Volume 60 Number 41 
      Produced: Tue, 27 Sep 2011 07:22:06 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Boruch HaShem 
    [Martin Stern]
Bracha on chocolate 
    [Alexander Seinfeld]
Mashkimim lislichot (2)
    [Elazar M. Teitz  Steven Oppenheimer]
Meaning of the Ending of Aleynu 
    [Sammy Finkelman]
Psalm 83 
    [Martin Stern]
Relatively Modern-day Jewish slavery 
    [Josh Backon]
Theodicy (2)
    [Martin Stern  Alexander Seinfeld]
Travel on erev shabbat (2)
    [Carl Singer  Martin Stern]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 27,2011 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Boruch HaShem

Andy Goldfinger <Andy.Goldfinger@...> wrote (MJ 60#40):

> Just want to share a (perhaps strange) emotional reaction I had to something.
> The Jewish people and the world are going through a very dark period.  Bad
> news and worse news appears daily and it gets very scary and depressing.
> Then ... along comes this short posting on a web site from New Zealand (TEXT
> BELLOW).  It talks about a serious problem being faced by the community.
> However, instead of feeling depressed my reaction was to say "Boruch HaShem
> for problems like this!"  May we be confronted by many more problems of this
> type.
> Message from the Stiebel Committee
> High Holy Day Stiebel service attendance:
> We are in the difficult position of having more people wanting to attend the
> Stiebel services on the High Holy days than the Raye Freedman Library building
> can accommodate. We are specifically referring to 3 services: First Day Rosh
> Hashanah, Kol Nidre and the day of Yom Kippur, including Ne'ila.
> ....
> We anticipate no problems for the second day of Rosh Hashanah, or for Sukkot,
> Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, and would love to see you then.

He obviously is following the Berditchever, others might be less happy in
view of the implication of the final paragraph.

Martin Stern


From: Alexander Seinfeld <seinfeld@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 27,2011 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Bracha on chocolate

A couple points in reply to Martin's chocolaty thread (MJ 60#40):

> A rather surprising example is that he proved that the correct berachah on
> chocolate is 'borei peri ha'eitz' though he admits that that is not the
> general custom. He explains that the custom of making 'shehakol' arose
> because, until the mid-nineteenth century, chocolate was only consumed as a
> drink (berachah 'shehakol') and people continued to use the same berachah
> when the first solid chocolate bars were produced.

1. It would be helpful to know if what Dayan Krausz said about the history
of chocolate is his opinion or fact. The reason I ask is because:

a. Just because it's consumed as a drink - why does that make it a
sheh'hakol, if this is the primary way to consume the fruit of the chocolate
tree? (there is a considerable amount of material in the Mishna Berura, Beur
Halacha, etc that one could quote to argue both sides of this issue. My
point is that being a drink doesnt automatically make it a sheh-hakol. Were
Jewish consumers of the 16th-18th Century definitely making sheh-hakol on
their cacao drink? And if so, was there a known psak, or was this something
they did out of doubt or ignorance?

b. What I have confirmed as fact is that a primary Aztec way of consuming
cacao was to grind it up and make a hot beverage - unsweetened. Europeans
found this too bitter and gradually added more and more sugar. Eventually,
in the 19th century, milk chocolate and other innovations developed (thanks
to Dr. Nestle et al).

c. Most chocolate people consume today (since the early 20th C) has more
sugar (she-hakol) than cacao (ha-aytz). It seems to me that this is
cacao-flavored sugar rather than sweetened cacao - meaning the sugar is
the primary ingredient so it would for sure be a shehakol bracha.

2. There is a little-known responsum  from Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach z'tzl
who  concludes that if a person did make the "ha-aytz" bracha on chocolate
he would not need to make another bracha (unlike, for instance, one who
erroneously said "ha-aytz" on a glass of water).

3. Here in the States one can buy several different brands of raw cacao
powder. If you want to get a powerful experience, I heartily recommend
taking a heaping tablespoon of cacao, pour in hot water, then sweeten to
taste (my taste is about 1 tsp per tbs of cacao). Not only is it delicious
and chocolaty, it's extremely low-cal (unlike a chocolate bar) and (they
say) full of good stuff like anti-oxidants. Great weight-control drink. But
what bracha should you make on it?


From: Elazar M. Teitz <remt@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 26,2011 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Mashkimim lislichot

Rabbi Chaim Casper (MJ 60#39) wrote:

> I once heard that a particular gadol held that hazot means 12 midnight
> regardless of whether we are standard time or daylight savings time.
> However, I have never been able to confirm this in the writings of this
> particular gadol.  But perhaps this is the source of why some places start
> at midnight.

