Volume 63 Number 12 
      Produced: Sun, 04 Dec 16 01:56:12 -0500

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Can Money Be Non-Kosher? 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Conservatism (was What is an Orthodox Jew?) 
    [Martin Stern]
Davening at the Amud 
    [Robert Schoenfeld]
    [Isaac Balbin]
Genuine converts (2)
    [Rabbi Meir Wise  David Tzohar]
Hearing aids 
    [Perets Mett]
Hotsa'at Sefer Torah 
    [Martin Stern]
Jared Kushner (was What is an Orthodox Jew?) 
    [Carl A. Singer]
Kavanah (was Notifying the congregation) 
    [Leah S. R. Gordon]
Law of Return 
    [Martin Stern]
What is an Orthodox Jew? 
    [Chaim Casper]


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Thu, Dec 1,2016 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Can Money Be Non-Kosher?

It has been reported that England's new 5 pound notes are made of polymers that
contain rendered animal fat. The bills entered circulation in September.

If one counts money by licking one's finger, is there a question of kashrut that
may arise?

Or is the bill totally altered by its production process?
Yisrael Medad


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, Dec 1,2016 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Conservatism (was What is an Orthodox Jew?)

I wrote (MJ 63#11) in response to Irwin Weiss (MJ 63#09):

> ... The term "Orthodox Jew" is unfortunately used with two quite distinct
> meanings:
> 1) Someone who observes mitzvot as commandments from HKBH - what I would
> call 'Orthodox by conviction'
> 2) A member of an Orthodox shul - what I would call 'Orthodox by affiliation'
> The reason for these two usages is that, originally, the term "Orthodox" was
> introduced in the 19th century by adherents of Reform in Germany as a
> catch-all - dare I say it, term of abuse - for all those 'unenlightened' Jews
> not who did accept the 'modern' Reform ideology and jettison all out-dated
> mediaeval rituals (as it saw traditional Jewish practices) ...

>> I personally know people who belong to a Conservative shul here who are very
>> strict about Kashrut and Shabbat, and, although they may daven with a
>> different siddur and with mixed (male and female) seating, they are very kind
>> and moral people.
> The problem with SOME strands of the Conservative movement is that, in
> abandoning the traditional doctrine of Torah min Hashamayim, its members keep
> mitzvot as hallowed traditions rather than Divine commandments - this is
> basically Solomon Schechter's concept of "Catholic Israel". By making this
> change, they certainly give themselves considerable leeway to modify practices
> - for example its permission to drive to synagogue on Shabbat. Orthodoxy, on
> the other hand, would, at most, turn a blind eye to members doing so. This is
> an example of how the Conservative movement differs from Orthodoxy by allowing
> social conditions to override halachic strictures.

Perhaps I should have made it clearer that there are many strands in the
Conservative movement, some of which are very close to the more 'modern'
forms of Orthodoxy. In fact, some years ago, the two tried to set up a
"Traditional Conservative" movement, mainly in response to the decision of
the "official" Conservative movement to ordain women as rabbis - I am not
sure whether it still exists.

The reason for this diversity within the Conservative movement lies in its
historic origins as a reaction to the extreme position of the Reform
movement which by the 1880s had captured most US Jewish congregations. The
trigger was when, at the celebratory dinner in honour of the first
graduation of rabbis from the Hebrew Union College, the first course
consisted of "little neck clams", a quite clearly non-kosher item. Those who
found this offensive left the banquet and set up the Jewish Theological
Seminary to train rabbis more in the spirit of traditional Judaism.

This group consisted of both strictly Orthodox rabbis and others who were
more open to change but the JTS was in the first instance run on Modern
Orthodox lines. Even if Bible Criticism was taught it was as a hava amina
[an interesting hypothesis rather than established truth] - even the famous
leader of German Orthodoxy, Rabbi David Tzevi Hoffmann of Berlin, wrote
about it in his Bible commentaries.

Things began to change after the JTS was reorganised by Solomon Schechter. That
Mordekhai Kaplan was for many years on the JTS faculty, and his
Reconstructionist movement was considered a part of the overall Conservative was
a worrying sign that its 'inclusivist' attitudes could lead to further deviations.

