Volume 64 Number 87 
      Produced: Wed, 23 Dec 20 08:35:09 +0000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Avoiding embarrassment 
    [Martin Stern]
Clear Thinking And Correct Terminology (was Corona shortcuts) 
    [Yaakov Shachter]
Cold Weather Prayer 
    [Lawrence Israel]
Corona shortcuts 
    [Arthur G Sapper]
Halakhic responses to Covid vaccinations 
    [Chaim Casper]
Local custom  
    [Joel Rich]
Min hatorah 
    [Joel Rich]
The US Yeshiva Day School fraud 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Dec 13,2020 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Avoiding embarrassment

I have noticed that, in many shuls, the mitzvah of opening the aron hakodesh and
taking out the sefer torah is given to a visitor, often someone who has never
been in that shul previously.

Unfortunately, every shul has a different way for opening the aron in some, the
paroches is pulled open, in others there is a cord hidden on one side; some open
from right to left, others from left to right; some have doors that pull open
outwards, others have doors that slide open. This can be embarrassing for the
honouree if he is not given precise instructions and has to try and work out
what to do, often getting it wrong, in full view of the tzibbur.  What might be
obvious to regular members is most certainly not obvious to outsiders.

In some kehillos, the gabbai goes up with him and quietly points out what to do,
and which sefer to take out, but this is not the case in the majority of shuls I
have attended.

Surely all gabbaim should make sure that visitors are given the necessary
information in advance and not be left to second-guess the local arrangements.

Any comments?

Martin Stern


From: Yaakov Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Mon, Nov 30,2020 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Clear Thinking And Correct Terminology (was Corona shortcuts)

Many articles have appeared lately regarding the public-health measures that
have been advocated, and in some cases imposed, in response to the spread of the
SARS-CoV-2 virus, and the respiratory disease, CoViD-19, that is caused by it. 
I wish to make two points, in support of clear thinking and correct terminology.
I am not expressing any opinion either for or against any of the positions that
have been taken regarding those public-health measures.  You will perhaps think
that I am, but if you think that, you are wrong; I am posting this article
solely to promote clear thinking and correct terminology.

1. The word "pandemic" has been used to describe CoViD-19. That word should not
be used.  Even if it is technically correct, it has misleading connotations,
causing people to believe things that are untrue.  A disease with a mortality
rate between 0.1% and 0.5% cannot be properly called a pandemic, regardless of
how widely or how rapidly it has spread.  If you are using that word, it is
because you have never lived through a real pandemic.  The Spanish flu would tear
into a town, and, in less than 6 weeks, leave one-third of the townspeople dead.
That was a pandemic. Moreover, the 0.1% to 0.5% statistic, as low as it is, is
misleadingly high.  The Spanish flu would kill people in the prime of life, who
had no way to know that they were vulnerable.  In contrast, the only people who
are contributing to this 0.1% to 0.5% statistic by dying of CoViD-19 are old
people -- and "old" in this sentence means very old, like 70 years old, or older
-- or young people who are vulnerable for other reasons that are known to them,
like they are asthmatic, or they are fat (there are, of course, negligible
exceptions to this statement, but the negligible exceptions are negligible, so
please do not bring them up).  And, while it is true that there are a lot of fat
people in the United States, and, to a lesser extent, in the other countries
where mail.jewish readers live, there are no fat people who do not know that
they are fat.  It is possible for someone to know that s/he has a 0.0%
likelihood of dying of CoViD-19 even if s/he is exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
In this respect it is qualitatively different from any disease that can be
properly called a pandemic, or, indeed, any other disease that medical
professionals commonly work with; so people, including medical professionals,
need to wrap their heads around that.

2. The only reason why these articles are appearing in mail.jewish is -- or,
more precisely, should be -- that they have something to do with Judaism.  Many
of these articles are leaving unstated the reason why they belong on
mail.jewish.  If you want to make a point about whether there should be public
worship in the synagogues, or whether there should be Jewish weddings with
10,000 unmasked celebrants, please establish some factual or logical connection
between what you are saying, and the Jewish thing to which you think it is
relevant.  In many cases, this connection is not obvious to the reader.  In
attempting to make this connection, to state out loud that which you have been
leaving unstated till now, you may indeed find that you had not been thinking
clearly about the matter, and that your article does not, in fact, support the
conclusion that you thought it did.
I particularly urge those of you who feel impelled to contribute to this
conversation, to cite some sources in the responsa literature (and, of course,
to study the literature, before you cite it), which deal with the issues that
you think are relevant to our current circumstances.  There have been many  
Jewish communities in our long history who have gone through pandemics -- real
ones -- and there are many sh'eloth and tshuvoth that resulted from those
events.  With very few -- I will use the word "negligible" again, with negligible
exceptions -- they have not been cited on mail.jewish.

