Volume 6 Number 53

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Foreign words in responsa
         [Steven Friedell]
         [Mike Gerver]
Priestly blessing
         [Ed Cohen]
Questions Re Converts (3)
         [Freda Birnbaum, Frank Silbermann, Abi Ross]


From: Steven Friedell <friedell@...>
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 93 10:19:26 EST
Subject: Foreign words in responsa

A couple of weeks ago I asked if anyone could help explain the word
*taqa* in Responsa Rav Pealim H.M. 3:8.  Several people made very
helpful suggestions, for which I am very grateful.  To bring everyone up
to date, the word probably means cloth--based on external and internal
evidence.  Allen Maberry at the University of Washington related that
the word is probably from the Arabic *twq*, one of whose meanings is a
layer of cloth.  This explains the translation, *bad*, that Aryeh Frimer
quoted from Rabbi Bakshi's book.  The internal evidence is interesting
also.  The first mention of the word *taqa* is followed by another
foreign word *zr"i*.  That word does not get repeated.  The material is
said to be expensive, costing more than 200 *rufiyaa*, which I assume
means rupees.  It would seem that we have an inquiry from Iraqi Jews who
had settled in India a hundred years ago.  Their dispute involved a
large piece of cloth--in Hindi, a "sari", hence the word *zr"i*.  The
responsum explains this more unusual foreign word by the more usual
*taqa*.  Might the Arabic *twq* be related to the Roman toga and to the
English "toque"--the new American Heritage dictionary suggests that
toque might be derived from Arabic taqa from Old Persian taq meaning a
veil or shawl.  A "toque" is a woman's close fitting hat.

If you'll forgive me (it's almost Purim), this has been taka a lot of fun!

Steven F. Friedell           Internet:  <friedell@...>
Rutgers School of Law        (609) 225-6366
Camden, NJ 08102	     Fax: (609) 225-6487


From: <GERVER@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Sun, 28 Feb 93 03:53 EST
Subject: Lice

Sara Svetitsky's reference (v6n39) to "the long and disgusting history
of man...and louse" is supported by linguistic evidence. Aaron
Dolgopolsky (then in the USSR, now at Haifa Univ.) did a study in which
he examined words in 140 different languages, covering a (combined)
total period of almost 300,000 years (i.e. SUM(language[i]*period[i]) for
140 i's), and made a list of the ones which were least likely to be
replaced by other words. (An English translation of the paper was
published in "Typology, Relationship and Time", Vitalij V. Shevoroshkin
and T. L. Markey, eds., Karoma Publishers, Ann Arbor, 1986.)  The most
stable words represent very basic and universal concepts, for which
there is no need to borrow new words. Number 12 on his list, behind
personal pronouns and basic body parts, but ahead of "water" and
"death", is "louse".

Mike Gerver, <gerver@...>


From: <ELCSG@...> (Ed Cohen)
Date: Sun, 28 Feb 93 13:11:50 EST
Subject: Priestly blessing

In reply to Josh Klein's interrogation on priestly blessings, most of
the questions can be answered by looking at The ArtScroll Mesorah Series
book: BIRCAS KOHANIM--THE PRIESTLY BLESSINGS (1981,1991), pages 37-39.

Ed Cohen


From: Freda Birnbaum <FBBIRNBA@...>
Date: Sun, 28 Feb 93 00:30 EDT
Subject: Questions Re Converts

Joe Abeles, in mj 6/48, raised many interesting and important questions
concerning converts.  I don't have the expertise to answer all of them,
but I have a few comments based on what I do know of the halacha, and on
personal observation and experience, being a born-Jewish-raised-not-frum
BT, who has a number of close friends who are converts.

>(1) Part of the conversion process itself: What is the level of tsnius
>(modesty) which can be observed during the process of immersion in the
>mikvah, [...]

Guess what.  We say women can't be witnesses, but the mikvah lady is
functioning as the witness here.  [Women function as witnesses to the
kashrus of their own kitchens, too, but that's another issue...]

(2) How can one interact with a converted person (assuming one is

If you're not aware, it's not an issue... until you think you have a
clue, at which point you STOP asking questions like, "Oh, you're from
[Alaska, Idaho, whatever.]  I didn't know there were Jews there.  What
was it like growing up?  Were your parents religious?" etc.  (Maybe
their parents WERE religious!  Just not Jewish-religious.  Don't ask
questions that will back people into a corner and force them either to
lie, to reveal their status because they'd rather not lie but they
really didn't want to reveal their status before you started bugging
them (even tho you didn't mean to bug them), or just feel uncomfortable.
I know the temptation to play Jewish geography is irresistible.  Try
to develop a sense of when to stop.

The halacha is that the information that they are a convert belongs to THEM
only.  Even if they tell you, you're not free to tell it to somebody else
unless they expressly tell you that it's okay.  Of course it may become
necessary for them to reveal this information themselves, e.g. if a
shidduch with a kohen is being discussed.

>Is the converted person more in need of doing T'shuvah than others of
>similar level of observance, etc., less, or same?

