Volume 59 Number 92 
      Produced: Wed, 19 Jan 2011 00:39:28 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Dr. Joan M. Gerver, z"l 
    [Adina Gerver]
From The Jewish World Review (3)
    [Gershon Dubin  Ben Katz  Alex Heppenheimer]
Kosher Cooking Carnival #62 
    [Batya Medad]
Opening / closing the Ark (3)
    [Shimon Lebowitz  Carl Singer  Martin Stern]
Shehecheyanu and bird watching (2)
    [Orrin Tilevitz  Joshua Hosseinof]
The Straightforward Meaning 
    [Yaakov Shachter]
Willow species for aravot 
    [Orrin Tilevitz]


From: Adina Gerver <gerver@...>
Date: Sun, Jan 16,2011 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Dr. Joan M. Gerver, z"l

I am sad to report the recent passing of my grandmother, Dr. Joan Menkin
Gerver, z"l, father of Dr. Mike Gerver (mail-Jewish contributor), after 86
years of amazing accomplishments.

The funeral and shiva will be on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

For details about either, please e-mail me at <gerver@...>



From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Tue, Jan 11,2011 at 10:01 AM
Subject: From The Jewish World Review

Mordechai Horowitz <mordechai@...>wrote (MJ 59#91):

> So there is no question this section of Talmud categorically rejects the 
> idea of the "scholar" who refuses to work so he can learn.

My Gemara quotes Rabbi Nehorai (some say he is the same as Rabbi Meir) that "I
will leave aside (maniach ani) all professions in the world and will only teach
my son Torah." You may argue that he was not recommending a course for all
people, but you cannot argue that this is not a valid position for anyone, as in
your use of the phrase "categorically rejects."

From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Tue, Jan 11,2011 at 12:01 PM
Subject: From The Jewish World Review

Jeanette Friedman wrote (MJ 59#87):

> Rabbi Judah says: Whoever does not teach his son 
> a trade or profession teaches him to be a thief.

Rambam is also pretty clear on this. He says anyone who learns full time while
receiving charity has forfeited his share in the world to come (ayn lo chelek
ba'olam habah).

From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Wed, Jan 12,2011 at 03:01 PM
Subject: From The Jewish World Review

In MJ 59#91, Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...> and Mordechai 
Horowitz <mordechai@...> commented on my post:

> ... Incidentally, too, the same word "umanus" ("profession," or more
> precisely, "craft") is used to describe a full-time Torah scholar: "toraso
> umanuso," his Torah is his craft or profession (Tosafos, Sotah 21a, s.v.
> Zeh; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 243:2; et al). We may therefore derive from
> this statement of R' Yehudah that one who raises his son to be a full-time
> Torah scholar has taught him well.

Frank wrote:

> Of course, one has to fear the meaning of the word, "full-time." Someone who
> doesn't have the discipline to avoid goofing off (e.g. because he's not
> emotionally suited for full-time study) might not qualify. Someone who raises
> such a son without any other "umanus" might indeed be viewed as like having
> raised him to be a thief.

Point well taken, of course. Much the same is true of any other "umanus": a 
person needs to have the self-discipline to do an honest day's work for an 
honest day's pay, and indeed part of "teaching one's son 'umanus'" means 
inculcating that self-discipline in them. With "toraso umanuso" it's even more 
so: the halachic definition of that term is that the person is so totally 
involved with Torah study that they don't even have time to pray. So a person 
who "goofs off" from learning, and therefore obviously has time for prayer, 
should indeed make time for some sort of gainful employment as well.

Mordechai wrote:

> The Gemorrah in kiddushim is quite clear that Torah is not considered a 
> profession as it says just "..just as he is required to teach him Torah 
> he is required to teach him a trade"
> So there is no question this section of Talmud categorically rejects the 
> idea of the "scholar" who refuses to work so he can learn.

Maybe. The comparison/contrast of Torah and "umanus" (again, note that this does
_not_ mean "trade," as demonstrated by the next couple of lines of the Gemara)
is according to the majority opinion there. But R' Yehudah (who is the author of
the expression quoted - or rather, misquoted - by the Jewish World Review, and
then by Jeanette Friedman in MJ 59#87, which I was responding to) might hold

Practically speaking, anyway, the halachah doesn't follow R' Yehudah's opinion 
(including, also, the point that the Gemara makes, that he holds that one must 
teach his son a craft, not a trade). I was just pointing out that the folks at 
JWR were being rather careless with their soundbite and its possible 

Mordechai continued:

> And indeed have we seen the results of this world. We have a problem. Why did 
> we ignore the warnings of our great Torah leaders of the past to embrace this 
> Torah-only view that has devastated the Torah-true community.

I will agree that it doesn't work as an approach for the masses; "many tried to 
follow R' Shimon ben Yochai's approach [of having "one's work done by others" 
while one studies Torah exclusively], and it didn't work for them" (Berachos 
35b). But there is indeed room in Jewish thought for rare people to do exactly 
that, and it is wrong to stigmatize them.

Kol tuv,


From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Tue, Jan 11,2011 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Kosher Cooking Carnival #62

You may find some interesting posts here.



From: Shimon Lebowitz <shimonl@...>
Date: Tue, Jan 11,2011 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Opening / closing the Ark

I have a feeling we are putting the horse before the cart.

The Sefer-Torah is supposed to be brought to the bima, and after the
reading it gets returned to the Aron haKodesh.

