Volume 9 Number 96
                       Produced: Thu Nov 11 23:35:23 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

D. Rier's Three Questions
         [Mechy Frankel]
Original Pronunciation of Hebrew
         [Mike Gerver]
Pru U'revu and Noachite Law
         [Alan Stadtmauer]
Psakim and political views
         [Najman Kahana]


From: <frankel@...> (Mechy Frankel)
Date: Thu, 4 Nov 93 19:47:08 -0500
Subject: D. Rier's Three Questions

In Vol. 9 #47 D. Rier solicits responses to the following: 1) What is
holier, Shabbas or Yom Kippur? 2) Why begin the new cycle of Torah
readings with Simchas Torah rather than Rosh Hashana?  and 3) any "good
books" to justify (sic) Torah to scientists?

1) On the one hand one Yom Kippur is the only day that is "Doache" (puts
off, defers) Shabbas (e.g. we fast on a Yom Kippur that falls on
Shabbas) so we might consider it more "Chamoor" (stringent, weighty)
than Shabbas, on theother hand we might consider it less Chamoor in that
the punishment for violating Yom Kippur is Karet (lit: a "cutting off"
from the body of Israel) while the penalty for intentionally violating
Shabbas is Sekilah (death by stoning and implemented by the court, see
Tractate Megilah 7b, Rambam, Hilchot Shevitat Asiri). What ends up, in
the balance, as most Chamoor is completely opaque to me - as is the
relationship of greater Chumra to greater Kedusha (holiness). It does
seem a rather academic inquiry, so I'll take a pass at this point and
leave it to some more yeshivishly inclined respondents.

2) The reason we don't finish the yearly Torah cycle with Rosh Hashana
(RH) as might seem more natural (symmetrical?) is because of a specific
Talmudical injunction (Tractate Megilah 31 b) that "Ezra teekain
sheyehoo korin kilaot shebitorat cohanim koadem Atzeret vishebimishna
torah koadem RH, mai taama? ...  shetichleh hashana vekililoteha" (Ezra
decreed that the curses in the book of Vayikra be read before (i.e.
presumably the Shabbat preceeding) the holiday of Shavuot, and the
curses in the book of Devarim (on the Shabbat) preceeding RH. Why? ...in
order that the year and its curses should be finished.) This injuction
of Ezra specifically mandated that the portion of Ki Tavoh be read
immediately prior to RH (in order that the memory of the curses be
"gone" by the time the days for man's judgement (RH) rolled around. -
Also the curses in Bechukosi were read before Shavuot because this was
the time for judgement on the fruit of the trees) . It was thus
impossible to conclude the cycle with RH and the only question was till
when should it be deferr? The end of the Succot holiday was the first
good opportunity since a) On different years the Shabbatot between RH
and Succot may coincide with a Yom Tov and thus require reading of the
parshat Hamoadim (the special Yom Tov portion) - while immediately after
RH we still need to finish Nitzavim/Vayelech, and b) By finishing on
Simchat Torah they were able to complete the holiday on a note of
blessing, coupling the theme of the blessing of Moshe in (Zote HaBracha)
to the simcha of the holiday and the blessing of Shlomo (delivered on
the last day of Succot, this was originally the only part of the maftir
to be read this day). Now, after having said all that there is
nevertheless evidence that in some communities in Bavel, Provence, and
Northern France they did in fact complete the Torah cycle by RH (see
Yaari, Toldot Chag Simchat Torah).

