Volume 63 Number 56 
      Produced: Tue, 12 Sep 17 09:11:06 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Birchot hashachar 
    [Martin Stern]
Birkhat haminim 
    [Martin Stern]
Dead Sea Scrolls 
    [Sammy Finkelman]
Homosexuality (was On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews) (2)
    [Joseph Kaplan  Mark Symons]
Kashrut status of leniencies for those observing stringencies 
    [Orrin Tilevitz]
Mikveh incident (was On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews) 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Mitzvot Bnai Noach  
    [Joel Rich]
Moshe and Aharon  
    [Joel Rich]
On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews 
    [Chaim Casper]
Reflecting on a Socio-Religious Trend 
    [Perets Mett]
Reform Jews 
    [Sammy Finkelman]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 27,2017 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Birchot hashachar

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

> 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".

Just as a matter of information, these passages, included in Ne'ilah on Yom
Kippur, are taken, respectively, from the pizmonim "Zechor Brit", by Rabbeinu 
Gershom Ma'or Hagolah of tenth-century Germany, and "Shelosh Esrei Middot", by 
Amittai ben Shefatiah, who flourished about 100 years earlier in Byzantine-
controlled Bari in the south of Italy. Put into the context of the
Christian supercessionist theology of the time, these sentiments are
entirely understandable, as is the latter's father's plea in his pizmon
"Yisrael nosha baShem": "Kaleih [Destroy] Se'ir [Esau = Rome = Christian
rule] vechoteno [Esau's father-in-law, Yishma'eil = Muslim domination].

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 12,2017 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Birkhat haminim

Something that struck me recently was the incongruous point at which Birkhat
haminim (usually referred to as Velamalshinim [and as for the slanderers (or
informers)] from its first word though that was itself a censor's change
from the original Velaminim [and as for the heretics (usually but not
exclusively the Judeo-Christians, hence the Church's sensitivity to the

The preceding berakhah, Hashiva shofeteinu [restore our judges], ends with
the words praising HKBH as a Melekh oheiv tzedakah umishpat [King who loves
righteousness and justice]. So the subsequent one, which starts Al
hatzaddikim [as for the righteous] and concludes praising HKBH as Mish'an
uMivtach latzaddikim [a Support and Source of trust for the righteous],
forms a natural continuation of the same theme through imitatio Dei [acting
in the ways of HKBH] and birkhat haminim seems to interrupt this continuity.

Birkhat haminim was introduced in Yavne after the churban and one of its
purposes was to help identify heretics, and prevent them from infiltrating
the community, since they would have found it difficult to recite this
imprecation. Putting it so late in the tefillah seems, therefore, strange as
one might have expected it to be necessary to insert it much nearer the
beginning so that they could be speedily identified.

One might understand that it could not come right at the beginning since the
first berakhah had to start with the word Barukh and the wording was already
firmly fixed for generations, unlike later ones, especially the petitions,
which were still somewhat fluid. This is reflected by the fact that, unlike
the latter, its text is uniform throughout all rites.

It might even have seemed logical to insert it immediately after, lest the
min, acting as sheliach tzibbur, might have had heretical thoughts as to the
meaning of its words. If he had been a Judeo-Christian, he might have
interpreted the words "Elokei Avraham, Elokei Yitzchak vEilokei Ya'akov" as
referring to the three parts of the Trinity. It would have been sensible to
stop him at that stage before he went on to the second berakhah to which he
might have attributed a Christian slant on the resurrection of the dead
contained in it. Presumably insertion there was not possible for the same
reason, that its text was already fixed.

Similar considerations might have applied to insertion before the third
berakhah but this is less likely since there were, and still are, variant
forms for it (e.g. Atah kadosh and Ledor vador). However there seems not to
be any reason not to insert it immediately afterwards before making the

The only reason for its actual location that I can think of is that it is
put there to warn people that, even if the heretics practice good works and
are upright people, they must be abhorred and shunned. This is not too
farfetched since one often hears the justification for co-operation with
present-day heterodox movements being made along such lines.

Perhaps some others might be able to give alternative reasons for what seems
a strange choice at which to insert it.

Martin Stern


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 29,2017 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Dead Sea Scrolls

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 63#49):

> Sammy Finkelman wrote (MJ 63#47):
>> ...
>> 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.

I don't really have anything but I can add that there was no community at
Qumran. But in addition to putting things in genizah they also buried people
near there. And that was probably because of the idea that some people had that
nobody should be buried anywhere near Jerusalem.

It was the site of a cemetery in the period after Herod, not a living community.


