Volume 61 Number 56 
      Produced: Mon, 26 Nov 2012 17:17:04 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Did Woman Attend Synagogue? (was Mechitza Evidence) 
    [Yisrael Medad]
How does your Shule records Nedavos (donations) on Shabbos? 
    [Menashe Elyashiv]
Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism? (8)
    [Martin Stern  Harlan Braude  Bill Bernstein  Katz, Ben M.D.  Keith Bierman  Carl Singer  Irwin Weiss  Lisa Liel]
Mechitza Evidence 
    [Gilad J. Gevaryahu]
Naming of "Bet El" 
    [Irwin Weiss]
Patur aval assur 
    [Martin Stern]
When did Yitzchak live in Geror 
    [Sammy Finkelman]


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 26,2012 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Did Woman Attend Synagogue? (was Mechitza Evidence)

Orrin Tilevitz writes (MJ 61#55):

> That responsum explicitly assumes that women attended synagogue. But is there
> any basis for that assumption?

Well, Hannah attended Mishkan [Tabernacle] at Shiloh (I Samuel 1), but Michal
stayed at a window (I Samuel 6:16).

Yisrael Medad


From: Menashe Elyashiv <Menashe.Elyashiv@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 26,2012 at 12:01 PM
Subject: How does your Shule records Nedavos (donations) on Shabbos?

I do not even try to record the sales on Shabbat, as we have 2 minyanim, and we
sell the Minha aliyot also. So I remind the public that we work on the honor
system. However, I do have someone mark the Yamim Noraim sales, not by name, but
by sale. It gives us an indication how much we "made" from the sales. With or
without the system, there are some who "forget" to pay ... one esteemed member
owes at least 1000 shekel from Yom Kippur.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 20,2012 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?

David Makowsky wrote (MJ 61#54):

> 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.

I am not sure that this is necessarily so since, though we generally take
them as a doctrinal base, it is not entirely clear whether this is the case.
Menachem Kellner's books "Must a Jew Believe Anything" and "Dogma in
Medieval Jewish Tought: From Mimonides to Abravanel" analyse this topic in
depth and show that not all 13 were without challenge at the time.
Personally, I prefer Albo's formulation that there are 3 ikkarim [fundamental
beliefs] - G-d, Torah min hashamayim and reward/punishment. This is not to
say that any of Maimonides' 13 are wrong, only that they are perhaps not as
fundamental as others. Some may have been included because of challenges
from sectarians (3,5), Arabo-Greek philosophers (6,10) Muslims (7,8,9) or
Christians (2,9,12) in his time, so emphasis on some of them may be less
relevant today.

> 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.

I don't think they can be said to pay even lip service to them, nor do they
claim so to do. In particular they deny Torah min hashamayim (8) at least in
the way Maimonides formulates it - one might even say that they have emptied
it of its first and last words and left the middle one as a characterisation
of themselves!

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

Again, I agree with this but my real problem is the extent to which we
should resist the constant pressure (bullying?) in the community to accept
their self-defined legitimacy.

Martin Stern

From: Harlan Braude <hbraude@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 20,2012 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?

To me, the responses to Martin's question have essentially focused on what *should
be* the minimum requirement of a movement to be considered "Judaism" as opposed
to what *is* or *are* the determining factor or factors.

One criterion not mentioned, perhaps because it's an assumed given, is
marriageability. Yet, that's probably the oldest - and most obvious - criterion
for a group or individual's acceptance (since the days of the Avos [our

The sad thing is that while we might give lip service to claims that this or
that group is a legitimate form of Judaism, in reality we bestow true legitimacy
on a far more restrictive list.

From: Bill Bernstein <billbernstein@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 20,2012 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?

There was considerable discussion in a recent M-J digest on this topic.

David Lee Makowsky follows a well-worn path that any approach that does not
subscribe to Rambam's 13 Principles could not be considered Judaism. Prof Marc
Shapiro has shown in his book "The Limits of Orthodox Theology" that the
Rambam's principles were not universally accepted at the time, and in fact many
scholars believed things that went against some of them.

Keith Bierman disputes the idea that Reform subscribes to a view of halakha as
voluntary. I would direct his attention to comments by Mark Washofsky of
HUC-Cincinnati on Reform Responsa. Among them he makes it clear that halakha is
merely suggestion with no binding force. He writes:
4. Finally, while our responsa seek to uphold traditional halakhic approaches
whenever fitting, we reserve to ourselves the right to decide when they do not
fit. When even the most liberal interpretations of the texts and sources yield
answers that conflict with our moral and religious commitments as liberal Jews,
we will modify or reject those interpretations in favor of others that better
reflect our religious mind and heart.
If that is not a statement of "tradition holds a vote not a veto" then I am not
sure what is.

