Volume 62 Number 18 
      Produced: Mon, 02 Jun 14 11:30:09 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

    [Stuart Pilichowski]
Dairy on Shavuot 
    [Chaim Casper]
Darwinian Evolution (7)
    [Robert Rubinoff  Frank Silbermann  Keith Bierman  Dr. Josh Backon  Martin Stern  Ari Trachtenberg]
Sedra divisions (2)
    [Roger Kingsley  Martin Stern]
Sfeika d'yoma of Yom Ha'atzmaut in Chutz La'aretz 
    [Roger Kingsley]
    [Roger Kingsley]


From: Stuart Pilichowski <stupillow@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 2,2014 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Akdamut

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 62#16):

> 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.
> ...
> Can anyone suggest why, of all the piyutim, it has retained its popularity?

I don't believe it's "popular." I think drudgery is a better definition. 
Yes, I know if I took the time to learn and discover the "real" Akdamut I'd 
be fascinated. So would the rest of the world. But the reality is the masses 
don't and really can't do that on their own.

I'd prefer every synagogue Rabbi spending no more than 5 minutes and explain 
some meaningful aspect of the piyut. The masses are thirsting to hear words 
of wisdom. . . rabbis: go to it!

And by the by  . . . . . I believe the rabbis should spend no more than 5 
minutes every davening and explain one tfilah.

chag sameach,

Stuart P
Mevaseret Zion


From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 1,2014 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Dairy on Shavuot

Martin Stern (MJ 62#16) raises an issue of eating dairy on Shavuot: 

> ... it would seem that there would never be any objection to eating milchigs 
> on the first evening.

Firstly, Martin quotes the gemara in Pesahim (109a) that "ein simhah ela b'basar
v' yayin" (there is no simhah/happiness except with meat and wine).   Yet the
gemara continues that Rabbi Yehudah said that the original statement only
applied when the Beit Hamikdash was standing, but nowadays, we say that there is
"ein simhah ela b'yayin bilvad" (there is simhah/happiness only with wine).   

That is the way the gemara concludes and that is the way most Rishonim (the
religious authorities from about 1000-1500C.E.)   The one major exception is the
Rambam who rules like the original source that said both meat and wine are
needed.   But the Rambam often ruled for the case where the Beit Hamikdash was
still standing; he had real emunah it would be built in his day so he ruled as
if the Beit Hamikdash was there. 

In the period of the Aharonim (1550 - today), the majority of poskim (rulers)
seem to agree with the Rambam.   I would offer that for many of these poskim, a
piece of meat 3 - 5 times a year (yontif) was a real simhah.   As a result, the
original statement in the gemara of the primacy of both meat and wine has taken

By the way, I have never understood those people who apply the original thought
of the gemara (both meat and wine are needed for simhah/happiness) to Shabbat. 
The Rabbenu Yonah in the gemara B'rakhot points out clearly that Shabbat is not
a law of simhah/happiness; rather it is a law of oneg/enjoyment.   Thus, to this
day, I enjoy dairy for Shabbat lunch so that I may eat dairy and parve dishes
with ice cream, pudding etc.]  

But is this discussion germane to Shavuot?   There are a number of rationales
why dairy is acceptable on Shavuot: 

a) The Jewish people knew they would be getting laws of slaughtering meat, so
they had only dairy the night of Shavuot while they were waiting for the Torah

 b) All their utensils were traife.   So the Jewish people opted to use their
utensils for cold dairy while they were waiting to obtain new utensils. 

c) Some have dairy followed by having meat so that they can eat sh'nei tavshilin
[two different cooked items/dishes] and 

d) Some have dairy in deference to the above followed by eating meat in
deference to the other holidays.   Anything less than having meat on Shavuot
would denigrade Shavuot vis-a-vis the other holidays.    

The upshot of these points is that, minimally, some dairy is expected on Shavuot
if not a lot of dairy.   People tend to do what they like best.   I have always
had a taste for dairy over meat (no, I am not a vegetarian).   Thus, Shavuot is
very enjoyable for me as I can eat dairy to my heart's content (at the evening
and daytime meals) without others giving me a[n incorrect?] guilt trip that meat
is needed on Shabbat or Yom Tov [holidays] observance.

B'virkat Torah u'v'birkat Hag Shavuot Sameah,
Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL


From: Robert Rubinoff <rubinoff@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 1,2014 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Darwinian Evolution

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 62#16):

> 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.

If you want to convince people that schools shouldn't have to teach evolution,
you are going to have to do a better job of discussing the scientific issues.
Let me just point out one mistake you are making that will cause opponents
to assume you don't know what you're talking about:

The 2nd law of thermodynamics states that entropy [never mind that "disorder"
is a vague and potentially misleading definition of "entropy"; that's irrelevant
here] is non-decreasing *in a closed system*.  Since the Earth is not a closed
system, the 2nd law is irrelevant to this discussion. The argument you are
making here would suggest that it's impossible for plants to grow!

All it takes for entropy to decrease in a system is an external source of energy.
(Assuming lots of other details of the nature of the system, but it happens all
the time.) Since there's this great big nuclear reactor 93 million miles away
from us sending immense amounts of radiation our way all the time, that
criterion has clearly been met.


