Volume 63 Number 54 
      Produced: Tue, 22 Aug 17 12:16:03 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Birchot hashachar 
    [Susan Buxfield]
No Hebrew letter Fey in the Birkat HaMazon 
    [Sammy Finkelman]
On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews (2)
    [Yisrael Medad   Meir Wise]
Reform Jews (2)
    [Susan Buxfield  Martin Stern]
The Dweck affair (2)
    [Susan Kane  Joseph Kaplan]


From: Susan Buxfield <susan.buxfeld@...>
Date: Sat, Aug 19,2017 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Birchot hashachar

Ben Katz, M.D. (MJ 63#52) wrote:

> Susan Buxfield wrote (MJ 63#49):
>> Ben Katz, M.D. (MJ 63#46) wrote:

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

> I admit that I did exaggerate a bit, but I didn't say only tachanun, I also 
> included ne'ilah. The lines to which I referred were "ir hakodesh 
> ve-hamechuzot, hayu le-cherpah ulebizayot, ve-chal machamadeha tevuot 
> ugenuzot" and "ve-ir ha'elohim mushpelet ad sheol tachtiyah".

Garbage in Hebrew is "Zevel". That word doesn't appear in his quote.

>>> (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.

> I said "some", and this is based on an actual event in Boston about making
> kavanat hatefillah optional at Maimonides when it used to be required.

"Some" does not appear in his comments.

>> ...
>> 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.

> I think equating Shabbetai Tzvi, Yaakov Frank and Louis Jacobs displays a
> gross lack of nuance.

"gross lack of nuance" seems like an oxymoron since the dictionary definition of
nuance is "a subtle difference". Perhaps Ben could explain his reasoning?

>>> 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. 

> I think the "mechaker kol lev" will get it.

Why would he "think the mechaker kol lev will get it" when those actions are
patently not acceptable within the norms of Orthodox Judaism.

Presumably that the "mechaker kol lev will get it" is the same hope as that of
the reformists.

> I assume God also gave us brains and he meant for us to use them, as for
> example benot Zelophchad did.

The Bnot Zelophad only asked for their father's inheritance since there were no
sons and thus the portion of land allotted on crossing the Yam Suf would be
lost. They agreed to marry within their tribe so that the tribal share would
continue onto their children.

>> 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?

> This example again displays a lack of nuance.  A direct order is very 
> different from something in a siddur (or even in the Talmud) that was written 
> hundreds of years ago when times were different.

To an orthodox Jew an order written in the Talmud and the later Poskim has
exactly the same requirement as that written in the Torah. The only difference
is in a case of great necessity a miderabbanan mitzvah can be temporarily set aside.


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 22,2017 at 12:01 PM
Subject: No Hebrew letter Fey in the Birkat HaMazon

Yisrael Medad  wrote (MJ 63#51):

> I was directed to a comment by Rav Yehuda Ashkenazi, author of the Be'air 
> Haitev commentary on the Shulchan Arukh, OH 185, dealing with the Grace after
> Meals. He notes there that the final "fey" letter is not to be found in the
> Birkat HaMazon and that is on purpose so as not to recall the words "shetzef"
> or "ketzef" or "chori af", all terms of anger.
> What was remarkable is that the author was a German Jew of the 18th century 
> who lived in Tictin.
> Why would a Jewish scholar with such a learning and cultural background be
> prone to use rather fanciful reasoning, almost Kabbalisitic, to explain an
> issue most would view as alien to a rigorous legalistic approach?

Because he's not explaining what he did, but what other people did, even if he
never would support doing such a thing.

Birkat HaMazon is, after all, a composed prayer, and writing things with poetic
features is not just from the time of the Gaonim and Rishonim, when many
piyyutim and songs with various kinds of poetic features like acrostics were
composed, but goes back to Tehillim and Eichah.

And don't forget we have an alphabetical order a little after Borchu both on
weekdays and on Shabbos (weekdays words, on Shabbos verses) and the Musaf of
Shabbos contains a paragraph that starts off with words in reverse alphabetical
order (which I never noticed till I read about it.)

