Volume 60 Number 57 
      Produced: Wed, 04 Jan 2012 19:02:42 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Asara b'Tevet 
    [Deborah Wenger]
Brouhaha about seating 
    [Leah Gordon]
Gambling for charity (2)
    [Art Werschulz  Michael Poppers]
Standing during chazarat hashatz 
    [Yisrael Medad]
The ruling of "better to go before a firing squad than hear a woman si (2)
    [Stuart Pilichowski  Frank Silbermann]
Waggon Wheels 
    [David Ansbacher]
What Day Of The Week Will Shabbos Be In Samoa? (2)
    [Monica Cellio  Dr. William Gewirtz]
Yotser or uvorei choshech...? 
    [Robert Israel]


From: Deborah Wenger <debwenger@...>
Date: Wed, Jan 4,2012 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Asara b'Tevet

I just saw this from the OU:
One of the tragedies commemorated on the 10th of Tevet is the first recorded
sin of sinat chinam (baseless hatred) to affect the Jewish people - the sale
of Yosef which took place on that day.

My question is, what basis do they have for saying that the sale of Yosef
took place on this day? ("The Midrash says so" is not an acceptable answer,
since it leads to the same question - how does the Midrash know that?)

[Same question about the yahrzeit of Rachel Imeinu on the 11th of Cheshvan.]

Deborah Wenger


From: Leah Gordon <leahgordonmobile@...>
Date: Wed, Jan 4,2012 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Brouhaha about seating

At first, in the situation of men asking to be moved away from women on
public conveyances, I was offended in accordance with my normal feminist
stance.  (How rude, I thought, that someone would purposely try to sit NOT
next to me, due to my gender only, implying that my very existence is
purely sexual.  Disgusting.)

But then I realized something quite useful - it's not often that someone
announces so clearly:  I'm a big jerk and I'm planning to go far away from
you.  So I was satisfied.  I bet that whatever man was asked to take his
place (and, by the way, this seems especially irrational and inconsiderate, that 
for fear of speaking to a woman, the hareidi man asks another MAN to take the
seat next to me, how inappropriate) would be particularly polite to me
for the duration of the flight, if only from noblesse oblige.

--Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Art Werschulz <agw@...>
Date: Tue, Jan 3,2012 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Gambling for charity

Ari Trachtenberg <bodek@...> wrote (MJ 60#56):

> I had a bet with another moderator ($1 to tsdaka)
> that at least 1/3 of our membership would successfully transition
> to the new google group within the first week.  Is this considered
> gambling?

Is this any worse than a raffle?  

Art Werschulz

From: Michael Poppers <MPoppers@...>
Date: Tue, Jan 3,2012 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Gambling for charity

In MJ 60#56, Ari Trachtenberg asked:

> I had a bet with another moderator ($1 to tsdaka) that at least 1/3 of our
> membership would successfully transition to the new google group within the
> first week.  Is this considered gambling? 

As an endeavor, or in any situation where the loser of a bet doesn't want to
lose, gambling/betting is not a proper activity (for some sources, Google
"jewish gambling" to see pages like

In the situation Ari describes, I would wager :) that neither he nor the other
party to the "$1 to tsdaka" bet minded losing, not only because the sum was
trivial but also (and especially) because the beneficiary of the wager was one
that both parties likely would contribute to in any case, and I doubt that
either party tries to make a living from "$1 to tsdaka" bets or is/would become
addicted to gambling, so I don't think their bet would be Halachically
problematic.  (Naturally, as always, CYLOR -- don't rely on my say-so :).)

All the best from 
-- Michael Poppers via BB pager


From: Yisrael Medad <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Wed, Jan 4,2012 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Standing during chazarat hashatz

In reply to David Tzohar (MJ 60#56):

The principle is "there is no sitting in the Azarah [Temple courtyard - MOD]
except for Kings from the line of David".

That seems to be clear from

a) Devarim 18:5 - For the LORD thy God hath chosen him out of all thy
tribes, *to stand to minister* in the name of the LORD, him and his sons
for ever.

b) Zevachim 2:1 based on Sifrei 167 - "MISHNAH. ALL SACRIFICES WHOSE BLOOD

c)  Sanhedrin 83a - "But the performance of the service by an uncircumcised
[priest], an onen, or by one who officiated *whilst sitting* is not
liable to death, but merely prohibited."

