Volume 59 Number 96 
      Produced: Thu, 24 Feb 2011 15:08:20 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Adon Olam and Contemplation 
    [Rabbi Eli Mallon]
Civil unions in Israel (2)
    [Meir Shinnar  Martin Stern]
Important Times Article on Homosexuality 
    [Russell J Hendel]
Preparing Couscous on Shabbat 
    [Orrin Tilevitz]
Terms Of Endearment 
    [Yaakov Shachter]


From: Rabbi Eli Mallon <elimallon@...>
Date: Thu, Feb 24,2011 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Adon Olam and Contemplation

Adon Olam is a popular synagogue song, typically sung at the conclusion of
Shabbat and holiday morning services. It's traditionally ascribed to the
great medieval poet Shlomo ibn Gabirol (Spain; 11th c.), although this
hasn't been decisively determined.

Its metrical pattern allows for countless musical settings. Rarely, though,
is close attention given to the words themselves. Over time, I came to
realize that in its words, the poet, whoever he or she was, had perfectly
outlined the process of contemplative prayer, as my experience of it has

The first verses declare abstract truths of G-d: Eternity; Unity; etc. This
is how contemplative prayer begins, not with consideration of our own
needs, nor even with love for G-d. Rather, it begins with our profound
acknowledgement of realities about G-d that are unchanging and utterly
beyond ourselves. Immersing our attention in this brings us to profound
quiet. This is our awe at the grandeur of G-d.

Jewish tradition offers other texts that can serve this purpose, too. But
Adon Olam captures major themes in the tersest possible language.

The next verses affirm that our relation to this Infinite, almost unknowable
Presence is always a personal one. G-d is not simply a Cosmic Being. G-d
is my G-d. G-d is not simply an abstract truth; G-d is a personal
experience. The next stage in contemplation, then, after we've entered into
G-d's Presence, is to affirm that G-d is not simply there; G-d is there
for me. My Rock. My Redeemer in times of trouble. Our relation to G-d is
the most intimate one imaginable. G-d is beyond the limits of anything
finite, yet still nurtures even the smallest, least significant aspects of
creation. This is the true nearness of G-d to us.

It's not for his or her own sake that the poet says my G-d, rather, it's
the poet's way to tell us: this is your truth as well as mine. The poet is
speaking our own words for us.

Having first affirmed that G-d's is the Presence in which we are and will
always be; having then affirmed that our relation to this Presence isn't a
lifeless one, but one of deep intimacy and caring, the poet concludes with
In G-d's Hands I put my soul At this point, contemplation becomes
prayer. Whatever our need, whatever our concern, we give it to G-d. When
we do, we're filled with a relief and a confidence that can't be described.
If the first stage was primarily an intellectual one, and the second some
combination of intellect and feeling, the third is utterly an act of the

Adon Olam could be our script for contemplation. In fact, it's a sequence
that we go through almost spontaneously after a while. In our first attempts
at personal prayer, though, were naturally inclined to try the 3rd step
first. We probably find success at this to be intermittent, at best a
momentary, or temporary letting go. Its the first two steps that allow us
to move beyond haphazard spiritual experiences into something much more
consistent and deep.

Rabbi Joseph Gelberman used to be particularly inspired by the concluding
line of the poem  G-d is for me; I will not fear.  His affinity for it
grew out of formally and informally considering the earlier content of the
poem for many years. Its not a fast process. It takes time and repetition.
But we can truly progress in prayer by following the route mapped for us by
Adon Olam. Even if we simply reflect on the steps we naturally find
ourselves taking in developing our personal, private prayer, we'll find
them perfectly described in this poem's words.



From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 18,2011 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Civil unions in Israel

David Tzohar wrote (MJ 59#95):

> Furthermore, Jewish couples who cohabit and share a home are considered yeduyim
> batzibbur, i.e. common-law marriages. These couples are recognized by the state
> as being married and are entitled to the benefits provided by Social
> Service. Such marriages must be dissolved by the man giving the woman a bill
> of divorce. In a promiscuous Israeli secular society this can cause serious
> problems including mamzerut.

I don't know what the current rabbanut psak is, but whether they actually
require a bill of divorce would seem to be related to the dispute between Rav
Moshe Feinstein and Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin about Reform and Conservative
marriages -  and therefore it is not so clear, at least if Rav Moshe's opinion
would apply here, that there is a bdiavad requirement of a bill of divorce, nor
would there be a problem of mamzerut. (It's been a while since I reviewed Rav
Moshe's responsa, so there may be some way that he holds Reform and Conservatve
as less binding than civil - but my recollection is that it would apply.)

