Volume 65 Number 67 
      Produced: Fri, 29 Jul 22 11:22:47 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Israeli singer defends refusal to shake Biden's hand  
    [Chaim Casper]
Psalm 145:7 zaycher or zecher 
    [Shlomo Di Veroli]
Sefer Bound Upside-Down 
    [Immanuel Burton]
The nature of Midrash (2)
    [Martin Stern  Yisrael Medad]
Waiving Aveilut 
    [Micha Berger]
Whiskey matured in sherry casks 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Chaim Casper <info@surfflorist,com>
Date: Thu, Jul 28,2022 at 04:17 PM
Subject: Israeli singer defends refusal to shake Biden's hand 

Professor Yitzchok Levine made note (MJ 65#64) of a female Israeli singer who,
because she is Orthodox, refused to shake hands with President Joe Biden.  
Yisrael Medad and Martin Stern followed up with a discussion (MJ 65#65).
Ayn kol hadash tahat hashemesh (There is nothing new under the sun) said King
Solomon in Kohelet/Ecclesiastes 1:9.   This situation, too, has happened before
and I am sure it will happen again.   I draw the reader's eyes to The New York
Times Magazine, Sunday, October 27, 2002, to Ethicist column written by Randy
Cohen.    The column in full may be accessed at
A picture of the actual page from that day may be accessed at
A woman who professed to be a feminist was offended when, upon the conclusion of
a real estate deal, she offered to shake the hand of the man with whom she had
just concluded the deal.  He would not accept her hand explaining that as an
Orthodox Jew, he doesn't shake hands with women.   She took offence at this,
asking the columnist what should she do?   The columnist, Randy Cohen (of course
he had to be Jewish!) responded that, "[S]exism is sexism, even when motivated
by religious convictions. I believe you should tear up your contract".
Well, Randy got an earful and more from numerous people in the Orthodox
community decrying his point of view to the point that, if memory serves me
correctly, he was forced to backtrack.   I could not find any written online
responses to him or from him other than Jonathan Rosenblum's column written
seven years later and reprinted by Aish HaTorah.   See

The musar haskel (lesson to be learned) is that there is always going to be a
"clash of cultures" when we step out of the shtetl and interact with the
community at large.

B'virkat Torah,
Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL
Neve Mikhael, Israel


From: Shlomo Di Veroli <shlomodiveroli@...>
Date: Wed, Jul 27,2022 at 08:17 PM
Subject: Psalm 145:7 zaycher or zecher

I noticed in different siddurim the word ZCR is pointed with tzere and others as
seghol. My Biblia Hebraica (based on the Leningrad Codex) has tzere. I asked the
chabad rabbi about these various readings and said to me that the late R.MMS
read it with both spellings. Did anyone hear about this?

Shlomo Di Veroli


From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Thu, Jul 28,2022 at 11:17 PM
Subject: Sefer Bound Upside-Down

Thank you to everybody who replied to my posting about which way up to place on
a shelf a sefer that has been bound upside-down. I particularly enjoyed Chana
Luntz's analysis (MJ 65#66).

I have 2 seforim that have been bound upside-down. The first is a translation of
Mesechet Eruvin by the Soncino Press. The second is a 1998 edition of the
Authorised Daily Prayer Book (aka the Singer's Siddur). On one occasion I met
the chairman of the Singer's Prayer Book Publication Committee of 1998, Elkan
Levy, and told him that I had a copy of the 1998 edition that had been bound
upside-down. His reply was, "Oh, I thought all of those had been recalled".
Given that comment, I am reluctant to have this Siddur re-bound the right way up.

After given further thought to the matter, I have decided to place these items
on my shelf the right way up for the content, having taken into account the
advice of Rabbi Meir quoted in Pirkei Avot 4:27, "Do not look at the flask but
at what is inside it".

