Volume 65 Number 63 
      Produced: Thu, 21 Jul 22 15:27:29 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Ba'al Peor and Balfour 
    [Prof. L. Levine]
Punishment for the wicked 
    [Joel Rich]
Tallit resting on top of a siddur tephilla (2)
    [Frank Silbermann  Chana Luntz]
Women poskim 
    [Chana Luntz]


From: Prof. L. Levine <llevine@...>
Date: Thu, Jul 21,2022 at 12:17 PM
Subject: Ba'al Peor and Balfour

Yisroel Medad wrote (MJ 65#62):

> Yitzchok Levine (MJ 65#60) denigrates a mitzva, one which is specifically 
> noted multiple times throughout the Torah as well as all of Tanach. He quotes 
> one Rabbi who seems to make up the idea that the idolatrous act at Ba'al  
> Peor, which is a practice of defecating on an idol, is somehow related to the
> "matter of the restriction against adding mitzvos", itself, a restriction
> recorded elsewhere in the Torah (and therefore there is no reason to make up
> a theory that Ba'al Peor is connected to the restriction against adding
> mitzvos). There were and are hundreds of Rabbis who saw the Balfour
> Declaration as akin to the Declaration of Cyrus, one viewed quite positively
> in Tanach.

Since I am a retired mathematician who was trained to read things most
carefully, let me point out the following. I quoted Rav Schwab's writings on
this subject. So, I think that if you think anyone denigrated anything, it is
Rav Shimon Schwab, not me. And for the record, Rav Shimon Schwab is not "one
Rabbi." He was a Godol.  See The Ish Ha'emes, Rabbi Shimon Schwab, The Jewish
Observer,  Summer 1995


If he needs more convincing, then I will send him the links to five articles I
wrote about Rav Schwab.

Regarding the Balfour Declaration and the Declaration of Cyrus, the following is


"The return under Cyrus proclamation after 70 years of exile was prophesied in
advance by Jeremiah. Cyrus is even mentioned by name in Isaiah, who lived 200
years before Cyrus. At the time of that return the Jewish people had several
prophets Hagai, Zachariah, Malachi and others who all conveyed G-d's approval of
the return.

"Nowadays, however, we have no prophet who can tell us that the Zionist return
is the return foretold long ago in the Tanach. In view of the Three Oaths, which
prohibit an unauthorized mass return to the Land of Israel, the long-awaited
return MUST be sanctioned by prophecy or another unquestionably supernatural
event, otherwise how will we know it is the right time and not a violation of
the Oaths?"

Note that I said a mass return is forbidden. But for individual Jews to live in
the Land of Israel is certainly permitted. There is an opinion in the Talmud
(Rav Yehuda) who holds it is forbidden, but the halacha is not ruled in
accordance with him.

Professor Yitzchok Levine


From: Joel Rich <joelirarich@...>
Date: Wed, Jul 20,2022 at 05:17 PM
Subject: Punishment for the wicked

Micha Berger wrote (MJ 65#62):

> Second, I think more people are more afraid of not existing than of existing in
> torment.

Do others agree with Micha?  If so, what's to fear if there is nothing after
this life?

She-nireh et nehamat Yerushalayim u-binyanah bi-mherah ve-yamenu

Joel Rich


From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Wed, Jul 20,2022 at 06:17 PM
Subject: Tallit resting on top of a siddur tephilla

I'm not an expert on any of these laws, but I had heard of priorities as to
which sefarim one may stack on what other kinds.

I mentioned to my rabbi that, surprisingly there is one set of writing that is
customary to lay on top of a parchment Torah Scroll. The words are sometimes a
list of people who donated money. It's embroidered into a piece of heavy cloth
that we lay on top of the Torah scroll after reading one aliyah before reading
the next.

When we're done, we put it over and around the Torah scroll before placing it in
the ark.

Frank Silbermann
Memphis, Tennessee

From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Thu, Jul 21,2022 at 02:17 AM
Subject: Tallit resting on top of a siddur tephilla

David Ziants writes [MJ 65#62]:

> Thank you for all your responses concerning this, and am relieved to hear that
> others also learned this "halacha" in their or their children's younger days -
> so it obviously was not a misunderstanding on my part.

No, and it is worth noting there is a concept of "l'yisroel im ain neviim hen,
bnei neviim hen [the Jews, even if they are not themselves prophets, are the
children of prophets]" (Pesachim 66a).  If there is a widespread practice, there
is a very good chance there is a legitimate source out there somewhere.

