Volume 61 Number 48 
      Produced: Sat, 27 Oct 2012 16:30:00 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

An Academic Symposium on Circumcison 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Battle of the sexes! Women should not join Israel's fight  
    [Martin Stern]
Da'at Torah (was Do not Show Them Favour) 
    [Martin Stern]
Do not Show Them Favour (3)
    [Yisrael Medad   Frank Silbermann  Sammy Finkelman]
Please help! 
    [Judy Blustein]
The Yehi Ratzon in Birchas Kohanim (3)
    [Menashe Elyashiv  Yisrael Medad   Elazar M. Teitz]
To say or not to say - Tachanun (3)
    [Joel Rich  Steven Oppenheimer  Elazar M. Teitz]


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Sat, Oct 27,2012 at 02:01 PM
Subject: An Academic Symposium on Circumcison

Further to discussion on the issue, it seems even academia is paying

The Circumcision Debates, Then and Now: Religious Ritual in Historical
Perspective Symposium 

Circumcision, testimony to the divine covenant for Jewish males, drew the
critical gaze of Christians from antiquity to the present as documented in the
recent publication *Judaism in Christian Eyes*, which examines early modern
Jewish practice from the outside. This symposium centers on circumcision's
central role in the formation of Jewish identity, for "new Jews" and in the eyes
of non-Jews. 

*Yaacov Deutsch*, David Yellin College, author, *Judaism in Christian Eyes*;
*Lawrence Rosen* Princeton University and Columbia Law School; 
*Hilit Surowitz-Israel*, Rutgers University; 
*Elisheva Carlebach*, Columbia University, Moderator.


Yisrael Medad


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Oct 19,2012 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Battle of the sexes! Women should not join Israel's fight 

In the local (Manchester UK) Jewish paper, Rabbi Chaim Kanterowitz, a Modern
Orthodox rather than Chareidi Rabbi, writes a weekly "Ask the Rabbi" column.
This week he answered a question on military service for women which might
be something which might form the basis for debate on this sensitive topic
on Mail Jewish. For the present, I shall not give my own personal views on
this matter so as not to prejudice discussion of Rabbi Kanterowitz's

Q MY granddaughter is an observant girl living in Israel. She wants to join
the army, but her father is against it on religious grounds. Is there any
reason a woman should not serve in the Israeli army?

A Halachically this issue is complex and sensitive. The law in Israel is
that every man and woman must serve in the army. There is however a
deferment for men who are engaged in full-time Torah studies, the subject of
significant controversy within Israeli society. Yet women who usually serve
for two years can be exempted as well on religious grounds. This requires a
declaration and statement made in their local rabbinate offices where they
are asked and sometimes interrogated as to their level of observance.

When it is determined that the girl is indeed religious she is given an
exemption. Many girls in the religious Zionist circles then proceed to
volunteer to do national service, although not obligated to do so, where
they work in hospitals or perform other much-needed supportive crucial roles
within Israeli society.

Although there is rising phenomena of girls from religious Zionist
backgrounds serving in the army and doing so with distinction, the consensus
of halachic authorities prohibit this. A book called Leor Hahalacha, written
by Rabbi Shlomo Zevin, prohibits all woman from taking part in war in

In truth, as a father, former soldier and passionate religious Zionist I
personally advocate this position, although it may seem very unfashionable.
Is it not enough that we need to send our sons to the army and endanger
their lives that we now have to send our daughters as well? Having an army
is a necessary evil in this world. We must protect ourselves from our
enemies, whom seek our destruction, but to place our daughters in danger is
folly on several accounts.

Firstly, a woman captured in battle or by an enemy terrorist entity can be
subject to far worse torture than her male counterpart.

Secondly we fight so that our society can live in security. Why subject our
daughters to this?

Authorities such as Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, Rav Tzvi Yehudah Haohen Kook and
the late Rishon Letzion Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, as well as Rav Avraham
Shapirah, the late Chief Rabbi of Israel, to name but a few personalities
associated with the religious Zionist world, have prohibited enlisting.

