Avodah Mailing List

Volume 25: Number 311

Tue, 02 Sep 2008

< Previous Next >
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: "Richard Wolpoe" <rabbirichwolpoe@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, 31 Aug 2008 00:44:29 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Bracha on Megillah

Micha:  Maybe you cancombine my posts

On Thu, Aug 14, 2008 at 8:44 PM, Henry Topas <htopas@canpro.ca> wrote:

>  Can someone remind me why we only make a bracha on Megilat Esther?
> Cantor Henry Topas

Megilas Esther [and its bracha] are in the Bavli
Other Megillos rely upon the authority of Maseches Soferim

Kol Tuv / Best Regards,
see: http://nishmablog.blogspot.com/
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avod

Go to top.

Message: 2
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Date: Sun, 31 Aug 2008 10:22:33 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Birkas haChama

Micha Berger wrote:

> I don't know what calendar was in use in EY when the beraisa was written

They were under Roman rule, so the civil calendar in use by the goyishe
population of EY would have been the Julian.

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

Go to top.

Message: 3
From: "Michael Makovi" <mikewinddale@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, 31 Aug 2008 15:11:05 +0300
[Avodah] Giur and kabbalat mitzvot

Regarding the earlier debate about whether conversion requires
kabbalah of the mitzvot:


(Note: this is the website of Rabbi Marc D. Angel's organization.
Therefore, the conversion articles will be following his and Rabbi
Uziel's shita. By the way, the website has many other interesting
articles on other topics as well.)

Here, the views of three prominent rabbis are brought, that kabbalah
of mitzvot does not mean a declaration of intent to keep the mitzvot,
but rather, a declaration of acceptance that Jewish law requires
observance, and that the ger will be subject to the Jewish community's
punishments for non-compliance. In other words, it is acceptance of
the legal existence of Jewish law, acceptance of the fact that Jewish
law requires observance by Jews (including converts), and acceptance
of culpability for its nonobservance and subjection to punishment.

[Question: must he accept Heavenly punishment, or is accept beit din's
punishment sufficient?]
[My own speculation: Perhaps we could even say, based on this, that
kabbalat mitzvot would be satisfied if the ger accepts he is liable to
the same degree as all Jews - Jews are liable to degree X, and he
accepts that he too will be liable to that same degree X. Even if he
does not follow the Torah/Orthodox/observant opinion on what X
actually is, the fact that he equates himself with all born Jews as
far as his own liability goes, perhaps this is valid kabbalah. If so,
this would simply be another way of saying, that he accepts he is a
fully-fledged Jew, whatever that means. Alternatively, even if he
rejects Heavenly punishment, perhaps if he acknowledges that he'll be
subject to the beit din's punishment, then this is valid kabbalat

To quote a short portion:
"In fact, the meaning of this phrase [kabbalat mitzvot] in the context
of Giyyur was not agreed upon during the 1000 years before rabbi Caro
employed it, and was not agreed upon afterwards. As did many rabbis
before them, leading Sephardic rabbis in the 20th century held other
interpretations of this phrase. In the following text, the views of
three such great Sephardic rabbis are discussed. In their view,
Qabbalat Mitzvot means an acknowledgement by the Ger, that after they
become a Jew they will be liable before G-d (as are all Jews) for
their actions: if they sin, they may incur Divine punishment, while
performance of mitzvot will earn merit and reward. According to this
view, a valid halakhic giyyur is fully possible for persons who do not
intend to subsequently follow a religious lifestyle."


Especially footnote 23, and the basic text to which it applies.

