Volume 63 Number 57 
      Produced: Tue, 19 Sep 17 01:27:20 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Birkhat haminim 
    [Mark Steiner]
Does Shemittah Cancel A Defaulted Loan? 
    [Immanuel Burton]
Kiddush Levana on Motz'ai Tisha 
    [Joel Rich]
Mazal Tov 
    [Lawrence Myers]
Moderator comment 
    [Ari Trachtenberg]
On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews 
    [Leah Gordon]
    [Joel Rich]
Recent Postings About Homosexuality 
    [Perets Mett]
Reflecting on a Socio-Religious Trend (2)
    [Martin Stern  Haim Snyder]
Reform Jews (2)
    [Martin Stern  Carl A. Singer]
UK Chief Rabbi Mirvis's confusing LGBT statements 
    [Susan Buxfield]
Ve-ir ha'Elohim mushpelet ad sheol tachtiyah (was Birchot hashachar) 
    [David E Cohen]
Who Will Lead Us 
    [Joel Rich]


From: Mark Steiner <mark.steiner@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 13,2017 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Birkhat haminim

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 63#56):

> 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
> term)]. 
> 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.
> ...
> 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.

>From the text of the "digest" of the "amida" prayer, the so-called
"havinenu", it is clear that the eradication of "minim" (in the genizah it
is easy to find a siddur with a list including "meshumadim," "notzrim,"
etc.) by the re-established Sanhedrin (the previous benediction), leaving
the "zaddikim" to rejoice in the rebuilt Jerusalem and the coming of the


From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 18,2017 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Does Shemittah Cancel A Defaulted Loan?

I've been wondering about the following conundrum concerning someone who doesn't
repay a loan when it becomes due:

A loan is cancelled at the end of the Shemittah year (every 7 years), and the
borrower then has no obligation to repay the loan. Not only that, but the lender
can't even claim repayment unless the lender follows the 'pruzbul' procedure. 
The details of this procedure are beyond the scope of this posting, but suffice
it to say for simplicity's sake that this procedure allows the lender to claim
repayment of the loan after Shemittah.

There is a Torah obligation to repay loans when they become due. Failure to do
so is a breach of the negative commandment not to oppress one's fellow - "lo
sa'ashoak ess ray'acho" - do not oppress your fellow (Leviticus 19:13).  Rabbi
Yisroel Pinchos Bodner in his book Halachos Of Other People's Money (Feldheim,
2003) defines oshek [refusing to repay a loan or refusing to pay for goods or
services] with various examples, including the borrower giving the lender the
"run around" until the lender becomes too exasperated to come for his money. 
Note that this rule of oshek applies only if the borrower is fully capable of
repaying the loan but refuses to do so.

It would seem from this that at some point, such as when the lender gives up on
being able to reclaim the loan, the borrower is guilty of the form of theft
called oshek.  If that is indeed what has happened, does that mean that the
original loan has disappeared, and the borrower is now required to repay the
money on the grounds that a thief has to repay what he has stolen?  Has the loan
transmuted into a theft?  If that is the case, then if the lender failed to
complete a pruzbul and the borrower then refused to repay the loan and became
guilty of oshek, would Shemittah cancel the obligation to repay the money?  It
seems odd to me that the core Torah law, i.e. how things were observed before
the pruzbul procedure was enacted, would have a loophole whereby someone could
steal money by deliberately defaulting on a loan and then becoming exempt from
repaying the loan after Shemittah.

As a slightly different take on this, if the borrower never had any intention to
repay the loan, was the exchange of money ever even a loan?

Wishing everyone a kesivah ve'chasimah tovah.

Immanuel Burton.


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 17,2017 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Kiddush Levana on Motz'ai Tisha

Is it a common practice to say Kiddush Levana on Motzai (evening after completion
of) Tisha B'av even though one is still fasting in order to be sure to have a

Joel Rich


From: Lawrence Myers <lawrm@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 31,2017 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Mazal Tov

Mazal Tov to our moderator, Martin Stern, on the marriage of his granddaughter
Na'ama Wigman, in Israel.

Lawrence Myers


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 12,2017 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Moderator comment

In MJ 63#55, a moderator wrote:

> [We regret that any reader
> should have received the mistaken impression that Mail Jewish supports any other
> position - MOD]

I would like to point out that, though "we" was used in the royal plural, I was
not one of the moderator signatories to this comment.  It is my belief that the
moderators should not be taking any specific halachic positions as moderators,
although, of course, this list functions on the premise that halacha is
authoritative and binding.



From: Leah Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 27,2017 at 10:01 AM
Subject: On Celibacy as a "Solution" for Gay Jews

David Tzohar 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.

Because some of us are even more machmir on 

(1) giving our fellow Jew the benefit of the doubt; and 

(2) not standing idly by our fellow Jew when s/he is suffering; and 

(3) minding our own business about other people's sex lives.

Even in this tiny Orthodox corner of the internet, we have heard first-hand
accounts of how gay and lesbian Jews are struggling and in some cases, coming 
to harm from themselves or others.  We have heard from one of our members (a 
woman) who was married off to a gay closeted Orthodox man, with disastrous
results that still impact her today.

