Volume 65 Number 04 
      Produced: Wed, 06 Oct 21 14:29:50 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

American Blood Libel 
    [Prof. Yitzchok Levine]
Banging on the bimah 
    [Martin Stern]
Can I make Kiddush or Havdalah on a cup of coffee or tea? 
    [Prof. Yitzchok Levine]
Dangerous Sukkos & Simchas Torah Frivolity 
    [Prof. Yitzchok Levine]
Hebrew Pronunciation - Ashkenozis the LEAST authentic? 
    [Michael Frankel]
Lakewood Rabbonim Oppose The COVID-19 Jab 
    [Prof. Yitzchok Levine]
Pitum haketoret 
    [Martin Stern]
When Was the Zohar Written? 
    [Ben Katz, M.D.]


From: Prof. Yitzchok Levine <larry62341@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 26,2021 at 01:17 PM
Subject: American Blood Libel

Massena is an undistinguished small town with a population of about 10,000 in
upstate New York. But in the fall of 1928, an incident occurred that brought the
town national newspaper coverage and frightened Jews across America. On Sept.
22, a few days before Yom Kippur, Barbara Griffiths, a 4-year-old girl, wandered
into the woods surrounding the village and disappeared. When she did not return
home hours later, her frantic parents contacted the mayor and the local police.
Thus began the tale of the only blood libel accusation against Jews in American

See https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/history/articles/american-blood-libel for
more details.

I wrote about this "An American Blood Libel - It did Happen!" in The Hamodia
October 7, 2008, pages C6 & C7.


Given the surge worldwide in anti-Semitism today, is it really such a stretch of
the imagination to think that something like this could occur today?



From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 6,2021 at 02:17 PM
Subject: Banging on the bimah

Making announcements like 'ya'aleh veyavo' or 'al hanissim' between kaddish and
the ma'ariv shemoneh esrei is a long established custom mentioned already by the
Maharil. A new custom seems to have arisen to bang on the bimah before the
shemoneh esrei of shacharit and minchah as well. Obviously calling out such
announcements is not possible at shacharit when any interruption is forbidden,
but not doing so at minchah seems an unnecessary stringency. 

This morning, first day of Rosh Choesh Marcheshvan, it struck me that it would
actually be a good idea to call out 'vekapparat pasha' before musaf since this
addition is relatively infrequent and might easily be omitted, but I have never
heard it done.

What do other Mail Jewish members think?

Martin Stern


From: Prof. Yitzchok Levine <larry62341@...>
Date: Fri, Oct 1,2021 at 03:17 PM
Subject: Can I make Kiddush or Havdalah on a cup of coffee or tea?

Shulchan Aruch (OC 182:2; 272:9; 289:2; 296:2) writes that if there is no wine
available, one may recite Birchas Hamazon, Kiddush or Havdalah on a beverage
that is prevalent in that location. This is known as Chamar Medinah (the local

Do tea or coffee qualify?

Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yebia Omer 3:19 and Yechaveh Daas 2:38) cites some Acharonim
who maintain that a beverage is only considered Chamar Medinah if it is
intoxicating. Based on this, Rav Ovadia Yosef rules that one should not recite
Havdalah on tea or coffee. Only alcoholic beverages such as beer are acceptable.
This was also the opinion of Rav Chaim Volozhiner.

The Rogatchover suggests that even if it is necessary for chamar medina to be
intoxicating, milk can be considered an intoxicating beverage based on the
Gemara (Kerisos 13b) that a cohen may not perform the avodah in the Beis
Hamikdash after drinking milk. (Presumably, milk is intoxicating in the sense
that it causes drowsiness and affects a person's mental state.) However, Rav
Y.D. Soloveichik (Mi'peninei Harav p. 87) rejects the comparison between avodah
and chamar medinah. Milk invalidates a cohen for avodah because it causes
drowsiness, while chamar medinah is limited to actual intoxication.

On the other hand, the Aruch Hashulchan (OC 296:13), Igeros Moshe (OC 2:75) and
Tzitz Eliezer (8:16) write that in the absence of wine, if one has no other
choice, one may recite havdalah on coffee or tea. One may add milk to their tea
or coffee, but it is not necessary. Igeros Moshe explains that these drinks are
similar to wine because they are served to guests to demonstrate distinction or
respect, and not only to quench one's thirst.