There were no woman in the army of King David or the army of Joshua which
conquered Eretz Yisrael.

Lately, with the incident in the south of Israel where a terrorist was
neutralised by a female soldier, the debate has been re-ignited, especially
as a fellow female soldiers hid behind a vehicle and didn't engage the
enemy. I think that the argument of better soldiering or other such debates
are superfluous. The army is a dangerous place for men and woman and this
could have happened to any soldier irrelevant of their sex.

The army is not a place for an observant girl or, in my opinion, any girl.
There are many ways woman can be incorporated into national service.
Hospitals, administration, training and education.that would be more
beneficial to Israeli society. In my view, all religious girls should
volunteer for national service and help build our nation in our land.

I want to add that in no way should you think that we do not owe a great
debt of eternal gratitude to all female soldiers alongside their male
counterparts for willingly setting out to protect us all. They are to be
commended and blessed by Hashem for their mesirut nefesh (giving one's life)
and commitment.


Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 24,2012 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Da'at Torah (was Do not Show Them Favour)

May I thank Chana Luntz for her learned response (MJ 61#47) to my posting
(MJ 61#46) of the Weekly Halacha Discussion by Rabbi Doniel Neustadt. It was
to elicit that sort of discussion that I have been posting some of his, and
other rabbis', publications to MJ whether I agree with them or not.

I think that Chana makes several important points more by implication than

1. One always has to check the references given since the interpretation put
on them by the author may not be the only possible one.

2. There may be other sources that the author omitted but which might go
against his thesis.

3. Often authors have an underlying Weltanschauung that can explain the
former but this may not be expressed explicitly (or even be realised by

As she points out, one has to be aware of these possibilities and cannot
necessarily accept what appears in print at face value.

While it is usually possible, given sufficient erudition, to deal with these
points when discussing halachic matters, there is another situation which is
much more problematic, the concept of Da'at Torah as applied to non-halachic

Where the Da'at Torah is quoted in the name of a particular well-known Rav,
one should consider it carefully as being significant in line with his
erudition, experience, reputation etc., but not necessarily accept it since
it is a da'at yachid [private opinion].

The trouble is that it tends in some circles to be treated as if it is
almost sacrilegious, or heretical, to doubt this Da'at Torah as though the
Rav possessed ruach hakodesh [Divine inspiration]. This strikes me as the
Litvish equivalent of the way Chassidim treat their Rebbes. A problem will
inevitably arise when some other famous Rav gives a contrary opinion on the
same matter.

Unfortunately, it has become fashionable to talk of Da'at Torah as if it had
some Platonic higher existence and the person giving it is merely
transferring it to our world. This problem becomes particularly acute when
the Da'at Torah is quoted anonymously and therefore cannot be challenged on
the strength, or weakness, of the author's standing. In effect it is used as a
way to silence any opposition to the opinions of the person quoting it.

What do other MJ members think of this phenomenon?

Martin Stern


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 24,2012 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Do not Show Them Favour

Chana's analysis and deconstruction (MJ 61#47) reminds me of an argument I
had with Rav MK Meir Meir Kahane on the applicability of and the use he made of
the ger toshav [resident alien observing the Noahide 7 or one who is to be in a
semi-slave existence with heavy taxes applied, see HCJ 742/84] frame of
reference.  I also noted the element of "enough omitted or elided" which
undermined his principled stance.  Not that it got me anywhere but it is amazing
how the more Hareidi outlook can be politically maneuvered on such issues.
Privately, they will agree to the most nationalist position bordering on the
xenophobic but will then publicly assume a minimalist/non-active stance.

Yisrael Medad

From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 24,2012 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Do not Show Them Favour

In MJ 61#47 Chana Luntz gave a long explanation suggesting that Rabbi Doniel
Neustadt overstated his position, understated the counter-arguments, and chooses
to favor a position that is quite inconsistent with the Modern Orthodox approach.

