Volume 61 Number 23 
      Produced: Tue, 28 Aug 2012 10:02:39 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Arkaot shel Akum (2)
    [Sammy Finkelman  Chaim Casper]
Benching gomel 
    [Wendy Baker]
Berov am hadrat Melech (2)
    [Orrin Tilevitz  Isaac Balbin]
Blessing Children on Friday Night (and Erev Yom Kippur)  
    [Perets Mett]
Emotions and Judaism 
    [Joseph Kaplan]
Linguistic change (was Accommodating both women and men in shul) 
    [Menashe Elyashiv]
Modesty at the Shabbos Table 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 24,2012 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Arkaot shel Akum

Chaim Casper wrote (MJ 61#19):

> Josh Backon (MJ 61#18) and Martin Stern (MJ 61#17) discussed Rabbi Ovadia
> Yosef's ruling that "that anyone who sends their children to a secular school 
> or turns to the civil courts system instead of the religious courts for legal
> redress cannot lead prayers services in synagogue"

> Martin had posted an article in the Jerusalem Post that expressed Rabbi Ovadia
> Yosef's position that the state courts in Israel are Arkaot shel Akum (Courts 
> of Idolaters)...Josh answered that this "is based on a gemara in Gittin 88b 
> and codified as halakhah in Shulhan Arukh Hoshen Mishpat 26:1.

If you look at Gitten 88b it doesn't seem to say that. Abaye found
someone in Bavel judging cases of divorce and forcing men to divorce
their wives. He noted that a certain posuk was used by Rabbi Tarfon to
say we need to use our own courts but it can also mean not courts of
ordinary people. The reply was that they are agents of the Sanhedrin
(in Eretz Yisroel).  But for robbery and murder they weren't given this

So here we see,  in the time of the Talmud, no Jewish courts existing
in a certain place for robbery (possibly this means instituting
physical punishments).

We also see the authority depends upon there being a real court
somewhere. But nowadays there is no real semichah. Actual halacha
isn't followed but only pesharah (because of fears that otherwise if
they took money from one person to another they'd be guilty of
stealing, having no actual authority to do so). Isn't that right?

Worse, in many places there are no permanent standing courts that all
Jews in an area submit to. The Rishonim and others were surely only
talking about such courts, not ad hoc ones.

Even worse, the courts actually have no power to enforce their
judgements. What is this about complaining that Jews are not using
Jewish courts ruling according to Halacha when they are not courts in
any sense of the word?

From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 27,2012 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Arkaot shel Akum

Leah S. R. Gordon, Bill Bernstein and Josh Backon all commented (MJ 60#20) on my
post (MJ 60#19) regarding "Arkaot shel Akum."

Leah Gordon disagreed with my statement, "In a perfect world, all Jews
would go to bet din for all civil and criminal adjudication."   She is
right that post-haskalah (the European Enlightment movement of the 18th
century) philosophy makes a distinction between religious law and civil
law.  As a result, anyone who does not want to subject him/her-self to a
religious court can avail him/her-self to a secular court.  (It goes
without saying that in most Western countries, criminal cases are under
the sole jurisdiction of the secular courts.)    But call me a hopeless
romantic for seeing a special nature in Jewish jurisprudence as promulgated in
Seder N'zikin (the section of the gemara that primarily deals with legal
matters) and codified in Hoshen Mishpat (the section of the Shulhan Arukh
that deals with legal matters).   In a perfect world, Jews of all stripes
would appreciate the genius of HaZa"L and would feel comfortable in
subjecting themselves to their authority.

Bill Bernstein objected to my "pretending that secular Israeli courts
somehow are equivalent of batei din and the judges basically rabbis
without smicha (rabbinic ordination)".  My point was not that these two
court systems are compatible (they are not); rather, my point was it
boggles the mind to call a legal system that is overwhelmingly populated
by Jews at all levels "Gentile Courts" or "Idolatrous Courts".    Those
descriptions are very incorrect.  The majority of Jewish professionals
may be non-dati (non-observant) but they are definitely not "goyim."   
And as the RaM"A has pointed out, idolatry doesn't exist today
specifically in the Jewish community.   So we are left with an
unfactuable description that does nothing to mend the dati-hiloni divide
in Israel.

Josh Backon mentioned that there is a distinction between Arka'ot shel
Hedyot (courts run by Jewish laypeople) and Arka'ot shel Akum (courts run
by gentiles and idolaters).      Once again, my original point was that
you cannot call a court system run primarily by Jews an Idolatrous Court.
You may say it is not a halakhic court or a Torah court, but definitely it is
not an idolatrous court (see the RaM"A who points out idolatry has
disappeared from the Jewish community).   Nor can you call it a Gentile
Court as the non-dati in a worst case scenario could only be called
Tinokot She-Nishboo (Jews who were not raised in their youth in a
Jewish manner so now that they are adults, they cannot be held liable for
their actions).

Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL


From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 27,2012 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Benching gomel

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#22):

> Joel Rich wrote (MJ 61#20):
>> 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?

>>> 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
> The problem seems to be whether the whole congregation has to know who is
> benching gomel or whether it is sufficient for the individuals to have
> kavannah to be yotsi [intention to be exempt]. If the word 'shegemalani [who
> has bestowed on me]' is replaced by 'shegemalanu [who has bestowed on us]',
> this should suffice to alert the former - I doubt if they are always aware
> of who is benching gomel even under the usual circumstances

What concerns me about this discussion is that there is no talk of the 
reason for benching gomel.  I have been taught that it is not necessary to 
bench gomel for airplane trips, but I can understand many do.  I have 
benched gomel twice in my life (we were not knowledgeable at the time our 
children were born) and that was on the occasion of two automobile 
accidents my husband and I were in.  These were serious, life threatening 
occasions when the need for the benching was strong for me and, in both 
cases, the Rabbi wanted to make sure that I had the opportunity as I needed 
it.  I can recognize the problem with daily minyanim and time constraints, 
but there needs to also be understanding of the need for the emotional release 
the blessing brings after serious threats to one's life.

Wendy Baker


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 27,2012 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Berov am hadrat Melech

In MJ 61#22, Martin Stern writes:

> I attend a shiur on Shabbat afternoon in a private house timed to end with
> Motsa'ei Shabbat, when we are joined by neighbours for ma'ariv. I have
> noticed that, on the slightest pretext, the minyan is split if there is more
> than one person who wishes to be sheliach tzibbur. I find this practice
> unintelligible and unhalachic.

and asks for comments.

Martin is absolutely right, but as usual he is tilting at windmills. I have done
the same thing. In a nearby yeshivish mega-shtiebel, the minyan for maariv
routinely splits when there is a second chiyuv or, more commonly, a "chiyuv".
When I was saying kaddish there, I frequently had the ammud, and a second chiyuv
or "chiyuv" came along, I would offer to cede the ammud to him -- and my offer
would be rejected. (But then this is the same place that told me I had to wear a
hat as the shatz at mincha because that's what "koved rosh" meant. And the
gabbai who told me this, whom I believe has semicha, was serious.)

From: Isaac Balbin <isaac@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 28,2012 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Berov am hadrat Melech

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#22):

> While I can appreciate the emotional aspect where the two candidates are on
> an equal level of chiyuv, I still find this a infraction of the principle of
> "Berov am hadrat Melekh [there is greater glory to HKBH when there is a
> larger group praying together]". Personally, I always refuse to go into a
> side room to make such a breakaway minyan - let others who do not have these
> qualms do so if they must.

Martin, you do what you are comfortable with. I think one needs to be somewhat
realistic here. One cannot just go to people and tell them in such a situation
"God will be happier if we all daven in one minyan" and quote a Pasuk etc. We
are dealing with people's foibles and their feelings. As such, the IDEAL is to
daven in a larger minyan, but if cajoling people to do so causes a degree of
enmity or worse, then what's the davening worth anyway? One should daven with a
clear head and ensure that the environment is conducive. It may well be that you
are the only one uncomfortable in such a situation and perhaps should daven in
an established Shule Minyan? At worst, they aren't doing it in the best way. I
would hope that in a situation where there were nine in one room and 11 in the
other, and they asked you to move to the other room, you'd do so! Ditto
regarding splitting minyanim for Kadish. I know some do this, and they have
kabalistic notions of "more" kaddish doing "more" for the departed. They have
their calculations, and we have ours, but I don't think it's worth making anyone
upset over such things. We should all have this as the "sins" we have to answer
for after 120.

It obviously bothers you a lot, so write a Kuntres (collection) pointing out the
importance of large single minyanim and distribute it in the places you daven.


From: Perets Mett <p.mett00@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 27,2012 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Blessing Children on Friday Night (and Erev Yom Kippur) 

Orrin Tilevitz (MJ 61#22) wrote:

> How far into their adulthood should children be blessed by parents on Friday
> night? Does it extend past marriage? What about when the children have children
> of their own? Is the answer different on erev Yom Kippur? (I have no family
> minhag either way.) I have so far considered three, meager sources:
> 1. The Art Scroll siddur says that this "mitzvah" applies to "ketanim and
> gedolim" (children and adults), but of course "gedolim" could mean only that it
> doesn't stop at post bar/bat mitzvah.
> 2. Many years ago, I saw an elderly rabbi bless his adult daughter, who then
> must have been in her 50s, but she never married.
> 3. I asked my LOR, who has great-grandchildren. He laughed and admitted never to
> have thought about it. He no longer blesses his children -- he thought he might
> have stopped when they got married -- but said "look, there's no harm in doing
> it."