There are various readings which are said during these processions,
not the other way around. I.e. when the Aron is being opened, say Vayhi
Binsoa, and then Brich Shmei (or whatever local custom holds), when the Torah is
being brought back to the Aron say Mizmor leDavid, etc.

The Sefer is not waiting for the readings, the readings are for the Sefer.
I believe the notations in most siddurim are in fact phrased this way,
such as: "When the Sefer Torah is carried to the Aron say this:...",
rather than "Carry the Sefer Torah while the congregation says this..."


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Tue, Jan 11,2011 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Opening / closing the Ark

Perhaps having lived / davened in many communities over the years, thus in
many venues, it's a difference among communities -- but it seems that
nowadays in many shuls there is little "ceremony" regarding the opening and
closing of the Aron Kodesh.

In the extreme, davening from Ayn Kemocha on is silent or inaudible prior to
the opening of the Aron and the removal of the Sefer Torah. Similarly,
upon the return of the Sefer Torah after Layning.

Is this a shared observation?  Does this perhaps correlate with a reduction
in Chazunis or a separate phenomenon?


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sat, Jan 15,2011 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Opening / closing the Ark

I wrote (MJ 59#91):

> There then seem to be two customs, either the Aron is closed before the
> chazan turns to face the tzibbur and say Shema etc. or it is left open until
> he descends to take the Sefer Torah to the Bimah -  every congregation
> should follow its practice in this matter.

I omitted to say that, where the custom is to leave the Aron left open until the
chazan descends to take the Sefer Torah to the Bimah, he should not turn his
back on the open Aron (which might be disrespectful to the Sifrei Torah in it)
but, rather, stand slightly to the side facing the tzibbur sideways.

Martin Stern


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Tue, Jan 11,2011 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Shehecheyanu and bird watching

David Tzohar wrote (MJ 59#91):

> Orrin Tilewitz wrote (MJ 59#90) of how he said shehecheyanu on seeing
> his "first varied thrush". I am afraid that Orrin erred and made
> a bracha levattala and in so doing took the name of Adoshem in vain.

David may be right only if I said the shehecheyanu beshem umalchut (i.e. not 
only saying "Baruch" but also "[atah] H' Elokeinu Melech haOlam" -- Mod.);
my post doesn't specify that I did, and I don't recall now whether I did or

BTW, David takes my name in vain by misspelling it.

> <<snip>>
> The halacha on when to bentsch shechechyanu can be found
> in Shulchan Aruch and Mishna Brurah Orach Chayyim 225.
That's not helpful.  I carry around a bird guide, not a pocket copy of the
Mishnah Brurah (though perhaps I should). My goal was to praise the RSO ("Ribono 
shel Olam," Master of the World -- Mod.) for creating such a beautiful bird
and to thank Him for enabling me to see it. Is there no blessing I could make
legitimately? If not, perhaps one of our list members will write one?

From: Joshua Hosseinof <jh@...>
Date: Sun, Jan 16,2011 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Shehecheyanu and bird watching

Orrin Tilewitz wrote (MJ 59#90) that he said Shehechyanu on seeing his 
"first varied thrush".   David Tzohar commented in MJ 59#91 how that 
was probably a beracha levatalla.   

Indeed, the more appropriate blessing to say on seeing a new creature for the
first time is "Shekacha Lo Ba'olamo" as discussed in the Gemara Berachot 58b and
brought down in Shulchan Aruch 225. This beracha can be said once and only once
per lifetime on seeing a particularly beautiful animal. See


for a discussion of this halacha, which actually is even extended to the case 
of seeing a beautiful man or woman.


From: Yaakov Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Fri, Jan 7,2011 at 03:01 PM
Subject: The Straightforward Meaning

[Mod:  This article was initially posted with edits.  The
author contends that the edits substantively changed the contents of the
work and has requested the original, unemended version be reposted, which
it is below.]

In mail.jewish v59n49, someone wrote:
> ... the sins that the Tanach attributed to our ancestors were much
> exaggerated because great people are held to high standards.
> For example ... Reub[e]n was described in Genesis as sleeping with
> his father Jacob's wife Bil[]hah, 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, of 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-h 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 late 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 (which Orthodox Jews do not do, because it could
lead to dancing), 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
			"Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur"


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Tue, Jan 11,2011 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Willow species for aravot

Ashley Tugendhaft asks in MJ 59:91 about the suitability of the Chilean Pencil 
Willow for use as an arava.

I don't have the sources in front of me now, but my recollection is that
to qualify it must be a willow, normally grow by the water, have elongated
(not round) leaves, and that any serrations on the leaves must be tiny.
(Mod. note: the basic requirements are outlined by RYKaro in SA OC 647:1 -- see 
http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=40527&st=&pgnum=498&hilite= .)
The species commonly used in the U.S., at least, is Salix Purpura.
Salix Babylonica (weeping willow) has largish serrations and so, I've been told,
it may be used only if nothing else is available. I take it that the Chilean
Pencil Willow is Salix Chilensis or Salix Humboldtiana. Here is a picture I found 
online: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Salix_chilensis.JPG . As you
can see, it is elongated with tiny (if any) serrations, it is a salix and
therefore a willow, and apparently grows along the water (the picture is of a
willow growing along a creek). So, CYLOR, but for what my opinion is worth
it ought to work.

Do you know if the leaves get reddish when grown in bright sun? That is another 
characteristic the sources mention (Mod. note: the OC SA 647:1 language is "and 
its stem is red (but it's OK even while still green)"). (Salix purpura does.)


End of Volume 59 Issue 92