Volume 62 Number 97 
      Produced: Sun, 28 Aug 16 16:09:15 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Blinded by the light? 
    [Joel Rich]
Gender Relationships 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Loud davening 
    [Martin Stern]
Minimum Requirements For Shechitah. 
    [Immanuel Burton]
The missing shammas 
    [Martin Stern]
Torah Learning vs Life Saving 
    [Dr Russell Jay Hendel]
Vaccinations (3)
    [Martin Stern  Sammy Finkelman  Dr Russell Jay Hendel]


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Sat, Aug 20,2016 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Blinded by the light?

There's a fascinating Ran on the Gemara in Kiddushin 31a concerning R'Yosef
being blind in which it states that R'Yosef blinded himself so as not to have to
see things outside his 4 amot. Why wasn't this considered chovel (wounding self)
even if done indirectly? Even if not chovel, should/may one do something which
limits his ability to do mitzvoth - any Torah ones perhaps (Ramban ad loc.)?


Joel Rich


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 17,2016 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Gender Relationships

As for  Martin Stern's passing on (MJ 62#96) Rabbi Doniel Neustadt's Weekly
Halacha Discussion on Gender Relationships, what I found "controversial" and that
could "generate some discussion" is, in the sources he brings that are lenient
to extending a hand to assist a fallen person of the opposite sex, the very need
to bring sources.  

I was always taught, especially as regards interpersonal relationships, that
basic commonsense is the first guide.  What could possibly go through a Yeshiva
student/Talmid Chacham/regular Orthodox Jew's mind that would cause him to
hesitate, even if there was no life-threatening situation? Actually, there is no
"relationship" there.

In addition, the source from the Talmud (rather than much later Halachic
decidors) of Rabbi Acha as related in Ketubbot 17a who carried a bride on his
shoulders could have been provided.
Yisrael Medad



From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 24,2016 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Loud davening

The Gemara (Shab. 119b) writes "R, Yehoshua ben Levi stated that whoever
responds 'Amen, yehei shmeih rabba' with all his might has any heavenly
judgement against him torn up". Tosafot (ad loc.) explain this to mean "with a
loud voice", which would appear to imply that the remainder of davening should
be said quietly, though Rashi interprets it to mean "with full concentration",
not necessarily very loudly.

On the other hand, the Gemara (Ber. 45a) writes in the name of R. Chanan bar
Abba that, generally, "one should NOT answer 'Amen' louder than the person
making a brachoh itself" which might be seen as a qualification of his ruling. 

Nonetheless, those who follow the opinion of Tosafot should not disturb others
unduly since everyone would be making the same response at the same time, so one
can hardly object to their practice.

There are other points where we are encouraged to be audible where this is not
the case, for example the first pasuk of Kriat Shema, about which the Kitsur
Shulchan Arukh (17:5) states one "should cause HIS ears to hear what his mouth
articulates". Since, occasionally, some people may be held up by unforeseen
events and, as a result, come a bit late in shul, thereby saying it at a time
when others are at a different point in the davening, which might lead to
disturbance. Perhaps such a person should understand this halochah more
literally, to imply that only HIS ears should hear what he is saying - NOT HIS

Unfortunately these implications seem not to be widely appreciated and, as a
result, some people have a habit of davening very loudly, so much so that they
drown out the sheliach tsibbur, especially during pesukei dezimra and hallel. 

There is an obverse to this, that every sheliach tsibbur should endeavour to
daven loudly enough for all to hear him. Those who cannot do so should not be
asked to take that role, let alone 'insist' on being given it when they are
aveilim r"l, or have yahrzeit. While they may be chiyuvim [obligated to lead the
davening], the tsibbur is not mechuyav [obligated] to let them do so if they are
unsuitable. Forcing themselves on the tsibbur does NO honour to the departed.