So he could think that the absence of the final letter "fey" is on purpose (even
if it isn't) And he maybe also got the idea that this was the case here from
somebody else. He may be giving somebody else's chiddush. Maybe it could also be
true, at least in part. Is there some specific place he says it was avoided?


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Sat, Aug 19,2017 at 06:01 PM
Subject: On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews

In response to Leah Gordon (MJ 63#53):

My neighbor, Rabbi Araleh Harel has a different solution. I quote this from his
article of 2011:

"Rabbis from the religious Zionist community have launched an initiative to
marry gay men to lesbian women - with some surprising successes. So far, 11
marriages have been performed. Haaretz conducted an email interview with one
such couple, Etti and Roni (not their real names ).

"Etti and Roni, both religious, were married five years ago. Though they were
honest with each other about their sexual orientations from their first meeting,
to the outside world, they portray themselves as a normal heterosexual couple.
Today, they have two children, and are thrilled with the results.

"It's incredible," they wrote. "Six years ago, we didn't think we would ever be
this happy. We thought everything was black, that we'd lost our chance of a
normal life. But today, things are good for us. There are gaps, but that's true
in every case. And we fill them with the great love we give to and receive from
our children, and also enjoy the simple human love we give each other, such as
any two people can give and receive."

To read more:


Yisrael Medad


From: Meir Wise <Meirhwise@...>
Date: Sat, Aug 19,2017 at 08:01 PM
Subject: On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews

In response to Leah Gordon (MJ 63#53):

Yes, celibacy for all outside marriage is what the Torah mandates.

The question is what is it that she is really suggesting. She should not be shy
and say it out loud ...

Rabbi Wise


From: Susan Buxfield <susan.buxfeld@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 20,2017 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Reform Jews

In response to Sammy Finkelman (MJ 63#53):

According to a 2016 report intermarriage in the UK stands at 26%:


However according to


roughly two thirds of British Jewry are considered orthodox and as such are
presumably minimally intermarried.

Thus discounting the orthodox, mathematically if the non-orthodox one third of
the Jewish population comprises the vast majority of that 26%, then
the non-orthodox intermarriage rate is greater then 75% which would be
consistent with Martin Stern's estimates (MJ 63#52) based on the data collected
about 50 years ago.

Presumably many of the "Jewish" partners in intermarriage relationships may well
themselves be products of a similar intermarriages and halachically doubtful
conversions by their parents, since the 75% is not a new statistic.

> I don't think things could have reached the point that a majority of Reform 
> Jews are not actually Jewish according to Halachah.

If the gender divide of the non-Jewish partner in an intermarriage is 50%
male/50% female, then all the children and offspring of the female will be
halachically non-Jewish.

The children of a "Jewish" female partner in an intermarriage may well be
"Jewish" but according to the statistics, 75% of her presumably one or two boys
will also intermarry and those intermarried boys children will be non-Jews. Thus
the current 75% will just keep on schedule, edging slowly but surely higher and
higher belying the notion that "things could have reached the point that a
majority of Reform Jews are not actually Jewish according to Halachah".

> And they may never because they drift away.

That is a separate issue. Those that drift away don't even try to justify their
Jewish heredity and with their perhaps one or two offspring the natural course
of events will see that family within a couple of generations extinct from a
halachic Jewish perspective.

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 22,2017 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Reform Jews

Sammy Finkelman wrote (MJ 63#53):

> Martin Stern wrote (MJ 63#52):
>> ...
>> Generally, UK Jewry is more generally affiliated to Orthodoxy than in the
>> US, so I would not be surprised if the proportion there was not even higher.
> No, the opposite. Because UK Jewry is more generally affiliated to Orthodoxy
> if a marriage could be performed under Orthodox auspices it most likely would
> be; but that's not the case in the United States where more people are
> comfortable with the Reform and Conservative movements. Or don't even know the
> significance of having a non-Halachic ceremony - that no Jewish wedding took
> place at all then.

