Volume 62 Number 16 
      Produced: Sun, 01 Jun 14 07:13:53 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

    [Martin Stern]
Dairy on Shavuot 
    [Martin Stern]
Darwinian Evolution 
    [Martin Stern]
    [Eliezer Berkovits]
Error in attributed quote (re. women/men and kedusha) 
    [Leah S. R. Gordon]
Men and Women: Equal Kedusha? 
    [Chana Luntz]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, May 30,2014 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Akdamut

It has always puzzled me that, even in congregations that have abolished
piyutim, Akdamut is still said. It is written in a difficult Aramaic which I
suspect most people do not understand. Even if one goes through it in
advance with a commentary - the one in English by Artscroll is quite
comprehensive - it is usually chanted so fast that one has little time to
recall any of the explanations.

In any case, it is meant as an introduction to the Targum Onkelos on the
parsha, as is evidenced by the original custom of reading it after the first
pasuk has been leined for the cohen. Since the Targum is no longer read
aloud after each pasuk in shul, except by the Teimanim, Akdamut seems
completely redundant.

The current minhag of reciting it before the cohen makes birchat hatorah is
a result of its origin having been forgotten and its recital then being
viewed as an unauthorised hefsek [interruption].

Can anyone suggest why, of all the piyutim, it has retained its its

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 1,2014 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Dairy on Shavuot

There is a general custom to eat dairy foods on Shavuot and the question is
often raised as to why this is not in conflict with the general Yom Tov rule
of "ein simchah eile bevasar (veyayin) [there is no rejoicing except with
meat (and wine)" (Pesachim 109a). There are many suggested answers but I
would like to raise one for discussion here.

Before presenting it, I would point out that this principle, strictly
speaking, only applies when the Beit Hamikdash existed when there was a
specific mitzvah to bring shalmei simchah [a Yom Tov sacrifice mainly eaten
by the owners] and nowadays we only eat meat as a zecher [commemoration] of
it. In reality, those who do not enjoy meat do not have to eat it but should
substitute whatever they enjoy more as is explained in Torah Tidbits 1092
(Naso 2014).

I would however suggest that, even in the time of the Beit Hamikdash, may it
speedily be rebuilt in our time, there may not have been such a mitzvah on
the first night of Yom Tov. This is because the shalmei simchah could only
be brought by day and so such meat was not available that evening. (This
would not apply to Pesach when one had to eat the korban Pesach (and where
appropriate the Chagigah). So, certainly on Shavuot, it would seem that
there would never be any objection to eating milchigs on the first evening.

Whether this would apply during the day meals is more problematic, though an
argument could be made that so long as one had one meat meal at which
shalmei simchah were eaten, one could have a light milchig kiddush prior to
it, which is the custom in many families even nowadays (see Torah Tidbits).

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, May 25,2014 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Darwinian Evolution

In Belgium and the UK, Orthodox Jewish primary schools are being pressed to
teach Darwinian Evolution, whose truth is taken for granted even in some
otherwise Orthodox circles.