From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 27,2017 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Homosexuality (was On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews)

David Tzohar and the moderators wrote (MJ 63#55):

> 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]

There are Orthodox rabbis who believe this subject is more complex than the
above comment. For example, see the entire discussion at


I'm not a halachic expert so I'll leave my opinion unsaid (although that has not
stopped others in this list.) But unless one subscribes to the "True Scotsman
Theory," Orthodox opinion on the details if this difficult issue are not as
monolithic as some would make it seem. 


From: Mark Symons <mssymons@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 27,2017 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Homosexuality (was On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews)

Re The Various Recent Postings About Homosexuality:

It seems apparent to me that most if not all of these posts have been
written by heterosexually-oriented individuals, purporting to assume that
they know what the experience of being a same-sex-oriented person is, and
presumptuously making all sorts of analogies and arriving at all sorts of
conclusions based on this.

I believe it is important to state the following, based on my interaction
with many same-sex-orientated people, including reading about and
discussing their experiences with them, including some who are deeply
committed to observing Halakhah.

Referring to an individual as "a homosexual" is degrading especially
because it reduces people to sexual acts in a dehumanising way.

It is important to distinguish between having a same-gender orientation;
same-gender physical/sexual intimacy that does not involve anal
penetration; and same-gender physical/sexual intimacy that does involve
anal penetration.

Same-gender orientation is experienced by many as an inherent part of their
biological/psychological/emotional make-up, that has been present from very
early in life, that is not something that is a choice.

Many Halakhic Authorities have ruled that the the only activity that is
Halakhically forbidden is anal penetration, and not other forms of physical
and sexual intimacy, let alone just living together as a couple.

Many Jewish couples living in same-sex relationships are deeply committed
to following Halakha strictly, and, following that ruling, have committed
to not engaging in anal intercourse. These couples thus find it deeply
offensive when others assume that they are violating halachah in their
private, sexual lives, just by virtue of their living together as a couple.

And especially because some couples have committed to refraining from anal
intercourse, there is no justification to assume that other couples do
engage in it.

Mark Symons
Melbourne, Australia


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 27,2017 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Kashrut status of leniencies for those observing stringencies

Is there any reputable halachic source which holds that sturgeon is kosher,
similar to the opinion of R. Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, discussed earlier,
permitting consumption of gelatin from nonkosher animals? (I know that the
Conservative movement permits it) 

Either way, I have the same question as I did with gelatin, cheese, chalav stam,
and non-glatt kosher meat: may one eat in a home (restaurant) that serves
sturgeon if one is certain that there are no other kashrut problems?


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 27,2017 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Mikveh incident (was On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews)

Yaakov Gross wrote (MJ 63#55):

> 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.

Was there no river, stream or lake that could be used in lieu?

Yisrael Medad


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 28,2017 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Mitzvot Bnai Noach 

The Minchat Chinuch discusses from time to time whether a mitzvah is applicable
to Bnai Noach or not. If it is not one of the classic seven, might it be
subsumed under dinim (laws)? If not, where is its force grounded? 

Does the Bnai Noach king have unlimited power to make his own law as long as it
doesn't contradict the seven? Who would be eligible to be on a Bnai Noach court
and how much interpretive independence would they have?

Joel Rich 


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 28,2017 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Moshe and Aharon 

Rashi (Bamidbar 27:13) states that the Torah's continual pointing to Moshe's and
Aaron's punishment (an earlier demise) for not being mekadeish sheim shamayim
[sanctifying HKBHs name] was at Moshe's request so that no one think they were
punished for not being believers but rather that the lack of Kiddush Hashem was
their only sin. Rashi compares it to (see Yoma 86b) two sinners being lashed,
one for adultery and one for eating unripened shevi'it fruits (the exact nature
of the sins and lashes is subject to debate)

Two questions: 

(1) How does this analogy (or the statement of sin) ensure that repetition would
communicate that this was their only sin? 

(2) If the punishment for two sins is equal, why is one considered worse?

Joel Rich


From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 3,2017 at 06:01 PM
Subject: On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews

David Tzohar (MJ 63#55) asked why (again) "is the problem of Orthodox
homosexuals [...] being rehashed on Mail Jewish[?]  [I]s there anyone who
subscribes to this list who doesn't understand that sodomy is a sin and
abomination punishable by death?"  

I don't think anyone who subscribes to this email list would deny that the
punishment for a (male) homosexual act in Vayikra 20:13 is death (cf Vayikra
18:22 repudiates homosexual acts without prescribing the punishment).   The
reality is that people do things that the Torah and HaZa"L (our Rabbis)
prohibit.   We live in a world where Jews drive to shul on Shabbat and Yom Tov,
where they intentionally eat on Yom Kippur and Tisha B'av, where they
intentionally eat bugs, shellfish, neveilah and treifah (all non-kosher food
categories).   There are isolated voices who publicly speak out against these
violations, but most of the Jewish people give a collective shrug and move on
with their lives.   The issue is more pronounced for those of us who have family
members and friends who violate these mitzvot and halakhot.   

