Volume 64 Number 48 
      Produced: Mon, 03 Feb 20 12:24:33 -0500

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Coronation of a Rabbi 
    [Asher Samuels]
Halachic accidents? 
    [Sammy Finkelman]
The Chinese New Year (3)
    [Ben Katz, M.D. Elazar Teitz  Sammy Finkelman]
The decapitated heiffer 
    [Ari Trachtenberg]
The nineteenth berachah 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Asher Samuels <asher.samuels@...>
Date: Wed, Jan 22,2020 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Coronation of a Rabbi

Perets Mett wrote (MJ 64#46):

> Perhaps we should look for another translation of the word hachtoro into
> English

Installation sounds like a good solution.
Asher Samuels


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Fri, Jan 24,2020 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Halachic accidents?

Michael Mirsky wrote (MJ 64#47):

> David Tzohar questioned (MJ 64#46) why LED lights are not allowed on Shabbat 
> even though they may not have a halachic problem. My understanding is that 
> rabanan are concerned that the layman may get confused between electric devices 
> which are permitted and those which aren't and accidentally turn on a device 
> which is forbidden de'oraita (such as an incandescent bulb). 
> I agree that there is also the uvda d'chol question as in the phenomenon of
> those teenagers who text but otherwise observe Shabbat and describe themselves
> as 'keeping half Shabbat'.
This is probably not an official reason, and a posek might allow this in certain
cases in cases of hardship or necessity, just like with electricity generated
from batteries (where you also have the problem that many things done with
electricity are  melachos in themselves at least rabbinically, like creating
temporary writing with LEDs). 

We're just not used to studying these things.


From: Ben Katz, M.D.<BKatz@...>
Date: Wed, Jan 22,2020 at 10:01 AM
Subject: The Chinese New Year

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 64#47):

> I noticed that the Chinese New Year is always on or around a Rosh Chodesh in
> January or February each year, so I did a bit of research on how their calendar
> works. It seems that, like us, the Chinese have alternatively 29 and 30 day
> lunar months fitted to a 365 1/4 day solar year which means they also have to
> add an extra month from time to time.
> The way they solve this problem would appear to be that their New Year begins
> on the second new moon after the Winter Solstice. It struck me that this was a
> much simpler way of dealing with the approximately 11 days missing in 12 lunar
> months than our Metonic cycle.
> Why did we not adopt a similar method, though based on the Vernal Equinox so
> that Pesach should always fall in the Spring, at least when an extra month was
> intercalated on the basis of observation?

I think the reason is that the Metonic system was known to the ancient Persians
in the Ancient Near East (Meton I believe was a Persian astronomer).  The
Chinese system is clever but was unknown, as far as I know, in that part of the

BTW, Ed Reingold and Nachum Dershowitz (cousin of Alan) have some nice books on
the calendar that explain all 25 or so world calendars.

From: Elazar Teitz <emteitz@...>
Date: Wed, Jan 22,2020 at 11:01 AM
Subject: The Chinese New Year

In response to Martin Stern (MJ 64#47):

Actually, that was the method that was generally used when our calendar was not
fixed, and the need for intercalation was determined on a year-by-year basis by
the Sanhedrin.  However, while it was mandated to add a month if not doing so
would cause Pesach to begin in winter, it was not the only consideration.  An
extra month could be added to the year's end, and the onset of Pesach could thus
be delayed for a month, because of factors such as poor road conditions which
would prevent all of Israel to come to Yerushalayim on time for Pesach (the
extra month was needed for repairs), or because of a shortage of sheep and goats
for the korban Pesach (usually mistranslated as the Paschal lamb; either a lamb
or a kid could be used), and giving them an extra month to grow would allow more
people to share each animal. Unlike the equinox, these conditions cannot be

Elazar M. Teitz

From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Fri, Jan 24,2020 at 03:01 PM
Subject: The Chinese New Year

In response to Martin Stern (MJ 64#47):

That might indeed have been the original system. But in such a system you have
to decide each year whether or not to add an extra month. A fixed calendar can't
work that way, because it is much harder to determine in advance when the vernal
equinox is than it is to follow some kind of a mathematical formula - and
remember the same calendar has to be followed in widely scattered Jewish
communities. Yes, you can determine the vernal equinox by calculation - a much
harder calculation than the metonic cycle - but you also need to keep track of
the exact number of days since the last one, and you can't do that without some
other kind of calendar in place that does that.

Now for a long time, even after the calendar was fixed, a Beis din in Eretz
Yisroel would announce the calendar for the following year or two and there was
a big controversy around 922 or 924 CE based on the issue of postponing Rosh
Chodesh or not, only rediscovered from documents found in the Cairo geniza.


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Sat, Feb 1,2020 at 09:01 PM
Subject: The decapitated heiffer

The ritual of the decapitated heiffer (or broken-necked heiffer - Eglah Arufah)
is explicitly prescribed as a positive commandment in the Torah (Deut. 21: 1-9,
when a corpse is found in the field between two cities.

And yet, the rabbis in Mishna Sota (9:9) states that the rabbis stopped this
requirement when the numbers of murderers increased.  Indeed, the Mishna goes on
to describe a number of rituals that were discontinued by the rabbis despite
being explicitly enjoined in the Torah:

1.  Under what grounds did the rabbis have the authority to discontinue an
explicit Torah injunction?

2.  Why could not the same principle be used to discontinue agunot or core
obligations like Shabbat and Kashrut?



From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Feb 2,2020 at 04:01 PM
Subject: The nineteenth berachah

The Gemara (Ber. 28b) asks regarding the Shemoneh Esrei "To what do these
eighteen blessings correspond?". It brings various explanations, one of which
from Rav Yosef who suggests "The eighteen Divine names mentioned in the Shema".

The Gemara then raises the point that "actually there are nineteen" to which it
responds "R. Levi said that birchat haminim [Lamalshinim - the 'blessing' of the
heretics, i.e. Judeo-Christians] was established later in Yavneh [after the
destruction of the Temple]".

It then asks "Corresponding to what was it established?" and gives a source
according to each explanation, in particular "according to Rav Yosef, it
corresponds to the word 'Echad' in the [first verse of the] Shema", which seems
to me slightly forced.

Though the Gemara does not say so, an idea struck me that it might correspond to
the "elohim acherim" (Deut. 11:16) where the word "elohim" is not a Divine name
but refers, on the contrary, to the prohibition of idolatrous worship. This
struck me as being a highly appropriate allusion to the minim [heretics] who
deviated from the path of Torah and were particularly active in denouncing
practicing Jews to the Roman authorities at the time. 

Of course, such a text would have been dangerous, especially during the
Byzantine period when the government interfered in the internal affairs of the
Jewish community, so it might have been omitted in a form of self-censorship.

Any comments?

Martin Stern


End of Volume 64 Issue 48