Volume 60 Number 85 
      Produced: Wed, 23 May 2012 13:18:14 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Berakhah on matzah at seder 
    [Martin Stern]
Beta Israel 
    [Chaim Casper]
Bracha for Hallel 
    [Avraham Friedenberg]
Counting 49 or 50 days 
    [Robert A. Book]
    [Yisrael Medad]
Hashem yinkom damam? 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, May 15,2012 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Berakhah on matzah at seder

Mark Steiner wrote (MJ 60#84):

> 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).  

I fear Mark has misread the Rambam. According to the cited halachah (8:6),
the berachah that was omitted was "al achilat maror", NOT "al achilat matzah",
though he ruled that it was said on the korech, when the two were eaten
together, rather than before the first eating of matzah, as we do nowadays,
when only "hamotzi" was to be said. However, he also rules (loc. cit.) that
those who ate maror and matzah separately were to say both mitzvah berachot.

In the next halachah (8:7) he states that after korech one makes the
berachah "al achilat hazevach" and eats from the korban chagigah followed by
the berachah "al achilat hapesach" before eating from the korban pesach.

There is therefore no evidence for Mark's claim:

> It is possible that the beracha on the matzah WAS made during the
> week, as Dr. Katz says.

Martin Stern


From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Wed, May 16,2012 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Beta Israel

Robert Schoenfeld, Martin Stern, Joseph Kaplan, Sammy Finkelman and Gilad
J. Gevaryahu, among others, discussed the Ethiopian ("Falasha" or Beta
Israel issue) (MJ 60#81, 82, 83 and 84).   But nowhere did I see
(perhaps I missed it, in which case my apologies) Rav Moshe's common sense
response to the issue (the translation here is from

Regarding their Judaism, we must consider it a safek [doubt], and one
must require of them true conversion before we permit them to marry
within the Jewish community. Yet even before their conversion it is an
active precept to save them from being drawn into a non-Jewish creed and
from danger as the law is for any Jew, for "safek nefashot l'hakel" ["a
doubt involving saving lives is judged leniently"] even where here the
doubt is in their very status as Jews. One should also know that even if in
practical application of the law they are not Jews, nevertheless since they
think they are Jews and sacrifice their lives for their Judaism, we are
obligated to save them.

Best wishes,
Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL


From: Avraham Friedenberg <elshpen@...>
Date: Tue, May 22,2012 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Bracha for Hallel

After we finished davening on Yom Yerushalayim, one of the minyan regulars
- originally from Chicago - told us that he had heard that someone once
asked Rav Aharon Soloveichik if one should say Hallel with or without a
bracha on Yom Yerushalayim.  His answer was that he did not say Hallel with
a bracha on Yom Yerushalayim, nor did he say Hallel with a bracha on Rosh
Chodesh.  Can anyone shed any light on this?  Did he really not say a
bracha for Hallel on Rosh Chodesh, and if not, what were the reasons?

Avraham Friedenberg
Karnei Shomron


From: Robert A. Book <rbook@...>
Date: Mon, May 21,2012 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Counting 49 or 50 days

In the possuk (verse) in Vayikra (Leviticus) about the sefiras
ha'aomer (counting of the omer) it says to count "seven complete
weeks, and on the morrow after the seventh week you shall count fifty
days (tisp'ru chamishim yom)."

My question is, why do we not count 50 days?

We count seven weeks, and we count 49 days, then the NEXT day
celebrate Shavuos but (according to all practices I've seen) we do not
actually count the 50th day.  But it seems from the phrasing above
that on Shavuous we should also say "Today is the 50th day" or
something to that effect.

The closest I've heard to an acknowlegement of the 50th day is that
even those who might bring in a Yom Tov or Shabbos early are careful
to wait until it is definitely after sunset before beginning Shavuos
(though I presume they stop doing melacha before that).

My question is, why do we not explicitly count the 50th day?  Are
there communities that do count the 50th day?

--Robert Book    


From: Yisrael Medad <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Tue, May 15,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Genetics

Just saw this (see http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/99494/a-case-
for-genetic-jewishness ):
Jews, the work of Ostrer's group and another team found, are as closely
related genetically as would be expected for typical fourth or fifth
cousins. "I would hope that these observations would put the idea that
Jewishness is just a cultural construct to rest," Ostrer told *Science*
magazine at the time.

Ostrer's new book<http://www.amazon.com/Legacy-Genetic-History-Jewish-
People/dp/0195379616>, *Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People*, goes 
further, making a convincing case that there is, in fact, a biological basis for 
Jewishness: "[Jews] can be said to be a people with a shared genetic legacy," he
writes, "although not all Jews share the same genes, nor is having part of
that legacy a requirement for being Jewish."

Yisrael Medad


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

Michael Poppers pointed out (MJ 60#84):

> 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")!

This is very interesting, but I belong to the subset of Ashkenazim who only
say "Av Harachamim" twice a year (on the Shabbatot before Shavuot and Tisha 
be'Av), which must be why I did not remember this!

I did a little research and (going backwards in time) noted:

1.  Baer's only comment in his Avodat Yisrael siddur (1868) is that the older
versions have "veyinqom beyameinu l'eineinu niqmat ..." but the current nusach
"veyinqom niqmat ..." omits the other two words "mipnei darkei shalom", i.e.

2. Wolf Heidenheim in his Machzor for Yom Kippur (1800) has "veyinqom
mei'oyeveinu niqmat ..." but has no comment on the word "veyinqom".

3. Yaakov Emden also has no comment on the word "veyinqom", neither in his
Luach Eresh (1769) nor his Siddur commentary (1745-48).

4. R. Shabtai Sofer of Przemysl in his siddur (1612) also does not note the word
as unusual.

5. R. Hertz Treves does not seem to record the Av Harachamim at all in his
siddur (1560).

If anyone can find earlier editions of the siddur or commentaries on it that
shed light on the matter, I would be most interested.

Martin Stern


End of Volume 60 Issue 85