As explained by Rav Mosheh Lichtenstein on Sotah 40b: the halakha is that
only kings of Bet David can sit in the Azara. Rashi explains that it is
disrespectful to HKBH, the King of Kings, to sit in His presence. The
Mishneh Lamelekh (Beit HaBechira 7:6) discusses the question whether
sitting in the Azara is prohibited by the Torah or is an injunction of
rabbinic origin and quotes our Rashi to the effect that this halakha is
mede'rabbanan [Rabbinic --Mod.] (since Rashi explains the reason rather than 
quoting a source). This, though, is problematic since Rashi in other sugyot 
[Talmud discussions --Mod.] explicitly states otherwise, either ascribing it to 
a halakha leMoshe miSinai [directive transmitted to Moshe Rabbeinu while he was 
on Mt. Sinai --Mod.] (Sanhedrin 101b s. v. gemiri d'ein yeshiva) or to the pasuk 
in Devarim that teaches us that kohanim must stand when performing the Avoda
of the Mikdash (Yoma 25a s.v. ein, 69b s.v. ein). The Mishneh Lamelekh
therefore concludes that Rashi is of the opinion that the prohibition is
mede'oraita [Biblical in nature --Mod.] and that his explanation in our sugya is 
merely intended to provide the reason for the mitzva. He also notes that Tosafot 
in Yoma are also of the opinion that this rule is a de'oraita prohibition, while
Tosafot in Zevachim consider both options and are inconclusive on this

but in Sanhedrin 11b - "It once happened that Rabban Gamliel was sitting
on a step on the Temple-hill..." but that applies to the Sanhedrin, not
worship (which was either sacrifice or Levites singing).

but in Nechemiah 8:16 it seems that sitting in Succot in the Temple
esplanade was permitted, and see Erchin 3b.

In any case, the version of Yoshke and his contretemps in the Temple area
in John 2:14 would seem to be wrong:
"In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and
others *sitting* at tables exchanging money".

Further reading: http://www.daat.ac.il/encyclopedia/value.asp?id1=3199
Yisrael Medad


From: Stuart Pilichowski <stupillow@...>
Date: Wed, Jan 4,2012 at 11:01 AM
Subject: The ruling of "better to go before a firing squad than hear a woman si

I thought a woman's voice was an issue only when it can be heard while reading 
Shma according to some opinions.

Why have we gone le-chumra / overboard strict?


From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Wed, Jan 4,2012 at 12:01 PM
Subject: The ruling of "better to go before a firing squad than hear a woman si

>From David Tzohar (V60 N56): 
> IIRC R' Elyakim Levanon said this. It can be understood in two ways.
> 1. Guzma bealma [trying to make a point by gross exaggeration]. In a
> similar vein, R' Herschel Shachter said "ordaining female rabbis is
> yehareg veal-ya'avor." Or we hear that partrilineal determination of
> Jewishness is "Gzeirat hashmad." Using the extreme terms makes people
> stand up and take notice, and it is also an indication of how seriously
> they take the issue.

What is its literal translation of guzma bealma?  For whom is its use 
appropriate?  Is it reasonable for Palestinians, say, to use -- or only for 
Jews?  Is it for all Jews, or only for rabbis?   For all rabbis, or only for 
some of them?

Maybe it's my Aspergers Syndrome speaking, but it is not apparent to me
how gross exaggeration contributes to the making of a point.  I have heard
secular political ideologues do this, but I have always viewed it as a form
of rabble-rousing -- to energize partisans by stimulating sinat chinam -- 
and unrelated to respectable, serious discussion.

> 2. I think that R'Elyakim wanted to say something a little deeper.
> Kol isha is a snif of erva, actually Chazal said it IS erva (kol beisha
> erva). Erva issues are treated  more stringently. As in the case of
> the lovesick man who the doctors said would die if he would not be
> allowed to have relations with her. Chazal said that not only was he
> not allowed to touch her little finger, it would be better to die than
> to even hear her voice from behind the wall!  (I.e. "better to go before
> a firing squad than to hear the erva of a woman's voice.")

Does "voice" necessarily imply singing, or did Chazal suggest it would be
better for him to die than even to hear her speech from behind the wall?
Is it possible that the overpowering attraction that the man already had
for the woman had anything to do with the advice? 

Are there no other points of view in the Talmud that might moderate
this stance?  (For example, is there not something about a man who
lets a woman drown, so as not to have to touch her, being a pious fool?)

Frank Silbermann        Memphis, Tennessee


From: David Ansbacher <dansbacher@...>
Date: Mon, Jan 2,2012 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Waggon Wheels

In Parshas Vayigash, Yosef sends wagons to bring his father Yaakov down to
Mitzrayim as a reference to the last subject of the Egloh Arufoh they learnt
together. Why then does the Posuk 45/21 tell us that Yosef gave the brothers the
wagons "al pi Pharoh", in Posuk 45/ 27 "which Yosef sent" and in Posuk 46/5
"which Pharoh sent"? How does Pharoh come into the picture?