Since any argument against it predicated on a belief in the inerrant nature
of scripture and tradition, even if it be true, will not generally be
accepted by most people, such an argument from authority will carry little
weight with them and tend to be dismissed as 'fundamentalism'. Similarly,
arguing that the state should allow a derogation for Orthodox Jewish schools
to omit it will also probably backfire, as experience with shechitah has
shown. We therefore need to use arguments that may carry weight with the
outside world which I have tried to do below. My purpose, pace Rabbi Meir
Wise, is to arm our leaders in resisting state interference rather than to
debate with diehard evolutionists.
The underlying Orthodox Jewish objection to Evolution is not the subsidiary
assumption that the world is more than 5774 years old. This is a red herring
- such a belief is not a fundamental Torah principle. Even if the number of
years since Creation were different, this should not faze us any more than
that our date for commencing tal umatar (prayer for rain --MOD) is based on
Tekufat Shmuel, that a solar year consists of 365 days and 6 hours, even though
we know this is not absolutely accurate - our Calendar is itself based on a more
accurate figure. 
What is crucial is the belief that the Almighty created the universe and not
precisely when or how He did so. After all, if Adam Harishon (the first man
--MOD) had cut downone of the trees in Gan Eden and counted the number of rings,
he would have concluded it had been growing for several hundred years. His
dating would have depended on the assumption that the laws of nature have never
changed, which is by no means certain. Since we believe that the universe was
created in a mature form such an error in dating could be expected.
The essential problem with Evolution is its essentially atheistic nature. It
asserts that the present variety of living creatures has come into existence
through random processes with no underlying purpose, in accordance with the
deterministic laws of nature. By removing the Divine from nature, it frees
us from any responsibility and, therefore, any ethical restraint.
Evolution, on the other hand, claims that more complex organisms arise from
simpler ones through natural processes without any outside intervention.
This is inconsistent with the Second Law of Thermodynamics which, when
stripped of its technical jargon, states that, in its absence, the degree of
disorder in a physical system increases. This law is well-established and
forms the basis for many of the technological advances of the last two
hundred years. 
In fact, Evolution is not really scientific at all. As Karl Poppers, one of
the foremost philosophers of science of the last century, put it, to be
scientific a theory must be capable of being disproved - anything else is a
faith system. Since nobody has ever observed the change from one species
to another in nature, evolutionists claim that this is merely a matter of
not having had enough time for it to happen  a non-scientific argument.

A statistical analysis of the rate of random mutations in nature, most of
which are lethal, shows that the time required for it to produce the current
biological diversity would exceed the age of the universe according to any
scientific theory; it would be more likely, as the late Professor Fred Hoyle
put it, that a hurricane blowing through a scrap yard would leave behind a
jumbo jet! Having taught mathematics and statistics to many students on
science degrees over the years, I have found those doing biology have a
particularly poor grasp of the subject, which may explain why they continue
to uphold this approach.
Darwin's strongest argument for Evolution is based on his observations of
the variety of finches in the Galapagos islands. Those on different islands
had developed different beak types depending on their main food source. They
were all presumed to be descended from an undifferentiated finch population
subjected to small mutations over the years. Those best adapted to the
particular conditions of the island on which they found themselves therefore
survived better and were more successful in raising offspring.
This is micro-evolution, where changes take place within a species; at no
stage did the finches cease to finches. This is similar to the selective
breeding techniques used to produce plants or animals with particularly
desirable qualities. Moreover, when finches were transferred from one island
to another, they acquired, after a few generations, the characteristics of
their new habitat - proving they were still the same species.
Darwin extrapolated this to macro-evolution where one species changes into
another. The crucial distinction is that distinct species involve
individuals incapable of producing fertile offspring, e.g. horses and
donkeys can only produce an infertile mule. Macro-evolution has never been
How did Darwin come up with this implausible theory in the first place? It
seems likely that he got the idea from the well established theory of
evolution of languages developed by the brothers Grimm (of fairy tale fame)
at the beginning of the nineteenth century. They observed that there
appeared to be definite rules relating words and constructions in different
languages that indicated a common origin though they were currently mutually
unintelligible. The accumulation of small changes over the centuries had
been the cause of this differentiation. Thus Latin evolved into French,
Spanish, Romanian etc.
For modern English speakers, Anglo-Saxon, the form of the language a
thousand years ago, is a foreign language. Not only has the vocabulary
changed considerably but it was a highly inflected language more like
present-day German. Even the Early Modern English of Shakespeare of 400
years ago, is difficult to follow without notes to alert one to the changed
meanings of words. We know that this evolution took place because we have
recorded texts and can therefore follow it historically; we even observe
such small changes in our own lifetime. This is simply not true of
biological evolution.
Hopefully some of these arguments will cause even those who previously
accepted the Theory of Evolution to think again. Of course, they are too
sophisticated for primary school children, which is why its introduction
into the curriculum should be resisted.

