Volume 60 Number 08 
      Produced: Wed, 18 May 2011 01:39:09 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A question on Talmudic theodicy 
    [Martin Stern]
A Rosh Chodesh query (5)
    [Perets Mett  Lawrence Myers  Ben Katz  Ira L. Jacobson  Haim Snyder]
Being driven to shul on Shabbat (was: "Mohel driving to brit on Shabba 
    [Bernard Raab]
Bris on Shabbos - Carrying Knife 
    [Carl Singer]
Halacha when threatened with rape 
    [Sammy Finkelman]
Inquiry on correct philosophical approach to multiple reasons for cust 
    [Russell J Hendel]
Megilat Sefer 
    [Rabbi Meir Wise]
Pictures of women 
    [Richard Steinberger]
Rapes, misunderstandings, and bills in the U.S. Congress 
    [Sammy Finkelman]
Sins and non-sins 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, May 15,2011 at 05:01 PM
Subject: A question on Talmudic theodicy

The Gemara (Sotah 11a) tells us that Paro had three advisors, Bil'am, Iyov
and Yitro. When he consulted them about how to solve the Jewish problem,
Bil'am advised him to kill the boys, Yitro sensed that this was what Paro
wanted to do so he fled but Iyov simply stayed and kept quiet.

Bil'am was punished by being killed, Iyov was punished by having great
sufferings and Yitro was rewarded in that his descendants sat on the Great

We are presumably meant to learn from this aggadata that when some injustice
is planned we are not allowed to keep quiet and if we do we are to some
extent also culpable - we must dissociate ourselves from it even if, because
we will be unable to prevent it, the only way is to run away before it is
carried out. 

Perhaps Yitro's reward was postponed to later generations because he did not
himself protest actively and try to have the plan reversed, but he was
eventually rewarded nonetheless.

I still have a problem with this passage. Iyov would appear to have been
struck down fairly soon after the event but Bil'am was only killed some 40
years later even though he was clearly much more deserving of punishment. Surely
he should have been killed sooner.

Can anyone suggest an explanation for what appears at first sight to be an
unfair situation?

Martin Stern


From: Perets Mett <p.mett@...>
Date: Thu, May 12,2011 at 07:01 PM
Subject: A Rosh Chodesh query

Martin Stern <md.stern@...> wrote (MJ 60#07):

> During the korbanot section of shacharit we add, before Eizehu mekoman, the
> parshiot concerning the mussafim [additional sacrifices] brought on Shabbat
> and Rosh Chodesh on those days. On the Yamim Tovim we do not do likewise. 
> Can anyone provide an explanation for this difference?

The reason for saying the Shabbos mussaf psukim (those who have that custom) is
because they are not read at krias haTorah.

On R"Ch the reason is as a reminder that today is Rosh Chodesh (to remember
Yaale veyovo).

On Yomtov and Chol hamoed neither reason applies.


From: Lawrence Myers <lawrence.familymyers@...>
Date: Thu, May 12,2011 at 07:01 PM
Subject: A Rosh Chodesh query

In reply to Martin's query (MJ 60#07): 

As I understand the position, the reason for saying the mussaf for Shabbat is 
completely different for that for Rosh Chodesh. Really, on Shabbat, we 
should take out a 2nd sefer and layn those pesukim as maftir. But since the 
Shabbat mussaf is contained in a paragraph of only 2 pesukim, this is not 
done, since we never take out a sefer torah to read less than 3 pesukim.
On Rosh Chodesh, the reason for including the mussaf before Eizehu mekoman, 
is to remind the kehilla of the day since they may not have been in shul the 
previous evening.  There is no such worry on Yom tov, since everyone would 
have made kiddush the previous night, and the maftir will be read from the 
2nd sefer.

Lawrence Myers

From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Thu, May 12,2011 at 07:01 PM
Subject: A Rosh Chodesh query

In reply to Martin's query (MJ 60#07): 

I have often wondered the same thing.  Abudraham says it is because we read the
sacrifices in the Torah reading on Yamim Tovim, but that only works for Shabbat,
not Rosh Chodesh because on Rosh Chodesh we also read the sacrifices as part of
the Torah reading.  (Here's where I am going to get into trouble, but I'll say
it anyway: I personally add the sacrifices on Yom Tov myself to Eizehu Mekoman,
esp if for some reason I am davening without a minyan and not hearing Torah

From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Sat, May 14,2011 at 04:01 PM
Subject: A Rosh Chodesh query

In reply to Martin's query (MJ 60#07): 

The Mehaber writes (OH 48:1) that the pesuqim for the yomtovim do not 
need to be recited here because they are part of the Torah 
reading.  The Rema adds that the Rosh Hodesh verses are also recited 
here to publicize the fact that the day is Rosh Hodesh.  And the MB 
48:6 adds that yomtov need not be mentioned here because it already 
had been the previous evening.

