Avodah Mailing List

Volume 11 : Number 026

Tuesday, June 17 2003

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 16:57:11 +0300
From: "Carl M. Sherer" <cmsherer@fandz.com>
Re: Women, talis & tefillin

On 12 Jun 2003 at 18:12, Micha Berger wrote:
> On Tue, Jun 10, 2003 at 06:52:08PM +0300, Carl M. Sherer wrote:
>: The explanation given by the MB in 38:13 is that women are not capable
>: of keeping a "guf naki." This is clearly NOT a reference to menstruation;
>: otherwise how would the concept apply to men? ...

> Both of the above are destracting effects of our physical limitations.
> Why can't either be a lack of the necessary neki'us?

I wasn't trying to prove that men cannot have a guf that is not naki.
I was trying to prove that because men also need a guf naki for tefillin,
the idea had to refer to something that would be a potential problem
for both genders. Inability to control flatulation seems the most likely

Admittedly, it could be argued that menstruating would cause a woman
not to have a guf naki. I just don't think that's the reference here.

-- Carl

Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for my son,
Baruch Yosef ben Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.
Thank you very much.

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Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 10:03:22 EDT
From: Joelirich@aol.com

In most MO shuls in Chu"l that I've attended, the minhag nowadays(not
so 30-40 years ago) is to duchen when yom tov and shabbat coincide. The
kahal stands quietly and the cohanim do not sing their normal nigun.

2 questions:
1. Does anyone know the source of the minhag not to duchen in this
2. Does anyone know the reason for the cohanims' nigun? There are sources
that discuss the issue of saying psukim/RBS"O during their nigun, but
which came first-ie was the nigun added so that the kahal could say
something while not breaking into the actual bracha or was the nigun
always there and it was thus convenient to allow something to be said.
If the latter, why don't the cohanim sing their nigun on shabbat(perhaps
so as not to confuse the Kahal?)

Joel Rich

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Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 12:02:56 EDT
From: T613K@aol.com
Re: rasha ve ra lo

From: "Carl M. Sherer" <cmsherer@fandz.com>
> Correct. And that he will lose an equivalent amount to what he steals
> from whatever money he would have earned honestly (or will have to expend
> his ill-gotten gains on matters that bring him no personal benefit -
> like lawyers' fees :-).

Well that takes us to another order of puzzlement about how the world is
run, according to the Divine plan. YOUR parnassah, which was decided
for you on Rosh Hashana, depends on the Mafioso's having committed a
crime and being forced (by Heavenly decree) to lose his money in the
form of lawyers' fees?

If there is a general principle of megalgalin chov al yedei chayav,
you might want to reconsider your career choice :- )

Toby Katz 

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Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 20:19:07 +0300
From: "Carl M. Sherer" <cmsherer@fandz.com>
Re: rasha ve ra lo

On 15 Jun 2003 at 12:02, T613K@aol.com wrote:
> If there is a general principle of megalgalin chov al yedei chayav,
> you might want to reconsider your career choice  :- )

I don't do criminal - or any litigation for that matter. 

-- Carl

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Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 12:10:50 EDT
From: T613K@aol.com
Re: Persian Era/Kiddush HaChodesh

From: David Riceman <dr@insight.att.com>
> In the absence of base 10 representation of numbers calculating future
> moladot is not so simple. IIRC the Rambam devotes quite a lot of space in
> H. Kiddush HaChodesh to describing the art of calculating the remainder
> when dividing a large integer by seven. But he does emphasise that he
> doesn't actually teach astronomy in H. Kiddush HaChodesh.

Why are you positing the absence of a base 10 representation of numbers?

Toby Katz 

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Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 18:42:15 +0300
From: "Daniel Eidensohn" <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
Re: Persian Era

From: Arie Folger <afolger@aishdas.org> on Tue, 10 Jun 2003 18:08:34 +0200:
> As I posted a few digests ago, in a private conversation with the dayaon
> of the 'Hareidi community of Basel, RSS stated, to his host's suprise,
> that the retraction carried no weight, he merely included it because he
> was under tremendous pressure to retract...
> In another post, today, I indentified the source of my statement. Note
> that an eyewitness account, party to a private conversation, is expected
> to be more accurate than a granddaughter's husband. BTW, the said party,
> the dayan of the 'Hareidi community of Basel, is also a relative, housed
> RSS at his home, as is definitely a major TC.

R' Schwab has stated that history should not be falsified - though
information can be concealed

If there is a clear need and/or Divine command. R' Schwab was very much
concerning with honesty. I think a more reasonable explanation of what
R' Schwab said to the Basil Dayan was that he simply could not conceive
of a more reasonable explanation but that the universal criticism of his
views made it unacceptable and therefore he was forced to retract it. In
other words he was not committed to his hypothesis but he also could not
accept the view that the disparity was not a serious problem. If there
hadn't been pressure he would have maintained his hypothesis since he
could not conceive of a valid alternative. This is in fact what he wrote
in his retraction. If he had truly succumbed to the pressure he would
have also denied that the problem is a problem.

                                            Daniel Eidensohn

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Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 14:22:42 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Jonathan Baker" <jjbaker@panix.com>
Sod ha'ibur

From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
>: >It's pretty simple to take any molad and add multiples of
>: >29d 12h 44m 1ch'. Take any molad and you can create the
>: >rest.

>: But since KAt Yab Tashtzag is an average, it is not easily arrived at... 
>: That requires divine imparting.
> Or a mesorah and a few minutes of memorization.