However the crucial break came only after WW2 when the Conservative movement
found itself getting large numbers of new suburban congregations which saw it as
an alternative to Orthodoxy, which was seen as "foreign", and Reform, which was
perceived as too "goyish". Because of their membership's wide geographical
spread there was a demand to allow driving to shul on Shabbat and it was
permitting this that marked the real break.Since then Conservatism has drifted
further and adopted many features of Reform. 

There is a fear in certain circles that "Open Orthodoxy" might easily follow
this same progression, which might explain their opposition to the latter.

However, the more conservative wing of the movement still differs little in
appearance from Modern Orthodoxy and, since the fundamental theological
points at issue are not immediately noticeable, the unsuspecting visitor may
not be aware of them. Its UK equivalent, the Masorti movement, makes much
play of this and claims to be "non-fundamentalist Orthodox" to attract
traditional Jews who accept this at face value.

Thus the Conservative movement, especially in smaller communities away from
the major Jewish centres, can have members who are Orthodox who have strayed
into them for want of any alternative congregation. This, perhaps explains
why Irwin knows "people who belong to a Conservative shul here who are very
strict about Kashrut and Shabbat".

Martin Stern


From: Robert Schoenfeld <frank_james@...>
Date: Thu, Dec 1,2016 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Davening at the Amud

A person who takes me shopping every week is in charge of the weekday minyan.
Just this week he ran into a problem. Usually one of the members who is avel
davens but this week someone who is in sheloshim but not a shul member came and
was allowed to daven. The Rabbi and the shul president complained because this
person is not a shul member and was even called a schnorer. Was my friend right
to allow him to daven?



From: Isaac Balbin <isaac@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 24,2016 at 05:01 AM
Subject: FitBit

> Carl A. Singer wrote (MJ 63#09):
>> What of a "fit-bit" -- a wrist mounted device which counts steps, for example. 
>> Some of the simpler devices have NO manual interface -- that is when you're
>> wearing them you simply have this thing on your wrist. To see the count, you
>> need to engage a computer. However, your movement is noted by the device and
>> should you remove the device, this may also be noted.
> FitBit and similar devices count steps, so going to Shul for Shachris or
> Mincha/Maariv also count as exercise.

I'm interested in a source that classes walking to Shule as *exercise* forbidden
on Shabbos. It is an incidental permitted activity required to get from point A
to point B, within the Techum Shabbos (Shabbat limit of sojourn). How does it
metamorphonse into formal exercise, taking it out of its normal conduit? There
are those who walk differently on Shabbos as a matter of Halacha! I see people
running down the road in their gym outfits wearing a fitbit or similar. I would
venture only the reform, conservative, or some Open Orthodox would permit this.

Its certainly a Psik Reisha De Nicha Lei (a direct activity (wearing it) which
benefits one and, as a side effect, benefits some overall fitness value. It is,
as I also stated, possibly preparation (Hachono) for connecting to some device
later for analysis and perhaps most importantly Zilzul Shabbos (cheapening of
the day of rest).


From: Rabbi Meir Wise <Meirhwise@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 24,2016 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Genuine converts

Anyone who has studied both Talmuds properly knows that the Yerushalmi did take
a more lenient view of converts. This is a fact, not merely according to Rav
Goren zatzal - he merely pointed it out.

Whilst we are exchanging anecdotes about converts of 30 years ago, there was a
girl who was thought to be Jewish in JFS who came to get married and was told
that she needed to re-convert. After which she was not allowed to marry her
boyfriend who was a Cohen so she went out and committed suicide.

I once performed the marriage ceremony in London for a young lady who converted
in the Jerusalem Bet Din who then settled in London. Two years later she gave
birth to a son, the then Rosh Bet Din called me to ask if she kept shabbat and
depending on my reply he would allow a mohel to circumcise their baby boy. I
replied that I was not God's policeman and didn't stand outside their home on
Shabbat. He did send a mohel.

Rabbi Wise

From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Sat, Dec 3,2016 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Genuine converts

I think that there are two different groups that have to be taken into account.
One is the group of non-Jews from all over the world who are interested in
learning about Judaism and are thus potential converts. They should join a
program for potential converts such as the one in Machon Meir where they can
learn Torah and get ready for conversion.