Their intermarriage rates have been high and increasing since WW2 (if I am
not mistaken now running at over 60%), which is at least 2 generations ago.
Their policy of 'converting' the non-Jewish spouse (90% female - so their
descendants will not be halachically Jewish), and then deeming them Jewish,
means there must be questions regarding any marriage within their
communities where both sets of parents of the couple were not married under
Orthodox auspices.

This is now exacerbated by their acceptance of 'patrilineal Jews' - children
of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother, not even 'converted' by them - who
are definitely not halachically Jewish.

In fact, the UK Reform admits that it only maintains its numbers because of
those who defect from Orthodoxy who, on the whole, do so in order to marry
spouses (90% female) who were not born Jewish and were unwilling to accept
the requirements for Orthodox conversion. These defectors are, in the main,
only 'Orthodox by association', i.e. only marginally observant members of
Orthodox synagogues, whose 'traditional' parents object to their 'marrying
out' (usually the last taboo) but accept any 'conversion' that allows them
to claim their child's spouse is 'Jewish', especially if they can celebrate
a 'shul wedding'. 

I would not be surprised if the same is true in the US, where these
defectors from nominal Orthodoxy balance out those of a Reform background who
drift away into denominational anonymity.

Martin Stern


From: Susan Kane <adarconsulting@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 20,2017 at 04:01 AM
Subject: The Dweck affair

I'd like to try to explain why some LGBT frum people find the DADT ("don't ask
don't tell") offer insufficient.  

My motivation in offering this information is not really to convince.
Personally, I failed at becoming a ba'alat teshuvah long ago due to other
theological issues.  I am observant but not Orthodox and I don't seek acceptance
from the frum community.

This makes me a guest on MJ (and I try to behave as such) but I hope it also
makes me a good person to provide outside information on this topic.  

Let's start by analyzing the offer on the table, which I know Mr. Stern is
extending in a spirit of genuine tolerance.  He is willing to have LGBT people
in his shul.  He is not calling for them to be rooted out and publicly condemned
or G-d forbid, harmed.  However, he is concerned for the boundaries of the
Orthodox community.  He wants the shul to uphold the traditional norms of Jewish
family life (along with the traditional norms of everything else).

The purpose of the shul and community leadership, from his point of view, is to
set and enforce norms.  People who violate the norms of the community can be
tolerated but they cannot be fully accepted. Whether the violation is freely
chosen or not, intentional or a result of confused thinking, willful or
ignorant, ideological or simple laziness -- does not really matter.  What
matters are the norms.

The first thing to point out is that many, many gay Orthodox people have already
accepted this deal.  The reason they cannot join the discussion is because that
would violate the very norms they are upholding!  They are already among you,
living silently, perhaps happy and perhaps not, but they find the terms of the
offer acceptable. 

The people who you see, the people causing "trouble", feel that they cannot live
with this deal.  Why not?  I will try to offer some insight here.

The first thing to do is to shift your focus from "How should the Orthodox
community respond" to the question that frum gay people ask themselves, which is
"How should I live my life?"

The person seeking more acceptance (however you define that) did not start with
a desire to tear down the frum community or make you deal with things you wish
would go away.  He or she started with the question above.

>From a practical point of view, there are at least five paths that a religious
gay person can take.

(1) The first is celibacy which most people acknowledge as not a particularly
Jewish approach.  Mr. Stern is sure that HKBH has made the world in such a way
that all people are fundamentally heterosexual.  That tells us a lot about his
theology but in my opinion, nothing about gay people.

Those who agree with this reasoning are saying:  "Because of my theology, I am
sure that you are lying about your experience of your body."  

Okay.  What can one say?  I respectfully disagree with your understanding of my

(2) The second option is heterosexual marriage.  While this solves some problems
for both the community and for the individual, it does create problems of its
own.  Deception has been the working rule on this issue.  The more closed the
community, the fewer other options available, the more deception there is. 
Also, a good marriage from a Jewish point of view includes the fulfillment of
sexual desire.

