Volume 62 Number 87 
      Produced: Thu, 19 May 16 01:52:14 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Av Harachamim after Yizkor 
    [Martin Stern]
Concubinage Relationship (2)
    [Saul Mashbaum  Dr Russell Jay Hendel]
Homosexual practices 
    [Martin Stern]
Keil Malei Rachamim/Yizkor 
    [Joel Rich]
Off The Derech 
    [David Tzohar]
Sefirat Ha'omer 
    [Carl A. Singer]
Some Thoughts on An'im Zemirot 
    [Martin Stern]
Techeles (Tyrian purple?) and Kala Ilan (indigo) 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, May 15,2016 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Av Harachamim after Yizkor

On Shevi'i shel Pesach (Friday), I was with an Israeli minyan, which  followed
nusach Sfard, who said Yizkor on that day. When they omitted the Av Harachamim,
I asked their reason and was told that it was only said on Shabbat and not on a
Yom Tov that fell on a weekday. I was a bit surprised but, not being totally
with their minhagim, did not make much of it. However, I think that they were in
error on this point. I follow the West German minhag in which, following the
Rema, Yizkor is only said on Yom Kippur and Av Harachamim only twice a year -
the Shabbatot before Shavuot and Tisha be'Av - so this did not disturb me anyway).

Can anyone clarify whether they were correct and, if so, the source for this?

Martin Stern


From: Saul Mashbaum <saul.mashbaum@...>
Date: Fri, May 13,2016 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Concubinage Relationship

In the course of the discussion of concubinage relationship, the idea that the
man 'acquires' the woman has often been stated, based on the mishnaic principle
that 'a woman may be acquired (nikneit) in one of three ways.' This in turn
derives from the usual meaning of 'kinyan', purchase or acquisition, something
one does in a store, for example. The identification of 'kinyan' with
'purchase', in the framework of a discussion of marriage, has lead to much
misunderstanding, confusion, and indeed resentment by women that in Judaism the
man 'buys' the woman, and presumably 'owns' her in some sense.

Although 'purchase' is one meaning of 'kinyan', it is not the only one, and is
not the one which applies to marriage. Most broadly, a kinyan is an act which
formally finalizes an agreement, and makes it binding, such that neither party
can retract on his own without consequences.

There are clearly fundamental differences between a 'purchase' and an
'agreement'. The concepts of 'buyer', 'seller' and 'ownership', so basic to
'purchase', are not relevant to 'agreement', in which the relevant concepts are
'parties to the agreement' and 'mutual obligations'.  It is obvious that neither
party to an agreement 'owns' the other, and that an agreement, unlike a
purchase, cannot be transferred to someone else without consent of the other
party (If I buy something, I can sell it to anyone I like, without the original
owner's consent, but I have a work agreement with a company, I can't send
someone else to do the job without the consent of the company).

Marriage is an agreement with mutual obligations. The mishna says that any one
of three acts makes the mutual decision to marry binding, before which either
party may withdraw at his or her own discretion, and after which a complicated
procedure is necessary, so long as either party is alive, to nullify the married
state. Indeed, the plain meaning of the mishna is 'a woman may become married in
any one of three ways' - the intuitive intent of the mishna is the real intent,
and introduction of the concept of 'purchase' is not only not more precise, but
in fact is misleading and incorrect.

Saul Mashbaum

From: Dr Russell Jay Hendel <rashiyomi@...>
Date: Sat, May 14,2016 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Concubinage Relationship

Isaac Balbin (MJ 62#86) makes several cryptic statements, one about what I
accept, which I wish to clarify. He was commenting on my summary (MJ 62#85) that
according to all early authorities (Rishonim) extra-marital relationships are
biblically prohibited since no one disputes that there is a positive commandment
for a man to "acquire" the right of intimacy with a woman prior to having
relations with her, and consequently, anyone having extramarital relationships
is violating this biblical commandment.

Isaac states:

> A listing of the views of some Acharonim across the spectrum is important.
> I agree with  Dr Hendel, however, I'd feel more comfortable if his reasoning
> was supported 'masoretically' by buttressing his views with those of
> Acharonim [latter and current].

A listing of views is only important in a halachic discussion if there is sound
reasoning justifying them. In this case, a major point of my citation of the
Rav, was that a major Rishon, the Raavad, was being misquoted: Raavad never
dissented on the Rambam's statement that there is a biblical commandment to
"acquire" prior to having relationships. Raavad at most dissented that there is
also a negative commandment. Consequently, citing views based on this misreading
of the Raavad has no relevance.