While Reform Judaism seems to locate the individual as the ultimate source of
authority, Conservative Judaism seems to locate the community as that source. I
have often cited Elliot Dorff, rector of the American Jewish University, in his
article "Custom Drives Jewish law on Women", where he says almost exactly that:
the standards of society set halakha and what comes after that is merely trying
to fit precedents to preconceived notions.

I would reject both approaches as legitimate exercises in Judaism. I would offer
instead that any philosophy that does not accept the binding nature of halakha
and the halakhic process lacks legitimacy.

Bill Bernstein
Nashville TN.

From: Katz, Ben M.D. <BKatz@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 20,2012 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?

While I generally agree with the points made by Messrs. Stern and Makowsky (MJ
61#54), I would like to add my (usual) slightly-skewed perspective.
I think it is legitimate to argue that Orthodoxy today is the best
representation of RABBINIC Judaism.  However, Orthodoxy as practiced today is
much more restrictive than Rabbinic Judaism was, especially as practiced by many
Rishonim (early sages, 11th - 15th centuries).  Ibn Ezra and Rashbam, for
example, would be thrown out of many yeshivot today for writing their classical
Torah commentaries, and they are only the best-known (but not the worst)
"offenders".  See, for example, the arguments marshaled in Chapters 3-8 of my
book "A Journey Through Torah: a critique of the documentary hypothesis" (Urim,

From: Keith Bierman <khbkhb@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 20,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#54):

> 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?"

In what context? Clearly, there is utility in banding together to protect
traditional practices, for example, the legality of circumcision and the kosher 
slaughtering of meat. The fraction of Conservative and more "left"-leaning Jews 
who consistently keep kosher may not be large; but there are still significant
numbers. Even those that do not personally keep a kosher kitchen do not disagree
that one ought to, and that kosher meat should be Legal (as opposed to the
actions of various EU countries in recent times), and all agree on circumcision
(despite attempts in "liberal" cities such as San Francisco in recent times).

In some academic context? I have no idea what that might translate into or
why it would be of interest to MJ.

With respect to calling someone up for an Aliyah? Marrying one's daughter?

As far as the Rambam's middot, wasn't that part of what originally got his
books banned and burned? Would we really say to someone who observes all
the mitzvot (including tahrat hamispacha, kashrut, daily torah study, etc.)
that they weren't Jewish because they'd given up on Moshiach (at least in
the strict sense of the tradition, riding a donkey through the proper gate,
etc.)?  If so, to what end?

I always that what made Judaism so different from other religions was our
focus on action rather than philosophy per se.

From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 20,2012 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?

This is a general response to the recent discussions regarding  Reform

In keeping with a longstanding tradition of answering a question with a
question  -- here are three questions:

1 - What does it matter if an organization or movement is legitimately a
form of Judaism?

2 - Does membership in a Reform institution in any way impact the Jewish
status of the member?

3 - Why is it necessary to label individuals (as opposed to institutions)?

We have clear halacha as to who is a Jew:  the child of a Jewish Mother.
[Issues related to uterus transplants and the like are not relevant to
this general discussion.]

We have some tighter criteria for who may serve in certain capacities --
such as an aid (witness) at a wedding.

People who are considered to belong to institutions may or may not hold to
the tenets of said institution -- so membership and the like is a weak
criteria. [There are members of Torah Observant congregations who do not fully
observe Torah.  There are members of Conservative and Reform congregations
who may.]

But the litmus test for the individual is not behavior, it is birth or
halachic conversion.

Back circuitously to the subject question -- what are the criteria for
legitimate forms of Judaism? Perhaps something as simple as recognizing the
halachic definition of who is a Jew. Perhaps abiding by the Maimonides' Thirteen
Articles of Faith. Perhaps .....

*Carl A. Singer, Ph.D.
Colonel, U.S. Army Retired

From: Irwin Weiss <irwin@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 20,2012 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?

Martin Stern asked (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?

The responses thereafter have discussed what Reform dogma is and why it doesn't
match up with Orthodox rules, and how various movements view Halacha.

Assuming for the moment that Reform and Conservative Judaism and most of their
adherents are not Torah observant Jews (which is not much of an assumption),
there still has been no answer to Mr. Stern's question of How should we relate
to the Reform and other non-Orthodox movements?
I am not sure I understand what is meant by how should we relate? Do you mean,
Should we patronize their businesses? or Should we talk to them? or Should we
treat them the same as we treat goyim? or Should we accept their financial
contributions to our Orthodox schools? or  Should we invite them
to our homes on Shabbat to demonstrate real Shabbat observance? or what?
What do you mean by How should we relate to [them]?