Text: ...Furthermore, at no point between the Talmudic period and the
19th century did any rabbi rule that an individual proselyte's
inappropriate motivation, inner disposition or beliefs during the
process of giyyur itself ? would invalidate the efficacy of the

Footnote 23: For the sake of clarity: this is true not only with
regard to those rabbis who held that a valid giyyur is possible
without kabbalat mitzvot, but also with regard to those rabbis who
held that kabbalat mitzvot is a sine qua non for a valid giyyur. This
is so because, however those rabbis understood that phrase, they never
identified it as an internal disposition but as an event that is
empirically verifiable at the moment it occurs.Some understandings of
that event were: the proselyte's reception of information about the
commandments, as conveyed to him by the court; the proselyte's
willingness to become a Jew; the proselyte's commitment to proceed
with the giyyur ritual (= circumcision and immersion) after hearing
about the commandments; the proselyte's declaration of commitment to
observe the commandments. See: Transforming Identity, chapters 9, 10,
11, 12.

Also, this article, from Rambam Hilchot Issurei Biah chapter 13, shows
that even if kabbalat mitzvot is required, this is only l'hatchila.
Rambam says that King Shlomo had his (ostensibly pagan gentile) wives
convert, and even though it was known AT THE TIME OF THE GIUR that
they were still idolatrous, the giur was kosher. Bedieved, the giur is
kosher regardless of the ger's intent at the time of the conversion.
And as Rabbi Berkovits notes (in Crisis and Faith, in his essay on
conversion, also found in Essential Essays), in times of great need,
what was bedieved, becomes l'hatchila. (Rabbi Berkovits uses this to
support converting non-Orthodox Jews, under Orthodox auspices, for the
sake of the unity of Am Yisrael. Rabbi Uziel uses this to support
converting gentile spouses of intermarried Jews, and converting their
children too.)

Mikha'el Makovi

P. S.

Further articles on this topic:

Some of the other interesting articles I found:

On superstition in Orthodox Judaism:

On agunot:

Go to top.

Message: 4
From: Yitzchok Levine <Larry.Levine@stevens.edu>
Date: Sun, 31 Aug 2008 09:05:09 -0400
[Avodah] Torah Only - Hora'as Sha'a

 From page 209 of Rav Breuer - His Life and Legacy

A perusal of his writings makes it abundantly clear that R. Hirsch 
held that Torah im Derech Eretz was never intended as a temporary 
measure introduced because of a specific problem during a specific 
historical period and in a specific geographic area. On the contrary, 
R. Hirsch held that Torah im Derech Eretz was not only a valid Torah 
hashkafah; it was the lifestyle of choice. Thus, in his Commentary to 
the Torah [16] he writes:

Only in using the mind and the freedom of will which God has given us 
in the earthly sphere to which he has appointed us, in the most 
complete faithfulness to God, with deliberation and the clearest 
human insight, do we ourselves attain the height of human perfection 
and our earthly management of life gains the holiness that makes us 
worthy of the nearness to God.

If anything, in R. Hirsch's view, the choice of following a 
Torah-only agenda, as per the decision of the Eastern European 
rabbanim, was a hora'as sha'a, for it was an unnatural scheme called 
for because of the impossibility of life in the ghetto. Although 
justified by harsh reality, it could not be seen as the optimal way 
for the Jew to live, for it denied him the opportunity to use his 
life to serve as a kiddush Hashem.

Rav Breuer also decried the decision of his contemporaries to deny 
the validity of Torah im Derech Eretz as the path of choice for the 
Jew in the modern era.

16. See Bereishis 9:27.

For more please see 
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avod

Go to top.

Message: 5
From: "Shoshana L. Boublil" <toramada@bezeqint.net>
Date: Sun, 31 Aug 2008 16:19:07 +0300
Re: [Avodah] Women Davening with a Minyan

> From: "Prof. Levine" <llevine@stevens.edu>
> Subject: [Avodah] Women Davening with a Minyan

> According to Maimonides in his
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mishneh_Torah>Mishneh Torah (Hilkhot
> Tefillah 8.1):
> The prayer of the community is always heard; and even if there were
> sinners among them, the Holy One, blessed be He, never rejects the
> prayer of the multitude. Hence a person must join himself with the
> community, and should not pray by himself so long as he is able to
> pray with the community. And a person should always go to the
> synagogue morning and evening, for his prayer is only heard at all
> times in the synagogue.
> Now I am sure that women want their prayers to be heard. Therefore,
> it occurred to me,  "Why aren't women who are able to go to shul
> (women without children, women whose children are no longer at home)
> encouraged to go to shul to daven regularly (daily) with a minyan?"