3) This is a tough one since I don't completely understand the question.
Why are "scientists' singled out and what does "justify" mean in this
context? I would personally recommend the following:

a) "Challenge" (Feldheim Publishers) edited by Cyril Domb (himself an
eminent British physicist with well known contributions to lattice
theory) and somebody else who I, offhand, disremember. This is a
compilation of essays on the ususal science-religion stuff (e.g.
evolution and Torah, age of the universe and Torah, scientific freedom
of inquiry vis a vis traditional; perspectives, etc.) and includes a
range of contributors and perspectives (from "fundamentalist" to
whatever is its antonym). Though a bit uneven, there seems to be a
general level of seriousness in most of the presentations, and it is
written from an adult perspective by generally informed essayists
(though a number of items may seem a bit dated at this point) -
qualities sadly lacking in a number of other contributions to this

the next two recommendations may seem a bit off-beat and were not
written with any religious perspective at all, indeed they are
terminally secular and "scientific". nevertheless, some interesting
nuggets may be gleaned though you may want to toss the Kilipah, which
gets pretty thick in places.

b) "The Anthropic Cosmological Principle" (Oxford U. Pres, Clarendon
Press) by Barrow and Tipler. (You can skip the first 200 pages or so if
you don't like philosophy and especially histories of philosophy). This
is an unusual (and controversial) book which focuses on the
extraordinary concatenation of coincidences or "accidents" associated
with the numerical values nature (?) has chosen for the physical and
cosmological constants which, in aggregate, allows the conditions for
carbon based life to exist in this universe, though there is no a priori
reason why this should have happened. Indeed in the manifold of possible
choices, there seems to be a negligibly small probability, from a purely
scientific perspective, that we should exist. Yet here we all are,
abusing e-mail and such like. There are surely some religious
implications in all this.

c) "The Emperor's New Mind" (Penguin Books) by Roger Penrose (I took a
course with this guy once and he is one smart guy/goy. He is also one of
the world's great card-carrying mathematical physicists). This is a
fascinating book which treats a large number of mostly disjoint topics
(subtitle: "Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics") many
of which make for very dense reading in an ostensibly popular
exposition. The essay in chapter 7, especially pp. 318-343, where
Penrose calculates the sheer unlikelihood ("one part in 10 to the 10 to
the 123rd power") of what Penrose terms the "required precision of the
Creator's aim", and hence the wonderful mystery of the low-entropy big
bang universe. Again, absent such odd and utterly unlikely conditions,
and absent us. Some kind of religious derasha could surely be made at
this point that might appeal to a scientifically inclined soul.

I still don't know whether any of this "justifies" Torah to anybody but
hope some of it might prove interesting, if not useful.

Mechy Frankel                              W: (703) 325-1277
<frankel@...>                        H: (301) 593-3949


From: <GERVER@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Mon, 8 Nov 1993 0:55:16 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Original Pronunciation of Hebrew

A couple of comments concerning the original pronunciation of Hebrew:

Steve Friedell suggests (v9n67) that the people who originally used the
Hebrew alphabet must have pronounced shin and sin the same, and I agree
with him, but I don't think that this was true of the earliest speakers
of Hebrew. The distinction between shin and sin exists in many other 
ancient Semitic languages, and in some of them, e.g. Ugaritic, the letters 
used for shin and sin do not resemble each other at all. In some Semitic
languages, e.g. Arabic, the letter analogous to Hebrew shin is pronounced
"s" (compare "salam" and "shalom") while the letter analogous to Hebrew
sin is pronounced "sh", but there is still a one-to-one correspondence
between Hebrew and Arabic words. The earliest archeological evidence for
the use of the Hebrew alphabet, I think, was by the Phoenicians about
1500 BCE, and their language was very similar to Hebrew, similar enough
to be mutually intelligible. I don't think anything is known directly
about the pronunciation of Phoenician, but since they did not distinguish
shin and sin in writing, unlike most Semitic peoples, it is reasonable
to suppose they pronounced them the same. It is interesting to note that
the tribe of Ephraim, which did not distinguish "shin" from "sin" (as in
"shibboleth" and "sibboleth"), lived in northern Israel, closer to the
Phoenicians than the tribe of Judah. If Hebrew and Phoenician were mutually
intelligible, they may have picked up this habit from the Phoenicians.

