Volume 61 Number 09 
      Produced: Fri, 10 Aug 2012 13:19:20 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Concubinage revival? (5)
    [Yisrael Medad  Martin Stern  Robert Rubinoff  Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz  Frank Silbermann]
Meat after Tisha B'Av (2)
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz  Yisrael Medad]
No Mechitza - what to do? (2)
    [Carl Singer  Martin Stern]
On Planting And Not Planting Trees 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Ritual handwashing after childbirth (2)
    [Leah S. R. Gordon  Martin Stern]
Waiting for the Rabbi (3)
    [Orrin Tilevitz  Martin Stern  Elliot Berkovits]


From: Yisrael Medad <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Concubinage revival?

Leah (MJ 61#08) of course makes some very good points, which was the object of my

Yisrael Medad

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Concubinage revival?

While I have considerable sympathy with what Leah S. R. Gordon wrote (MJ
61#08), I think she may be inaccurate on one point:

> One of the biggest advantages of having this discussion ... is that the
> problems with polygyny/concubinage (i.e. reserving multiple women for the
> sexual ownership/use of one man) are well-documented, and these are just the
> ones I remember:
> ...
> 2. It changes the ratio of available men:women, usually preventing poorer
> men from mating at all, and leading in many cases to an underclass of
> dissatisfied, disengaged, frustrated men who may turn to crime (the Mormons
> dealt with this for many years by counseling out many young men at the age
> of maturity).

In general, most men would not be in a position to support multiple wives, so
the effect of polygyny would be minimal, especially if it were restricted to
the sort of cases Rabbi Abergel envisaged, such as where the (first) wife was
infertile (not where the husband was infertile) or refused to have children
for some reason.

In any case there seems to be an imbalance already with there being more
eligible women than men. One reason may be that men generally marry women a
few years younger than themselves and, with the increasing birth rates in
strictly Orthodox circles, the cohorts of both in each age group are
becoming larger. In olden days the higher mortality of males from warfare,
work/traffic accidents etc. corrected for this. This seems to underlie the
current "shidduch crisis", and limited polygyny might possibly help alleviate
the problem.

Martin Stern

From: Robert Rubinoff <rubinoff@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Concubinage revival?

Keith Bierman wrote (MJ 61#08):

> Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#07):

>> I presume Rabbi Abergel is a Sefardi, and therefore not covered
>> by the Cherem Rabbeinu Gershom, 
[The decree (applying to Ashkenazi Jews) putting any man who takes a second
wife into cherem]

> Is the Cherem really still in effect? I recall one talmud shiur where we
> were sent off to try to figure that out, and the consensus appeared to be
> that it "really" only had force for 1000 years (and that afterwards we were
> essentially following it because it had become minhag).

I've heard this lots of times, and I find it very puzzling.  I've never heard of
any other decree that had a time limit (except the one requiring women who inherit
land in Eretz Yisrael because their father had no sons to marry within their
tribe, but that's not a Rabbinic decree).  Does anyone know of an actual source
for this? 


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Concubinage revival?

Leah S. R. Gordon wrote (MJ 61#08):

> Polygyny/concubinage is one of those things like public stonings that we
> should be really grateful to be rid of in this day and age, no matter how
> Orthodox we are.

One point that should be made is that the entire concept of 
polygyny/concubinage seems to have been set up in order to control what 
people were doing anyway or for "sha'as hadechak" (emergency conditions). 
It seems to be very similar to the case of "Yefas Toar" (woman captured 
in war) where the Torah implies that it should not be done, but if it 
were to be done, at least do it this way.

Whenever multiple wives are explicitly mentioned, trouble will ensue. 
Consider Avraham, Sara, and Hagar. Consider the tension between Rachel 
and Leah and the trouble it led to between Yoseph and his brothers. 
Consider King David and the trouble with Avshalom (the son of a Yefas 
Toar). In any case, the ideal has always been a monogamous couple. The 
gemara mentions cases of difficult marriages but does not consider the 
possibility of having multiple wives as a way of avoiding the problems. 
In the discussion of an infertile couple, the discussion is about the 
idea of the couple splitting and marrying another (as it may be the two 
of them as a couple that are infertile) and does not bring up the 
possibility of the man marrying a second wife (while still married to 
the first wife).

Many discussions of halacha involve "boundary conditions" or unusual 
circumstances that should normally be avoided. This discussion too is of 
something that should be avoided and is a bad thing to have happened, 
but sometimes we are faced with the situation and need to see what is done.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz 

From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Concubinage revival?

Leah S. R. Gordon wrote (MJ 61#08):

> Seriously?  Four men reply (MJ 61#07) to the "concubinage" question
> and all they have to say is hey, consider polygyny instead but anyway
> don't forget to send her to the mikvah.  Sometimes I think I'm on a
> different planet from the rest of M.J.
> Does it sound like a nice life for the concubine? ...