Any comments anyone?

Martin Stern


From: Eliezer Berkovits <eb@...>
Date: Fri, May 30,2014 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Dinsoaurs

Can anyone direct me to quality discussion of the [Halachic and] Hashkafic
attitudes one should have in regard to dinosaurs - specifically, allowing one's
young children to become aware of them e.g. by entering an exhibit at a museum,
theme park etc ? (Are there any Halachic concerns?)

I am aware there is an oft-quoted Netziv, but other than that, I don't know of
much other literature on the subject.

I do know that for some reason, the entire subject of dinosaurs is absent from
the educational material of all the NW London Frum primary schools. I am not
sure how significant this is, however.


From: Leah S. R. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Fri, May 30,2014 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Error in attributed quote (re. women/men and kedusha)

In MJ 62#15, Mr. Josh Berman indicated that I had written to him off-line.  I
have never written such a thing to him, and until my email yesterday to ask him
why he made that claim, I had never emailed him at all.  Please consider posting
this a correction.

I also think, though this is between Josh and his actual correspondent, that if
someone has an off-line conversation, it is considered inappropriate to
unilaterally make it public.

--Leah S. R. Gordon

[We apologise for any misunderstanding that may have occurred and urge all
contributors to check their submissions to avoid such problems, especially at
the approval stage - MOD]


From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Fri, May 30,2014 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Men and Women: Equal Kedusha?

Josh Berman wrote (MJ 62#15):

> Aryeh Frimer wrote (MJ 62#13):
>> See Iggerot Moshe, Vol. IX, Orah Hayyim who argue that a man's and woman's
>> kedusha are identical.
> Len Moskowitz (MJ 62#14) wrote:
>> you can determine a population's formal level of k'dusha by how far they can
>> enter the Mikdash.
> Neither of these statements are true. Is there anyone who disagrees with the
> link I posted? Is there anyone who says the link I posted is not true? Please
> reply to the initial link that says men are more sanctified than women instead
> of bringing in their own opinions:
> https://drive.google.com/file/d/0By6Km-iY3gE6VTJvX1IxdmJVa00/edit?usp=sharing

What do you mean neither of these statements are true?  For example in the
first statement, are you disputing that Rav Moshe said it, or that Rav Moshe
knew what he was talking about? 

I must say, while it is bizarre enough to pasken from "Reb Artscroll" where
it claims to pasken, paskening from the footnotes of an Artscroll gemora is
completely extraordinary.  The footnotes of the Artscroll gemora are a quick
summary of some of the commentary on a particular point - the idea is to
provide a good starting point to go off and research more fully. I am quite
sure the authors would be horrified by your use of their footnotes to
categorically state halacha l'ma'ase [the practical halachic ramifications]
(that is supposed to trump Rav Moshe yet).  

Furthermore your summary as brought in MJ 62#13 appears to misunderstand not
only Artscroll, but the whole nature of halachic learning.  The rishonim are
grappling with the fact that while the Mishna at Horayos (13a) appears to
say that a man takes precedence over a woman in everything except the
provision of clothing, the gemora in Kesubos 67a seems to state that if a
man or a woman comes to you for food or financial support, the woman gets in
priority.  The four or so rishonim cited by Artscroll provide *different*
explanations and solutions to this problem (whereas you seem to understand
them as cumulative all building on top of one another).  So that your
summary (below) is a poor approximation of even the brief synopsis provided
by Artscroll in that it assumes that each rishon mentioned builds on the
other.  In contrast Artscroll specifically cites the various rishonim it
brings so as to differentiate their respective positions thereby
demonstrating some of the machlokus [dispute] between the various rishonim
with regard to this manner.

> 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).

