Volume 64 Number 76 
      Produced: Thu, 23 Jul 20 05:41:16 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A matter of names 
    [Martin Stern]
Action or results? (2)
    [Perry Dane  Roger Kingsley]
Age of the universe (was Bible criticism) 
    [Martin Stern]
Bible criticism 
    [Martin Stern]
God's existence? 
    [Joel Rich]
Induction stoves and bishul akkum 
    [David Tzohar]
    [Carl Singer]
Public Forums 
    [Carl Singer]
The Ge'onim who were kohanim (2)
    [Sammy Finkelman  Alex Heppenheimer]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, Jul 23,2020 at 05:01 AM
Subject: A matter of names

An interesting problem occurred on Rosh Chodesh. The gentleman who sits next to
me in shul (actually one of our Mail Jewish members) has the name David ben
Avraham but he is at present in hospital (if anyone wants to say tehillim for
his speedy recovery, his mother's name is Gittel). The gabbai wanted to call me
for shelishi but got us confused and called 'me' up by his name in error.

As it happens, there was another David ben Avraham in the shul. Actually the
latter's father had been given the Chaver title so he should, strictly speaking,
have been called up as David ben Hechaver Avraham but that 'slip' should not
have been significant, at least bedi'eved.

Had he not been there then the usual procedure when someone not present is given
an aliyah should have been followed and an alternative would have gone up
without a formal call by name.

So, when nobody moved, the gabbai sent his deputy to tell me I had been called.
I said I hadn't because the other David ben Avraham had precedence (despite the
'slight' to his father in omitting his title) and he should have gone since the
gabbai's unverbalised intentions should have had no significance (devarim
shebelev einan devarim) - which he did and kriat hatorah proceeded as normal.

Did we really follow the correct procedure and, either way, can anyone provide
references to any discussion in the halachic literature?.

Martin Stern


From: Perry Dane <dane@...>
Date: Fri, Jul 17,2020 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Action or results?

Joel Rich wrote (MJ 64#75):

> Here is a conundrum in theodicy:
> There are four identical quadruplet brothers: Robert, Simon, Larry and Judah.
> Robert, Larry and Simon are all asymptomatic carriers of the corona virus but
> Judah is not. 
> The local secular law and, also, the rabbinic authorities require wearing a 
> mask when going out in public but none of them do. The four brothers are not 
> clearly identifiable as orthodox Jews when seen but are so known by the public.
> They all go outside to identical public events where their identities are not
> known. Robert infects a number of people but he's never identified as the 
> source of the infection. Larry infects a number of people and is identified as
> a source of infection in the media. Judah never infects anybody and neither
> does Simon.
> What shows up on each brothers' 'permanent record cards' in shamayim? Is it
> multidimensional?

How is this a "conundrum in theodicy," or at least how is this more of a
"conundrum" than any other example of the general problem of theodicy?

How, if at all, is the question of the brothers' "permanent record cards" in
shamayim different from the question of the extent to which their actions were
morally and/or halakhically blameworthy?



From: Roger Kingsley <rogerk@...>
Date: Sun, Jul 19,2020 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Action or results?

In response to Joel Rich (MJ 64#75):

This does not seem very different from the case of a man who shoots an arrow at
his neighbour, with intent to kill.  If it misses, he is not guilty of murder,
but he has certainly performed an issur.

In the same way, all four brothers performed issurim by mixing and not wearing
masks, when this can endanger others.  Any of Robert, Larry and Simon who KNEW
that they were infected (this is not made clear in the proposition)  performed a
more serious issur because the chance of them endangering others was so much
higher - they should have stayed in isolation.

But then results matter for Beth Din - but Beth Din does not judge this case -
it would come under the jurisdiction of the King who makes temporary decrees for
the welfare of the people.

You could ask the same question about someone who overtakes carelessly and
causes a serious traffic accident, or it is avoided by someone else's skilful
driving.  If he kills, he certainly bears that guilt.  Whether the category is
kerov lemaizid, or kerov leshogeg depends on the circumstances.  If he is a
cohen, can he continue to go up to the duchan - possibly not.

Probably here the guilt level may be similar.  And "everyone does it" is no excuse.

