Volume 60 Number 11 
      Produced: Wed, 25 May 2011 11:45:44 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A question on Talmudic theodicy 
    [Martin Stern]
A Rosh Chodesh query 
    [Sammy Finkelman]
Aggadic reasons 
    [Ira Bauman]
Baking bread for refuah (2)
    [Joel Rich  Tony Fiorino]
Being driven to shul on Shabbat 
    [David Tzohar]
Bilam's Age (was A question on Talmudic theodicy) 
    [Elie Rosenfeld]
Bris on Shabbos - Carrying Knife 
    [Gershon Dubin]
Halacha when threatened with rape  
    [Gershon Dubin]
Inquiry on correct philosophical approach to multiple reasons for cust 
    [Chana Luntz]
Modim d'Rabbanan 
    [Lisa Liel]
What Day Of The Week Will Shabbos Be In Samoa? 
    [Immanuel Burton]
Why is there a break in the Tokhekha? 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, May 19,2011 at 05:01 AM
Subject: A question on Talmudic theodicy

Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...> wrote (MJ 60#09):

> Martin Stern (MJ 60#08) asked:
>> 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?
> Yes, at first sight it seems unfair. But at second sight, please look at the
> larger picture -- in other words, include their afterlives as well.
> Bil'am's 40 years appear to have been a reward, and that seems unfair. I would
> suggest that it was indeed a reward, for whatever good things he did do in his
> life, and that his afterlife was that much worse because of it.
> And similarly, Iyov seems to have been punished, and perhaps indeed he was.
> But because he got his punishment in this world, his next world was that much
> better.

This was an approach that had occurred to me that Iyov's sufferings were
more a kapparah (atonement) than a punishment but it would still seem that
Bil'am should also have suffered IN ADDITION to his eventual killing.

Shalom Carmy <carmy@...> also wrote (ibid.):

> Which leads me back to the particular case: Job is vindicated
> after his suffering; Bilaam ends up disgraced and repudiated.
> According to Hazal his life is a short one (see Sanhedrin Perek
> Helek); Job's is explicitly described as a long one.

According to the Targum Yonatan (Bam. 22,5), Bil'am was the same person as
Lavan, which would have made him at least 300 years old at the time he gave
Paro the advice to kill the boys which itself must have been before the
birth of Moshe. He was killed at the end of Moshe's life which means he must
have lived at least 400 years. Is that a short life?

I am not sure how Iyov's long life is relevant since it was extended after his
sufferings (and atonement?).

Martin Stern


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Wed, May 18,2011 at 08:01 PM
Subject: A Rosh Chodesh query

In reply to Martin Stern <md.stern@...> (MJ 60#07):

I think you can't read about the Korban Tomid without mentioning
Shabbos when it is Shabbos - they are too closely connected. There's a
point about Shabbos being double. The Shabbos musaf only alludes to the
Tomid but doesn't describe it.

A person might easily not stay for the Torah reading for Musaf on
Rosh Chodesh on weekdays because he had to leave for work.

But everyone who is there in the morning is going to stay for the
Torah reading and Musaf on Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur or any Yom Tov, so
there's no need to mention it earlier.


From: Ira Bauman <irabauman1@...>
Date: Sun, May 22,2011 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Aggadic reasons

Russell Hendel mentioned that he didn't believe that aggadic explanations
should be used to establish practices, in this case the Shalom Zachor.

> Are we gaining or losing respect by citing a physiologically absurd
> aggadah (fetuses knowing whole Torah).

As the Rambam states in the introduction to the last perek of Sanhedrin,
aggadic stories are not to be taken literally but rather to hint at deeper
concepts.  Hashem overturning Mount Sinai and threatening to allow it to
fall on the Jewish nation if it doesn't accept the Torah was never meant as
a lesson in geology.  It, however, can be used as an opening to discuss the
limits of breira (free choice) or the role of Torah in continuing the
existence of the world.  I'm pretty sure Russell would agree so far.  The
aggadah regarding the fetus learning the Torah is also meant as an opening
to an intelligent discussion of other philosophic and theological concepts.
If that is the case why not use the story to justify the Zachor.  In fact,
instead of just eating the arbes (chickpeas --Mod.) and drinking the single malts, 
why not try to understand the concepts behind the medrash?

Ira Bauman


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Thu, May 19,2011 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Baking bread for refuah

Bernard Raab <beraab@...> wrote (MJ 60#10):

> There seems to be an ever-growing practice of asking people to bake bread
> so as to take challah with a brachah for the refuah of a choleh.  There is
> even the specific request for 40 people to sign up to bake for a specific sick
> person's refuah.

> I asked the woman in town, who for a year has been organizing 40 bakers each
> week for a woman's refuah, and she has no idea of the origin of this.

> Can anyone help us here?

The origin - how about this - the korban todah had 40 loaves and was brought in
thanksgiving.  While today we have no korbanot, we can reenact this part of the
korban (and get 40 mitzvot of taking challah if, as I understand it, the custom
requires this) in hope that the person in need of help will get the help and
thus want to give thanksgiving.