Joel Rich responded (MJ 60#40):

> That would be consistent with R' Moshe Feinstein's position that chatzot for
> mincha purposes is always 12 noon (based on a mesorah from his father iirc)

Not quite.  RMF did was indeed of the opinion that chatzot was the same time
every day (it was 11:56, not 12:00), but he certainly did not say that it was
the same for dailight savings.  In that case, he held it to be at 12:56.

His opinion was not based on what convention considered to be noon or midnight.
 Rather, he held that there were always 24 hours between one noon and the next
(and one midnight and the next).  I don't know which day is the one used to
determine the time.  Most reasonably, it would be the solstice, but in New York
at that time, true noon is closer to 12:04 than to 11:56.


From: Steven Oppenheimer <steven.oppenheimer@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 26,2011 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Mashkimim lislichot

Joel Rich (MJ 60#40) wrote:

> Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...> wrote (MJ 60#39):

>> I once heard that a particular gadol held that hazot means 12 midnight
>> regardless of whether we are standard time or daylight savings time.
>> However, I have never been able to confirm this in the writings of this
>> particular gadol.  But perhaps this is the source of why some places start
>> at midnight.   Also, there are places (e.g. here in North Miami Beach)
>> where we start at 1am.

> That would be consistent with R' Moshe Feinstein's position that chatzot for
> mincha purposes is always 12 noon (based on a mesorah from his father iirc)

I think perhaps there is some confusion here.  The tradition that HaRav
Moshe Feinstein, z"l had from his father was that Chatzot HaLayla (halachic
midnight) is always 12 hours after Chatzot Hayom (Halachic Noon).  Halachic
Noon is not to be confused with 12 noon, but is rather dependent upon sha'ot
zemaniyot (halachic hours) which vary according to the day.  Sometimes a
halachic hour is more than 60 minutes and sometimes less.  This affects
halachic noon but only indirectly affects halachic midnight.  Halachic
midnight is rarely what the rest of the world calls midnight (and halachic
noon is rarely what the rest of the world calls noon).  For that to happen,
you would need to have a day when sunrise and sunset occur at 6AM and 6PM
respectively (according to the GR"A).  This is known as a halachic perfect
day and is usually only used for demonstration purposes such that in this
ideal model mincha gedolah is at 12:30PM and mincha ketana is at 3:30PM and
plag hamincha is a 4:45PM.

Some people, perhaps out of convenience, mix and match and decide that 2
hours before halachic midnight means 2 hours before regular midnight and
then come up with 10PM as the starting time for Selichot.  They are on
rather thin ice.

We can only hope that HaShem is close to all who call upon Him, to all who
call upon Him sincerely (Karov HaShem Lechol Kor'av...).
Steven Oppenheimer, D.M.D.


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 26,2011 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Meaning of the Ending of Aleynu

Bill Bernstein wrote (MJ 60#40):

> I  recall a drasha I saw (perhaps it's a gemara somewhere).  In aleinu we
> say, On that day HaShem will be One, etc.  They ask, isn't He already
> One?  As it says, Shma Yisroel etc?

I think that's the reason why it says both: HaShem will be one and His
name will be one. The key point is the second one. But you need both.

If you say just the first the question is "isn't He now one?" If you
have just the second, then you could say His name will be one but
maybe that won't be correct.

I found out some years ago how this (which is also a Biblical verse)
was handled by some non-Jews.

It is interesting how Pope John Paul II translated that verse in a
letter to some Rabbis (who were meeting in Florida maybe?) around the
time of the controversy about Kurt Waldheim

He translated it as "in that day the Lord will be the one"

But there is no "the" there. No hay.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 27,2011 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Psalm 83

There is a very ancient minhag, already mentioned in the Machzor Vitry (11th
century), to recite psalm 83 at the end of shacharit (except on days when
tachanun is omitted). This minhag is even older than that of saying Aleinu and
the Shir shel Yom daily. While it was upheld in Germany and, from its inclusion in
earlier editions of the Singer's Prayer book it would appear also in England, it
seems to have been lost in most shuls. In view of its particular relevance to
the current Middle East situation, perhaps we should revive it on a regular basis.