For those who lean toward's Neustadt's position, I would ask whether it is fair
to accuse a gentile of antisemitism for saying that Jews (who follow R.
Neustadt's approach) behave as they do.  Assuming that there is no greater
praise than to say of a Jew that he follows God's commands, does R. Neustadt
believe Jews should feel flattered when a gentile accuses Jews of behaving that way?

Frank Silbermann                        Memphis, Tennessee

From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 24,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Do not Show Them Favour

Frank Silbermann writes (MJ 61#47):

> Was there a Rabbinical decree to extend these laws to peoples other than the
> seven nations of Canaanites, even outside the land of Israel?

Definitely not, as the Rambam doesn't hold like that, and by that time, no
Rabbinoical decree could be made.

R' Doniel Neustadt ia not doing anything to trace any Halacha he finds to its
roots, but just uses sources where different statements of Halacha are made.

He quotes the Rambam, the Gemorah (Avodah Zarah 20a) and the plain sense of the
Torah, as interpreted by the Torah Temimah, but the Shulchan Aruch trumps them
all. (There is a general principle that the later authorities after Abaye, if
they saw everything previous, are the practical Halacha, and that the earlier an
authority is before Abaye the more authoritative it is, and the Mechaber of the
Shulchan Aruch saw nearly everything up to his time, and in general he's relied
on, so that's his reason.)

Now when you hear that, you want to check what exactly the Shulchan Aruch says,
and Chana Luntz seems to have done that. Because this is almost making Joseph
Caro into an Am Ha-aretz.

My question is, is this really anyway a subset of some other laws, i.e. what is
all this talking about - is it when something else is true?

One thing is for sure: There is no way that any laws having to do with the seven
nations applies today, or even did in the times of the Mishnah. So nothing
should be derived from Lo Sechaneim, except as an Asmachta.  Now there might be
some other prohibitions to worry about, namely about what you can or cannot do
when there is a question if you what you do might be helping idol worship along
- or joining in in it.

And the question of land in Eretz Yisroel is a separate matter again, and any
prohibitions rest on some other things, I think actually a special Rabbinical
decree.  Lo Sechaneim has nothing to do with it, nor is the Shulchan Aruch
claiming to the contrary.


From: Judy Blustein <blusteinjudy@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 24,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Please help!

I'm looking for a back copy of The Jewish Digest -- Sept 1971 - VOL XVI.  

Judy Blustein


From: Menashe Elyashiv <Menashe.Elyashiv@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 24,2012 at 03:01 AM
Subject: The Yehi Ratzon in Birchas Kohanim

Martin Stern (MJ 61#47) wrote:

> In German congregations the whole duchaning was chanted responsively by
> the chazan and cohanim with a specific niggun for each festival and they
> extended the niggun before the last word of each pasuk to enable the
> congregation to recite these prayers. Unfortunately this beautiful custom
> is becoming rare because of opposition in certain circles.

This is not the only custom that is becoming rare ... the so called minhag 
lita or minhag yeshvot have become an opposition to many old time customs. 
The everyday birkat kohanim is said fast, but, at many sefaradi cong. it 
is said slowly by tune (makam) on Shabbat & Hag

From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 24,2012 at 04:01 AM
Subject: The Yehi Ratzon in Birchas Kohanim

In MJ 61#47, Martin comments and uses this phrase:

> Unfortunately this beautiful custom is becoming rare because of opposition
> in certain circles.

Well, that is the point.  It is a custom and not obligatory and others
think it not so "beautiful", or prefer a perfunctory recitation or a less
elaborate musical rendition, etc., etc.,  and one cannot please e veryone.

Once something is a custom, it basically is a subjective matter.

Love it or leave it, one could say.