I don't have an answer, only more questions:

Why are women's section in shuls built smaller than the men's so that even 
if the women want to come - there isn't enough room?

Why is the focus of women's prayer davka shacharit (and in some education 
systems also mincha) - but not Ma'ariv, which for a married woman and mother 
is actually the easiest prayer to be constant about?

And I won't even go into the question of women's sections where women have 
no idea when the Aron Kodesh is opened or closed (unless they are at the 
same place as the Chazzan and their siddur states explicitly when it's open 
or closed) - b/c you can't see a thing?

And then you have the women's sections that are used for storage;  as a 
place to have a 2nd minyan for men; or are actually locked unless a woman 
manages to catch the attention of a man and have him open up the women's 
section... I could go on.

In the past, with short lifespans; dangerous neighborhoods and roads and 
other problems, I can see why some of these issues developed as they did.
But things have changed.

WTNs are just one example of women crying out that they too are part of the 
kehilla - a kehilla that appears to vote at times by their actions that they 
don't want the women in the central minyan.

As for the Gr"a's letter to his family, to base actions on it nowadays is no 
better than an excuse to ignore women as equal partners in the Jewish life 
of a community. Things are different.  Times have changed.  Even though it 
is the house that is the true center of worship, the synagogue should not be 
closed to women.

Shoshana L. Boublil

Go to top.

Message: 6
From: "Ira Tick" <itick1986@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, 31 Aug 2008 14:06:22 -0500
[Avodah] Question about the Six Constant Mitzvos

R Wolpoe wrote:

I don't believe that these people really do not accept God.  I have listened
> to well-known Atheist Ron Kuby wax positively mystical and rhpasodic in
> describing Yankee Stadium and its history and tradition.
> My karate instructor Chaim Sober claimed HIS teacher denied the denial of
> God. to paraphrase "not deny God but ANGRY at God"  So Atheists are Angry at
> God is HIS way of phrasing it.
> IMHO most contemporary Atheists don't really deny God. They deny religion,
> any religion and any religiously based dcefinition of God.  But deep down,
> I'll bet that 99% of them are more akin to the 18th Century Deists than they
> are really positive atheists.
> Anyone who listens to thei "consience" is in asense listening to God
> Yet still there whispers the small voice within, Heard through Gain's
>> silence, and o'er Glory's din; Whatever creed be taught or land be trod,
>> Man's conscience is the oracle of God.
>> Author: Lord Byron (George Gordon Noel Byron)<http://www.worldofquotes.com/autho
>> r/Lord-Byron-%28George-Gordon-Noel-Byron%29/1/index.html>
>> Source: *The Island (canto I, st. 6)*
> http://www.worldofquotes.com/topic/Conscience/index.html
> Of course Atheists might DENY that their consience is from God, but some
> people are in Denial of their obesity, aclohlism, gambling problems etc.  So
> I would venture to say that anyone  who does the "right thing" becuase they
> have an active consience are realyl Listening to the  voice of God within in
> even if their conscience is unconsious of the connexion.
> Only a psychopath could deny God and REALLY mean it.
> That said, I don't deny that denying God is undeniably heresy!  I jsut deny
> that the deniars are denying God so much as that the yare in denial of their
> "goodness" of their "Godness"
> In New Age Terms, those Atheists who are moral/ethical and listening to
> thier inner voice are in touch with thier HIGHER SELF.  This is AIUI a
> manifestation of HKBH within us, perhaps part of our soul structure, akin to
> he Super-Ego or simply the yetzer tov but it is more than JUST a yetzer tov
> it is something spiritual rather than merely an advisor..
> --
> Kol Tuv / Best Regards,
> RabbiRichWolpoe@Gmail.com
> see: http://nishmablog.blogspot.com/

