Volume 62 Number 13 
      Produced: Wed, 21 May 14 11:56:16 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Census counts 
    [Sanford Lefkowitz]
Know how to answer Epicurus 
    [Martin Stern]
Kosher without a hechsher 
    [Martin Stern]
Kosher without a hechsher - label story is now more than thirty years  
    [Sammy Finkelman]
Men and Women: Equal Kedusha? (3)
    [Josh Berman  Aryeh Frimer  Sammy Finkelman]
Sfeika d'yoma of Yom Ha'atzmaut in Chutz La'aretz (2)
    [Michael Mirsky  Martin Stern]


From: Sanford Lefkowitz <slefkowitz@...>
Date: Sun, May 18,2014 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Census counts

In Parshas Bamidbar, we see the first listing of census numbers by tribe. One rather anomalous feature of 
the counts is that 11 of the 12 counts are multiples of 100 and one is  a multiple only of 10. One question 
this raises is "Are these exact numbers or round numbers?". If they are round numbers the rounding rule 
must be 'round to the nearest 10'. The probability that 11 out of 12 numbers, when rounded to the nearest 
10, would also round to a multiple of 100 is on the order of one in 10 billion. The same anomaly, 11 out of 
12 numbers being a multiple of 100, also occurs the second time the census counts are given in Parshas 
Pinchas. The probability that we would have two independent counts, rounded to the nearest 10, both 
producing results where 11 out of 12 counts round to a multiple of 100 if on the order of 10-20. This 
suggests there is something unusual going on here.

Shortly after the Bamidbar tribal count, we are given the count of the Levi'im, 22,000. That certainly looks 
like a round number. But shortly after that, we are given the count of the first born, 22,273 and told that 
each first born has to be redeemed by a Levi. The Torah then explicitly asks the question of what happens 
with the 273 remaining first born. Since 22,273 is clearly not a round number and the Torah explicitly 
mentions the number 273, it must be that 22,000 is an exact number. Given the unlikelihood of most of 
the tribal census counts being a multiple of 100 and the apparent fact that the Levi'im count is an exact 
number, it seems likely that all the tribal counts are exact numbers.

Why are 11 out of 12 tribal counts multiple of 100 each of the times the count is given? Here is a 
speculation. Perhaps the Torah is trying to call our attention to the anomaly. If all the counts had been a 
multiple of 100, that would have been even more unlikely than 11 out of 12 counts being a multiple of 
100. But if that had been the case, we might have just assumed they were all being rounded to the nearest 
100 and not considered it very interesting. If the counts had been numbers like 21,906, we might just say, 
"OK, that's what the number turned out to be. No big deal". But by having exactly 11 out of 12 counts be 
multiples of 100 on two occasions, the Torah is telling us to take notice. The only way such an unlikely 
event could occur is if Hashem is in control. He is taking care of everything, even down to the population 

Sanford Lefkowitz


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, May 12,2014 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Know how to answer Epicurus

In a recent letter to a ewspaper, a correspondent quoted the Greek philosopher,
Epicurus, as saying:

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

"Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

"Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

"Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

This led him to state that he had "not heard a single persuasive argument to
support the premise of the existence of a theistic, personal, all-powerful,
all-benevolent God" and to deduce that "the God of the Bible is certainly
not all-benevolent".

This is a non-trivial challenge which we meet from time to time and I thought to
answer it along the following lines:

>From the point of view of Jewish theology, the basic premise is that, for
whatever reason G-d may have had, He has given man the gift of free will to make
whatever choice he wishes in the moral sphere, with the purpose that man should
bring the world to its perfection - what we call the Messianic era. 

A corollary of this is that the natural world was deliberately not created
perfect so as to leave room for man to perfect it - a major difference between
Judaism, on the one hand, and Paganism and Christianity on the other. This is
the symbolic significance of circumcision, a rite adhered to even by most
otherwise non-observant Jews but derided by the latter. This "incompleteness" of
creation may be alluded to in the rather cryptic conclusion of the creation
narrative "which G-d created to make [i.e. to continue making it]".

It follows that G-d has, so to speak, to withdraw from too obvious an
interference in human affairs. If every time someone did wrong they would be
struck down from heaven, nobody would have free will. However what, to us,
appears evil may be, in the long run, beneficial. A simple true story may
illustrate this point.

One of my neighbours comes from the small town of Belz, then in Poland now in
the Ukraine, which was occupied by the Russians in 1939 as part of their
agreement with Germany to divide Poland. The town's inhabitants were told that
they could take up Soviet citizenship but, if they declined, they would be
deported to Siberia. My neighbour's family, together with the other strictly
Orthodox Jews, were loathe to adhere to the atheistic Communist regime and
turned down the offer whereas the more secularised Jews accepted it. The former
were then transported to Siberia where they suffered great privation. However
this saved their lives since, when the Germans invaded Russia in 1941, all
remaining Jews in Belz were massacred.