But Larry almost certainly seems to have committed a hillul hashem, which is
about as serious as you can get. And one has a particular obligation to avoid
anything which can lead to a hillul hashem.  Which weighs down the original
aveira in all 4 cases.

Better just wear masks and keep distances

Roger Kingsley


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jul 19,2020 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Age of the universe (was Bible criticism)

Eli Turkel wrote (MJ 64#75):

> ...
> A similar quandary exists with respect to the 13 principles of the Rambam.
> While many of these principles have been disputed in the past (see the book of
> Marc Shapiro [The Limits of Orthodox Theology (The Littman Library of Jewish
> Civilization, 2003) - MOD]) they are accepted today.
> ...
> Chazon Ish writes that one who believes the world is more than 6000 years old
> is an apikorus and his shechita is invalid.
> However, if one has genuine doubts or is convinced by science that the world
> is several billion years old calling him names doesn't solve his dilemma, one
> needs some rational way of overcoming the problems.

I think that the problem could be resolved if one rephrased the problem as "If
what we think are the laws of nature, as derived from our current observations of
the universe, are correct and (crucially) they have applied in the far distant
past with no alteration, then it would appear that the world is several billion
years old". 

IMHO, most apparent conflicts between science and religion are a result of a
failure to recognise these differing (usually unstated) assumptions.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jul 19,2020 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Bible criticism

Eli Turkel wrote (MJ 64#75):

> ...
> Criticism of the authorship of the Bible falls into two major categories:
> 1. The first category is internal problems. These include
> (i)  the possibility that a few or many verses were added after the days of
> Moshe. Some verses seem to refer to events after the desert. Note that several
> Rishonim accepted the possibility that some verses were added later.
> (ii)  problems of duplication and contradictions between parts of the Torah.
> Just declaring that the Torah is from G-d doesn't solve these problems.

These problems were recognised by many Rishonim who endeavoured to resolve them
within the framework of the assumption that the Torah, as being a Divine
composition, is perfect. So any apparent problems must be capable of
explanation, being caused by our imperfect understanding rather than any real
internal contradictions.

> 2. The second level of criticism is external. i.e. possible contradictions
> between the Torah and archaeology and history of that era, e.g. were there
> horses/chariots/camels in the middle east at the time of Avraham or Moshe.
> ...

While archaeological finds cannot be brushed aside, the inferences drawn from
them are less certain. Often the latter depend on the absence of evidence which
is a very weak argument. 

A typical such 'contradiction' was the claim, originally made by W F Albright,
that camels were not domesticated in the time Avraham Avinu and so the
narratives depicting his ownership of them show the 'unreliability' of the
Torah, a 'fact' seized on by many who found it useful  to further their personal
'religious' agenda. As has been shown (MJ 64#74), more recent discoveries have
shown that this 'dogmatic' assertion was in fact incorrect and camels certainly
were domesticated in his days in Mesopotamia, though they may have been rare
and, therefore, extremely valuable possessions. In fact some suggest it is this
latter point, that Avraham Avinu was extremely wealthy, which is the reason why
camels are mentioned.

One need not be fazed by other such lack of archaeological finds that might have
been expected from the Torah narrative - they may yet be uncovered in the future.

As regards evidence derived from "history of that era", one must always bear in
mind that nations tend to write their history in order to put themselves in the
best possible light and gloss over any disasters as far as they can. So, for
example, that Egyptian records do not mention Yosef having saved Egypt from
famine nor the plagues that led to the exodus of the Benei Yisrael is hardly
surprising but does not prove they never happened.  That is unless one makes the
prior assumption that non-Jews are always to be believed because Jews are
intrinsically unreliable (shades of Schechter's aphorism "Higher Criticism is
just Higher Antisemitism).

Martin Stern


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Wed, Jul 22,2020 at 06:01 AM
Subject: God's existence?

I just wanted to bounce an idea off of you all. I'm doing an ongoing class in
Rambam's Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah. We compared the Rambam's concept of "knowing"
(cognitively) of God's existence with Rav Lichtenstein's Source of Faith piece
which focuses on "knowing" as experience.

It seems to me that there was a fundamental paradigm shift (as defined by Thomas
Kuhn), probably as a result of the enlightenment and scientific revolution et al

In thinking about it, I would say that, in general, the traditional yeshiva beit
medrash approach (as articulated by the Rav) does not look at paradigm shift
but, rather, at the independent continuity of a unique discipline of halachic man -
yet here it seems to have taken place.

