Volume 61 Number 38 
      Produced: Mon, 24 Sep 2012 04:00:08 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A redundant word? (2)
    [Josh Backon  Martin Stern]
Chumra culture (was Just say no -- make that NO!!!!) 
    [Martin Stern]
Examining the issue of Metzitzah BePeh 
    [Barak Greenfield]
Gender Relationships 
    [Meir Shinnar]
The latest chumra? 
    [Martin Stern]
Touching tefillin (was Tzitzit during Shema) 
    [Menashe Elyashiv]
Whose baby is it? 
    [Yisrael Medad]


From: Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 16,2012 at 09:01 AM
Subject: A redundant word?

Martin Stern asked (MJ 61#37):

> This (Shabbat) morning I noticed a strange usage in a mizmor we say 
> every Shabbat (145,17): "af ein yesh ruach befihem". The word 'yesh' seems 
> redundant and none of the commentators I consulted (Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Redak, 
> Metzudot, Malbim, Hirsch) explained its relevance. Can anyone suggest its
> significance?

Daat Mikra suggests that this phrase comes to strengthen the idea that
there is NOTHING behind it ("ba'ah l'chazek she'ein kol mamash"). Other
commentators indicate that understanding this usage is based on one of
the 32 Midot (ways of explaining) Midrash Aggada of R. Eliezer (as per Rashi
in Horayot 3a) and the derivation is Aramaic !! (Lashon Arami). BTW this phrase
EIN YESH also appears in I Samuel 21:9.

Shana Tova

Josh Backon

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 16,2012 at 01:01 PM
Subject: A redundant word?

Further to my posting (MJ 61#37), a further thought struck me, both 'ein' and
'yesh' are joined to 'ruach' with a makkaph so one would have expected the
tserei in 'ein' to be weakened to a segol, the same as in yesh. Has anyone any
idea why it isn't?

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 16,2012 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Chumra culture (was Just say no -- make that NO!!!!)

Carl Singer wrote (MJ 61#37):

> As our generations grow further from Sinai, and as communities with different
> traditions now live together, and as what one might call "halachic politics"
> is practiced among individuals and groups there has been a growing tendency
> towards stringency. Again, to replace halachic accuracy (some might call it a
> "proper derech") with a spectrum along an axis of "leniency" or "stringency"
> distorts halacha...

Probably this mixing of communities with different traditions is at the root
of the problem. There seem to be two ways of reacting, either accept the
most lenient opinion or the most stringent (I know this is a bit of an
oversimplification but, from observation, I think it is broadly correct).
Add to this a degree of intolerance of others (shown by both sides) and this
has led to the widening chasm between the haredi and modern Orthodox worlds.

> Similarly compare the "I don't use an eruv" with, "I use the eruv"  --
> is the former in any way more machmir, "frummer", or whatever than the
> latter? Reword it as "I don't use THIS eruv" and suddenly we have a person
> casting aspersions on the Rabbaim who designed, built and maintain THIS eruv.

I think this is a sensitive point but there is justification for those who
prefer not to make use of almost any eruv.

As Rabbi Shlomo Brody (May one build an eruv within a large city?, Jerusalem
Post, 24 Aug.) wrote:

"Eruvin ... [have] enhanced religious life by allowing families, including
young children and the handicapped, to attend synagogue services and
celebrate Shabbat outside of their homes."
For those who would otherwise be housebound, an eruv is a godsend but it is
a mistake to think its use is 'glatt kasher' .
As he pointed out, however, practically every eruv that covers a large area
(as opposed to one between adjacent houses, in apartment blocks or in narrow
cul-de-sacs) depends on the opinion (of Rashi and some others) that "a
public domain requires the presence of 600,000 people  the number of Jews
included in the biblical census in the desert" (actually far more since
these 600,000 only included males over the age of 20).
>From various Talmudic passages, it is evident that town-wide eruvin were not
constructed even though it is highly unlikely that any town in those days
ever had such a large population. It is little wonder that "this requirement
was listed neither in the Talmud nor by Maimonides".
So it seems that the alternative definition that "for any area (such as a
city street) to be characterized as a public domain, it must be uncovered,
entirely publicly owned, have a minimum width of 7.3 meters (or 9.8 meters
according to some) and allow 24-hour public access" must have been the
accepted ruling.
While those who rely on a town eruv have sources on which to rely, for those
who do not have anything that they really need to carry if they go out, its
use can be problematic. Do the latter really have to bring themselves into a
situation where according to many authorities (Rambam et al.) they are
desecrating Shabbat?