Joe Abeles, in v9n52, states that "It is well accepted that the Sephardic
tradition is more correct and has suffered less distortion through the
centuries" on the pronunciation of chet, ayin, and resh. This may be true,
but there is evidence that in the pronunciation of vowels, specifically
the kametz, the Ashkenazic tradition is more accurate. The "kamatz katan"
is a kametz that is pronounced like an "oh" in Sephardi tradition, which
is the way every kametz is pronounced in the most common Ashkenazi
dialects. It is found in words that can alternatively be spelled with a
kametz or a cholam, so that even Sephardim agree that it should be
pronounced like an "oh". Interestingly, there is no mention of the
concept of "kamatz katan" in any Hebrew grammar book until the 1100s CE, 
at which point it appears in a book written in Spain. The clear implication
is that until 1100 CE or so, Sephardim, like Ashkenazim, pronounced
every kametz like "oh", so that there would have been no need for the
concept of "kamatz katan."

The view has been expressed here that Yemenite pronunciation of Hebrew
may be the most authentic because it makes the greatest number of
distinctions between the different letters, and in v9n46 Shaul Wallach
gives a list of possible original pronunciations of the Hebrew letters,
taken from R. Benzion Cohen's "Sefath Emeth," based presumably on Yemenite
and other dialects. But this list does not distinguish between the
pronunciation of samekh and sin. There must have been a distinction
originally, and it seems to be a hot topic in Semitic linguistics to
figure out how the various Semitic sibilants were originally pronounced.
Does anyone know of any present day Jewish community that pronounces
samekh differently from sin?

Mike Gerver, <gerver@...>


From: Alan Stadtmauer <stadt@...>
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 93 22:33:41 -0500
Subject: Re: Pru U'revu and Noachite Law

In a previous posting I wrote:
> >Noachites were obligated in Pru U'revu until Sinai. Since it was not
> >repeated there, it became applicable only to Jews.

Art Kamlet responded:
> Perhaps just one more question:  This seems to say since Pru U'revu
> was not repeated [ to B'nai Yisrael ] at Sinai that Noachites were
> released from that commandment.  If anything, it would seem that G-d
> chose not to repeat the commandment to B'nai Yisrael; so it seems to
> be counter-intuitive that B'nai Yisrael are obligated to Pru U'revu
> yet Noachites are not.  Could someone Please clarify?  Thanks.

Dr. Joel Wolowelsky suggested the following:

Since the prohibitions against murder, robbery, etc. _were_ repeated,
the obligation is on _both_ Jews and Noahites.

While "intuitively" we could say thet whatever isn't repeated just
carries on to both, that would mean that lo tignov, lo tirtsah, etc
would not have mentioned in the Torah.  That would be even more

Alan Stadtmauer


From: Najman Kahana <NAJMAN%<HADASSAH@...>
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 93 14:52 JST
Subject: Psakim and political views

>In Volume 9 Number 78 Allen Elias quotes Rabbi Menachem Zemba hy"d
>speaking at a meeting of Agudat Israel before WWII in response
>to the Partition resolution by the Peel commission (1937):
>	Only those who are willing to cut out parts of the Torah
>	are willing to agree to cutting out parts of Eretz Israel.

While not taking any sides (I do have strong opinions of my own!), I
would like to ask all to take a second look at all the Psakim and
Pikuach-Nefesh's being bandied about.

While EVERY aspect of our life is connected to halacha, many, if not
most, philosophical views represent the opinion of the giver.  So do his
psakim.  (many times of the repeater).

The Talmud tells a wonderful tale about Rabbi Akiva who one night was
refused access to a town.  He then had to camp in the open.  Many things
happened, but also the Romans came and destroyed the town.  By denying
him access, they saved his life.  The obvious question is, why did a
town deny access to one of the greatest Tanaim?  Because he was also one
of the leaders of the Bar-Kochva rebellion, and many other G'dolim did
not agree (Talmud, not me).

Psakim? Pikuach Nefesh?  Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai spent many years hiding
in a cave after Rabanim (and not small ones) informed on him to the
government (the Romans).

My point is: please do tell me the opinion, Psak, etc of G'dolai Israel,
but please, also tell me their private, political views so I know how to
read their Psak.

Najman Kahana


End of Volume 9 Issue 96