Volume 60 Number 84 
      Produced: Tue, 15 May 2012 12:35:07 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Beta Israel 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Beta Israel and genetics 
    [Tony Fiorino]
Hashem yinkom damam? (3)
    [Martin Stern  Martin Stern  Michael Poppers]
Mikveh Filter Controversy 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Seven day consumption of matzah (was Non-gebrokts) 
    [Mark Steiner]


From: Yisrael Medad <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Tue, May 15,2012 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Beta Israel

Martin Stern (MJ 60#83) replies to my raising the spectre, as he did, of
genetics/DNA by writing, correctly:

> ...though every Cohen must have a father who is a Cohen, it is not
> necessarily the case that the son of a Cohen is also a Cohen. If his
> mother were a lady whom a Cohen was prohibited from marrying, the child
> would inherit the marker but not himself be a Cohen. Thus, genetic
> testing ... would be useless to establish his status as one.

I can only think that that was my point.  Nevertheless, Jewish ancestry
would be, if not proven, then probable.

Yisrael Medad


From: Tony Fiorino <afiorino@...>
Date: Tue, May 15,2012 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Beta Israel and genetics

Gilad  Gevaryahu <gevaryahu@...> noted (MJ 60#83):

> The Beta Israel have lived as Jews for centuries - and have been recognized
> as Jews for centuries by preeminent Torah scholars. 

In my mind, this is the crux of the issue - on the one hand, many poskim,
including the first posek to encounter them, have ruled the Beta Israel are Jews
(and some have ruled differently).  On the other, the origin of the Beta Israel
community is unknown and likely unknowable and, for the sake of argument, I will
concede that descent from Shevet Dan is most likely a founding myth.  The
genetic evidence suggests they are somewhat genetically distinct both from other
Jews and from the general Ethiopian population.

One approach here is to say that "the halachah defines the metziut [the halachic
status of an object (or person) trumps whatever else we might know about it]". 
For example, when people sell the bliot of chametz that are absorbed in their
regular pots and pans for pesach, we all know this is an absurd transaction and
indeed a legal fiction that avoids the need to tovel all of those pots and pans,
which would be required if the pots and pans themselves were part of the
mechirat chametz.   One can argue (and I personally believe) that since the
advent of metal cookware and detergents, the entire concept of "taam [absorbed
taste]" in kashrut is indeed a metaphysical halachic construct that has no
correspondence with a physical process.  Parenthetically, this was not true in
antiquity, and anyone who uses cast-iron cookware (which should never be cleaned
with water and detergent and thus accumulate an imbibed flavor of what has been
previously cooked) can appreciate why the taam was very much a reflection of the
physical reality of Chazal.  

Or perhaps more simply - the principles of "rov [majority]" and "bittul
[annulment]".  To take one well-known example - if one finds a piece of meat on
a street on which at least 90% of the butchers are kosher, the meat is permitted
- the status of the meat as "kosher" is defined by the halachah despite the 10%
possibility that the "reality" is that the meat is treif.  Similar examples abound.

Thus, the halachic status of an object or a person is not necessarily determined
by the metziut [the physical reality of what is there], but by the application
of a halachic construct on top of that reality.  Rav Soloveitchik, in a
beautiful passage that will be marred by my condensing of Lawrence Kaplan's
translation, described this in Halachic Man:

"When halachic man approaches reality, he comes with his Torah, given to him
from Sinai, in hand.  He orients himself to the world by means of fixed statutes
and firm principles ... [he] draws near the world with an a priori relation ...
The essence of  the Halachah, which was received from God, consists in creating
an ideal world and cognitizing the relationship between that ideal world and our
concrete environment in all its visible manifestations ... When halachic man
comes across a spring bubbling quietly, he already possesses a fixed, a priori
relationship with this real phenomenon: the complex of laws regarding the
halachic construct of a spring ..."

The passage continues, providing myriad examples of how the halachah defines,
for the Jew, the status of "every nook and cranny of physical-biological
existence" and "sociological creations: the state, society and the relationship
of individuals within a communal context".

Jewish identity is certainly halachic construct applied onto an underlying
reality, and the halachah by necessity must sometimes make assumptions.    I
think it is entirely plausible to argue that given the halachic precedent going
back to the Radbaz, the halachah has defined the Beta Israel as Jews and thus
they are, regardless of the underlying "metziut" regarding their origin, of
their founding myth as having descended from Dan,  and of the result of any
genetic analyses.