> Chana Luntz's translation (MJ 65#59) from the Kaf haChaim (which I still need 
> to look up) seems to support this ruling as there is brought a possibility
> that putting one's tephillin on one's siddur might be problematic if one holds
> that a siddur having a greater level of kedusha as tephillin (I guess that is
> because tephillin is tashmishai mitzva and not tashmishai kedusha - but this
> does not resonate with me because if one drops tephillin one is expected to
> fast). Or >maybe, it is talking about letting the straps of ones tephillin
> rest on a siddur, which makes more sense.

The Kaf HaChayim is very dense, quoting at least half a dozen (mostly Ashkenazi)
Acharonim, but to give you a flavour: the fundamental proof text comes from a
discussion about swearing oaths - where it is brought that while ideally one
should swear on a sefer Torah, if no sefer Torah is available, one should swear
on other sefarim, and only if these are not also available one should swear on
tefillin.  And hence (according to those commentators) we derive from this that
a siddur which has holy names in it takes priority over tefillin in terms of
placement as it has a greater kedusha than tefillin.  But then other
commentators are  brought who disagree with the basic halacha that in fact one
can or should use other seforim for oath swearing if a sefer Torah is not
available - meaning the whole proof does not work. And also other commentators
are brought that state explicitly that the kedusha of tefillin is greater than
the kedusha of the siddur as the holy names in tefillin have been sanctified
which is not true of even chumashim, and certainly the siddurim and other
printed books we have today. And further proof is brought from yet other
commentators who bring that it is the widespread custom to put tefillin on
siddurim and hence that is fine.

The point is therefore very definitely not to run down the kedusha of tefillin,
but to show the strength of the kedusha of the siddur - even though the
conclusion seems to be that it is acceptable to put tefillin on a siddur, Hence
it would follow that while there might be at least a debate about which of the
two can be put on the other, it is clear that a tallit, and even more so an
ordinary object, cannot be put on top of either, even those siddurim that have
been printed. Were it fine to put any object on a siddur, the discussion would
be unnecessary, as tefillin is certainly more acceptable than the watch you
bring as an example below.

> I forgot to mention in my original posting, that my rav explained to me that 
> the reason why the halacha codifiers who relate to this, only talk about
> sepharim on top of sepharim and not mundane article on top of sepharim,
> because only with a >sepher of lower kedusha on top of a sepher with higher
> kedusha - one is making an incorrect statement about the relative kedushot
> and that is what is disrespectful. This is neither relevant for mundane
> objects nor objects like a tallit.

While that understanding might make sense purely in terms of the Shulchan Aruch
I brought last time, it does now work with the achronic discussion in the Kav
HaChaim as the premise of that discussion is that it is necessary to rate the
kedusha of tefillin against the siddur to determine which can be placed on
which. Placing mundane objects on either a siddur or tefillin would thus not be

> After this discussion, I still feel uncomfortable in seeing something (e.g. a
> watch) resting on top of a siddur or chumash, etc - but maybe I should be
> less zealous in wanting to "correct" this.

This is a much more complicated discussion.  What to do when you see people who
are unaware of something of which you are aware, or may perhaps simply be
holding differently (your Rav might review all these achronic discussions and
still conclude that since it wasn't codified in the Shulchan Aruch, it can be
ignored, especially if the minhag in the place of this Rav is not to be
concerned).  There is also a concept of mutav yeyihu shogegin - better they act
in ignorance than deliberately, and potentially complicated issues of kovod
habriyot [literally honour to the created, but more treating people with
dignity].  In one's hurry to treat holy objects with dignity one would not want
to overstep that with human beings.




From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Thu, Jul 21,2022 at 12:17 AM
Subject: Women poskim

David Tzohar wrote [MJ 65#62}:

> Chana Luntz (MJ 65#61) brings two sources (Sefer HaChinuch and Birkei Yosef)
> which mention women who are wise and are worthy to pasken halacha. First of 
> all I believe that this is a minority view in halacha, the vast majority 
> agreeing with the dissenting opinion of the Rambam which Chana mentioned.

The Rambam does not dissent, What the Rambam actually says in Perush HaMishna
LRambam Mesechet Sotah Perek 3 halacha 3 is that the halacha is not like Ben
Azzai (who holds that it is mandatory to teach women Torah). What the Rambam
further says in  Hilchot Talmud Torah perek 1 halacha 13 is as follows:

"A woman who studies Torah gains a reward but not like the reward of a man,
because she is not commanded and all who do a thing that they are not commanded
to do, their reward is not like the reward of one who is commanded and does
rather [their reward] is less than these, and even though she gains a reward,
the Sages commanded/recommended that a man should not teach his daughter Torah
because the majority of women, their minds are not suited to the learning, and
they will turn matters of Torah to matters of foolishness according to the
poverty of their minds. The Sages said: Anyone who teaches his daughter Torah it
is as if he teaches her tiflut [worthlessness].  With regard to what are we
speaking, with Torah shebaal peh [oral Torah]; but Torah shebichtav [written
Torah] even though he should not teach her ab initio, if he taught her it is not
as though he taught her tiflut."

