew does not mean what l-q-x means in Biblical Hebrew,
but that, rather, it means what q-n-h means in Biblical Hebrew, and
that l-q-x in Biblical Hebrew means what n-T-l means in Talmudic
Hebrew.  But the knowledge does not go nearly far enough.  One of the
first verbs that people learn, for example, when they learn Hebrew, is
r-tz-h, which nowadays is the word for "want, desire", an important
verb, part of everyone's fundamental vocabulary.  Most Jews, however,
have just not noticed that r-tz-h never means that in the Bible.  A
Biblical author would never write "hu ratza le'ekhol" to mean "he
wanted to eat", probably the verb used would be b-q-sh.  A lot of
Biblical commentators -- Rashi is prominent among them -- mix up the
Biblical and post-Biblical meanings of words, and contemporary Jews
read those commentaries, and think that they are supposed to be taken
literally.  Just last week, for example, we read Genesis 45:24, which
contains the words "al tirgzu baddarekh".  In Biblical Hebrew r-g-z
does not mean to quarrel, or to be angry, that is a post-Biblical
meaning, in Biblical Hebrew r-g-z always means to tremble, or
otherwise move erratically.  Trembling is used in Biblical poetry to
connote some strong emotion, and over time the figurative meaning
supplanted the literal one, a common occurrence, but in Genesis 45:24
Yosef was most likely telling his brothers to go straight home, and
come straight back.

If you are drawn to the approach that the pshat of a verse is often
not what we think it is, then you will enjoy reading Hakkthav
V'Haqqabala, a book whose single purpose, from beginning to end, is to
argue that the straightforward meaning of various verses in the Torah
is different from what we think it is.  Many of the arguments are
unconvincing, and the book is full of bogus etymologies, but it is
still, in my opinion, very much worth reading, at least once (Hirsch's
commentaries are also full of bogus etymologies, but that does not
mean that the commentaries are not worth reading).  Very often
Hakkthav V'Haqqabala will come up with something entirely plausible.
For example, the book proposes that in Genesis 38:24 Tamar was being
taken out, not to be burnt alive, but to be branded.  I think that
that is quite probably the straightforward meaning of the verse: the
branding of criminals was a not uncommon practice in certain nations,
and this interpretation is, moreover, proposed by other traditional
Jewish sources.

Now, getting back to Genesis 35:22, there Hakkthav V'Haqqabala has
proposed something a bit more of a stretch, but not entirely
impossible.  The root meaning of sh-k-b, it is proposed, is not "to
recline", but "to lower".  This is possible.  When you lie down to go
to sleep, you generally do so by lowering yourself from a standing
position to a reclining position.  If people normally slept in trees,
maybe a different word would have been adopted.  The use of sh-k-b as
a euphemism for lovemaking (since sh-g-l is obscene) is also quite
reasonable, since lovemaking generally begins when you grab your
beloved and pull her, or him, down onto the bed.  If people generally
made love standing up, or in treetops, maybe a different word would have
been used.

(I should say, speaking more precisely, that the physical lovemaking
begins when you do that; the lovemaking, speaking generally, begins
prior to that, when you tell her that her eyes are twin pools of
limpid moonlight, although in some cases it may be more effective to
clear the table, wash the dishes, take out the garbage, and put your
socks in the laundry hamper, than to do the bit with the limpid

Thus, what Genesis 35:22 might be saying is that Reuven lowered
Bilhah, and that is exactly what he did, according to our traditional
explanation of the verse, which is thus seen not to depart from its
straightforward meaning.  If he moved his father's bed out of Bilhah's
tent, then he certainly lowered Bilhah, in the sense that he degraded
her, and the actual means used to degrade her might have been
deliberately left unspecified.  Although somewhat idiomatic, this
could nevertheless very well be "pshat".

Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter
6424 N Whipple St
Chicago IL  60645-4111


From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Fri, Dec 17,2010 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Video on Gay Orthodox Jews

Mordechai Horowitz wrote (MJ 59#87):

> Lisa (MJ 59#85) continues:

>> JONAH is quackery.  Harmful quackery.  People who have been subjected to
>> their medieval practices have attempted, and in some cases succeeded, in
>> taking their own lives.
> No proof provided of course.  All you are doing is trying to demonize 
> those who help the mentally disturbed people who enter the dangerous 
> homosexual lifestyle that the Torah prohibits....

I simply note that "no proof provided of course" applies to Mordechai's ipse
dixit concerning JONAH's alleged success. 

Joseph Kaplan

From: Avraham Walfish <rawalfish@...>
Date: Fri, Dec 17,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Video on Gay Orthodox Jews

In MJ 59#87 Mordechai Horowitz responded to Lisa (MJ 59#85), as follows:
> Lisa continues:
>> JONAH is quackery.  Harmful quackery.  People who have been subjected to
>> their medieval practices have attempted, and in some cases succeeded, in
>> taking their own lives.
> No proof provided of course.  All you are doing is trying to demonize
> those who help the mentally disturbed people who enter the dangerous
> homosexual lifestyle that the Torah prohibits...

Mordechai, you have also - of course? - provided no proof.

> I'm quite confused why the moderators allow your participation
> in our discussion any more than they would someone who had a goal
> of demonizing shabbos...

In previous discussions on MJ, several posters have already explained why the
comparison to hillul shabbat is a red herring.

> Every Jew has an obligation to fight those promoting the radical gay
> agenda.  It is the enemy of Torah and we must utterly defeat it.

It's easy to set up as your opponent the straw man of the "radical gay
agenda". On MJ your real opponent is the observant Jew who recognizes that
homosexual behavior is a serious Torah prohibition that cannot be permitted
or condoned, but who has not been convinced that "Sex Orientation Change
Therapies" have a respectable success rate. In my readings on the subject, I
have not encountered any hard evidence that they do, and R. Haim Rapaport has
studied the subject in depth and reported that their success rate is far from
impressive. If you have a serious contribution to make to this discussion, I
will be happy to receive it.

Avie Walfish


End of Volume 59 Issue 88