Volume 65 Number 51 
      Produced: Tue, 05 Jul 22 13:22:36 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Abortion (2)
    [Zev Sero  Leah Gordon]
Branches of Judaism? 
    [Meir Shinnar]
Observant Jews 
    [David Tzohar]
Propriety - a question of practical halacha (2)
    [Martin Stern  Perets Mett]
Trouble in the Zionist Paradise 
    [Prof. L. Levine]


From: Zev Sero <zev@...>
Date: Sun, Jul 3,2022 at 02:17 PM
Subject: Abortion

Joseph Kaplan wrote (MJ 65#50):

> Martin Stern put his finger on the issue from an halachic perspective when he
> wrote (MJ 65#49):
>> It seems almost impossible to frame laws so that 'legitimate' abortions
>> (however one may define them) may be available and 'non-legitimate' ones
>> banned.
> I would just change the word 'seems' to 'is' and delete 'almost'. It is
> impossible - which is why Roe was the only way to ensure that abortions that
> halacha deems legitimate and even, in some cases, mandatory can be obtained by
> women who need them. (I believe Roe was proper and necessary for other reasons
> as well, but this one should be sufficient for those who opposed Roe but
> actually care about halacha and preserving the lives of women.)

I don't believe it is impossible or even difficult.   As far as I know *all*
anti-abortion laws that have been made or are being contemplated have an
exception for the mother's life, and (after 40 days) that is the *only*
exception the halacha allows.

Even if you follow some posek who allows other exceptions, first of all I think
you're wrong and therefore I have no problem if the law prevents you from
murdering a child for what I consider an insufficient reason; but more
importantly just because you're *allowed* doesn't mean you *have* to do it.  Not
everything permitted must be done, so if the law prevents you that is no harm,
especially compared to the good the laws are doing.

As far as I can see there seems to be *no* halachic difference between killing a
foetus and killing a nochri.  Literally none at all.  Every argument for saying
that abortion is "not murder" works equally well for saying that killing nochrim
is "not murder"; and yet I don't think those making these arguments would be at
all happy with that conclusion. So they'll be glad to know that I agree with
them about nochrim, which is why I must *dis*agree with them about foetuses. 
Their positions are inconsistent.

Re Leah Gordon's comments (MJ 65#49) about women "bleeding to death" from
illegal abortions.   That is a fantasy.  It never happened and it won't happen.
The fatality rate from illegal abortion in the '60s was no higher than it is
today from legal abortion.  Illegal abortions were not done in back alleys; they
were done by doctors and nurses in sanitary conditions.  The term "back alley
abortion" refers to the entrance to the illegal clinic often being in the back
alley, not out in the open; that is all.  (Of course many illegal clinics were
operating openly and notoriously, with their entrances on the street, having
paid all the necessary bribes.)

As for horror stories supposedly happening now, I doubt the truth of these
stories, but if they are happening then I blame the doctors involved for
deliberately endangering patients in order to produce political propaganda. 
When they say the law requires this outcome I do not believe them.

Zev Sero

From: Leah Gordon <leahgordonmobile@...>
Date: Tue, Jul 5,2022 at 11:17 AM
Subject: Abortion

Martin Stern quotes an article (MJ 65#50):

> https://vinnews.com/2022/07/01/roe-versus-wade-some-moral-questions/

This article attempts to draw a kind of timeline from conception through
adulthood and mull over when "we" (fathers, presumably) have physical rights to
harm or kill offspring.  It also makes bizarre claims about infanticide being
overlooked or accepted, as a sort of red herring argument.

I understand that in a patriarchal world view, this would seem like a relevant
analysis when discussing abortion.  However, it conveniently forgets the
bio-shell that surrounds blastocysts and fetuses, i.e. a WOMAN who is as much a
person as the author of this bizarre and nauseating article.

The article says:

>  Jewish law forbids feticide unless the mother's life is in danger.

This is certainly one opinion, but we've already hashed out on MJ that it isn't
the only opinion.  Certainly it is not binding on those who do not follow these
particular rabbis.

> ...
> 3. Who defines the parameters of a human being? Is it the supreme legal entity
> of society or is it relegated to G-d, nature, or reason?