As noted by the Prisha (Yoreh Deah siman 246) this Rambam is discussing a 
father teaching his daughter (which was the sugya in Sotah) "but if she learns
herself we see that she has gone out from the majority and thus he writes above
that there is to her reward".

Note also the dual translation I brought of commanded/recommended.  While the
Hebrew tzivui Chachamim would seem most straightforwardly to be translated as
"the Sages commanded", Rav YH Henkin Talmud Study by Women - Shut Bnei Banim
Chelek 3 Siman 12 points out that within the Rambam (who as we know, was very
precise), it is never used that way - rather the phrase "the Sages commanded"
(tzivu hakhamim) signifies proper and desirable behavior but not an enforceable
isur veheter.".  It is worth seeing his teshuva inside and working through the
dozen or so cases he brings to show that Rav Henkin is clearly right, the Rambam
does not use the term to mean obligation.

So rather what you have from the Rambam is a clear ruling that a father is not
obligated to teach his daughters Torah, and a strong recommendation that he not
teach them Torah, at least Torah sheba'al peh.  Along with the explication that
if they do learn Torah (of any kind), they receive less reward than a man would
because they are not commanded.  Nothing at all about women not being able to
pasken [rule] if they were in fact to learn to a level that meant they were roi
l'hora'ah [fit to pasken].

> Also the sources she brought only relate to the theoretical possibility of 
> women being poskim.
> I am unaware of any mention in the Shas, Rishonim and Acharonim of women who
> participated in halachic discourse, not to mention psika. The examples of 
> D'vora haneviya and perhaps the "Moid of Ludmir" who was accepted as a 
> chassidic Rebbe in the 19th century Ukraine are the exceptions that prove the 
> rule. They had ruach hakodesh and although D'vorah was a prophetess and a
> judge, she was not a posek. There are wise women in the Talmud such as Bruria
> the wife of Rabi Meir but again she is no posek.

Well maybe you need to look at Tosefta Kelim Baba Mezia and 1:6 Tosefta Kelim
Baba Kamma 4:17


to see that Bruria did unquestionably give psak (although I realise hilchot
kelim is rather obscure).  See also Berachot 10a and  Pesachim 62b to see her
participating in the halachic discourse (although Brachot could also could be
characterised as some level of psak).  Yalta the wife of Rav Nachman also
participated in the halachic discourse.

See also the position of the mother of the Drisha cited in his introduction to
Tur Yoreh Deah relating to lighting and blessing candles on Yom Tov which is
hotly debated in the poskim but I believe widely followed l'halacha.

> BTW I am sure that R'Tzuriel's daughters say birkat hatorah. They are Bais
> Ya'akov graduates and are well versed in many Torah subjects,

I suspect the same.  But you quoted Rav Tzuriel as ruling, l'halacha, like Rabbi
Eliezer in Sotah that women should never be taught any form of Torah.  The
consequence of that position is that women should not say birchat haTorah [the
blessings of the Torah] in the morning, as it will be a bracha l'vatala
[blessing in vain] meaning that what Beit Ya'akov does is wrong. I was surprised
that Rav Tzuriel so ruled (although there are others who agree with this
position, such as Satmar) and suspected that this was merely a flippant comment
rather than a psak halacha, but you were the one receiving the communication and
not me and you appeared to take it as psak.  By the way, on the subject of the
blessings on the Torah, the GRA's view is that the reason women [can] say it is
because women are permitted to make blessings on mitzvot from which they are
exempt, but while that works well for Ashkenazim, and those Sephardim that
follow the Chida/Ben Ish Chai, it is not so straightforward to explain why the
Shulchan Aruch mandates these for women (although if you trace the sources back,
it seems he is relying on the position brought by the Rema that women are
obligated to study those mitzvot of relevance to them, but where this obligation
is derived from, if not from the position of Ben Azzai, is very unclear).

The more general issue is that, as the Shulchan Aruch notes in Shulchan Arukh,
Yoreh De'ah si'if 13 "a student that has not reached the level of hora'ah [being
able to posken] and poskens is an evil fool".  You need a very high level of
knowledge to be able to decide halachic matters, because the nature of Torah - 
kol hatorah inyan echad [All the Torah is one matter] (Tosefta Sanhedrin 7:5)
rather means that in order to really know one aspect of Torah you need to know
all of it. But this is not gender specific.  Very few husbands are capable of
poskening either.




End of Volume 65 Issue 63