Volume 61 Number 59 
      Produced: Tue, 04 Dec 2012 14:27:49 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

68 Aravot 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Authentic Judaism 
    [Ari Trachtenberg]
Daas Torah (was Mechitzah) 
    [Carl Singer]
Did Woman Attend Synagogue? (was Mechitza Evidence) 
    [Katz, Ben M.D.]
Ibn Ezra 
    [Katz, Ben M.D.]
    [Martin Stern]
Mechitzah (3)
    [Martin Stern  Meir Shinnar  Katz, Ben M.D.]
My visit to Israel 
    [Martin Stern]
Naming of "Bet El" 
    [Katz, Ben M.D.]
Praying At Home / Talking In Shul. 
    [Immanuel Burton]
Status of Masorti (was Patur aval assur) 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Sat, Dec 1,2012 at 02:01 PM
Subject: 68 Aravot

The commentary Hagahot Maimoniyot on the Rambam, Sefer Zmanim, Hilchot Lulav
7:7, mentions an unusual custom of taking 68 aravot branches that, together
with 3 knots, make up 71 (which is the Great Sanhedrin), and that the gematria of
lulav (lamed = 30; vav = 6; lamed =30; vet = 2) equals 68 and with
those additional 3 knots, also equals 71.  The odd aspect for me (besides how
one physically grasps 68 branches) is that the custom is supposed to be of
Ashkenaz.  Has anyone heard or seen or practiced such a custom?
Yisrael Medad


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 29,2012 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Authentic Judaism

Marshall Gisser wrote (MJ 61#57):

> Torah is a cohesive whole. Twice, God says in the Torah not to add to or
> subtract from His words.  ... Even one making a single change suffices to deny 
> God's words, and is no longer considered as following Torah.

The Torah says to eat matza seven days - in the Diaspora we do so for eight.
The Torah says to sit in sukkot seven days - in the Diaspora we do so for eight.
The Torah says "eye for an eye" - we use monetary compensation.
The Torah says "six days will you work" - we take vacations.

Our modern halachic tradition does not take a literalist view to the Torah ...
and the divergence in understanding of the complex oral tradition should not
be so easily dismissed.




From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Sun, Dec 2,2012 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Daas Torah (was Mechitzah)

Kudos to Michael Rogovin (MJ 61#58) for identifying the crux of the issue:

> What IS under attack is the notion of daas torah (as it is commonly applied
> these days), the idea that only one opinion is correct and it is the more
> machmir [strict] one, and therefore any deviation from this cannot be
> tolerated as "orthodox." The conclusion is that any opinion that is more
> lenient is not only wrong, it is an attack on halacha and Torah itself.

I've lived in Passaic, New Jersey now for 17 years, and during this period we have
seen a wonderful growth of young Torah observant couples moving into town. At
least a half-dozen new synagogues have been built (or buildings such as stores
or warehouses have been converted to synagogues). It seems that the height of
the mechitzah isn't so much an issue -- all "new construction"  has mechitzas
which are at least 6 foot tall, and in most cases one cannot see over them.  The
primary issue is transparency -- or should I say opaqueness and acoustics.  In
most instances women cannot see into the men's section at all. Furthermore, I'm
told that the Davening, the Torah Leining and the Rabbi's Drush are at times
inaudible or muffled.  It seems that women's attendance at davening is at best
an afterthought, at worst a nuisance.


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


From: Katz, Ben M.D. <BKatz@...>
Date: Fri, Nov 30,2012 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Did Woman Attend Synagogue? (was Mechitza Evidence)

Yisrael Medad  wrote (MJ 61#56):

> 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).

There is more evidence than that.  

Avodah zarah 38a-b implies that women attended synagogue with the same
regularity as the bathhouse; make of that what you will! :-)

Sotah 22a shows that Rabbi Yochanan is not surprised that a woman goes to
synagogue every day, just that she is not going to her neighborhood synagogue.


