Volume 61 Number 20 
      Produced: Sun, 26 Aug 2012 04:15:49 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Accommodating both women and men in shul 
    [Chana Luntz]
Arkaot shel Akum (3)
    [Leah S. R. Gordon  Bill Bernstein  Josh Backon]
Benching gomel 
    [Joel Rich]
Jewish Holiday Calendar Card 
    [Jacob Richman]
Tircha detzibbura (was Benching gomel) 
    [Joel Rich]
Unknown Paternity (was "Concubinage revival?") 
    [Elie Rosenfeld]


From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Sat, Aug 25,2012 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Accommodating both women and men in shul

Martin Stern writes (MJ 61#14):

>Women do not have any obligation to participate in public prayer 

Note that we appear here to be conflating two separate issues.

The discussion on Mail Jewish started by Stuart Pilichowski writing in MJ 61
#06 - No Mechitza - What to do? "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."  
ie the discussion is about Eicha and Kinnot.

On the other hand, Martin Stern, above, is discussing public prayer - which
is about saying (at base) Shmonei Esrei with a minyan, and associated divrei
kedusha (ie kaddish, kedusha, borachu).

If you are going to have a halachic discussion about women's obligation, you
need to distinguish these two.

Because, there is, although many people appear to be unaware of it, a debate
in the sources regarding women's obligation to attend and listen to kriat
haTorah [the reading of the Torah portion] on Shabbat.

Mesechet Sofrim in Perek 18 halachot 5 and 6 (that is the Bar Ilan edition
numbering, others have slightly different perakim, such as 19 and different
halachas, such as 4), one of the minor tractates of the Talmud, appears to
say that women are as obligated in hearing kriat haTorah as men on Shabbat
(but not on Yom Tov), and for that reason they do (and it is important to
do) the targum [ie translate] of the portion read on Shabbat, so they will
understand (but this is not done on Yom Tov). 

No less than the Magen Avraham (Orech Chaim siman 282:6) writes: 

"... But in Mesechet Sofrim perek 19 it writes that women are obligated to
listen to the reading of the sefer like men and it is a commandment to
translate for them that they understand.  But now the custom is that the
women go outside".

The Mishna Brura siman 282:12 thus brings:

"... and the Magen Avraham writes in the name of Mesechet Sofrim that women,
even though they are not obligated in talmud torah in any event, they are
obligated to listen to the reading of the sefer like men. And we are not
accustomed to be careful in this; the opposite, there are places where the
women have the custom to go outside at the time of the reading."

The Aruch HaShulchan in Orech Chaim Hilchot Shabbat Siman 282 si'if 11 takes
issue with this view and says you cannot just go saying that women are
obligated to go every Shabbat to listen to the kriat haTorah, this is a
positive mitzvah dependent upon time, and the actions of every day prove it
(ie that women don't go), and that rather the Masechet Sofrim was just
expressing a form of mussar to those who were translators in those days to
translate well for the women.

Now the Bnei Banim (Chelek Sheni siman 10 pp 42-43) suggests a
reconciliation of these two views, namely that women are only obligated to
listen to the kriat hatorah if they are already in the shul, but not that
they are required to go to shul if they are not already there.  He therefore
explains the reason for the custom of the Magen Avraham's time for women to
leave and go outside was because there were no longer any translators, but
that if the women stayed it would become obligatory on the men to translate
for them.  He therefore concludes that today, since everybody has access to
a Chumash with a translation, there is no need to call out a translation
verbally and therefore it is wrong (halila l'hen) for women to go out.

What is also extremely interesting about this is that the actual discussion
in Masechet Sofrim is, at least initially, about Eicha.  The words of
Masechet Sofrim I translate as follows:

Halacha 5

There are those who read a book of Lamentations in the evening, and there
are those who wait until the morning after the reading of the Torah, and
after the reading of the Torah one stands, and his head is [covered] in ash
and his clothes are [torn] and he reads crying and wailing.  And if he knows
how to translate, good, and if not, we give it to one who knows to translate
well, and he translates so that it should be understood by the rest of the
people, the women and the children, because women are obligated to listen to
the reading of this sefer like men, and all the more so males, and similarly
they [the women] are obligated in the reading of the shema and in prayer and in
grace after meals and in mezuzah and if they do not know in the holy
language, we teach them in any language that they will listen and learn.
And from here they said that the one who blesses needs to raise his voice
because of his little sons and his wife and daughters.
Halacha 6
According to the law the one who translates for the people, for the women and
the children, each portion and the prophets on Shabbat after the reading of
the Torah, and this is what is said, that on Shabbat they [the women] are
early to come in order to recite the shema "kvatikin" with sunrise and they
are late to go in order that they should hear the explanation of the
portion, but on the festivals they are late to come, because they need to
fix the food for Yom Tov, and are quick to go because it is not according to
the law to explain to them like it was said on Rav that he would not place
an expounder by his side from the beginning of Yom Tov until the next day.