RYGB is apparently talking about the origin of the number. Micha is
talking about continued transmission. But why need it come from Divine
imparting, rather than being a well-known figure from cultures that
cared about observing the moon over long periods of time?

It could easily have been picked up from the Babylonians or whoever; the
Rambam tells us that the methods for correcting the calendar just involved
shifting Pesach back & forth to fit the vernal equinox, and investigating
the witnesses had to do with lunar apparent position. None of which
depends on 29:12:44:2.8. Which I couldn't find in the Gemara.

   - jon baker    jjbaker@panix.com     <http://www.panix.com/~jjbaker> -

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Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 12:09:53 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Sod ha'ibur

On Sun, Jun 15, 2003 at 02:22:42PM -0400, Jonathan Baker wrote:
:>: But since KAt Yab Tashtzag is an average, it is not easily arrived at... 
:>: That requires divine imparting.

:> Or a mesorah and a few minutes of memorization.
: RYGB is apparently talking about the origin of the number. Micha is
: talking about continued transmission. But why need it come from Divine
: imparting, rather than being a well-known figure from cultures that
: cared about observing the moon over long periods of time?

I would be shocked to learn it's a well known number.

In order to get an average accurate to the nearest cheileq, you'd
have to average the time between new moons for roughly 24,000 years.
And that's assuming they could measure the time of a single lunation
accurately. Add the time it would take to average away measurement error,
and it gets even longer.

: It could easily have been picked up from the Babylonians or whoever; the
: Rambam tells us that the methods for correcting the calendar just involved
: shifting Pesach back & forth to fit the vernal equinox, and investigating
: the witnesses had to do with lunar apparent position....

It seems from the Rambam, though, that "sod ha'ibbur" isn't actually
limited to computing shanos me'ubaros. (Nor to computing the /time/
of the molad as much as time, location and angle.)


Micha Berger                 For a mitzvah is a lamp,
micha@aishdas.org            And the Torah, its light.
http://www.aishdas.org                       - based on Mishlei 6:2
Fax: (413) 403-9905          

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Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 08:46:11 +0200
From: S Goldstein <goldstin@netvision.net.il>
Re: Minhagim

In a message dated 06/12/2003 2:15:07 PM EDT, micha@aishdas.org writes:
> The oft quoted (here) Rambam, in Mamrim 2:2 is clear that minhagim are
> instituted by the beis din. Not a grass-roots from the masses.
>However see Taanit 26b which implies certain minhagim were grass roots.

I would add half-Hallel to RJR's list.

Shlomo Goldstein

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Date: Tue, 10 Jun 2003 17:21:29 +0200
From: "Pinchas Hayman" <haymanp@mail.biu.ac.il>
Revadim Project

[RPH heard we were discussing the revadim approach to limud gemara on
Areivim. He asked for an opportunity to present his side, and explain
exactly what it is. -mi]

The Saga of the "Revadim" Method
Pinchas Hayman

Nearly every serious Torah student has become aware of the recent
discussions, even controversy, surrounding a method for learning
known as the "Revadim," or "Layers" Method, for the study of Gemara.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of those expressing themselves on
the topic have no first hand information about what this method is,
how it began, what its goals are, and how it works. The purpose of
this monograph is to clarify these matters, and invite discussion in
the Torah community about the Method.

The Background of the Revadim Initiative

The teaching of Gemara in schools in Israel and around the world is at
a crossroads. Before the Holocaust, only a small percentage of children
progressed to higher yeshivot for study of Gemara (approximately 5-7% of
each age group). The balance of the population went on to professions of
various sorts. After the war, Torah Jewish communities began to develop
day schools in increasing numbers, and in Israel, the State mandated
standardized education for all. In the National Religious (hereon "NR")
stream in Israel, this meant that for the first time in history, every
average Jewish child would learn Mishnah, and Gemara, and even be required
to pass examinations in these subjects for graduation from high school.
In the diaspora, increasing numbers of children became exposed to,
and involved in the study of Gemara. Concurrently, the amazing Daf
Yomi program was spreading in the adult population. As time went on,
however, it became clear that although the vast majority of pupils
were able to learn the material and even receive outstanding grades on
examinations, close to 70% never acquired the ability to learn on their
own in an average "unseen" sugyah. Even in the Haredi sector in Israel,
the yeshivot k'tanot reported results that were only marginally better on
the "unseen" factor. This situation of "more is less" caused increasing
frustration and even disassociation of youth from Gemara learning, and
a general feeling of crisis in teaching staffs. Numerous educational
researchers studied the roots of these problems (including the reknowned
Professor Moti bar Lev Z"L), and the determination was made that the issue
was not rooted in the incapacity of the students, or in the failure of the
teachers, but in the virtually total lack of skills' instruction. It was
postulated that the problem could be resolved by the methodical, organized
teaching of skills over the elementary and first three secondary grades,
not only knowledge. It was proposed that if an average NR yeshivah
high school taught Gemara 15 hours a week, three weekly hours would
be devoted to teaching skills, and the balance to regular learning.
Naturally, such a proposal demanded a radical shift in educational
planning in this area, including - for the first time in the history
of the modern Torah community - the definition of all essential Gemara
skills graded from the simple to the complex for grades 3-9, assembly
of numerous examples of each skill according to levels of difficulty,
diagnostic testing to validate that students actually moved from one
skills level to the other effectively, and the training and retraining
of teachers to teach this way. This was the "roadmap" of the Program for
the Teaching of Mishnah and Talmud set up at Bar Ilan. Thirty of the best
and the brightest Gemara Rebbeim in the NR community were assembled to do
the work. They labored for two years to define the skills, and to test
them by examining all of Shas according to the proposed skills' spiral.
The result is the Revadim, or "Layers" Method.

