Volume 62 Number 22 
      Produced: Wed, 18 Jun 14 16:04:20 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Dairy on Shavuot (5)
    [Michael Poppers  Haim Snyder  Menashe Elyashiv  Martin Stern  Wendy Baker]
Darwinian Evolution 
    [Wendy Baker]
Darwinian Evolution and Dinosaurs 
    [Orrin Tilevitz]
    [Martin Stern]
Men and Women: Equal Kedusha? 
    [Josh Berman]
Return of the death penalty 
    [Martin Stern]
    [Martin Stern]
Tachanun on 29 Iyar--shouldn't it be omitted? 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Michael Poppers <the65pops@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 8,2014 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Dairy on Shavuot

Over Yuntef, I saw an explanation (quoted in the name of R'Chaim Vital) that I
didn't recall seeing or hearing before. IIRC, it essentially was that:

(a) Each mitzvas lo sa'asei ["do not do X" commandment] is associated with its
corresponding solar day counting from Rosh Chodesh Nisan, making Chag haShavuos
the 66th day. 

(I personally found this incongruous, as it means some mitzvos lo sa'asei in a 
given Jewish year are either associated with no day or with more than one day in 
that year's calendar.)

(b) The commandment forbidding basar b'chalav [meat & milk], sourced from the
verse "lo s'vasheil g'di bachaleiv imo [you shall not cook (the meat of a) goat
in its mother's milk]", is the 66th mitzvas lo sa'asei.

All the best from
Michael Poppers * Elizabeth, NJ, USA

From: Haim Snyder <haimsny@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 15,2014 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Dairy on Shavuot

As opposed to the other postings on this issue, what I am about to say is not
scholarly but it is, IMHO, clever.
I mentioned to one of my fellow congregants at the Young Israel of Kfar Ganim
(that's in Petah Tikva) that Shavuot is the only 1 of the 3 regalim on which we
don't read the Torah portion "Shor v'kesev" (ox and sheep) (read on the first
day of Sukkot and the second day of Hag Hamatzot(whether it is Yom Tov for those
of you in Galut or Hol Hamoed here in Israel). He immediately responded, "That's
why we eat dairy on Shavuot."
Haim Shalom Snyder

From: Menashe Elyashiv <Menashe.Elyashiv@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 15,2014 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Dairy on Shavuot

In MJ 62#21 Michael Rogovin wrote:

> There is a practical reason for Dairy on Shavuot that I heard suggested by the
> director of Hazon, but it requires a knowledge of animal husbandry which most 
> of us, being distant from agriculture, lack.
> Male livestock (bulls, rams, etc.) have three functions: impregnating females,
> pulling things like plows, and as a source of meat. Females (cows, ewes) can 
> be a source of meat, but more importantly are a source of milk. Domesticated 
> farm animals mate in the fall and birth in the spring. Once the males have 
> performed their primary function, continuing to feed them (or at least all of 
> them) is a waste of resources, and they can be slaughtered. So in the fall, 
> you are likely to have a lot of males when you only need a few (or one). What 
> do you do with all the males? No one wants to keep feeding them. And in the 
> spring, you have pregnant and nursing females who produce an abundance of 
> milk (they are bred to produce more milk than is needed for offspring). The 
> milk will spoil if it is not preserved ...
> The Torah provides a solution for the male problem: they are slaughtered in
> large numbers on Sukkot, more than on other holidays. The Rabbis solved the
> extra dairy problem: eat dairy on Shavuot. Or at least, eating dairy reminds
> us that dairy is in abundance around the time of Shavuot and should be
> celebrated along with other abundance of the spring, connecting us with
> agricultural cycles.

This is what happens in Europe, but not in the Middle East, so I have been told,
 which explains why it was an Ashkenazi custom & not a Sefaradi one.

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 15,2014 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Dairy on Shavuot

Yisrael Medad wrote (MJ 62#21):
> Robert Schoenfeld (MJ 62#20) wrote:
>> There is a relatively simple explanation for eating dairy on Shavuos ...
>> and the only food they had was milk and soft cheese.
> But it the previous chapter, 18, verse 12, we read "And Jethro, Moses'
> father-in-law, took a burnt-offering and sacrifices for God ...".
> In Hebrew, zevachim [sacrifices] would seem to indicate meat (see the next
> chapter, Exodus 20:20).  Meat should have been available, no?

