Avodah Mailing List

Volume 23: Number 21

Fri, 16 Feb 2007

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: "David Riceman" <driceman@worldnet.att.net>
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 09:21:35 -0500
Re: [Avodah] early bird specials and ribbis

From: "Zev Sero" <zev@sero.name>

> The observer will think that Reuven went
> to Shimon for a simple loan, unrelated to any possibility of future
> employment; later, when the time came for Reuven to pay, he offered
> to work it off, accepting a lower rate than the prevailing wage at
> that season.  If that were really the case, then the discount would
> be clear ribbis.

No, it would still be an issur d'rabbanan of avak ribbis, because wages are 
not fixed.  Reread that Rashbam.

>  The reason it's not actually ribbis is because
> that isn't really what happened, but an outside observer is not to
> know that.

It's not a bad description of what really happened.  The worker agreed to 
lower wages than he could get elsewhere because he needed money right now. 
If the employer had fulfilled the mitzva of pasoah tiftah es yadcha lo 
properly, he would have given hm a loan without demanding a discount in 
future wages.  This is not actually ribis, but it's very close.

David Riceman 

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Message: 2
From: "Newman,Saul Z" <Saul.Z.Newman@kp.org>
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 07:34:30 -0800
[Avodah] the anceint western galut

88760  on the divide, in the era of the churban, of the jews of the East and
the West. theorizes that the lack of access to Rabbinic halachic judaism led
to the eventual disappearance of Europe's first jews....
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Message: 3
From: Galsaba@aol.com
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 13:19:03 EST
[Avodah] Rosh Chodesh Adar

The Molad for Adar will be Saturday morning, 11:17 AM and 11 Chalokim.
How we are going to annoince this in the shul? As the molad time is normally 
given for Yerushalauim local time (solar), then by the time we announce it 
here, 11:17AM in Israel is past.
Should we announce "The Molad for Adar WAS Saturday morning, 11:17 AM and 11 


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Message: 4
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 13:53:38 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Copyright and Dina deMalkhuta

Arie Folger wrote:

> The power of taxation by the sovereign power derives from the notion that the 
> sovereign (or, perhaps, in modern democracies, the citizens as a whole) lets 
> the inhabitants live in the country by his grace. Hence we owe him a debt.  
> This justification for DDD requires us to fulfil laws that are to benefit the 
> sovereign. Taxes, and possibly law and order fall under this.

I don't think this is quite right, as an explanation of the Ran's opinion.
AIUI, it's nothing to do with debts or gratitude.  AIU the Ran, a king's
right to make laws in his country is exactly the same as the right of any
property owner to make rules on his property.  Since the owner has the
right to expel anyone from his property, for any reason or for no reason,
he also has the right to make arbitrary rules, which are binding on
anyone who happens to be on the property.  A person who knowingly breaks
these rules is trespassing, which is a kind of theft.  Similarly, the Ran
says, since (in a feudal society) the king owns the entire country, and
may expel anyone from it at his whim, he may make arbitrary laws, and a
person who breaks them is a trespasser.   But since every Jew has the
right to live in EY, and no king has the right to expel a Jew from EY,
this whole logic doesn't apply, and there is no obligation to obey the
king's orders.

The Ran seems to be assuming that Bavel in Shmuel's day was a feudal
society, at least to the extent that the king owned the entire
country, and had the right to expel people from it.  It seems to me
that a lot of rishonim made similar assumptions, projecting their
own social conditions back to Biblical and Talmudic times, without
any evidence.  (E.g. the discussion of the "flags" of the shvatim
ignores the fact that flags hadn't been invented yet.)

In any case, nowadays in most countries kings and states no longer
own all the real estate, and I'm not aware of any country today
which claims the right to expel a citizen from its territory.
It's generally accepted that citizenship in a country gives one
the absolute right to enter and remain in that country, no matter
what one does.  It would seem, therefore, that according to the
Ran, DDD no longer applies to the citizens of any country; it
would only apply to people who are living as resident aliens in
a country not their own.