The upshot is that Judaism holds that G-d is all-powerful and all-benevolent
but, because of our inability to view events from His perspective, we may be
unable to understand why He allows evil events to occur.

Perhaps others may be able to shoot down this approach - any suggestions,

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, May 5,2014 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Kosher without a hechsher

Sammy Finkelman wrote (MJ 62#12):

> I think they may rely somewhat on what the practice in a country, such as
> that, now, for instance, all ice cream sold in the USA is kosher, since all
> the remaining emulsifying plants in the USA are certified kosher and
> emulsifiers are the only questionable ingredient.

Is this actually true? Perhaps someone more expert in the current state of
food technology could confirm it.

However, even if true, there may still be kashrut problems if the
manufacturing plant is used for other products and not cleaned to the
required standard between runs.

Also there may be a further problem that ostensibly pareve ice creams may
have absorbed ta'am [halachically significant taste] from previous runs of
milky ice creams and be classified as milky.

Martin Stern


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Fri, May 9,2014 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Kosher without a hechsher - label story is now more than thirty years 

I wrote (MJ 62#12):

> Over here: 
> http://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/17732/which-rabbis-permit-food-bein
> g-kosher-just-based-on-the-ingredients
> someone notes that one time it happened that Rabbi Harvey Senter (the head of
> the Kof-K) went to a company that said it had 100% vegetable shortening on its
> label, but there was only lard in the plant.
> It turned out the government had them use up their old labels because it was 
> not an allergen concern, so a person might always have to be worried about 
> old labels.

Jeanette Friedman wrote to me off-line that story is over thirty years old. That
seems very likely, as the Mi Yodeya question I linked to was written on or about
July 16, 2012, and someone else named Yishai commented on Nov 20 '13 at 21:57:

"I heard a lecture from Rabbi Harvey Senter (the head of the Kof-K) about 20
years ago"

So that would be circa 1992, and the incident itself was even older.

Jeanette wrote that you cannot use up the labels:

"If the hechser expires, the labels go in the garbage or blank out the hechser,
and so said Honey Senter on the phone as she wrote to me."

But this was a different incident. It sounds like this was a case of a company
that never had a hechsher but requested one from the Kof-K , and when Rabbi
Harvey Senter went to the plant, he discovered they were using lard.

The person writing on Mi Yodeya in 2013 continued:

"he described a company that had prominently 100% vegetable shortening on its
label. When he went there, there was not 1 drum of vegetable shortening in the
plant, lard (pig fat) was all there was. He asked them what happened, and they
said that they changed their recipe to lard, and the government lets them use up
the old labels because it is not an allergen concern."

The words "when he went there" in this context sound like it was for the first
time. Or was this maybe a case where they had given the hechsher?

I kind of suspected the story was about 30 years ago, and also that maybe this
is no longer a risk in the United States.

I do wonder, though, what happens to food that has an unauthorized hechsher on
it.  I know there are these notices given - sometimes where the hechsher was
left off, as in this case:


And sometimes there are cases where it was put on where it shouldn't have been.

Does the food labeled with an unauthorized hechsher (we are not talking about
labels here) go into the trash, is it exported from the United States (most
likely to Mexico), does it go to a wholesale liquidator and into a discount or
99 cent store, or does it maybe depend on whether or not it is basically kosher,
or what?

Does anyone have any information?


From: Josh Berman <mesechetbrachot@...>
Date: Mon, May 5,2014 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Men and Women: Equal Kedusha?

I must thank Josh Backon for his reply (MJ 62#12). I looked into it
and found a fascinating answer that is similar to his but qualitatively
different in the Artscroll Talmud Bavli Horayos 13a notes 31 & 32 which can be
accessed in the link:


It says in the notes that (all else being generally equal):

*1)* Men have more kedusha (sanctity) than women - period. This is why we
grant men priority.

*2)* Men are given precedence to women in *all* cases, charity and
captivity included, when the cases are equal. If a man is threatened with
sexual assault he is saved first. If a man cannot go door to door like
women can't, he is given charity first. The only times women are given
priority is when the cases between men and women are so much harder for
women that it overrides the general principal of granting men priority.

A man's life is also saved first regardless for all life provisions because
of the passuk in Vayikra 25,36 "and you shall fear your God, and let your
brother live with you", meaning your brother (i.e. a man) and not your
sister (i.e. a woman).

It's important to note, though, that one is always supposed to save one's own
life and those dependent on one prior to another person even if the former
is lower on the totem poll. I think the above priority is only when strangers or
government have to get involved.

Seems like they had it backwards on the Titanic though.....

In reply to Leah Gordon who also commented (MJ 62#12):

> I am left wondering why anyone thinks that it would be a good idea to discuss
> who is holier, women or men, from a Jewish perspective.  Hurtful, inaccurate,
> offensive...."