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 279:9) writes that there are different opinions whether
chamar medina may be used for Kiddush at night and during the day. The Mishnah
Berurah (272:27) rules that Chamar Medinah may be used for Shabbos daytime
kiddush, but should not be used for Friday night Kiddush, If wine is not
available, Friday night Kiddush should be recited on challah.

For further discussion see


Any comments?


From: Prof. Yitzchok Levine <larry62341@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 26,2021 at 04:17 PM
Subject: Dangerous Sukkos & Simchas Torah Frivolity

While going through the recent Sukkos issue of Toras Avigdor


I was happy to see the forthright words of Rav Miller "warning against frivolity
and "fun", hefkeirus and wildness,  masquerading as praiseworthy Torah, during
the great time of Simchas Torah. Take a look at his words in the beginning of
the booklet, and especially on page five, about such perversions taking place on
Simchas Torah no less, where he mentions a shtiebel where they threw wet towels
at each other on that day, a Kohen who demonstratively broke ranks to drink
schnapps at the time of duchanning instead of blessing his people, and other

This very important message came back to me when I saw a recent video clip,
allegedly from a talmid chacham, of a fellow with a shtreimel hanging on to
a chandelier and pulling it down.


Besides it being dangerous for multiple reasons, it is destructive, and not
sanctioned by our mesorah. Yet, a prominent social media personality described
it as part of Hasidic Jews 'knowing how to have a good time'. See the above
URL for more.

Please take the time to watch the video at


Note that in addition to the "clown" hanging from the chandelier, there is no
social distancing, and there is no one wearing a mask shown in this video.

I ask you, "Do you think that this behaviour is in conformance with Torah true
Judaism?" How can these people think that this is what is meant by simcha on
Succos? I cannot fathom how they can think that this is what Torah Judaism
wants them to do.



From: Michael Frankel <michaeljfrankel@...>
Date: Mon, Oct 4,2021 at 03:17 PM
Subject: Hebrew Pronunciation - Ashkenozis the LEAST authentic?

The references cited by Prof Levine (MJ 65#02) to R Dr Mandel and Dr A. Beider
are quite sufficient to undermine the various conflicting claims that either
current Ashkenazi (because of its differentiation of seven vowels) or Sefaradi
pronunciation is more authentic.  What I would like to add here is my conviction
that, if anything, Ashkenazi is the LEAST authentic pronunciation.

By authentic I mean the belief that the ancient pronunciation has been preserved
relatively unchanged through time. In this, it is fair to say the Ashkenazim
have failed miserably.  This is the obvious conclusion from the fact that the
language spoken by the earlier generations of Ashkenazim was basically Sefardi.

Yes, Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam spoke Sefardi (so suck that up, Ashkenazi
partisans).  See e.g. Rashi to Brochos 47a, d.h. amein chatufah, but mainly see
H. Yalon, Mavoh Leniqqud Hamishnah (that's the thin yellow volume that almost
nobody read which used to accompany the ubiquitous 6-volume Albeck edition of
the Mishnah.  I guess it's no longer ubiquitous since the very similar Kehati
edition was published and ate its lunch).  How it morphed over the years into
what we now call Ashkenozis probably had something to do with the German-Yiddish
environment, but I am hardly (or at all) enough of a linguist to attempt to
describe that process.  

Given the lack of historical continuity within the Ashkenazi speaking history,
the fact that the current Ashkenazi pronunciation differentiates seven vowels as
do the Tiberian Baalei Mesorah must be viewed as essentially fortuitous and
reflecting no historical continuity.

In fact the authenticity of the Baalei Mesorah themselves is rather an open
question. The conclusion of the great Paul Kahle (The Seridei Eish's Protestant
"rebbe") that the Tiberian pronunciation of the 7th-10th century Baalei Mesorah
was largely invented by them and did not correspond to the actual ancient
pronunciation was, and still is, shared by many.

Looking further back to the era of Chazal, academicians have extensively mined
the Septuagint (and other Greek stuff) for pronunciation of both vowels and
consonants through its various temporal incarnations.  Getting even further back
to Moshe Rabbeinu or the Shoftim's pronunciation (not to mention the undoubtedly
contemporaneous geographical dialect differences) would be tougher to exhume
although I imagine people with time on their hands turn to semitic cognates and
try.  Good luck with that.   In short its a mess and I heartily second (OK
third) the notion that it's ridiculous to claim a superior historical
correctness for any of the current spoken language traditions.