The other group is the hundreds of thousands of people, mostly from the former
Soviet Union who are "zera Yisrael" who are descended from a Jewish father or
grandfather. They are essentially Geirei Toshav who observe the seven Noachide
laws and accept Jewish sovereignty. IMHO these potential Jews should be treated
differently. Perhaps by accepting them by "giyur lechumra". In the meantime they
represent a sort of "erev rav" who are slowly but surely integrating into
Israeli society, but it would be better if they could become genuine converts,
that is Israeli Jews and not just Israelis of Jewish descent.
David Tzohar


From: Perets Mett <p.mett00@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 24,2016 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Hearing aids

Carl Singer, (MJ 63#11) wrote:
> The questions revolve around maintenance of the hearing aid on Shabbos.
> Specifically:   
> (1) changing batteries    
> (2) adjusting volume

1) I cannot see any heter (permissibility) for changing the batteries of a
hearing aid (or indeed any other device) on Shabbos.

A hearing aid with a dead battery (or with no battery) is muktsa on Shabbos.

2) Adjusting volume is more complex.

With an analogue hearing aid there are some situations in which adjusting the
volume may be permitted. I received a psak many years ago when I wore my first
volume-adjustable hearing aid that I could adjust the volume on Shabbos.

Nowadays hearing aids are typically digital and adjusting the volume is much the
same as operating any computing device which is not generally considered to be
allowed on Shabbos

In any event, there is so much variability between hearing aids, one really
needs to ask ones LOR on an ad-hoc basis.

Perets Mett


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sat, Dec 3,2016 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Hotsa'at Sefer Torah

On Shabbat and Yom Tov, I daven in a yeshiva and have noticed that they seem
to be ignoring what I thought were established customs regarding Hotsa'at
Sefer Torah. I have raised this but my suggestions get brushed aside. I will
outline what happens with my objections.

In this yeshiva there is a platform in front of the Aron Hakodesh, reached
by three steps.

On most occasions the person assigned to open the Aron takes out the Sefer
Torah and takes it DOWN to the amud to give it to the shatz. I feel this is
a bizayon [disgrace] to the Sefer Torah and, to the contrary, the shatz should
go up to fetch it. On the rare occasions where the shatz actually goes up to
fetch it, he usually takes it back to the amud. He may also go up on the left
side and come back on the right whereas there is a general principle that the
right takes precedence.

Having taken it he, as often as not, says Shema etc. at the amud, or on the
platform facing the Aron with his back to the tzibbur - the Aron may or may
not have been closed by then. Surely he should be facing the tzibbur from
the elevated platform since these pesukim are meant to be in the manner
speaking to it. I know there is a problem about turning one's back on an
OPEN Aron Hakodesh but this can be obviated by standing to the side facing
diagonally (partly to the Aron and partly to the tzibbur). When it is closed
there is no problem.

Are my objections unfounded or do they have an authentic source? Hopefully
someone on our list can provide sources supporting one or other side of the

On a tangential point, I have noticed that in many places the honour of
taking out the Sefer Torah is given to a visitor. Since the manner by which
the parochet is opened varies from shul to shul this often gives rise to
embarrassment as, for example, he searches for the cord (which may not even
exist) or tries to pull it open and finds it won't move (because of the
stiff cord). In a few shuls, the gabbai goes up with him and points out what
to do. Might I suggest that others follow this practice.

Martin Stern


From: Carl A. Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 24,2016 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Jared Kushner (was What is an Orthodox Jew?)

I don't know Jared Kushner nonetheless I found the recent thread troubling. In
general terms -- I feel it is inappropriate to discuss the religiosity of *any*
given *lay* individual in this forum.