I'm sorry to say that I disagree.  The Big Three:  Richard Dawkins (author
of "The Blind Watchmaker" and "The God Delusion"), Christopher Hitchens
(author or "God is not Great"), and Sam Harris (author of "The End of
Faith") most certainly do not believe in God.  They are even angered by the
suggestion of G-d, not only because they have a negative view of organized
reliigion, but because they are frustrated by what they perceive as
superstition controlling world affairs and governing the way people treat
each other.  As secular humanists, they believe powerfully in the emotional
reality of empathy and compassion, but they ascribe the physical causality
of those realities to biological sources of matter-energy, chemistry,
genetics, and natural selection.  They do not deny their own conscience, but
rather they deny that the human need for morality, meaning, and
transcendance are anything more than evolutionary leftovers.  Freud believed
that love was a manisfestation of the sex drive, but he didn't deny its
power in the mind of man.

Perhaps at certain moments the order of the cosmos, the wonder and diversity
of life, the beauty of a sunset or the depth of a tragedy will spur feelings
of transcendance in the hearts of these men, but they will easily dismiss
any theological claims of those feelings as psychological or neurological
phenomenon with little perceptive power.  Frankly, in my own relationship
with and search for G-d, I have repeatedly shifted my position on the
perceptive accuracy of such feelings, so that I no longer accept or deny
them at face value.  On the extreme of belief in total metaphysical
parallels for all our emotional constructs, one must inevitably betray some
of those constructs to fit everything together rationally.  On the other
extreme of purely emotional, subjective view of religion, one must of course
betray some of the perceptive feel of those emotional associations.  All of
this is true with or without belief in G-d, because G-d can be defined in so
many ways as to fit either view or any view in between, even if G-d is as
real as you or me.  Certainly for these men, without more empirical evidence
of G-d, they will choose to deny any perceptive accuracy of these feelings,
from the claim that G-d exists down to any definition of G-d based on
emotional experiences.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avod

Go to top.

Message: 7
From: "Moshe Y. Gluck" <mgluck@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, 31 Aug 2008 23:44:11 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Torah Only - Hora'as Sha'a

R' YL:
If anything, in R. Hirsch's view, the choice of following a Torah-only
agenda, as per the decision of the Eastern European rabbanim, was a hora'as
sha'a, for it was an unnatural scheme called for because of the
impossibility of life in the ghetto. Although justified by harsh reality, it
could not be seen as the optimal way for the Jew to live, for it denied him
the opportunity to use his life to serve as a kiddush Hashem.

opportunity to use his life to serve as a Kiddush Hashem.


Go to top.

Message: 8
From: "Ira Tick" <itick1986@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, 31 Aug 2008 23:52:06 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Proto-Semitic?

On Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 2:03 PM, Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org> wrote:

> In languages other than Hebrew. And I think that's all we're talking
> about. IOW, Adam's speech was in a predecessor to Hebrew as much as a
> predecessor to Aramaic or to proto-SinoTibetan. However, the semitic
> languages drifted less than others, anchored by Sheim and by proximity
> to Hebrew which had no supernatural drift.
> All of the above (except for one idea from RSRH) is mine. Feel free to
> argue me out of the notion, or into making the idea more robust. Please.
> Tir'u baTov!
> -Micha

Forgive me, but should we not first take all the evidence into account
before blending modern hypotheses with traditional teachings?  Any desire to
uphold a literal understanding of the Flood and the Dispersion, must answer
how it is that Hebrew as spoken in even in ancient times seems descended
from other languages and bears resemblance to languages spoken in those
parts of the world with the oldest human remains...in Africa, not the
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avod

Go to top.

Message: 9
From: "Chana Luntz" <Chana@kolsassoon.org.uk>
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2008 11:26:44 +0100
Re: [Avodah] Geirut

RAF writers:

> If the mechanism for conversions of minors is zekhut hu lo - as the
> sources indicate -, then beit din has a lot less leeway than some people 
 think. When it ain't a zekhut, the deal never happened!