The Principles of the Revadim Method

The Revadim Method is based on the premise that learning of Mishnah
and Gemara should be done in four stages to ensure independent learning
ability, which in extreme brevity may be summarized as follows:

1. Mishnah study: this first stage must include study of the Torah
SheBichtav and Torah SheB'Al Peh together, so students understand that
one is only understood together with the other. Mishnah will be learned
by heart, with the traditional yeshivah melodies, and not from books
in the first instance. Students will learn how Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi
organized the Mishnah from more ancient traditions, and edited them
together, a process which causes the Mishnah to work differently than
any other "book" known to the pupils in our day. Students will recognize
and understand the importance of layers in the Mishnah from the time of
Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel, from Yavneh, and from the Galil.

2. Broader Study of Sources of the Tannaim: after Mishnah, the student
will learn how to compare and contrast Mishnah with Beraitot from the
Gemara, with the Tosefta, and with Midreshei Halachah which amplify
significantly on the Mishnah. This preparation will ease the entrance
into Gemara, since this kind of comparison of sources of the Tannaim is
the "bread and butter" of the work of the Amoraim in Gemara.

3. Amoraic Sources: After learning to compare and contrast sources of the
Tannaim, the student moves on to statements of the Amoraim. This is not
a difficult leap, since 85% of all memrot of the Amoraim in Shas are in
Hebrew like the Mishnah, and in sugyot from the period of the Amoraim,
appear consistently in chronological order. The pupil is asked to pay
close attention to what the Amoraim are contributing to the words of
the Tannaim which he studied in the first two phases.

4. Talmud: After acquaintance with the Tannaim and Amoraim, the student
moves on to the the Talmud itself, called Stama d'Talmuda by the Rishonim
- the Aramaic context which presents, explains, comments, and analyzes
the Tannaim and Amoraim. The language, thought processes and methods of
the Talmudic layer are different than those of the Amoraim, and therefore
must be studied separately.

Each one of the above phases is subdivided into stages of specific skills,
which cannot be specified here. After all four phases are mastered, the
student is ready to learn sugyot on his own in a completely independent
way, because he has developed in his mind a "toolbox" of skills which
he knows how to apply properly.

Implementation of the Revadim Method and the Outbreak of the Controversy

After clarifying all of the above and finding adequate examples of
each stage, we carried on extensive deliberations with Rabbanim,
including Rav Mordechai Eliyahu Shlita, and others, to make sure we
were operating according to the letter and spirit of the Masorah. After
receiving approval, we began to teach the Method to Rebbeim around the
country, and to do trial applications in schools. It was obvious very
soon that we were on to something quite significant, as application of
the Revadim method brought immediate positive results in a wide variety
of school populations. Teachers and students reported newfound excitement
in learning, and ability to tackle "unseen" material effectively. There
was great excitement about the breakthrough, and schools and yeshivot
began to turn to us from all over the country.

However, we had not counted on the fact that certain elements in the
NR community were opposed in principle to any involvement whatsoever of
academics in the educational world of Limudei Kodesh. Even though all of
us in the Project are Yeshivah Rebbeim ourselves, all from strong Yeshivah
backgrounds, our attempt to resolve the frustration in the schools
and yeshivot was taken by some to be an intrusion into their world,
and they began to seek ways to disqualify us. One of them said to me:
"even if you would teach that Moshe received Torah at Sinai, we would
say it is a lie because it came from the University!" These opponents,
in our opinion, have chosen not to deal with the issue, and we will not
relate to their approach.

The more topical objections to the Method center around three main points:

1. The dating of the stama d'talmuda (the anonymous aramaic frame of the
Talmud) - opponents of the Method claim that the entire Talmud, with
the exception of a number of isolated sugyot, was edited by Rav Ashi
and Rabina, or by Rav Asi and Rabina b. Rav Huna two generations later.
The opponents of the Method attribute to us a later dating of the stama,
and are concerned that this may undercut the halachic authority of
the Talmud.

Our Response: the Revadim Method does not take any definitive stance
on whether the stama is amoraic or post-amoraic. We say that the
majority of the stama is later than the majority of the amoraim. And we
concern ourselves more with the functional issues connected to the layer
separation. Whether the stama is from Rav Ashi, Rav Asi, or Rav Yehudai
Gaon, the didactic importance of the layer separation is identical.
However, even if it should be proven categorically that the stama is
entirely later than the amoraim, it is clear to us that halachah will
be unaffected, since all of the people of Israel have accepted the
Babylonian Talmud in its entirety, and the Saboraic literature itself
is part of the unbroken chain of halachic development.

2. The Revadim Method learns that when the Talmud claims that an
earlier source which presents a general law only intended to relate to a
certain special case, and not in accordance with its simple meaning, the
Talmud does not mean this to be the simple meaning of the sources being
interpreted (okimtot). The opposition claims that this will undermine
the respect of the students for the way of the Talmud in this regard.

Our Response: Our opinion on this topic is supported by dozens of sources
from the Rishonim and Acharonim. In our opinion, it is specifically the
process of interpretation not in accordance with simple meaning which
is the crown of the system, in that it combines respect for the earlier
sources with the struggle to apply halacha to changing circumstances.
Several Gedolim we have consulted with in the last several months have
concurred with us on this issue.