By the way, here in Baltimore where I live but did not grow up, there are Modern
Orthodox schuls where the members are far from Shomer Shabbat, and
where the members of the schul eat at treif restaurants and eat treif in their
homes.  When I moved here I learned of families who kept Kosher inside their
homes but had a special table, called a crab table, which they would erect in
their garage or driveway and upon which they would serve crabs and provide 
special utensils to use when consuming the crabs. I suspect that many of these 
people, while they donate to Orthodox causes, and belong to an Orthodox schul,  
have no clue as to what Maimonides' 13 articles of faith even refer to [cited by 
David Makowsky].  For sure, these Jews are Jews. I don't think they are 
Orthodox, at least not as I use the term.    Are they better or worse or the 
same as a Jew who is shomer Shabbat and who goes to a Conservative schul to 
daven?  How should we relate to these people?

Irwin Weiss

From: Lisa Liel <lisa@...>
Date: Sat, Nov 24,2012 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Is Reform legitimately a form of Judaism?

Keith Bierman wrote (MJ 61#54):

> Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#53):
>> 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.

With all due respect, this isn't precisely true.  It provided a limited 
heter to drive only to a *Conservative* shul.  If there's an Orthodox 
one next door, the heter still applies.

> 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.

In a sense, this is true.  But the decisions of their decision makers 
are heavily influenced by the desires and pocketbooks of their laity.

> 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.

That "Rashi's daughters were known to wear tephilin" is a common claim, but 
there doesn't appear to be any source for it.  Anywhere.

> 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).

But since they don't use halakhic methodology -- only halakhic sources 
-- I would not count them as a halakhically-based movement.  The 
methodology is an integral part of the halakha itself, and using the 
wrong methodology is like trying to run Mac OS on a Windows box.



From: Gilad J. Gevaryahu <gevaryahu@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 26,2012 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Mechitza Evidence

This is a follow up to this long discussion.

Professor Shmuel Safrai z"l (Hebrew University) wrote many years ago the lead
article on the subject dealing precisely with this question. He analyzed all the
data in Hazal and came to the conclusion that women participated regularly in
the Synagogue rituals, and that there was no evidence of the existence of a
mechitza in the synagogue at the time. (Tarbitz 32 (1963) 329-338 and again in
his book "Eretz-Yisrael veChachameha biTekufat haMishna veHatalmud" 1983, pp.

A follow up to this article was written by Professor Shlomo Dov Goitein and he
stated that he found in the Cairo Geniza in the 11th century clear evidence to
the existence of a mechitzot.(Tarbitz 33 (1964), p. 314.)

Gilad J. Gevaryahu


From: Irwin Weiss <irwin@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 26,2012 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Naming of "Bet El"

Bet El is named, apparently, three times by Yakov (Breishit 28:7, 35:7 and 35:15).

Why 3 times? Is not one enough?

Irwin E. Weiss


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 20,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Patur aval assur

(Mod.'s preface: this submission is being published only because it follows an 
offline dialogue between Martin and Keith.)

Keith Bierman wrote (MJ 61#54):

> To use the old quip, "patur velo assur" (exempt doesn't mean forbidden).

I am not familiar with this 'old quip'.

The Talmudic adage is 'patur aval assur', literally 'exempt but forbidden'.
This is usually applied to where someone is patur [exempt from bringing a
korban chatat [sin offering]] because he has not transgressed a Torah
prohibition which would have made him chayav [obligated to bring a korban] -
but what he has done is nonetheless prohibited Rabbinically - assur.

AFAIK there are only three cases of patur umutar (i.e. the action is permitted),
one of which is that one may squeeze out a boil on Shabbat (I forget the other
two offhand).

Martin Stern


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 26,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: When did Yitzchak live in Geror

Robert Israel responded (M-J V61n55):
> Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz wrote (MJ 61#54):
>> 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.
> I don't see why. Single parents might not have been all that unusual in
> those days. Somebody seeing the children might logically conclude that
> their mother had died and Aunt Rivkah was helping to raise them.

Or that Rivkeh was a widow, but perhaps they wore distinguishable clothing.

But also once they, say, passed the age of 20, the connection might have
not been so obvious, since Yitzchok had an entourage. He had all kinds
of servants who dug wells and pastured sheep.

The Torah doesn't tell us exactly when, but it reminds us that this
was a different famine than in the days of Avraham (and yet Yitzchok
attempted to do exactly the same thing even though maybe the
circumstances weren't the same).

The whole matter is only brought up because it leads to another
promise by Hashem and because it leads to an agreement with Avimelech.


End of Volume 61 Issue 56