So the question is how do we individually and collectively relate to them?
Yehonatan, the son of King Shaul, loved King David (Shmuel I 20:17).   Would
that be considered forbidden in today's halakhic world? RaSh"I, zt"l, (Vayikra
20:13) indicates that the forbidden act is sodomy (anal intercourse).   Does
that mean that two men who hug and kiss each other are violating the halakhah? 
 But men kissing and hugging each other is a common occurrence.   Does this mean
that many men are violating the halakhah on a daily basis?   

As I have previously reported in this list group, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein's,
zt"l, response to Jewish homosexuals was to ask whether we can be m'karev
(encourage) them to do Shabbat, kashrut, et al?   Are Orthodox homosexuals on a
different level because they do 612 mitzvot (yes, I understand we can't do all
613 mitzvot nowadays, but I hope you understand my point)?   

I personally share more in common with such men and women than with the Jewish
non-observant. Back at my yeshiva (some 40 years ago), I learned with Rabbi
Steve Greenberg, the self proscribed "first openly gay Orthodox rabbi."  If you
did not know he was gay, you would be impressed with his dedication to learning
and his intensity as a frumme yid (an observant Jew).  You would be amazed that
he has adopted a child and is raising her to be a bat-Yisrael (an observant
Jewess).    I do not know about you, but I believe I share more in common with
Rabbi Greenberg than I do with 99.9% of the Reform, Conservative, Progressive,
secular and unaffiliated Jews.   I can discuss a gemara, complain about the high
cost of day school education, and celebrate a b'leibadikh (an energetic, joyful)
Simkhat Torah with him as peers. 

A number of years ago there was a weekly high level gemara shiur (Talmud class)
in Flatbush given by the son of a gadol (Torah leader).   I do not know if that
maggid shiur (teacher of that class) was gay himself or if he felt someone had
to teach these communal outcasts.   The point is that if any of us were
participants in those shiurim, we would not think anything was out of the
ordinary if we did not know the participants were gay.   That is because all of
us share more in common with many of these men than we do with the non-observant.  

As I have mentioned before in these pages, most Western religious thought of the
last two thousand years has separated the sinner from the sin.   Why should it
be any different for the way we relate to gay Jews, especially dati gay Jews?  
There are those who would say the case against gays is different because the
TaNa"Kh (Bible) calls homosexual acts a "toeivah" (abomination).   Pretty harsh
language.  But my concordance lists over 130 references to the use of toeivah in
TaNa"Kh.  Do we, or better, should we get just as upset at people who
intentionally eat insects (Dvarim 7:26) or mistreat the Edomites (Dvarim 23:8),
both of which are defined as toeivah? 

Going back to David's main point.   We are not being "matir ha'aveirah
l'hathillah (legalizing a sin)" in accepting a gay person into our community any
more than when we give an aliyah (synagogue honor) to someone who intentionally
eats on a fast day, someone who intentionally drives to shul on Shabbat, married
women who walk outside their home with their hair uncovered or someone who
intentionally eats non-kosher food on a daily basis, issurim (forbidden actions)
that have their halakhic champions that rationalize (I do not mean permit) how
we relate to them after the fact.   Let us separate the sin from the sinner and
welcome gay men and women into our communities and into our homes just as we
would welcome those who violate Shabbat and kashrut.

Acknowledgement of our differences and getting on with our lives is not the same
as approving the way they lead their lives. With the Yamim Noraim (High
Holidays) approaching, let us take to heart our introduction to Kol Nidre: "We
permit ourselves to pray with sinners."   If gay men and women are sinners, then
let us exist with them year round just as we do on Yom Kippur eve. 

With the new year approaching, let me wish everyone a shanah tovah u'metukah, a
good and sweet year. 
B'virkat Torah,
Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL 33162-1229


From: Perets Mett <p.mett00@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 27,2017 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Reflecting on a Socio-Religious Trend

Martin Stern (MJ 63#55) wrote:

> 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.
> http://www.eretzhemdah.org/newsletterArticle.asp?lang=en&pageid=&cat=7&newsl
>> 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; 

I do not know Rabbi Mann, but the RMO in Yore Deah 376:4 writes:

"and so too it is customary (for aveilim during the twelve months) to say the
haftora in the novi (Prophets)"

I would not call a custom mentioned in the RMO new-fangled

Perets Mett


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 27,2017 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Reform Jews

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 63#55):

> 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.

They are relevant because they reduce the proportion of Reform Jews who are not
halachically Jewish, since people who have less than full Jewish ancestry
disproportionately drift away.

He himself says:

> In fact, the UK Reform admits that it only maintains its numbers because of
> those who defect from Orthodoxy


End of Volume 63 Issue 56