It is also interesting to note that the statement "because women are
obligated to listen to the reading of the sefer like men" (ie in Halacha 5)
is quoted much more widely in relation to Eicha than the more general
discussion regarding the Shabbat Torah reading. Because this obligation is
brought in Machzor Vitry siman 527, Sefer Ha'aguda perek 16, the Torat
Ha'adam of the Ramban, sha'ar haavel - inyan avelut y'shena, and the Tur
Orech Chaim Siman 559 and commented on by the Bet Yosef there - all in
relation to the reading of Eicha.

And it is also fascinating to note that as far as I am aware, among the
Eidot HaMizrach (not being Yemenites), the only time they still do targum,
ie translate what is being read, is on Tisha B'Av.  Note that the targum
they do is different from the kind of targum done by the Yemenites every
Shabbat.  The Yemenites I believe  generally read what is formally known as
"the Targum" ie Onkelos, even though that may not be understood by many.
But the targum that is done by the Edot HaMizrach on Tisha B'Av of the
haftorah is a real translation - done in Spanish or Arabic or, in the more
modern shuls, in English.

And certainly it would seem that women are included in all of the (by
definition rabbinic) mitzvot of Tisha B'Av, including those that appear to
be positive mitzvot (such as seudah hamafseket) - even though one might have
thought they were mitzvot aseh shehazman graman (positive mitzvot dependent
upon time), which even where rabbinic, we generally hold women are exempt.
But it would seem that just as women are obligated in the mitzvot of
mourning, so too here, ie it is just a form of mourning that happened to be
caused by the events on Tisha B'Av, not a genuinely time bound commandment.

Whether reading Eicha is in fact a custom or a rabbinic obligation might
link into the dispute over whether one should say a bracha "al mikra
megilla" over Eicha if it is read from a scroll on Tisha B'Av (see
discussions surrounding the beginning of Orech Chaim siman 559).
Particularly if one considers it pure minhag, there may be grounds (other
than those cited by others here) for not requiring a mechitza.  Although
this gets into the topic of mechitza, and when it is or is not required,
which is a bit too big to contemplate here.

But if you do hold that there is a requirement for a mechitza on the reading
of Eicha in the presence of two women, there would seem to be a strong
argument, based on the above Masechet Sofrim, and the numbers of rishonim
who line up to quote it in relation to Eicha, for the necessity for the shul
to take the trouble to rig up a mechitza (this not being Shabbat when doing
so might be a problem in circumstances where it is in fact halachically

I did want to make some comments about women's obligations vis a vis public
prayer - but this submission is long enough, and it is sufficiently late,
that I will send it as it is, and (bli neder) write something about women
and shul going for tefilla another time.

Shavuah Tov



From: Leah S. R. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 24,2012 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Arkaot shel Akum

In MJ 61#19, Chaim Casper writes:

> I have tremendous difficulties with R` Yosef's position and Josh's
> explanation. The courts in Israel are not idolatrous courts nor are they
> gentile courts. They are courts run by mostly Jews who are applying laws
> that were legislated by a parliament that is overwhelmingly Jewish and
> that quite often (if not all the time) had input from Orthodox scholars
> as to the halakhah as it applies to a particular subject.  True, they are
> not batei din run by dati or haredi rabbis.  But on the other hand, they
> are not idolaters.  Some judges are dati (Jewish observant), others are
> hiloni (secular) and some are anti-dati (and, of course, there are a small
> minority of Moslem and Christian judges which according to the RaMBa"M,
> the Meiri, and Yehudah Halevi are not idolaters).
> [...]

In the interest of space, I didn't include the rest, but I found his
reasoning very compelling and his point of view 100% sympathetic.  We
absolutely need more people who feel this way, instead of those who would
drive more wedges between Jews and other Jews.

I also thought Chaim's description of the U.S. court system as fair and
reasonable was right on track, and it's really not comparable to the crummy
opportunities for secular justice afforded to our people even a few decades
ago in the secular world, let alone centuries.

I disagree only with this:

> In a perfect world, all Jews would go to bet din for all civil and criminal
> adjudication.

As I've said before on MJ, I disagree with this sort of statement.  It
remains my firm belief that any religious decision/practice should be
totally voluntary.