When my eldest son went to yeshiva I gave him the brocho on Erev Yom Kippur by
phone.  [The original minhag clearly had no provision for this.]

When he married he asked to continue the practice, so now we have a phone hookup
with each of the children (all married) on Erev Yom Kippur (except the one who
lives locally and comes in person).

Perets Mett


From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 27,2012 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Emotions and Judaism

Orrin Tilevitz and Martin Stern raise issues in MJ 61 #22 that although
apparently unrelated struck a common chord with me. 

Orrin raises the issue of when, if ever, parents should stop blessing their
children on Erev Yom Kippur.  I know that my father blessed me until he died
at 90 and I continue to bless my adult children including one who has
children of her own.  To me it's more than "there's no harm in doing it".
Rather, there's much benefit.  Not that I think that the bracha I give will
result in the child getting all the items listed in the blessing; I know
that even though I am a kohain I have no power to make that happen.  But the
bracha engenders a strong parent-child (even adult child) bond.  It is an
expression of love, of connection, of support, of familial bonds.  There is
a sense that this is a continuation of family ties through generations; just
like my father blessed me on erev Yom Kippur, so too was he blessed by his
father, and he by his, and he by his . . . . . And I continue that family
tradition and connection as I bless my daughters.  I don't see this as an
issue of halacha in Judaism; I see it as a matter of the humanity of

And I had a similar reaction to Martin's discussion of breakaway minyanim
when two men who consider themselves chiyuvim wish to lead services.  I'm no
supporter of such breakaways; like Martin I don't attend them.  I was told
by a good friend early on in my aveilut that whatever benefit to the soul of
the departed my leading the service has, giving up that honor to someone,
even with a lesser chiyuv, who has a strong desire to lead the services will
engender a greater benefit, and I acted upon that advice and passed it on to
others. Indeed, in my shul the prevailing ethos is that when two or more
individuals are chiyuvim or even feel like chiyuvim, they either share or
gladly defer.  In fact, I have often commented that the only fights I ever
saw in my shul while I was in aveilut regarding kibbudim and the like was
"you should daven"; "no, you go ahead."   Nonetheless, I recognize that
there is a great deal of emotion involved in this area and not everyone
feels as I do.  So here too, a bit of humanity analysis rather than strict
halachic analysis might be in order.  Death, mourning, remembrance are
issues that touch one's being deeply and effect different people in different
ways.  So my reaction to Martin's issue is that unless there are serious
halachic violations, why not be a bit more understanding of others' emotional

Joseph Kaplan


From: Menashe Elyashiv <Menashe.Elyashiv@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 28,2012 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Linguistic change (was Accommodating both women and men in shul)

In reply to Martin Stern & Ben Katz (MJ 61#22):

I know that BH (Biblical Hebrew) is not the same as MH (Modern Hebrew). 
But I have not seen anyone translate here, except, of course, the Taimanim 
(Yemenites) who translate the Torah & Haftorah on Shabbat & Hag into Aramaic. 


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 28,2012 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Modesty at the Shabbos Table

I thought the latest issue of Weekly Halacha Discussion by Rabbi Doniel
Neustadt (Ki Teitsei) might be of interest to members who may wish to
comment on the matters he discusses:
Question: May Kiddush be recited in the presence of a married female guest
whose hair is not covered?

Discussion: According to Torah law a married (1) woman must cover her hair
whenever she is outside her home (2). In earlier generations, a woman who
failed to do so forfeited her kesubah and was liable to be divorced by her
husband (3). 

In more recent times, when some women erroneously but sincerely believe that
they are not required to cover their hair many poskim held that the husband
was not required to divorce his wife for this transgression, since it was
her ignorance of the Law not her disregard for it which led her to sin (4).

Many theories have been postulated as to why some women, although meticulous
in the observance of other mitzvos, are lax in regard to covering their
hair. Some do not cover their hair at all and others do so only partially.
It must be stressed that this practice is roundly condemned by all poskim.
There are no halachic authorities who permit a married woman to leave her
hair uncovered. Indeed, most recently, in the last few decades there has
been a gradual improvement and many women who did not previously cover their
hair have begun to do so. Since the hair must be covered, it is considered
an ervah  an uncovered area when it is not covered. No male (5) may recite
Kerias Shema, pray, recite a blessing or learn Torah when the uncovered hair
is visible to him.