Martin Stern


From: Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 27,2011 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Relatively Modern-day Jewish slavery

Shmuel Himelstein (MJ 60#40) related a fascinating story of manumission
of Jewish slaves by their owners among Cochin Jews in India in the 
19th century:

> I find especially interesting the account about the Cochin Jews, who were
> divided very rigidly between Meyuchasim ("people of ancestry") and
> Meshuchrarim ("freed slaves"). Rabbi Rabinowitz even given the actual text
> of two bills of manumission  of slaves, in 1826 and 1835. The text, among
> others, specifies that "I, of my own  free will, without compulsion,
> liberate and emancipate you, Shimon, a Yelid Bayit, who was heretofore a
> homeborn slave." There was often, however, a codicil, which added,
> "according to the custom here in Cochin." That codicil meant that the
> Meshuchrarim were treated as inferior beings. For example, they were not
> permitted to sit on seats in the synagogue, but on the ground. They were
> only given an Aliyah to the Torah on Simchat Torah. They were evidently also
> not permitted to marry Meyuchasim. This, in spite of the fact that a number
> of responsa were received by them that such discrimination was against
> Jewish Law.

I always found it intriguing that the Mechaber (R. Yosef Karo) kept in an entire
Siman in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah (Siman 267) with its 85 paragraphs and
sub-sections on Hilchot Avadim (laws of slavery). Since Eved Ivri (owning a
Jewish slave) is only permissible during the time that the Yovel (Jubilee year)
was in effect (YD 60:14) unless they were captured during a war and slavery was
allowed by the government, and since the "Meshuchrarim" were of inferior social
status, by definition must have originally been Jews. Had they been gentile
slaves, once they were "freed" (there's a ritual procedure involved) they would
have become bona fide Jews. And in that case, discrimination against them would
have been prohibited by halacha.

Incidentally, I have heard of a suggestion of using the modus of EVED
KNA'ANI and then releasing them for difficult cases of GIYUR (conversion).

And this isn't a case of "Oh Rochester !"  with the reply, "You rang
Mista Benny ?" :-)

Josh Backon


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 26,2011 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Theodicy

Bill Bernstein <billbernstein@...> wrote (MJ 60340):

> I recall a drasha I saw (perhaps it's a gemara somewhere).  In aleinu we
> say, On that day HaShem will be One, etc.  They ask, isn't He already
> One?  As it says, Shma Yisroel etc?
> Today, when we hear good news we make the bracha hatov v'hameytiv.  When
> we hear bad news, we make the bracha dayan ha'emes.  IN the future we
> will understand everything is good, and we will only make the bracha
> hatov v'hameiytiv.
> This seems a better approach.  Given limited knowledge we can make only
> limited judgments.  The more facts become known, the more our opinion
> may change.  I reference the Dominique Straus-Kahn affair where the flow
> of information could change opinion daily.  If we had perfect knowledge
> we could make a perfect judgment.  But lacking that, we must admit our
> understanding is imperfect, and thus our judgment flawed.

As Bill says, our perception that things are not 'right' is because we have
a limited perspective. If we could see things from HKBH's perspective we
would realise that what seem terrible injustices are really for the good.

An example is what happened to some neighbours of mine who came from the
town of Belz, then in Poland and now in the Ukraine. In 1939 it was occupied
by the Russians as part of the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement to partition
Poland. The Russians told all the inhabitants that they would have to become
Russian citizens or be treated as enemies of the USSR. Many accepted but
others did not wish to become part of the Communist state. Once the deadline
for acceptance had passed, those who had not taken out Russian citizenship
were rounded up and deported to Siberia. One can imagine how they felt. They
had refused to become Russians in order to remain observant Jews and as a
'reward' they were exiled to a frozen wasteland. When the Germans invaded
Russia, all the Jews who had taken Russian citizenship and remained in Belz
were killed and those who were in Siberia were saved.

Martin Stern

From: Alexander Seinfeld <seinfeld@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 27,2011 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Theodicy

David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...> made a good point when he wrote (MJ 60#40):

> Harav A.I. Kook ZTZL said that while the individual has freedom of choice
> (within certain objective parameters), the collective and specifically clall
> yisrael is driven by the divine destiny of being the chosen people of
> Hashem. The the story of the Jewish people is a historical drama whose plot
> was written by the Divine Playwright . The Jewish people play the lead with
> the nations of the world in supporting roles (usually as villains). They have
> their scenes and then leave the stage. The Jewish people remain for the last
> scene to wait for the final actor (mashiach). We know that the plot ends in
> a happy ending.

In your opinion, doesn't it make it even more comforting that the Torah and
Gemara both promise that there will be at least one event in our history
like the Holocaust? (perhaps this is what you meant.)