If this is the case even on MJ, which is highly censored and totally excludes
the majority of the Jewish world, then imagine what a huge issue this is for the
world at large.

So, NO.  I reject both his premise and conclusion (that we should not speak of
this issue on MJ)  And in response to Meir Wise (MJ 63#55), I have never been
shy on MJ (censored sometimes, but never shy) - I fully advocate civil equal
marriage rights for same-sex relationships, in particular in our secular
democracies around the world (other places too, but that seems harder to

I understand that the MJ and Orthodox position is that religious gay marriage is
not possible.  This leaves a heck of a lot of social issues and policy to discuss.

And in response to the comment from Sammy Finkelman (MJ 63#55):

> 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.

There is ample scientific backing for our modern view, including peer-reviewed
journal articles about genetics (fruit flies in prospective studies and humans
in retrospective), hormonal effects (rats in prospective studies and humans in
retrospective), etc.

This business of Sammy saying "we don't know and all theories are probably
wrong" is actually a well-known anti-science practice in the press, and has
been written up from a scholarly perspective in the book, "I'm Not A Scientist"
which came out in paperback recently. And finally, again, Sammy makes the
incorrect and unsupported assertion about "an initial choice" of sexuality.
Although I personally do not think the origin of gay/lesbian sexual orientation
is of much concern, there are clearly Orthodox Jews and in fact rabbis, who
would have a different outlook based on perceived responsibility for sexual
orientation.  In that context, it becomes critical not to repeat nonsense on 
the topic.

The reason that I think the origin of orientation is not relevant, is that we
have a population of our brothers and sisters who need our help NOW. The lack of
compassion on this list astounds me.  I have never had a lesbian urge, and I
never dated anyone except my husband.  But I'm aware enough to notice that it is
a random privilege and entitlement that my natural desires happen to jibe with
what Judaism expects of me.

Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 31,2017 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Passion?

As we approach the High Holy Days I was thinking about Modern Orthodoxy - are
the rank and file passionate about their religion? Anecdotally it seems to me
not, so I was wondering if they are not, is it that they are passionate about
something else or just not passionate in general?

Joel Rich


From: Perets Mett <p.mett00@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 12,2017 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Recent Postings About Homosexuality

Mark Symons (MJ 63#56) wrote:

> 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.

Who are these Many Halakhic Authorities?
> 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.

The commentaries on SO Even Hoezer 24 prohibit such couples from living
together, let alone engaging in physical intimacy. So maybe others are not
incorrect in assuming that such couples are violating the halacha.

Perets Mett


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 12,2017 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Reflecting on a Socio-Religious Trend

Perets Mett wrote (MJ 63#56):
> 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
>> etter=2613&article=7252
>>> 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

I met Rabbi Mann briefly on my recent visit to Israel and raised Perets's
point with him. He was aware of that Rema and told me that the other
new-fangled 'customs' also had sources but he could not include all of them
in what was essentially a popular column rather than a scholarly text. No
doubt when the piece is published in one of the future volumes of his
"Living the Halachic Process", he will provide the sources, as he has done
in the previous volumes.

Martin Stern

From: Haim Snyder <haimsny@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 13,2017 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Reflecting on a Socio-Religious Trend

Perets Mett (MJ 63#56) quotes Martin Stern (MJ 63#55) who used the term
"new-fangled 'customs'" to describe Rabbi Daniel Mann's reference to certain
behaviors, including asking for haftara semi-regularly during the year of aveilut.
However, he ignores Rabbi Daniel Mann's description of these behaviors, which
appeared in the item: "practices that are new, picking up steam, or expanding to
new communities". Note the word "or" in this list. To imply that Rabbi Mann
didn't know of the sources of this custom based on someone else's description
instead of using his own statement is, in my opinion ill considered.
In the interest of honesty, I must say that I know Rabbi Daniel Mann very well.
His father is my wife's brother, making him my nephew.


Haim Shalom Snyder


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 12,2017 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Reform Jews

Sammy Finkelman wrote (MJ 63#56):

> 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.

I think Sammy is confusing the issue. If the disaffiliated are not members
of the Reform movement, they do not count in its statistics and therefore do
not affect the proportion of MEMBERS who are not halachically Jewish.

> He himself says:

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

Having lost those former members (or their offspring) who have totally
disaffiliated, it maintains itself by recruiting nominal members of Orthodox
communities (who would still be halachically Jewish) often because of
difficulties they experience with marrying the (usually non-Jewish female)
spouse of their choice.

Martin Stern

From: Carl A. Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 12,2017 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Reform Jews

In response to Sammy Finkelman (MJ 63#56):

One needs to distinguish between Jews who are members of Reform Congregations
and Jews who are unaffiliated.

I have known people who are "devout" members of their Reform Congregations --
attending regularly, active in charity and social events, etc.

For more than just statistical reasons these people should not be lumped in
with people who consider themselves "non-practicing" Jews.