Of these, the only rishon that brings questions of kedusha into it at all is
the Rambam and only in his perush on Mishnayos (the first reference brought
by Artscroll) - which is presumably how you get to your point 1.  Note
though that he uses the term mekudash by means of mitzvos, not kedusha (the
two are not necessarily the same, although one would not expect a shorthand
set of Artscroll notes to consider this when they used the term
"sanctified"), and relates it specifically to adult males being obligated in
more mitzvos than women.  The logical corollary of the Rambam's position is
that children, who of course are not obligated in mitzvos at all, or at most
d'rabbanan, would therefore come after women.  

And indeed Rav Ya'akov Emden does follow this to its logical conclusion,
holding that children and those patur [exempt] from mitzvos go last.  Note that
he also holds that a man who has two arms takes precedence over one who has one
arm, as the one with one arm can't lay tephillin (ie can perform fewer
mitzvos) - and further that those who are observant of either sex take
precedence over those who are not. 

The fact that the summary set out above is clearly miles from the actual
halacha can be seen from how it is codified in the Shulchan Aruch:

Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah siman 251 s'if 8 (hilchos tzedaka) says:

If a man and a woman come to ask for food, we give first to the woman and
then to the man, and so if they come to ask for clothing.  And so if a male
and female orphan come to be married, we marry the female orphan first.

Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah siman 252 s'if 8 then says:

We redeem a woman before a man, but if [the captors] are regular with
mishkav zachor [homosexual activity] we redeem the man first.

The Rema then adds: If the two of them were drowning in a river, we save the man

As to how all this is understood today, you need to look at the more recent
decisors.  And as it happens, an article has just been published in the most
recent edition of Tradition (Spring 2014) entitled "A Man Takes Precedence
Over a Woman When it Comes to Saving a Life": The Modern Dilemma of Triage
from a Halachic and Ethical Perspective" by Professor Alan Jotkowitz.  In it
he discusses the approaches of the Tzitz Eliezer, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav
Emanuel Rackman and Rav Aaron Lichtenstein to this question.  So given that
a lot of the hard work has been done for me, the following is merely a brief
summary of the various conclusions of that article (although not necessarily
in the order that Professor Jotkowitz discusses the various rabbonim).

1. the Tzitz Eliezer, Rav Waldenberg notes that the priorities in the mishna
in Horayos are not brought in any of the codes, the Rambam, the Tur or the
Shulchan Aruch, and understands the Rema above as merely modifying and
adding to the case brought immediately before by the Shulchan Aruch (ie when
the captors are trying to rape the captives and they run away to a river)
not a more general explanation.  He therefore holds that the issue is the
relative mitzvos observance and merits of the individuals which can vary
from case to case, eg a pious woman should come before a less pious man.

2. Professor Jotkowitz understands Rav Moshe as holding by a principle as to
which one will live the longest (assuming we are talking prior to starting
treatment or saving) and then the patient who calls first, is first in the
queue or who is closer to the house of the potential saviour.  There is
disagreement amongst students of his however whether, if everything of this
nature is absolutely equal, Rav Moshe would then follow the order of the
Mishna in Horayos that a man comes before a woman, or, as others report, he
would hold by a lottery.

3.  Professor Jotkowitz brings Rav Aharon Lichtentein's position as
understanding the Mishna as fundamentally talking about the social
usefulness of the person in question, with the final line of the Mishna
(promoting the talmid chacham mamzer [the bastard who is a scholar] over the
kohen gadol am ha'aretz [high priest who is an ignoramus]) as undermining
and contracting what went before - so that one needs to look more generally
at the social value of the individual concerned, whether male or female.

4.  He understands Rav Emanuel Rackman as saying the matter must be decided
by the individual concerned, who has to live with his or her decision who to

All these people of course knew the Mishna in Horayos, knew the various
rishonim that Artscroll brings inside, along with others that it does not,
and yet had no problem reaching their conclusions.  What this discussion
here on mail- jewish best illustrates, however, is how dangerous it can be
to jump on some Artscroll footnotes and, especially without reading the
actual sources themselves inside and in the original Hebrew and then seeing
how the ideas so briefly summarised have been discussed through the ages, to
jump to halachic conclusions.



End of Volume 62 Issue 16