Isaac further states:

> [And yes, I know the Rav's famous words in rejecting the opinion of an 
> Acharon presented to him regarding an issue: 'I am an Acharon too, and I
> disagree]

I have no doubt that sometimes the Rav disagreed with other acharonim. But, in
this particular case of extramarital relationships, the Rav made it
unequivocally clear that other acharonim were simply wrong because they were
misreading the Raavad.

Isaac states:

> On the issue of extra-marital relations Dr Hendel (MJ 62#85) mentions a form
> of reasoning which leads to a conclusion both he and we do not accept.

It is not clear what Isaac is referring to. I do believe everything I wrote and
I support the reasoning I wrote. Perhaps, Isaac refers to what he said at the
end of the posting:

> My view is that the Raavad's position that extramarital relationships are not
> a violation of prostitution is untenable since a universal exegetical
> principle is that unconditionally stated verses are to be interpreted
> casuistically

Perhaps Isaac intended that I should not be overriding Raavad, a rishon, because
he did not interpret a verse - the prohibition of prostitution -
casuistically, as a case example, which should therefore be generalized to any
extramarital relationship.

I do believe this is a universal exegetical principle. I also believe the Raavad
overlooked it. If one reads the dynamic discussions of Jewish law such as the
Aruch Hashulchan, the Beth Joseph, or Rav Mosheh's responsa, one always sees a
give and take and the rejection of some views because 'they are untenable.'

I would be happy to discuss my views on biblical exegesis if that is the issue.

To recap: All Rishonim prohibit extramarital relationship. Therefore, later
authorities (acharonim) have no right to halachic right to permit them.

Russell Jay Hendel, Ph.D.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, May 15,2016 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Homosexual practices

Recently a friend much involved in inter-faith dialogue mentioned that in a
conversation with a very senior Anglican (Episcopalian) clergyman, the latter
had suggested that the Biblical prohibition of (male) homosexual acts was not a
blanket ban but referred specifically to a pagan cultic practices and that such
activity was permissible when it was an expression of "a non-exploitative loving
relationship between persons whose sexual desire was SOLELY to persons of the
same gender". Such an opinion is unfortunately quite common, even among Jews,
specifically of the "liberal" persuasion, and she asked me how this might be

Obviously those who do not take the Torah seriously would hold it whatever the
Torah might say but this was not the case with her interlocutor. I suspect that
his opinion might have been based on a misreading of the text of the Parshat
Arayot in Acharei Mot (Lev. 18) that we read at Minchah on Yom Kippur, which
lists various (mainly sexual) prohibited activities.

After a preamble banning, in general, following the practices of Egypt and
Canaan and exhorting the observance of Hashem's commandments (18:1-5) and incest
in general (18:6), it lists the specific incestuous relationships (18:7-18), the
prohibition of sexual relations with a niddah (18:19) and adultery (18:20). It
next prohibits (18:21) the Molekh cultic practice of passing children (through
fire) before the ban on sodomy (18:22) and bestiality (18:23), concluding with a
general warning (18:24-30) of the consequences of transgression (Eretz Yisrael
'vomiting out' those who participate in these prohibitions). There is no
explicit mention of lesbian activity though some commentators include it in the

The inclusion of the Molekh prohibition in what otherwise was a list of
prohibited sexual activities may well be the source of the theologian's
erroneous opinion. He may well have concluded that from then on, the Torah was
concerned with pagan cultic practices not specifically sexual ones and,
therefore, the bans on sodomy and bestiality must be understood in that context,
allowing him to be more welcoming to the increasingly vocal "homosexual lobby"
in the Church of England. Why advocates of tolerance of bestiality are not
currently so vociferous ("a dog is a man's best friend") is a separate problem
but I would not be surprised if their demands were not heard in the not too far
distant future.

However, only shortly after this passage we find (Lev. 20) the listing of the
punishments for their infringement. There the order is quite different,
commencing (20:1-5) with the death penalty for participating in the Molekh cult
and a warning that not enforcing it would lead to severe penalties for the whole
community. This is followed by the punishment for consulting augurs (20:6), an
exhortation to holiness (20:7-8) and the punishment for cursing one's parents
(20:9), before listing the punishments for sexual transgressions, clearly
separating avodah zarah [idolatry] from gilui arayot [sexual transgressions]. 

The first punishment listed is for adultery (20:10), followed by that for sexual
relations by a male with his father's wife (20:11), his son's wife (20:12),
another male (20:13), a woman and her mother (20:14), and an animal (20:15). It
then inserts the punishments for a woman who has sexual relations with an animal
(20:16) before listing the punishments for a male who has sexual relations with
his sister (20:17), a niddah (20:18), his aunt (20:19), his uncle's wife (20:20)
or his brother's wife (20:21).