With regard to genetics and kohanim, Martin Stern (MJ 60#83) cautioned against
using the presence of a genetic marker (the so called "Cohen Modal Haplotype or
"CMH") to "rule in" someone's identity as a kohen.  As I have written here
before, those who wield genetics as a proof for the descent of kohanim from
Aharon or, in this case, as evidence of long-lost Jewish ancestry, must be
prepared to accept a double-edged sword, the extent to which genetics actually
undermines received Biblical tradition.

Only about 70% of kohanim have the CMH marker, which means one of two things -
either it is not a good marker for identifying kohanim, or the mesorah kept by
families regarding their status is unreliable.  Also, the CMH is not found
exclusively on Kohanim and the Lemba (eg, also found in populations in southern
Italy which have no founding myths about Jewish ancestry).  More recent work has
shown that there are subsets of the CMH among Jews identified as kohanim, with
only about 50% of kohanim sharing the more common variant, and genetic analyses
of leviim have not identified a commonly shared genetic marker.

In my view, it is clear that the groups of Jews who today identify themselves as
kohanim and leviim are not descended from a single male ancestor (Levi for both
groups and Aharon for kohanim).  I see two ways to interpret the evidence - either 

(1) the transmission of personal status has been accurate, at least for a few
thousand years, but the Biblical account is incorrect and there was not a single
individual male founder of the leviim and the kohanim, or 

(2) the transmission of status as kohen or levi has been unreliable.

I suspect most people on this list will find the latter interpretation more
palatable, which raises another conundrum - if we concede that the transmission
of status has been unreliable, then either we should use what we know (ie, there
is a marker that does identify a fairly tight linkage among 50% of kohanim) and
"unmask" the "pretenders," or we must again say that the halachah defines the
metziut, and continue to rely on self-identification as the halachic standard
regardless of what the underlying genetics have to say about the ancestry of any
particular kohen or levi.  If one buys into the genetic evidence overriding the
self-identification halachic standard but isn't prepared to abandon the Biblical
account, then one has disenfranchised half the kohanim and perhaps all of the
leviim, and should accordingly follow suit in practice (try having that view and
acting as a gabbai - "sorry, the second aliya will now be given to the
genetically-identified kohen called for the first aliya because we no longer
have any correctly identified leviim in the world").

The Vilna Gaon redeemed himself to every person he met who claimed to be a cohen
precisely because he viewed self-identification as a halachic standard with
inherent doubt, though, as Mike Gerver wrote here in MJ 7#19 (thanks, Google),
he apparently was eventually satisfied that he found a kohen he could rely on:

This story appears in "Eidut Ne'emanah", page 65 (samekh-he), in "Sefer Ruach
Eliyahu," edited by Rabbi Eliahu Moshe Bloch (Balshon Printing and Linotyping,
Brooklyn, 1953-54). It goes on to say that the Vilna Gaon eventually did meet
someone whom he considered to be a 'vadai kohen,' a Rappoport who was descended
from the Ba"ch, who had a sefer yachsin [pedigree] showing his direct descent
from Aharon. Although this sefer yachsin had already been lost by the time of
the Vilna Gaon, he considered the fact that the Ba"ch [in the 15th century, I
think] said he had it, to be sufficient proof that he [and anyone who could
prove descent from him] was a vadai kohen. After redeeming himself to this
Rappoport, the Vilna Gaon no longer felt he had to redeem himself to every new
kohen whom he met."

Mike presciently wrote, back in 1993, "it would be most interesting to see
whether DNA mapping of their Y chromosomes is consistent with the hypothesis
that they [the Rappoport family], and a significant percentage of ordinary
kohanim, had a common male ancestor about 3300 years ago."

It would also be most interesting to imagine what the Vilna Gaon would have said
about the genetic research that we now have.

-Eitan Fiorino


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, May 15,2012 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Hashem yinkom damam?

Yisrael Medad (MJ 60#83) wrote:

> My point is simply this, if I understood the original query properly:
> it is not necessarily wrong to say/inscribe "hashem yinkom et damo" rather
> than "hashem yikom et damo".

> In fact, to adopt a "darshan" (preacher's) pose, I could suggest that the
> first means "revenge" while the second means "He will reestablish (as in
> memory or an otherwise form of recall).

If the word is to mean "avenge" then it comes from the peh-nun verb "nakam"
and in the imperfect (future) this becomes yikom with a dagesh in the kuf.