Zev Sero               Something has gone seriously awry with this Court's
zev@sero.name          interpretation of the Constitution.
                       	                          - Clarence Thomas

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Message: 5
From: Jacob Farkas <jfarkas@compufar.com>
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 14:47:29 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Copyright and Dina deMalkhuta

R' Arie Folger wrote:
> Numerous posters have recently discussed the applicability of DDD (Dina
> deMalkhuta) to copyright legislation, specifically as it applies to
> downloading copyrighted multimedia material. Others suggested that 
> perhaps downloading is allowed based on a number of arguments.
> The net result of the above is that, most likely, the Ran's position on
> whether DDD applies in EY is irrelevant to copyright. However, copyright
> legislation most likely involves the creation of a new, artificial 
> right, as copying an intellectual work doesn't involve depriving someone 
> of his property (the legal literature, especially on the US 
> constitution, talks a lot about this aspect of intellectual property 
> legislation). Copyright legislation says that what would be permitted 
> under a doctrine of natural rights or whatever, now requires the 
> consumer to pay the rights holder. In my opinion, this is resembles 
> "taking from one to give the other" quite a lot, although the matter may 
> not be clear cut.

Copyright legislation does indeed create an artificial right, it assigns 
ownership to an intellectual entity, and allows for civil damages to be 
paid to those who infringe unlawfully on someone else's Intellectual 
Property. Downloading and file-sharing are activities that meet the 
infringement criteria.

While I personally find the current laws to be quite extreme in the 
application (and time-limitation issues) of copyrights, the fact of the 
matter is that the entity does exist, whether it harms the copyright 
holder or not. I agree that Dinei Torah alone would not apply the same 
limitations, and perhaps only limit copyright to where the owner is 
being shortchanged, and his livelihood is at risk.

> Thus, the question of in what measure copyright legislation is 
> halakhically binding is a good one, not easily resolved, and dependent 
> perhaps on the power of the 7THI. If so, it might also involve a kind of 
> goodness test, to determine whether the law really does bring the 
> optimal benefit to the public or not.

Would this question be appropriate according to the Rishonim who view 
DDD to be either derived from Hefqeir BD Hefqeir, or self-obligation by 
citizenry to live according to the laws of the land?

> IOW, life is complex and halakhah doesn't blindly accept whatever a 
> government wants it to swallow. BH. This way halakhah remains a moral 
> compass.

The government itself is only acting on behalf of the creators of 
Intellectual Property. It doesn't seek to be oppressive to individuals 
per se, its copyright laws are influenced by those who have a lot to 
lose if these restrictions are less severe.

What is the value of a moral compass that points in different 
directions? [Asking with respect]

--Jacob Farkas

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Message: 6
From: Chaim Moskowiz <cmoskz@yahoo.com>
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 13:28:10 -0800 (PST)
Re: [Avodah] Slavery

Quoting Zev Sero:


?But that doesn't change the way authentic Torah Jews think -- by which I mean Jews who didn't grow up absorbing USAn culture and values and learning to idolise people like Washington and Lincoln.  Believe it or not, such people still exist.  The fact that we regard slavery as unthinkable doesn't mean we're morally superior, it means that we have been so infected with goyishe values that they have become part of us; that's

nothing to be proud of.?


I don?t think that there is a single  approach to these issues. Some benefit from the direct approach: ? our values, and thinking are warped? ; others do not.  The goal is the same either way:  to deepen one?s conviction and understanding  that  Hashem is the ultimate source of mercy, and that his laws are perfect. 


Regarding this, and similar questions regarding Torah and 21st  century ethics(I?m, thinking of at least five other  cases), I prefer to acknowledge a good question, and a clash in values. There is a psychological benefit to this, because acknowledging a question rather than repressing it(not that I think that you are doing that if it works  for yourself),  reduces  it?s intensity. It doesn?t work for me to say, ?I?m infected with goyish values, and my thinking is warped?. To the contrary, I think that  my thinking(at least at times) is perfectly normal, and that  not all ?goyishe values? are inherently bad. 


 Similarly, someone who is thinking about the mitzvah of mechiyas Amaleik can say,?the reason I have trouble understanding it is because I?m affected by goyish values?. Or he can say that ?I?m following human logic and emotion, which in many cases  is a perfectly rational and  logical thing to do, but I need to understand the Torah?s values?. 



