Volume 6 Number 27

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Avi Feldblum]
Authority of Rishonim
         [David Sherman]
E-mail contact in Jerusalem
         [Ethan Katsh]
Judaism and Zoroastrianism (3)
         [Susan Slusky, Shlomo Pick, Michael Allen]
Nail Clippings
         [Zev Farkas]
Reasons for a Ruling
         [Michael Shimshoni]
Yetzer HaRa (2)
         [Yosef Bechhofer, Danny Farkas]


From: <mljewish@...> (Avi Feldblum)
Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1993 01:44:34 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Administrivia

I think the replies here on Joroastrianism thread will point out why I
had some reluctance in the original posting. I would like to ask people
responding to this thread to try and focus on the issue. The point
raised was the similarity of a Jewish custom of somewhat unclear
Halakhic status and origin (e.g. it is not brought down by the Rambam)
to a custom in a non-Jewish culture from around the same period. One
question that I think is raised is how do we treat cases of possible
cross-cultural borrowing. To some the answer may be clearly that all
such apparent examples are simply wrong, to others it is just part of
the way any living culture evolves. It is my view that halakhic Judaism
can span both views, and as such the discussion is valid within my

Avi Feldblum
mail.jewish Moderator


From: <dave@...> (David Sherman)
Date: Tue, 26 Jan 93 03:08:52 -0500
Subject: Re: Authority of Rishonim

> From: <YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
> 2. More importantly, the authority of Rishonim and the assumption
> that their words are far more insightful than ours is one of the basic
> tenets of Psak Halacha. An excellent brief discussion of this issue is
> to be found in "Beis Yechezkel" by Rabbi Moshe Tzuriel vol. 2,
> p.142-3.

I'm afraid I don't have the Beis Yechezkel, and don't even know whether
it's in English or Hebrew.  Would someone be kind enough to summarize
the discussion?  How do we relate the concept discussed to the point
that has been made recently regarding a number of issues -- that the
Rishonim in many cases had much less scientific data, or knowledge of
the operation of the world, than we do now?  (Take the example of
the lice thought to be spontaneously generated, for example.)

Is it possible to remain faithful to halacha and at the same
time adapt or modify it to reflect the decisions that earlier
authorities "would have" made if they had had the same information
we now have?  (That seems to be what Rav Tendler is trying to do with
brain stem death, for example.)

David Sherman


From: <katsh@...> (Ethan Katsh)
Date: Thu, 28 Jan 93 20:21:09 -0500
Subject: E-mail contact in Jerusalem

     This is outside the usual scope of this list but I do not belong to
any other list which might be more appropriate for my request. The local
day school (in Springfield, MA) is sending its eighth grade to Israel
for a two week study tour starting February 14th. I am looking for
someone living in Jerusalem who might be willing to serve as an e-mail
link for messages that could be sent back and forth. The group will be
staying in Jerusalem most of the time. If there are any volunteers,
please send your message directly to me.



From: <segs@...> (Susan Slusky)
Date: Mon, 25 Jan 93 08:26:56 EST
Subject: Re: Judaism and Zoroastrianism

Thank you (both author and moderator) for the posting about the possible
connection between the Jewish reverence for fingernail clippings and the
Zoroastrian one. Our moderator seemed unusually tentative about the
posting so I wanted to assure him that at least one reader found it
informative and not threatening or heretical. It led me to speculate
about which if the traditions I am familiar with might have been drawn
from the surrounding culture in Eastern Europe. The eyn hara (evil eye)
tradition seems to be widespread. But the particulars of the methods for
warding off the eyn hara, spitting three times, red ribbons, garlic, are
those borrowings from a surrounding non-Jewish culture? Garlic warding
off the eyn hara sounds a lot like the Rumanian/Hungarian tradition of
garlic warding off vampires.  Can anyone contribute on known borrowings
now embedded into our tradition?  (Not including cooking. Blintzes and
potato pancakes are too obvious.)  Actually, the eyn hara itself seems
like a good candidate for a borrowing from Zoroastrianism which as I
understand it is a two-god system with a good god that gets worshipped
and a bad god that gets avoided and/or placated.

Susan Slusky

From: <F12013@...> (Shlomo Pick)
Date: Sun, 24 Jan 93 17:20 O
Subject: Judaism and Zoroastrianism

shavua tov

I was wondering why you considered freilich's comments close to the
edge. I would think that one could assimilate all his information within
orthodox, "lumdushe" theory: is it any different if modern experts say
smoking is dangerous to your health, so it becomes a fulfillment (kiyum)
of u-shmartem et nafshoteichem (if not an outright) obligation) not to
smoke.  Similarly 1300 years ago with fingernail cutting.  And even if
it were a takana on the part of chazal not to "mistreat" fingernails,
one can further analyze: was the reason behind the takana included in
its very legislation or not, and there in is a lot of leeway.

Why should it bother anyone if the source of a name is not purely
jewish. Does it change the nature or halakhic validity of anything?  Is
it any worse than say a very orthodox and fundamentalist hasidic sect
from being named after Saint Mary (Satmar).