I believe that all people, including Jews, should have the national right
to set up a secular system of courts according to modern secular law.  I
have a personal problem with all justice being relegated to the religious
sphere, particularly in a system that disallows women from being

--Leah S. R. Gordon

From: Bill Bernstein <billbernstein@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 24,2012 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Arkaot shel Akum

In response to Chaim Casper's post (MJ 61#19), I have often commented in
connection with the state of Israel that just because the restaurant is owned by
Jews, that doesn't necessarily make it kosher. Israel is a secular state. Its
laws are a mix of Ottoman law, British law, Jewish law, and others. The Knesset
passes laws often without regard for halakha, and probably often with the laws
of European countries or America in mind. The judges rule based on
interpretations of those laws and case law, seldom based on halakha. None of
that is improper or wrong, imo. But pretending that secular Israeli courts
somehow are equivalent of batei din and the judges basically rabbis without
smicha (rabbinic ordination) is simply missing the mark.

As to Rav Ovadia's ruling, I am not sure what is helped by such a thing.

Bill Bernstein
Nashville TN.

From: Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 24,2012 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Arkaot shel Akum

Chaim Casper (MJ 61#19) wrote:

> I have tremendous difficulties with R` Yosef's position and Josh's 
> explanation. The courts in Israel are not idolatrous courts nor are
> they gentile courts. >They are courts run by mostly Jews who are applying
> laws that were legislated by a parliament that is overwhelmingly Jewish
> and that quite often (if not all the time) had input from Orthodox scholars
> as to the halakhah as it applies to a particular subject

What's termed Arkaot shel HEDYOT (Jews who are not dayyanim) is permitted
ONLY in a community where there is NO Bet Din. See the Aruch Hashulchan CM 8 #1.
However, wherever there IS a bet din, then Arkaot shel HEDYOT is not permitted.
To reiterate: since there are Batei Din in all the larger cities in Israel,
by definition, government courts are Arkaot she AKUM. It makes no difference
if the judges are religious. In fact, being a religious judge in the secular
courts makes the offense even more heinous (an Issur D'oraita according to 
the Rambam).

Josh Backon


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 24,2012 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Benching gomel

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#19):

> Joel Rich wrote (MJ 61#18):

>> Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#14):
>>> This (Thursday) morning we had a troop of people come up one after the other
>>> to bench gomel, delaying the davenning interminably. IMHO it would be much
>>> better if the gabbai would call out before the first one that he would be
>>> doing so in order to be motsi (exempt) everyone else present and not permit
>> this tircha detzibbura. What do others think?
>> The Chashukei Chemed (R' Yitzchak Zylberstein - son in law of R' Elyashav 
>> z"l) in his commentary on Masechet Berachot says it would be an issue unless 
>> it is obvious that the folks are being exempted (e.g. they stand by the bima 
>> when it is  being said).

> Does he consider it insufficient for the gabbai to announce that the person
> would be exempting all those who wished to be exempted from benching gomel?

He doesn't say, but the logic would seem to require that it be obvious who the
individuals were who were giving thanks

Joel Rich


From: Jacob Richman <jrichman@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 24,2012 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Jewish Holiday Calendar Card

Hi Everyone!

I created a new, three year, Jewish holiday calendar card which
I posted on my website for you to view, download or print.
The address is:


There are two image sizes and an Acrobat PDF file.

For best printed results use the Acrobat PDF file.
When printing the PDF file use the print option "fit to print margins".

Shabat Shalom,


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 24,2012 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Tircha detzibbura (was Benching gomel)

Menashe Elyashiv wrote (MJ 61#19):

> If possible, one could wait until Shabbat if he does not want to rely on
> someone's bracha. On weekdays, if someone asks to say hagomel, I announce that
> he will say it for whoever wants to rely on him.

It's nachon (correct?) to say it within 3 days of the event - see  S"A O"C 219:6.

Joel Rich


From: Elie Rosenfeld <rosenfeld.elie@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 24,2012 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Unknown Paternity (was "Concubinage revival?")

Leah Gordon wrote the following (MJ 61#08), at the end of a post (with
which I was otherwise in strong agreement) on the negative aspects of

> In the olden days, polygyny was practiced, some think, in cultures where
> known paternity was a priority (not universal in all cultures, by the
> way), and it was thought to be a good way to assure known parentage.  In
> actuality, studies seem to show that known or enforced paternity was more
> a result of low status/power of women, often correlated with severe
> restrictions on their education and mobility.

I was quite surprised that there have been no responses to this item and
would be interested in a more detailed explanation of this assertion from
the author, and further discussion of this view from a halachik standpoint.

I guess to start with the obvious, paternity is of paramount importance in
numerous areas of halacha.  In fact, a Jewish child of unknown paternity is
more or less in the category of a mamzer and forbidden to marry most other

>From a sociological standpoint, while there are segments of the underclass
where it is not uncommon for women to have babies who will never know their
fathers, this is certainly not a situation to be admired or emulated.  In
fact - exactly the opposite of the original conclusion above - it seems to
me that it is just those women of "low status/power" who are most often
stuck with the onerous burden of single motherhood.

Thoughts?  Comments?

- Elie Rosenfeld


End of Volume 61 Issue 20