It turns out that 

(1) Jewish law already defines an embryo as not human for the first part of
pregnancy, and that 

(2) since a pregnant woman IS a human being, defense of her life and health
ends up superseding any such Christian questions about "is it a human".

> 4. Can a society or the supreme legal entity of a country define life as
> beginning at adulthood, thereby allowing pedicide and patria potestas, the
> right of a father to kill his own children?

This demonstrates my initial theory about the article, that it is about how
we fathers behave in the patriarchy.

I'd like to remind everyone that in a place with restrictions on abortion by
secular law, Jewish law is endangered.  Period, end of story.  The reality is as
so many of us on MJ have already explained, that "health exemptions" are not
easy or automatic or even available in many places.

Abortion is part of protecting a woman's health and life.  Abortion must be,
from the secular legal perspective, "safe, legal, and on demand".  Any other
legal barrier is a threat to Jewish women's lives, and free exercise of religion
on top of that.

I also found that article to be disrespectful in its faux-scholarly tone. No, we
do not have to accept its definitions or its questions or its incorrect
assertions of "morality" or its bizarre conflations of ancient child sacrifice
with the modern Netherlands in terms of euthanasia.

In the same issue, Frank Silbermann writes:

> Fortunately, the Supreme Court decision to reverse Roe vs. Wade did not outlaw
> abortion but merely corrected the false claim that the amended Constitutional
> contract included a right to abortion.  States remain allowed to permit
> abortion, and most will continue to do so.  The concern is for the women who
> reside in the states no longer permitting abortion.
> Until and unless a national bill is passed (assuming the Supreme Court
> continues to allow violations of the 10th Amendment), there is a simple and
> traditionally Jewish solution -- and that is for our many, many tzdakkah 
> agencies to help poor Jewish women living in those states who need a halachic 
> abortion to get one in a state that permits it.

I think that Frank means well, but there is not always time, means, desire, or
ability to publicly ask for funds and then travel hundreds of miles for
emergency medical care.  Respectfully, I ask readers to consider whether it
would be reasonable to have to travel hundreds of miles for an appendectomy?

> Many Jews contribute heavily to secular charities, and secular charities
> could provide similar help to women without regard to halacha or Jewishness.
> On the whole Halacha was well served by the recent Supreme Court activity, in
> that it took a stand against laws aimed at denying Jews (and others) when out 
> in public effective means of fulfilling the mitzvah:
> "When a pursuer comes to murder you, rise up quickly and kill him first."

I find it interesting that Frank quotes the rodef (pursuer) halakha with regard
to gun rights in the USA.  The rodef halakha is exactly what permits even
late-term abortions in Jewish law (!!).

> The urgency of such a situation prevents a remedy like the one I described for
> abortion.

Does this mean to imply that it is more urgent to buy a firearm than to get
healthcare?  I disagree wholeheartedly.

I think that one of the problems with the abortion discussion on MJ is that
despite the huge increase in women posting since years and years ago, it is
still a discussion dominated by men, whose bodies will never be threatened by a
pregnancy and never have been.  The articles posted by MJ members, and an MJ
moderator (who lent unreasonable bias toward it) are also by men.

Jewish law is susceptible to the same bias, in the sense that until recently,
only men had a voice in most of the decisions.  You can see this in the halakhic
ambivalence over easing Yom Kippur restrictions for nursing mothers, when
allowed for pregnant women.  Anyone who has been pregnant and then nursed a baby
knows that nursing is harder when you get dehydrated. Anyone who understands
conservation of mass should also be able to apply that logic to water.  But
there is an odd ambivalence about the importance of the woman's suffering.

Leah S. R. Gordon


From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Mon, Jul 4,2022 at 05:17 PM
Subject: Branches of Judaism?