Actually I just made that up but it sounds good to me.  Truth is, I think this
and other segulot are rooted in a real desire to do something for someone when
you're not sure there is anything you can do.  I would guess that HKB"H would 
better appreciate sincere prayer and acts of loving-kindness (e.g. working in a 
soup kitchen), but I'm not His accountant.

Joel Rich

From: Tony Fiorino <tfiorino@...>
Date: Fri, May 20,2011 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Baking bread for refuah

In reply to the question from Bernard Raab <beraab@...> in MJ 60#10:

I imagine you are looking for some historical narrative about how this behavior
came to be.  But there is a less satisfying but more important answer.  This,
and all similar rituals that are believed or hoped to constrict the will of the
Ribbono shel olam (Master of the World --Mod.) through the performance of specific 
magical acts accompanied by certain incantations, derive from the covert 
infiltration of avoda zara into Judaism, a problem that, given the current 
proliferation of such rituals, seems to be getting worse.

Eitan Fiorino


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Thu, May 19,2011 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Being driven to shul on Shabbat

R'Y.Y. Weinberg, author of "Seridei Aish", was asked if it would be permitted
to ride to shul on shabbat on an electric tram in postwar Geneva. After
citing reasons for permitting if the ticket was bought in advance and
electricity was used and the drivers were of course Gentiles, he ruled
against, saying that marit ayin (the appearance of transgression) was too
great. It would seem that this would also be the case in Florida, the more so
since it is not electricity but combustion vehicle.



From: Elie Rosenfeld <rosenfeld.elie@...>
Date: Thu, May 19,2011 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Bilam's Age (was A question on Talmudic theodicy)

Shalom Carmy writes (MJ 60#09):

> ...Bilaam ends up disgraced and repudiated. According to Hazal his life is
> a short one (see Sanhedrin Perek Helek); Job's is explicitly described as a
> long one.

A statement that Bilam had a short life would seem to contradict the concept
of his being one of Pharaoh's advisors.  Bilam was killed at the end of the
40 years of wandering, which was 120 years after Moshe's birth.  Since the
discussion about killiing the male infants obviously took place prior to
Moshe's birth, Bilam had to have lived well over 120 years in total, to have
already been an advisor to Pharaoh before Moshe was born.  Am I missing

Elie Rosenfeld
<rosenfeld.elie@...> <rosenfeld.elie@gmail.comElie>


From: Gershon Dubin  <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Thu, May 19,2011 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Bris on Shabbos - Carrying Knife

I wrote (MJ 60#09) in response to Carl Singer (MJ 60#08):

> Please provide the citation that the Gemara gives this logic in permitting
> carrying the knife on Shabbos.
Carl Singer replied (MJ 60#10):

> It is Rabbi Eliezer's opinion, stated in Perek Rabbi Eliezer d'Mila (Shabbos
> 130a). However, the Rabanan disagree, and the halacha follows the majority.
I did reference Rabi Eliezer, IIRC.  My question to you was the logic of Bris
Mila preceding Matan Torah being a reason for machshirim (preparatory actions,
in this case carrying the mila knife) to allow desecration of Shabbos. 
I don't believe that is in the Gemara and was requesting your source.


From: Gershon Dubin  <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Thu, May 19,2011 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Halacha when threatened with rape 

There was a statement in MJ 60#09 that made the logical step from women being
passive victims (karka olam) to the same applying to men, in an analogous situation.
I wanted to correct this deduction, as the Gemara states clearly that due to
physiological differences, this does NOT apply to men, and they are never
considered passive in the context of this halacha.



From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Sat, May 21,2011 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Inquiry on correct philosophical approach to multiple reasons for cust

In MJ 60#10, Bernard Raab writes:

> I believe Dr. Hendel has hit upon a very real problem in contemporary
> Torah learning. Many rabbis seem to believe that any idea that cannot be
> supported by multiple citations is not worthy of presentation. .... 
> The young rabbi who came was intelligent and well-spoken. After a few weeks, 
> however, it became clear that hishashkofoh (philosophical approach) was going
> to be a major problem. He relied heavily on Midrashic interpretations. When 
> one of these flew in the face of simple common sense, I challenged his 
> interpretation, and asked him to support it in some logical way. His response
> was that Midrash was on the same level as Torah she-bichsav (written Torah)
> and it needed no further support. When my classmates and I reported this
> exchange to our rabbi, he was quite upset. For the Midrash in question, there 
> was an alternative explanation that would be better fit to normal expectation.
> But more generally, he maintained that Midrash is intended to provide 
> metaphorical or symbolic support for the text, and need not be regarded as
> literal reality.

I think there are two really quite separate issues here.  The first is about
attitudes and approaches to Midrash and the second is about creativity and
whether "any idea that cannot be supported by multiple citations is not
worthy of presentation".