From: Katz, Ben M.D. <BKatz@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 29,2012 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Ibn Ezra

Josh Backon wrote (MJ 61#57):

> You should see how the Meharshal (16th century Poland) castigated the Ibn Ezra
> ...
> The Ibn Ezra was also somewhat ridiculed by the Baalei Tosaphot (see: Tosaphot
> Rosh Hashana 13a d"h d'akrivu; Taanit 20b d"h b'hachinto [look who they suddenly
> use as an example ! :-)];  Kiddushin 37b d"h mi'mocharat ha'pessach).

I have not had a chance to re-look at all of Dr Backon's references, but I have
had time to refresh my memory re 2 of the tosafot.  Regarding the mimacharat
hashabbat (on the morrow after the Sabbath) tosafot: Ibn Ezra is clearly an
expert in this area (due to his arguments with Karaites about this, as recorded
in his Torah commentary) and presumably is quoted as such.  Regarding the
tosafot from Taanit: To me, Tosafot is just giving an example of families who are
known by a certain moniker, and Ibn Ezra's family was one such family.  There is a
separate discussion about not doing this even if it isn't meant in an
embarrassing way (lignay).


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sat, Dec 1,2012 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Katonti

A friend pointed out to me this morning that the word 'katonti' (Ber. 32:11)
was read with an azla geresh, yet in his chumash it carried a revia. I
checked various editions and found that some had the one and others the
other. This does not make any difference to the meaning, even though the
former is a weaker disjunctive than the latter, but does change its musical
expression. Minchat Shai does not seem to say anything about this. Can
anyone help sort out this problem?

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Dec 2,2012 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Mechitzah

Chana Luntz (MJ 61#58) wrote:

> On the other hand, Rav YH Henkin's shiur fits right in.  Besides 10 tefachim
> being the shiur for a wall of a sukkah, and of various reshuyos of shabbas,
> and the shiur to separate a metzorah, and many other cases where different
> reshuyos come up in the halacha, it is also the shiur required for building
> a ma'akeh, a fence around one's roof or other dangerous place where a person
> might fall (see Choshen Mishpat siman 427 si'if 5 and 7). Given that a
> woman's balcony is a high place from which one could easily fall,
> halachically any such balcony would seem to need a railing of this height in
> order to fulfil the Torah prohibition (and even though a shul is exempt from
> the requirement to fence one's roof, that appears to be only because it is not
> used for dwelling, while a dangerous place, like a woman's balcony without a
> mechitza around the edge of it, would seem to still fit within the
> requirements).  Similarly, there is a requirement that one not daven from a
> high place (see Orech Chaim siman 90), but if there are mechitzos then this is
> a not problem as that divides the reshus (see si'if 2)- with mechitzos in that
> context understood to be 10 tephachim.
> Because of these two sources (the fact that a balcony needs 10 tefachim
> because of the principle of ma'akeh, and because anywhere people are going to
> daven from that is high needs mechitzos of 10 tefachim), it makes logical
> sense that there is no separate discussion in the sources regarding the
> necessary height for the separation between women and men, assuming that
> halachic requirement is 10 tefachim.  Because the standard configuration,
> namely a balcony, requires that shiur anyway, so it wouldn't need to come up
> as an independent concept.

The only problem I have with Chana's analysis is that it might establish
that the minimum height must be 10 tefachim for a mechitzah around a balcony
well above the main shul area, but the argument does not seem to carry over
to shuls where both men's and ladies' areas are on the same level. It also
glosses over the problem where it is to be expected that some ladies will
not come halachically correctly dressed. While their being visible might not
prevent the men davenning bedieved [ex post facto], surely a shul should not
be constructed lechatchillah [in the first instance] on this basis. I realize
Chana already touched upon this but would appreciate her expanding upon the problem.

Martin Stern

From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Sun, Dec 2,2012 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Mechitzah

Chana Luntz wrote (MJ 61#58):
> Rav Soloveitchik is famous for his psak to various of his talmidim that
> while they could take a pulpit at a shul without a mechitza for a temporary
> period, after which they could not stay if the mechitza was not put in
> place, during the period when there was no mechitza in place (even if there
> was separation of the sexes) the rabbis in question were required to daven
> at home.
> He is also famous for ruling that if the only option for hearing shofar was
> in a mechitzaless shul, the person should stay at home and be mevatel
> [nullify] the mitzvah d'oraisa of hearing shofar.