Carl A. Singer


From: Susan Buxfield <susan.buxfeld@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 12,2017 at 06:01 PM
Subject: UK Chief Rabbi Mirvis's confusing LGBT statements

The UK Chief Rabbi Mirvis's comment that: "Single parents, women, the
unaffiliated, LGBT Jews: let no person feel that they have no place in our
shuls" seems totally unnecessary and open to misinterpretation:


Obviously, and in a theoretical setting anyone, even a non Jew, who follows the
"house rules" and the modus vivendi are able to visit a place of worship.

However practically having a place in "our shuls" is not so simple. For example:

1. A single Jewish male parent raising his non-Jewish child, or a single
non-Jewish female parent raising her non-Jewish child, would have a problem
acquiring membership.

2. Women will often on a Friday evening find themselves locked out of the
women's gallery since female attendance at those times is often a rarity.

3. The unaffiliated will often not find much to encourage them since most shuls
do not have the tools and the staff to help those who are searching.

While all the above categories may be problematic, they are not in themselves a
contradiction to the ethos of an orthodox shul. However maintaining that LGBT is
acceptable surely is.

The big difference between Orthodox Judaism and many other faiths and beliefs is
that Jews never sought to missionize  non-Jews, and only when a potential baal
teshuva starts to show interest are they helped along the way. There are
programs to encourage that interest, but you will not find Orthodox Jews
entering reform temples or day camps to encourage a return.

On the other hand, an LGBT person who tries not to publicise their latent sexual
feelings should not be alienated.

The Chief Rabbi's statement, lambasting those who were engaged in poisonous
invective demonising other Jews, would appear to be inconsistent with the
viewpoint of most Gedolei Torah that the outside world should be totally aware
that since LGBT is unacceptable, shaming proponents is permitted in order to
emphasize the point.


From: David E Cohen <ddcohen@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 13,2017 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Ve-ir ha'Elohim mushpelet ad sheol tachtiyah (was Birchot hashachar)

Dr, Ben Katz (MJ 63#52) brought up the line "ve-ir ha'elohim mushpelet ad sheol
tachtiyah" -- "the City of God is degraded to the uttermost depths" -- in
the selicha "Ezkerah Elohim veEhemayah."

I have long felt that this particular stanza is a unique case of something
that is problematic to say nowadays, *even* according to the viewpoint of
those who would generally prefer to keep original texts intact and
reinterpret references to a destroyed Jerusalem as referring to the
spiritually desolate state in which Jerusalem remains so long as the Temple
has not been rebuilt.

This case is different because the author (R' Amitai ben Shefatya, as
Martin Stern (MJ 63#56) pointed out) explicitly states in the previous line that
the cause of his feeling depressed about the current state of Jerusalem is
"bir'oti kol ir al tilah benuya" -- "when I see other cities (re)built on
top of their mounds" (i.e. restored to their former beauty).  It's clear
that we're talking about the *physical* state of cities here because:

1.  Other cities in the world were never the resting place of the Shechina,
so the beautiful, built up state of other cities that's being referred to
could only be a physical state.

2.  The expression "ir al tilah benuya" is based on Yirmiyahu 30:18, where,
according to the commentators, "nivnetah ir al tilah" refers to the
physical rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, and then the *next* part of
the pasuk -- "ve'armon al mishpato yeshev" -- refers to the rebuilding of
the Temple.

Since the author's lament is triggered by the contrast between the
physically beautiful, built-up state of other cities and the state of
Jerusalem, it must be that this is an apples-to-apples comparison, and he
is lamenting the state of *physical* destruction in which Jerusalem finds
itself.  Indeed, at the time when he was writing, in the late 9th century
CE, Jerusalem had been under the control of the Abbasid Caliphate for over
a century, and aside from repairing the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa
Mosque, they had basically neglected the city of Jerusalem and failed to
repair the damage sustained in the earthquake of 749 CE ("ra'ash shevi'it")
a century earlier, leaving the city in a state of physical ruin.  R'
Amitai, living in Italy (a community that had a close connection to the
community in Eretz Yisrael) was presumably aware of this, and that's what
he was addressing.

So today, when despite the pronounced absence of the Temple and the
Shechina, Jerusalem is b"h a built-up, modern, thriving city, I think it's
hard to reinterpret this verse in a way that is still relevant.

-- D.C.


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 31,2017 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Who Will Lead Us

There's an interesting new book "Who Will Lead Us?" by Dr.Samuel Heilman,
covering the transition histories of five Chassidic dynasties. Reading it made
me think of my aphorism that all facts are theory based (perhaps as the result
of living in a world where Senator Moynihan's "Everyone is entitled to his own
opinion, but not to his own facts" is no longer operative - hat tip Ron Ziegler
a"h. Reading the book made me wonder how these transitions look(ed) to folks
within the system (i.e. were the disagreements perceived as political/
self-interest or what HKB"H wanted).  I also wonder the same about the general
switch from the succession going to the most talented disciple to the most related.

Joel Rich


End of Volume 63 Issue 57