Similarly, no sheliach tsibbur should be in such a hurry that he does not give
the tsibbur sufficient time to finish saying "Barukh Hu uvarukh Shemo" (and they
should not say it so loud as to drown him out) before completing a brachoh,
thereby preventing many from hearing it and responding "Amen". He should
remember that he is the tsibbur's agent and one of his duties is to make this

However, those who get carried away with their davening on occasion shout out a
phrase much louder than the rest, a fairly common example being "Ya'aleh veyavo"
 when they reach it in their "quiet" shemoneh esrei. This can give others, who
may not yet have reached that point, quite a shock and disturb their
concentration. Of course they have the best of intentions but perhaps they
should "weigh up the loss from a mitzvah against its gain" (B.B. 78b).

The underlying problem seems to be that some people wish to emulate HKBH but
never seem to get past the first word of the Asseret Hadibrot "Anokhi" and, in
consequence, become followers of the MIR derekh (not the yeshivah chv"sh but the
literal meaning of the Yiddish word as in 'Es kumt mir' [I deserve it])!

While I do not wish to dampen others' obviously enthusiastic davening, perhaps
they should consider the problems it might cause for those whose hearing may not
be as acute as in their younger years and, as a result, find it difficult to
know precisely where the shats is holding. After all "Kol Yisrael arevim zeh
bazeh" (Shev. 39a).

What do other mail-jewish members think?

Martin Stern


From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 28,2016 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Minimum Requirements For Shechitah.

The Mishnah in Tractate Chulin 2:1 states:

"If one slaughtered by cutting one of the organs of a bird of both organs of an
animal, the slaughtering is valid."

The two organs referred to here are the trachea (wind-pipe) and oesophagus
(food-pipe), and it seems that the only requirement for shechitah to be valid is
for these two organs to be cut.

The Mishnah continues:

"Rabbi Yehudah says that he also has to cut the main blood vessels in the neck."

This requirement of Rabbi Yehudah, however, is not to do with the shechitah per
se, but is to do with the need to remove the blood before the meat is eaten -
cutting the main blood vessels while the blood is still warm and hasn't started
to coagulate will make sure that the blood drains properly.

Dr I M Levinger in his book "Shechita In The Light of the Year 2000 - Critical
review of the scientific aspects of methods of slaughter and shechita" refers to
a case cited by Heinrich Sporri in 1965 in which a man cut his own throat
including the trachea and oesophagus but not the carotid blood vessels, and was
subsequently saved - the man later reported that the pain was not great.

If the *minimum* requirement for shechitah is for the trachea and oesophagus to
be severed, how is this intended to cause the death of the animal in a humane


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 24,2016 at 09:01 AM
Subject: The missing shammas

On Rosh Chodesh, there is a minhag, mentioned by the Maharil, for the
shammas to call out "Ya'aleh veyavo" before the shemoneh esrei of ma'ariv
(which is not considered a hefsek bein ge'ulah lisfillah [an unwarranted
interruption]) to remind everyone not to miss it out. Actually he writes
that in his town (Mainz) this was only done on the first night of Rosh
Chodesh and "Rosh Chodesh" was called out on the second evening  (or on the
only evening if there is only one day) since that was the first day of the
month, though this distinction does not seem to be widespread. Certainly, it
was NOT the custom for anyone else to do so.
In recent times, in many shuls, the custom has arisen to bang on the bimah
before the shemoneh esrei of shacharit as well - calling out being a
forbidden hefsek at that point - to which one can hardly object, so long as
only one person does so unless one holds "chadash ossur min hatorah
[innovation is Biblically prohibited]". This has now spread to minchah as
well. There is no problem of hefsek [interruption] there so I have always
wondered why people bang rather than call out the words.
This Maharil reminded me of the old days when every shul had a shammas who
looked after the shul, a post that no longer seems to exist. He would put
away siddurim etc. after davening and generally keep the shul tidy. It would
seem, from the way people do not return sefarim to their proper places, that
his memory still exists and this may explain why many shuls are left after
davening looking as if a hurricane has swept through them.
Another of his jobs was to take care of visitors by giving them a siddur and
chumash and directing them to a seat where they would not be disturbed by
late-coming 'regulars'. In his absence, this duty now falls on everyone
present, yet as the joke has it "what anybody can be do, everybody assumes
somebody else will do it, so, in the end, nobody does it" and visitors are
left to look after themselves.

Perhaps the reason for the demise of the shammas is that there are simply
too few people nowadays prepared to take on the low status, and rather
poorly paid, job.

