Volume 63 Number 55 
      Produced: Sun, 27 Aug 17 09:13:34 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Birchot hashachar 
    [Ben Katz, M.D.]
On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews (2)
    [Jack Gross  David Tzohar]
Publishing Trends 
    [Sammy Finkelman]
Reflecting on a Socio-Religious Trend 
    [Martin Stern]
Reform Jews 
    [Martin Stern]
The Dweck affair 
    [Sammy Finkelman]


From: Ben Katz, M.D.<BKatz@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 23,2017 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Birchot hashachar

Susan Buxfield wrote (MJ 63#54):

> 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.

That's why I prefaced my remarks as an exaggeration. However "cherpah and
bizayon" = embarrassment and worthy of condemnation, as well as "mushpelet ad
sheol" ~ down in hell are pretty negative and not true today.

>>>> (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.

I can't believe Ms Buxfield did not see the word "some" in my above quote, as in
"BTW, that is why SOME on the right"

>>> ...
>>> 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?

I was trying to be nice.  Ms Buxfield insists on attacking my English (or
Hebrew) rather than answering the substance of the arguments.

Shabtai Tzvi was accepted by about 90% of rabbis when he began his career.  He
did not set out to make a schism.  Once he converted to Islam, many but not all
stopped following him.  Louis Jacobs was a scholar and an intellectual who also
never set out to make any schisms.  He wrote an intellectually (for him) honest
book that was barely read until it was harshly attacked, and only then
ironically went into many reprintings.   Frank was a true schismatic whose
doctrines cannot be defended in any way.  That is why these 3 figures cannot be

>>>> 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.

There is a great Yiddish expression that I will (badly) translate into English:
God doesn't need people to be His police(wo)men.

> 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.

I did not wish to elaborate earlier but now am forced to.

First there is a famous midrasdh (I think in Bereslhit Rabbah) about how benot
Tzelophchad went to Moshe and asked God for the "pesak" because, as the Midrash
says, human judges might be biased against women, but not God.

Second, the Torah could have just stated the laws of inheritance for men and
women.  Why give the whole benot Tzelophchad story?  Same with pesach sheni (in
fact with pesach sheni my soon-to-be-made argument is even stronger because the
chumash goes on to give additional legislation [o bederech rechokah] not in
response to the actual incident).  It seems pretty obvious that the Torah wishes
to teach that if a law appears unfair (why should we miss the korban pesach just
because we were impure?  Why should we not inherit just because we are women?) 
that one should question it.  The response of course may not always be what we
wish to hear...

>>> 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.

I disagree.  I am sure others more learned than I can point out all of the other
differences between deorayta and derabanan legislation (eg safek deorayta
lechumrah; safek derabana lekulah, etc.)  In addition, there are thousands of
contradictory "orders" in the Talmud; we choose to accept the consensus view and
follow it as a practical matter, but to say that they are all equivalent to
Torah legislation seems absurd.


From: Jack Gross <jacobbgross@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 22,2017 at 03:01 PM
Subject: On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews

Meir Wise wrote (MJ 63#54):

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

And, under some extreme circumstances, celibacy even within marriage. 

1.  The classic tale of Palti ben Layish. 

2.  I have been told that, for a period of years no mikveh was available where
Rav Moshe Feinstein was located (in Soviet Russia).  As a result, the couple
slept separately for the duration. 

Yaakov Gross

From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 23,2017 at 05:01 AM
Subject: On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews

In response to Leah Gordon on Homosexuality-celibacy (MJ 63#53):

Once again the problem of Orthodox homosexuals is being rehashed on Mail Jewish.
Why?? is there anyone who subscribes to this list who doesn't understand that
sodomy is a sin and abomination punishable by death? Those who have such
inclinations must try to overcome them and if they can't they must remain
celibate and IMHO must refrain from being in a situation of "yichud" with
another man.

Again IMHO "gay marriage" is a chilul Hashem of the highest degree if it implies
the practice of sodomy. In short that is all there is to say. We feel sorry for
these people and must try to help them. But lehattir aveira lechatchila (to
permit from the onset forbidden acts)?? No way!! [We regret that any reader
should have received the mistaken impression that Mail Jewish supports any other
position - MOD]

David Tzohar


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 22,2017 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Publishing Trends

Joel Rich wrote (MJ 63#51):

> I'd love to hear any analysis (or guesses) as to what are the percentages of
> different types of sefarim (both Hebrew and English works related to halacha
> or Jewish philosophy) being published in the current era, how they differ from
> those in the past and, most interestingly to me, what are the drivers for
> these trends?

I'm not clear what he means by different types, and halacha and Jewish
philosophy would seem to me to be a subset, but maybe he could look at the
catalogs over the years of the Soy Seforim sale by the Student Organization of
Yeshiva [SOY] University. They have a sale every year in February with books
from a lot of publishers (not a random sample, though, and it doesn't go back
that many years. I know it was going on in 1999.)


https://twitter.com/seforimsale?lang=en has a lot of pictures.