                        Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter
                        6424 North Whipple Street
                        Chicago IL  60645-4111
                                (1-773)7613784   landline
                                (1-410)9964737   GoogleVoice

                        "Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur"


From: Lawrence Israel <larry.israel@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 8,2020 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Cold Weather Prayer

I noticed that, in our outside shaharith, some people put on their tallith and
then put their jackets over them. Others, put the talith on the outside, over
the jacket. Inside the jacket obviously keeps you warmer, because of the air
layer trapped under the jacket, but there might be a problem with the large
talith not being visible. Which, if either, is the more proper way to do it?


From: Arthur G Sapper <asherben@...>
Date: Sat, Dec 5,2020 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Corona shortcuts

For whatever it is worth, here is an excerpt from a statement of position by the
federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on whether
facemasks are known to be effective enough in preventing the wearer from being
infected by the coronavirus.   The statement is important because if OSHA were
so convinced, then wearing a facemask on the job when others are likely infected
would be mandatory as a matter of federal workplace safety law.  OSHA's
statement below essentially means that face masks are now known to be effective
enough only to prevent an infected person from transmitting the virus to others,
not as a shield for the wearer against others.  The statement is at:


and reads in part as follows:

Since the CDC has determined that some cloth face coverings may both serve as
source control and provide some personal protection to the wearer, will OSHA
consider them to be personal protective equipment under 29 CFR 1910.132 [an OSHA
regulation requiring personal protective equipment against workplace


Not at this time. OSHA continues to strongly encourage workers to wear face
coverings when they are in close contact with others to reduce the risk of
spreading COVID-19, if it is appropriate for the work environment. As the agency
has previously noted


employers may determine that cloth face coverings must be worn as a feasible
means of abatement in a control plan designed to address hazards from COVID-19.
Currently, however, OSHA's guidance is unchanged; OSHA does not consider cloth
face coverings PPE [personal protective equipment] and they are not required
under OSHA's PPE standard (29 CFR 1910.132).

The recent CDC scientific brief 


shows that some cloth face coverings have the potential to provide personal
protective benefits. However, the CDC also noted that additional "research is
needed to expand the evidence base for the protective effect of cloth masks and
in particular to identify the combinations of materials that maximize both their
blocking and filtering effectiveness." Factors such as design, construction, and
fabric selection will have a substantial impact on the overall effectiveness of
a face covering for personal protection. At this time, OSHA does not think
enough information is available to determine whether a particular cloth face
covering provides sufficient protection from the hazard of COVID-19 to be
personal protective equipment under OSHA's standard (29 CFR 1910.132).

Art Sapper


From: Chaim Casper <info@...>
Date: Fri, Dec 18,2020 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Halakhic responses to Covid vaccinations

Ari Trachtenberg wrote (MJ 64#82):

> Recently, Tradition's online magazine featured an article arguing for 
> mandatory COVID vaccination as soon as the vaccine becomes available for
> Emergency Use:
> https://traditiononline.org/halakha-approaches-the-covid-19-vaccine/
> <https://traditiononline.org/halakha-approaches-the-covid-19-vaccine/>
> Although I take very strong issue with the science behind the article (which
> effectively demands blind faith in the vaccine process), I am also curious 
> about the reactions to the halachic positions raised in the article, for  
> those of you have read it.
> Since two doctors have written the piece (one of whom also has smicha), I 
> would imagine that the article has the potential to deeply prejudice the 
> discussion going forward.
An article in the Jerusalem Post (I agree it is not a halakhic periodical, but
it is a good place to start for leads on contemporary issues) writes that

"Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, and Rabbi Shalom Cohen, three
of the most senior rabbis in the ultra-Orthodox world, have recommended that
those who are able to receive the coronavirus vaccines which will soon be
approved by the Health Ministry and administered to the public, should do so. 
"The decision was relayed by Avraham Elimelech Firer, chairman of the Ezra
Lemarpe medical support organization, who issued a statement saying that the
leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis had requested that he investigate for them the
merits of the vaccine." 
I responded (MJ 68#83) that the haredi world here in America would be reticent
to accept a Covid vaccination as Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetzky (a senior member of the
Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah and a son of the late Yeshiva Torah v'Daas Rosh
Hayeshiva, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky) and his wife are referred to as the most
outspoken opponents to measles vaccinations and by extension Covid vaccinations. 

Rabbi Kamenetzky has been quoted as saying he doesn't know where he got this
reputation. He was quoted as saying regarding the Covid vaccination, "[E]very
person should consult his doctor and do as required for himself". My feeling is
that this reputation is very much ingrained in the American haredi community so
he has a lot of selling to do to convince the public otherwise. 

The RCA (Rabbinical Council of America), the largest Orthodox rabbinical
organization in the world, came out pro-vaccination regarding Covid (authored or
supported by Rav Hershel Schachter, the posek for the Modern Orthodox world).
They issued a joint statement with the OU (Union of Orthodox Jewish
Congregations of America). 

It thus appears that most of the powers that be have come out in favor of Covid
vaccination. The question now, as seen on a number of Facebook posts, is will
you take the Covid vaccine?
B'virkat Torah,
Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 2,2020 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Local custom 

When the Mishnah tells us that we need to keep local custom (makom shenahagu ...
al yishaneh adam mipnei hamachloket) it gives the reason "mipnei machloket [to
avoid discord?]". What specific type actions / statements were Chazal concerned
about in terms of discord?