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 65#40):

> Carl Singer wrote (MJ 65#39):
>> In response to Prof. L. Levine (MJ 65#38):
>> We seem to be enamored with labels -- not limited to identifying formal
>> religious organizations.
>> How about labels "Open Orthodox", "Chasidish", "Liberal" ... - the list goes 
>> on.
>> To what purpose is our expanded taxonomy?  Do we wish to further separate?
>> because "They're not like us."
>> Or can we unite, focusing on commonalities?
> While I agree with Carl that we should avoid unnecessary splits in the
> Jewish people, I think there must be a limit as to how far a group deviates
> from normative Judaism. This was the point that Rav Shimon Shwab, ZT"L, whom
> Prof. Levine was quoting, was making.
> Where one draws the line may be a matter of dispute but such a line must
> exist unless Judaism is defined as ANY religion espoused by ANY person who
> CLAIMS to be a Jew, i.e. a meaningless term. As Rav Shwab put it, otherwise:
>>> Could not the Jews for J ... one day claim to be a branch of Judaism, since
>>> their main objective seems to be to present a picture of unity to the 
>>> outside world and to display unlimited [love] for all of our fellow Jews?
> and nobody could object.

I am catching up.  The issue Martin Stern and Prof. Levine raise is important,
but it is multisided. Rav Schwab, part of the Breuer/Hirsch tradition, adopts
what is commonly called the austritt approach - that one should complelely
separate from the non-Orthodox - and even from those Orthodox communities that
refuse to separate (the gemeinde [general inclusive] communities.

As was discussed a long time ago on mail jewish (when I was still active). Rav
Hirsch's position was controversial

The leading posek in Germany at the time, Rav Bamberger, opposed it.  At the
time, most Litvaks were also opposed - there is a tshuva by the Netziv opposing
it, as well as his famous hakdama to Ha'amek Davar on Breishit - where the Avot
are called yesharim [upright] for working with everyone.  There are reports that
during the founding of Agudah in the early 20th century, the German and
Hungarian Agudists were very strongly in favor of Austrit, and the Litvaks were

Rav Kook was strongly opposed to austritt (no suprprise).  He viewed the
Mishnah in Megilla: ha'omer yevarchucha tovim hare zo derech haminut
[whoever says that only the good shall bless you and will not include the others
in the kehilla is derech haminut] as applicable.

Even with this, there are bound, although not necessarily based on theology. 
For example, people cited Barry Freundel's book on Kaddish.  While he is 
released from jail, citing him on any topic is highly problematic and should not
be allowed on any Jewish platform.  I would agree joining with J for J is
problematic on historical grounds (with the history of Christian persecutions),
rather than just purely theological grounds.

I also have problems with rabbis who have organized persecutions of families of
molested children for daring to go to the police - and the organizations and
other rabbonim who have tolerated this behavior - and do not like seeing them
cite - and dai lechacham biremiza [it is sufficient for a discerning person to
hint at such matters] - but that would cut a wide swath.

Meir Shinnar


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Tue, Jul 5,2022 at 11:17 AM
Subject: Observant Jews

Leah Gordon (MJ 65#50) mentioned the poster whose Rabbi joked that women should
not be allowed to study Torah, That poster was me (MJ 65#46) so let me be
perfectly clear. This was no joke. The Rabbi, Rav Avraham Tzuriel chief rabbi of
Nes Tziona and our rosh Kollel, was quoting the gemarra which said that he who
teaches his daughter Torah is teaching her tiflut(heresy). The context was my
wife deciding, on the basis of what she learned, that it is permissible for a
married woman to uncover her hair and that, in this case, it is a mitzvah to
divorce her.

On the other hand Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook said that women can learn Torah, even
gemarrah if it is lishma, to give them a better understanding of things they
need to know like shabbat, kashrut, yom tov, niddah etc. What is forbidden is
for women to learn halacha to decide halacha in place of the rabbis (or their
husbands). This is a line that can't be crossed. Women have a place of honor in
Judaism. They just have to know where that place is. Leah Gordon should be proud
that she is an observant Jewish woman as long as she knows where the boundaries are.

