Volume 7 Number 24

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Genetic Engineering
         [Dan Geretz]
Genetic Engineering - Pigness
         [Bob Werman]
Modern Orthodox (5)
         [David Sherman, Joseph Greenberg, Isaac Balbin, Anthony
Fiorino, Jonathan Traum]


From: imsasby!<dgeretz@...> (Dan Geretz)
Date: Thu, 6 May 93 04:17:31 -0400
Subject: Genetic Engineering

Bob Werman recently posted a question about genetic engineering:

> I am told that there is now a new variety of tomato in the States that
> has been improved with the addition of genetic material from a pig [I
> presume through a plasmid].  If anyone can supply details, this would
> surely be an interesting Halachic problem.

This issue has been of particular interest to me since I first heard
about it last year, so the post immediately caught my attention. As luck
would have it, this week's "US News and World Report" (May 10, 1993; p.
72; "New Fruits and Veggies for the '90s Cook") has an article that
supplies the necessary details.

Apparently, a company called Calgene has developed a hybrid tomato
(MacGregor's brand) which soften later than usual, allowing more time to
vine-ripen and ship with less damage:

  "Calgene scientists ... developed the MacGregor's in eight years.
   Researchers isolated the gene that causes the tomato to soften,
   copied it, then put it in the plant backward."

I venture a guess that this would be no problem from a Kashrut standpoint.


  "Consumers may have more cause to be concerned about a tomato under
   development at DNA Plant Technology, which could be in stores by the
   end of the decade.  Researchers there found the gene in arctic
   flounder responsible for a chemical that acts like antifreeze in the
   fish.  They removed that gene and spliced it into the tomato's
   genetic material.  The result: a frost-resistant fruit."

  "...products will not be specifically labeled, nor will they be
   reviewed by the FDA, unless they contain additives previously not
   found in food or a gene from a food that commonly causes allergic

This seems to fall into the category of including the ingredient for an
essential characteristic quality of the arctic flounder.

I also recall reading last year about using genetic material from some
type of insect in a similar such venture; however, I did not save the
article. When I have some time, I'll try to research it and report any

Disclaimer: I know *nothing* about genetic engineering except what I
read in the popular press - this stuff is obviously grossly
oversimplified so that dummies like me can understand it - so don't hold
me responsible for inaccuracies.

Daniel Geretz


From: <RWERMAN@...> (Bob Werman)
Date: Thu, 6 May 93 07:58:01 -0400
Subject: Genetic Engineering - Pigness

I agree with Seth and Eitan that it is unlikely that some piece of
genetic material would tranfer the pig-like quality to a tomato.

Seth asks if the pigness is in the genes and as if anticipating the
question, Eitan says:

>The idea that a single gene somehow encodes for the "uniqueness" of an
>organism is the fundamental flaw here.  There is no such "uniqueness"
>gene; species are defined by a complex interaction of countless genes.

I wonder where Eitan gets his assurance from.  Why is the quality that
makes a pig recognizable as such defined by "countless genes?"

A tomato can never be a pig, and still be a tomato.  However we are
prohibited not only from eating pig but touching their carcass; there is
something in the pig other than its behavior in life [which indeed is a
sign of whether we can eat them or not] that makes them a prohibited
animal.  The chewing of cud and cloven hoof are not the essence of
kosher/non-kosher but the signs we are given to identify the kashrut.
Or have I got that all wrong, too?

__Bob Werman    <rwerman@...>    rwerman@vms.huji.ac.il


From: <dave@...> (David Sherman)
Date: Thu, 6 May 93 11:17:03 -0400
Subject: Re: Modern Orthodox

> From: Hayim Hendeles <hayim@...>
> While modern life may dictate a different lifestyle then did our
> "old-fashioned" ancestors, our adherence to Halacha and Torah hashkafa
> should be identical to those of our ancestors who stood at the foot of
> Mt. Sinai some 3000 years ago. And if it is, then it is not *modern*
> Orthodoxy, but the same "old-fashioned" Orthodoxy that G-d gave Moses at
> Sinai.

Is it really that simple?

Is your adherence to Halacha identical to that of Jews 3000 years ago?
Before the Gemara, Rashi, Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch, did they follow
Halacha exactly as you do now?  The very presence of machlokes [dispute]
in the Gemara indicates that they did not.

"Modern" Orthodoxy does not reject Halacha.  You can't deny, however,
that Orthodox rabbanim have a range of answers to the same question.
Some are more lenient, some are more stringent.  If "Modern Orthodox"
rabbis give answers that are still within Halacha but, at the same time,
recognize change in the outside world as affecting those decisions
(which are still within the bounds of Halacha).

"Black-hat" Orthodoxy also adapts to changes in the world.  The poskim
of our generation have to deal with all kinds of questions that never
came up in the past.  The difference is only one of degree, not of kind.