Immanuel Burton.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Jul 27,2022 at 04:17 PM
Subject: The nature of Midrash

Joseph Kaplan wrote (MJ 65#66):

> Martin Stern writes (MJ 65#65):
>> Yisrael is making a fundamental error in referring to the Three Oaths as
>> "just a Midrash" as if it were some sort of fairy tale, which can be ignored
>> by 'enlightened' people.
>> While a midrash, by its very nature, is not meant to be understood in a
>> literal sense, this does not mean that it is not meant to carry a valuable
>> message, albeit clothed in a poetic or allegorical form.
> Martin is, I believe, correct that midrashim are more than fairy tales and
> carry valuable messages. Indeed, I would guess that Yisrael Medad, to whom
> Martin was responding, would agree as well. But message is not halacha, and
> yeshivat eretz yisrael is halacha. So, any understanding the message of the
> three oaths midrash, must not to ignore halacha nor, I would add, the many
> years of Jewish history and the bracha of a flourishing State of Israel in
> which almost half of the worlds Jews reside today.
> ...

Unfortunately, Joseph, and also Yisrael Medad (MJ 65#66), have misunderstood the
point I was making. I was not commenting on the substantive content of the
midrash of the Three Oaths and whether it had any practical halachic
application. Perhaps I was not sufficiently clear, for which I apologise, but I
wished to draw attention to a widespread attitude to Midrash, and aggadeta in
general, which Yisrael appeared to be expressing by referring to "just a Midrash". 

This may reflect Modern Hebrew usage of the term as something to be dismissed as
fanciful. Such misusages of classical religious terminology are not uncommon and
are part of the insidious effects of the 'modernisation' of the language. One
might describe this as the substitution of "lashon hakodesh" with "lashon
mechullal"! One has to be on one's guard against being misled by such 'hidden'
changes in meaning. I am sure that once he appreciates the way he is being
subconsciously influenced by such shifts in meaning, Yisrael will be as appalled
as I was.

This is not a peculiarity of the revival of the Hebrew language. Similar
semantic changes have occurred in other languages under the onslaught of the
Enlightenment. A parallel case is the English words myth and legend, both of
which have acquired meanings suggesting unreliability, if not outright
falsehood. Originally 'myth' meant some account, not to be understood literally,
that explained a difficult concept or situation, whereas a 'legend' was
literally just 'something to be read'.

It was to make this point that I quoted the aphorism:

>> "Someone who discards a midrash as farfetched is an apikoros but one who
>> understands literally is a fool".

Martin Stern

From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Fri, Jul 29,2022 at 09:17 AM
Subject: The nature of Midrash

Permit me a quite brief summary of what could be termed the history of the
development of Ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionism and its minority position within
the Orthodox camp in a follow-up to my post in MJ 65#65 regarding Halacha
vs. Hashkafa.

In 1777, 300 or so Jews traveled to Eretz-Yisrael to re-establish a Jewish
community there. They were Hasidim. The trend continued, albeit on a smaller
scale during the next decades.  And yet a century later, Hasidic rebbes were
beginning to adopt the outlook of the founder of the Teitelbaum court in
north-east Hungary as well as the 5th Chabad Rebbe. In the first two decades of
the 19th century, a similar proto-Zionist phenomenon took place among the pupils
of the Vilna Gaon in immigrating to Eretz-Yisrael, with Rabbis Kalischer and
Alkalai, among others, and also the Hatam Sofer, all promoting pre-political
Zionist ideas in the following decades. In other words, the idea of accepting
the applicability of the Three Oaths Midrash was unknown amongst some of the
greatest Jewish minds and leaders of the day.

What happened was that Zionism had been pulled into the Haredi counter-struggle
with Enlightenment, Reform and Neolog Judaism. From a cultural, religious and
national identity aspect, Zionism became an enemy of these circles (one of the
few "Zionists" was Akiba Joseph Schlesinger with his 1873 book, Lev Ha'Ivri).
The success of the community break-away in Hungary is said by scholars to have
contributed to targeting Zionism as an anti-religious movement because it
promoted a national/ethnic outlook.

