Volume 61 Number 53 
      Produced: Tue, 13 Nov 2012 15:08:18 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Battle of the sexes! Women should not join Israel's fight 
    [Martin Stern]
Entering a Church 
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
How honesty destroyed S'dom 
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism? 
    [Martin Stern]
Married Orthodox Women's Study 
Mechitzah In Shul: Why and How? (3)
    [Chana Luntz  Katz, Ben M.D.  Katz, Ben M.D.]
Should an aveil act as shatz in the 12th month? 
    [Martin Stern]
Social Reality as a Halachic Consideration 
    [Yisrael Medad]
When did Avraham perform Bris Milah? 
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Nov 4,2012 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Battle of the sexes! Women should not join Israel's fight

Yisrael Medad wrote (MJ 61#49):

> P.S.  I do not think it necessary to stipulate "I shall not give my own
> personal views on this matter so as not to prejudice discussion" as the act of
> selecting the matter is, in a strict sense, an act of prejudice.

I must disagree with Yisrael on this. The column I posted appeared in a
local paper and, therefore, would have had a very limited readership. As
other MJ members will by now be aware, I have been submitting what I
consider interesting opinions which I think might generate discussion,
whether I agree with the views expressed or not. Obviously I do not post
everything I read because much of it is not in the least controversial.

Yisrael's accusation of prejudice sounds like the sort of effort to suppress
dissenting opinions to which I referred in my posting (MJ 61#48) on Da'at

> 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 ...
> 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.

Martin Stern


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 8,2012 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Entering a Church

Orrin Tilevitz wrote (MJ 61#50):

> In MJ 61#49 Martin Stern posts, for discussion, R. Kanterowitz's
> unsurprising psak that it is forbidden to enter a church absent extraordinary
> circumstances, such as a community emergency.
> I used to think so too. Then I asked my rav, Rabbi Jacob Kret, z"tl,
> whether it was permitted to enter to attend a church funeral of a business
> acquaintance. He relied that it was -- one may go in for business purposes. 
> And then a friend loaned me a copy of "The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo's 
> Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican", by Benjamin Blech and Roy 
> Doliner, at least one of whom is an Orthodox Jew and which, it seemed to me, 
> could not have been written without their spending a lot of time in the
> Sistine Chapel.
> So I'd venture that while to enter a church simply to enjoy the scenery or
> the air conditioning may be forbidden, entering with a business purpose or for
> academic interests may be a different story.

When I was on a Jewish History tour of Italy (led by the Rabbi of a local
shul), we were able to go into the Sistine Chapel to see the paintings
because it is not a church, nor do any services take place there (in spite
of the name). We went straight to the chapel and straight back out without
going to other places. We were also not allowed to go to any actual
churches even though they had art work that tourists always went to look at.

We were shown the hidden messages using this book as a source. It is
interesting seeing the "Jewish" influences on the paintings. It was also
interesting to see the subtle political statements that he put into them.

This was all done by someone who was a sculptor rather than a painter. He
regarded himself as a novice painter. If this is the level that he could
reach as a "novice" imagine what he could have done had he been interested in

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 5,2012 at 06:01 AM
Subject: How honesty destroyed S'dom

An honest judge doomed S'dom


Rabbi Sorotzkin asks why does the Torah emphasize that Lot was "at the 
gate of the city". Rashi says that this means that he had been appointed 
a judge. Rabbi Sorotzkin states that Lot was an "honest" judge and could 
not be bribed. He enforced the law impartially without fear or favor. 
Until then, the judges could be bribed and would let people off. That 
meant that people who had committed the "crime" of having guests would 
be allowed to go free. This postponed the doom of S'dom. Once Lot became 
the judge and could not be bribed, there was no longer a source of merit 
in the city and its fate was sealed.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Nov 11,2012 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?

Perhaps I could start a new thread which might be controversial: How should
we relate to the Reform and other non-Orthodox movements? They claim to be
'denominations' within Judaism. In fact, this is a peculiarly Protestant concept,
but this is not surprising, considering that the Reform movement in Germany and
the USA in the nineteenth century sought to remodel Judaism on a Protestant model.