I was not advocating polygyny as an alternative to concubinage;
I was asking why the justifications given for concubinage were
any more compelling than for allowing polygyny which (due to
secular law and, for Askenazim, minhag) we generally do not allow.

As for whether it's a nice life for a concubine, I don't think the people
proposing or sanctioning concubinage care about my opinion.

Unfortunately, the acceptance since the 1960s of sexual promiscuity
in secular society (based on the axiom that "what consenting adults
do sexually in the privacy of their own homes is no one else's business)
may prevent the secular authorities from doing anything about it.

Frank Silbermann      Memphis, Tennessee


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Meat after Tisha B'Av

Isaac Balbin wrote (MJ 61#08):

> When Tisha B'Av falls on Shabbos (as was the case this year), we fast on the
> 10th of Av (the subsequent Sunday). Immediately after the fast, we are normally
> not permitted to eat meat because there was still fire burning on the 10th. This
> year, it's technically the 11th when the fast ended. Yet, Ashkenazi Poskim
> (decisors) still prohibit the consumption of meat. The Mishna Brura refers to a
> responsum of the Maharil. I still have trouble understanding the rationale.

If I recall a shiur correctly, it could be a matter of "zilzul hatzom" 
(making light of the fast). That is that since meat and wine are considered 
simcha, then it is as if we are immediately throwing away the mourning 
that we have just gone through and shown that we did not really intend 
to mourn. Since we are allowed to begin washing our laundry immediately, 
I think that it is the extra measure of simcha shown by wine and meat 
that is being avoided.

Perhaps the analogy could be to rushing out of shul after davening or 
the way Bnei Yisroel were castigated for leaving Har Sinai like children 
having been dismissed from school and running out.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz

From: Yisrael Medad <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Meat after Tisha B'Av

Isaac Balbin (MJ 61#08) expresses having trouble understanding the
rationale not to eat meat until the day following a postponed Tisha be'Av.


(a) it could be that they don't want people mixing up the 10th into
11th situation with the regular 9th of Av into 10th and are stingent;  

(b) it's not that healthy to eat meat after a fast in any case.
That seems rational to me.

Yisrael Medad


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 07:01 AM
Subject: No Mechitza - what to do?

Deborah Wenger (MJ 61#08) addresses the mechitza issue head on with the 

> Stuart Pilichowski wrote (MJ 61#06):
>>> Here's the scenario: Arrive at shul for Eichah and Kinnot Saturday night.
>>> Someone took the portable mechitzah. Now there's no mechitzah. We have 
>>> a very small minyan of about twenty. Two women arrive.
>>> What to do? Ask them to leave, because we have no mechitzah . . . . or 
>>> stay with us, but seated in the back where you'll be to yourselves?!?!?
>>> Remember, in asking them to leave, they would not go elsewhere and 
>>> they would frankly be insulted.

> Stuart Wise replied (MJ 61#07):
>> Why would they be insulted? Is this not an Orthodox minyan?
>> You would think on their own they would feel they would have
>> to leave. Was there not a hallway where they could sit?

> Change "women" to "people" for a minute.

And, understandably, she continued:

> More than once I have come to a shul, say, to daven mincha when I have to
> say Kaddish, and have been told that there's no mechitza and I'll have to
> stand out in the hall. Believe me, it's insulting to be treated as a
> second-class (or less) citizen.

Although we're dealing with an instance -- that is, a woman comes to shul
and there is for some inexplicable reason no mechitza at that moment --
this is really a standing situation.   A shul must accommodate all of its
members in all of its venues -- be it the "main sanctuary" or the "study
hall" or whatever. As such no one in their right mind would remove a mechitza --
just as no one would take away the Aron or the bimah.

Tangentially one might try to divine some sane explanation of why someone
took away the mechitza - thus leading to this temporary situation - and
similarly one can ponder re: how to jury rig some kind of mechitza -- but the 
key issue is one of attitude towards all members.

I recall when I worked at Bellcore (Bell Communications Research) that
there was a Mincha minyan in a meeting room in one of the office buildings.

When a female employee asked to participate in the Mincha minyan, a portable
mechitza was built -- one that could be temporarily erected in a meeting
room and then taken down and stored.   The slight inconvenience was well worth

A related issue that occasionally occurs in our shul is a woman comes to
say kaddish and there is no man saying kaddish at that minyan. The informal
accommodation is to have one of the men say kaddish (even though he has no
cheyuv).   I wonder what other congregations do in this circumstance?