Only if you understand zekhut hu lo as meaning that the Beis Din is obliged
to investigate the circumstances in which the particular katan in front of
them lives and is going to live and decide whether in his particular case,
there is a benefit.

But that is not the usual understanding of zekhut hu lo - across halacha.
If one had to carry out an investigation of the particular individual and
decide whether in their particular case, zekhut hu lo, then the principle
would have extremely limited application.  You would need a beis din every
time you wanted to apply the principle - including in terms of accepting
gifts etc.  Rather zekhut hu lo is usually understood as a chazaka.  You
(the individual and certainly beis din) can assume, without knowing the
individual at all (observant, not observant, weak, strong, intelligent,
stupid, you name it), that in certain defined circumstances (ie defined by
the halacha), zekhut hu lo, and then act on this assumption - with that act
being effective, unless the individual then comes and protests.

That is the way we generally apply such chazakas.  That is why I liked it to
the tan du situation.  If every time you wanted to apply tan du - you needed
to go and investigate the particular woman in question to find out if she
was the type of woman who would prefer to be married rather than single -
and if in fact she turned out to be the type of woman who would not
necessarily prefer to be married, that could retrospectively uproot the
chazaka, then we would all unquestionably be followers of R' Rackman.

But that is what you are suggesting here.  The gemora says that it is a
zakhut for a katan to be converted.  Ah say you, but not for every katan,
only for those katanim that beis din determines, based on investigation of
the surrounding life circumstances, are currently living in observant

Now you may be right objectively that a katan raised in a non observant
family is not likely to be observant, and that therefore a beis din might
well decide not to get involved with somebody like that - regardless of the
fact that the gemora says it is zekhut hu lo - you don't always have to do a
zekhut for somebody - especially if it may be bad for the Jewish body
politic.  But to go saying that it is not a zekhut for him when the gemora
says it is (ie that the principle of the gemora only applied automatically
to katanim in those days and not to katanim today, whose family
circumstances we need to investigate), seems to me to be exactly like saying
that the fact that the gemora states tan du only applies to women in those
days, and not to women today (whose particular circumstances we now need to
investigate to see if the presumption is appropriate).

Earlier RAF said:

>The "song and dance [up]on gadlus" is performed in order to avoid problems 
>further down the line, when it becomes unclear if there was or can still be
> a me'haah, and what to do if behavior [nonobservance] contradicts stated 
>preference [wants to have become Jewish].

The Aruch Hashulchan has 268:13 has a nice summary of the various rishonic
opinions on what is needed to effectuate a mehaah.  Nobody requires a song
and dance.  I am not saying it might not be a nice to have - but it is not
halachically required.  Nor can I think of a situation where it would cause
an issue.  If the person does one thing that can be considered a "ma'ase
yehudi" they are no longer allowed to be ma'haah - according to the most
long term opinion (the rest hold that once gadlus is achieved without a
mehaah, then you can no longer have one - which means that he safek
continues only until the point that we considered the safek to have passed
for mitzvos d'orisa for our children).  But anything we need them to be a
Jew for will constitute a ma'ase yehudi anyway.  

I gather from you that the Achiezer holds that a mehaah can happen later in
life just so long as the person does not know up until that point that they
can be mehaah - in which case one would presumably need to know that at
least they had been told they could be mehaah (but even there, we just need
to know they have been told).  Nor does that position seem normative in
light of the Aruch Hashulchan's summary.  So a song and a dance, while it
does seem a very nice chumra to have, seems to be just that, a chumra.

> KT,
> --
> Arie Folger




Avodah mailing list

End of Avodah Digest, Vol 25, Issue 311

Send Avodah mailing list submissions to

To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit
or, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to

You can reach the person managing the list at

When replying, please edit your Subject line so it is more specific
than "Re: Contents of Avodah digest..."

< Previous Next >