On the one hand, Reform's abolition of the OBLIGATORY nature of halachah in
favour of individual autonomy in relation to practices would seem to be a
fundamental breach with Jewish tradition.  

Even the Conservative movement's attitude on this matter is somewhat ambiguous
in that it seems to make what people actually do almost an arbiter for what they
are allowed to do (e.g. driving to shul on Shabbat).

As one prominent UK Reform clergyman, Jonathan Romain, put it, "We give halachah
the vote but not the veto" in deciding practice! (Actually, in the UK Reform is
more like US Conservatism than US Reform, the equivalent in the UK being called

This is quite apart from these movements' attitude to Revelation, rabbinic
tradition and other more theological doctrines.

On the other hand, there must be some minimal requirements to be a form of
Judaism, else the Jews for J would be able to claim that status - something
they actually do.

Where do we draw the line?

Martin Stern


From: "Frydman" <frydman@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 24,2012 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Married Orthodox Women's Study

Dear Friends- 

My name is Shana Frydman and I am a Social Worker and a doctoral
student of the Social Welfare Program at Hunter College/Graduate
Center of the City University of New York.

With my advisers, Dr. Deborah Tolman (Hunter) and Dr. David Ribner
(Bar Ilan), I am conducting a research study to improve our
understanding about Orthodox married women's experiences.

My hope is that we can use this information to better understand these
experiences and provide better services, support and education.

In order for this survey to have the maximum impact, it has to be
answered by a very substantial population.
Please take some of your valuable time to complete this survey using
the following link if you are:

at least 18 years old
Identify as Orthodox (Shomer Shabbos, Kosher Observant and attend mikvah)

The study involves two parts- the first is a survey and the second a
short written narrative. Each section takes between 20-30 minutes.
It is completely confidential and anonymous. No one, including the
researchers, will be able to trace the identity of any of the
participants in the study.
Your participation is voluntary and you can withdraw at any time.

Please participate before  November 18, 2012.

To complete the survey, please click on the link below:


I would appreciate if you would forward this email to your friends and
family, as well, in order to gather as many responses as possible.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at
Thank you for your time and support,

Shoshannah Frydman, LCSW, MPhil

This study has been approved by the Hunter College (CUNY) HRPP Office,
New York, NY.


From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 12,2012 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Mechitzah In Shul: Why and How?

I wrote in MJ 61#52:

> it can also be understood to be a reflection of the two different forms of
> language brought by the Rambam in describing the takana for the simcha beis
> hashoeva - the first in his perush hamishnayos on Sukkah, where he uses the
> term "shelo yistaklu - they should not see, and the second in the Mishna
> Torah itself in Hilchos Lulav perek 8 halacha 12 where he uses the term
> shelo yisarvu - they should not mix.

I realise on rereading this that I should have more accurately translated
"shelo yistaklu" as they should not gaze, rather than they should not see -
histaklus is usually translated as gazing, with roeh for seeing.  The
distinction comes up in various other halachos regarding the permissibility
of men viewing women, with gazing generally held to be forbidden but
merely seeing a normal part of life.  Equating the two suggests a certain
halachic position that may be held amongst certain groups (e.g. the Gerer
Chassidim) but is not generally the norm.



From: Katz, Ben M.D. <BKatz@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 13,2012 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Mechitzah In Shul: Why and How?

Yisrael Medad  wrote (MJ 61352): 

> Ben Katz's comments (MJ 61#50) were quite interesting but his 5th comment on
> Martin Stern's posting on mechitzah (MJ 61#49):

>> There seems to be no archeological evidence of a mechitzah in nearly 
>> 100 synagogues excavated from the Roman Empire or Israel in the first 
>> seven centuries of the common era; only 5 of those synagogues had 
>> balconies and there is no evidence that they were exclusively the 
>> provenance of women

> seems to be a bit problematic: exactly what type of construction of a mechitzah
> would he expect to survive 2000 years?

I think the idea is not that a physical mechitzah would survive, but that there
might be balconies or that you could tell from the floor plan that there were
separate sections.

From: Katz, Ben M.D. <BKatz@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 13,2012 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Mechitzah In Shul: Why and How?

