Volume 65 Number 69 
      Produced: Fri, 12 Aug 22 10:22:44 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Normative Law? 
    [Martin Stern]
Shabbat Candles and the Blessing 
    [Irwin Weiss]
The nature of Midrash 
    [Martin Stern]
Three Oaths Midrash 
    [Martin Stern]
U.S. medical education officials? 
    [Rise Goldstein]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 10,2022 at 04:17 PM
Subject: Normative Law?

Joel Rich wrote (MJ 65#68):
> Sometimes it seems to me that there may have been original reasons for a
> practice but that practice then becomes something more like normative law
> detached from the reasons. An example might be turning around for lcha dodi.
> Originally the practice may have been to face the west or to face the doors
> etc. but in many communities, it just became to turn around.

Also, often "reasons" are "invented" to explain customs whose original reason
has been forgotten. Then these "reasons" get a life of their own and generate
learned discussion.

Martin Stern


From: Irwin Weiss <irwin@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 10,2022 at 04:17 PM
Subject: Shabbat Candles and the Blessing

Immanuel Burton asks (MJ 65#68):

> When a woman lights Shabbat candles, she first lights the candles and then says
> the blessing, even though a blessing on a mitzvah is USUALLY said before the
> mitzvah is performed.  (Emphasis added)

I have emphasised USUALLY because there is at least one other exception to the
usual rule.  We first wash our hands, and then say the Bracha.  Most people I
see recite the bracha while drying the hands with a towel.  This has nothing to
do with Shabbat, because we wash our hands on weekdays as well.

That's a common example that comes to mind.  So if someone has a good answer for
Immanuel Burton, it should take into account the handwashing exception as well.

Irwin Weiss
Baltimore, MD


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 10,2022 at 04:17 PM
Subject: The nature of Midrash

Yisrael Medad wrote (MJ 65#67):

> 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.

I think that what motivated all these groups was a wish to live in Eretz Yisrael
to be better able to keep mitzvot, in particular the agricultural mitzvot which
could only be observed there. Calling these "pre-political Zionist ideas", is
reading into them something quite alien to their world-view. Since they did not
have any political aspirations, they would not have fallen foul of the "three
oaths" so it would not have been raised at that time.

> 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
> contributed to targeting Zionism as an anti-religious movement because it
> said by scholars to have promoted a national / ethnic outlook

The main problem arose with the foundation, primarily by secular Jews, of the
Zionist movement at the end of the nineteenth century. This led many to view it
as another secularising trend similar to "Enlightenment, Reform and Neolog
[Conservative] Judaism".

> 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. 

I don't think anyone ever suggested that immigration to Eretz Yisrael might be
prohibited - anti-Zionist followers of the Satmar Rebbe have set up communities

> 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 btw).

Unfortunately, he was quite right and secular nationalism has replaced Judaism
in non-religious circles. One often hears people claim that non-Jewish
immigrants from the former Soviet Union though they might admittedly have some
Jewish ancestry who, for example, serve in the Israeli army are more Jewish than
"draft dodgers" who "sit in yeshivot and kollelim" (the implication - sometimes
stated explicitly - being that they are really not doing anything of the sort
but only using it as a cover for their unpatriotic behaviour).

> 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.

There may be an element of truth in this but this is part of the creativity of

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 10,2022 at 04:17 PM
Subject: Three Oaths Midrash

Sammy Finkelman wrote (MJ 65#68):

> This could have been an actual deal reached between the House of Hillel and
> the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius after the Bar Kochba revolt and later
> ratified several times over with different Roman Emperors. For a while, every
> Roman Emperor was also called Antoninus, just like they were all called Caesar
> and Augustus.

I must say that Sammy's suggestion sounds entirely plausible and is the sort of
thing that could have been written up in the form in which the midrash appears.
Unfortunately I do not know of any such deal but that does not mean it did not
exist. Does anyone know more about it?

> The one Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi was close to was Septimius Severus, (ruled
> 193-211) who came from the Carthage area, and thus spoke a language
> similar to Hebrew)

That is speculative. I think Romans from North Africa spoke Latin and not the
Canaanite dialect of Carthage which had been long suppressed by that time, nor
for that matter the Berber languages of the native tribes. It was part of their
"superiority complex".

Martin Stern


From: Rise Goldstein <rise.b.goldstein@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 10,2022 at 07:17 PM
Subject: U.S. medical education officials?

Fellow list members,

If any of you are medical residency or fellowship program directors, faculty,
residents/fellows, or institutional officials who have participated in the
Annual Educational Conference of the (U.S.) Accreditation Council for Graduate
Medical Education, or know such a person, I would appreciate it if you (or the
person you know) could e-mail me privately.

I may need to attend that conference this year for what would be my first time.
Therefore, I am looking for anyone who might be able to share experiences and
advice related to navigating shemirat mitzvot specific to that conference (as
opposed to medical conference attendance generally, with which I have abundant

Thanks in advance--

Rise Goldstein


Silver Spring, MD


End of Volume 65 Issue 69