Perhaps this seeming paradox is the reason that not all minhagim do 
add the parshi'ot recalling the special sacrifices on Shabbat and 
Rosh Hodesh.  For example, Habad.  And Sefardim.


From: Haim Snyder <haimsny@...>
Date: Sun, May 15,2011 at 01:01 AM
Subject: A Rosh Chodesh query

In reply to Martin's query (MJ 60#07): 

I believe, based only on logic without any other source, that the problem is
Sukkot. On all of the other days on which Musaf is said (Pesah, Shavuot,
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) there is only 1 version of the musaffim.
However, each day of Sukkot has a different musaf and, in Hutz LaAretz,
because of Sfaika D'Yoma, the list becomes extremely long. I think that the
printers of the siddurim just didn't want to print so much at that point.

Haim Shalom Snyder


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Thu, May 5,2011 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Being driven to shul on Shabbat (was: "Mohel driving to brit on Shabba

Sammy Finkelman (MJ 60#06) wrote:

> Having a non-Jew drive someone is something which R. Yosef Dov
> Soloveitchik, according to Rabbi Gil Student, said was permitted on
> Shabbos but couldn't or shouldn't be done. The issue came up with a
> proposal to have bus rides to a synagogue in Florida. It's in the
> book Post Along the Way  (page 143) and also originally in a blog
> post.
> http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2004/03/womens-prayer-groups-r-hershel_30.html
> [see argument XII --Mod.]

The blog post describes a shayla [Halachic question -- Mod.] posed to the Rav in 
which a group of frum Jews asks whether it would be permitted to hire a non Jew 
to drive a group of Jews to and from Shul on Shabbat. The Rav responds that it 
would be technically permitted but is prohibited nevertheless. The reasoning is 
not so very clear in the blog post, since it seems to be based on public-policy 
considerations, which then become elevated to technical halachic status.

There are a number of condo communities in South Florida which could seriously 
benefit from a more lenient/nuanced ruling in this matter, but our people, as 
well as our rabbis, G-d bless them, seem sclerotically incapable of it. These 
are typically truly-gated communities, not hypothetically enclosed by eruv-wire.
They have small buses continuously circulating throughout the enclosed area,
making regular stops at fixed locations. The buses operate 24/7 and the ride is
completely free. A large orthodox shul is located within or immediately adjacent
to the property. Condo units nearer to the shul are in greater demand, just as
in our better suburbs. The price differential could pose a serious hardship on
some residents who live more distantly, and find their ability to walk to shul
eroding as they age. But my sense is that they will not ride the buses on
Shabbat, to avoid the opprobrium of the community. Too bad the Rav did not see
the more subtle public policy issue at play here, but in the face of his ruling,
what contemporary rabbi is going to pasken otherwise? I would be interested if
some posters have a more recent or updated version of this issue to share with us. 

Bernie R.


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Thu, May 12,2011 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Bris on Shabbos - Carrying Knife

Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...> states (MJ 60#07):

> Carl Singer <carl.singer@...> wrote (MJ 60#06):

>> I don't believe this is correct -- I learned that if necessary the Mohel
>> could carry a knife and that he would do so openly.>>

> We needn't speculate or offer our opinions;  the Shulchan Aruch (Orach
> Chaim Siman 331, Se'if 6) clearly forbids any melacha (creative work) on Shabbos
> to facilitate the bris (the specific example used is bringing a knife).

> It also forbids asking a non-Jew to do so, unless you ask the non-Jew to do
> a rabbinically forbidden melacha only.

> The Mishna Berura makes an attempt to justify asking a non-Jew to do a
> Torah-forbidden melacha, but nobody says the mohel can do so much as a
> rabbinic melacha.

Gershon Dubin's comment is somewhat less than generous in characterizing my
words as speculation or opinion!
The gemorah specifically states what I said above.  The logic being that
Bris occurs before Shabbos in the Torah. The Shulchan Orach obviously disagrees.

Carl Singer


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Fri, May 13,2011 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Halacha when threatened with rape

I think that according to Halacha, at least in theory, a woman - and
also a man -  is supposed to resist to the point of death, at least if
this is a full fledged arayos, like if a woman is married, although a
person can resist to the limit and still be overcome and live.

This is, after all, one of the three things we are supposed to die
rather than do (the other two being to murder someone else or openly
worship some strange worship).

Now I don't think anyone would like to be put to that test.

Someone here maybe might know what the actual practical halacha is here.

It is not generally taught in schools, I think.

