Volume 9 Number 65
                       Produced: Sat Oct 23 21:01:59 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Descendents of Rashi
         [Jeff Finger]
Jewish fiction
         [Steve Prensky]
Kel Elyon
         [Michael Kramer]
Shmittah and Heter Mechira (5)
         [Yosef Bechhofer, Aharon Fischman, Sean Philip Engelson, Israel
Botnick, Israel Botnick]


From: Jeff Finger <jfinger@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 93 15:46:52 -0400
Subject: Re: Descendents of Rashi

Perets Mett correctly points out that estimating the number of
descendents of a person is problematic, and that progeny marrying
progeny must be taken into account.

However, I do not believe the conclusions he draws from this:

>> I am by no means convinced that even a majority of Ashkenazim are
>> Rashi's descendants.

The argument that David Gerstman and I provided carefully avoids this
pitfall. It does not count *progeny*, but rather, it counts the
theoretical number of *ancestors* A that each of person J has n
generations ago, assuming no doubling, that is, multiple paths from an
ancestor I to J. Once n is larger than about 30 generations (600-750
years ago), the fact that A is much, much larger than the number of Jews
alive at the time implies that there is a tremendous average
multiplicity of paths from each ancestor I to each J.

Does this mean that each of us is virtually certainly descended from
each Jew 30 generations ago? No, not if one never married outside of
one's shtetl until recently. And also, no, not if there was a strict
caste system in place whereby children of rabbonim never married
children of .....  But I do not believe that either of these
restrictions is true.

A more sophisticated analysis would look at how much mixing of
populations would have to take place to be able to say with virtually
certainty: All non-converted Jews alive today are descended from Rashi.
For example, one might assume that five Jews per hundred married out of a
fifty mile radius of their homes, and then crank through the numbers.

>> I think it reasonably safe to assume that very few Sephardim could claim
>> descent from Rashi. 

If a single one of Rashi's descendents moved and married into a
Sephardic population within a few generations of Rashi, the problem is
reduced to problem similar to the original.

-- Itzhak "Jeff" Finger --


From: <PRENSKY@...> (Steve Prensky)
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1993 9:56:20 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: Jewish fiction

Two FREE resources that list and review recent and newly published 
English-language books of Jewish fiction and nonfiction (suitable for 
both adults and children) are: 

The quarterly catalog entitled: "Jewish Book World," 
Jewish Book Council 
15 East 26th St., 
NY, NY 10010-1579
phone (212) 532-4949.

The biweekly (approx.) booklet to members: "Jewish Book News"
The Jewish Book Club
P.O. Box 25022
Lehigh Valley, PA 18002-5022

Steve Prensky


From: <mpkramer@...> (Michael Kramer)
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1993 10:26:26 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Kel Elyon

In regards to Aaron Naimon's query in MJ 9:57 about the proper nikud of
"tehilot le/lakel elyon":

Although I am hardly an expert on Hebrew grammar, it seems to me that
substituting a kamatz for a shva here does not improve things
grammatically.  If one wanted to introduce this reference to Hashem with
a definite article, one would have to say "hakel haelyon"--or, in this
case, "lakel haelyon"--since the kamatz lamed is a contraction of
"leha."  See, for instance, the first bracha of shmona esrei--"hakel
hagadol, hagibor, etc."

It seems more likely that "kel elyon" is considered (at least by those
who punctuate with a shva) as a kinui of Hashem (i.e. a title or
nickname, as it were) and as such would not take a definite article.  It
seems to be considered such in the first bracha of shmona esrei, where
the catalogue of divine qualities (hakel hagadol, hagibor vehanora) ends
in a crescendo with "kel elyon."

Michael Kramer 
UC Davis


From: <YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 93 19:53:00 -0400
Subject: Shmittah and Heter Mechira

I found Dov Bloom's recent attack on me vicious, and certainly
misguided. I find mere assertions and judgements, and no true Halachic
basis for his statements. I learnt in Sha'alvim Shmitta year, and am
certainly equipped to know what common practice among Hesder yeshivos
(and the righter wing yeshivos are) if those are not the educated and
Talmidei Chachomim, praytell who are?  Of course, no comparison may be
drawn between Pruzbul, a Dina De'Gemara (of Talmudic origin) and a
modern invention, the Heter Mechira - the comparison is simply
incredible.  Eli Turkel did justice, in limited space, to the modern day
Shmitta issue, and, as he noted, Dayan Grunfeld's work on the matter is
truly outstanding. The nature of a BBS is unfortunately such that
emotion and hyperbole are mixed in with Halacha at will, and therefore,
those of us who do not care to peruse the actual texts should beware
that we may come away sadly mislead and misinformed.