This fits well enough with the opinion that Yitro came before Matan Torah [the
giving of the Torah -mod] but there is the alternative opinion that that, though
it is written before, it actually happened afterwards. This section refers to
his leaving the Bnei Yisrael (Shem. 18, 27) which would make more sense after
Matan Torah if, as Chazal tell us he became a ger [convert] on arrival.

Martin Stern

From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 15,2014 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Dairy on Shavuot

Michael Rogovin (MJ 62#21), in writing on reasons for Dairy on Shavuot, gave an
excellent account of how the realities of animal husbandry led to excess of milk
in the spring, as well as surplus of bulls in the fall after the mating season. 
This is a most interesting point and makes agricultural and economic sense.  

It brought back to me a point I made some 40 years ago in a class given by Rabbi
Riskin back when I was first becoming an observant Jew.  We were talking about
the sacrificial animals and I, being full of the economics (I was taking it in
those days), brought up that the predominance of male animals made excellent
economic sense.  As each females could produce one or two offspring in a year
and few males were required for insemination, the males were far more
expendable, whether young lambs, kids or calves, or the grown rams or bulls.  In
addition, as much of the meat eaten in those days was at the holiday
celebrations, as it was expensive for small land holders, it made economic sense
to use the males.    

I still hold by this idea and it seems to make sense for God to have made this
system the least costly for the health and wealth of the community and the
individual.   It looks like good teamwork between God and Chazal with Shavuot

Thanks, Michael, for letting me think, once again of one of my better ideas
back those many years ago!



From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 15,2014 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Darwinian Evolution

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 62#21):

> Robert Schoenfeld wrote (MJ 62#20):
>> There are two modern examples of evolution that are very obvious today:
>> 1. There is a current project in Russia which has turned wolves into dogs.
>> They took the tamest of a litter of wolves for several generations and now
>> have animals that look and behave like dogs.
> It is well known that dogs were originally bred in this way, so this is
> nothing new. Furthermore, if dogs were allowed to return to the wild, they
> would revert to wolf behaviour after a few generations. No new species has
> been created, since dogs and wolves have always been able to interbreed (the
> crucial difference from distinct species).

This is absolutely true as there have not been sufficient generations to make a
full break between dogs and wolves and it clearly was actions of humans that led
to the changes.  

The reason permanent changes of an evolutionary character are found in insects
or bacteria, so that separate non-interbreedable lines are established, is that
the generations each last a very short time.  If dogs and wolves were kept
totally separated for hundreds of thousands of generations interbreeding might
well no longer be possible.  With horses and donkeys, having mules which are
only infertile females, a kind of intermediate step.  

I like to think of it as human's "imitatio Dei".   What God has done over eons
in bringing the present world and species to where they are, humans are trying
to do on a small scale with wolves into dogs, etc.  

As to teaching evolution etc. to younger children, I remember some 70 years ago,
when I was in third grade (8 years old) we had a big project to decorate the
whole corridor on our floor of the school with giant collectively made murals
depicting various stages of the earth's development.   We had one with a big
ocean and all kinds of fossil sea life (I made a small shelled creature for
that), a big mural with land creatures and giant ferns etc, and one with
dinosaurs (the better artists made those) etc.  It was educational and it didn't
make me question my simple faith in God at all.  This was not at a Jewish day
school, I will point out - they were few and far between in those days in New
York City.  Clearly, it made a big impression on me as I still remember it very
clearly in quite some detail.  

Wendy Baker


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 15,2014 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Darwinian Evolution and Dinosaurs

I am increasingly appalled by this discussion:

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 62#21):

> Eliezer Berkovits wrote (MJ 62#20):
>> In any case, I am merely curious if there is any practical Torah discussion
>> (Halachic/Hashkafic) of this subject; specifically, the following 2
>> (independent) points:
>> (1) confirming that dinosaurs did at one point roam the earth
>> (2) if 1 is correct, that this did happen millions of years ago
> As regards point 1, the fossil evidence does tend to suggest this and point
> 2 would then follow PROVIDED the laws of nature AS WE NOW OBSERVE THEM were
> in operation in the distant past. The latter seems likely but cannot be
> assumed to be true since there is NO way of confirming or disproving it.

1. The fossil evidence "tends to suggest" that dinosaurs once roamed the earth?
You mean, maybe they didn't? Is there a a scientific alternative? And as for the
laws of nature "as we now observe them" possibly not being in operation "in the
distant past", I would be curious how Martin defines "the distant past" and why
he evidently thinks the "recent past" is not in question.