That is not quite correct.  Rav Soloveichick distinguished between mixed seating
and no mechitzah.  He held it assur to daven in a mixed seating shul - but his
attitude towards separate seating with no mechitzah was more complex (I heard in
his name he considered mixed seating to be a d'oraita problem, lack of mechitzah
a d'rabbanan issue).

In the late 60s, Brandeis had a far weaker Orthodox community than now - and a
group went to the Rav saying they had two options for Yamim Noraim:

1) minyan with separate seating, no mechitzah - for which they thought they
would get a fair attendance; or

2) minyan with mechitzah - they doubted they would get a minyan.

The Rav allowed the separate seating, no-mechitzah minyan - although, as this
was the height of mechitzah wars, with shuls removing mechitzahs, he said they
couldn't publicize that - and he may have to deny it.

W.r.t. Rav Henkin: Rav Adam Mintz has pointed out a tshuva from 1961, allowing
under very limited circumstances to daven in a mixed seating shul.

W.r.t. height of mechitza: I was a member of Princeton Yavneh in the 1970s, and
the posek was Rav Pinchas Teitz. He allowed a 10 tefachim mechitza, as long as
the room didn't have the status of a shul (i.e. designated from the beginning as
a multi-use room also used as a shul).

There was also the position of Rav Regensburg, the major posek in the Midwest in
the 50s, who allowed the Traditional shuls with mixed seating in the Midwest.

Meir Shinnar

From: Katz, Ben M.D. <BKatz@...>
Date: Mon, Dec 3,2012 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Mechitzah

Chana Luntz wrote (MJ 61#58):

> We as Orthodox Jews work within the halachic system.
> That was my fundamental objection to the attempt to cite archaeological
> evidence from synagogues of around 2000 years ago.  As I pointed out, many
> many of these synagogues have idolatrous and pagan motifs as decorations in
> their mosaics.  If you asked a posek today whether you could incorporate
> idolatrous or pagan motifs into synagogue decorations, he would analyse the
> halachic literature, starting with the Mishna and Gemora, through the
> Rishonim and Achronim and almost certainly would rule that they are
> forbidden.  The fact that they may have been prevalent in synagogues in the
> first to fifth centuries CE is completely irrelevant.  It might not be to a
> posek from the Conservative movement, but if it is not, then that just shows
> some of the differences in the way matters are approached.
> Similarly with the mechitza.  Even if once could prove unquestionably (as
> you can with the pagan motifs) that no such thing existed in such
> synagogues, that is not relevant to the halachic process.  It *might* be
> relevant if you could find an Orthodox community surviving into modern times
> with a tradition of no mechitza that stretched back for as long as can be
> remembered - but the reality is that we can't.  Every community that we
> would consider to be following the Orthodox tradition has either not had
> women in shul at all, or has had a form of division of some sort.  
> Without that sort of evidence the only other way is to find something in the
> halachic literature that would seem to permit this.  But no such exists.

I would respectfully disagree with some of Chana's assertions here, and this is
why the study of history and archeology bother many individuals, because it
turns out that things were not always as they are presented in the halachic
literature, nor as they are presented in the halachic responsa today.  This is
why when halachic and other Torah writings are discovered that don't seem to
pass muster, they are declared forgeries because they do not meet current
standards of acceptability.   

And this is especially a problem for mechitzah, where there is a dearth of
halachic writing on the subject and archeological evidence to the contrary,  as
has been pointed out.  The fact that all Orthodox shuls today have a mechitzah
does not in any way mean that all shuls 1000 years ago had a mechitzah, the same
way that one might erroneously assume that because nearly all Orthodox Jews
today eat glatt that the Rambam ate glatt.  (It's ironic how this would mean
that many today would not eat in the house of the greatest halachacist of the
past 1000 years.)


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Dec 2,2012 at 09:01 AM
Subject: My visit to Israel

I shall be in Israel over Chanukah and would welcome the chance to meet any
MJ members while there. I shall be staying most of the time in Yerushalayim
but will not have a car. If anyone is interested, please let me know and we
can try and arrange something.