How is "more" possible?  Until they became Jewish, they had no obligation
to do mitzvos.  So what do they have to do tshuva about?

>(4) What is the halacha regarding the relationship of converted persons
>as such towards other Jews, specifically, e.g., is it permissible for a
>converted person to conceal the fact that he/she is converted in
>response to a direct question?  How about in response to a question
>like, "where are your parents from?"

That's not the question at all (tho I suppose converts who are really
scrupulous about telling the truth worry about it and I guess they should
consult their halachic authority about it).  ONE IS NOT ALLOWED TO ASK THEM
DIRECT _OR_ INDIRECT QUESTIONS!!  If you realize that you've been doing it
inadvertently, cut it out immediately!  One doesn't realize it always,
but this causes some of them a LOT of grief.  You're not supposed to ask
other people for the information about them, either.

>[...] and in colloquial usage are they permitted to refer to their parents
>as such?

Is this a theoretical question?  Can anybody imagine not referring to
their parents as their parents?

(p.s.  I know of several instances where converts were permitted to sit
shiva for their parents and say Kaddish for them.  Also of an instance
where one was permitted to attend their parent's funeral even though it
was held in a church (at the deceased's request, of course).)  CYLOR and
all that -- they did.)

>(6) What is the halachic responsibility of frum Jews towards converted
>persons.  Are frum Jews allowed to consider the non-Jewish background of
>a converted person under any circumstances at all?  Is a frum-from-birth
>Jewish person permitted to consider that a converted person isn't
>appropriate for them as a friend? or as a potential shidduch?

The halachic responsibility is to observe the halacha...
Friendship and shidduch decisions are personal things; of course if
you're a kohen you can't marry a convert.  Nobody can force you to
be friends with somebody you don't want to be friends with.  The halacha
is that you're not supposed to oppress a ger; that includes not reminding
them about their background, and respecting their privacy, and so on.
There are probably some situations where the status of a ger is a little
different but I don't know of any myself.  But I have a suspicion that
they are highly specialized.  Perhaps someone with more book-learnin' than I
have can help out here.

>(7) What experiences have converted persons had such that they are
>unhappy with their reception within the frum community or surprised that
>things were not as they had anticipated?

Some of them feel that people think they converted only to intermarry
when that actually wasn't the case at all.

>[...] is there any precedent (or justification) for a convert to be accorded
>greater acceptance or respect based on which bais din did the conversion
>(assuming all are recognized as Orthodox)?

Seems to me that's pretty dangerous, making comparisons like that.  As
long as the bais din was Orthodox enough for the conversion to be
halachic, what's the point?

These responses are brief and incomplete; I look forward to others.

Freda Birnbaum

From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Fri, 26 Feb 93 15:47:23 -0500
Subject: Re: Questions Re Converts

Let me comment about two of the many questions Joe Abeles
asks in Vol 6 #48 about converts:

> (5) What is the relationship, halachically, between a converted person
> and his or her family?  Technically, are the parents still considered
> parents?  This both for the purpose of, e.g., kibud av v'aim (honoring
> father and mother -- responsibility for their upkeep and making sure
> their needs are satisfied), and in colloquial usage are they permitted
> to refer to their parents as such?

Halachic gives no recognition to the relationship between
a convert and his natural parents.  But then again, I don't
believe halacha gives any recognition to the parental
relationships of an unconverted gentiles, either.

Thus, a convert is no more obligated to honor gentile parents,
than would halacha obligate an _uncoverted_ gentile to honor
his/her parents.  One might argue that a non-converted gentile
has an extra-halachic _moral_ obligation to honor in a general sense.
I see no reason why such an obligation should disappear after conversion
(since it wasn't based on halachic categories in the first place).

[Actually the issue of whether and what a converts halakhic requirement
to honor their birth parents are is an interesting (and of course
non-trivial) one. From what I remember, there is a requirement on a
non-jew to honor/respect ones parents. Since when they convert, a new
convert is considered "as a new born infant", i.e. has no legal
relatives, they should not have any requirements toward their birth
parents. They do have requirements on a Rabbinical level, though, due to
a principle roughly that they should not feel that they have moved from
a "higher" holiness (where they had to honor their parents) to a lower
holiness (where they no longer need to. I had thought this was discussed
in the list a long time ago, but I do not see it in the Index. Mod.]

> (6) Is a frum-from-birth Jewish person permitted to consider
> that a converted person isn't appropriate for them as a friend?
> Or as a potential shidduch?

One might generalize this question to ask, "To what extent
is a frum person permitted to reject fellow Jews from friendship
or marriage for _any_ arbitrary reason (e.g. hair color, ear shape,
native language, wealth)?"  I suspect that such behavior is permitted,
but discouraged.

Frank Silbermann	<fs@...>
Tulane University	New Orleans, Louisiana  USA

From: Abi Ross <ROSS@...>
Date: Sat, 27 Feb 93 22:30:31 -0500
Subject: Questions Re Converts

See shulhan aruch yoreh deyah siman 268,2 that explains how
modesty of the women should be kept in the geirut.

Abi Ross


End of Volume 6 Issue 53