I'm not sure that my ideas have come out as clearly as I might have liked but I
hope you will get the general idea. Thoughts?

She-nir'eh et nehamat Yerushalayim u-binyanah bi-mherah ve-yamenu,

Joel Rich


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Thu, Jul 16,2020 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Induction stoves and bishul akkum

IMHO the question of how induction stoves work is totally irrelevant. In the
same way as pickling herring or cooking in a microwave oven is considered,
lekulei alma [according to almost all Orthodox poskim] cooking, an induction
oven's mode of action is also bishul and is, therefore, forbidden when done by a
non-Jew without any Jewish contribution (definitely for all Ashkenazim and some
Sefardim) and is, of course, forbidden d'oreita on Shabbat. If there are any
meikel [less stringent] poskim, I am not aware of them.

R'David Yitzchak Tzohar
Machon Meir



From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Fri, Jul 17,2020 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Masks

While this may be oversimplifying, it seems to me that some folks are Machmir --
they don their masks as soon as they leave their home. (Might I say these are
people who also always fasten their seatbelts, use a hands-free cellphone when
driving, etc.)

Others are Maykel and may or may not carry a mask with them.  They reason that
they are unlikely to encounter other people as they're walking but, since the
shuls require it, they'll put on their masks as they enter shul (or store, etc.)

Finally there are the Meshugah -- these are the ones who shout "TYRANNY" and
refuse to wear masks. (I will not speculate as to the seatbelt and cellphone
habits of the latter two categories.)

Carl Singer


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Sun, Jul 19,2020 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Public Forums

I find that there are several public JEWISH forums online. These range from
benign Kosher Costco  (How are the lines at the Brooklyn store?  Do they have
___ today?) to political sites.

It seems that many folks treat these as private -- as if everyone in this group
is their best friends, etc. I see derogatory comments and names (one individual
uses "GOY" repeatedly, etc.)

Comments, please.

Carl Singer


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Fri, Jul 17,2020 at 04:01 PM
Subject: The Ge'onim who were kohanim

David Ziants wrote (MJ 64#75):

> It is agreed that there is a lot of legend regarding Bostana'i being the last
> remnant of the Davidic lineage and there were later ge'onim who claimed that
> this is not the case. However, it seems that there is full agreement that
> Bostana'i was from the House of David of which he was a legitimate Jewish heir
> and so were his children.

Full agreement among whom?

> So how is it possible that suddenly his descendent becomes a kohen?

If he was the son of his daughter who married a Kohen.

From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Sun, Jul 19,2020 at 05:01 PM
Subject: The Ge'onim who were kohanim

In response to David Ziants (MJ 64#75):

First of all, of course, it's possible that R' Mari descended from Bostanai on
his mother's side, although I don't know what evidence there is for that.

All of the volumes of Dorot ha-Rishonim are available on Hebrewbooks. The
(first) page referenced is at:


However, there's nothing there at all about the ancestry of the Hakohen family,
just about the dating of Bostanai's life (and, in particular, of his being given
the captive daughter of the last Sassanid king (Yezdegerd III)) and the nature
of his union with her. 

David states that Bostanai's children were legitimate heirs of the House of
David, but actually that's not so simple: he married a born Jewish woman and had
children with her, and those children were of course legitimate Jews, but he
also fathered children by this daughter of Yezdegerd, and there was considerable
debate about their status, with some claiming that they were in fact
halachically slaves. The issue boiled down to whether we can assume that she was
freed - i.e. converted - before Bostanai had relations with her. The JQR article
referenced at the bottom of the Wikipedia article mentions the political
ramifications; the halachic issues are laid out in a couple of Geonic responsa
printed as appendices to B.M. Lewin's edition of Iggeres R' Sherira Gaon 


and following pages. 

A later echo of the issue can be found in the Rambam's Mishneh Torah, Hil.
Gerushin 10:19.

It seems that whoever wrote that Wikipedia article is simply mistaken. There are
a lot of other clear mistakes there (some possibly caused by conflating
biological descent with teacher-student relationships), such as putting Anan ben
David, founder of Karaism, as a descendant of R' Yehudai Gaon.

Kol tuv,


End of Volume 64 Issue 76