Mechy Frankel



From: Prof. Yitzchok Levine <larry62341@...>
Date: Thu, Sep 9,2021 at 03:17 PM
Subject: Lakewood Rabbonim Oppose The COVID-19 Jab

Ari Trachtenberg wrote (MJ 65#03):

> Prof. Yitzchok Levine wrote (MJ 65#02):

>> A sign consisting of a kol koreh of Rabbonim opposing the COVID-19 jab was
>> recently hung in shuls around Lakewood.
>> ...
>> While I cannot make out the signatures at the bottom,  I am certain that  
>> each of these rabbonim has extensive training in the medical area of
>> infectious diseases. If not, I am sure they would never make such assertions.

> Do the rabbis supporting the COVID vaccines need extensive training 
> in infectious diseases in order to support the vaccines?

Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt is an infectious disease specialist with semicha.


Rabbi Aaron E. Glatt, MD, FACP, FIDSA, FSHEA, is chairman of the Department of
Medicine and hospital epidemiologist at South Nassau Communities Hospital and
clinical professor of medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He is
also the associate rabbi of the Young Israel of Woodmere.

He is a rabbi who is qualified to make statements about infectious diseases and
vaccines. Unless a rabbi has a similar background, he is not, IMHO, qualified to
make statements about medical issues.

> I would imagine that each rely on medical sources that they trust and make
> their decisions accordingly.

I have my doubts about this. Without a real medical background I fail to see how
anyone can make authoritative statements about medicine.

> The more interesting question, to my mind, is
> (i) to what extent should rabbis accept specific medical advice as a matter of
> halacha, and
> (ii) to what extent should rabbis even opine on medical issues.

Rabbis without medical backgrounds IMHO have no business making assertions about
medical issues.

Would you ask a rabbi who is not a mechanic about how to fix your car?  No, you
would not, because unless he is a trained mechanic, he has no first hand
knowledge of how to fix a car. The same, IMHO, applies to medicine.

Professor Yitzchok Levine


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 6,2021 at 02:17 PM
Subject: Pitum haketoret

The Beraita of Pitum haketoret, which gives the recipe for the incense used in
the Beit Hamikdash, is quoted in the siddur from Keritot 6a. It is said by
Ashkenazim in Chutz la'Aretz after Mussaf on Shabbat and Yom Tov only, according
to the Rema's ruling, and by others up to three times a day - before and after
shacharit and before minchah.

I have two problems with a passage towards its end. After listing anonymously
(Tanu Rabbanan) the eleven spices and four supplementary ingredients, it continues:

"Rabbi Natan HaBavli says 'also a small quantity of kippat hayarden'."

What is not clear to me is whether this is his private opinion with which the
previous tannaim disagree.

The Beraita then continues:

"And if one added honey, one makes the incense pasul [unfit for use] and if one
omitted any of the spices, he is liable to the death penalty."

My second difficulty is whether these last two points are also part of Rabbi
Natan HaBavli's private opinion or are a return to the original anonymous
authority. From the discussions in Keritot, the latter seems more likely but the
question still remains whether omitting kippat hayarden is included in the
liability for the death penalty.

Can anyone help?

Martin Stern


From: Ben Katz, M.D.<BKatz@...>
Date: Fri, Sep 24,2021 at 02:17 PM
Subject: When Was the Zohar Written?

Prof. Yitzchok Levine wrote (MJ 65#03):

> Many claim that the Zohar was written by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochoi, who lived in
> the second century.
> The Zohar refers to the second day of Shemini Atzeres as Simchas Torah. 
> However, the name Simchas Torah does not appear in sources until after the
> time of the Geonim. Based on this, R. Avraham Yaari in his sefer Toldos Chag
> Simchas Torah comes to some interesting conclusions about when the Zohar was 
> actually written, namely, it must have been well after the time of Rabbi
> Shimon Bar Yochoi.
> See
> http://www.stevens.edu/golem/llevine/rsrh/zohar_yaari.pdf
> for more details.

There are a lot more reasons why the Zohar was not written in the 2nd century.
Rav Yaacov Emden said the same thing.


End of Volume 65 Issue 4