From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 1,2014 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Darwinian Evolution

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 62#16):
> 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.

I am not sure what is being attempted here.  To whom are these arguments to be
presented?  Martin seems to admit that his arguments will not convince die-hard
evolutionists.  Those of our leaders who accept the inerrant nature of scripture
and tradition already reject the theory of Darwinian evolution. 

Is it to convince those Orthodox Jews who do not insist that the Torah is being
literal in those sections?  If so, then what does government pressure to teach
evolution have to do with it?  In any case, arguments based on natural science
are subject to counter-arguments based on natural science.  And even if you
convince those Jewish teachers, what are they then to do about the government

The world has the appearance of having developed along evolutionary lines. As
with many other things HaShem does and has done, we don't know why HaShem
created the world to have this appearance, but the appearance of evolution does
seem to have an amazing consistency.  An awareness of this consistency seems
very useful when it comes to predicting future observations, in both science and

So perhaps we could teach evolution, not as a theory about the world's
development, but as a theory about the world's appearance.

Frank Silbermann      
Memphis, Tennessee

From: Keith Bierman <khbkhb@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 2,2014 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Darwinian Evolution

Leah Gordon wrote (MJ 62#17):

> ...
> Just as a steam engine doesn't run a cell phone (and couldn't), the science
> has ...um... evolved.
> ...

Well, its nit picking but a steam engine driving an appropriate generator (or
alternator) can run a cell phone. Indeed, coal and nuclear plants essentially
power steam engines to turn thermal energy into mechanical energy which in turn
is converted to electrical energy which eventually makes it to recharge the cell
phone battery.

Keith Bierman
kbiermank AIM
303 997 2749

From: Robert Israel <israel@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 2,2014 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Darwinian evolution

I don't want to get into a debate about the fact of biological evolution, but
perhaps I can say something about what Martin Stern says (MJ 62#16) is the part
that really bothers him:

> 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.

It is true that modern biologists don't use theological or teleological 
arguments to explain how the world came to be as it is. This does not stop us
from asserting that there was a Higher Purpose involved, and that our existence
is miraculous. The fact that we can now know something about the mechanism of
the process does not really detract from that miracle. It just gives us an
opportunity to appreciate it more.

It now appears that the random processes of natural selection are all that is
needed to go from pond scum to intelligent creatures. It is not at all clear how
likely it was that this sort of thing would happen. Evolution might have just
ended up with extremely efficient pond scum. And if science should find
mechanisms that make intelligent creatures a more likely outcome, that is just
more reason for us to praise the Creator for setting up the laws of the universe
in such a way that it included such mechanisms.

Robert Israel

From: Dr. Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 2,2014 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Darwinian Evolution

In MJ 62#16, Martin Stern objects to the teaching of what he calls "Darwinian

Why object?

R. Yitzchak of Akko, a disciple of the Ramban, wrote 750 years ago that the
world was created 15 BILLION years ago. (to be exact: 15,340,500,000). The
Midrash states that God created universes and destroyed them. 

The gemara in Chagiga 13b states that there were 974 generations BEFORE Adam.

There are many midrashim noting that the first week of Creation lasted eons of
time (see: Anafim, a commentary on Rabbi Yosef Albo's Sefer Ikkarim 2:18,
explaining Rabbenu Bachya's comment on the use of YOM ECHAD instead of YOM
RISHON in Genesis 1:5; Breshit Rabba 9).

The biblical day is 1000 Divine years which is equivalent to 365,200 earth
years, and the midrash indicates that the world is 42,000 Divine years old. 

The Midrash in Breshit Rabba 14 mentions in the name of Rabbi Yehuda that man
was born with a tail. The Midrash Tanchuma Genesis 6 states that people born
before the time of Noah had webbed fingers. Breshit Rabba 23 states that in the
days of Enosh the faces of men became APE LIKE.

Josh Backon


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 2,2014 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Darwinian Evolution

May I thank the three contributors (MJ 62#17) to the debate on Darwinian

I thought I had made it clear that my objections were to:

1. its treatment as absolute truth rather than a useful system for
organising biological knowledge subject to scientific questioning and
possible future revision.

2. teaching it at the primary school level (under 10s) where such subtle
points would not be understood.

3. government insistence on doing this, seen as essentially an attack on our
value system, something I read today is being done now in Israel as well.

As regards point 1, Newtonian mechanics was eminently successful, and it was
anticipated around 1900 that the few anomalies would be sorted out, yet it
is now seen to be inadequate to explain all physical phenomena. Though it is
still used, as an approximation, for practical purposes, there have been
other 'scientific' theories that have been abandoned as completely untrue,
e.g. the phlogiston theory of combustion or the laudable pus theory of wound
healing. Evolution may go the same way but the way it tends to be presented
ignores such a possibility.

As regards point 2, I would not see any objection to teaching it, taking
these provisos into account, at a later stage. I agree that we need to be
aware of current thinking but that does not mean we have to accept it

As regards point 3, we should resist attempts to enforce the uncritical
acceptance of any particular world-view. Such government insistence is
hardly different from the way the mediaeval Church behaved.