Basically I consider that it is better for those with no pressing need to
try to avoid using any town-wide eruv but they should make it clear that
this is a personal chumra, not even extending to their wives and children,
and not meant to reflect in any way on the kashrut of the eruv.

Obviously each person will have a different level of what they consider a
"pressing need" but must avoid taking a "holier than thou position"
vis--vis others whose position differs from theirs.

Martin Stern


From: Barak Greenfield <docbjg@...>
Date: Thu, Sep 20,2012 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Examining the issue of Metzitzah BePeh

Leah Gordon wrote (MJ 61#37):

> Mr. Greenfield is looking at only 1/3 of the risk analysis situation.
> There are three things to consider in any choice that may cause harm:
> 1. What is the risk of this harm occurring?
> 2. What is the cost (badness) if this harm occurs? 
> (these above two are multiplied to get a sense of how bad an outcome it
> would be)
> and then:
> 3. What is the upside possibility of making this choice?
> Mr. Greenfield accurately assesses #1 above, but misses #2 and #3 entirely.
> In the case of MbP, it is definitely a low probability of dire harm (#1).
> HOWEVER, the cost, or bad outcome, if it causes harm (#2), is nearly
> infinite - babies dying, chillul hashem, etc.

The example given was being hit by a car while crossing the street. Are you
suggesting that someone dying from being hit by a car is not as bad as dying
from complications of MbP? Clearly there are differences, but the "cost
(badness)" (i.e. death) is fairly comparable.

> And furthermore, the upside of MbP (#3) is near zero halakhically, from 
> everything I have read and learned. 

I'm certain she realizes that there are divergent opinions on the matter.

> Potentially one could say that MbP has a nonzero cultural upside in some 
> marginal communities, but I cannot speak for that, and I suspect that in this 
> case, "nonzero" still does not make up for the harm.
> One cannot compare something like earning a living, or taking a vacation,
> which have very significant upside potential.

Taking a vacation has upside potential and justifies a minute risk of death, but
a religious activity doesn't? As another poster pointed out, if one holds that
MbP is required, it most certainly has "very significant upside potential."
Consider crossing the street to get to an ice cream shop. Most people would
accept the minute risk of death inherent in this activity. Don't you think that,
for someone who holds MbP is required, the importance of doing so is at least as
much of an upside potential as going to an ice cream shop?

Steven Oppenheimer wrote (MJ 61#37):

> We can make excuses and try and obfuscate the issue.

No one is obfuscating anything. The question is the propriety of performing, or
whether the State should regulate, a very low risk activity that some people
believe is extremely important to be able to perform, and others think is

Ben Katz wrote (MJ 61#37):

> Metzitzah bapeh is insanitary.
I hope you're not proposing to ban it because it's insanitary (like eating off
the floor); I assume you feel it's dangerous.

> The fact that we are even arguing about it demonstrates the inherent 
> conservatism of religion and (some would say) what is wrong with (some
> segments of?) Orthodoxy.

Halacha is supposed to be conservative in the sense that it does not change
unless it, itself, authorizes the change. For example, we don't allow someone to
violate shabbos unless there's a reason permitted by halacha, such as pikuach
nefesh. There are other reasons ("it's old-fashioned", "it makes me earn less
money", etc) for which we are not permitted to violate shabbos. And there are
mitzvos that we don't violate even for pikuach nefesh. Halacha is not held to
some higher authority that determines whether it needs to be obeyed. It is
answerable only to itself. So it may give way to pikuach nefesh, if such a
situation exists, but that's only because it allows itself to give way.

> Herpes, HIV, syphilis and TB are just some of the diseases that can be
> transmitted this way.

When was the last case of TB transmission via MbP? You know that the real
question is what the risk is and whether that risk is acceptable. Again,
everything in life has risks.

> The Talmud says to do this because of what it thought was a health benefit,
> which is clearly not the case. There are perfectly acceptable halachic
> alternatives accepted by many gedolim of the past 200 years, such as using a
> suction device or putting a barrier between one's mouth and the baby's blood.

Again, that may be your and many others' understanding of the halacha, but it is
by no means universal.

> I hope this is the last time I need to write this (but I doubt it will be).

I hope that a constructive dialogue continues on this important issue.