3. The opposition claims that it is not legitimate to build a systematic
approach based only on limited, selected sources from the Rishonim
and Acharonim.

Our Response: We claim that the very use of these tools on an occasional
basis as needed by the Rishonim and Acharonim prove the legitimacy
of the tools, and that the needs of our generation for study built on
systematic Methodology justify their use. Development of new tools is
not only justified, but a requirement of changing learning patterns.
Development of new tools has always been part of Torah study, and it
does not threaten any basic beliefs of the system.

Other opponents simply claim that although the Method is true, it is
questionable whether it should be taught to young pupils. We agree
that the pedagogic application of the Method needs to be checked and
discussed, and our research at this stage is on the principles more than
the applications.

We welcome responses, questions, and discussions about all of the above.
Our new internet site: <http://www.talmud-revadim.co.il> will open in
two weeks, and will provide forums, summaries of the skills, and examples.

[Note that the words "two weeks" written in the previous paragraph was
as of a week ago. -mi]

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Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 09:31:59 -0400
From: David Riceman <dr@insight.att.com>
Re: duchening/shabbat

> In most MO shuls in Chu"l that I've attended, the minhag nowadays(not
> so 30-40 years ago) is to duchen when yom tov and shabbat coincide. The
> kahal stands quietly and the cohanim do not sing their normal nigun.
> 2 questions:
> 1. Does anyone know the source of the minhag not to duchen in this
> situation?

I remember looking this up the first time I saw duchening on Yom Tov
shechal lihyos b'Shabbos. IIRC the Magen Avraham criticizes the custom
and attributes it to faulty analysis (I forget the details, but it has
to do with a baal keri duchening). Ayyein sham.

David Riceman

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Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 13:14:53 -0400
From: Mlevinmd@aol.com
Does anyone know the reason for the cohanims' nigun?

Aside form the usual explanations, I heard form R. H. Shechter that it
was to drawn out the Shem Ham'forash in Beis Hamikdash.

M. Levin

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Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 13:39:34 -0400
From: "Gil Student" <gil@aishdas.org>
Re: Revadim Project

>2. The Revadim Method learns that when the Talmud claims
>that an earlier source which presents a general law only
>intended to relate to a certain special case, and not in accordance
>with its simple meaning, the Talmud does not mean this to be
>the simple meaning of the sources being interpreted (okimtot).
>The opposition claims that this will undermine the respect of
>the students for the way of the Talmud in this regard.

I concur with the question and ask how it is religiously possible to
claim that Amoraim misapplied the statements of previous generations.

Prof. Saul Lieberman has an article on this subject titled "Tanna Heicha
Kai" (I think in a sefer yovel) in which he explains a number of difficult
"okimtot" by plausibly demonstrating that the source of the Tannaitic
passage under discussion came from precisely the context of the "okimta".

Gil Student

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Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 09:35:20 -0400
From: David Riceman <dr@insight.att.com>
Re: Persian Era/Kiddush HaChodesh

T613K@aol.com wrote:
> Why are you positing the absence of a base 10 representation of
> numbers?

It's true that Ibn Ezra introduced base 10 representations to the
Hebrew speaking world; I don't know how widely disseminated the idea
was during the middle ages. I don't have the impression that any of the
Baalei haTosafoth, for example, knew how to do long division (which is,
functionally, what you need to do modular arithmetic easily).

David Riceman

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Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 14:39:21 GMT
From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@juno.com>
Kiddush bemakom se'uda

Someone mentioned recently that although one is not yotzei kiddush shelo
bemakom se'uda, this does not preclude making kiddush (obviously kiddusha
rabba so as not to have berachos issues) without a se'uda.

IOW the following is possible: make kiddush, drink the wine/liquor and
eat nothing. Then go home and make kiddush and eat. Or maybe even make
kiddush, eat less than kevius se'udah, then go home, repeat kiddush
and eat. The latter would certainly make kiddushim more bearable,
consumption-wise <g>.

This doesn't sound right to me but I haven't found anything explicit.
I believe the person's citation was from one of the likut sefarim.


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Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 09:22:55 -0400
From: "Allen Baruch" <Abaruch@lifebridgehealth.org>
Re: Women, talis & tefillin

>and since baby (definitely in warm weather) tend to be dressed
>according to different standards and in stretching or loosely fitting
>clothes (two sizes larger, because he'll outgrow it soon ;-)), it is
>virtually unavoidable that one will touch the baby above the elbow or
>on the leg. Does one need to wash, then? (will make most people eat at
>the sink, needing to wash so often ;-))
>Should those areas be considered mekomot hamegulim?

According to the LOR I asked, yes (they are mekomot hamegulim)

kol tuv
Sender Baruch

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Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 13:11:47 -0400
From: Mlevinmd@aol.com
Guf Naki

On Tue, Jun 10, 2003 at 06:52:08PM +0300, Carl M. Sherer wrote:
> The explanation given by the MB in 38:13 is that women are not capable
> of keeping a "guf naki." This is clearly NOT a reference to menstruation;
> otherwise how would the concept apply to men? ...

Since the bathrooms were outside and women would have much less of a
chacne of going out to defecate, for safety and tznius reasons...

M. Levin

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Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 23:15:09 +0300
From: "Carl M. Sherer" <cmsherer@fandz.com>
Re: giving chalah to your wife before eating your own piece

Catching up....