Maybe the actual practical halacha is, it is better to resist, but
wrong to commit suicide to avoid it but, whatever you do, nobody is
going to blame you. Or maybe it is that there is actually no
requirement these days to resist but don't publicize that.

Does anyone know what has been written on this thing? Or is this
something that everybody has avoided writing about?


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, May 15,2011 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Inquiry on correct philosophical approach to multiple reasons for cust

The following discussion at a recent Shalom Zachar (party on first Sabbath after
birth of a boy), attended by me, highlights an intellectual/philosophical
problem facing Judaism. 

During the Shalom Zachar, some guests asked for the reason for Shalom Zachars.
The father, a person with Smichah [rabbinical ordination --Mod.], replied with 
two standard reasons: 

1) According to a midrash, the baby learns all of Torah while a fetus but an
angel strikes him before entry into the world at which time he forgets. Hence,
we have a Shalom Zachar to encourage learning.

2) This is the baby's first Sabbath in the world. And, we wish to encourage him
to learn.
I blurted in, that these two reasons, while standard, are Midrashic
afterthoughts, and that the true reason has been obscured because of them. The
true reason is that the Shalom Zachar is a fulfillment, though not an
obligation, of the biblical commandment of "Love thy neighbor as thyself." 

The "Love thy neighbor as thyself" commandment is illustrated both in the Talmud
and codes by such examples as 

a) visiting the sick, 
b) attending weddings, 
c) attending funerals, 
d) and visiting mourners. 

I further explained that the commonality of these illustrations is "social
support during times of stressful change, whether good or bad change." I
continued, while a birth is not as stressful as a wedding, it is nevertheless a
time of stressful change, and social support during this time is a fulfillment
of a biblical commandment. Finally, I pointed out, that the explanation given by
me, emphasizes a biblical commandment, and is more important than secondary
midrashic reasons.
I was asked why it applies only to a boy and not a girl. I responded that on the
contrary, my reasoning shows that visiting parents after a birth of a girl is a
fulfillment of a biblical commandment also, and the extension of the Shalom
Zachar to girls is unlike say extensions of bar mitzvahs to bat mitzvahs.
I then added another reason from my own recent personal experiences. My brother
(Judge Hendel of the Supreme Court of Israel) recently had his first grandchild,
a girl. During the preceding 9 months I was telling my brother that I would
visit him for the brith (circumcision ceremony) if it was a boy. Generalizing, I
suggested that at births of baby boys many relatives come from afar (for the
brith) adding additional stress to the parents, stress unique to the birth of a 
Despite my arguments, the conversation continued discussing the other two
(standard) explanations of a Shalom Zachar. This raised in my mind probing
questions  about an intellectual / philosophical problem facing Judaism. There
are frequently several explanations for various laws, verses and customs. We
tend to cite these explanations equally without discriminating between them even
though some of them will appear truer. In this particular case the idea of
interpreting a Talmudic midrash literally, that a fetus with an undeveloped
brain knows all of the Torah, is physiologically absurd. It is furthermore not
necessary as we hold that aggadic material may be interpreted symbolically if
necessary. So my questions are:
a) What are we gaining by holding on to these literal interpretations? 

b) Why are we so certain that "obvious" explanations even though not cited
explicitly (such as the "love thy neighbor" explanation) cannot be correct
unless found in some source?

c) Why does a religion which has two strands of learning - citation and
creativity - now emphasize only the citation strand? 

d) Why are only Gedolim allowed (and then infrequently) to come up with creative

e) What are our real goals? 

f) Are we gaining of losing respect by citing a physiologically absurd aggadah
(fetuses knowing whole Torah).
Russell Jay Hendel; Ph.D; A.S.A.
Dept of Mathematics, Towson University


From: Rabbi Meir Wise <Meirhwise@...>
Date: Thu, May 12,2011 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Megilat Sefer

Readers of the Mail will be interested to learn that for the first  
time a complete English translation with notes of the Megilat Sefer of  
Rabbi Jacob Emden is now available. This is his autobiography and is virtually
unique in rabbinic literature.
Any profit is to be donated to charity - so here is the link

http://www.amazon.com/Megilat-Sefer-Jacob Emden/dp/1612590012/

Best wishes

Rabbi Meir Wise


From: Richard Steinberger <richardlouis@...>
Date: Fri, May 13,2011 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Pictures of women

One chareidi newspaper in the US cut out Hilary Clinton from a photo showing
the presidential Ops room during the attack on Bin Laden.  The question has
been raised: where does it say in Poskim that you cannot have a photo of a
woman in a newspaper?

Any opinions?

Richard Steinberger


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Fri, May 13,2011 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Rapes, misunderstandings, and bills in the U.S. Congress

In MJ 60#06, a MODerator commented on a post from Jeanette Friedman:

>> Without having read the bills one cannot argue on  this but it seems
>> more likely that the bills do not say what Jeanette claims  but, rather,
>> make a distinction between different categories of rape - perhaps some
>> contributor with more information can clarify this point.