Though almost all the prohibitions are specified in terms of the male
transgressor, the punishments are clearly ststed to be equally applicable to
both the male and (non-coerced) female participant. 

Clearly, from this listing, there is no reason to suppose that either sodomy or
bestiality are different from other sexual prohibitions but all are distinct
from the Molekh cult.

This then leads us to the problem of why the Molekh cult is listed in Parshat
Arayot in Acharei Mot among the sexual prohibitions where it could be very
misleading, as we see was the case with the Anglican clergyman. To find an
answer I consulted a very useful work, the Sha'arei Aharon by R. Aharon Yeshaya
Rotter (B'nei B'rak, 5731-5757), a compendium of earlier commentators, which
usually concentrates on such textual problems. He quotes various explanations of
Lev. 18:21 (vol.8 pp.785-790).

First he cites Rabbenu Bachya who wrote that this verse follows the ban on
adultery to indicate that the Molekh cult, as a typical example of idolatry
(others being included by the principle of 'binyan av [generalisation]'), to
indicate that the betrayal of the Almighty through idolatry is in many ways
similar to the betrayal of one's spouse through adultery.

He then raises the problem of why specifically this form of idolatry is singled
out in this passage and cites the Meshekh Chokmma's explanation that this is
because of the verbal linkage (semikhut [juxtaposition]) of zera [seed] in both
verses to indicate that the Molekh prohibition applies equally to the offspring
(seed) of an adulterous relationship (i.e. a mamzer) which one might otherwise
have excluded.

Of course none of the above applies to those who claim to have innate homosexual
desires, any more than would love of close family members, only to those who
express them through forbidden activities (mishkevei ishah).

Do other list members have any comments on this analysis?

Martin Stern


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Sun, May 15,2016 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Keil Malei Rachamim/Yizkor

A while back I did a shiur which touched on the efficacy of Keil Malei Rachamim
or Yizkor. I found one source which said it was preferable to give tzedakah
before making a Keil Malei Rachamim rather than pledging to do so. This sounded
extremely rational; deliver rather than promise. Anyone know why the standard
practice developed to promise tzedakah rather than give it prior to our request
of HKB"H?

Joel Rich


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Mon, May 16,2016 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Off The Derech

I recently read a review in the newspaper "Makor Rishon" of the book "Off the
Derech" by Farank Margolis. The book describes the problem in the frum community
of young people who are rejecting the tradition of their fathers and becoming
non-religious. The book was published 10 years ago so many of you have probably
read it. Do you agree with her conclusions about the responsibility of educators
and family members in creating this problem? Also I would be interested if you
think that anything has changed in the last 10 years.

She is presently working on a book about "datlashim"(datiim lesheavar) in
Israel. It will be interesting to compare the two books.

David Tzohar


From: Carl A. Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Fri, May 13,2016 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Sefirat Ha'omer

I don't know the source of this "minhag" if it can even be called that but after
(weekday) morning davening, our unoffiical gabbai makes announcements. For
example this (Friday) morning he gave last night's omer count, tonight's candle
lighting time and, having been handed a note, a vort that would be taking place
on Sunday.

Carl A. Singer, Ph.D.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, May 13,2016 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Some Thoughts on An'im Zemirot

Dr Russell Jay Hendel wrote (MJ 62#86):

> A) IF An'im Zemirot is really not prayer, then why prohibit minor girls from
> reciting it. Here is an analogy, would anyone object to minor girls making
> announcements at the end of service - who has given birth, who is getting
> married, who is giving kiddush? Certainly not. And is not the reason no one
> objects to this because it is not prayer. If An'im Zemirot were really not
> prayer then there would be no basis for suggesting prohibiting minor girls
> from saying it.

I think that the last two words "saying it" are crucial. The problem is with
minor girls SINGING An'im Zemirot, something they will be prohibited from
doing in the hearing of men when they are adults and which men may even be
prohibited from hearing while the girls are still minors according to many
authorities - not whether it is a prayer per se.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, May 13,2016 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Techeles (Tyrian purple?) and Kala Ilan (indigo)

Sammy Finkelman wrote (MJ 62#86):

> I had read - the last I heard - that actually the two colors, Techeles (Tyrian
> purple) and Kala Ilan (indigo), came from the same chemical, and that's why
> they are so hard to distinguish

AFAIK Tyrian purple was Argaman, not Techelet, though both may have been
manufactured from similar molluscs.

Martin Stern


End of Volume 62 Issue 87