Volume 63 Number 49 
      Produced: Thu, 10 Aug 17 06:58:19 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A drifting and aimless people 
    [Susan Buxfield]
A matter of doubt? 
    [Chaim Casper]
Birchot hashachar 
    [Susan Buxfield]
Censorship (was Birchot hashachar) 
    [Mark Steiner]
Dead Sea Scrolls (was The Dweck affair) 
    [Martin Stern]
    [Perets Mett]
The Dweck affair (2)
    [Martin Stern  Leah Gordon]
Why does it say Moshe Kibail Torah MiSinai (and not from Hashem) (2)
    [Dr. Josh Backon  Bill Bernstein]


From: Susan Buxfield <susan.buxfeld@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 9,2017 at 02:01 PM
Subject: A drifting and aimless people

Martin Stern (MJ 63#46) wrote:

> It would be interesting to have criteria for deciding whether any specific
> movement was in any meaningful sense a "stream of JUDAISM" rather than an
> ideology espoused by people CLAIMING to be JEWS.
> Obviously such groups as the 'Jews for J' or the 'Hebrew Messianic Alliance'
> would fall outside any reasonable criteria.

Before deciding what a meaningful sense is "stream of JUDAISM", perhaps Judaism
should first have to be defined. The dictionary definition is a religion as
practiced by Jews. The halachic definition is obviously different.

> However one would want to be as inclusive as possible and not reject, as I
> have seen suggested, the Lubavitch movement or, at the least, that faction
> that claims that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe is not merely the messiah but is
> not really dead but waiting to return to this world in the near future to
> complete his mission.

They are also Jews and pray to a Jewish G-d as such their halachic religion is
Judaism even if their haskafa leaves much to be desired.

> The case of the Reform movement is particularly difficult, especially in
> view of the large proportion of its membership that is not halachically
> Jewish (in-house converts - 90% female - and their descendants, and
> so-called 'patrilineal Jews').

Most U.S. Reform members today do not have a born or converted halachic status
as Jews, they desecrate the words of the Torah that is found in the ark of their
temples, and their prayers are edited to remove anything they feel uncomfortable
with. As such it is questionable if they actually believe in the Almighty and
whether their prayers are empty gestures formalized to convince the outside
world that they are actually a representative stream or movement in

> Are any realistic criteria possible at all?

Not until acceptable definitions are provided.


From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 9,2017 at 06:01 PM
Subject: A matter of doubt?

In MJ 63#44-48, there was a dialogue regarding doubt (I would prefer to use the
term "question") in the Orthodox community.   

Two points: 

1) Even though it is not ruled as law in the Shulhan Arukh, I believe it is fair
to say that the Orthodox community has taken it upon itself the 13 articles of
faith of the Rambam.   Other than these 13 ideas, it would appear to me that
everything else is open to doubt/question. 

2) A teacher of mine, Rabbi David Hartman, z"l, used to encourage us to refine
our questions.   Only by clarifying our questions could we start to search for
an answer.  Similarly, Rabbi Akiva Eiger, zt"l, was known for his questions. 
Attempts to find an answer to his questions often fall astray as the questions
are always better than the answers.   The point is there is nothing wrong with a
question or a doubt if it leads to a serious attempt to find an answer. 

B'virkat Torah,
Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL


From: Susan Buxfield <susan.buxfeld@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 9,2017 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Birchot hashachar

Ben Katz, M.D. (MJ 63#46) wrote:

> I will not respond to ad hominem comments.

One of the reasons why I write usually in the passive mode is to avoid as much
as possible ad hominem comments by the minimal use of you, he, she etc.

> On a personal note, if one takes davening seriously one should not say things
> that are false.

There are AFAIK no prayers if understood in context that are patently false.
Verses quoted from the Bible have to be understood as such.

