Volume 59 Number 94 
      Produced: Wed, 09 Feb 2011 17:03:18 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A problem with the haftarah for Mishpatim (2)
    [Alex Heppenheimer  Ben Katz]
Civil unions in Israel 
    [Martin Stern]
Eating bread with salt, Pirkei Avoth 6:4  
    [Arthur G. Sapper]
From The Jewish World Review (3)
    [Ben Katz  Ben Katz  Alex Heppenheimer]
Legal Shiluach Hakein 
    [Orrin Tilevitz]
Lending a helpful hand (3)
    [Ben Katz  Stuart Pilichowski  Guido Elbogen]
Premature death announcement 
    [Jack Gross]
Preparing Couscous on Shabbat 
    [Orrin Tilevitz]
Searching for Tradition 
    [Lisa Liel]


From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 1,2011 at 06:01 PM
Subject: A problem with the haftarah for Mishpatim

In MJ 59#93, Martin Stern <md.stern@...> asked:

> The haftarah for Mishpatim starts from the 8th verse in chapter 34 of
> Yirmiyah and then adds the last two verses of the previous chapter at the
> end. We sometimes jump forward in a haftarah but generally we do not go
> back. Can anyone explain the anomaly this week?

There was a discussion on this in the Google Leining group 
(http://groups.google.com/group/leining), where someone had asked about the 
propriety of this, in light of the opinions (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 144:1 
and commentaries there) that we may not go backwards in a haftarah. I wrote:

Mishnah Berurah (144:9) cites several posekim who say that this doesn't apply 
within one book of navi, only across books. 

The Yemenite custom is that the haftarah of Mishpatim is Jer. 34:8-22 and 
35:1-19. Could be (this is speculation on my part, as I haven't seen this 
documented anywhere) that this is in order to satisfy the opinions that one may 
never go backwards, while still ending on a positive note ("...there shall not 
be cut off from Yonadav ben Reichav a man standing before Me for all time"). On 
the other hand, the common custom (of instead appending 33:25-26) may be based 
on the fact that, unless indeed the entire story in ch. 35 is included, you have 
to go for a few more chapters before you can find any pesukim with a positive 
message that are topically related to the haftarah (the next ones I can find are 
39:17-18) - and so, for lack of a better alternative, we go backwards.

Kol tuv,

From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Wed, Feb 2,2011 at 04:01 PM
Subject: A problem with the haftarah for Mishpatim

Martin Stern <md.stern@...> wrote (MJ 59#93):

> The haftarah for Mishpatim starts from the 8th verse in chapter 34 of Yirmiyah
> and then adds the last two verses of the previous chapter at the end. We 
> sometimes jump forward in a haftarah but generally we do not go back. Can
> anyone explain the anomaly this week?

Fishbein mentions this in his magesterial Haftarah commentary (JPS,, p. 116). He
believes that the Haftarah wishes to end on a positive note; also, there is
wordplay at work with the root "shuv."

Ben Katz


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Feb 2,2011 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Civil unions in Israel

If JONAH MANDEL's report ("Haredi world mulls acceptance of civil unions,"
Jerusalem Post, 31 Jan 2011),

http://www.jpost.com/JewishWorld/JewishNews/Article.aspx?id=205981 ,

really is correct, then it should provide a solution to the conversion
problem. Those whose primary motivation is marital rather than religious
would be provided with an alternative, and the current scandalous situation
where the majority of converts have no intention of adopting a Torah-based
lifestyle would cease. The present situation means that the rabbinate is
under pressure to 'solve' the problems of the non-Jews with some Jewish
ancestry, whom the Jewish Agency has imported from the former Soviet Union, by
converting them even when they are not particularly interested in accepting
Torah and mitzvot. 