I appreciate her feelings and beliefs about this but there seems to be a double
standard about this in nearly every Jewish community. Kohanim are always
compared to Yisroelim and there are many articles saying how (all else being
equal) a Kohen is holier than a Yisroel, has more kedusha, is given the first
aliya and precedence etc. So off the bat our society is fine with a Kohen and a
Yisroel not being equal, yet when the conversation is flipped towards men vis-a-
vis women it is taboo to quote the same gemara saying men have more kedusha than
women. To me, there is a double standard. Why do people not say it is "offensive
and hurtful" to say Kohanim are more holy than Yisroelim yet they do say it is
offensive to say men are more holy than women.

In reply to Martin Stern who also commented (MJ 62#12):

> I think Josh may well be under a misapprehension regarding status. Though
> there is a mitzvah to honour a cohen (Vay. 21,8), it may be overridden by
> other circumstances. For example, the Mishnah rules after listing the
> various rules of precedence (Hor. 3,8) that a mamzer talmid chacham [learned
> offspring of a forbidden relationship] takes precedence even over a cohen
> gadol am ha'aretz [ignorant high priest]."

I thought I made it clear the above only applies when all else is equal. Yes, a
gadol hador Yisroel has more kedusha than a Kohen am haaretz (ignoramus). I am
just saying the Kohanim have a vastly unfair advantage and head start in terms
of kedusha; just like men do over women.

From: Aryeh Frimer <frimera@...>
Date: Tue, May 6,2014 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Men and Women: Equal Kedusha?

In reply to Josh Berman (MJ 62#11):

See Iggerot Moshe, Vol. IX, Orah Hayyim, sec. 2 and Netsiv, Meromei Sadeh to
Horayot who argue that a man's and woman's kedusha are identical. They
specifically reject that the order in Horayyot has anything to do with a man's
greater kedusha.

Rabbi Shabbetai Rappaport (personal conversation, Fall 2012) indicated that
according to Rav Moshe this list is based on who was perceived at the time of
Hazal as more important to society. Clearly this list of priorities has changed.
Kohen before Levi before Yisrael may be used for giving out kibbudim, it cannot
be used in life-saving. Similarly, modern society is egalitarian and men are no
longer viewed as more important to society.

R. Nahum Rabinovitch (personal communication, Fall 2012) seems to concur that
the list in Horayot was essentially descriptive, not prescriptive, and societal
values have changed.

Prof. Aryeh A. Frimer
Chemistry Dept., Bar-Ilan University
Ramat Gan 5290002, ISRAEL
E-mail (office): <Aryeh.Frimer@...>

From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Wed, May 21,2014 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Men and Women: Equal Kedusha?

Ben Katz in (MJ 62#12) mentioned the article in the Spring 2014
(Issue 47.1) of Tradition entitled:

A Man Takes Precedence Over A Woman When It Comes To Saving A Life: The Modern
Dilemma of Triage from a Halakhic and Ethical Perspective by Dr. Alan Jotkowitz
" A survey of twentieth century rabbis on the subject.

Viewing this seems to require a $35 subscription. I inquired and it seems this
single copy can be bought for $10 plus shipping (shipping is $5 within the USA)
with payment by PayPal. PayPal includes the possibility of using a credit card
even if you don't have a PayPal account. I am not sure if this something that
you have to get special attention to buy by itself.

Can this article be summarized? If so, I am sure I will not be the only member
of mail-jewish  who will be grateful to him.


From: Michael Mirsky <mirskym@...>
Date: Mon, May 5,2014 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Sfeika d'yoma of Yom Ha'atzmaut in Chutz La'aretz

Sammy Finkelman wrote (MJ 62#12):

> This is because the day before Yom Ha'atzmaut in Israel is Yom Hazikoron, to
> commemorate the Israeli war dead. This happened because nobody ever selected a
> different day (in the USA there are 2 days for such purposes, Memorial Day and
> Veterans Day).

Actually I believe that Yom Hazikoron was chosen because Gush Etzion fell on May
13/48, the day before the declaration of independence.

Michael Mirsky

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, May 5,2014 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Sfeika d'yoma of Yom Ha'atzmaut in Chutz La'aretz

Sammy Finkelman wrote (MJ 62#12):

> Not too many years ago in Israel they realized that, this not being an actual
> Rabbinical holiday or day of mourning decreed by Chazal, like Lag B'Omer, they
> could move some days around as much as they wanted to, and this has happened
> with Yom Hashoa and Yom Ha-Atzmaut. Yom Ha-Atmaut now very rarely comes out on
> the 5th of Iyar.
> ...
> I don't know what people who say Hallel (or omit Tachanun) in Chutz L'Aretz
> should do. The 5th of Iyar, the 6th of Iyar, or both?

I would have thought that, since it is not a Torah-based festival, to which the
concept of sefeika deyoma [doubt about the day -- mod] might apply, it should
certainly not be celebrated on more than one day, any more than Purim.

Martin Stern


End of Volume 62 Issue 13