Volume 60 Number 88
      Produced: Fri, 08 Jun 2012 14:56:52 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

B'racha on Venus transit
    [David Ziants]
Bracha for Hallel
    [Katz, Ben  M.D.]
Limiting genealogic inquiries
    [Kevin Williams]
May a woman wear a tallit? (2)
    [Yisrael Medad  Leah S. R. Gordon]
Microphone/Voice Amplifier for Shabbat Use
    [Stephen Phillips]
Submit your Shiur to goDaven Shiurim
    [Yosi Fishkin, MD]


From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 6,2012 at 06:01 PM
Subject: B'racha on Venus transit

This morning in Israel, Venus could be seen passing the sun as
a small black spot.  The next time this transit will happen
will be more than one hundred years from now. It is dangerous
to the eyes to look at this directly and so one should only
look at it though special sun glasses, or through a pin hole, etc.

The question I presented to the Rav of the shul where I went for
Shacharit this morning was - can one (should one) say the
b'racha Oseh Ma'aseh B'reishit? He was not in a hurry to answer,
but given the above parameters he said one may (also hinting
that one does not have to), and thus I said a b'racha with
sun glasses provided by a local physicist who was also there.

I would like to present factors behind this issue for
discussion. For example:-

a) For those who wear (looking) glasses, it is acceptable to say
kiddush levana once a month without taking them off, although one
should see the moon directly without anything intercepting. But
here we are putting on glasses especially for this purpose.

b) Although a once in a life time event, can a black spot warrant a
b'racha? (My approach here, when asking the question, was positive.)

What (other) possible reasons of hesitancy are there on this issue?

David Ziants,
Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel


From: Katz, Ben  M.D. <BKatz@...>
Date: Fri, Jun 8,2012 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Bracha for Hallel

In M-J V60#87, Martin Stern responded:
> Ben Katz M.D. wrote (MJ 60#86):
>> Interestingly enough, when the Yemenites say "incomplete" hallel
>> they also leave out a few more things than we do.
> Perhaps Ben could enlighten us on what passages are omitted
> according to the Yemenite practice. Are the Baladi and Shami rites
> the same in this regard?

According to the baladi machzor I possess, edited by R Kapach,
the "half" hallel omits Psalm 117 and the first 4 verses of Psalm 118,
in addition to the omissions in the Ashkenazi rite.


From: Kevin Williams <kjwilliams1@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 6,2012 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Limiting genealogic inquiries

As nicely pointed out by Eitan Fiorino (in thread "Beta Israel
and genetics"), historical genetics could be misused to cast doubt
on just under half of today's self-identified Kohanim and perhaps
all Ashkenazic Levi'im (MJ 60#84).  Kohanim are the patrilineal
descendants of Aharon, and so they should all have the same
Y-chromosome (that's the bit of genetic material that's passed,
nearly unchanged, from father to son).  I find it wonderful and
miraculous that just over half of them do - and it's the same
Y-chromosome between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Kohanim - but it's
considerably less than a perfect 100%.

Yisrael Medad remarked (in thread "Genetics") that Jews in general
are biologically related to each other, to a degree similar to
fourth or fifth cousins (MJ 60#85).  It makes sense: Abraham's
covenant with G-d was to be transmitted through his seed (*zera*)
-- that is, through Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants.  *Zera*
denotes a close family bond, but *zera* is neither biology nor
genetics.  For example, a convert somehow leaps the physical
barrier and becomes a son or daughter of Abraham.  It's similar
for an adopted child.

Which may allow us to deal with another result from historical
genetics.  We've always known that Jews tend to physically resemble
their Gentile neighbors: Moroccan Jews look like Arabs, German Jews
can have light hair and blue eyes.  There must have been significant
ancestral admixture.  How did it happen?  I had assumed through rape
during pogroms, plus seduction and abandonment.  But thankfully,
there's not much evidence of those horrors in our genes.

What is shared amongst different Diaspora Jewish communities is the
Y-chromosomes.  Those Y-chromosomes are largely Middle Eastern,
consistent with historical, archeological, and Biblical records
linking us to that region.  But Jewishness passes from the mother,
and the bit of genetic material that's passed, nearly unchanged,
from mother to child is the mitochondrial DNA.  Unexpectedly, at least
to me, mitochondrial DNA is largely unshared amongst different Jewish
groups, because it often resembles the mitochondria of the surrounding
Gentile populations (it's typically less diverse, indicating limited
input).  Thus, many of these Diaspora communities must have been
formed by travelling Israelite men who met and married a few
local women.  How, exactly, were these women converted before the
arrival of rabbinical authorities?  At best, by courts of laymen
that, while consistent with Halakha, would not be recognized by
Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform authorities today.  Did they
convert for reasons of self-interest, such as premarital pregnancy?
Did these women observe 100% of the mitzvot for the rest of their
lives?  Were the women converted at all?  We do not know, and we
cannot know, period.