In his absence it might be necessary for each person to take on his
responsibilities and make sure the shul is the mikdash me'at that it is meant to
be, and in which all are made welcome. 

Martin Stern


From: Dr Russell Jay Hendel <rashiyomi@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 18,2016 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Torah Learning vs Life Saving

Joel Rich wrote (MJ 62#96):

> HaRav Moshe Feinstein wrote that while it is a Mitzvah to save people, there
> is no Mitzvah to study medicine (see his Teshuvah on whether or not it is
> permissible for a Cohain to study medicine. Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah
> 2:155).

This statement of Rav Moshe contradicts a Gemara in Shabbath 82a. The following
is also found in my article, "Towards a Definition of Torah", Proceedings of the
AOJS #3/4. You can access it at:


"R. Huna said to his son Rabbah, 'Why are you not to be found before R. Hisda,
whose dicta are [so] keen?' 'What should I go to him for', he answered, 'seeing
that when I go to him he treats me to secular discourses! [Thus] he tells me,
"when one enters a privy, he must not sit down abruptly, nor force himself
overmuch, because the rectum rests on three teeth-like glands, [and] these
teeth-like glands of the rectum, might become dislocated and he [his health] is
endangered"'. 'He treats of health matters', [R. Huna] exclaimed, 'and you call
them secular discourses! All the more reason for going to him!'"(Shabbath 82a)

On the words "Secular discourses", Rashi explains "Which aren't Torah."

The gist of the response of the father is that health matters  are Torah and
they should be discussed in Shiurim.

To return to Rav Moshe's statement: "there is no Mitzvah to study medicine"

This is contrary to the posekim and Shulchan Aruch. For example Rambam devotes 3
chapters to medical matters in the Mishneh Torah, and the Shulchan Aruch cites
these as authorative (Deoth 4, Rotzeach 11,12). Please see my article for more
examples and for a whole discussion of what is the proper definition of Torah.

Dr. Russell Jay Hendel, Ph.D., 


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 17,2016 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Vaccinations

Irwin Weiss wrote (MJ 62#96):
> I received at my house a flyer urging people not to have their children
> vaccinated, citing the Torah commandment "Venishmartem Me'od Lenafshoteichem"
> (Devarim 4:15)
> It says the benefits and risks of vaccination is a much debated topic in
> medical and scientific circles.  (No authority cited for this proposition). It
> implores that people not vaccinate their children, when a parent has reasons
> to believe that his children are sensitive to vaccines.

There are certainly an exceptionally small number of children who are
allergic to some components of vaccines, or are subject to epileptic
seizures, but there are, unfortunately, far too many parents who will take
this flyer as applying much widely. This has led to a drop in vaccination
levels in certain circles and a consequent reoccurrence of dangerous
diseases like measles, whooping cough etc.

> It says that anyone coercing someone to vaccinate a child against his better
> judgment becomes responsible before Hashem for any adverse reaction.
> Ridiculously, the flyer says that, although one may follow the opinion of most
> doctors and choose to vaccinate his children, the individual who has done his
> research has the obligation to act according to his knowledge.   It is true
> that the  overwhelming majority - truly overwhelming - of doctors have the
> opinion that vaccinations are safe and indicated.

The problem is that too many parents let themselves be swept up in this sort
of pagan aversion to 'unnatural' medical interventions. While they should,
of course, be vigilant they should realise that adverse reactions are
extremely rare and, can, in any case, usually be screened if there is any
reasonable suspicion that they may occur.
> This handout contains, for me, offensive anti-scientific statements, which
> could cause great harm in the community.  I have no trouble looking to trained
> Rabbis for Halachic advice, but prefer to look to normative medical
> professionals for medical advice.

I entirely agree with Irwin but I am sure that all normative medical
professionals would be willing to screen for the few possible children who
may be at risk. Routine refusal to vaccinate is almost certainly against
halachah because it deprives that child of a valuable defence against
dangerous diseases. Also it leaves the whole community open to their spread
when the proportion of the population gets above a critical level. The few
children for which it is counter-indicated would then be relatively safe as
a result of the 'herd effect' if all others were vaccinated.

