Volume 60 Number 30 
      Produced: Mon, 29 Aug 2011 09:15:33 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

    [Martin Stern]
Does Halacha require a person to make up a minyan? 
    [Ralph Zwier]
Kavod Hatorah 
    [Martin Stern]
    [Frank Silbermann]
Ledabbeir bam 
    [Martin Stern]
Public expression of mourning on Shabbat Chazon 
    [Martin Stern]
Rabbainu Tam tephillin (was Family Mesorah) 
    [Martin Stern]
Three Oaths 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Tzedakah (3)
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz  Chaim Casper  Martin Stern]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 29,2011 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Anonymity

I have noticed that in some newspapers, mainly those of a more chareidi
ethos, letters to the editor often do not carry the author's name. While, in
some exceptional circumstances, I would agree that this should be withheld
so as to avoid embarrassing third parties, this is not usually at all
evident in most cases. In my opinion, one should be prepared to stand by
one's opinions and normally make one's name public, and not hide behind

What do others think?

Martin Stern


From: Ralph Zwier <ralph@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 24,2011 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Does Halacha require a person to make up a minyan?

Here's a scenario: 

It's the advertised time in a shule for Mincha (the afternoon daily prayer). There 
are twelve men currently in the shule. None has davened Mincha yet. Seven of the 
men are learning (or perhaps talking). The other five want to begin Ashrei. Is one 
(or five) of the seven non-daveners required by Halacha to daven in order to allow 
tefilla betzibbur (a public prayer service) for the Shule itself?

I put the above scenario to a group of knowledgeable colleagues expecting a yes or 
no answer. (Albeit with a bit of fuzziness at the "edges.") The question 
completely divided the discussion into two divergent camps.

Any comments from MJers?

Ralph Zwier
Double Z Computer
+613 9521 2188


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 28,2011 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Kavod Hatorah

The minhag to which I am accustomed is that the shliach tsibbur [prayer
leader] goes up to the Aron and the person given hotsa'ah vehachnasah [the
honour of taking out the Sefer Torah and putting it back] hands the Sefer
Torah to him. I have noticed that in some places the shliach tsibbur stays
at the amud [lectern] and the Sefer Torah is brought down the steps to him.

Another occurrence that also disturbed me was where the shliach tsibbur,
when taking the Sefer Torah to the bimah [reading desk], made a detour so
that some individual should not have to trouble himself to move from his
place to kiss it.

These struck me as showing a slight lack of respect for the Sefer Torah and
I wonder what others think.

Martin Stern


From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 19,2011 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Kojel

Ben Katz (MJ 60#29) wrote:
> The halacha is that anything that is nifsal may-achilat kelev
> (roughly translated as so disgusting even a dog wouldn't eat it)
> is not food.

(I would guess that this is not always to be taken literally
-- under the assumption that excrement is probably considered
to be "nifsal may-achilat kelev" -- as dogs do sometimes
eat excrement.)

> Bone dust is in this state according to everyone.


> The Talmud never anticipated a situation where something
> that is nifsal may-achilat kelev would then be reconstituted
> to an edible state, thus the current machloket (difference of opinion).

I am not convinced of that.  For example, dirt is nifsal may-achilat kelev,
yet it was known in the time of the Talmud that plants absorb matter
from dirt and transform that matter into kosher food.  The food may be
kosher even if the plant's fertilizer stemmed from a nonkosher edible.

I think the issue is not so much whether one believes "once nonfood --
always nonfood" because clearly no one believes that.  I think the issue
is whether one believes in "once non-food, no longer tref unless specifically
made tref" (e.g. by being eaten by a tref animal).

Or, it may be a situation in which American rabbis forbade gelatin
on grounds of it being "non-kosherdik."  This is analogous to the situation
in which an activity involves no Shabbas-prohibited melacha, but being
told not to engage in it on Shabbas on grounds that the activity is not
Shabbasdik (i.e. not in the spirit of Shabbas).

Frank Silbermann              Memphis, Tennessee


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 29,2011 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Ledabbeir bam

In the second parsha of Kriat Shema there is a verse "Velimadtem otam
et-beneichem ledabeir bam beshivtecha beveitecha ... [and you shall teach
them to your children TO SPEAK ABOUT THEM when you sit in your house ...]".
(Dev. 11,19)

My problem with this is does it mean that the father should teach his
children by speaking about the mitsvot at all times, or that the result of
his teaching should be that the children speak about them at all times, or
perhaps both.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sat, Aug 27,2011 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Public expression of mourning on Shabbat Chazon

Once again this year on Shabbat Chazon, some people have raised objections
to singing Lecha Dodi to the tune of Eli Tsion because they claim it
violates the prohibition on displaying mourning practices publicly on
Shabbat. I feel they are incorrect for several reasons.

Firstly, most of us bring in Shabbat early in the summer so Lecha Dodi is
sung long before sundown when Shabbat has not yet commenced (i.e. by accepting 
it with the saying of Mizmor Shir Leyom Hashabbat).