A recently published study entitled Megilat Gerut, ostensibly intended to
help the Israeli conversion programmes by presenting the real facts, shows
that the declared purpose of the system is to ease the demands on
prospective converts. The book includes extensive interviews, conducted by a
woman who has taught at the Conversion Institutes for 20 years, with female
conversion candidates from around the country who underwent
government-sponsored conversion. The in-depth investigation reveals that
only a small percentage of these converts described themselves as observant,
while the vast majority admitted they never intended to keep mitzvot and
were "part of a system that has a whole lot of hypocrisy, and the pretences
continued at the home of the host family and in the beit din ... the moment
you leave the beit din you resume your normal life." Other women recounted
living two separate lives. "Most of the people who come out of the
Conversion Institutes are not religious; everyone is acting." These
revelations add further credence to the failure of the special conversion
courts, where most conversion candidates never planned to keep Torah and

Exactly how the civil unions should be arranged needs to be worked out, but
they should be an alternative to, and not replace, the current ways of getting
married. The state could make its own regulations before allowing civil
registration, such as requiring the parties to show they are not already
married (any previous marriage having been dissolved according to the
regulations under which it took place, i.e. a get would be needed if it had
been conducted according to halachah) nor within a clearly defined
consanguinity (not necessarily those of halachah). In fact I would suggest
that the couple need not even be of different genders! That would make it
clear that it is not a halachically sanctioned union. If one would object
that this would mean that the state recognises homosexual relations, I think
the answer is that those wishing to engage in such activity do not require
to be 'married'.

If such civil unions were also available where both parties are Jewish, it
would solve many of the sources of irritation among non-religious Jews who
would be freed from having to submit to the jurisdiction of the Rabbinate.
If the latter were to take the position that such unions should be viewed as
an implicit declaration that the couple do not wish to be halachically
married, it might also avoid many of the problems of agunot since they would
not necessarily require dissolution through a get.

The sooner Israel recognises that some separation of state from religion is
inevitable, the better for it and the whole Jewish world.

Martin Stern


From: Arthur G. Sapper <asapper@...>
Date: Sun, Feb 6,2011 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Eating bread with salt, Pirkei Avoth 6:4 

I was recently puzzled by Pirkei Avoth 6:4 which says, "This is the way of
Torah:  eat bread with salt, drink water by measure, sleep upon the ground, and
live a life of hardship."

I could not at first understand how eating bread with salt is like drinking
water by measure or like sleeping on the ground - i.e., is a hardship.  It
certainly stands to reason that drinking water by measure - i.e., in small
amounts - in the hot Middle East would be a hardship.  

The same is true of sleeping on the ground -- and then some.  My father, a
combat soldier during World War II, forbade me from sleeping on a bare floor,
saying that it would make me sick; I later read that German soldiers (yimach
shemom) in Russia got bladder and bowel infections through lying on the cold
ground (Richard Evans, The Third Reich At War 207 (2009)).

But I could not understand how eating bread with salt is a deprivation.  Salt
was very expensive in ancient times; Roman soldiers were paid with it (whence
the word "salary").  Salt also made bread and other foods taste better.  So
eating salt with bread seemed to be the opposite of a hardship.

I found, however, that Gemara Berachoth 2b indicates that bread with salt is a
poor man's meal ("... the poor man comes [home] to eat his bread with salt...").
 Compare Eruvim 26b (Mishnah):  "One who has vowed to abstain from food, may
partake of water and salt."  So perhaps the sense of the phrase is, eat bread
only with salt.

I would be interested in the views of Mail-Jewish readers on this question.


From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 1,2011 at 04:01 PM
Subject: From The Jewish World Review

Martin Stern <md.stern@...> wrote (MJ 59#93):

> 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.

> This has generated quite some discussion in subsequent digests.

> Unfortunately it has reached the stage where it has become fashionable in
> certain circles to consider the word 'work' to be one of those four-letter
> words of Anglo-Saxon origin not used in polite company!

To a hareidi asking for money for himself, claiming "for some people, work isn't
fitting," I have heard the reply "for some people, tzedakah is not fitting."

