Volume 63 Number 23 
      Produced: Mon, 27 Mar 17 01:39:57 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Airbrushing out females appearing in pictures 
    [Martin Stern]
Genuine Conversion 
    [Martin Stern]
Is nail polish on all fingers a chatzitza in emergency situations? 
    [David Ziants]
Should one go to shul when one is unwell 
    [Carl A. Singer]
Transgender individuals and gittin 
    [Martin Stern]
When a Sefer Torah Falls 
    [Immanuel Burton]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Mar 20,2017 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Airbrushing out females appearing in pictures

Yisrael Medad  wrote (MJ 63#22):

> Martin notes (MJ 63#21):
>> The absence of women from haredi newspapers has become a well known and now
>> almost unremarkable phenomenon in recent years.
> I do not think it is "unremarkable". But for sure, airbrushing out of
> photographs of news content, as with Hillary Clinton five years ago is
> astounding:
> https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/hillary-clinton

I must say I agree with Yisrael that this airbrushing out of photographs of
news content is irritating. It is, in my opinion, an overreaction to the
photographic content of the general press which sometimes verges on the
pornographic. Where the lady in question is decently dressed, such as Queen
Elizabeth II always is, there should not be any real objection to including
her picture when relevant to a report.

The problem is that general society's standards of (especially female) dress
has become progressively more 'revealing' and the papers have gone for a 'no
woman policy' rather than deciding each picture on its merits. This saves
them from getting into disputes with readers over precisely where to draw
the line. 

However, I don't think it is sufficiently important to make a fuss about and
denigrate them over it.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Mar 20,2017 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Genuine Conversion

Leah S. R. Gordon wrote (MJ 63#22):

> In response to Martin Stern (MJ 63#21):
>> Even subsequently, at least until about 60 years ago, there were certainly
>> social disadvantages in being Jewish so some genuine, though perhaps lesser
>> degree of, religious motivation must have existed.
>> It is only in more recent times, especially in the USA, that intermarriage
>> has become acceptable both to a majority of Jews and non-Jews, so much so
>> that it has become politically incorrect in more liberal circles to
>> disparage it, at least publicly.

> Martin already knows that I think it is unseemly to judge another person's
> spiritual motives (and it's probably assur after that person's conversion in
> any case).  
> I fail to see how his comment implies that more converts would be less genuine
> in the modern era.  Martin posits that because of anti-semitism, he believes
> that historical conversions were ab initio well-motivated [or why switch
> religions to one where you'd be persecuted].
> However, he then points out that intermarriage is widely accepted today. How
> is this a force in favor of casual conversion?  (If you might as well stay
> your non-Jewish religion, wouldn't a convert also be presumed to have good
> motivation?)

I would have thought this was obvious. If there is no disadvantage in being
Jewish nowadays, then non-Jews would not mind converting if this made their
prospective spouses' parents happier with their intended marriage,
especially if their own connection with their previous religion was nominal
and not based on any deep personal conviction.

Many Jewish parents, however little they keep of Jewish practice, find the
idea of their child "marrying out" disturbing but are prepared to put up
with it if the person involved can be described as having converted. Being only
nominal Jews themselves, many still think of their converted son/daughter-in-law
as not being really Jewish - they do not then have to admit to their child's
out-marriage, even if they view it privately as such.

At least they can console themselves that their child has not gone "meshugge
frum". Problems tend to arise if the latter's spouse starts to take their
Judaism seriously which for the parents-in-law is almost as bad.

Martin Stern


From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Mon, Mar 20,2017 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Is nail polish on all fingers a chatzitza in emergency situations?

In the "observations" column of the supplement of today's Jerusalem Post (Friday
March 17th), there was a story where a mikveh attendant had to make a decision
concerning a lady who, from the article, goes to the mikve because she promised
her grandmother but her husband "doesn't like it".

(Not written explicitly in the article, but my own observation is that this
scenario could be common in semi-traditional sephardi families in Israel.)

It was Friday night (Shabbat) and the lady had forgotten to remove the nail
polish on her fingers - and it would now be forbidden to do so because of the
laws of Shabbat. According to basic halacha, nail polish is considered a
chatzitza [barrier] between the body and the water, which is why it should
have been removed before Shabbat.

Of course, at that time it was impossible to contact a Rav, and frightened that
the lady would not come again if she was turned away, the attendant allowed the
lady to immerse with nail polish on all her ten fingers. The attendant ruled
this, based on parameters for immersion that deal with beautification.

In view of the circumstances, does the attendant have a valid halachic case? If
so, what are the sources? If not, what are parameters for immersion that deal
with beautification, that are mentioned in the article?

David Ziants
Ma'aleh Adumim


From: Carl A. Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Mon, Mar 20,2017 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Should one go to shul when one is unwell

I thank both Martin Stern & Yisrael Medad for their thoughtful responses (MJ 63#22).