Secondly, Eli Tsion itself is sung on Tisha be'Av when we stand up towards
the end of the recitation of the kinot and, if anything, its lively tune,
and reference to birth pangs that herald an imminent birth, carries the
message of hope that the galut will end (cf. the Gemara at the end of

Finally, those who object to this custom still read the haftarah (and the
pasuk in the Torah beginning 'eichah') to the eichah niggun which is a much
more public expression of mourning and is done at a time that is undoubtedly

Any comments anyone?

May this dispute be only of purely academic interest in the future with the
rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash, bimhera veyameinu.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 23,2011 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Rabbainu Tam tephillin (was Family Mesorah)

Michael Poppers <MPoppers@...> wrote (MJ 60#28):

> Carl Singer wrote (MJ 60#27):

>> 3 - If you also use Rabbainu Tam tephillin ....
> Same basic answer: if one lives in a community where all men in the minyan are
> expected to put on T'fillin l'shitas (according to the opinion of) Rabbeinu
> Tam, one should do so; and I'm not aware of such a community.

This can hardly be applied to visitors who do not possess Rabbainu Tam
tephillin. Also it seems problematic to enforce the considerable extra
expense involved in purchasing them on those who do not have the family
custom to wear them.

> I've known individuals who have switched t'filin during or after davening, and
> all of them were well aware of the halachic issues involved;

I have noticed people changing their tephillin immediately after kedushah
during chazarat hashatz and have always been surprised to see this. Surely
one should give one's undivided attention to his words and answer 'amen'
knowing precisely to which brachah one is responding. Perhaps someone can
explain how this strange custom arose.

Martin Stern


From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Sat, Aug 20,2011 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Three Oaths

Mois Navon (MJ 60#29) refers us to his essay on the subject of The Three Oaths of 
Jewish History.

As an aside, I just picked up a recent publication of VaYoel Moshe with an 
explication, Bi'us Or Ki Tov.
It is 1100 pages long!  Each chapter is repeated with a commentary for every sub-
Published in Antwerp.

And after reading Mois' article, can I congratulate him, I think, for 
managing not once to mention Satmar, VaYoel Moshe, Reb Yoilesh or 
Neturai Karta in it.



From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 19,2011 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Tzedakah

 Carl Singer <carl.singer@...> wrote (MJ 60#29)

> For many of us tzedukah involves choices.   And it's the time of year when
> Tzedukah requests start flowing in.
> Halachically, we can iron out the "how much" -- the question then becomes
> "to whom" -- both from a halachic and a social point of view.
> For example, do I write a check to a bona fide yeshiva, or do I donate to
> someone coming to my door with a laminated, certificate from an unknown
> source, etc.  (Don't suggest, both -- in essence with a fixed tzedukah
> budget or maximum, giving more to one means less for the other.)
> Please evaluate these scenarios.  In all cases these are people from a
> different community being driven here as a group by a driver who apparently
> has a list of frum homes - and we're told he gets a percentage /
> commission.
> 1.  A  strong young man comes to the door -- says he's out of work -- may
> we offer him money to mow our lawn.
> 2. A woman comes to our door and says she needs to feed her children -- we
> give her a bag filled with groceries.
> 3. Another young man comes to the door wreaking of cigarette smoke and says
> that he needs funds to feed his family -- we tell him to give up smoking
> and then come back.
> 4. Professional mailings from organizations that we've never heard of.
> Usually, full color, with haunting pictures, etc.
> 5. Telephone calls from solicitors -- "May we put you down for $100?" -- Is
> it OK to say that we do nothing over the telephone, please send us
> literature -- And then is it OK  to then tear up the request if it comes in
> "Per our telephone call thank you for your generous pledge of $100."
> 6.  Multiple requests from the same organization - We gave at Pesach and
> then Shavout and soon Rosh Hashanah.

1. This is a question that depends on how much you can afford to give him
for the work and how much time it would take. Since he is here from a
different community, and would have only a limited time, it might not be
possible for him to actually mow your lawn. On the other hand, if you have
sufficient work for him to be able to move to your community, that might be

2. Since she is not in your community, how would she get the food to her
family? This is similar to ma'aser sheni, where the food had to be converted
to money in order to get it to Yerushalayim. While it would normally be
correct to give her the food, the fact that she would be unable to transport
it, may require you to give her money. Similarly, if you shop at the same
store that she does, perhaps you can then give her a gift certificate from
that store. If you get enough people from wherever she comes from, perhaps
you can arrange to get gift certificates (via the internet?) from her local

3. I am not sure about this as I would not know how much he actually spends
on cigarettes. However, it might be better to say that you would give him
more if he stops smoking. This would be a question for your LOR.

4. Since you do not know who they are, you did not request them, and you do
not have any idea if they are frauds or not, there should be nothing wrong
with discarding the mailings. This type of mailing is often done through an
ad agency that takes a (hefty) percentage of the money. If it is indeed a
valid organization and you want to give them money, then send the money
directly to the organization (with a note that you do not answer ad agency

5. I tell telephone solicitors explicitly that I *do not* pledge over the
phone and if they want to send me something, I would look at it but not
guarantee any amount. My wife says that I should just answer no and hang up.
If they try to say "your pledge of $100", they would get less than what I
might otherwise have sent them (or nothing at all).