Martin Stern


From: Katz, Ben M.D. <BKatz@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 29,2012 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Naming of "Bet El"

Irwin Weiss wrote (MJ 61#56):

> Bet El is named, apparently, three times by Yakov (Breishit 28:7, 35:7 
> and 35:15).
> Why 3 times? Is not one enough?

This is an old problem, related to the "doublets" and "triplets" (i.e. similar
stories repeated once or twice) that are found mainly, but not exclusively, in
Bereshit (Genesis).  Besides Mr Weiss' example, Beer Sheva is named twice, there
are 3 times where a patriarch attempts to pass his wife off as his sister, etc.
 There are both traditional and nontraditional responses to these repetitions. 
See my recent book "A Journey Through Torah: a critique of the documentary
hypothesis" (Urim, 2012) for a thorough discussion.


From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 4,2012 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Praying At Home / Talking In Shul.

Does anyone have any comments on whether it is better to pray at home on 
one's own if the only option to pray with a minyan is in a Shul where 
there is unfortunately a degree of talking that one finds distracting 
and/or stressful?

Has anyone come across or devised any methods for reducing the amount of 
talking in Shul that have actually worked?

Immanuel Burton.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sat, Dec 1,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Status of Masorti (was Patur aval assur)

Keith Bierman (MJ 61#57) wrote:

> If one can point to such blunders on the part of the Israeli based Masorti
> movement, that would be far more educational.

While I cannot comment on the Israeli based Masorti movement, I have some
familiarity with its UK branch. Since in the UK the movement called Reform
is more akin to the more 'progressive' wing of the US Conservatives and the
UK equivalent of the US Reform is called Liberal, the Masorti movement is
more akin to the 'traditional' wing of the US Conservatives, which I suppose
is similar to the situation in Israel.

I shall describe an incident that I experienced personally which illustrates
the way even this more traditional form of Masorti seems to misinterpret

I was invited to the wedding of the son of one of the lay leaders of the
movement, whose father was one of their leading rabbis. In the
circumstances, I assumed that the catering would be under some official
kashrut supervision, as is the norm in the UK even among non-observant people,
especially if some guests are known not to eat non-kosher food. I was,
therefore, upset when I heard, purely by chance, that this would not be the
case. When I made discreet enquiries at the hotel, the catering manager
informed me, mesiach lefi tumo [without realising the halachic import of his
words], that the hotel did not allow outside caterers and that they never
claimed that they would provide a kosher menu, only that it would be
"non-offensive" (sic). The wedding reception was to take place on a Sunday but
he let slip that the kitchens were to be used for another function the previous

What was even more horrifying was that the said rabbi had been assuring
people the food would be kosher lemehadrin min hamehadrin [to the
requirements of the most strictly observant], which was obviously not the
case. When I contacted him to protest, his reaction was that I had no
business to go behind my host's back and make enquiries from the hotel. He
also gave instructions that they were not to answer any further questions
anyone might ask about the catering at his grandson's wedding.

He might have argued that he relied on the opinion that daybreak is
sufficient to render bliot [absorbed taste] in cooking vessels ta'am lifgam
[spoiled], but this is not a generally accepted opinion used in present-day
practice, which requires 24 hours. Even if ta'am lifgam applied we still require
the cooking utensils to be kashered before use and only rely on it bedieved [ex
post facto] if food has been cooked in such unkashered utensils. It is
certainly not permissible to use them lechatchilah [a priori]. If he had
claimed that the catering was kosher to his satisfaction, that might well
have been true, but it was certainly not lemehadrin min hamehadrin.

>From this incident, one can see that even the most observant Masorti tend to
rely on bedieved kulot [leniencies] as if they were lechatchilah mutar

This is not a one-off situation since I have noticed the same tendency in
the comprehensive work "A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice" by the late
Isaac Klein of Buffalo who was also on the more traditional wing of the US
Conservative movement and is described in Wikipedia as "a prominent rabbi
and halakhic authority within Conservative Judaism". As Lisa Liel wrote (MJ

> 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.

Martin Stern


End of Volume 61 Issue 59