On 28 May 2003 at 10:47, kennethgmiller@juno.com wrote:
> (Note: In this post I will follow R' Carl's lead and use the word
> "interlude" so that we can avoid getting bogged down on whether silent
> waiting counts as a hefsek or not.)


> Okay, I think that I now see the difference betwen RCS and myself on
> this issue:

> As RCS sees it, the m'varech has the ability to keep his interlude down
> to zero, and that's not possible for the others. He also feels that while
> it is regrettable that the others' interlude will be even longer while
> they wait for the m'varech to take his own slice, that's not as bad as
> if he would take the time to slice for the others, which introduces a
> new interlude (to himself) where otherwise there would be none at all.

> If that is a correct understanding of RCS's position, then I'd say that
> he is mistaken: It's not true that the m'varech has the option of having
> no interlude whatsoever.

> The slicing of even the first piece is such an interlude, and this is
> proven by Chazal telling us to make a mark on the challah so that even
> this interlude will be minimized. (In my experience, the time spent
> looking for that mark increases the slicing time to be longer than if
> there had been no mark at all, but that's a whole 'nother thread.)

But it's halachically different in quality because it's something 
that's being done to bring about MY eating Challah. So while it may 
be an 'interlude,' for ME it is not a hefsek. Cutting Challah for 
someone else does nothing to bring about my eating, and therefore for 
ME, that could be or is a hefsek. 

> If you don't like the above, try this one:

> As R' Carl explains, the mevarech must eat from the first slice to
> keep his interlude to nothing more than what is required. If so, then
> what happens when the second slice is cut? According to RCS's logic,
> he should give that piece to someone before cutting the third slice,
> in order to minimize that person's interlude. Then he cuts the third
> slice and gives it out, and cuts the fourth slice and gives it out,
> and so on until everyone finally has a piece.

I do it in groups. But at that point, the issue isn't hefsek as much 
as it's who deserves respect. That's why my wife gets next. Then my 
parents or inlaws if they are present. Then other adults. Then other 
persons over the age of majority. And then the little kids. 

> It is my feeling that if RCS is correct on technical grounds, it can
> be only if one looks solely at the Bein Adam l'Makom. If we keep our
> eyes open to the Bein Adam l'Chaveiros involved, it is can be a very
> different story.

I vehemently disagree. 

There is no concept of 'equality' among people in halacha. That's a 
western, secular concept. 

[Email #2. -mi]

I knew I wasn't making this up. The Mishna Brura 167:79 paskens the 
way I have been arguing for the Ba'al HaBayis to take first for 
HaMotzi (although the entire distribution order after the Ba'al 
Ha'Bayis is likely my own invention) in the name of the Taz, the Graz 
and the Magen Giborim. See also the Sh'arei Tziyon s"k 69 there.

-- Carl

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Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 17:22:58 EDT
From: Phyllostac@aol.com
Just one Posuk - Tehillim initiative with a new twist !

I was recently in a beis midrash in Brooklyn and saw a sign which made
me happy.

The sign was urging people to join a new Tehillim initiative - with a
different twist however.

The sign urged people to * learn * one posuk of Tehillim a day - following
a schedule outlined on the sign - which other people would follow as well.

It also stated in loshon kodesh (not exact quotes) that 'ha*limud* bisefer
Tehillim yogein oleinu bozeh ubiboh' (the *learning* of sefer Tehillim
will shield us in present and in the future) and that it is a great means
to achieve dveikus. Interestingly, source given was sefer avodas hakodesh
lihaChid"a (same Chid"a whose name has been attached to a differing
usage of Tehillim that has been dubbed 'Tehillim haChid"a', which was
discussed here a while back, and which drew some strong questioning).

It stated that the initiative is in consultation with Roshei Yeshivos
in Eretz Yisroel and America.

A phone number of (212) 790-7385 was given (I believe for schedule info).

Anyway, I think it is nice that some people are trying to move from
just saying Tehillim like some people say 'Ashrei' to a something that
engages the mind more and can be alot more meaningful - limud of those
same verses.

Also, the slower pace - just one posuk a day - can enable learning
the posuk with meforshim - just like a posuk of chumash, without too
much difficulty. IIRC, the sign recommended learning the psukim with
meforshim like Rashi, Metzudos......Hopefully this idea will spread and
be matzliach.....


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Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2003 17:35:53 -0400
From: "Gil Student" <gil@aishdas.org>
Re: Just one Posuk - Tehillim initiative with a new twist !

>The sign urged people to * learn * one posuk of Tehillim a
>day - following a schedule outlined on the sign - which
>other people would follow as well.

I still don't understand it. I recently had the unfortunate opportunity
to be in a hospital waiting room and learned Gemara intensely. Call me
a Litvak, but that is what I think R' Chaim Volozhiner would do.

Does anyone know what RYBS did in such circumstances?

Gil Student

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Date: Tue, 17 Jun 2003 15:55:26 +0200
From: Arie Folger <afolger@aishdas.org>
Re: Women, talis & tefillin

On Tuesday 17 June 2003 12:57, SBA wrote:
> From: Arie Folger <>
What did I write on this topic? I didn't get involved at all in this thread.


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Date: Tue, 17 Jun 2003 13:54:15 -0400
From: "Seth Mandel" <sm@aishdas.org>
Did the Rambam visit Har haBayit?

In the course of reading the letters of R. Ovadyah of Bertinoro/Bartinura
concerning what q'vorim he had found in EY when he moved there, I came
across the following passage (my translation): "No Jew will enter the
Beis haMiqdosh. Often the Muslims would want to hire Jews to do work
there as woodcutters, blacksmiths, etc., but the Jews would not agree
because of their tum'ah."