6. If it is an organization that you ordinarily give to at a particular
time, then send them at that time. Many organizations include a return
envelope with the receipt (just in case you feel like giving). There is
nothing wrong with discarding the appeal that you get too often. Perhaps
when you do give, add a note that you will only give once a year or whatever
interval that you prefer. If it is an organization that you do not give to,
perhaps give them a minimal amount with a note asking to be taken off their
mailing list. If they persist in sending to you, treat them like case number

I know of some people who accumulate appeals and go through them at a
particular time and answer them. Others (like me) keep track of maaser and
try to keep the balance of maaser owed down around zero based on monthly
income. YMMV.

Some people give a certain amount to people who approach them (with a valid
certificate) because they have put in a personal effort (like $1 to the
people who come to the minyan during the week).

My community (Baltimore) has a certificate for everybody who collects which
has a photo ID and certifies that the person has been checked out, is valid,
and why they are collecting. The certificate also has a recommendation on it
such as "Single Meal", "Standard Amount", "Generous Amount", etc. I have
been told that other communities trust our certificate even though it is
meant for our community and for a specific period of time.

Everyone who comes to the door knows that they must have this certificate.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz

From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 19,2011 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Tzedakah

In reply to Carl (MJ 60#29):

I once gave a Shabbat morning dvar Torah that was designed to give hizuk
(encouragement) to our Zedakah donations.   One man came up after davening
and said, "You're right but you're wrong."   All the halakhic reasons why we
should give mean nothing to our sense of fair play--we worked hard for our
money, so why are you asking me to give it free to you?

(I agree they come around the fall holidays and Pesah/Shavuot.   But here in
South Florida is where they come in droves when there is the frigid cold up
north in the winter time!   So we see them Hanukkah, Purim and all in

In any event, I was in the Rav's, zt"l, shiur when he was yelling at us that
according to the RaMBa"M, it is an issur d'oraitha to refuse to give someone
who is asking you for financial help.   Now, this does not mean that we have
give our entire bank account.   The halakhah is clear: what we give just
needs to be given with a lev tov--a positive disposition.

In the biography of Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, Rav Moshe is quoted as saying
that as a member of the general society, he had an obligation to give to the
civic organizations (e.g. Heart Association, etc.) that ask for help.

As to Carl's scenarios: They are all difficult situations.   But put
yourself in the shoes of m'vakesh, the petitioner.   How low must one be to
turn to others to ask their help.  How does this hurt their self esteem?,
their sense of dignity?   Suppose the tables were turned--how would we feel
that we had to ask for another's help?  "There but for the grace of ......"

It is attributed to the GR"A that he was asked about setting up a committee
to verify whether the m'vakshim (requesters) are legitimate.   He responded
that the Torah has a proof of such a committee.   It is called the City of
S'dom.   Not a very pretty endorsement of the idea.

Finally, Carl mentioned that some of the m'vakshim are driven around our
neighborhoods by people who point out the dati and non-dati/non-Jewish
homes.   On the other hand, there isn't a major (and many minor) institution
in the US that doesn't have a full time fund raiser or development director
who is paid primarily by commission based on the amount of money raised.
Why should there be a difference with someone who drives the m'vakshim
around?  They are giving their time, automobile gas, wear and tear and
knowledge of the community.

And so I usually advise people to budget their donations but do it with a
lev tov.   That way one does it like a mitzvah should be observed while
still taken personal needs into account.

Best wishes,
Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 22,2011 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Tzedakah

Carl Singer <carl.singer@...> wrote (MJ 60#29):

> For many of us tzedukah involves choices.   And it's the time of year when
> Tzedukah requests start flowing in.
> Halachically, we can iron out the "how much" -- the question then becomes
> "to whom" -- both from a halachic and a social point of view.

He lists various situations to which I would like to add the fellow who
comes up to you in shul and loudly demands a donation:

1.  after you have put on your tefillin shel yad but are just taking the
shel rosh out of the bag

2.  during birchot kriat shema

3.  while you have your hand over your eyes while saying the first verse of
the shema.

4.  while you are in the middle of shmoneh esreh

5.  during chazarat hashats (even to the shliach tzibbur)

OK, I have not actually seen case 4 but the others have really happened on
several occasions. I just wonder why they cannot collect at more appropriate
times such as during Psukei Dezimra or Ashrei/Uva Letsion. I have yet to see any
who were on the verge of collapse from starvation for whom pikuach nefesh 
[danger to life] would justify interrupting (and in such a situation money might be 
too late, they would need food on the spot - imagine their reaction if one offered them 
 a sweet!) so it appears that we are being expected to do so purely for their convenience.

Any comments anyone?

Martin Stern


End of Volume 60 Issue 30