Avodah Mailing List

Volume 04 : Number 050

Wednesday, October 20 1999

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 00:26:27 -0400 (EDT)
From: Claude Schochet <claude@math.wayne.edu>

At the risk of starting a new thread, I though I would offer
a thought re Chabad's current and future prospects. This 
comes to me via a Chabad insider. He told me that the mashichists
among Chabad believe that the work is "done" and hence
they are NOT producing shluchim. Hence new young shluchim
are coming almost exclusively from the non-mashichist  side. Thus
long-term the mashichist side should die out (I suppose
one must exclude a few centers such as Crown Heights 
and Kfar Chabad in such a statement). 

 This development 
bodes well for those of us (including most/all  on this list)
who wish traditional (non-mashichist) Chabad success.   


Claude Schochet				claude@math.wayne.edu	
Mathematics Department			313-577-3177	office phone		
Wayne State University		    	313-577-7596	department fax
Detroit, MI 48202

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 12:10:06 +0200 (IST)
From: Eli Turkel <turkel@cfd.math.tau.ac.il>
daat Torah

> However, the late great Jacob Katz burned Kaplan by pointing out that
> the issue is not when the term was first used, but when daas Torah was
> first put into practice.  On this issue he finds an example dating to
> 1865, in the fight led by R. Hillel Lichtenstein against the neologues
> in Hungary.   This topic is of course addressed in his book, Ha'kera
> she-Lo Nit'aheh.  Katz's article on da'as Torah, however, appears in a
> volume entitled Bein Samkhut le-Autonmiyah, ed. by Z. Safrai and A.
> Sagi.  Among other things, the book contains a piece by listmember
> Jeffrey Woolf and was cited here not long ago by R. D. Eidensohn.
> Interestingly, in his article Katz briefly doffs his historian's hat and
> expresses his personal views on da'as Torah as manifested in the Israeli
> political scene.

I thought that one of Kaplan's (and others) arguments was that Daat Torah
was a recent invention. Going back to 1865 is still recent in Jewish terms
and doesn't really change the argument.

Eli Turkel

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 09:55:07 -0400
From: David Glasner <DGLASNER@FTC.GOV>
Re: Avraham and dor hapalagah

Can someone explain to me what is supposed to have taken place 
when the dispersion occurred?  Was the entire population of the
earth at that time dwelling in the Babylonian plain and speaking a 
universal language (Hebrew, Aramaic?)?  If Avraham was 48 years
old at the time of the dispersion, are we to assume that the
Egyptian and Canaanite civilizations were created in the space of 
less than 30 years?  Are we to suppose that Egyptian civilization is 
less than 4000 years old?

David Glasner

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 09:59:53 -0400
From: meir_shinnar@smtplink.mssm.edu
multiple poskim for a family

In his opposition to yoatzot Rav Bechhofer has mentioned the problems arising
from the same family having multiple poskim.  While I don't think that it is a
real issue for the yoatzot, I think that the issue of multiple poskim for a
family is interesting.  It does arise frequently (with impact on shalom bayit)
in a different context - children, even those dependent on their parents, when
they go away, can adopt poskim at their school who have positions opposed to
their parent's posek.  (The most controversial issue is frequently the issue of
the permissibility of secular education)

Question (with sources, if possible)  What freedom, and at what stage of life,
does a child have to adopt a different posek (with very different shita) than
the father?  Is there a difference when they live at home, are living away but
financially dependent, and are full adults, or is there always some notion of
minhag avot that affects the permissible range of shitot (not assuming issues
that are accepted as straightforward minhag, such as Ashkenaz and Sefarad)?

Meir Shinnar

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 10:51:29 -0400
From: David Glasner <DGLASNER@FTC.GOV>
Dor Revi'i on the difference between Avraham and Noah

Commenting on the famous Rashi at the beginning of parashat Noah
(d"h tzaddik tamim haya b'dorotav), the Dor Revi'i notes that the two
opinions are not exactly aligned.  The pro-Noah opinion imagines
how great Noah might have been in a generation of tzaddikim, but
the anti-Noah opinion compares Noah in his generation to Noah not
in a generation of tzaddikim, but the generation of Avraham.