That, written in 1498, reflects what was held to be standard halokho
in the 15th century, and continued to be so up until very recently.
However, since I have seen claims from those who are pushing for a Jewish
religious presence on the Har haBayit that the Rambam himself davened
there, I decided to go back and look at the source of that. And what I
discovered was very interesting, to me at least.

There is no source at all in the Rambam's t'shuvos, but that is not
surprising, since there is very little autobiographical information in
his t'shuvos in general. It is reasonable to suppose that he was in EY,
because he refers several times to customs of EY that presumably he
had seen and once to balconies "like the Franks built in EY" (Perush
haMishnayos, Eruvin 7:4). The possibility remains open, however, that he
knew most of the customs and the information from the sizable community
of Israeli Jews in Egypt in his time; they had their own shul, where
the original customs of the Jews of Eretz Yisrael, such as the triennial
cycle of reading the Torah were practiced.

There is, however, a ts'huva to R. Yefet the Dayyan that is direct
evidence; he refers to "the day I said farewell to EY" and makes another
important statement: "I and he [the Rambam's brother] and Abba Mari
ZTz'L and you - we four 'in the House of God we would walk in company'
['halakhnu b'veit Hashem b'ragesh,' Psalms 55:15, Stone Translation].
and I shall not forget our walks together in the deserts and forests
after God." If the t'shuva is authentic (and there not much evidence that
it is not), then this certainly implies that the Rambam, his father and
brother and R. Yefet had spent some time together in EY. But the letter
provides no other information about the Rambam's stay there.

The source for the claims about where the Rambam went in EY and what he
did there are from a document that appears in the Paris 336 manuscript
of a perush on tractate Rosh haShana attributed to the Rambam (more
about this later). The document reads:

"This book was copied in 'Medinas haYam'. It was copied by the Rav
['haNa'aleh'] R. Shmuel ben R. Avraham Shuqayil in Acre from the writing
of R. Moshe the Light of the Exile z'l. And he found at the end of book
the following from the writing of the Rav:

"On Sunday night, the 4th day of the month Iyyar, I embarked at sea. And
on the Sabbath, the 10th of Iyyar of the year 4925 of Creation, a storm
arose to drown us. and I vowed that I would fast on these two days. I
and my family and all those who accompany me ['kol hanilvim 'alay'] and
I shall command all my descendents to do so forever, and give as much
charity as we can. On Sunday night, the 3rd day of the month of Sivan, I
landed safely and we came to Acre, and I was saved from conversion, and we
reached EY. I vowed that that day would be a day of joy and celebration,
feasting, and gifts to the poor, I and my house forever. On Tuesday,
the 4th day of Marheshvan of the year 4926 of Creation, we left Acre
to go to Jerusalem on a dangerous [journey], and I entered the Great
and Holy House ['haBayit haGadol v'haQadosh'] and I prayed in it, on
Thursday, the 6th day of Marheshvan. On Sunday, the 9th of the month, I
left Jerusalem to go to Hevron to kiss the burial place of my ancestors
in the Cave, and that same day I reached the Cave and I prayed in it,
may God be praised. These two days, the 6th and the 9th of Marheshvan,
I have vowed that they will be holidays, for prayer and rejoicing
before God and eating and drinking. May the Lord help me for all of
it and enable me to keep my vows, amen. On Thursday night and Tuesday,
the 12th of Sivan, God saw my affliction and my brother arrived safely,
and I made this a day of charity and fasting.

"Up until this point he copied from the handwriting of the man of God,
Rabbenu Moshe z'l."

This is the sole, the only source for what the Rambam did while he was
in EY.

As a suspicious linguist, I cannot help but be bothered by problems with
this account (outside of the style, which is very unlike the Rambam, in
my opinion). First of all, it claims to be copied directly as written,
and so was written in Hebrew. Almost everything the Rambam wrote was
in Arabic. Not only his major compositions, but even short letters
and notes to his brother, to his father in law, to talmidim, etc. Some
of the letters that we have in Hebrew were written to people who did
not speak Arabic, and some of them are clearly translations from the
original Arabic where the original did not survive or has not been found
yet. But why would the Rambam write a letter to himself and his children
in Hebrew? (This is also a problem with the letter to R. Yefet; there is
no apparent reason for it to have been composed in Hebrew. Actually, it
may be a translation. R. Shailat explains that it was written in Hebrew
because R. Yefet wrote to the Rambam in Hebrew, and the Rambam answers
in the language of the question. But that is completely speculation. We
do not have the letter of R. Yefet, and R. Shailat's only evidence for
his explanation are 3 letters that are in Hebrew for no apparent reason.
In none do we have the original question, so there is no evidence that
it was in Hebrew.)

Even more difficult is the matter of the dates. The Rambam uses dates
numerous times in his compositions, and he almost always uses the year
"l'minyan hash'tarot" (the count of the Seleucid period, which was used
by most Jewish communities in early times and survived in Teiman up
until recently). The count of years from Creation is only used by him
occasionally, as in Hilkhos Sh'mittin v'Yovlot in conjunction with the
count l'minyan hash'tarot. Why would he use only the count from Creation,
which was not the standard one used in those times, in a letter to
himself and his family?