Martin wrote:

> If he was suffering from an infectious disease then he should certainly NOT
> have come to shul or, for that matter, have gone to any public place - doing
> so makes him into a rodef. I don't see why being a chiyuv should make any
> difference - not causing others to become unwell certainly takes precedence
> over saying kaddish even during sheloshim or on a yahrzeit for a parent (and
> a fortiori any other occasion).
> It is possible that the gentleman was suffering from acute allergic rhinitis
> which has much the same symptoms as the common cold but is not contagious so
> one might be able to be dan lekhaf zekhut [give him the benefit of the
> doubt]. However, since one cannot know, prudence suggests not getting too
> close and Carl's mode of interaction would seem to be the best in the
> circumstances.

Ill or allergies -- it may not matter -- the effect on the other mispalelim of
someone coming to shul coughing & sneezing is disturbing.

Yisrael wrote: 

> Whether or not the sick person should have stayed home, Carl should have moved
> due to the injunction "v'nishmartem me'od l'nafshoteichem" (you must take
> special care for yourselves" in Deuteronomy in several places in several forms
> especially 2:15).

At the time, I personally found moving to another seat problematic as well. How
would you feel if you sat down in shul and the person next to you then got up
and moved to another seat? Granted I shouldn't risk illness to avoid possibly
insulting this individual -- but "social norms" -- if I might call them that --
preclude moving away.

BTW -- I make it a practice to always wash my hands with soap and water
when returning home from shul or any other group activity which might
involve shaking hands.

Carl A. Singer, Ph.D.Colonel, U.S. Army Retired
70 Howard Avenue


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Mar 21,2017 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Transgender individuals and gittin

Arutz Sheva reported that a Haifa Rabbinical court recently forced a
transgender person to grant his wife a get, despite his claiming he could
not give one because he was a woman.

> Two women recently came to the Haifa Rabbinical Court fighting about a
> divorce. It turned out that one of them had previously been a man before
> undergoing a sex-change operation. They married as classic husband and wife
> and raised their children together. When the husband went through his changes,
> a year ago, the couple separated. The wife could not move on and date and
> marry anyone else, because she was still halachically married to her "husband"
> - he/she had not yet given the wife a get [divorce document].
> After hearing the unusual situation, the rabbinical judges decided that this
> is good reason for granting a get, and there is no reason to insist on
> conciliation counseling as it clearly won't lead to reconciliation and a happy
> marriage. The court ordered the parties to begin the process of divorce.
> The problem was then raised by the "husband" that s/he cannot grant a get
> because he is no longer a man but a woman, and a woman is unable to grant a
> get.
> The wife then requested an annulment of the marriage, but the judges said that
> would not be possible since she married a man and halachically he was still a
> man. The dayanim decided that the husband had to give a get and if he would
> not he would be considered as a get refuser and would end up in jail.
> The husband eventually agreed to give the get, but during the process recanted
> and explained that s/he was upset that s/he is being related to in the text of
> the get as a male. She criticized the court for 'living in the Middle Ages'.
> After being warned again about possibly ending up in jail, s/he agreed to
> complete the process and give the get.
We had a similar case recently in the Manchester chareidi community which
was brought before the civil family court, in which the judge ruled that it
was in the children's best interest that that they not have direct contact
with the father. 


(This gives a link to the full 41 page ruling in pdf format)

In that case the transgender father also withheld the get. It would appear
that this was on the advice of the LGBT lobby, which was backing him as a
test case, as a means for putting pressure on the mother to allow access to
their five children.

However ruled that he could not intervene regarding the get. Of course
Diaspora Batei Din do not have any powers to pressure recalcitrant fathers,
leaving the mother an agunah. This seems to raise several moral and halachic
questions which might be worth discussing.

Martin Stern


From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Wed, Mar 22,2017 at 05:01 PM
Subject: When a Sefer Torah Falls

Yisrael Medad asked (MJ 63#22) about fasting if a Sefer Torah falls to the
floor, and wrote:

> The decision of the Rav was to fast one day and instructed that all those who
> saw it or heard the noise of it hitting the ground are to fast. This despite
> that the Shulchan Aruch does not mention it but he holds that it is a firmly
> entrenched minhag, i.e., custom, mentioned by Ahronim, i.e., post-16 century
> Rabbinic decisors.

Who are the post-16th century Rabbinic decisors who mention this? Rabbi Chaim
David Azulai (1724-1806), known as the Chida, writes in his book Le'David Emeth
(chapter 3, paragraph 11):

"If a Sefer Torah fell from his hand he has to fast.  According to the halachah
one who sees a Sefer Torah fall does not have to fast, but there is the custom
to be stringent as I wrote in a responsum."

So, if in the 18th century the Chida is writing that someone who sees a Sefer
Torah fall (but isn't the one who dropped it) does not have to fast, on what is
the ruling that someone who merely heard it fall has to fast based?

Does the case cited by Yisrael differ in that no-one actually dropped the Sefer
Torah but it just fell out of the Aron HaKodesh on its own?

Immanuel Burton.


End of Volume 63 Issue 23