> For example, I say an alternate version of Nachem on Tisha B'Av (and there
> are at least 2 such versions penned by Orthodox rabbis of which I am
> aware, and even Rav Lichetenstein parted ways with his illustrious FIL in
> suggesting to skip one of the sentences in the current version).  There are 
> also a few phrases in Ne'ilah as well as in the Mon/Thurs Tachanun that talk 
> about Jerusalem not being under our control or being a garbage heap that to 
> me are at least being kofer tov if not actual falsehoods.

1. There is AFAIK no such Hebrew expression as "kofer tov"

2. Jerusalem as delineated in most texts usually refers to the area of the Beit
HaMikdash which is under Jordanian control.

3. Modern Jerusalem is run in the main as a secular city, and thus until such
time as the Messiah arrives, the control is no different to that of a foreign power.

4. Tachanun does not refer AFAIK to Jerusalem as being a garbage heap.

> (BTW this is why some on the right do not want to have kavanat ha-tefillah
> classes, because they are afraid - believe it or not - that if people
> actually understood what they were saying that they may not say it.)

That is an ad hominem comment suggesting that if people actually understood what
they were saying that they may not say it.

As Alfred Lord Tennyson said: "Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die".
By all means try to understand the rationale but a fully believing Jew does not
put himself on par with all the greatest of gedolim in the past and even today
to doubt the authenticity of the Talmud and the halachic codes.

> So, if something is completely against my ethos, I will not say it.  I
> understand the reason why I am thankful that I am a man may be valid berachah,
> but certainly saying it in the negative to modern ears is insensitive at best.

That type of attitude is not only lacking the credentials of an orthodox Jew,
but in essence trying to create a schism that has the hallmark of the Shabbetai
Tzvi, Yaakov Frank et al in previous generations and even that of Louis Jacobs
in our not so distant past.

> (One of the reasons they recalled the book 'My Uncle the Netziv' from Lakewood
> is because Baruch Epstein stated that his aunt would complain how men whom she
> could outlearn would shrei [scream] in shul shelo asani isha.)  After 120 
> years, if God questions me, even if He says I was wrong, I know He will 
> understand that my intention was honorable.

"I know He will understand "? Perhaps a less definite expression such as "I hope
He will understand" would have been more appropriate.  

> Whether God considers me Orthodox or not is of no concern to me, as long as
> He realizes I did my best to be observant.

Orthodox is a human expression. The Almighty will presumably regard a person as
observant if he tried to do all that was commanded.

If a boss in the workplace requests his employee to bring him a cup of coffee
and the employee decides that tea would be better for him, would that boss
"realize" that the employee did his best to be observant of the boss's wishes?


From: Mark Steiner <mark.steiner@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 9,2017 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Censorship (was Birchot hashachar)

Since I have been asked by two people, I will make a short response.

My original posting (MJ 63#45) said that all the mss of the Babylonian Talmud
available to us have as the text of the beracha shelo asani goy.  Add to this:
the Tosefta, the Jerusalem Talmud, the Rambam.

Our printed Talmud, the Rosh, the Tur have she-asani Yisrael.

I think it is accepted that the tactic of censoring our texts begins in the 13th
century, when the Talmud was burned in Paris, along with many other books.
Instead of burning the books, the Church often would censor them. Or the Jews
practiced preventive censorship on their own. For example, the term "goy"
disappears, usually being replaced by "akum" (ancient heathen), as does "min"
(heretic, particularly Christian) replaced by "tzedoki" (which often does not
make sense in context from what we know of the latter).

I however am not a professional in this particular field...


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 9,2017 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Dead Sea Scrolls (was The Dweck affair)

Sammy Finkelman wrote (MJ 63#47):

> The Dead Sea Scrolls were probably deposited at that time. They are either
> Pseudepigrapha or bad copies,  or like the Isaiah scroll, a difficult to use
> copy with too many corrections that someone turned over.
> They were put in genizah (also called shemos) and preserved because of an
> opinion (which we don't hold to now but it was definitely an opinion then)
> that anything containing Hashem's name could not be allowed to deteriorate. No
> copy of the Megillas Esther was included because it does not include Hashem's
> name and so was not considered shemos.