Chana Luntz wrote (MJ 61#52):

> Ben Katz wrote in MJ 61#50:
>> 1. The great tikun (fixing) described in the Temple of separating the ezrat
>> nashim (where men and women were permitted) from where only men were
>> permitted was instituted on simchat beit hashoayvah, a time of unparalleled
>> frivolity.
> This does not give the full picture.
> Basically in the Temple there was a separation between the ezras nashim
> (where indeed both men and women were permitted) and the ezras Yisrael, where
> it would seem only men were permitted to enter except for a special reason
> (such as at the time of bringing a specific korban).  Men generally passed
> through the ezras nashim to get to the ezras Yisrael, but were unlikely to
> stop there, while this is where the women congregated. There was required to
> be a group of men (known as the ma'amad of that week) standing in the ezras
> Yisrael.  There was yet a further area, the ezras cohanim, where most of the
> real action took place, carried out by the cohanim, where the rules were
> similar, non-cohanim could not come there except for a special reason.  
> On simchas beis hashoayvah, unusually, the action took place in the ezras
> nashim, and it was then that a balcony was built for the women.
> However Ben Katz is right that it is strange that this once a year building,
> during chol hamoed Sukkos, which was explained in the gemora as being to
> avoid frivolity, is cited by numbers of poskim (as Martin Stern brought in
> the name of Rabbi Doniel Neustadt) as being the source for mechitza in shul.
> Especially as the action that took place in the ezras nashim seems to have
> been dancing, and nothing to do with tephila or the general requirements of
> the Temple.
> For this reason R YH Henkin in Bene Banim (chelek aleph, siman 1- 4, chelek
> bet siman 12-13) rejects this idea that the balcony on simchas beis
> hashoayvah is the fundamental source for the requirement for a mechitza in
> shuls today, but rather bases it on the structure of the Temple itself.  He
> further brings Seder Eliyahu Raba perek 8 and also the Yalkut Shimoni
> parshat ki tezei 247 in the name of the Tana D'bei Eliayhu that a man is
> not permitted to daven within 4 amot of women (in public) or within the same
> room if in an a private house, within the whole area.
> I would add that we know from the Mishna in Ta'anis and subsequent gemoras
> (26a) that of the men allocated to a particular ma'amad (there were 24,
> corresponding to the 24 mishmarot, groups of cohanim who took weekly turns 
> to perform the services in the Temple), only some of them went up to
> Jerusalem to stand by while the korbanos were offered in temple, and some
> stayed in their local towns and gathered to have specific services with
> particular Torah readings (corresponding to the services conducted by the
> ma'amad in the Temple itself).  It stands to reason that these services are
> going to be structured precisely like those in the Temple, including the
> structure of an ezras Yisrael and an ezras Nashim (there will be only
> limited need for an ezras cohanim, as most of the cohanim will have gone up
> to Jerusalem to perform the actual Avodah).
>> 2. It sounds like Ezra read the Torah on Rosh Hashanah to men and women
>> together (Neh. 8:1-2).
>> 3. It sounds like men and women worshipped together in the Temple (Judith
>> 4:9-12).
>> 4. At least according to some opinions in the Talmud (Sotah 40b-41a), the
>> King read the Torah (during hakhel) in the women's court.
> Rav Henkin notes at least the last one, but if, as he suggests from the
> Tanna d'bei Eliyahu, the issur is on tephila in the presence of women, then
> Torah reading may be less of an issue.  
>> 5. There seems to be no archeological evidence of a mechitzah in nearly 100
>> synagogues excavated  from the Roman Empire or Israel in the first seven
>> centuries of the common era; only 5 of those synagogues had balconies and
>> there is no evidence that they were exclusively the provenance of women.
> It is very difficult to obtain evidence of this sort from the excavation of
> such synagogues.  Many of these same synagogues have mosaics which show eg
> the sun god in his chariot and other very pagan motifs, along with the
> Jewish motifs making it clear it was a synagogue.  It is hard to know
> exactly how sectarian these were.  Also if one does not know what one is
> looking for, one may not understand what one is seeing.  If indeed the idea
> of mechitza is based solely on the simchas beis hashoayvah, then yes one
> would expect a mandatory balcony, but if it is based on the general layout
> of the temple, then one would be looking for two adjoining courtyards, and
> one would not require that one of them be exclusively for the use of women,
> but only that the other of them be for the exclusive use of men (ie what
> appears to arise from Rabbi YH Henkin's analysis is that it is forbidden for
> a man to daven in the presence of women, but not necessarily the reverse, so
> you need a mechitza in order to enable the men to daven).