Meir Shinnar

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sat, Feb 19,2011 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Civil unions in Israel

David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...> wrote (MJ 59#95)

> The fact is that civil unions are recognized by the Rabbinate *de facto*. All
> civil marriages contracted legally abroad are fully recognized. Indeed the
> state is compelled to recognize them to fulfill treaties with other
> countries who accept marriages contracted in Israel. Thousands of Israeli
> couples take a weekend in Cyprus and come back married. These can be couples
> who are ineligable to marry under Halacha, for instance a Cohen with a
> divorcee, and many others who for whatever reason do not want a religious
> marriage.

David seems to be confusing two distinct types of marriage. As far as the
Israeli state is concerned it must, under international law, recognise
foreign marriages and can, if it so chooses, treat cohabiting couples as if
they were married for receipt of social service benefits etc. As far as the
Rabbinate is concerned, only halachically valid unions are marriages.

What I had proposed was that the State should institute civil registration
of marriages which could be performed either through a recognised religious
body or, without any ceremony, at a registration office, provided the couple
were not debarred from marriage according to the State's regulations.
> Furthermore, Jewish couples who cohabit and share a home are considered
> yeduyim batzibbur, i.e. common-law marriages. These couples are recognized by
> the state as being married and are entitled to the benefits provided by Social
> Service. Such marriages must be dissolved by the man giving the woman a bill
> of divorce. In a promiscuous Israeli secular society this can cause serious
> problems including mamzerut.

I would have hoped that the Rabbinate would rule that no Jew should marry
except under its auspices and anyone contracting a marriage through other
channels should be considered as stating thereby that they do NOT wish to be
considered halachically married. If it does so, such unions even, or perhaps
especially, where they could have married halachically, would not require a get
since it can be assumed that the couple had not wished to form a halachic union.
This would avoid children conceived from a man other than the 'civil husband'
being mamzerim.

Martin Stern


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, Feb 20,2011 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Important Times Article on Homosexuality

About 2 months ago (12/16/2010) I read a New York Times article on the
introduction of "civil unions" in France. The civil unions (PACS) were
introduced primarily for gays. However, ten years later, the law has had
an unintended side effect: Many male-female couples are using "civil
unions." In fact, the majority of civil unions are now between men and
women. The article notes, "It remains unclear whether the idea of a civil
union has responded to a shift in social attitudes or caused one."
The article points out a disturbing aspect of playing with basic social
norms. You don't control the effects of these laws and you don't know how
it will affect society.
I bring this article up because I have concerns about where we will be 10
years from now with gay issues. I strongly feel that we aren't looking
where we are going. I believe the current norms being proposed will lead
to a serious destruction of Judaism from within. I believe that more
religious teenagers will opt for a gay approach. After all why shouldn't
they: Take 100 teenagers, and a fair percentage of them will have some
form of severe rejection from a member of the opposite sex. If it is
"known" that religious gays exist and are tolerated, these rejected
teenagers may decide to go in that direction (that is, become gay) rather
than "grow up" (that is learn to deal with members of the opposite sex).
Thus, I expect a sizable number of frum teenagers to end up gay (who would
not have ended up gay had these norms of tolerance not been advocated). 
There are assumptions in my argument. I am assuming that gayness can be
induced environmentally. In fact I am assuming that female rejection
coupled with social acceptance can increase gayness. Is this assumption
so unwarranted? No one has proved the opposite: that gayness is hard
wired (they claim it is so, but no one has found the genes). Many complex
preferences can be influenced by environment - why not sexual
preferences? Even if some gayness is hard wired, can we rule out that
environment can also influence? Do we have to wait for a proof? 
I have an easy remedy to this expected problem. I believe the various
statements of tolerance about gays - whether the executive order of the
US government which allows them to have jobs without discrimination or
the many rabbinic statements circulating which encourages cessation of
total ostracization - should be augmented with three clear items which
can help "define" needed social norms. The three clear items are as
(A) Any act that the Bible declares to be sinful is subject to repentance
in both deed and attitude - Judaism's belief is that attitudes can be
totally changed.
(B) A clear, strong statement that every synagogue must have a written
policy on how sinners, even though they are accepted, should be
stigmatized - maybe they can't get aliyoth (calling to the Torah), or
maybe they can't be cantors, or maybe they can't serve on boards or as
Rabbis, or maybe they can't be honored. But I want simultaneity of both
acceptance and stigmatism. 
(C) A clear, unequivocal affirmation that Orthodox Judaism has the right
and obligation to preserve linguistic terms reflecting its serious
values. The word "couple" (an English term) as well as the word "husband
and wife" refer to statuses whose violation could carry a death penalty.
Under no circumstances (no exceptions) should we tolerate any usage of
these terms to situations where violation of the status does not carry a
death penalty. Two women living together are not a couple and not a
husband and wife. If one has an affair with one of them that person has
not committed adultery.  Our children have a right to grow up in an
environment where the terminology we use reflects serious values. 
I believe these are three ingredients which would encourage the type of
restraint needed to prevent the expected growth in gayness which I
outlined in the beginning paragraphs of this document.
Russell Jay Hendel; PhD ASA http://www.Rashiyomi.com;