2. Does this discussion -- in the mind of those who think studying dinosaurs is
problematic, or who think there is some question about whether they roamed the
earth -- change if we substitute an animal such as a cave hyena which went
extinct far more recently (but more than 5774 years ago) and which appears in
cave paintings dating to some 17,000 years ago?

3. If it doesn't, does it change if we substitute some species that went extinct
even more recently, such as the passenger pigeon (extinct since the early 20th
century). If the answer is, "of course the passenger pigeon existed", I'd like
to know how you know. AFIK, neither the Torah nor any Torah source discusses it,
and the only records of its existence, AFIK, are from people who would be passul
[disqualified - MOD] as witnesses.

4. More than once -- from Martin, perhaps, or from Eliezer Berkovits -- I have
seen the question whether Chazal talked about dinosaurs. Of course they didn't.
They also didn't talk about North American warbler species or bird species that
are unique to New Zealand. Does anyone question their existence, or that they
may be taught to children?

5. It is true that certain scientific "theories", e.g., that the climate is
changing because of human activity, or that petroleum results from the decay of
dead living things, are accepted by the vast majority of reputable scientists,
but there is a very small minority of reputable scientists who disagree. By
contrast, no reputable scientist espouses a scientific theory other than
evolution to explain the species of life now on this planet. There are certainly
other "theories", but they are not scientific theories. The "theory" of
evolution is a scientific fact. 

6. Based on his original post, Martin's primary objection to evolution seems to
be the notion that the mutations necessary to generate it are random. As a
religious Jew, I am not totally happy with the notion of randomness either, but
the problem with questioning it is that randomness is the foundation of such
things as physical chemistry. Does Martin really think that Hashem sits on His
throne constantly deciding which oxygen molecules are to go on which direction?
And if the answer is, "of course not, Hashem set out basic physical laws", why
isn't evolution one of them?

7. As for the reason -- halachic -- that children should be taught about
dinosaurs, it is the same reason they should be taught about giraffes, monkeys,
flying squirrels, toucans, neotropical warblers, and a whole host of animals
they have no practical reason to know anything about them: they are all examples
of the greatness of the Hakadosh Baruch Hu's creation. The more variety that
children see, the more awe of that creation they will feel.

8. Martin also objects to evolution on the grounds that it is deterministic. It
isn't because one of things that has evolved is free will. But if Martin and his
allies want something really to worry about, I recommend they read the most
recent issue of Scientific American, which quotes some philosopher-scientists as
suggesting that free will is actually an illusion, and that in fact our behavior
is predetermined by chemistry. It has nothing to do with evolution.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 15,2014 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Dinosaurs

Leah S. R. Gordon wrote (MJ 62#21):

> ...  unless you
> disbelieve the fossil record, it would be hard to explain why there weren't
> humans along with dinosaurs, unless you accept the science of evolution.

Though "the science of evolution" might explain the fossil record, it is not
certain that some other theory might not also do so. The analogy of
Newtonian and Einsteinian mechanics suggests such multiple (and mutually
incompatible) scientific theories may be possible. To assert the contrary is
unscientific and an example of the so-called "religion of scientism" which
raises a current scientific theory to the level of dogmatically accepted
truth, disagreement with which might be fraught with dire consequences as
the examples of Giordano Bruno and Galileo demonstrate.

Martin Stern


From: Josh Berman <mesechetbrachot@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 11,2014 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Men and Women: Equal Kedusha?

In reply to Chana Luntz who wrote (MJ 62#19):

> Josh Berman wrote (MJ 62#17)
> ...
>> my question is specifically about the Rambam who clearly says that men have
>> more kedusha than women.
> No he doesn't.  He explains the first line of a Mishna in Horayos in his 
> perush al mishnayos (his explanation of the mishna) as ruling that men are 
> saved before women as being on the basis that: 
> ...
> and behold he becomes sanctified [mekudash] from it, therefore he has priority 
> in being sustained [lechayos].

Actually, he does. You just quoted that he does (assuming the man performs what
he is obligated to perform). You say this is negated from the fact that he does
not include it in the Mishna Torah, which makes no sense. We are not talking
about halacha. We are talking about who has more kedusha.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 17,2014 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Return of the death penalty

While we are all anxiously awaiting good news regarding the three kidnapped
yeshiva boys, there is a new trend in Israeli public opinion which might be
worth discussing. 