In  the specific case of slavery, it is certainly a very rational  and normal   thought, and not just a ?goyish? one, to say that  ?rational and enlightened  ethics? tell us that it is unjust for one human being to have an ownership of another(yes, those claiming to follow ?rational and enlightened   ethics? can create concentration camps, but that doesn?t destroy the concept entirely). Certainly,  no one can honestly say that every  person  would want to be owned by another person, rather than being an exploited worker(see below). But our belief that the Torah is Divine, tells us that this halacha is ethical. Just as one should imitate Hashem?s kindness and avoid avodas perech by an eved k?nani(see Rambam in Hilchos Avodim,  ninth perek), so too , I believe that the whole concept of human ownership is ultimately not a contradiction to the concept that Hashem

 created the world out of goodness(Ramchal in Daas Tevunos), and that even the halacha of permitting  avodas perech by eved k?naani(m?ikkar hadin)  is part of a merciful Torah. 



One can minimize the question by saying that slaves are better off than exploited miners or those in sweatshops (I have seen this quoted in the name of   Rav Kook,  Igrot HaRaaya ,  vol.1 no.89), but I still don?t think it completely, rationally,  answers the question, as some would prefer the latter, and in any event, not every slave would have been born to an exploited life. Although slavery is not a chok like parah adumah, one can still attempt to give a rational basis for the Torah law, but at the same time  say that the ultimate understanding eludes us at the current time. As I said above, I have no problem saying our problem is ?we have been so infected with goyishe values?, but at the same time, if a different approach yields the same goal, then I see no need to  use your approach exclusively.

Don't pick lemons.
See all the new 2007 cars at Yahoo! Autos.
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Message: 7
From: Yoav Elan <yoavelan@yahoo.com>
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 23:41:54 -0500
[Avodah] Rashi/Rambam on female reproductive anatomy

Dear All,

I was wondering if anyone is aware of contemporary sources which  
discuss, and attempt to explain, Rashi's and Rambam's view of the  
Mishnah's description of the female reproductive system (Niddah 2:5  

Thank you,
Yoav Elan

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Message: 8
From: "Saul Guberman" <saulguberman@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 23:55:53 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Rosh Chodesh Adar

On 2/15/07, Galsaba@aol.com <Galsaba@aol.com> wrote:
> Should we announce "The Molad for Adar WAS Saturday morning, 11:17 AM and 11 Chalokim."

As the time is Jerusalem Standard time, I announce it as WAS.  The
important part is really the announcement of what day(s) Rosh Chodesh
will be.

The good thing about saying "was" is that one or two people will ask
you about it.  Very few people realize the molad time is JS time.

Shabbat Shalom,

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Message: 9
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2007 02:03:09 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Rosh Chodesh Adar

Galsaba@aol.com wrote:
> The Molad for Adar will be Saturday morning, 11:17 AM and 11 Chalokim.
> How we are going to annoince this in the shul? As the molad time is 
> normally given for Yerushalauim local time (solar), then by the time we 
> announce it here, 11:17AM in Israel is past.
> Should we announce "The Molad for Adar WAS Saturday morning, 11:17 AM 
> and 11 Chalokim."

For one thing, that is the *average* molad, which doesn't correspond
to any actual event.  More than that, it's the *calculated* average
molad, based on a calculation that has accumulated a 2-hour error.
The actual New Moon will be at 11:15am Eastern USA time, i.e. 6:15pm
Israeli standard time.   So if you're making the announcement before
that time, you could still say "will be".  But at my shul that won't
make a difference, because by the time we get to birkat hachodesh the
molad will certainly be in the past.   I suppose if the gabbai is on
the ball, he will say "the molad was this morning".

Zev Sero               Something has gone seriously awry with this Court's
zev@sero.name          interpretation of the Constitution.
                       	                          - Clarence Thomas

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Message: 10
From: "Shoshana L. Boublil" <toramada@bezeqint.net>
Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2007 09:10:54 +0200
[Avodah] Labor and injustice (was Re: Slavery)

> Date: Wed, 14 Feb 2007 19:29:57 -0500
> From: dfinch847@aol.com
> Subject: [Avodah] Slavery
> Message-ID: <8C91EAF8E57E654-E58-125C@FWM-R01.sysops.aol.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"; format=flowed
> Shmuel Weidberg writes:
> "The truth is, it is the same with slavery. Although the gemara
> determines that it is a zechus for a slave to be freed. The gemara
> does not consider it a slam dunk. The main reason why slavery was
> condemned so strongly is because slaves were so severely mistreated
> and had no rights whatsoever. But in a just society living by Torah
> rules slavery would be worse than being free, but would not be the
> great injustice that it is made out to be."