Yisrael's second suggestion is presumably based on the ayin-vav verb "kum"
meaning "stand". There are a few drawbacks with this hypothesis. First, the
imperfect (future) for such a word is "yakum" (he will stand) in the kal and
"yakim" (he will establish) in the hiphil, not "yikom".

But not all is lost because "yikom" would be the niphal.  It would even have
a dagesh in the kuf reflecting the elision of the nun from the niphal
prefix(es) yi-n-. There is only one snag, the niphal is used as the passive
of the kal (not the hiphil - its passive is the hophal "yukam"), and by
definition an intransitive verb like "kum" cannot have a passive. Thus
"yikom" cannot come from this root.

Yisrael is 100% correct when he continues:

> By the way, spoken Hebrew manages to unduly influence written Hebrew and
> mistakes creep in.

This must surely be the origin of the usage "yinkom"!

Martin Stern

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, May 15,2012 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Hashem yinkom damam?

Sammy Finkelman made a pertinent observation (MJ 60#83):

> Most Hebrew, outside of a Siddur or anything from Tanach or the
> Onkelos translation, was/is written without vowels.

He then gives his suggested explanation:
> Originally, Hashem Yinokaim (as in Shemos/Exodus 21:20) Damam could
> have been the way it was intended to be read, but, possibly due to being
> abbreviated or written without vowels, it got read as yinkom when it was read
> out in shul or elsewhere by not too learned people, and then by everyone.

This is highly unlikely because "yinakaim" is the imperfect (future) of the
niphal which is the passive of the kal and therefore cannot have a direct
object, neither "Hashem" nor "damam". If one were deleted the meaning would
be either "Hashem will be avenged" or "Their blood will be avenged". In his
purported 'original reading', what would be the significance of the other

The source of the phrase "Hashem yikom damam" is surely the verse in
Ha'azinu (Dev. 32,43) "ki dam avadav yikom [He will avenge the blood of His
servants]". This would have been familiar to most (even not too learned)
people since the whole verse is included in the Av Harachamim prayer recited
in most Ashkenazi communities almost every week.

Martin Stern

From: Michael Poppers <MPoppers@...>
Date: Tue, May 15,2012 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Hashem yinkom damam?

In this digest, Martin Stern replied to Sammy Finkelman:

> The source of the phrase "Hashem yikom damam" is surely the verse in Ha'azinu 
> (Dev. 32,43) "ki dam avadav yikom [He will avenge the blood of His servants]".
> This would have been familiar to most (even not too learned) people since the
> whole verse is included in the Av Harachamim prayer recited in most Ashkenazi
> communities almost every week.

And that prayer's text states, "v'yi*n*qom l'eineinu" (rather than "v'yiqqom")!

All the best from

Michael Poppers 
Elizabeth, NJ, USA


From: Yisrael Medad <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Fri, May 11,2012 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Mikveh Filter Controversy

In a discussion found at http://www.dailyhalacha.com/m/halacha.aspx?id=1934 , the
question of a filter and a mikveh is summarized as: "One should not immerse in
a Mikveh that has a filter outside the Mikveh unless the filter is turned off. If
the filter is inside the Mikveh, then it may be used even while the filter is

Well, a controversy has begun to overflow, pardon the pun, and can be seen at a
Hebrew blog of mine: http://wp.me/p22Zl4-8O .

Yisrael Medad


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Tue, May 15,2012 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Seven day consumption of matzah (was Non-gebrokts)

I have a number of thoughts concerning Dr. Katz' interesting post (MJ 60#83)
about eating matzah one day, as distinguished from sitting in the Sukkah seven

1.	Dr. Katz' main "Karaitic" point, that the plain meaning of the Torah
is that it a mitzvah to eat matzah all seven days, is already made by Ibn
Ezra, who was no friend of the Karaites.  Ibn Ezra points out that the seven
days of eating matzah corresponds to the seven days that the Israelites were
fleeing from the Egyptians.  Like Dr. Katz, he is critical of the rabbinic
tradition that seems to erase the plain meaning of the Torah that the
mitzvah of matza is a seven day affair.  Yet I think a little analysis shows
that there is no contradiction between the Torah She-be-al peh and the plain
meaning of the Torah verses, as follows:

2.	There are two kinds of mitzvah: perfect obligations and imperfect
obligations (using the Kantian language).  In the yeshiva terminology,
"hiyuvit" and "kiyumit."  Nonperformance of the former kind (called "bitul
aseh") is a sin; not so, nonperformance of the latter.  The Gaon of Vilna
held that eating matzah IS a mitzvah all seven days, but a "kiyumit"
mitzvah.  Pace Dr. Katz (and Ibn Ezra), this makes sense, since the eating
of matzah the first night is connected to the eating of the Paschal lamb
(korban pesach) and is a separate mitzvah actually which is in fact a
perfect obligation.  The term "reshut", used by Hazal in reference to eating
matzah during the week of Pesach, is understood by the Gaon as an imperfect
obligation, mitzvah kiyumit.  Those who follow the Gaon, like myself, eat
shmurah matzah the entire Pesach, to fulfill the seven day mitzvah of

3.	Most people don't know this, but the view of the Vilner Gaon is
written explicitly in the Talmud (Pes. 28b), where Deut 16:3 is understood
to say that there is only a prohibition of eating hametz when there is an
obligation to eat matzah (but not after Pesach, i.e. that hametz which was
owned by a Jew on Pesach is forbidden only Rabbinically, not Biblically) --
Hazal use the expression "kum ekhol matzah [rise and eat matzah]".  It is clear
from this that the Gaon is right.

4.	The Gaon of Vilna made a Third Meal on the last day of Pesach,
though Yom Tov does not require this, in order to fulfill the mitzvah (!)
of eating matzah to the end.  This should be sharply distinguished from the
so-called "Messianic Meal" that the Baal Shem Tov allegedly introduced and which 
is advertised by Chabad.

5.	The Talmud (Sukkah 27a) explicitly identifies the mitzvah of sukkah
with the mitzvah of matzah: just as the latter is an obligation (hova) on
the first evening, so is (eating in the) Sukkah an obligation.  The rest of
sukkot, there is no obligation to eat in the sukkah, as long as one does not
eat bread (or a "seudat keva [fixed or formal meal - MOD]").  (I grew up in a
district where the only sukkah was in shul.  When I was a kid I used to pray for
rain so I could eat a sandwich on Sukkot.)  Just as the Vilner Gaon did with
matzah, so do many people in their sukkah -- they sit there even when there is
no sin in sitting elsewhere.

6.	Dr. Katz' only real question has to do with the blessing -- why do we
make the blessing over the sukkah all seven days, but not on the matzah
(according to the view of the Gaon, which is also my minhag).  Historical
explanations must zero in on this point, but not the point concerning why
our practice with the sukkah is different from our practice with matzah,
because, as I said, the Gaon (and the Talmud) say there is no difference.
Dr. Katz' question then reduces to the following: since we see that
blessings are recited over optional mitzvot (like shechita), why not on the
beautiful mitzvah of matzah?  Dr. Katz' question is even more urgent on
Shabbat Hol Hamoed Pesach, when it is obligatory to eat loaves of bread at
every meal, and thus obligatory to eat matzah then.  Since, according to the
Gaon, one is also fulfilling the mitzvah of matzah, why not make the
blessing on the matzah as well?

7.	Note first, that the minhag in Eretz Yisrael and other places is to
eat bread in the sukkah the first night even if it is raining, and make a
beracha also, then finish the meal in the house,  i.e. the exemption of rain
does not apply to a "hova [obligation]".  During the rest of sukkot, of
course, one cannot make a blessing on the sukkah if it is raining.  This
remark narrows the gap between the beracha of matzah (according to the Gaon)
and that of sukkah.

8.	I would end with my own historical speculation.  During the Temple
period, the beracha on the matza the first night was not made at all;
instead, the beracha was made on the matzah and maror together (Mishneh
Torah, Hametz Umatzah, 8:6), prefatory to eating the korban pesach (paschal
lamb).  It is possible that the beracha on the matzah WAS made during the
week, as Dr. Katz says.  But once the Temple was destroyed the beracha on
the matzah was restricted to the seder -- the beracha on the matzah reminds us
of the korban pesach and inspires us to wish for its restoration -- because
without the korban, the mitzvah of matzah remains incomplete, and is only
"lahma anya" which we ate in exile.  I agree that this is speculation and
homiletics.  But I got so hungry writing this, that I went to eat a piece of
leftover shmurah matzah (machine, don't worry) while writing this vort.

Mark Steiner


End of Volume 60 Issue 84