In the Jerusalem Post on 16 June '14, there appeared a report in which one of
the leading figures in the national-religious community, head of the Ateret
Yerushalayim Yeshiva in the Jerusalems Old City and the rabbi of the Beit El,
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, was quoted as calling for the imposition of the death
penalty for Palestinians involved in terrorist activities as a way of preventing
future kidnappings and other terrorist attacks. 


In the interview, he was quoted as saying:

> Terrorists need to know that it is not worthwhile to participate in terrorist
> activities and that if they do so they will pay dearly, that they and all
> those involved in the crime will pay dearly.
> Bowing down to terror only brings more terror.... The death penalty should be
> used as a way of dissuading terrorism.
> At the moment, terrorists who are caught sit in jail, eat good food, study for
> university degrees and then are released and hailed as national heroes.

In the following issue, similar sentiments were expressed in the letters


In particular, Ron Belzer wrote:

> There are numerous arguments for not instituting the death penalty, but they
> hardly apply in regard to such hostile and hateful people.
> It has been suggested that every convicted Palestinian murderer be sentenced
> to death, with implementation deferred. If anytime in the future an Israeli is
> killed by a terrorist, then the prisoner who is first in line should be
> immediately executed, his body cremated and his ashes scattered over the sea,
> with no publicity at all.
> The Arabs have got to know this and the world, too, must be told. Every
> potential terrorist will then know that he will never be released and that the
> likelihood of his execution might be imminent, without any publicized
> martyrdom. Whether or not it would be a deterrent is a question, but at least
> fewer terrorists would be around.

It is ludicrous that those sentenced to several terms of life imprisonment be
released in such exchanges. Since they committed crimes that many civilised
nations would consider, at least in principle, deserve the death penalty, their
lesser punishment is an unjustifiable act of mercy which should, if necessary,
be revoked.

However it is necessary to formulate this in an appropriate manner. As a first
move, a bill should be passed in the Knesset authorising the government to
"commute" such multiple life sentences to the death penalty. Since they were
already convicted, they should have no further right of appeal to the courts.
This power should apply NOT only to those currently held but, perhaps more
importantly, to those released in previous exchanges. In particular, it should
be automatically applied should such a convict be found guilty of a further
terrorist offence. Such legislation should be made retroactive so that those
released in unequal exchanges would always have a threat hanging over them,
which might deter them from repeating their previous behaviour. Since this would
only apply to those convicted of a capital offence, which had previously been
commuted to life imprisonment, this could not be viewed as hostage taking.

Having passed this legislation, the government should announce its intention to
implement the new power if the kidnap victims are not returned by a set day by
executing one such multiple murderer each day until they are. The choice should
be entirely at the government's discretion and the murderer's identity should
only be disclosed after execution to avoid obstruction by so-called human-rights

The British in India used to bury the corpses in an undisclosed location
together with a pig or dog. Perhaps this precedent should be followed since it
might strike fear in those Islamists who believe it would deny their souls
admission to paradise and the ministrations there of 70 virgins.

While I would not normally advocate taking such morally repugnant measures, I
fear they are the only ones that the likes of Hamas might understand and may be
the only realistic way to deal with such fanatics.

How do Mail Jewish members react to these suggestions?

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 15,2014 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Tachanun

Yisrael Medad  wrote (MJ 62#21):
> Martin Stern writes (Vol.62 #20)
>> ... Erev Rosh Hashanah, where there is no "chag" in the afternoon...
> I was given to understand that the verse in Pslams 81:4,  "Blow the horn at
> the new moon, at the full moon for our feast-day", defined Rosh Hashana as
> a chag.

I fear Yisrael has misunderstood what I wrote. Obviously Rosh Hashana is a chag
(as he wrote) but no part of Erev Rosh Hashanah is, not even in ITS afternoon,
which was the point of my comment.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 15,2014 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Tachanun on 29 Iyar--shouldn't it be omitted?

Doniel Kramer complained (MJ 62#21):

> Why not ask Rabbi Litwak why the Ezras Torah luach makes no mention of Yom
> Hashoah; Yom Hazikaron; Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim!!!

The answer should be obvious since these days are not recognised as of
religious significance in chareidi circles.

Martin Stern


End of Volume 62 Issue 22