Consequently, if a married lady with uncovered hair is sitting at your
Shabbos table, Kiddush may not be recited. This halacha applies to ones own
wife, sister, mother, daughter and granddaughter as well. The obligation of
covering the hair requires a married woman to cover all of her hair (6). If
a woman covers most of her hair but leaves part of it exposed, the part
which is exposed is considered an ervah (7). But this includes only the hair
of the head itself. Hair that grows on the neck, the forehead or the
temples, as well as lighter coloured hairs which grow sparsely on the face
(baby hairs) need not be covered (8). (As a basic rule, head hair
includes only hair which could grow in long strands; short, wispy hairs
which cannot grow long are not considered head hair and need not be
covered (9).

In the last century or so, the fact that many women did not cover their hair
presented a serious problem. The halacha that a married womans uncovered
hair is considered an ervah regarding Kerias Shema and all blessings made it
practically impossible for men to recite tefillos and blessings or to learn
Torah in their own homes. In view of this unfortunate reality the Aruch
Hashulchan (10) ruled that in a locale where the majority of married women
do not cover their hair we can no longer consider hair an ervah. In his
opinion, only in a locale where most women keep their hair covered is
uncovered hair considered an ervah. This controversial ruling was
accepted by some poskim (11) and strongly rejected by others (12). Rav M.
Feinstein (13) ruled that one may be lenient only under extenuating
circumstances. (Quite possibly the Aruch Hashulchans leniency may not be
applicable nowadays in many locations as more and more women cover their
hair and those who do not may no longer be in the majority.)

Concerning our case, therefore, the following is the correct protocol:
The preferred solution is to prevail upon the woman, in private without
embarrassing her, to cover her hair at least during Kiddush. If not
practical, then one should look away from the woman, fix his gaze upon a
bencher or a siddur or close his eyes while reciting Kiddush. The same
should be done during recitation of all other devorim shebekdushah including
Birkas Hamazon and learning Torah. (Under extenuating circumstances, when
none of the above solutions apply, one may rely on the Aruch Hashulchans
view that uncovered hair is not considered an ervah.)

If the Shabbos guest is not Jewish, her uncovered hair is not considered an
ervah (14).

If a woman (15) is not dressed properly according to minimum halachic
guidelines (16) whether she is Jewish or not then too, the man saying
Kiddush must avert his face or close his eyes (17). The Aruch Hashulchans
leniency does not apply to immodest dress.

1 Divorced or widowed women are also required to do so, although some poskim
hold that their obligation is Rabbinic; see Igros Moshe, E.H. 1:57. See
Machazeh Eliyahu 118-120 for a complete discussion.

2 According to the Zohar, quoted by many poskim, women should cover their
hair even in the privacy of their own homes; see Mishnah Berurah 75:14 and
Beiur halacha, s.v. michutz, for more details.

3 Kesuvos 72a; E.H. 115:1-4.

4 See Igros Moshe, E.H. 1:114; Doveiv Meishorim 1:124; Lev Avrohom 1:105
quoting the Chazon Ish.

5 But a woman is permitted to daven and recite blessings even though she is
facing another womans uncovered hair; Mishnah Berurah 75:8.

6 See Teshuvos Vhanhagos 1:62 quoting Chazon Ish, Doveiv Meisharim 1:124
and Lehoros Nosan, end of vol. 5.

7 Although in some communities some married women leave a small portion of
their hair uncovered, see Modesty, An Adornment for Life, pg. 236-240, who
explains that this custom has no basis in halacha and should be
discontinued. In addition, even the lenient view which allows exposing a bit
of hair, only permits exposing a small area measuring a square tefach; see
Igros Moshe, E.H. 1:58 and O.C. 4:112-4.

8 A Practical Guide to Tznius, pg. 24.

9 Piskei Teshuvos 75:10.

10 O.C. 75:7.

11 Ben Ish Chai, Parashas Bo 12; Kaf Hachayim 75:16; Seridei Eish 2:14;
Yabia Omer 6:13.

12 Mishnah Berurah 75:10; Chazon Ish, O.C. 16:8; Divrei Yoel 10 and most
other poskim.

13 Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:39, 42, 43; O.C. 3:23, 24; O.C. 4:15; E.H. 1:114.

14 Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:15.

15 Or a girl who is no longer looked upon as a baby or a toddler:
approximately 5 to 7 years old depending on her size and maturity; Chazon
Ish, O.C. 16:9.

16 Minimum halachic standards require that a womans legs from her knee and
above, her arms from the elbows and up and her neckline from the collarbone
and down are completely covered.

17 Mishnah Berurah 75:1; Chazon Ish, O.C. 16:8. Not all poskim agree that
closing ones eyes is sufficient in this situation.


End of Volume 61 Issue 23