In relation to the first, as you have identified, there are different
hashkafic approaches to Midrash within the Orthodox world, and there is not
a lot more one can say than you have said, and leave it at that.

In relation to the second issue, however, there are other factors at play.
I don't believe that there is any underlying negativity in relation to
creativity.  But there is also reality. The reality of the sea of Torah is
that it is very vast, and unusually (compared with most bodies of knowledge)
everything has a tendency to connect to everything else.  Proofs from one
area of halacha are brought across the system in relation to other areas in
a way that rarely happens in other bodies of knowledge (secular law for
example).  What that means is that unless one knows a goodly portion of it,
there is a very real chance that one's leap of creativity will cut across or
contradict the flow of the Torah elsewhere.  Therefore, unless one has
mastered kol haTorah kula [the entirety of the Torah], there needs to be a
level of humility, a level of tentativeness about advancing new or creative
theses.  And somebody who knows that he does not have that kind of grasp,
may not unreasonably feel that to give over creative theses that may well be
completely wrong as emes [truth] in a Torah drasha is close to if not a
violation of a Torah principle, m'dvar sheker tirchoq [keep away from
falsehood].  Multiple citations are the closest guarantee one can give that
even if one cannot oneself see the entirety of the picture, somebody greater
than oneself has and that the idea cited falls within the sea of Torah and
not beyond its boundaries.

Or perhaps take the creative idea that started this whole discussion - that
the reason for a shalom zachar is because of love one's neighbour as one's
self.  As a woman and a mother, that answer rings, for me, completely
false.  I can tell you that as the mother of a newborn son, I was extremely
relieved to discover that my husband's (Sephardi) minhag was not to have a
shalom zachor.  The last thing I wanted, having just arrived home from the
hospital with my first child an hour and a half before shabbas, was to have
hordes of people trampling through my living room, expecting to be fed and
watered (at least to an extent) making lots of noise well into the night and
leaving a mess.  Thus it was with a great deal of gratitude that I stuck a
note on our front door saying "no shalom zachor here, not our minhag" and
closed the door to the outside world.

Somehow I doubt I am the only woman to feel this way about a shalom zachor,
even those who do have them because it is their minhag (as I would have done
if it had been).  So it might well be that the Rav who made no mention of
this explanation did so because he knew his wife would berate him if she
heard of it as not in consonence with the way she understood love thy
neighbour, which does not involve imposing on one's neighbour when highly
likely not to be wanted.

And that to me typifies the risks of creativity.  It is not wrong to advance
a creative Torah idea, but there needs to be a  certain tentativeness, if
not necessarily in the presentation (because if you want to present it well,
you might want to present it in the strongest form you can), but in
underlying attitude, ie understanding that other human beings may well
respond totally differently and negatively to your suggestion, out of the
prism of the Torah and life experiences they have had.  And that may well
mean that your creative suggestion needs to be totally abandoned.  On the
other hand, multiple citations show that the idea in question has been
mulled over and found worthy by numerous great minds and therefore has a far
higher probability of carrying the deep truths that we are looking for in

Shavuah Tov (here in Australia from where I am posting anyway)



From: Lisa Liel <lisa@...>
Date: Sun, May 22,2011 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Modim d'Rabbanan

Our shul has, up on the front wall, a framed copy of Modim 
d'Rabbanan.  I've seen this particular one all over the 
place.  There's a note on the bottom that says it was donated by the 
Shlomofs, if I'm not mistaken.

My question is this.  Every siddur I've ever seen says "...al 
she'hecheyitanu v'kiyamtanu, ken t'chayenu u-tekaymanu..." 
("...because You have kept us in life and kept us going, may You keep 
us in life and keep us going...").  But this wall copy says "...al 
she'hecheyitanu v'kiyamtanu, ken t'chonenu u-tekaymanu..." 
("...because You have kept us in life and kept us going, may You be 
gracious to us and keep us going...").

I asked the rabbi and the gabbai about this, and they both had the 
same reaction.  They'd never noticed it.  And they had no idea if it 
was problematic.

So I figured I'd ask the brilliant folks here.  (a) Have you noticed 
this?  (b) Is this problematic?

Shavua Tov,


From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Thu, May 19,2011 at 07:01 PM
Subject: What Day Of The Week Will Shabbos Be In Samoa?

I recently read on the BBC's news site that the South Pacific nation of Samoa will be switching to the west side of the international date line on 29 December 2011.  Samoa will go straight from Thursday 29 December to Saturday.

I don't know if there is a Jewish community on Samoa, but if one is there when the change is made, will one have to observe Shabbos on Sunday?  Is this any different from crossing the date line in the course of travel?

Immanuel Burton.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, May 22,2011 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Why is there a break in the Tokhekha?

Though we are careful not to break it up, the Tokhekha [verses of
admonition] in Bechukotai (Lev. 33, 14-43) is split by the Torah into two
parshiot [paragraphs] with a (closed) gap after verse 26. Why should this be?

Martin Stern


End of Volume 60 Issue 11