David Sherman

From: <Joseph_Greenberg@...> (Joseph Greenberg)
Date: Thu, 6 May 93 09:21:39 -0400
Subject: Modern Orthodox

Regarding the issue of "Modern Orthodoxy", in theory I agree with you -
I take as evidence the fact that I have had to explain to Israelis many
times the differences between "different types of orthodoxy" - their
only parallel is white vs. black (gush vs. yavneh). However, in
comparing our religion to that of our anscestors, I personally think
that if Yehoshua were to return today, he would not understand 1/2 of
what we do, and what goes on in the contemporary Orthodox community.
Furthermore, with the possible exception of the time of Matan Torah
(revelation at Sinai), I'm sure that ther have always been some Jews
that did things differently than some other Jews.  These would always be
called something, we just happen to call it "Modern".  It doesn't mean
that you aren't Orthodox.

From: <isaac@...> (Isaac Balbin)
Date: Thu, 6 May 93 19:46:10 -0400
Subject: Re: Modern Orthodox

  | From: Hayim Hendeles <hayim@...>

  | I vehemently am opposed to the grammatical (sp?) term "Modern Orthodox".
  | Either you are Orthodox or you are not.  There is one Torah, and one
  | Torah only, and only one Shulchan Oruch. Those who choose to follow it
  | are Orthodox, those who don't are not Orthodox. Period. Yes or No -- but
  | there is no middle ground.

Hayim is living in an ideal world where we don't describe our differences.
I have written an article entitled 
`Tolerance and Pluralism in Orthodox Judaism'
which might explain why such terms exist. It is really a reflection
of the Melbourne experience. If there is interest I will upload
the postscript to Avi (if he tells me where to put it) so people
can ftp it. 

[Please do so. To upload to our archives, ftp to nysernet.org, cd to
israel/upload, put the file, and send me a message that you have
uploaded it. I will transfer it to the israel/lists/mail-jewish area,
and make it available for email archive retreival as well. Mod.]

From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Thu, 6 May 93 14:15:45 -0400
Subject: Modern Orthodox

I must argue with the person who opposed the designation "modern
Orthodox."  Not that I am such a strong supporter of this particular term,
but I think that it is simplistic to claim that people are either
Orthodox or not, and there is no need for further characterization.
When making generalizations about groups of people, one is never able to
accurately describe the group with a one or two word title (or with a
whole book, for that matter).  The term "Orthodoxy" itself was a label
applied to shomer halacha Jews by non-halachic varieties of Judaism and was
not meant to be flattering.  So we go on, using an imperfect terminology
whaich has the benefit of shared common meaning.  I am tempted to draw an
analogy between those who object to such designations and (l'havdil) those
anti-Jewish people who claim that they are not "anti-semites" because they
too are semites.  We are playing a semantic game here.

Many sociological studies have been done which distinguish amongst
subcommunities in "Orthodoxy" (see William Helmreich, The World of the
Yeshiva; Reuven Bulka, Dimensions of Modern Orthodoxy; and many others).  To
claim that the only relevant title is "Orthodox" or "not" artificially
masks the incredible diversity that exists within the group of Jews who are
commited to halacha.  It also denies reality -- clearly there are very
significant differences between Sephardim and Ashkenazim, between Chassidim
and Mitnagim -- differences in theology, lifestyle, hashgafa, and halacha. 
Noone would argue that it is innappropriate to distinguish between these
groups.  Well, we have on our hands today, a new bit of sectarianism
within "Orthodoxy."  There is a real difference between the Modern Orthodox
and the Yeshiva world.  These two groups daven at different shuls, send their
children to different yeshivot, have a different distribution of
professions, dress differently, have divergent approaches to the Israel
and to contemporary culture.  Yes, of course there is crossover, and of
course one cannot draw conclusions about an individual's beliefs and
behaviors on the basis of his/her belonging to one group or the other. 
But when you look at things on the level of social groups, clear patterns

Some might argue that to draw such distinctions further divides klal
yisrael.  But this is only true when there is a lack of respect between
groups.  Sadly, in the course of Jewish history, this has too often been
the case.  It is very easy to believe that one has a monopoly on emet, and
very easy to forget "eilu v'eilu divrei elokim chaim."

Eitan Fiorino

From: <jont@...> (Jonathan Traum)
Date: Thu, 6 May 93 14:20:09 -0400
Subject: Re: Modern Orthodox

Hayim Hendeles writes
> I vehemently am opposed to the grammatical (sp?) term "Modern Orthodox".
> Either you are Orthodox or you are not.  There is one Torah, and one
> Torah only, and only one Shulchan Oruch. Those who choose to follow it
> are Orthodox, those who don't are not Orthodox. Period. Yes or No -- but
> there is no middle ground.
> Furthermore, the term 'Modern Orthodoxy' implies that there are 2
> Orthodoxies (G-d forbid) -- a modern one and an old fashioned one.  This
> statement, I submit to you, borders on heresy.

I don't think the term implies any such thing! It merely implies that
there are some people who are "modern" as well as orthodox. It is a
convenient term to differentiate those orthodox jews who might wear
jeans and t-shirts, or a double-breasted suit, or plaid shirts and golf
slacks (G-d Forbid! :-) and crocheted kippot from those orthodox jews
who wear (for example) black kaftans, knee socks and streimels. There's
no implication that the members of one group are shomrei halacha and the
others aren't.

Jonathan Traum


End of Volume 7 Issue 24