Chaim Casper (in thread "Beta Israel") expressed his approval of Rav
Moshe's seemingly middle position on Ethiopian Jews: treat them as safek
(in doubt); insist on conversions before marriage; but "save them from
being drawn into a non-Jewish creed and from danger as the law is for
any Jew" (MJ 60#85). But what's the Halakhic principle that could allow
us to place Ethiopian Jews in doubt, yet not place large numbers of
Kohanim, Levi'im, and in fact all Jews in serious doubt about their
status as well? Why not a middle position for the rest of us? Conversion
before marriage when your mitochondria indicate Gentile matrilineal

I have never believed that any information from historical genetics
should be used to question, or bolster, anyone's status. Nonetheless,
I have heard genetic information being misused (in my opinion) this
way. My friend Gilad Givaryahu posted my attempt to find Halakhic
sources to deal with potential issues from historical genetics, which
surprisingly are not new at all. "Do we [Jews of otherwise unquestioned
lineage] know where we come from?" (Kiddushin 71b). The context of
Kiddushin 71b speaks to these current issues: Rav Yehudah had refused
to arrange a marriage for his son, out of fear of genealogic taint
in any prospective bride. The Sage Ulla visited Yehudah to advise a
more realistic - and Halakhic - approach. Admixture has taken place
throughout Jewish history, particularly during three episodes: the Erev
Rav coming with us out of Egypt; lineal doubts after the first Exile,
particularly of Jews who had remained in the Land of Israel under
Babylonian occupation (which motivated much of the Talmudic discussion);
and then the Diaspora. Accordingly, the Talmud places clear limits on
genealogic inquiries - asking roughly four generations backwards in the
maternal line of a prospective bride seems to be the maximum allowed
(see the citations we posted in MJ 60#83).

What if you discovered evidence that a member of your congregation had
a matrilineal Gentile ancestor five generations ago? Would you stop
counting him for a minyan? How about ten generations ago? What about
50 generations ago? Should every Jew live in fear of an unfavorable
genealogic discovery dozens of generations ago? That approaches the time
scale that is probed by these mitochondrial tests, which have provided
clear evidence of non-Jewish maternal origins for many unambiguously
Jewish communities.

Genetic tests probe backwards for millennia. Interesting stuff, but
irrelevant Halakhically. The Talmud contains an explicit statute of
limitations to inquiries. About four generations - not more - and it
should be the same for Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian Jews. The Beta Israel
have been Jews, and recognized as Jews, by preeminent authorities, for
far more than four generations. It's the same for the rest of us.

Kevin Jon Williams
Wynnewood, PA


From: Yisrael Medad <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 6,2012 at 03:01 PM
Subject: May a woman wear a tallit?

Bill Bernstein writes (MJ 60#87) that in it being decided that it is
yuhara (arrogance) and women should not wear tzitzit, then "That
certainly sounds like something wrong with the practice in Jewish law
to me."  But that could also mean that at a certain time and a certain
place, and under certain societal conditions, it would be, and this
could fall into the area of deliberation according to community

Yisrael Medad
From: Leah S. R. Gordon <leahgordonmobile@...>
Date: Fri, Jun 8,2012 at 08:01 AM
Subject: May a woman wear a tallit?

I figure that as one of the list's "feminists," I should reply about
"women and tallit gadol," although the frequency, redundancy,
and vitriol of the topic on M.J. exhaust me.

I find myself questioning the motivations of those who are trying to
analyze their Jewish sisters' "motivations" to wear talit.  Is anyone
questioning motivations for davening behavior in general?  How many
of us have harbored inappropriate thoughts about mitzvot at one time
or another:
"could this lulav be vaguely pagan?"
"will he keep up his breath for the next Tekia Gedola?"
"oh no not another song - when will this hakafa end?"
"why did that guy get this aliya?"
"oy they need another donation already?"
"right after shabbat I have to send an email..how much longer?"

So I say that it is a fool's errand to try to moderate other people's
attitudes.  We have to give benefit of the doubt.  Or, if we don't,
then I hereby state that the opinions of men, about women's practice,
are valid *only* if the man is totally l'shem shamayim
[for a definition of this term, see
http://www.thejc.com/judaism/jewish-words/l%E2%80%99shem-shamayim --
and pleasant in demeanor.  If he is motivated by misogyny, ignorance,
or arrogance, then it is not suitable for him to opine on her

What's that?  You say no one believes himself to be an ignorant
arrogant misogynist?  Exactly right - just as no woman thinks
she's being anti-halakha when she goes to the trouble of doing more

Anyway, the women I have seen wearing talit gadol (though I don't wear
one myself) universally wear tallitot that are very different
in appearance from the tallitot men usually wear.

--Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Stephen Phillips <admin@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 6,2012 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Microphone/Voice Amplifier for Shabbat Use

I thank Yisrael Medad for posting (MJ 60#87) the URLs regarding
microphones, etc. on Shabbos. No mention is made, however,
as to whether a microphone may be used for (say) reading
the Megillah or hearing B'rachos [Blessings]. There are a number
of Poskim who rule that the sound that goes into the microphone
is not the one that comes out of the speaker (or radio) and
therefore one cannot fulfill one's Mitzva of hearing the Megillah.
The same would apply to B'rachos.

I wonder sometimes at Rabbonim who use a microphone for
Sheva B'rachos, whether under the Chuppah or after benching.
Are we yotzi [fulfilled in the Mitzvah]?

Stephen Phillips


From: Yosi Fishkin, MD <Joseph@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 7,2012 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Submit your Shiur to goDaven Shiurim

goDaven Shiurim is now open to the public! Do you attend a shiur or
any type of Torah class? Do you know about any shiurim in your shul
or neighborhood? Help build the worldwide database of shiurim by
adding the shiur at http://godaven.com/shiurim/add.asp.

goDaven is also partnering with Artscroll by managing shiur
information for the upcoming Artscroll digital library, including
a Daf Yomi shiur database for the digital version of the Artscroll

Yosi Fishkin, MD


End of Volume 60 Issue 88