Abarvanel writes there that the Egyptians invented the wheel [I assume he means
that they improved the wheel by making a spoked wheel whereas as previously the
wheel was only a round slice of a tree trunk] and, as it was their secret weapon, 
would not let the wheel out of the country. Although Egypt ruled most
of the world at the time, they were still somewhat scared of their neighbours.

If Hashem gives man the seichel to invent something of benefit to mankind, he
must not keep it for himself. As Yosef wanted to let his father know that he had
not forgotten his learning, he begged Pharoh to allow him to send wagons. Pharoh
allowed Yosef to send them that one time [maybe disguised].
Yaakov's coming down to Egypt was reckoned as the beginning of the Shibud
Mitzrayim. Right at the end of the Shibud, I reckon, Pharoh was punished "Middoh
Kneged Middoh" for when, in Parshas Beshalach they chased after B'nei Yisroel,
then it was OK to take the wheels out of the country. The Posuk tells us only
that "Hashem removed the wheel of the chariots" although the Medrash says that
other things happened to make their going difficult. A fitting punishment and
another talking point for Leil Pesach.


From: Monica Cellio <cellio@...>
Date: Tue, Jan 3,2012 at 08:01 PM
Subject: What Day Of The Week Will Shabbos Be In Samoa?

This was also recently asked at


The sources brought in the answers there agree that Shabbat is seven days 
after the previous one (so, now Sunday there), apparently like Japan (I 
did not know that).  There is also discussion of the halachic date 


From: Dr. William Gewirtz <wgewirtz@...>
Date: Tue, Jan 3,2012 at 11:01 PM
Subject: What Day Of The Week Will Shabbos Be In Samoa?

Yisrael Medad and David Ziants raise this topic (MJ 60#56).

This topic is often discussed conflating a number of quasi-independent issues.

First, what day of the week is it, in a particular place? 

Basically two approaches: 

A) the dateline adherents, Rabbis Karelitz, Tukatzinsky and Shapiro most
prominently, and 

B) the minhag ha-mokom [community custom --Mod.] adherents, Rabbis Frank, 
Kasher, Meltzer and a host of others with somewhat divergent arguments. 

I am strongly in the B) camp. Rabbi Heber, like many, is in the A) camp. 

Second, for B), what establishes minhag ha-mokom and who might change it: 
anyone? any Jew? a community of Jews? observant? etc. If they leave, does
their designation remain (the Alaska question, perhaps)? Can they change their
mind? My view is a religious community, for the duration of their inhabiting
the area, and they cannot change their mind. 

Third, for both A) and B), what if I arrive with a different count from the
community? My first week there is an opinion that I must observe both the
community (most importantly) and my own count (where feasible, le-khumrah [when 
it is more stringent than would otherwise be the case --Mod.]). (The
previous Lubavitcher Rebbe's opinion on a related matter is very much a daat
yachid [solo opinion --Mod.].) Second week, I observe only the community count.  

Upshot, IMHO there is no defined day of Shabbat on Samoa. If two Jews arrive
from Hawaii and Australia, they might observe different days. Each might be the
other's shaabos goy - how convenient! If a community settles, it will likely
decide based on their affinity, after appropriate consultation. You can raise
fascinating questions about adjacent areas, two communities arriving
simultaneously, etc.


From: Robert Israel <israel@...>
Date: Tue, Jan 3,2012 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Yotser or uvorei choshech...?

In MJ 60#54 Martin Stern wrote:

> One idea that did occur to me was that these problems might be explained 
> by reference to the current big bang theory of creation. According to it, 
> all matter was initially concentrated in a very small space which would 
> have generated a tremendous gravitational field, so strong that nothing, 
> in particular light, could escape. Hence it would make sense to refer to 
> this as the creation of darkness though the light was there but could not 
> be observed. Only after the initial expansion would the gravitational 
> field be sufficiently reduced for the light to escape so one could say 
> that it was formed from the darkness. However, since it was in potential 
> (but unobservable) existence previously, it can reasonably be mentioned 
> first hence the way this verse is phrased.

This is a misconception. Since the Big Bang happened everywhere at the same 
time, there was nowhere for the light to escape _to_. There was plenty of 
light everywhere in the very early universe, because it was extremely hot. 
On the other hand, the light couldn't travel very far without being 
scattered by free electrons.

I'm tempted to say that "uvorei choshech" refers to the dark matter and 
dark energy that, according to current estimates, make up all but about 5% 
of the mass of the universe. Of course, these are referred to as "dark" 
only because we can't observe them directly and know very little about 
them, but still...

Robert Israel
University of British Columbia


End of Volume 60 Issue 57