Somehow I'm feeling like a "liberal" after reading what I wrote above --
but in actually it is a conservative (small "c') viewpoint, even for those
who would remind us that women do not have the obligation to daven .....

Carl Singer

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 12:01 PM
Subject: No Mechitza - what to do?

In reply to Deborah Wenger (MJ 61#08):

It would seem to me that it would have been better if Deborah had notified
the shul in advance that she wished to come to, presumably, a weekday
minyan. Since it is very rare for ladies to attend then, the facilities are
not usually available but, given sufficient warning, an ad hoc mechitzah
could no doubt have been arranged. If it ever became the norm for ladies to
come to daven with a minyan on weekdays then a mechitzah would almost
certainly be included in the design of every beit hamidrash. She should
realise that not every shul can have permanent arrangements for all unusual

Martin Stern


From: Yisrael Medad <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 09:01 AM
Subject: On Planting And Not Planting Trees

Sammy Finkelstein (MJ 61#08) wrote:

> The New York Times had an article last week about some Jews not
> chopping down fruit trees.

Some of us in Israel are discussing the need to chop down trees or better,
not plant them.

a) the story

b) the Halachic response (in Hebrew)

c) and a Google translation from a news story:

Although Jewish law forbids the planting of trees on the Temple Mount, a
palm tree was planted again today (Tuesday) in place of one that fell near the
stairs on the western section by the raised level, behind and near the Western
Wall. According to Torah law, the planting of trees on the Temple Mount is
forbidden, as it is written: "You shall not plant an asherah [ritual tree] near
the altar of the Lord your God."

Some rabbis visiting the Temple Mount tend to tear the tree leaves, as the
commandment permits such cutting. After some trees collapsed in recent years on
the Temple Mount, a few days ago a palm tree that stood near the stairs on the
west collapsed. Despite instructions that on the Temple Mount nothing is to be
altered without the permission from municipal authorities, and despite promises
to observe such instructions so that works on the Mount should not damage any
archaeological finds, the Muslims planted today a new palm tree instead. This
without authorization and contrary to regulations.

Web sites of Arab Palestinians accuse the police, the Israel Antiquities
Authority, and the Jews praying on the Temple Mount as responsible for the
collapse of the trees.

They say police are interested in maintaining a wide field for cameras placed
on the Mount as well as the excavations conducted by the Antiquities Authority
under the Al Aqsa for causing the tree to fall.  The Jews praying on the
Temple Mount are accused of inserting unknown chemicals into dried roots of
trees to cause the collapse.

Yisrael Medad
Mobile Post Efraim 44830


From: Leah S. R. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Ritual handwashing after childbirth

In MJ 61#08, Orrin Tilevitz writes:

> Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#07):

>> Presumably, this was done because during labour her hands very likely
>> touched parts of her body that are normally covered. Others in such a
>> situation would have to wash their hands, so why should she be any
>> different?
> I am not sure why one would so presume -- the ob/gyn would presumably keep
> her hands out of the way for sanitary reasons -- but is this requirement true
> generally, or only before one davens?

I'm not sure if Mr. Tilevitz has attended any births, but he certainly has
not attended any birth that I would want to take part in, if he assumes

1. The ob/gyn would be in control of where the mother's hands are; or that

2. The mother wouldn't touch her own baby as he/she comes out, to guide and
welcome him/her into the world and/or feel the pushing progress as
encouragement - my guess is that this would involve also touching her own

When I first read this, I actually thought that the "her" must refer to the
"ob/gyn" i.e. the ob/gyn or midwife would keep her own hands out of the
way, which in fact is the "best practice" for many natural births to reduce
infection (though was not so for my three births, which also happened to be
medically assisted).

That said, I think the ritual washing idea is interesting.  Certainly I was
eager to wash up [non-ritually, with soap!] after my births.  OTOH, I was
even more eager to have a huge drink of water, so I hope the attendant was
really clear to the new mom as to what to do with the water and cup!  :)

--Leah S. R. Gordon

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Ritual handwashing after childbirth

In reply to Orrin Tilevitz (MJ 61#08):

Even if Orrin is right regarding the genital region, it is highly likely
that her hands would come into contact with other normally-covered parts
(which would include almost her whole body, excluding her face and forearms).

Martin Stern


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Waiting for the Rabbi

Martin Stern writes (MJ 61#08):

> Some people are very particular not to start until they are absolutely sure
> that 10 (so that those 10/the "minyan o rov minyan" should be able to answer
> "amen" to his brachot, as required by halachah) are ready,

If I read Martin correctly, he is saying that waiting for 10 men to finish is
only a late chumra. I used to think so too, but then, if I remember correctly, I
saw in all of the Mishna Brura, Chayeii Adam, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, and the
Shulcan Arukh harav -- all of the poskim I could get my hands on in shul at
short notice -- that starting chazarat hashatz before 10 men are finished is
"karov livracha levatala".