I'm reminded of the phrase that a hypocrite is someone who minds someone else's

Carl A. Singer


From: Leah S. R. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Tue, Nov 29,2016 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Kavanah (was Notifying the congregation)

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 63#11):

> On a somewhat tangential point, the current campaign for Partnership Minyanim
> (let alone the so-called Women of the Wall and their demand for 'equal rights 
> to daven as and how they wish' who strike me as being motivated more by a 
> desire to provoke a reaction than any genuine spirituality) would carry more 
> weight if the above-mentioned absence were not their default position.  
> Perhaps, one day I will notice streams of ladies coming to a weekday
> shacharit at 6 a.m. on a cold and rainy winter morning but, somehow, I doubt
> it will ever happen.

It's very unclear to me why he feels the need to make such an unkind side remark
about the purported low kavanah of women in Partnership Minyanim or the Women of
the Wall.  He is talking about me. I have a high level of kavana and
spirituality.  And it is not for him to judge my kavanah in any case; that is
for Hashem only.

It feels particularly offensive because we have a situation in which men
excluded women from being counted in davening for thousands of years, and
assigned them other competing tasks.  To then smirk about minyan attendance is
borderline obnoxious - and inaccurate.  In Egalitarian minyanim, the tendency
is for women to dominate in numbers, and, in fact, this has been written up with
hand-wringing about why men don't participate as much in the Conservative movement.

Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 24,2016 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Law of Return

Leah Gordon wrote (MJ 63#11):

> Martin Stern wrote (MJ 63#10):
>> Admittedly they have a problem but that has been caused by the secular
>> authorities allowing non-Jews with some Jewish ancestry to immigrate under
>> the Law of Return. It is for the Israeli state to solve their problems NOT
>> the Rabbinate.
> How can Martin say this??  He must be aware that the Law of Return was written
> as pikuach nefesh because it used the same definition of a Jew as those who
> wished to murder us!

I stand by what I wrote. If the State of Israel wants to save non-Jews from
being killed because they are (wrongly) deemed to be Jews by other non-Jews,
that is perfectly acceptable, if not praiseworthy.

However, that does not mean that the Rabbanut is under any obligation to convert
them unless they wish to take on a Torah lifestyle who form a small minority.
Many have taken advantage of the Law of Return more for the negative reason that
they wanted to get out of the former Soviet Union than a positive wish to live
in Israel. Those who would prefer to settle in other countries should be helped
to do so rather than carry out totally fictitious 'conversions' to 'integrate'
them into Israeli society.

In my previous posting (MJ 63#10), I had continued:

>> Personally, I am in favour of civil marriage provided the Rabbanut is
>> permitted to treat it, from a halachic perspective, as being legalised
>> fornication producing no marital status, on the assumption that those opting
>> for it when halachic marriage is available are excluding themselves from
>> chazakah ein adam oseh beilato beilat zenut [the presumption that people
>> prefer to be halachically married].

This would seem to be a constructive way of solving the marriage problems of
those non-Jews with some Jewish ancestry in Israel who are in some sort of
limbo. They do have other personal status problems such as burial but they could
also be solved in a similar manner.

Perhaps Leah had become so incensed that she had not noticed my final paragraph. 

Martin Stern.


From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Thu, Nov 24,2016 at 03:01 PM
Subject: What is an Orthodox Jew?

In the discussion about Who is an Orthodox Jew, Irwin Weiss (MJ 63#09) mentions
that he has not seen a picture of Jared Kushner wearing a kipah. 

Haim Shalom Snyder (MJ 63#11) responded that Senator Joe Lieberman was often
seen without a kipah yet no one challenged his Orthodoxy. 

I would add to this list of Orthodox men who generally are/were not seen with a
kipah the actor Steve Hill, z"l (the original Mr Phelps on Mission Impossible
and the DA on Law & Order). I would also add Rabbi Dov Zakheim who was the
Comptroller of the Pentagon during the Bush Jr administration. I would also add
former United States Ambassador to the Czech Republic Norm Eisen. I would also
add Warren Newfield, the Consul General of Grenada here in Miami. I would add
Lawrence Burian, the CEO of Madison Square Garden.I would add Gary Zuckerman of
the Wall Street Journal. And on and on.  Let us not focus on defining Jewish men
by those that wear a kipah.

Let us focus on Martin's definition: Men who are Jewish and Shomer Mitzvot. 

B'virkat Torah,
Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach,


End of Volume 63 Issue 12