Volume 8 Number 72
                       Produced: Sun Aug  8  0:21:04 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Calculating the Calender (2)
         [Andy Goldfinger, David Gerstman]
Jewish Traveler Database
         [Laurent Cohen]
         [Laurent Cohen]
Roles of Men and Women
         [Lawrence J. Teitelman ]


From: Andy Goldfinger <andy_goldfinger@...>
Date: 6 Aug 1993 14:27:52 U
Subject: Calculating the Calender

Dov Blum raises the question of whether or not one fulfulls the mitzvah
of calculating the times and dates of the calender (e.g. the molad) by
using a computer program.  I am not qualified to answer this, but I
think that his remarks raise another interesting question.  The Torah
source that he quotes speaks of "your wisdom and understanding
(hochmatchem u-vinatchem) before the eyes of the nations," that is, the
Jewish people can (presumably) demonstrate their wisdom and the wisdom
of Torah by performing this difficult calculation.  What is the
situation nowadays?  Isn't the wisdom available to all nations?  Can't
they all do the calculations if they wish?

I'd like to speculate on an answer.  Certainly computing and other
technologies are changing the way we live.  Artificial intelligence,
robotics, automation, etc. are making it possible to quickly do things
that used to take exceptional skill or wisdom.  Yet, we hear some
discontent.  What is all this doing to the individual?  Don't people
loose their sense of uniqueness and value when they can be replaced by

For the world at large, this is a problem.  Yet, for we Jews, there is
one day a week in which we are required to cease the replacement of
people by machines.  On Shabbos we cannot use computers, we cannot take
notes when we learn, and we would not be allowed to give commands to
robots if we had them.  We are forced to be human, to rely on our
memories rather than our notebooks, and to calculate the molad in our
head during birchas hachodesh (if we wish to determine when it will be
next month).

I recall reading a sort of science fiction story in a high school
English class.  It was called something like "When the Machine Stopped."
I cannot remember the author.  It told of a time in the future in which
all people lived in their own homes, and never ventured out, since they
could work, shop and interact through the telepresence provided by a
giant machine.  They relied on the machine for everything, until one day
the machine stopped.  I think there was also a story by Isaac Asimov
about a future in which everyone carried around a little computer, and
it was only the person who could think without his computer who saved
the day in some crisis situation (a battle, I believe).

The wisdom of the Torah seems to be leading us in a path in which we
will be forced to remain human in the machine age, at least one day a
week.  Perhaps for this reason, our ability to still use our minds will
continue to lead us to display wisdom before the nations.  If so, we
might speculate that the mitzvah of calculating the calender could only
be accomplished by a human rather than a machine.  This is only
speculation, but I have occasionally thought of it when I added 1 day,
12 hours, 44 minutes and 1 "chelek" to the time of the molad announced
in shul so I could determine what time and day of the week the next
molad would be.

From: dhg@lamp0 (David Gerstman)
Date: Sat, 7 Aug 93 16:40:56 -0400
Subject: Calculating the Calender

>The question is , when one _uses_ these calendar algorithms, is that a
>"kiyum" [fulfillment - Ed.] according to Rav Yochanan? What if one
>_wrote_ the algorithms?

According the Torah Temimah, the reason there is this Mitzvah, is in
order to refute the beliefs of those who worship the sun, moon and/or
stars and/or other heavenly bodies.  If their movements can be shown to
be regular, subject to restriction, (I guess the laws of nature) and
they have no capacity for independent motion, then the sun, moon, stars
etc. could not possibly be any sort of a deity.  By this reckoning, an
algorithm would suit the task rather well.  This should not be construed
as a P'sak Halachah, just some ruminations into the issue at hand.  (I
also cannot guarantee that I got the Torah Temimah correct either!)