(3) The third is to put on the dark cloak and go to a city where you are unknown
and to do what your heart desires. 

I guess this might sound thrilling to some.  After all, it's basically the
opposite of frum life.  To live WITHOUT RULES!  To do WHATEVER YOU WANT!  To
answer to NO ONE!

(4) The fourth path is to try to create a relationship and a life that has as
much kedusha as possible, given that there are some mitzvot you cannot fulfill
and some injunctions you may violate.  

(5) Leave the frum world and all of the issues created by 1,2,3 and 4.

What should determine the individual's choice?  The need of the community to
uphold its norms?  Or the need of the individual to have a community in which to
live a Jewish life and draw close to G-d?  

The answer is not obvious.  Those are two different sets of needs, each
legitimate in its own way. 

We are only discussing the Jews who have chosen (4).   Those who have chosen
(1), (2) and (3) all exist in the frum community -- from the most liberal to the
most restrictive -- but they are not asking you for anything.  Those who have
chosen (5) are already gone.

Frum gay Jews (and those who love them) struggle with profound questions.  Why
create people -- in every human society -- who desire something G-d forbids? 
How can I live a religious life?  Will I find love and companionship?  Will I
have children?  Is pretending to be like everyone else really the same as being
like everyone else?  How much of myself do I need to be -- in private and in my
community -- in order to bring all of myself to avodat HaShem?

These are very personal questions.  I cannot answer them for another person. 
But I can tell you that most people who have settled on (4) have already tried
or at least considered seriously (1), (2), (3) and (5).  If you can understand
their requests as their attempt to live their lives rather than as an unprovoked
attack on the community, you will be able to have better conversations with them.

I know Martin Stern will ask so I'll try to answer.  What's wrong with (3)?  He
likes (3).  Do or don't do what you want but stop telling people about it. 

I guess if someone just wants to come to morning minyan and then have sex in the
bushes and then refuse to think about it -- that person can do very well with (3).  

If you are someone who finds that idea degrading and you have a partner and
children, then family life will come up.  I could never ask my child to lie
about our family.  My daughter is extremely talkative and outgoing, so it's just
a non-starter.  

I am surely not the only non-heterosexual person here on MJ nor am I the only
person with gay family and friends.  We've heard from the heretics and the
kefira-hunters.  Are there other perspectives to consider?

Susan Kane
Boston, MA

From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 20,2017 at 04:01 PM
Subject: The Dweck affair

R. Wise writes (MJ 63#53):

> In response to Sammy Finkelman, Keith Bierman et al, the "cure" for all
> "disorders" is the study of the Torah and the keeping of its mitzvot.
> Once a troubled student came to Dayan Abramsky zatz"l (my rebbe's rebbe) in 
> the East End of London with a problem. He claimed that he could not desist.
> Dayan Abramsky asked him if he had studied that week's parasha with Rashi. He
> had not. Let's look at it together said the Dayan.
> In Devarim 31:14 we have the parasha of the Eishet Yefat To"ar, the beautiful
> captive. Rashi says an amazing thing: "The Torah spoke about the Yetzer Hara,
> for if the Holy One, blessed be He, had not permitted her, he would have 
> married her illicitly."
> Dear M-J readers, think about this carefully. Where else does the Torah "give
> in" to human frailty? Nowhere. Not murder, not theft, not homosexuality,
> bestiality or incest.

> Hence, the Dayan concluded that ALL other inclinations, cravings, disorders
> etc. can be conquered. The case of the Eishet Yefat Toar is the exception that
> proves the rule.

I'm not sure I follow the logic. It would seem to me that a soldier who has many
permissible options for sexual relations should have an easier time conquering
his inclinations towards one single woman than someone who has no such options
at all and is doomed to a life of celibacy. 



End of Volume 63 Issue 54