Volume 61 Number 54 
      Produced: Tue, 20 Nov 2012 12:07:20 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?": administrative note 
    [Ari Trachtenberg]
Calling the Kohanim 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Entering a Church (2)
    [Orrin Tilevitz  Harry Weiss]
How does your Shule records Nedavos (donations) on Shabbos? 
    [Isaac Balbin]
Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism? (4)
    [David Lee Makowsky  Keith Bierman  David Tzohar  Martin Stern]
Mechitzah evidence 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Noach was the past, Avrahom the future 
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
    [Yisrael Medad]
Should an aveil act as shatz in the 12th month? 
    [Yisrael Medad]
When did Yitzchak live in Geror 
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Wed, Nov 14,2012 at 07:01 PM
Subject: "Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?": administrative note

The subject "Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?" is beginning to
encroach upon areas that M-J has decided in the past to avoid, namely, the
denominational battles within Judaism and their claims to legitimacy.  These
discussions can quickly deteriorate into flame wars and movement bashing, rather
than intellectual discourse, and we thus plan to moderate continuations of this
thread with a heavier hand than usual.


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 12,2012 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Calling the Kohanim

Carl Singer mulls (MJ 61#52):

> To my recollection in many shuls it is the Chazan who calls.

As far as my recollection, the vast majority of, well, Ashkenazi shuls, has
a Gabbai or a designated Announcer calling out "Kohanim", as the speaking during
the Amidah repitition is considered an interruption. Now, why that is -- but
not the prompting of the Kohanim by pronouncing word-for-word the Priestly
Blessing -- is beyond me.  Which leads, tangentially, to Ben Katz's point, on 
which, I, too, am nonplussed.

Yisrael Medad


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 13,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Entering a Church

Hillel (Saba) Markowitz writes in MJ 61#53:

> 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).

This article, http://www.ksl.com/?nid=1016&sid=22775899, reports that it is
indeed still used for worship services.

From: Harry Weiss <hjweiss@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 13,2012 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Entering a Church

Hillel Markowitz wrote (MJ 61#53):

> 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.

I was on a similar tour with Rabbi Herschel Shachter a couple of years ago.  He 
allowed (and toured with us) the attached Vatican Museum, but he said it was 
prohibited to visit the Sistine Chapel.


From: Isaac Balbin <isaac@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 19,2012 at 02:01 AM
Subject: How does your Shule records Nedavos (donations) on Shabbos?

I've been charged with updating our system. We currently use cardboard
cards with a member's name and address in the middle. Around the edges there are
various amounts, and these are "recorded" via putting in one of those pins which
have bendable wing backs.

If it's someone who is not a member, then we have a series of little
alphabetical strips and spell out the name in order and stack it into a pile,
put a paper clip on it and attach it to a blank card.

Now, I'm not really asking so much about the halachic issues of such; seems
every Shule does something similar. I'm just wondering if anyone is using a
method perhaps more innovative/convenient or if what I've described is about as
good as it gets.

Thanks in advance.


From: David Lee Makowsky <dmakowsk@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 13,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#53):

> How should we relate to the Reform and other non-Orthodox movements?
> They claim to be 'denominations' within Judaism.

> 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?

First, let me make clear that anyone born of a Jewish Mother is
authentically Jewish, no matter what their "denomination", period.  My
comments only go to religious attitudes and practices and reflect only my
own personal opinion.

Perhaps I am missing something, but I don't see how anyone who believes in
Maimonides' Thirteen articles of faith can be anything other than Orthodox
(they may not be "practicing" Orthodox, but that is different).

I don't see how we can consider any "denomination" as legitimate if that
"denomination" does not believe in Maimonides' Thirteen articles of faith.

While Reform and Conservative may give "lip Service" to Maimonides' Thirteen
Articles of Faith, I don't see how they can possibly believe in them.

Based on the above, I don't see those movements as being authentically

David Makowsky
University of Chicago MBA class of 2005
(847) 942 - 2636

From: Keith Bierman <khbkhb@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 13,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#53):

> 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.

Whether it's within the scope of the MJ charter itself appears controversial to 

> On the one hand, Reform's abolition of the OBLIGATORY nature of halachah in
> favour of individual autonomy in relation to practices

I don't think this is a correct statement of Reform theology. This seems
far closer to the assertions of the Reconstructionist movement, and the
quote below about "vote but not a veto" is a direct quote from the
Reconstructionist founder, Mordechai Kaplan.

> 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).

While I vehemently disagree with their tshuvah (published halachic opinion)
on the topic, this is not a correct statement of the Conservative
movement's position. Their cognizant committee (circa 1950 or so) provided
a limited heter (permission) to drive ONLY to schul, and ONLY to the
closest schul. This was deemed a "hora'at hashah", an emergency measure,
because the move towards suburban living in the US and zoning laws
(appeared to them) to make driving a necessary concession to reality. In
fact, it has worked out precisely the opposite, and this has been noted by
various Conservative scholars over the years (e.g.