Joel Rich


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 2,2020 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Min hatorah

The Gemara, Chulin 17b, asks "Minayin libdikat sakin min hatorah"(from where do
we know from the Torah that a shechita knife must be checked) and answers with a
pasuk from navi. I couldn't find another Gemara that asks this question and
answers with a pasuk not from the Torah. Thoughts?

Joel Rich


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 22,2020 at 12:01 PM
Subject: The US Yeshiva Day School fraud

Somebody sent me this article, "The US Yeshiva Day School fraud", by Avraham
Shusteris which appeared on the Arutz Sheva website on Dec 20 which raises some
important points which we might find worth discussing.

> In Soviet Russia, where my parents are from, there was a famous saying amongst
> the working class: "We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us".
> Somehow the employer and employee each thought they had the upper hand by
> cheating the other and this allowed for the system to continue. As a result,
> nothing ever got done. It was a lie, but a lie that everyone was comfortable
> with, so it continued on until the country imploded.
> Today, the Yeshiva day school system is continuing a similarly comfortable and
> convenient pretense. The parent body and school system pretend to provide
> their utmost in giving their children the best Jewish and secular education
> possible, while the children go along with the system, playing the role that
> the day school system expects of them.
> Once it's time for college, the pretense is exposed. Looking back at my high
> school class 17 years after graduation, most of my peers are no longer shomer
> shabbat, and of the minority that stayed Sabbath observant most have become
> open orthodox - basically neo-Conservative, even if they call themselves
> Modern Orthodox. Very few of my high school peers maintained the true Modern
> Orthodox lifestyle, where Torah comes before Derech Eretz, of their parents. A
> small sprinkle frummed out and became hareidi.
> ...
> The main crux of the problem in yeshiva day schools is that it is abundantly
> clear to everyone, although never outwardly expressed, that the real
> priorities of the system are intended to produce students that will one day
> achieve success in the secular world. This means getting into great colleges
> and eventually getting great jobs. The system is extraordinarily successful in
> this regard.
> That being said, all parties in this system, including the parents, the
> schools and the students all know that this is and was the real priority - and
> it isnt spiritual growth. Although publicly the schools preached an
> uncompromising dual commitment to Yiddishkiet and academic excellence, no one
> was under the illusion that these two priorities were somehow equal. No state
> of the art beis medrash (study hall), inspirational lecture series or 10 day
> trip to Poland or even Israel could change that simple reality. Material
> success is what truly mattered when I was a student in yeshiva day school, and
> I suspect not much has changed in 17 years.
> Children smell hypocrisy from a mile away..
> And there is another example regarding which our education failed. Our school
> preached love for Israel and commitment for Israel. We waived our flags and we
> marched in the parades. However, when it came to practically making Aliyah,
> there were few takers.
> When young people see that we can say things and pretend to be one way, but
> act in a contrary way, they pick up on it. Why does it then come as a surprise
> that our children play the part while they are young, but drop like flies when
> they are given the free choice to act as they please once they are grown up?
> The issue is not one that is unique to the Modern Orthodox community.
> ...
> Today there are two types of people. There are people who are primarily
> focused on the material, and others who are primarily focused on the
> spiritual. There can only be one true priority. This dilemma of spiritual vs
> material priorities holds true for not only the Modern Orthodox, but for the
> hareidi world as well. What separates the hareidi wall street daf yomi lawyer
> working 70 hours a week from the Modern Orthodox one? The color and fabric of
> his kippah?
> ...
> If we want our primary focus and our childrens primary focus to be spiritual,
> ruchniyus, we need to take action to make it so. There is no greater practical
> expression of Emunah and yearning to come close to Hashem than foregoing all
> of the comforts and conveniences of life in America and coming to live in
> Eretz Yisrael. What other mitzvah proves where your true priorities lie? You
> can be a Jewish materialist and send your son to Brisk and visit Israel three
> times a year for Yom tov. It's harder to be a materialist and actually live in
> Eretz Yisrael.
> Schools and Jewish educational organizations recognize that the Israel
> experience is the most successful educational experience that can inspire,
> uplift, and re energize our children and rededicate them to their Judaism. The
> yeshivish send their kids to Eretz Yisrael to learn before and after marriage,
> the Modern Orthodox send their kids to study for a year or two after high
> school, while the non affiliated send their children on birthright to
> hopefully inspire them to marry Jewish.
> Eretz Yisrael has the effect of connecting the Jew to his roots across all
> religious spectrums. Educators try to bring the Israel experience to America
> in any way that they can to try to rekindle the spark of our Jewish youths
> souls.
> ...
> Maybe it's time to reconsider our logic in America. Instead of bringing the
> Israel experience to America, why not do something simpler. Lets give our
> children more of an Israel experience in Israel, by bringing them there - with
> us - and making our homes here.
> The longer we wait the more difficult it will become.

Martin Stern


End of Volume 64 Issue 87