From: <afischma@...> (Aharon Fischman)
Date: 22 Oct 93 12:55:50 GMT
Subject: Shmittah and Heter Mechira

	Has anyone taken into account the idea of Ais La'sos (or Ait
La'asot) (the concept that in a special circumstance, one can suspend
Torah to keep the Torah) in dealing w/ Shmitta in Israel. While the
famous example of R. Yehuda HaNasi (Judah the Prince) and the writing of
the mishna had perhaps far greater implications, IMHO does the world
economic situation play any effect on the now rabbinic (to most I
beleive) decree of Shmitta? (i.e. the heter mechira)

Aharon Fischman (<afischman@...> -or- fischman@yu1.yu.edu)

From: <engelson-sean@...> (Sean Philip Engelson)
Date: Thu, 21 Oct 93 19:52:51 -0400
Subject: Re: Shmittah and Heter Mechira

  From: DANNY%<ILNCRD@...> (Danny Skaist)

  There is 2 cents missing from the discussion of shmita, so I will throw
  mine in.  Since there is a question whether "Yovel" [Jubalee year] which
  comes out every 50th year is the 1st year of the next shmita cycle, or
  an independant year and the 1st year of the next cycle is the year after
  yovel, the shmita year 5754, is a "safek shmita".

  This consideration must be added to other all the other arguements.

Yes, but according to that, *every* year would be a safek shmittah, so
you'd require heter mechira (or something) every year, not just each
seventh.  One way around this might be to drash "uq.ratem d.ror" [and
you shall proclaim freedom], referring to yovel, as giving Bet Din the
power to declare yovel (similarly to Rosh Chodesh and Adar Sheni),
whereas shmittah is always "bashanah hash.vi`it" [in the seventh year].
Thus, if we have no Bet Din to establish yovel, it doesn't exist, and we
just count shmittah.  I have no idea if this argument is, in fact, made
by the poskim; more info from the knowledgable would be appreciated.


From: <icb@...> (Israel Botnick)
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 93 09:02:52 EDT
Subject: Shmittah and Heter Mechira

<< Since there is a question whether "Yovel" [Jubalee year] which
<< comes out every 50th year is the 1st year of the next shmita cycle, or
<< an independant year and the 1st year of the next cycle is the year after
<< yovel, the shmita year 5754, is a "safek shmita".
<< This consideration must be added to other all the other arguements.

The Bais Halevi in his tshuva on shmita says that treating the shmita
year as a safek [doubtful] shmita can only get us into trouble.
for the following reason
The gemara says (perek arvei pesachim) that only 2 of the 4 cups at the
pesach seder require hesaiba(reclining). It is either 1 & 2 or 3 & 4.
Since we don't know which set to recline for, we do all 4. The Ra'n asks
as to why we can't be lenient since this is a safek regarding a rabbinic
ommandment. He answers that to not recline at all is out of the question
since Ein Safek Motzi Medei Vadai [We are SURE that 2 cups require reclining
so we cannot have less than 2 because of a DOUBT]. To pick a random 2 is
also not an option because there is no methodical way to choose. Therefore
we recline for all four.
Relating this to doubtful shmita years, results in the following.
Since we cannot uproot shmita altogether, and there is no methodical way to
choose which is the right year (if it is truly a safeik - namely no 1 year
is more likely than the others) the only other option is to observe shmita
in all the years that are potentially the right one. The Bais Halevi
rules leniently that we follow the ruling of most rishonim that the yovel
year (since the time of the destruction of the first beis hamikdash) is
counted in the shmita cycle.

Israel Botnick

From: <icb@...> (Israel Botnick)
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 93 13:21:29 EDT
Subject: Shmittah and Heter Mechira

In vol. 9 # 61 Lon Eisenberg wrote in response to Rabbi Frimer:

>>   Several Shmittahs ago, my brother Dov asked the Rav Zatsal whether he
>> could rely on the Heter Mechira to which the Rav Responded: "If you rely
>> on the Heter Mechirat Chametz which is a Biblical and Punishable by
>> karet, you certainly can rely on the Heter Mechira for shmitta which
>> according to most authorities is only rabbinic."

> IMHO, this is not a valid argument.  Let's not forget that according to
> the Torah, it is sufficient to simply declare our hamez (leaven) hefker
> (ownerless).  It is only rabbinic to sell it to a non-Jew.

The Tevuos Shor on pesachim does in fact say that selling the chametz is
only to circumvent a rabbinic prohibition since on a de-oraisa (biblical)
level, it is sufficient to declare it ownerless.
Most later acharonim disagree with this however for a very simple reason.
If you declare it ownerless, you can't sell it. Presumably, anyone who
sells chametz had in mind NOT to declare the portion being sold as
ownerless. The sale of chametz then is to avoid a biblical prohibition.

Israel Botnick


End of Volume 9 Issue 65