That leads to the question of how many men one must wait for if one winds up
saying chazarat hashatz without a minyan altogether (because someone has left).

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Waiting for the Rabbi

Chaim Casper wrote (MJ 61#08):

> Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#06) about a Rosh Yeshiva who visited his
> synagogue while the mara d'atra (the synagogue rabbi) was away.   The
> Rosh Yeshiva's davening was overly long.   Martin's question was should
> the shaliah zibbur (prayer leader) have waited for the Rosh Yeshiva?

> Rav Dovid Lifshitz, zt"l, was a Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS (the yeshiva part
> of Yeshiva University), a former member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah and the
> former president of Ezras Torah.   Precisely because of Martin's
> question, Rav Dovid would daven by himself away from a minyan when he
> davened at synagogue instead of the yeshiva.  He did not want the ba'alei
> batim (shul members) to wait for him as he felt that honor solely
> belonged to the synagogue rabbi.

Truly a lesson for everyone in humility (see my comment in MJ 61#05), but he
could have spoken to the gabbai (or shatz) and asked them not to wait for
him. Then he could have davenned with a minyan without being an
inconvenience to anybody.

Martin Stern

From: Elliot Berkovits <eb@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 10,2012 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Waiting for the Rabbi

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#08):

> Perets Mett wrote (MJ 61#07):
>> It is customary to wait for the shul's rabbi.
I have often wondered if the proper thing to do would be to wait until
the Rov has finished saying Oseh Shalom. That way he too can answer
Amein and listen to the first and most important Bracha of Chazaras
Hashatz. This appears not to be the common practice (although recent
correspondence might indicate that it is therefore correct!). I once
tried it, but was ''Nu''d and hurried incessantly into starting, so that
put paid to it (on Shabbos as well - people obviously in a rush for the
Mitzvos Hayom, kegoin Chulent veKadomeh [such as Chulent and similar foods --

> This of course only applies if he is present. Otherwise the Shulchan
> Arukh rules that we wait before starting chazarat hashatz for "minyan o
> rov minyan". The first clearly means "10 adult men" whereas the second
> means "the majority of these 10, i.e. 6 men".
> What I write below applies primarily to weekdays when people may have to
> leave shul at a certain time.
> Unfortunately some people mistranslate the word "minyan" to mean
> "congregation" and want to wait until more than half of them have finished
> (e.g. if there were 50 they would wish to wait until 26 have finished). This
> is an unfortunate example where changes in language usage give rise to
> misunderstandings of halachah (in this case a very big chumra)

I am gratified that Martin has brought this up, as a shul I daven in has an
aveil who persists in waiting an undefined amount of time after 10
people have finished their amidah, to the annoyance and inconvenience of
many. I suspected he was wrong (having never seen such a practice
before), yet never found the time to investigate a specific mekor. Now I
shall gently ask him what his mekor is, while showing him the above.
Perhaps there are dissenting Shitos [opinions -MOD].

> ...
> It seems that they also do not count people with hearing aids, lest they are
> considered not really to hear the shatz directly, or post-barmitzvah boys, 
> lest they not have brought shtei se'arot [reached physical maturity] or even 
> if they suspect some may not pay attention and answer "amen" because they are 
> learning or, G-d forbid, talking to their neighbour. The downside of such  
> delays is that sometimes people get bored and go out to the lobby to read the 
> notice board, which compounds the problem in that the shatz cannot see them  
> and count them to allow himself to start, even though they would return once 
> they heard him begin. What do others think of these stringencies?

I believe that some seemingly strange Chumras could be due to plain
ignorance. Most people do not set out to be difficult on purpose. For
example, a certain local shul is very makpid that the maftir not start
haftorah until the sefer torah is wrapped, without realizing that the
reason for this is the importance of the haftorah being followed by all
(even by the magbiah), yet many of its mispallelim overtly do not pay
attention to the haftorah. 

Two other pet 'favourites' of mine are 

(a) the bobbing up and down 3 times when finishing shemoneh esreh (which appears
to be a simple mistake, confused with the waiting after the Amidah until
Kedusha) and

(b) the different versions of 'flailing around' when putting on a tallis
- some people do not seem to have the slightest clue what they are
doing. As far as I was aware, it involves replicating the Atifas
Yishme'elim (Arabic headgear), to be yotzeh the opinion that for levishas
tallis [wearing a tallis -MOD] requires the rosh[head] to be wrapped, not just
the guf [body]. 

As I say, I believe it is ignorance of the actual requirements of Halacha that
can lead to strange Chumras. 

Eliezer Berkovits


End of Volume 61 Issue 9