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Mon, Feb 21,2011 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Preparing Couscous on Shabbat

In response to my question (MJ 59#94), Michael Rogovin writes (MJ 59#95):

> Is reconstituting something that is already fully cooked but dried to the
> point that it is not edible in its current state bishul? This could apply
> to instant oatmeal, precooked rice and, of course, pre-cooked couscous.
> Note that couscous is not a grain, it is a form of pasta -- essentially finely
> textured semolina flour that has been steamed (to breakdown its structure and
> speed cooking) and then dried. It is reconstituted by adding hot (usually
> boiling) water, plus fat (oil or butter). I consider this cooking since I
> convert an inedible food to an edible one, but cannot opine on the halachic
> definition. On the other hand, we cook tea leaves on Shabbat and those were
> not even pre-cooked and are also inedible to edible.

Michael's reformulation of my question helps answer part of it, albeit the
part I thought (incorrectly) I had answered already. As I noted, there are two
(at least) potential problems, bishul (cooking) and lisha (kneading). The
concept of ein bishul achar bishul (one cannot cook, for purposes of Shabbat,
something that is already cooked) would seem to mean that if a food is
completely cooked, what one does to it afterwards cannot be cooking even if one
has rendered it inedible after cooking it. And, in fact, one may put instant
coffee or instant soup, both of which have been completely cooked but are
inedible in their current state, into hot water in a kli sheni on shabbat.
Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchata (SSK), pub. 5725, 1:39 and 5:14. 

That the couscous is in fact pre-cooked is confirmed by a simple experiment: I
added couscous to a mixture of cold (less than 20 degrees Celsius) water and
oil, and let it sit for several hours. It took that long, but the result was
edible couscous of the same texture as when one uses hot water. It also means
that an answer I heard from someone else, who likened cooking couscous to making
salted, dried fish edible by pouring hot water over it (forbidden by the gemara
on Shabbat) is incorrect because the fish was not completely cooked before. I
cannot distinguish couscous from instant coffee or instant soup in this regard.

Tea leaves are a different issue. Since they are not cooked, one may steep them
only in a kli shelishi, SSK 1:38, and some authorities (including, I believe,
later edition of SSK) forbid them to be steeped at all on Shabbat.

The second problem, lisha, was the one I had posed. For something to be
forbidden by the Torah because of lisha, three conditions must be met:

(1) a mixture of two different substances (as opposed to, e.g., mashed banana);

(2) the substances are either naturally very fine or ground/chopped; and

(3) the result of the kneading is a single mass (belila achat). SSK 5:1. This
is called a belila ava, a thick belila. SSK 1: 4-5. 

An example, it seems, according to SSK 5:14, would be instant rice. Instant
oatmeal, a belila daka, which is a thinner mixture, is rabbinically forbidden,
but may be prepared on Shabbat under certain conditions, including use of a
shinui (change). Josh Backon's conclusion (MJ 59#95) that the couscous mixture
is a belila ava because it can't be poured is incorrect because the mixture 
fails the first two conditions of the test. In essence, the mixture isn't a 
belila at all. (If he were correct, one could not make egg salad on Shabbat 
without some sort of shinui, but in fact one can. SSK 5:13. See also the 
definition of belila in Encyclopedia Talmudit.)

So while intuitively I would have thought that one could not do this sort of
thing on Shabbat, I'm back where I started: I don't understand how, if at all,
it is distinguishable from the things SSK states are permitted.

Finally, I had written (MJ 59#94) that preparing couscous

> works quite well if instead one pours hot water into the couscous from, say,
> a measuring cup (and not directly from the kettle). What I meant to say was
> that it works if instead one pours hot water into a bowl from a measuring cup
> and then adds the couscous to it. 