This is an interesting suggestion. It certainly explains the absence of
Megillat Esther better than any other of which I am aware.

> So the Dead Sea Scrolls were not any kind of library, and there was no Dead
> Sea sect at Qumrun.

AFAIK the only reason the Dead Sea Scrolls are associated with Qumrun is
that they were found near it, and not much is known of the community there,
but many scholars are not happy with the link and only accept it for want of
an anything better.

Perhaps Sammy can provide more material to back up this hypothesis which
does appear to provide such an alternative.

Martin Stern


From: Perets Mett <p.mett00@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 9,2017 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Tachanun

Yisroel Medad (MJ 63#47) wrote:

> Oddly, the Net'ai Gavrial suggests that a Chatan pray at home so as to permit
> the reciting of Tachanun by the minyan.
> (http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=46546&st=&pgnum=81&hi

Please do not misattribute this to the Nitei Gavriel. As he usually does, he
quotes all opinions including, inter alia in this case, this one mentioned in
Mishna Bruro that a choson should pray at home. It is most definitely not his
own definitive ruling.

Perets Mett


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 9,2017 at 11:01 AM
Subject: The Dweck affair

Michael Rogovin wrote (MJ 63#47):

> Well we have drifted quite off the topic. The issue (I thought) was how to
> deal with a couple in a non-halachicly accepted/recognized relationship as
> members of the orthodox community.
> ...
> I gave (MJ 63#43) 5 common examples of relationships that would be troubling
> from a halachic point of view, but accepted either legally or socially in
> today's civil society (plus one unusual one that is rejected by both but for
> which the secular arguments against it are weak)
> ...
> I then listed 8 possible responses, ranging from complete rejection
> to complete acceptance with several options in between. The question for
> some participants in the discussion seems to revolve around how much the
> couple seeks acceptance of their relationship.

I think this is the crucial point. An orthodox synagogue can accept that
some members may not be totally observant but it has to demand that they
respect the general orthodox ethos of the community. For example, if they
come to shul on Shabbat by car, they should park unobtrusively some way from
the building. What it cannot accept is that the shul car park be made
available in the spirit of tolerance of these members' "equally legitimate
alternative lifestyle".

IMHO those who demand this "right" should be told quite unequivocally that
this accommodation is simply impossible and that they should look elsewhere
if they are not prepared to, at least, pay lip service to the congregational
norms. Historically, failure to draw this line led to most shuls in the 19th
century being taken over by such people and becoming Reform temples.

> ...
> This seems like a dilemma: either one does the humanitarian thing and accepts
> them so that they and their children live as much of an observant lifestyle as
> possible within a community that will support them as needed.
> Or we reject them, partially or fully, and say that we cannot accept them as a
> prohibited couple. Maybe as individuals (with the same address and last names
> and children) if we are willing to go that far. Or maybe not at all. If your
> shul has not yet had to deal with this, it will.
> And I know of several shuls that are already dealing with transgender
> individuals, in one case of a child. Folks, the modern orthodox community
> cannot escape these issues. We have to decide what to do, whether as policy
> or on a case by case basis (it seem to me, for example, that other than
> complete rejection, there are less issues for MtF than FtM transgender).

Transgender surgery, at least MtF, involves a Torah prohibition and so
cannot be given approval. However there is no need to enquire about a
newcomer as to whether he/she has undergone such procedures. Such people are
a small minority and one can assume that applicants for shul membership come
from the majority who are of the same gender as they appear [kol deparish
meirubba parish].

Halachically, transgender surgery does not change a person's gender so the
only publicly noticeable problem might be a FtM person being offered an
aliyah. If they make it clear in a discreet manner that they do not wish to
have such an honour, this should not raise difficulties. Otherwise there is
no reason why anybody should be aware of the situation.