Moreover, by the last decade of the 19th century, the Lithuanian Soloveichiks
saw in early Zionist initiatives of the Hibat Tzion movement a new false
messianic sect and that it was dangerous for the souls of Jews. Thus, from a
matter of the question of whether immigration to Eretz-Yisrael in and of
itself is permitted, the whole matter became one of personal religiosity rather
than fulfilling a communal mitzva. And as the Habad's RaShaB saw it, secular
nationalism would replace Judaism and he was actually the first to employ the
Three Oaths at the end of the 1890s as a justification for anti-Zionism and the
idea that Zionists would defile the land even though Chabad founded the Askenazi
community in Hebron (his cousin, the 2nd Rebbe of Kapust, was pro-Hovevei Tzion

All this, I repeat, is a matter of Hashkafa based on sociolologial developments
which led to a reordering of supposed Halacha.  All this then sought to
reinterpret Halacha rather than the other way around, that is, having the
Halacha set the parameters of a Hashkafa.

Yisrael Medad


From: Micha Berger <micha@...>
Date: Wed, Jul 27,2022 at 03:17 PM
Subject: Waiving Aveilut

Joel Rich wrote (MJ 65#66):

> There's a difference of opinion as to whether a parent can waive the twelve
> month aveilut for their child. What are the arguments for doing or not
> doing so? (From the parent's and the child's point of view)

According to RYBS, the additional 11 months of aveilus for a parent after
sheloshim are more about kibud av va'eim than directly about aveilus.

The gemara (Qiddushin 32a) allows a parent to be mocheil their kavod.

So... Leshitaso, that would be an argument in favor of it being allowed.

Tir'u baTov!



From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Jul 29,2022 at 10:17 AM
Subject: Whiskey matured in sherry casks

Rabbi Yair Hoffman wrote in VINnews:

> The essence of the article is that we have perhaps been making a huge and
> incorrect assumption in regard to the sherry casks in which many hard alcohols
> are aged.  There is much more non-kosher wine in the barrels than we had
> previously thought.


> There are three categories of scotch whiskeys from the perspective of Kashrus:
> CERTIFIED, NOT RECOMMENDED, AND APPROVED ...  The OU and the Star K, believe
> it or not, have some different rulings as to which scotch whiskeys are not
> recommended and which ones are approved.  No kashrus agency makes money off
> of the latter two categories.  They do print the list as a public service.
> This author believes that after the mechanical engineering discovery is
> discussed, many in the kashrus industry might re-think the approved category.
> The mechanical engineering issue is that in each 220-225 litre barrel that is
> used to produce scotch whiskeys, there is an average of 12 liters of
> non-kosher wine that has been absorbed into the barrel itself.  The American 
> standard barrel is approximately 53 gallons.
> ...
> This is actually significantly more than the “less than shishim” amount that 
> past poskim have previously assumed was in the barrels.  The penetration of 
> liquid into the porous structure of the oak wooden casks is known as 
> impregnation.  This author has pictures of 3 entire gallons of wine, taken 
> this morning.  These gallons were taken out of “legally empty” 53 gallon 
> barrels.
> ...
> The Shulchan Aruch (YD 135:13) seems to write that only kdai klipa [a
> peelable amount of wood] of the wine absorbs into the barrel.  But the
> assumption that this is an insignificant amount made by the Kashrus agencies
> is questionable. Kdai Klipa is when the “peel” remains intact when taken
> off.  This author believes that when dealing with wood, the “kdai Klipa” is
> much thicker than when dealing with metal.  Especially in this case, where we
> actually see the previously absorbed wine physically come out.  So the bliyos
> (absorptions) of wine would not be batel (nullified) into the whiskey.  This
> is especially true since the wine is placed in there to add taste.
> ...

Many people have in the past relied on what they thought was the relatively
insignificant amount of sherry absorbed into the casks but it would appear
that this was a mistake and there is much more. Rabbi Hoffman goes through a
quite in-depth discussion on the halachic problems that this generates which
he summarises as:

> The debate until now centered around the kashrus of placing something
> non-kosher that is less than shishim.  Here, however, there is more than
> shishim in the sherry casks.

and concludes:
> There are enough whiskeys and tequilas out there that are, in fact,
> supervised ... It would also be a benefit for our communities to let go of
> this leniency. It will also put more pressure on the companies to
> seek truly kosher supervision.  This is, of course, the authors suggestion
> and should be a question that is posed to our own shul Rabbonim, Poskim, and
> Kashrus agencies.

Having read his article in full, how do MJ members, especially those who are
also members of the ubiquitous "Kiddush clubs" react to his suggestions?

Martin Stern


End of Volume 65 Issue 67