From: Laurent Cohen <cohen@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 1993 17:03:30 +0200
Subject: Jewish Traveler Database

The Jewish Traveller Database set by Xev Gittler maybe 5 years ago is
now on the nysernet archive but the information there get old, and I
tried without success to contact the person in charge for updating the
files concerning France.  It has been very useful for me in the past
years. I think that while our list works also very well for the same
kind of information, this would be useful to have at least contact names
in each town or country where we are. Also, all the information that
passed on mj during summer could be collected in this database.  This
database is also a first step to the database of kosher products
proposed by Jonathan Goldstein.

[I have also tried to contact Rob, with no success. I know he is very
busy, so if there is anyone else out there who would be interested in
taking over the Jewish Traveller Database, please let me know. I think
that we could keep the database up to date through the use of people on
this mailing list, and would add a lot for people who travel. Avi
Feldblum, Moderator]

Laurent Cohen


From: Laurent Cohen <cohen@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 1993 17:03:30 +0200
Subject: M&M's  

 From the recent posting about Mars, M&M's,... I feel that we share the
same regret with some people on this net.  My story with M&M's began
about three years ago during a trip in Israel where I brought back to
France a lot of M&Ms, Milky Ways, Snickers, TWIX and Mars with a kosher
supervision from switzerland.  The year after some friends travelling in
Israel who knew about that, brought me some of each. The year after,
what a surprise, we had those same products (same hachgaha) sold in the
kosher stores of Paris with an extra mention that the supervision was
recognized by Paris Beth Din. What a deception when about 6 months ago,
Paris Beth Din stopped this recognition and they are forbidden by the
Beth din and they are not sold in stores under its supervision.  The
reason I heard of is that the products with a kosher stick on it are
exactly the same as those without, and that the Rav whose name appears
there is no more in Switzerland.  If anybody has information that the
kosher stick is reliable again, I could tell to the Beth Din here to
inquire again.

Laurent Cohen


From: Lawrence J. Teitelman  <csljt@...>
Date: Fri, 6 Aug 93 14:35:01 EDT
Subject: Roles of Men and Women

Alyssa Berger writes regarding the similarity of roles for men and women:

> Men aren't dependent on t'filah b'tzibur etc. for their spiritual needs 
> either, using the same logic that men aren't obligated in public prayer.
> It's a nice thing to do, but work and child care often intervene. Chazal
> allow for these eventualities by not making public prayer obligatory for
> either gender. Again, there isn't much of a gender distinction.

"Spiritual needs" is not a well-defined term and thus it is difficult to
decide whether or not men and women are dependent on tefilla be-tzibbur
[Public Prayer] for this need.  In terms of "halakhic needs", however, I
think that tefilla be-tzibbur deserves a little more recognition. The
following are just a few of the related sources, but I hope that they
will nonetheless shed (a different) light on the issue:

(1) According to the Ramban, tefilla be-tzibbur seems to be de-orayta on 
Shabbat and Yom Tov. (See his comments on Vayikra 23:2; vol. II, p. 144 in 
Chavel's edition.) Accordingly, Reb Chayim Brisker who recited shema and its
berakhot alone in order to say them within their proper time would wait for the
congregation so that he could recite the amida with them -- be-tzibbur -- 
even at the expense of introducing a long "hefsek" (interruption) between
ga'al yisrael and the commencement of tefilla.

(2) The Rambam writes at the beginning of Hilkhot Tefilla Ch. 8,
"Tefilla be-tzibbur nishma'at tamid ... lefikakh *tzarikh* adam leshatef
atzmo 'im ha-tzibbur. Ve-lo yitpalel be-yachid kol zeman she-yakhol
lehitpalel 'im ha-tzibbur." (Translation: Congregational prayer is
always heard [by HKBH] ... therefore a person is *obligated* to join
with the congregation [to pray]. And one should not pray alone any time
that he can pray with the congregation.)