But even if we set my doubts aside, we would still come to the conclusion
that this account does not provide much information. R. Shailat,
who accepts the account as authentic, realizes this. Note that in the
letter to R. Yefet the Rambam wrote "halakhnu b'veit Hashem b'ragesh,"
which is a quotation from T'NaKh. It is clear that he is not saying
that he actually walked in the Beit haMiqdash: there was none in his
time. Rather, he is using a quotation to indicate that he was in the
Holy Land. Similarly, when it says in this autobiographical description
that he went to "haBayit haGadol v'haQadosh," it does not mean that he
entered the non-existent Beis haMiqdosh.

R. Shailat realizes this, and says that the Rambam is using "Biblical
or Halakhic language" and actually means anywhere in Har haBayit.

I do not think that is correct. There is no necessity to say that the
language refers davqa to Har haBayit, and R. Shailat has no source for
claiming that it does, he just states as if it is self evident that "the
entire har haBayit can be referred to by the term Bayit." I think that the
language of both sources would equally well fit davening at the Kotel,
or in Silwan, or in Har haZeitim, from where he could see the place of
"haBayit haGadol v'haQadosh." (Remember the Rambam's position is that
all of Yerushalayim is considered m'qom haMiqdash.)

At any rate, there is certainly no basis at all for asserting that the
Rambam went up to the Har haBayit and davened somewhere there in the
places that somehow he knew were permitted. There is no clear support
that he went to the Har haBayit at all, and the whole source document
is suspect.

There are a couple of other points to be made. First of all, even if
the source is authentic, it does not say that he davened shacharit or
mincha at the Har haBayit; it says he prayed, and since the minyanim in
the time of the Rambam (and indeed during all the ages up until '67)
were in shuls, he would have davened in a shul minyan and then gone
to whatever holy place to pray his own prayers. There is no historical
evidence at any period after the Hurban for the kinds of mass minyonim
out in the open that are common now near the Kotel, and certainly not
for the idea of mass dukhaning on the festivals; we know that there were
shuls throughout history in Yerushalayim in the sections where Jews lived,
and prayers were said in the shuls. The only evidence for prayer at the
Kotel is for individual prayer to God, tahanunim, not Sh'moneh Esreh,
not Qri'at haTorah, not N'si'at Kappayim, and no evidence at all for
anything on the Har haBayit. Not before the Rambam, and not after him,
from shortly after the time of the Hurban. After the Hurban there are
reasons to think that Jews were banned from the Temple Mount, as far
as we know, and certainly were during at least part of the period of
Byzantine rule; the knowledge of which sections of the Har haBayit were
permitted were probably lost then; certainly R. Ovadyah of Bertinoro
does not indicate knowledge that Jews could go to specific locations.

Nor is there any source whatsoever for the idea that the Rambam knew
which areas of the Har haBayit Jews are allowed in. Despite the claims of
some, the place of the Beit haMiqdash is anything but clear; contemporary
experts who are investigate the matter have proposed at least three widely
different spots [although it is pretty clear that the very eastern edge
would be OK].

Secondly, the Rambam expresses his opposition to an idea that Jews should
create facts on the ground that will be solved by the coming of the
Moshiach. This is not from a contested document, but from an authentic
one: Iggeret haSh'mad, close to the end. He is speaking about people
who remain in a place where there is a edict that Jews must convert,
but who could leave. I translate now from the Hebrew (as is usual, this
was written in Arabic, however, the original has been lost, and only
an early Hebrew translation survives): "every person who remains there
is violating [Jewish law], is m'hallel Shem Shamayim, and is almost a
deliberate transgressor. Those that deceive themselves and say that they
shall remain there until the Moshiach comes [shortly], and then they will
go with him to Yerushalayim - I consider them transgressors; they deceive
themselves and cause others to sin, and about such people the prophet
says "They relieved the [impending] disaster of the daughter of My people
by making light [of it], saying 'Peace! Peace!' But there is no peace"
(Jeremiah 8:11, Stone translation). For there is no set time for the
coming of the Messiah, so that people can rely on it and say that it
is close or far away. The obligations of the Torah and the mitzvot are
not dependent on the coming of the Messiah, but rather we are obligated
to busy ourselves with the Torah and mitzvot and strive to perfect our
observance of them, and after we do what we are obligated to do, if God
gives the merit to us or our children or our grandchildren to see the
King Messiah, it is very good, and is a double blessing. And if not,
we do not lose anything, for we have attained by observing them what we
are obligated to do." It is clear that the Rambam would be horrified by
the idea of Jews going up to the Har haBayit and possibly violating an
issur for the sake of provoking the coming of the Moshiach.

At the end, I would just like to make a couple of points about the
perush to Tractace Rosh HaShana to which this letter is appended.
Shortly after it was first published, scholars concluded that its
attribution to the Rambam was erroneous. However, R. Shailat is inclined
to think it is authentic, and he quotes as his source none other than R.
Saul Lieberman, who discussed the work briefly in the introduction to
the book that he published "Hilkhot haY'rushalmi laRambam" in 1948. In
his introduction, R. Lieberman discusses his reasons for attributing
the manuscript he found, which contains a qitzur of the Y'rushalmi,
somewhat resembling what the Ri'F did for the Bavli, to the Rambam
(the manuscript itself is not signed nor attributed). One of the issues
that he has to contend with is that this perush contains views that are
contrary to what the Rambam held. He does not consider this a problem,
citing 40 examples in Seder Z'ra'im and in the first masekhtot of Seder
Mo'ed where the Rambam changed his mind from his first version of Perush
haMishnayot to later versions or his view in the Mishneh Torah.