Also, I was not considering whether there may be sources in our religious
tradition which could be used to justify our acceptance of evolution or other
questions such as the postulated age of the universe.

Finally, I must thank Louis Steinberg for his points regarding the Second
Law of Thermodynamics. I shall have to think about them but I am not
convinced that they completely undermine what I had argued. I know entropy
is not identical with disorder but Mail Jewish is not a scientific journal
so I allowed myself the liberty of using more easily understood terminology
even if it were slightly inaccurate. I was also aware that the law only
applied to a closed system and so any evolutionary development must be
evidence of some external input as opposed to purely random events in its

Martin Stern

From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 2,2014 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Darwinian Evolution

I find the discussion of the interplay between evolution and halacha to be
strange.  Science and halacha are simply two systems with a different set of axioms.

In halacha, we assume:

* G-d gave the written and oral Torah at Sinai

* We have a faithful representation of that Torah

* Our rabbis make binding interpretations of this Torah

In science, we assume:

* Experiments will behave the same in "more or less" the same environments.

* We accept the simplest description that satisfies our data without violating
existing conclusions.

Both systems are deeply subjective (what is a rabbi? whose rabbi? what two
"environments" are exactly the same? "simplest" description?) and have
corrective mechanisms for dealing with apparent inconsistencies.

The discussion on mail-jewish is predicated upon an acceptance of the former
axioms, and, if we desire to have an appearance of consistency (an apparent
virtue in both systems), we have no choice but to interpret the latter to
satisfy the former.



From: Roger Kingsley <rogerk@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 2,2014 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Sedra divisions

Menashe Elyashiv (MJ 62#17) wrote:

> OTOH, the candles of Aharon should be the start of Bahalotecha, it is a drash
> that connects it to the end of Naso. 
> The parsha starts with the candles, continues with the Leviim, Pesah Sheni etc,
> and seems logical.

It is hard to say where "sedra" divisions "should" be (I think parasha is
too close to parsha to use - it begs confusion).  But the subject of the
menorah is logically connected to the dedication of the mishkan - we go from
the set-up of the mishkan to an instruction on its functioning.

And the drash is a very strong one  - this is the only case where an
"extracted" Torah reading (in this case, 8th day Chanukah) links parts from
two different sedras.

Roger Kingsley

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 2,2014 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Sedra divisions

Menashe Elyashiv wrote (MJ 62#17):

> Martin Stern (MJ 62#15) asked about sedra divisions...

> The last portion of Bamidbar should be the start of Naso. However, this would
make Naso even longer...

I saw today that the Bechor Shor discusses this very problem at the beginning of
Naso. Briefly he explains that really the Gershon family should have been
counted first since Gershon was older than Kehat and the latter are counted
first because their duties in transporting the Mishkan involved its most
important components. However, so as to minimise the possible slight to Gershon,
the sedra break is made here so that Gershon comes at the beginning of the sedra.

Martin Stern


From: Roger Kingsley <rogerk@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 2,2014 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Sfeika d'yoma of Yom Ha'atzmaut in Chutz La'aretz

Reuven Miller (MJ 62#15) wrote: 

> AS to Yom HaAzmaut - the day remains on the fifth of Iyar - just the special
> prayers and celebrations are moved as needed. Tachanum was not said on both
> days.

Unfortunately, this is not so simple.  I also thought that this might be the
case.  I once asked a question on the Eretz Hemdah website about this, and was
told that the minhagim are still evolving - and they were curious to know what
we did.  Our tendency was also not to say tahanun or tsidkoseho on 5th Iyar.

But now that the new minhag has resulted sometimes (as this year) in 5th
Iyar being a day of remembrance (mourning) - Yom Hazikaron - the case for
not saying tahanun then is suddenly much weaker. 

Roger Kingsley


From: Roger Kingsley <rogerk@...>
Date: Mon, Jun 2,2014 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Tahanun

Martin Stern (MJ 62#17) wrote:

> Though the original Ashkenaz minhag was to say tachanun on Pesach Sheini, those
> who follow the Pri Chadash, and omit it, also still say it at the preceding
> minchah. 

I heard many years ago from Rav Slushtz a good explanation for this.  He said
that the minhag is to skip tahanun for one tefilla before a celebratory date. 
In the case of both Pesach Sheni and Erev Yom Kippur, the "chag" is in the
afternoon, so this is fulfilled by skipping tahanun on that morning. 

By the way, I think that skipping tahanun on Pesach Sheni is one of a few cases
where Minhag Yerusalayim gives more weight to the festivities in the Beis
Hamikdash than is given in chutz la'aretz.  Other cases that spring to mind are
skipping tahanun until 12 Sivan (tashlumin of Shavuos - which incidentally makes
isru-chag a non-event except for schools being off) and skipping "vihi noam" on
motsi Shabbos which is followed by Erev Pesach on a Friday (presumably because
of not working Erev Pesach afternoon). 

Roger Kingsley


End of Volume 62 Issue 18