[The correctness or lack thereof of the last statement does not change
what Shlomo is saying in the rest of the posting. While I have in past
understood that Satmar is derived from the name of a town called Saint
Mary, there was a long discussion on this on soc.culture.jewish a while
back by several people who professed to know the area, and the concensus
seemd to be that this is a "legend" and the actual derivation is
something like "small town" or "large town". If anyone knows, and
preferably if they have sources for it, I at least would be interested.


From: <allen@...> (Michael Allen)
Date: Tue, 26 Jan 93 08:26:34 -0600
Subject: Judaism and Zoroastrianism

When contemplating who learned what from whom, I think it is important
to keep in mind the difference between "correlation" and "cause and
effect".  We see that, for example, both Judaism and (l'havdil)
Zoroastrianism have a tradition about fingernail clippings.  There are
three possibilities:

1) Zoroastrianism learned about this from Judaism.
2) Judaism and Zoroastrianism learned this fact independently.
3) Judaism (chas v'shalom) learned this from Zoroastrianism.

(3) is obviously the prefered explanation by those who want to "prove"
that Judaism has picked up stuff from other cultures and therefore
needs reform (chas v'shalom).

[The fact that certain practices that are done by Jews may have been
picked up from other cultures, does not imply that Judaism needs reform,
and to try and lump everyone who makes the first statement into those
who want to "reform" Judaism is close to an ad hominum arguement, rather
than focusing on the topic at hand. Mod.]

For one who doesn't have such an agenda, (3) is difficult because we
have seen countless examples of our Sages going out of their way to
block foreign influences before they have an example to take root.
Furthermore, whenever the Torah has come into contact with foreign
cultures, it is the Torah that prevails; even the watered-down version
offered by Christianity.  Therefore (1) seems to me to be the most
likely explanation, although it is certainly possible that
Zoroastrianism learned some truth independently of Judaism and so (2)
is also a reasonable possibility. 


From: Zev Farkas <farkas@...>
Date: Mon, 25 Jan 93 00:58:24 -0500
Subject: Nail Clippings

Ever since I learned, in early childhood, that nail clippings were not to
be disposed of casually, I had thought that the reason they could injure
the unborn was rather mundane.  The sound of a nail clipping being scraped
between the sole of a shoe and a ceramic tile floor is not unlike that of
scraping a nail across a chalkboard (CRINGE).  A pregnant woman has enough
stress already, and I could see this pushing her "over the edge".  Then
again, I had not heard that the problem only relates to clippings where
they originally fell, so I would not be surprised if deeper matters were

Zev Farkas, PE                                :)
<farkas@...>       718 829 5278


From: Michael Shimshoni <MASH@...>
Date: Tue, 26 Jan 93 09:43:36 +0200
Subject: Reasons for a Ruling

Eitan Fiorino informs us:

>I had earlier posted a possible reason why a chatan on his wedding night
>might be patur [not required - Mod.] from kriat shma, based on a gemara
>in brachot.  I have looked into this and found that we no longer poskin
>this way; the shulchan aruch records the opinion that a chatan is patur
>from kriat shma and t'filah until the consummation of the marriage (if
>married to a virgin) because his mind will be diverted; however, we no
>longer poskin this way because we don't have such kavana today anyway,
>so it doesn't matter that his mind will be diverted.

I would like to ask about the part "we no longer poskin that way"
because the reason given for that previous ruling is no longer valid.  I
recall hearing frequently that even if a reason of some mitzva is given,
be it from the Torah or Rabbinic, one has to stick to that ruling
because there may have been other unmentioned reasons which are still

I  wonder  if someone  could  explain  the  general attitude  to  such

Michael Shimshoni


From: <YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Tue, 26 Jan 93 02:15:07 -0500
Subject: Yetzer HaRa

        One more source in a similar vein is Reb Yisrael Salanter in Or
Yisrael letter 30, who says that Yetzer Tov is a euphemism for the
intellect, which may be misused but generally is used for good, and that
Yetzer HaRa is a euphemism for emotion, which may be properly used, but,
unconditioned by Mussar, oftimes leads to bad.

From: Danny Farkas <cs922177@...>
Date: Mon, 25 Jan 93 23:52:18 -0500
Subject: Yetzer HaRa

   Actually, the point brought out by the parable in the Zohar is quite
interesting.  Many of us grow up thinking (without much thought) that
G-d is on the "good side" and the Y.H. is opposing him on the "evil
side".  Of course that cannot be true.  The Y.H. is a creation of G-d.
It is to this effect that he brings his parable, that the Y.H. is like a
prostitute hired by the king, hired to push his son to his limits.  When
the son does *not* submit to her, then she has done his job.  i.e.  The
Y.H.'s whole purpose of creation is to *test* us, not to get us to sin,
but rather to test us, and that we should pass the tests.

   They say that when the angel that was fighting with Yakov Avinu, had
to go say "shira" that it was the first time since creation that he was
going to say shira, and that's why it was so important that he leave.
So they ask: If it was the first time he was going to say shira, didn't
he have anything better to do the night before than to fight with Yacov?
The answer is that that was his whole purpose in creation - to fight
with Yacov (this "spiritual battle").  This was what G-d wanted him to
do.  In fact, that was why he was finally going to say shira - because
only then had he accomplished his mission in creation.

						Danny Farkas


End of Volume 6 Issue 27