And as for "certain circles", I would presume everyone else looking at another
group sees them as a "certain other".
Yisrael Medad

From: Elazar M. Teitz <remt@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 24,2012 at 01:01 PM
Subject: The Yehi Ratzon in Birchas Kohanim

Martin Stern wrote (61#47):

> The trouble with duchaning in Israel is that it is done every day and tends
> to be rattled off as quickly as possible. While this is understandable on
> weekdays, it is a great shame that this is also done on Shabbat or Yom Tov,
> when there is not such a need to hurry. As a result no time is given for
> saying the Ribono shel olam and Yehi ratson even on Yom Tov 
My experience differs greatly from his.  I have never heard a "rattling off" of
birkas kohanim in Israel.  The shaliach tzibbur says each word, and the kohanim
respond, in accordance with halacha; that is, the kohanim do not begin their
response until the shaliach tzibbur has completely finished the word, and the
shaliach tzibbur, in turn, does not begin the next word until the sound has died
down from all the responding kohanim. The Yehi Ratzon was intended to be while
the process was ongoing; as the shaliach tzibbur and the kohanim were saying the
words: a person who was disturbed by a dream would recite the Yehi Ratzon,
timing his saying so as to finish when the congregation answers Amein, so that
the Amein be on his words as well.  There is enough time to do this in most
Israeli synagogues.

He continued:
> In German congregations the whole duchaning was chanted responsively by the
> chazan and cohanim with a specific niggun for each festival and they
> extended the niggun before the last word of each pasuk to enable the
> congregation to recite these prayers. Unfortunately this beautiful custom is
> becoming rare because of opposition in certain circles.      

Again, my experience differs vastly from his.  I have yet to daven in an
Ashkenazi synagogue or Yeshiva outside of Israel in which the kohanim do not
extend the tune prior to the last word of each b'racha, to allow the
congregation to recite the Yehi Ratzon.  In Sefaradi congregations, the
situation is the same as in Israel, since Sefaradim duchen daily. 



From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 24,2012 at 06:01 AM
Subject: To say or not to say - Tachanun

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#47):

> In the event, the nay-sayers forced through their opinion.  Is this not a
> case of religious coercion? My opinion is that they should have allowed
> those who wanted to say tachanun to say it and merely quietly abstained
> without making a public issue.

OTOH there is the concept of an entire tzibbur doing the same thing or some will
look like they don't feel they need to ask for mercy from HKB"H.

Joel Rich

From: Steven Oppenheimer <steven.oppenheimer@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 24,2012 at 10:01 AM
Subject: To say or not to say - Tachanun

Martin Stern (MJ 61#47) inquires about the propriety of reciting Tachanun after
shkia (sunset).  Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in his responsa opines that one has 13 1/2
minutes after shkia to recite Tachanun (the period of bain hashemashot
according to the Geonim).  Beyond that time, one should not recite
Tachanun.  If there is only enough time to recite Avinu Malkeinu or
Tachanun (on those days where both are recited), one should recite Tachanun.
Steven Oppenheimer, D.M.D.

From: Elazar M. Teitz <remt@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 24,2012 at 01:01 PM
Subject: To say or not to say - Tachanun

On the question of saying Tachanun after sunset, Martin Stern related (MJ 61#47);
> Some people present insisted that we should omit tachanun since it was after
> sunset. Others argued that since we had begun shemoneh esrei early enough
> and tachanun was essentially part of it, it should be said nonetheless.
> Others argued that their minhag was to say tachanun anyway.

The halacha is quite clear, as cited in the Mishna B'rura (131:17), that it is
omitted at night, but that bein hash'mashos (between sunset and nightfall), the
custom is to say it. [It is also mentioned, albeit not by the Mishna B'rura,
that Yerushalayim is an exception; there, it is not recited even one minute
after sunset.]  In any event, the only question is whether or not to perform
n'fillas apayim (the placing of ones head on one's arm).  The prayer itself may
be said even if it is already night. 



End of Volume 61 Issue 48