Now that fact that the Rambam changed his mind regarding certain points is
not contested; he himself refers to it in some t'shuvos. R. Yosef Qafih
in his edition of Perush haMishnayot spends a lot of time deciding what
was the first version and how the later versions changed (much of his work
is based on the manuscripts we have of the Perush haMishnayot in Arabic,
and the evidence in them of erasures or crossed out phrases). However,
the matters where the Rambam did not change his mind are far greater than
the cases where he did, even in matters that seemed quite unusual, even
inexplicable, to Rishonim from other areas of the world. And the bulk
of the changes are in relatively minor matters, including wording. The
list by R. Lieberman gives the wrong impression. And the proof that it
leads to a misleading conclusion is that R. Lieberman concludes from
it that there is no reason to disqualify a manuscript as being from the
Rambam just because it disagrees with things he says elsewhere.

I think this is methodologically unsound. Just because an author changes
his mind about some matters does not imply that he changes his mind about
everything. To use a different example, just because a scribe made a
mistake in one place does not justify claiming that everything he copied
was in error. This sort of argument, unfortunately, has been used in
JTS and by other Conservative organizations to justify almost anything:
in their Talmud classes they note how many times Tanna'im and Amora'im
disagree with each other, and the conclusion that some Conservative
rabbis draw is that it is perfectly within the Jewish tradition to
disagree about anything, including Torah MiSinai. Methodologically, that
is the same mistake. Despite the many disagreements, on basic matters
there was unanimity; to use a modern quote, what divides Hazal is much
less than what they have in common. And so it is with the Rambam: what
remained unchanged is much greater than the views that he changed. Very
instructive in this regard is R. Yosef Qafih's edition of the Mishneh
Torah, where he quotes in each issue what the Rambam wrote about it in
Perush haMishnayot, whether he changed his mind or did not; readers can
judge for themselves how much he changes his mind.

At any rate, R. Lieberman takes the reasons given for concluding that
this perush on Rosh haShana is not from the Rambam and dismisses them.
The fact that it disagrees with something the Rambam says both in Perush
haMishnayot and in the Mishneh Torah (implying that he did not change his
mind) is dismissed as "irrelevant ['ein bo shum mammash'] in light of
[what I wrote] above." About the problem that the perush misinterprets
the g'moro, he says "is not even worth discussing." The scholars also had
claimed that "the Rambam wrote his perushim to the g'moro only in Arabic";
R. Lieberman says that that claim is "now disproven." Apparently, his
view is that the fact that the "Hilkhot haY'rushalmi" is not in Arabic
disproves the contention.

Now I admit that the claim that "the Rambam wrote his perushim to the
g'moro in Arabic" is not one that I think holds much weight; I do not
believe that there is enough evidence of perushim that clearly belong
to the Rambam. But to use the "Hilkhot haY'rushalmi" as a proof to
the contrary is erroneous. The latter work is clearly an abridgement
of the Y'rushalmi, _using the original language_, partially Hebrew and
partially Palestinian Aramaic. I cannot see why R. Lieberman would think
that that would lead to any conclusion at all about what language the
Rambam would use in writing his own perush. In that regard, I would
think that the evidence of the Perush haMishnayot would be decisive:
the subject text is entirely in Hebrew, and the fact that the Rambam used
Arabic for his perush is a clear indication that he prefers to use Arabic,
absent any other concern. The introduction to Sefer haMitzvot is even more
indicative: the Rambam writes that it is meant as a preface to his Mishneh
Torah. He discusses his plan for the Mishneh Torah, and how he decided
to write it in Mishnaic Hebrew. And then he proceeds to write the Sefer
haMitzvot, the preface, entirely in Arabic (despite the fact that due to
its contents a large percentage of it consists of quotes from the Sifrei
and other sources in Hebrew). To my eyes, that is clear, indisputable
evidence that the Rambam defaults to write in Arabic unless there is a
clear reason for him not to do so. (The reason for the Mishneh Torah,
as he writes, was that it was intended for use by all Jews, "laqatan
v'lagadol," even those who did not know Arabic. The Sefer haMitzvot,
on the other hand, was meant for those who wanted to understand how the
Rambam arrived at the 613 mitzvot that he uses as a framework to help
organize the Mishneh Torah; it was not necessary for everyone.)

At any rate, I find the arguments that the perush on Rosh haShana is not
the Rambam's work to be convincing, and that, of course, casts even more
doubt on the authenticity of the letter describing what the Rambam did
in Israel, purporting to have been copied by the same scribe.

For readers nowadays it may seems strange that scribes or authors would
attribute compositions to people who did not write them. However, this
is an established practice in the Medieval period, not only by Jewish
authors, but by non Jewish ones as well: if a scribe or author thinks
that no one will read his book or treat it seriously, he attributes it
to a famous source. In some cases this is deliberate, in some cases it
was by accident by a scribe, but in either case it was not considered
to be a heinous crime. The fact that a composition claims that it was
written by someone is not good evidence; you need outside evidence that
the author indeed wrote it. That was part of the argument among rabbonim
of the time about the Zohar. It says that it was written by RaShB'Y,
but many rabbonim were convinced that R. Moshe de Leon really wrote it,
and did not consider the fact that it attributed itself to RaShB'Y to be
an issue. R. Moshe de Leon's wife specifically told one of the rabbonim
that her husband had attributed it to RaShB'Y to increase sales of his
major work on qabbolo.

Seth Mandel

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