From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 1,2011 at 04:01 PM
Subject: From The Jewish World Review

Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...> wrote (MJ 59#93):

> Ben Katz wrote (MJ 59#92):
>> 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).

> OTOH, such a high degree of mesiras nefesh (altruism)
> -- that one would forfeit one's share in the world to come
> for the sake of Torah -- is indeed worthy of honor.

I assume the :-) was left off the end of the last post.

From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 1,2011 at 09:01 PM
Subject: From The Jewish World Review

In MJ 59#93, Stuart Wise <Smwise3@...> replied to what I wrote (MJ 59#92):

>> 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.

> And who is to decide who these rare people are?

Those are the ones who will continue doing so for their entire lifetimes. Most 
people won't, and indeed there are very few kollelniks who stay there for more 
than a few years.

> Actually the stigma attaches to
> those people who do NOT sit and learn for years without a future plan for
> supporting himself let alone a family.

Do two wrongs make a right? It is wrong to stigmatize them, but does that make 
it right that those who do sit and learn fora year, two years, or a few more - 
whether they indeed belong to that rare caliber of "torasam umanusam" (their 
Torah is their full-time profession), or not - are to be called "thieves," as in
the original posting that sparked this whole discussion?

I think it's likely that the current emphasis, in some segments of the Jewish 
world, on full-time Torah study is a reaction against the mentality in which "my
son the doctor" was the acme of achievement for American Jewish parents, with
Judaism relegated to at best a secondary role, which, in turn, was a reaction to
the near-universal exclusion of Jews from the professions in Europe. Like any
reaction, it's also arguable that it has gone too far, and that some course
correction is needed. But misquoting statements from the Gemara isn't the way to
get there, nor is the disdain for Torah study as something "useless" that
sometimes accompanies such arguments (though just to be clear, I'm not accusing
anyone on this forum of anything resembling the latter).

Also, I wonder whether the dimensions of the problem are being a little 
overstated. Where I live (the Lubavitcher community in Crown Heights), most 
people who study in kollel do so while waiting for a position as a shliach - and
meanwhile they are indeed taking practical training needed for that purpose, so
they are most certainly making plans for the future while studying. And while it
is true that shlichus is seen as the ideal, there is (so far as I know) no
stigma attached to those who feel themselves unsuited for it, or for kollel
study; and there are indeed plenty of local entrepreneurs, products of the local
yeshivos (and most of whom have not gone to college), running their own - quite
successful - businesses. Now, you might argue that Crown Heights is atypical in
this regard, and perhaps that's so; I can't speak with confidence about how
things are in other places.

Kol tuv,


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Wed, Feb 2,2011 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Legal Shiluach Hakein

Chana Luntz wrote in MJ 59#93:

> So if the cost of challenging dina d'malchusa dina under the free exercise
> clause would eat up more than a fifth of one's income then that, it seems to
> me, might change the equation for any positive mitzvah.

But what if this one-fifth rule won't come into play? Assume that

(1) the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is generally enforced,

(2) if you were arrested, perhaps you could -- perhaps at substantial
cost -- successfully defend yourself on free exercise grounds, but
(3) as a practical matter there is zero chance that you will be arrested and
have to spend any money defending yourself (e.g., you plan to go raid a bird's
nest at
night in a park that's never patrolled, in the company of a cooperative law
enforcement agent). 

Does the positive obligation trump dina dmalchusa?


From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 1,2011 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Lending a helpful hand

Carl Singer <carl.singer@...> wrote (MJ 59#93):

> I saw this story on the Partners in Kindness email.

> "Today, as I was getting out of my car at the supermarket to pick up some
> groceries, I saw an elderly woman who had just put her shopping cart back
> into the corral.
> "I noticed that she was struggling with her cane to get to her car. At that
> point I asked her if using the cart would help her walk. When she told me
> that it would, I gave her the cart, told her to use it to get to her car,
> and offered to take it back for her.
>"She accepted the offer and expressed her gratitude."