I want to thank Chana for taking the time to write such an erudite piece.  I
would just make 2 comments re the archeology/excavation issue that I excerpted

1. See my comments to Yisrael Medad.
2. Re the issue of "sectarian" synagogues:  While the surrounding culture did
have an effect on the architecture and other features of synagogues, the
prevalence of what we would consider today unacceptable art in a shul (eg human
or animal forms, zodiac signs) was very extensive in the ancient world, both in
Israel and the diaspora.  Again, I refer to the evidence marshaled in Lee
Levine's masterwork, The Ancient Synagogue; for example, if you look up Zodiac
in the index and there are about 30 references, many of them illustrated.  This
is why many on the right don't care for archeology, manuscripts, etc. because
they show that things change.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 13,2012 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Should an aveil act as shatz in the 12th month?

There is a minhag that someone acts as shatz for ma'ariv on the Motsa'ei
Shabbat before a Yahrzeit, though he cannot 'push aside' a genuine aveil.
However, it is generally the case that an aveil does not act as shatz during
the twelfth month after a parent's demise. I was surprised last week that
someone did act as shatz during this period for ma'ariv on the Motsa'ei
Shabbat before the Yahrzeit. Was this the correct procedure?

Martin Stern


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 12,2012 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Social Reality as a Halachic Consideration

This subject has been a recurring theme in our discussions.
This morning we heard in my synagogue the daily Halacha which happened to be
Hilchot Brachot 59:5 on the section of Psukei D'Zimra, between Baruch Sh'Amar
until Yishtabach, whether one can interrupt his prayers to greet someone.
The Mishnah Brurah, at the end of note 12, quotes the Magen Avraham (Avraham
Abeli Halevy Gombinger 1637-1682) who fixes that one should not at all interrupt
one's prayers and the reason is "we [today] usually do not say hello/greet
people in synagogue during [prayer]".  In other words, a social custom
performed, or one we refrain from doing, is a crucial factor in establishing a
Halachic norm.  Whether or not our contemporary social customs would similarly
affect Halachic behavior may be a question of which came first, the horse or the
cart, but nevertheless, the factor must be taken into account.

Yisrael Medad


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 5,2012 at 12:01 PM
Subject: When did Avraham perform Bris Milah?

When did Avraham perform Bris Milah?


Rabbi Monk in Parshas Lech Lecha says that the use of the term "B'etzem
Hayom Hazeh" (on this precise day) actually means that it took place on Yom
Kippur. This connects the blood of the bris with the korbonos of Yom Kippur
and allows for some interesting drashos. However, this means that the
Malachim had to have come on the 12th of Tishrei (the third day). We have
learned that Sarah conceived on Rosh Hashannah following the bris and
Yitzchak was born on Pesach after a seven month pregnancy (this includes an
Adar Sheni that year).

This means that it took about a year and a half from the bris until
Yitzchak was born. This means that Avraham turned 100 after the
following Pesach and before the following Yom Kippur, since he was 99 at
the time of the Bris. This means that the interpretation of "kaeis chaya" as
"/this time next year/", means that they said that when the sun reaches
a particular point in its orbit "next year" (after the following Rosh
Hashanah), Yitzchak will be born. Alternatively, it could mean "in the
normal course of events" without being a specific time.

On the other hand, those who say that the malachim came on Pesach (like
Rashi) follow the interpretation of Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch, that this
phrase means "in broad daylight" and as soon as he was commanded. In
this interpretation, Avraham could have just turned 99 or could have
been 99 for a while. There is no way that we can logically determine
what month he was born in from this part of the Torah. In this case,
Yitzchak was born precisely a year later.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz


End of Volume 61 Issue 53