Art Werschulz, in responding (MJ 59#95) that

> The couscous that we have says to boil the water and *then* add the couscous.
> So your directions (assuming that you have pre-existing very hot water, e.g.,
> from a kumkum) are the ones that are on the package.

seems to have divined that intent, but otherwise, in addition to misspelling my
first and last names, he errs. What I meant to suggest (unnecessarily,
according to my logic) was preparing the couscous in a kli shelishi. The package
directions he's talking about, "they are on one brand of couscous that I buy," 
is that one boils water, adds the couscous, and then removes the pot from the 
fire. Thus, the couscous would be cooked in a kli rishon, which is forbidden on
Shabbat according to all opinions. (I do not know if removing the pot from the
fire before adding the couscous would make it a kli sheni, but in any event
that's not what I suggested.)


From: Yaakov Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Wed, Feb 23,2011 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Terms Of Endearment

In response to an article that appeared in MJ 59#92, a reader, distinguishing
unerringly between the important and the unimportant, ignoring everything
peripheral, and zeroing in, with hawk-like precision, on the essential, the
core, has submitted to me the following question:

 "Your eyes are twin pools of limpid moonlight"?  Where does that come from?

to which the answer is: I made it up.  I throw those things off effortlessly,
with my fingertips.  Here's another one: "Your smile speaks with the ancient
wisdom of the night."  I can give you more.  Despite being completely
meaningless, these compliments, when spoken with a sincere gaze and a subdued,
smoldering intensity, are astonishingly effective, with certain women.  They
are particularly effective with women who read Khalil Gibran.  Unfortunately,
I live in Illinois, where you cannot legally marry women who read Khalil
Gibran, pursuant to 750 ILCS 5/301(1).  It is also a Class 1 felony in
Illinois to have sexual relations with women who read Khalil Gibran, pursuant
to 720 ILCS 5/12-13(a)(2), because they lack the mental capacity to consent to

However, the question on every reader's lips, at this point, is surely not
whether such inanities are or are not effective, but, rather, why any Jew
would need to resort to such vacuous banalities, when we Jews have access to
the greatest love poem ever written, Shir HaShirim (known in English as the
Song of Songs, or the Song of Solomon).  Shir HaShirim -- with such ineffably
beautiful passages as:

    "I have compared thee, O my love,
     To a horse in Pharaoh's chariots."
         -- Shir HaShirim 1:9


    "Thy teeth are like a flock of ewes all shaped alike,
     Which are come up from the washing;
     Whereof all are paired,
     And none is missing among them."
         -- Shir HaShirim 4:2 (see also 6:6)


    "Thy navel is like a round goblet,
     Wherein no mingled wine is lacking;
     Thy belly is like a heap of wheat
     Set about with lilies."
         -- Shir HaShirim 7:3

It is a worthy question.  And if you wish to make use of such choice passages
from Shir HaShirim in your marital chambers, good luck to you.  In my case, it
has generally gone more or less like this:

"Hey -- Yaakov -- are you coming to bed, or what?"

"Leah?  Is that you?  I thought you were a horse!  Honestly, you resemble a
horse, in Pharaoh's cavalry ..."

That was when she slugged me.  Apparently this was not the most felicitous of
verses with which to open the conversation.  I tried another approach.  "Leah,
your belly is a pile of wheat."

She was poised to slug me again, but now she stopped.  She was no longer
angry, just bewildered.  "My belly is a pile of wheat?  In what way does my
belly resemble a pile of wheat?"

This was a question for which I was not prepared.  I had actually read Rashi
on Shir HaShirim, but that didn't help me with that belly-wheat thing.  I
decided I needed a different verse.

"Never mind about the wheat.  None of your teeth is missing."

"None of my teeth is missing?  Is that supposed to be a compliment?  Why on
Earth should any of my teeth be missing?  I'm not ninety years old, and I
don't have scurvy.... Wait a minute.... Yaakov, have you been reading Shir
HaShirim again?"

Yikes.  Busted.

"No, I mean, not really, I mean, like, I was straightening out the bookshelf,
you know?  And it just fell out, you know, and I sort of, like, I mean, I had
to ..."

"Yaakov!  Don't you know what happened the last time you read Shir HaShirim?"

Indeed I do.  And that is why I have begun making up my own quotes.  I hope
this explanation answers the reader's question adequately.

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


End of Volume 59 Issue 96