There may be other bibliographies one can use.

Why different sorts of books get published at different times is a much bigger
and harder question.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 27,2017 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Reflecting on a Socio-Religious Trend

In his Ask the Rabbi column for Shabbat Parashat Ki Teitzei 5777 on the
Hemdat Hayamim website, Rav Daniel Mann, author of "Living the Halachic
Process" discusses some new-fangled 'customs' that are appearing.


> Here are a few examples of such practices that are new, picking up steam, or
> expanding to new communities: Breaking up a minyan so two aveilim can be
> chazan; a chazan using his own nusach in a shul with a set different nusach;
> asking for haftara semi-regularly during the year of aveilut; minyanim in
> which people come late, daven at their own speed without skipping, and thereby
> there is a questionable quorum for Shemoneh Esrei and chazarat hashatz.

On which he comments

> Without going into the details of such specific issues, we see overlap between
> the trends. I believe my nusach is better (for me), so the tzibbur should
> accommodate me. I need to provide my parent with the most effective illuy
> neshama, so the shul should sacrifice to accommodate aveilim in ways not
> traditionally prescribed. The Beit Yosefs angel said that skipping is
> detrimental, so we no longer follow the Shulchan Aruchs rules meant for a
> minyan to be a cohesive communal davening.
> Our approach is that while proper balance is always important, the rule is
> that the needs and preferences of the tzibbur come before those of the
> individual ... In matters where diverging from community norms can cause
> discord, even when that outcome it is not obvious, the sugyot of the 4th perek
> of Pesachim are strictly against an individuals divergence ... While the
> ultimate level of community is of Klal Yisrael, in ones personal life, his
> local community represents his klal. It is true that a community should be
> concerned about the feeling of fulfillment of individuals. However, it is more
> fundamental that the individual not allow the fine points of his personal
> quest, even for the apparent spiritual advantage of his departed parents, to
> compromise what is healthiest for the community ...

Personally I would have put it even more strongly - this emphasis on
individualism at communal expense might well be seen as a reflection of
non-Jewish societal trends and be Biblically prohibited as "uvechukoteichem
lo teileichu"!

Any comments?

Martin Stern


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

Susan Buxfield wrote (MJ 63#54):

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

>> ...
>> 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.

Actually the breakdown of converts is 10% male and 90% female as stated in
the paper by Jonathan Romain published in the Transactions of the Jewish
Historical Society of England on (volume XXXIII, pp. 249 - 263) based on his
Ph.D. Thesis from the University of Leicester in 1990 entitled 'The
Formation and Development of the Rabbinical Court of the Reform Synagogues
of Great Britain, 1935 - 1965' on which I based my article.


In it he gives these figures for the UK Reform movement and remarks that
these are similar to those in the USA.

> 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".

This was precisely the point I was making when I wrote (MJ 63#52):

>>> The data used refers to over 50 years ago and, with each succeeding
>>> generation, this proportion will obviously increase since the Reform will
>>> treat the children of such couples as Jewish for purposes of reporting
>>> statistics.

>> 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.

Those who 'drift away' are not relevant to the status of members of the
Reform movement since they are no longer members of it at all.

Martin Stern


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 24,2017 at 07:01 PM
Subject: The Dweck affair

Keith Bierman wrote (MJ 63#46):

> When I was a student, my Talmud Rav had a "side job" running a mental health
> program for children (he had a Ph.D. in the area). He once pointed out that
> Halacha might define something as a "disease", thus resulting in improper
> behaviors being "onnes [compulsive behavior]", where science (du jour) had
> determined otherwise.

Something like this as a reason to accept people doing this has been advocated
in Israel by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin but it's not going over very well.


"Rabbi Riskin, rabbi of Efrat, Gush Etzion and founding head of Ohr Torah
Institutions, was interviewed recently in Hebrew by the Israeli
liberal-religious Makor Rishon newspaper, where his unprecedented opinion that
homosexuals are in the halakhic category of those held unaccountable for a sin
because they are coeced (Ones rachmana patrey, ed.) caused a strong backlash in
the Orthodox rabbinic world in Israel and abroad. Rabbi Riskin excluded "those
who could have chosen to lead a heterosexual life and instead chose otherwise."

Rabbis including Rabbi Baruch Efrati of Rabbanei Emunah and internationally
known scholar and Bar Ilan lecturer Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Woolf of Efrat penned
responses explaining that this halakhic category refers only to external forces,
not to problems of self-control and free will, no matter how difficult."

The problem is we only have what the Torah says, but the Torah does not usually
give us hashkofah or reasons and people usually rely on their own understanding.
 It is possible to go wrong in many different ways.

I think most people have no idea what's going on (why should they?) and almost
every theory bruited about on every side is wrong. What does make sense, for
many different reasons, is that there is an initial choice usually around puberty.


End of Volume 63 Issue 55