R' David Yizchak Tzohar


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jul 3,2022 at 08:17 AM
Subject: Propriety - a question of practical halacha

An anonymous contributor wrote (MJ 65#50):

> Our congregation has over 100 member families. Our weekday Shacharis numbers
> between 20-30 men, over half of whom are members. This minyan takes place in
> the main sanctuary. This minyan is timed to end at a specific time so folks
> can catch public transportation to work.
> ...
> Our gabbai, and others, learn in our Bais Medrash until about five minutes
> before davening begins and then enters the main sanctuary to don tallis &
> tefillin.
> Under normal circumstances our gabbai davens until Yishtabach and whoever he
> designates from among the "regulars" continues. When there is an aveil (a
> chiyuv), he may be asked to continue at Yishtabach, or if he feels so inclined
> he may begin after the repetition of the Shemoneh Esray, or he may defer
> entirely.
> Last week, someone who just got up from Shiva (not among the minyan regulars)
> walked into the main sanctuary about 10 minutes before davening and parked
> himself at the lectern -- to show that he intended to daven the entire
> service. Clearly, he never before davened with this minyan and didn't know the
> protocols ...

Though he was not one of the minyan regulars, was this gentleman a member of the
shul? If so, he would have had a right to be sheliach tzibbur provided he was
capable. Non-members would not necessarily have this right though, if they were
regular attenders, they may be allowed to (it might be appropriate to invite
them to join, perhaps as 'country members' at a reduced fee, if they only come
during the week)

> Two questions arise:
> 1 - Should the protocol of "Ask the gabbai" be enforced -- or should someone
> be allowed to appoint themselves as shaliach tzibur?
> 2 - Can an aveil, member or not, be denied if they are incapable of quality
> and/or pace?

Nobody has the right to appoint himself sheliach tzibbur. As the term implies,
the latter is the agent [shaliach] of the congregation [tzibbur] and can only
take that role if the congregation, or its representative, the gabbai, appoints
him. In the hopefully rare situation where the gabbai refuses someone whom the
congregation wishes to lead them for petty or spiteful reasons, the congregation
can override him.

Though an aveil [person in mourning during the eleven months after the passing
of a parent] may be a chiyuv [one obligated to lead the congregational prayers],
the congregation is not mechuyav [obligated] to let him do so, though they
would, all things being equal, be doing a chesed [act of kindness] to allow him
to do so.

> We told him to go to the bais medrosh and check with the gabbai, who "mipnei
> darkhei shalom [to further peaceful running of the shul]"let him daven the
> entire davening.   Fortunately, he was capable of both content and pace.

This was the correct procedure. Even if he were, for example, slightly too fast
or too slow the first time, this should be pointed out to him and he should be
given a second chance. However, if he persisted in breaching the protocols, he
should be told that he could no longer be sheliach tzibbur. Fortunately, as the
anonymous contributor says, he was suitable.

Martin Stern

From: Perets Mett <p.mett00@...>
Date: Mon, Jul 4,2022 at 08:17 AM
Subject: Propriety - a question of practical halacha

Anonymous wrote (MJ 65#50):
> Two questions arise:

Looks like three to me :-)
> 1 - Should the protocol of "Ask the gabbai" be enforced -- or should someone be
> allowed to appoint themselves as shaliach tzibur?

Shliach tsibur means what it says: sent by the tsibur; a person cannot appoint
himself. The gabai retains the right to appoint a shliach tsibur as he sees fit
> 2 - Can an aveil, member or not, be denied if they are incapable of quality
> and/or pace?

Certainly; there is no automatic right to the omud. Someone who is incapable
should not be allowed it.
> 3 - What do other minyanim do?

There is a variety of practices.
Usually shuls which have a single minyan have a gabai in charge.

In some places there are shtiblech where anyone can have the omud; if that is
the accepted practice so be it.

But an oveil cannot just take the omud where there is an existing protocol.

Perets Mett

currently an oveil and noting the various practices in different shuls/minyonim


From: Prof. L. Levine <llevine@...>
Date: Tue, Jul 5,2022 at 08:17 AM
Subject: Trouble in the Zionist Paradise

Ha'aretz reported (July 4): 

> A decade after Israel's social protest failed, and housing prices soared to
> unimaginable numbers, a diverse and small crowd is trying to revive the fight
> against the impossible cost of living

For more details see:


Dare one suggest that Israel made a huge mistake by taking in hundreds of
thousands of Russians most of whom are not halachically Jewish?

Yet despite these housing troubles, the government continues to encourage
Aliyah, esprcially from the latter category!

Professor Yitzchok Levine


End of Volume 65 Issue 51