> OK, gentlemen -- halachically under what, if any, circumstances might you
> offer this elderly woman your ARM to hold onto lest she fall.

If it is not derech chibah (in a loving way) this is not only allowed, but would
be a chilul hashem not to do, and you don't even have to ask a posek (halachic

From: Stuart Pilichowski <stupillow@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 1,2011 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Lending a helpful hand

Carl Singer <carl.singer@...> wrote (MJ 59#93):

> OK, gentlemen -- halachically under what, if any, circumstances might you
> offer this elderly woman your ARM to hold onto lest she fall.

This clearly is a no-brainer. You're a chosid shoteh if you dont extend your arm. 

Without a doubt- the fifth and most important chelek of the shulchan aruch.

From: Guido Elbogen <havlei.h@...>
Date: Wed, Feb 2,2011 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Lending a helpful hand

Carl Singer <carl.singer@...> wrote (MJ 59#93):

> OK, gentlemen -- halachically under what, if any, circumstances might you
> offer this elderly woman your ARM to hold onto lest she fall.

The significant words  are "lest she fall."

If the action is a  necessary procedure, then your position is no more than a
male doctor with a female patient.

The question is what's the likelihood that she will fall which would justify
her arm being held.


From: Jack Gross <jacobbgross@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 1,2011 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Premature death announcement

Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...> wrote (MJ 59#93):

> While looking through hebrewbooks.org, I chanced upon a journal named
> HaDvir, published in Jerusalem in 1919. That issue had an obituary for Rav
> Meir Simcha (the "Or Same'ach"), which, it was claimed, had been killed in a
> pogrom as he walked down the street. In Hebrewbooks.org, the item is No.
> 22896. The only problem with this "information" is that Rav Meir Simcha
> actually died in 1926, while seeking medical treatment. 

> Can anyone shed light on the origin of this incorrect information? 

The report (http://www.hebrewbooks.org/22896, page 55 of the PDF file)
attributes the news to "newspapers in chutz-la'aretz [the Diaspora]," which
reported that a "telegram" to that effect sent from "Russia" reached "the
Zionist Office in Coopenhagen."

So HaDvir had it third-hand (at best), based on a single report issued in
what must have been hectic circumstances.


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 1,2011 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Preparing Couscous on Shabbat

Is one permitted to prepare couscous, of the type generally available in the
U.S. and Israel, on Shabbat? The package instructions tell one to pour hot water
over it, stir it once, and let it sit, but it works quite well if instead one
pours hot water into the couscous from, say, a measuring cup (and not directly
from the kettle). It appears to me that there are two potential issues:

1. Bishul (cooking). This should not be an issue because this couscous is
pre-cooked, particularly if one is doing the preparation in a keli shelishi
(third generation vessel) as I set out above.

2. Lisha (kneading). As I understand it, this prohibition applies only if the
result is a solid mass, as in a dough or (rabbinically) something softer, like
pudding. By contrast, if prepared correctly couscous results in separate grains,
and the more one stirs it the grainier it gets (the precise opposite of dough
or, for that matter, corn starch pudding).

My edition of Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchato (Ch. 8) prohibits making instant rice
on Shabbat, but I would guess that this is because the texture is gloppy
(although I've never used the product so I may be wrong).



From: Lisa Liel <lisa@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 1,2011 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Searching for Tradition

Martin Stern <md.stern@...> (MJ 59#93) wrote:

>Can anyone help me to obtain some early issues of Tradition? I am trying to
>get hold of 1.1-2.2, 5.1 and 16.3 in particular but might be interested in
>some later issues (from 18.3 onwards) as well.

Bookfinder.com is your friend.  Here are three of those:

1.1: http://bit.ly/fZ5IFB
5.1 http://bit.ly/i5oVkq
16.3 http://bit.ly/favJaD

I didn't see any others in the 1.1 to 2.2 range there, but you can 
check it from time to time.



End of Volume 59 Issue 94