> The statement bears the seal of Rabbi Eliezer Dunner of Bnei Brak.

Perhaps some locals can correct me but I believe Rabbi Dunner is rov of the shul
attached to the Ma'ayanei Yeshua hospital and, therefore, not a 'run of the
mill' chareidi rabbi. I can only assume that there have been some cases of bad
reactions in his community, but the tone of the flyer is perhaps unfortunate in
that it will scare some parents whose children are under no risk. 

Martin Stern

From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 17,2016 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Vaccinations

Irwin Weiss wrote (MJ 62#96)

> The statement bears the seal of Rabbi Eliezer Dunner of Bnei Brak.

> Comments?

Rabbi Eliezer Dunner of Bnei Brak believes that the anti-vaccination people have
the better of the argument. Given that assumption, his statements are elementary
and obvious.

He's saying nobody should act against their better judgment, and, because of
pressure, do something that he thinks may harm his child, and nobody should
pressure anyone to act against their better judgment, or what their judgment is
after reading up on it. There's no obligation to research this independently,
any more maybe than we would say there is an obligation to learn CPR, but once
somebody learned something, they have to act on their knowledge.

He seems to assume that most doctors are wrong, or at least that, because of
government or hospital policy, they will vaccinate children in circumstances
when they shouldn't, and that the doctors are all students of the same "Rabbi" 
and not entitled to extra weight by numbers. But like the Chazon Ish said, you
have to weigh things by opinions

If he was talking some other kind of medical procedure, like spinal disk fusion,
or removing tonsils, which used to be very popular, this would be uncontroversial.

It all depends upon what the facts really are.

The thing is, the facts may not be what he thinks they are.

Perhaps one could add a comment about the value of secular education.

From: Dr Russell Jay Hendel <rashiyomi@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 17,2016 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Vaccinations

Just a few remarks on Irwin Weiss's citation (MJ 62#96) of comments on
vaccinations from Rabbi Dunner of Bnei Brak. Several comments are in order

#1) There is a possible issue of state law if one refuses to vaccinate one's
child. This should be looked into (Irwin, perhaps as lawyer you can comment)

#2) Child? Adults should also get vaccinated against flu and other diseases.

#3) A person who does not vaccinate his child, is endangering the health of
other children (This is the point of view justifying the state laws requiring

#4) A few brief comments on drug approval (some people may not be aware of the
approval process). The FDA never "approves" a drug whimsically. There is a whole
process of tests. Besides 

a) showing that the drug is efficaciouis with a very high probability, 
b) causal mechanisms for the drugs use must be established, and 
c) *any* dangerous side effects must be noted.

If a person is concerned about drugs (or vaccines for their children) they can
consult the PDR (Physician Desk Reference) If a drug has a rare side effect it
is mentioned. One *should* ask one's doctor, "I saw this side effect in the PDR.
Could that happen to me or my child? Why do you think it is ok?"

#5) ALthough Irwin is right that the poster contains "offensive anti-scientific
statements, which could cause great harm in the community", I think we should
focus that right wing Rabbis are very often totally ignorant of scientific
methodology. A similar "chilul hashem" (in my opinion) happened because Rav
Moshe refused to prohibit smoking (Perhaps another story). The truth of the
matter is anyone who is a Rabbi should be trained in scientific methodology.

#6) If one can easily prevent bodily harm and does not do so one is violating
the positive commandment of watching one's health and also violating the
negative commandment of "not standing on your neighbors' (your own) blood" There
is a religious requirement to get vaccinated (over and above state regulations).
There are similar religious requirements to observe health laws such as not
being overweight, getting exercise and sleep (Rambam Hil. Deoth ch. 4).

#7) There is an issue of consistency. Does Rabbi Dunner go to the hospital when
he is sick. Then we have a horrible paradox. Rabbi Dunner will not vaccinate his
child; but if child comes down with a life threatening case of chicken pox he
would go to the hospital. There is blatant inconsistency.

I do not know if I will have time to respond to each response to my comments but
I do hope they generate discussion.

Dr. Russell Jay Hendel; 


End of Volume 62 Issue 97