This would probably mean those undergoing such procedures would have to
relocate but this might be the price they unfortunately have to pay for
their chosen change. Everyone has to realise that everything one does has
consequences and weigh up whether one can accept them or prefer not to take
that particular course of action.

The problem lies with those who wish to publicise their situation and demand
communal approval of it. Like the brazen Shabbat desecrators, mentioned
previously, they have no place in any orthodox community.

Martin Stern

From: Leah Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 9,2017 at 05:01 PM
Subject: The Dweck affair

In response to my friend Ari Trachtenberg (MJ 63#48) regarding a putative
connection between incest and homosexuality, it seems that his sources all hark
back to one old study by P. Cameron.  I found this analysis of that work:



"*Paul Cameron publicly disclosed the survey's goals and his own political
agenda in the local newspaper of at least one surveyed city (Omaha) while
data collection was in process.* In that front-page interview, he was
reported to have characterized the survey as providing "ammunition for
those who want laws adopted banning homosexual acts throughout the United
States" and he was quoted as saying that the survey's sponsors were
"betting that (the survey results will show) that the kinds of sexual
patterns suggested in the Judeo-Christian philosophy are more valid than
the Playboy philosophy" ("Lincoln man: Poll will help oppose gays." *Omaha
World Herald*, May 23, 1983, p. 1

<http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/WH052383.html>). "

If you like looking at what other journals published of Cameron's work:


I had never heard of Cameron or Herek, but apparently this is a well-established


This article from NIH addresses the alleged correlation by, among other things,
questioning whether abusers might be drawn, for various reasons, toward picking
on kids who are already "different" i.e. present as gay or lesbian.  I found it


On to the next source, Robers and Koenen, here also from the NIH:


As for his third source, it seems to be mostly related to the issue that outcast
children might be targeted for abuse, including incestual, as above:


--Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Dr. Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 9,2017 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Why does it say Moshe Kibail Torah MiSinai (and not from Hashem)

Sammy Finkelman (MJ 63#47) mentioned older mishnayot. The MEHARTZACH (R. Zvi
Hirsch Chajes) brings a few cases of early mishnayot: 

"Harbeh mishnayot hayu sdurim bizman habayit [many mishnayot were arranged in
Temple times]" [Yoma 53]; 

"harbeh mishnayot ba'u eileinu mizman kadmon me'od [many mishnayot have come
down to us from remote antiquity]" [Erchin 13]; 

"adayin mizman knesset hagedola nisdera [set out from the time of the Anshei
Kenesset Hagedolah - pre-Hellenistic period]" [Yevamot 9].

Josh Backon

From: Bill Bernstein <billbernstein@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 9,2017 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Why does it say Moshe Kibail Torah MiSinai (and not from Hashem)

Sammy Finkelman (MJ 63#47) offers an interesting insight into why the Mishna
says Moshe received the Torah from Sinai, rather than from HaShem. It might be

My issue with it is the Mishna could have used any number of terms connoting
HaShem instead. In other places it uses "HaMakom" (The Place) and HaKadosh
Baruch Hu (The Holy One Blessed Be He). It could have used those here, in
addition to any number of terms, such as "mi-pi haGavurah" (from the Mighty
One), "mi-pi Elyon" (from on high) etc. Further the Mishna in Avos actually
quotes the Written Torah in different places in passages that use HaShem's name
or similar.

The traditional explanation (I think brought by Rashi) is that the Mishna
mentions Sinai to point to the reason Moshe merited receiving the Torah. Namely
just as SInai was the smallest, most humble mountain so too Moshe was the most
humble man. This humility merited him. Thus Moshe received the Torah because of
his humility. The Mishna did not need to say he received it from HaShem as Rashi
points out everyone knows this.

Bill Bernstein
Nashville TN.


End of Volume 63 Issue 49