But slavery, well, slavery is morally
> and intellectually unthinkable, even for the O-est of the O. It can't
> even be debated, not with a straight face.
> David Finch

I would like to combine two threads here: the one about the conditions of 
workers in third world countries, and slavery.

There have been questions on the extent of our responsibility towards these 
workers; how should we view their economic situation etc.

This is a case where the laws of slavery can help us.  The Jewish laws give 
exact rules on how much a slave can work; what are his rights, his 
obligations.  What is he entitled to when he ends his slavery etc.

I have heard lectures in the past on how these rules can be used as 
guidelines for the minimum requirements related to factory  workers.  While 
it may seem strange to equate factory work with slavery, it is a fact tha 
many laborers have less rights and economic support than what is supposed to 
be given to a Jewish slave.

This includes the amount of work they are allowed to do daily, the 
conditions, the miminum living requirements they are supposed to get etc. 
This could assist in estimating salaries, as we would have some way to 
measure what is minimally decent and fair.

For example, in halacha a person who has 200 zuz is considered to have 
sufficient funds to survive a year.  He is therefore forbidden from enjoying 
Leket, Shichecha and Pe'ah. (*there are of course many other halachot and 
details connected to this determination)

In countries where life expenses are cheap, salaries can also be much 
cheaper, in comparison with other countries where the cost of living is much 

While the dollar is the same everywhere, it's buying power changes from 
place to place.  For example, while $2,000 a month is a very low wage in the 
States, in Israel, such a wage would be considered average, based on the 
buying power of $2,000 in Israel vs. the States.  In China, where the 
economic powers are totally different, the value of a salary could now be 
estimated by it's buying power, and by comparing to the laws of slavery, we 
would have a measure of whether or  not this wage is minimally fair.

Are there any economists who want to do the research?

Shoshana L. Boublil

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Message: 11
From: "Shoshana L. Boublil" <toramada@bezeqint.net>
Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2007 09:23:03 +0200
Re: [Avodah] ona'ah and on-line discounters

> Date: Wed, 14 Feb 2007 20:20:15 -0500 (EST)
> From: Harry Weiss <hjweiss@panix.com>
> Subject: Re: [Avodah] ona'ah and on-line discounters
> Message-ID: <Pine.NEB.4.64.0702142011040.19200@panix1.panix.com>

It is always useful and educational to discover how an industry works from 
the inside, before using lables such as "ono'ah".

>> From: "Michael Kopinsky" <mkopinsky@gmail.com>
>>> Books, and many other commodities, now have a "label" price and a 
>>> "street"
>>> price which are different, due to the common presence of discounters.

> Would Onaah even be an issue here.  The list price is the real price.  If
> you call Artscroll or Felheim you will ususally pay list.  There are many
> other retailers that do charge that list.

When a book is first published, a "List Price" is determined.  All 
transactions concerning this book will be based on this price.

Publishers will sell the book to distributors based on this price.  For 
example, a distributor will receive an automatic 33% discount from the 
publisher.  There is a book vendor here in Israel that demands a 50% 
discount from list price when undertaking to distribute privately published 

The difference between the list price and the price paid by the distributor 
is the basis of their profit.

Publishers and distributors will, most of the time, come to an agreement 
whereby the publisher cannot sell the book at a discount of more than 10% 
(or some similar figure)  so that the distributor can still decide to give a 
discount (for whatever reason) and won't find himself facing the situation 
of a client saying that it's cheaper to buy from the publisher (which would 
put all distributors out of business).

That is why you can find different prices from different sources.  Each 
distributor makes up his own mind as to the profit margin he seeks (number 
of books sold vs. price per book), and sets his street price.

On line discounters have an additional advantage -- they usually don't have 
storage fees.  They only order the books from the publisher or distributor 
when they have an order in hand.  That is why some on line stores will note 
that while some books will arrive shortly (2-3 days) others may take 4-6 
weeks to arrive.

Shoshana L. Boublil


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