That the actual limits of the heter are widely ignored, and that 99.9% of
Jews affiliated with Conservative institutions don't know the limitations
of the heter, is an indictment of the Conservative leadership in general
and of most of their shul rabbis in particular.

To be clear, the Conservative movement nominally claims to be a
halachically-based movement. However, their Law committee frequently seems
to ignore halacha when making rulings (e.g. their multiple opinions on
homosexual "marriage"). But again, the movement does NOT delegate halachic
decision making to the individual.

> As one prominent UK Reform clergyman, Jonathan Romain, put it, "We give
> halachah the vote but not the veto"

That is a famous quote of  Mordechai Kaplan. Not that I dispute your claim
that Jonathan Romain has quoted M.K., but we should give "credit" where due.

> 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?

One can also bring up groups who have declared one rabbi (living or
deceased) the "messiah". Some of those groups are nominally "orthodox".

In terms of halacha, the children of a jewish mother are jewish, irrespective of
what odd ideas they may hold. For the purposes of MJ do we need another 

In practical terms, I've attended Reconstructionist services which were
quite Jewish in terms of practical matters ... and others which were
difficult to separate from an Indonesian Islamic movement called Subud
(sp?) which is heavily Sufi based. Since M. Kaplan's key focus became on
the (Jewish) community and not halacha (although he personally was quite
learned, and urged his followers to become so, so they could individually
and collectively made informed choices), it is virtually impossible to make
declarations about the movement as a whole (each community is a world unto
itself; some may well decide to live completely within the halacha).

Assuming this thread is permitted to play out, I would urge people to
separate out the Masorti movement from the US Conservative movement. The
former has taken much stronger/traditional positions, e.g. no driving on
shabbat. They do permit women to accept obligations from which they are (by
default, and historically) patur (exempt). To use the old quip, "patur
velo assur" (exempt doesn't mean forbidden). And they do have historical
(e.g. Rashi's daugther's were known to wear tephllin) basis for this.

I would certainly count the Masorti movement as a halachically-based
movement (even if one disagrees with their positions; they do use halacha
as a firm basis for their decision making). The US Conservative movement
is, in theory, but in practice its Law Committee has frequently made
rulings which, even using their own logic, are pretty inconsistent with any
form of halachaic reasoning. However, the individual Jews belonging to such
synagogues do believe they are following halachic rulings (sadly, they are
often ignorant of the details, so while their actions may be mistaken, that
shouldn't be held against them).

The Reform movement was originally founded with slogans like "Berlin is our
Jerusalem", but has gradually moved back towards more traditional forms. So
I judge the individuals, rather than the movement (as a personal position;
I've known Reform rabbis who kept kashrut, didn't drive on shabbat, etc).

But all in all, this would seem to be a topic that shouldn't have been
permitted within our scope.

From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Sat, Nov 17,2012 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?

Martin Stern asks (61#53) if Reform or Conservative Judaism are "legitimate" and
where do we draw the line? IMHO the line is clear and always has been. Any form
of Judaism that accepts the divine revelation and absolute authority of the
written and oral Torah and its interpertation by later authorities based on the
compilation of the Shulchan Aruch-REMA is legitimate. This would not include
Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist ideologies. Any legitimate form of
Judaism must be based on a lifestyle that is based on shmirat Shabbat, Kashrut 
and Taharat Hamishpacha.

This has nothing to do of course with the question of "who is a Jew," who is
anyone born of a Jewish mother or who has undergone a proper conversion.
David Tzohar

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Nov 14,2012 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?

Perhaps I should clarify the point I was trying to make: "Is there any
meaning to the term Judaism as opposed to what is conventionally called
Orthodoxy and, if so, what are the parameters that define what is or is not
a form of it?"  As I see things, we could take any of several positions:

1. Judaism is any ideology espoused by people who claim to be Jews (i.e.,
anything goes, even the Jews for J).

2. Judaism is adherence to the doctrines and practices as enshrined in the
authentic Torah literature (i.e. only what is conventionally called

3. Something between these first two - but then where do we draw the line:

a) I think that everybody would accept that the differences between
Ashkenazim and Sefardim do not render them separate religions.

b) Historically, the differences introduced by the Chasidim were thought to
exclude them, but later developments led to an acceptance that these were not
sufficient to do so.

c) As regards some fringe movements like the Shabbetai Tzvi movement,
initially it was accepted as legitimate and only later considered to have
left Judaism.

d) As regards the Meshichist branch of Lubavitch, no consensus has yet

e) Some religious Zionists consider the Neturei Karta as beyond the pale (and
the feeling is reciprocated) - again this is questionable.

I am distinguishing between a person being a Jew and their religious
philosophy being Jewish. In the strictly halachic sense, the late Bishop
Hugh Montefiore of Birmingham, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris and
Saint Edith Stein of the Carmelite Order of Nuns were Jews. Neither they,
nor anybody else, would, however, suggest that their religious beliefs were
a form of Judaism.