From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 16,2012 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Gender Relationships

Barak Greenfield wrote (MJ 61#36):

> Meir Shinnar wrote (MJ 61#35):
>> There is an element of Hillul Hashem involved - which is also directly 
>> related to our ability to function in the larger world. The world at large 
>> may (barely) understand that we have certain limits and things we can't do - 
>> and tolerate it based on pluralism. However, if the reason is not viewed as
>> religious, but based on giving hyper-sexual content to common social  
>> gestures - that will not be tolerated (and even viewed as morally 
>> problematic) - and directly affect the toleration of Orthodox Jews.
> It can't be a chillul Hashem to follow halacha, even if the secular world
> doesn't realize it's halacha. To violate the Torah is a chillul Hashem and to
> follow it is a kiddush Hashem, whatever the opinion of the masses is. For
> example, if the whole world turns against bris milah, would we stop doing it 
> "to avoid a chillul Hashem"? How about the world being opposed to shechita,  
> or being in favor of worshiping a man-god - are these areas of halacha to be
> changed in order to avoid a chillul Hashem? Of course, one can discuss whether
> the intergender contact previously mentioned is mutar or ossur, but according 
> to the opinion that it's ossur, it certainly can't be a chillul Hashem to 
> refrain from doing it.

Mr. Greenfield misunderstands me.  The issue is not following Halacha - but
determining what the Halacha is. For all the poskim who permit contact not
derech hibba, the issue of handshaking is not a straightforward issue (such as
Shechita) - but rather depends on an understanding of the reality - which is in
this case an understanding of what is the emotional context of handshaking in a
social context today.

The problem is that some poskim forbid a handshake because they view it as
sexually charged - which is not a textually based psak but one based on a view
of the world that to most of the world (including much of the Modern Orthodox)
is not only strange, but suggests a deeply disturbed personality - with whom one
wants nothing to do - and that is the Hillul Hashem

I would add that while Halacha can require us to do something that the secular
world views as problematic - when that happens, Halacha itself requires us to
make sure that this is indeed truly required - ki hi chochmatchem uvinatchem
le'eyney ha'amim - Torah is (supposed to be) our wisdom in the eyes of the
nations.  How far one actually applies this of course differs amongst poskim,
but it is a principle.

Meir Shinnar


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 16,2012 at 01:01 PM
Subject: The latest chumra?

On Shabbat I went to a barmitzvah kiddush and noticed that the sushi was
labelled "Milky". As I was intrigued, I asked the caterer what she put into
it. She replied that it was not really milky only that it contained fish and
she wanted to warn those present who had eaten the meaty cholent to avoid
it. While I am aware that the Gemara warns against cooking meat and fish
together because of "danger" and some people are careful not to have them on
the same plate (a big chumra in my opinion) there is, as far as I know, no
requirement to abstain from fish after eating meat. In fact I have a copy of
the menu of the chassunah seudah in 1898 of my wife's grandparents, Rabbi Dr
Emanuel Carlebach (later Rav of the Adass Yeshurun austrit community of Cologne
and a founder member of the Agudah) and Minna Joel, the granddaughter of his
father's predecessor as Rav of Lubeck, at which the fish course was served after
the chicken and asparagus soup and the veal in mushroom sauce.

Are some people just ill-informed or do they really think fish is milky?

Martin Stern


From: Menashe Elyashiv <Menashe.Elyashiv@...>
Date: Fri, Sep 14,2012 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Touching tefillin (was Tzitzit during Shema)

Our (Sefaradi) custom is to wave the Tzitzit and kiss them 3 times: at 'uretem
otom', at 'aharey lavavechem' & at 'laad kayemet'.
Our custom is to touch the hand Tefilla, but not kiss the hand, at saying 
yoser or uvorey hosheh, to touch the hand Tefillah & the head Tefillah 
when mentioned in Shema, and to touch the head Tefillah, and kiss the hand 
at the opening of the Amida. 

These are based on Kabbala

Wishing all the Jewish Mail readers - shana tova, tezku l'shanim rabot 


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 19,2012 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Whose baby is it?

*Two Swedish women are carrying the wombs of their mothers after the
world's first mother-to-daughter uterus transplants.  Specialists at the
University of Gothenburg completed the surgery over the weekend without
complications.  They were waiting until the women get pregnant to consider
the procedures a success, they said. Michael Olausson, one of the Swedish
surgeons, told the Associated Press: "That's the best proof."*

Halachically-speaking, is the baby's mother the woman giving birth or the donor
whose uterus developed the fetus?

Yisrael Medad


End of Volume 61 Issue 38