Was the Holocaust a greater tragedy for us than the Roman assault and
subsequent persecutions? Than the Crusades? Than the Inquisition? The only
difference between these persecutors and the Nazis is that the latter were
more systematic. But not more brutal, no way. Nor more genocidal.

Yet the Talmud foretells that "the final suffering of the Jews will be so
bad it will overshadow all the previous ones".

The Holocaust seems to fit this description. (Let's hope so.)

That said, we don't even need a Holocaust to ask the question. All we need
is the suffering of a single innocent child one time in the world.

Echoing what others have written in this thread, see the Rambam (Maimonides)
- Guide of the Perplexed. If you need chapter and verse, email me. He
basically says there that if God always acted in ways that we understood, we
would err in thinking we understand God. By acting in ways that we don't
understand, if we stop and meditate on that mystery, ironically we get
closer to God. The more you realize that you don't get God, the closer you
are. Because God is infinite and you are not.

This afternoon I met a retired world-class college professor who has read
the written Torah (Tanach) but knows nothing of rabbinic tradition. He
raised a common objection to Torah - "how could I believe in a God who does
XYZ?" The philosophical answer is simple - how could you believe in an
Infinite being who only does what _you_ think God should do?

I've heard this from Moslems who reject out-of-hand the veracity of the
Torah because it contains self-contradictions. When I patiently explain that
we believe these contradictions to be there intentionally, in order to teach
us various lessons, they answer, "Allah would not write a book with
contradictions, period." How do you, friend, know what Allah would do?

(By they way, why do Moslems call God Allah when speaking English to


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 26,2011 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Travel on erev shabbat

With the great advantage of dispassionate 20-20 hindsight I believe this

(a) shouldn't have bought those tickets in the first place and 

(b) definitely should never have gotten on the plane.

I say this not just as a matter of opinion but as a lesson learned from a
Gadol HaDor.    (I believe I posted this many, many years ago on Mail Jewish
-- if someone can find the original posting then they can see how much my
memory has slipped and to what extent this retelling is true to the

While waiting for a board meeting to begin at the Philadelphia Yeshiva, Reb
Shmuel Kaminetsky, Shlita, mentioned that on the previous Friday morning he
had gone to New York City to visit / comfort an older gentleman who had been
a friend of his father's.  He relayed that throughout the visit this older
gentlemen admonished him never to travel on erev Shabbos.   I believe that
Reb Shmuel was relating this story as a gentle reminder to all of us

Note:  I will not comment on the appropriateness of their subsequent actions
or that of the pilot.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 26,2011 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Travel on erev shabbat

Ephraim Tabory <Ephraim.Tabory@...> sent (MJ 60#40) a problem
discussed in Sunday's New York Times (25 Sep.) for discussion:

> M.W.,NORWALK, CONN. asked:
> My husband and son took a New York-to-Milwaukee flight that was supposed to
> leave Friday at 11:29 a.m. The flight boarded after 4 and didn't leave the
> gate until 4:40, and a half-hour later the pilot announced it would be
> another hour until takeoff. At that point a devout Jewish family, worried
> about violating the Sabbath, asked to get off. Going back to the gate cost
> the plane its place in line for takeoff, and the flight was eventually
> cancelled. Was the airline right to grant that request?

Travel on Erev Shabbat or Erev Yom Tov is always a risky business even if
one does allow ample time for delays. Once I took such a risk to travel by
coach from London to Manchester. The coach departed at 8.30 a.m. and the
journey should have taken at most 4 hours. Unfortunately the motorway was so
congested that traffic was stationary most of the time - something
completely unexpected. The driver decided to leave it at the first
opportunity and go along minor roads and we arrived in Manchester at about
4.30 p.m. (8 hours) which did allow enough time because Shabbat did not come
in until 7 p.m. that week but would have been disastrous in winter. I would
not have contemplated leaving any later for that very reason and have tried
to avoid travelling out of town on Fridays ever since.

IMHO, the family were wrong to book on a flight leaving on Friday at 11:29
a.m. since it is very common for flights to be delayed for various reasons.
When it got to 4 p.m., they should certainly have given up and returned to
New York and not have boarded. They caused a terrible Chillul Hashem as a
result (see the readers' comments on line) which only compounds the matter.

The airline was, in my opinion, excessively kind to let them get off aand I
hope they thanked them appropriately. If not they could very well have ended
up arriving in Milwaukee after Shabbat had come in and been stranded in the
airport, unable to move from the arrival lounge and with no facilities. They
should be grateful to HKBH for His mercy in preventing that outcome.

Martin Stern


End of Volume 60 Issue 41