In a shiur that I recently heard, the magid shiur raised the following
question: if tefilla be-tzibbur has this special quality that it is
always accepted by HKBH, then the Rambam should have concluded by
saying, "therefore it is advisable (ra'uy) for everyone to daven with
the tzibbur". Why though does this make tefilla be-tzibbur obligatory?
In his answer, the magid shiur developed the well known relationship
between prayer and sacrifice (tefillot ke-neged korbanot tiknum; tefilla
hi avoda she-ba-lev) [The prayers were established in line with the
sacrifices, prayer is the "work" of the heart. The term "avoda" - "work"
is the term used for the activity in the Temple. Mod.]  and pointed to
another Rambam which states that if one has the means with which to
purchase a good-quality sacrifice and instead opts for one of inferior
quality, this constitutes an abomination (to'evah). Now clearly, this
person was not *obligated* to buy the better korban (since if he didn't
have the money, he could get away with a cheaper one -- and we're not
dealing here with a korban oleh ve-yored), yet the ramifications of his
not buying the better korban are so serious. Why? Because when it comes
to avoda, one must do mitzvot in the most optimal fashion possible. So
is it with regard to tefilla. One must do whatever it takes to ensure
that his/her tefillot are offered in the best possible manner. If
tefillot are accepted when recited be-tzibbur, then so it must be done.
Anything short of an optimal tefilla (when optimality can be achieved)
reflects a major deficiency -- not simply the absence of a few brownie

Whether or not one accepts the "lomdus" above, the Rambam *does* mandate
tefilla be-tzibbur. Perhaps some will raise the reasonable objection
that the Rambam only requires it "kol zeman she-yakhol" -- whenever it
is possible, and thus a person preoccupied with babysitting or household
duties is exempt from this requirement. This may be the case, and in
fact, we have a general rule, "ha-osek be-mitzva patur min ha-mitzva"
(one engaged in a mitzva is exempt from another mitzva). In practice,
however, we arrange our schedules so that we *can* do as many of the
mitzvot as possible, or in halakhic terms, "efshar lekayem shnehem". If
there is an unavoidable competition for time, then choices have to be
made -- and there are rules that help prioritize the available options.
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l, for example, ruled that one should not stay up
at night -- even learning Torah -- so late that he is unable to rise for
minyan the next morning. (I don't think that Rav Moshe simply felt
Talmud Torah is also a "nice thing" only not as "nice" as tefilla
be-tzibbur.  Clearly, Rav Moshe was stressing that tefilla be-tzibbur be
included as part of one's daily service of HKBH.)

(3) The gemara in Berakhot tells us that if HKBH comes to shul and
doesn't find a minyan, He -- kivyachol -- gets angry. The gemara in
Gittin (38b) tells a story (which Rishonim relate to the gemara in
Berakhot) that Rabbi Eliezer violated the mitzvat aseh of not freeing a
slave in order to get a minyan.  (A slave doesn't count toward a minyan;
by being released, the former slave -- now a free man -- would be
eligible to count toward the minyan.)  In several other places in
halakha, the Rabbis took great care to ensure that tefilla be-tzibbur
take place. (I mentioned in an earlier posting the issue of saying the
night keriat shema before dark in the interest of tefilla be-tzibbur.
See Berakhot 2a and commentaries.)

In sum, it seems that tefilla be-tzibbur is not just "a nice thing to
do" but rather a "nice" obligation. (And with tefilla be-tzibbur also
comes some "nice" benefits -- keriat ha-Torah, aniyat devarim
she-bi-kedusha, etc.) But perhaps Ms. Berger *is* correct in her view
that there should be little or no distinction between men and women when
it comes to tefilla be-tzibbur.  Surely, in light of the above
information, a religiously conscientious woman would whenever possible
want to particpate in tefilla be-tzibbur.  So it is rather surprising
that someone would foresake such an opportunity to instead attend a
tefilla group which openly declares that it does not consider itself to
be a minyan, the halakhic criterion for tefilla be-tzibbur?

Larry Teitelman 


End of Volume 8 Issue 72