There is considerable pressure to accept a pluralist approach to some large
groups like Reform, Conservatism, Reconstructionism - my question was meant
to be "Should we resist this pressure?"

Martin Stern


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Wed, Nov 14,2012 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Mechitzah evidence

Ben Katz writes (MJ 61#53):

> 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.

Exactly.  And since many scores of years of archaeological exacavations
have passed us by, what are the results?  I read that

"By now it is widely accepted among scholars that synagogues from the early
centuries of the Common Era did not have a separate women's section. This
might surprise people whose knowledge of Jewish synagogues derives from
contemporary Orthodox or pre-Second World War European examples."

-Zeev Weiss, "The Sepphoris Synagogue Mosaic." Biblical Archaeological
Review (Sept./Oct. 2000), 51.

Yisrael Medad


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 5,2012 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Noach was the past, Avrahom the future

Noach was the past, Avrahom the future


This is an extension of my post Difference between Toldos Adam [generations
of Adam] and Toldos Noach [generations of Noach]


When looking at Toldos Adam we see that it starts with Adam and ends with
Noach and the birth of his three sons. On the other hand, the buildup
to Avraham starts at Shem and ends with Terach and the birth of his three
sons as well as the birth of their children. Similarly, when Noach dies, he
is spoken of in the exact way as the rest of the people listed in
Toldos Adam. Avraham, on the other hand, is at the complete beginning of
the narrative and is never linked to the previous generations. In fact,
the first we hear of him is to be told how he had to leave and separate
himself from all that went before. The Torah shows this by the names of
the Parshios as well as the name of the people involved. Noach means rest,
staying the same, and is the end of the progression that takes the world
past the mabul. Lech Lecha means movement, separation, and going to the
future. Similarly, Avraham is given the name "Av Hamon Goyim" [father of a
multitude of nations], which means that he is the beginning of the future
and the start of the next phase of history rather than the end of the
previous stage.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 13,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Prejudice

Martin Stern (MJ 61#53) writes:

> 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
> Torah:

To be generous, I think Martin didn't comprehend what I wrote which was

> 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"

I did not suggest not to post and I did not say 'let's suppress Martin". I wrote
that to constantly repeat a formula that is meaningless in his seeking to
justify his repeated selections from a certain Rabbi is not necessary. Perhaps
if I had used prejudging rather than prejudice his reading comprehension would
have been better served.

Yisrael Medad


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Wed, Nov 14,2012 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Should an aveil act as shatz in the 12th month?

Martin writes (MJ 61:53):

> There is a minhag that someone acts as shatz for ma'ariv on the Motsa'ei
> Shabbat before a Yahrzeit

That should be, if I am not mistaken, "there is an Ashkenazi custom"....

Yisrael Medad


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Sun, Nov 18,2012 at 03:01 PM
Subject: When did Yitzchak live in Geror


When did Yitzchak live in Geror?

The Torah does not explicitly state when exactly the famine erupted and 
caused Yitzchok and Rivkah to move to G'ror. The Torah does put the 
story after the incident of Eisav selling his birthright, which occured 
when Avraham died (at 175) when the twins were 15 years old.

Logically it could not have occurred while they were growing up, because 
it would have been too hard to hide the children and keep their identity 
(as children of Yizchak and Rivkah) secret. Thus, it could only have 
occurred during the twenty years before they were born or after Avraham 
had died.

This depends on an argument as to whether or not the Torah tells things 
in chronological order or not. If the Torah does not *necessarily* put 
things in chronological order (Ain mukdam u'meuchar baTorah), as Rashi 
says, then we cannot know when the incident occured. We can make a 
logical argument that Avraham was still alive during those twenty years 
and a famine that chased Yitzchak away and forced him to resettle would 
have affected Avraham as well. If he had been around, his reputation 
would probably have affected the course of events. The memory of what 
occurred when he was in Gror would have protected Yitzchak.

On the other hand, if the Torah does list events in chronological order 
(Yaish mukdam u'meuchar batorah), then the events had to have occurred 
after the sale of the birthright. The question does arise, where were 
Yaakov and Eisav? This seems to imply that they were older and had 
already been on their own.

It would seem that Eisav had not yet married, as the news of his marriage 
would have spread and made the ruse impossible. We know that Eisav 
married at the age of 40, in order to emulate his father. Professor 
Nechama Leibowitz brings up the point that Eisav actually led a band of 
fighters and used them to defend the family. She states that this can 
explain why the shepherds of G'ror used "lawfare" to harass Yitzchak 
rather than attacking him and attempting to take the wells away.

The Torah says that they caused problems and disputed the ownership of 
the wells. Professor Leibowitz says that this is because they did not 
dare to attack directly.

This seems to limit the priod of time in which the famine occured and 
Yitzchak was able to claim that Rivkah was his sister. After that he 
settled in B'er Shevah for the rest of his life.

       Sabba     -          ??? ???        -     Hillel
Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz | Said the fox to the fish, "Join me ashore"
  <SabbaHillel@...> | The fish are the Jews, Torah is our water


End of Volume 61 Issue 54