In MJ 60#07, Jeanette Friedman responded:

> Without the MOD having read the bills, which I did before they went into
> committee...

(Spoiler alert: But didn't keep up to date on)

> Why would the MOD even check to see what those bills said? He wouldn't, as
> long as he could gratuitously slam me and try to make me look, at the very
> least, stupid and incapable of understanding the English language.

I think the moderator implied, not that Jeanette was incapable of
understanding the English language, but that she, like him, had not
read the actual bills, but was relying on what some opponents were

The truth of the matter is, though, that bills in U.S. Congress are
not written like U.S. Consitutional amendments with full text of the
new law appearing there, and implicitly replacing any laws to the
contrary, but rather like assembly language computer code, if not
machine langauge computer code,  saying things like change this word
to that, or replace this language with that, add a word here and
subtract a word there, taking care even of commas and paragraph
numbers, and omitting any text that isn't being changed. They are
totally incomprehensible as is.


(Sen. Thomas Carper says the bills says things like after the first
syllable insert the word X)

I think it is possible to get the clean text (plain language version)
both ways but that may not be what's actually enacted.

But besides that, there are legal terms so that you need to
consult an expert to know exactly what the law proposes to do, and
sometimes it's debatable, sometimes on purpose.

In this case? Forcible rape is an old term. Years ago, I would guess
it meant to exclude "statutory rape" or possibly situations where the
victim was incapacitated. If the bill had gotten any further something
would have been included somewhere in the committee report, or
otherwise if someone had a secret intention maybe nobody would ever
find out.

As it is, the term "forcible" was removed from the bill back at the
beginning of February


This was about two days after Jonathan Capehart wrote his article in
the Washington Post, which is the source of all of this.


> So if you were drugged, held at knife point and blindfolded, or
> had a gun to your head, but you weren't pistol-whipped or shot, you
> weren't raped.

Jonathan Capehart asked Congressman Smith if "rapes that are the
result of a woman being drugged, drunk, mentally disabled or date
rape" might be excluded. He didn't ask about being held at knife or
gun point, because that probably clearly falls within the traditional
definition of forcible.

All this is about what kinds of abortions could be covered by health
insurance. We're talking maybe $400, although of course the sponsors
might ideally also want to make illegal any that didn't qualify for
being insured against as as health risk. Actually some of them would
want to make all abortions illegal period.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, May 15,2011 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Sins and non-sins

Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...> (MJ 60#07) wrote:

> Jeanette Friedman (MJ 60#06) wrote:
>> ...incest, though a sin in the Torah and the Xtian bible, is not a
>> sin to them [some members of Congress] while abortion, which is not
>> a in in the Torah or the Xtian bible, is a sin to them,
> This isn't correct actually. Abortion is just not considered in a total
> vacuum.
> According to Rabbi Joseph D. Soloveitchik, I read in two places,
> abortion has the same din as amputating a leg - and can (and should)
> be done for similar medical reasons. That is for Jews.

This is a slight oversimplification but the crucial point is that abortion
(for Jews at least) is not considered murder though it is not permitted
without restriction. The circumstances of each case have to be examined by a
competent halachic authority and any decision cannot necessarily be
extrapolated to other apparently similar ones. It is NOT the case that a
woman has the unrestricted right to dispose of an unwanted pregnancy.

> For non-Jews it seems the conclusion is harder which does not make too much
> sense - but this hasn't undergone much analysis.

Where the life of a non-Jewish woman is in danger, abortion should be
permitted since the foetus is considered to be a rodef (as if it were trying
to kill its mother). Technically, it might be better if the procedure is
carried out by a Jewish doctor to whom the prohibition of killing it (nefesh
adam be'adam) may not apply with the same severity though in practice a
competent halachic authority should first be consulted.

> The most you can say I would guess, without looking at anything, is that a
> government has the authority to prohibit it and even give the death penalty
> without the people responsible for such a law committing a sin and similarly a
> government can prohibit many things upon pain of death without it
> being considered a sin.

AFAIK this is incorrect. Halachah does not allow governments to carry out
capital punishment except where it is mandated by halachah itself. Dina
demalchuta dina applies only to financial matters and enactments for the
general wellbeing of society such as traffic regulation etc.
>> To save the life of the mother, Jewishly, you can even dismember
>> the baby during delivery .

Provided that its head or, in the case of a breech presentation, the
greater part of its body has not emerged. Once it is 'half-born', it is
considered as of equal status as its mother and one may not kill it to save

Martin Stern


End of Volume 60 Issue 8