The Dor Revi'i explains that both opinions of Noah
derive from his failure to influence his generation to repent
from their evil ways.  The DR attributes this failure to Noah's lack
of faith (mi-katnei amunah haya), because his faith was simply the
legacy he had received from his ancestors (the righteous ones of 
each generation).  But Noah himself did not comprehend G-d
through his own intellect.  He was therefore not self-confident
enough to engage in a dialogue with his contemporaries about
matters of faith lest his own faith be compromised and he fall under
their evil influence.  But Avraham, who recognized his Maker when
he was three, and knew with certainly that G-d was the Judge of
the whole world was unafraid of being led astray and went out
proudly to wage a Divine struggle wherever he went.

Thus, the favorable opinion of Noah says that in a generation of 
righteous people, Noah would have been even greater because
in such a generation he, too, would have been willing to wage a
Divine struggle against the wicked (i.e., against wickedness by 
influencing the wicked to repent) because he could rely on the 
support of the righteous if he ever were to begin to succumb to 
the influence of the wicked.  The derogatory opinion agrees that 
Noah would have been even greater in a generation of righteous
people, but still Noah could not be compared to Avraham who
singlehandedly brought about the repentance of countless souls
without fear of being subjected to their negative influence.

The DR further comments on the Rashi (d'h et ha-Elokim hithalekh
Noah) that notes that Avraham said "asher hithalakhti l'phanav"
which suggests that Noah required the support of G-d while 
Avraham strengthened himself and walked ahead of G-d in his
righteousness.  This may be related to the Midrash which says that 
G-d distanced Himself from the earth during the generations from 
Adam to Avraham because of the wickedness of mankind until He
reached the edge of the seventh heaven, whereas in the time from  
Avraham to Moshe G-d drew closer to mankind 
until He came down to dwell among mankind when He gave the 
Torah at Sinai.

Thus, the interpretation of "et ha-Elokim hithalekh Noah" is that 
just as G-d distanced Himself from mankind, so too did Noah 
withdraw from contact with his contemporaries and dwelled alone.
But Avraham could say proudly to say "asher hithalakhti l'phanav" 
i.e., I walked before
G-d to dwell among mankind who were rebelling against Him in 
order to rebuke them and lead them toward belief in G-d until the
Shehinah followed me to dwell in the world.  (v'dok ki hu yakar

David Glasner

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 11:13:39 -0400 (EDT)
From: micha@aishdas.org (Micha Berger)
Re: Dor Revi'i on the difference between Avraham and Noah

David Glasner <DGLASNER@FTC.GOV> talks about the comparison of the two
opinions in Rashi, calling one "the pro-Noah opinion" and the other

A friend pointed out to me over Shabbos that Rashi isn't commenting about
Noach, but about p'shat in the pasuk. One sees the pasuk as praising Noach,
the other as criticizing him. That doesn't mean they actually argued in how
they assessed Noach himself.

Saying that Noach was only called great because of the generation he was in
comparison to has an implied praise of the man. After all, how many people
can reach even "just okay" while living in a degenerate peer group?

OTOH, if the verse is written in praise of Noach, we have even more to ask
the "Dor Revii"'s criticism -- why didn't Noach do more to save them?


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 20-Oct-99: Revi'i, Lech-Lecha
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H 
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 56a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Melachim-I 22

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 17:06:07 +0200 (IST)
From: Eli Turkel <turkel@cfd.math.tau.ac.il>

subject: baseless hatred

Perhaps, indeed, the entire RW does detest the MO. In which
case, it is completely understandable that you hold that the MO should
ignore the RW.

I didn't see any smileys and hope that RYGB was not being serious.
While one can disagree with  other groups that is no excuse for
insults or rifts. The fact that others don't act properly is irrelevant.
It is a legitimate discussion when ideals should/shouldn't be compromized
for the sake of unity. But the level of discussion should remain high
without personal attacks.

As an opponent of daat Torah, I view one of my benefits that I can
discuss with some opinion without denigrating the gadol who espouses
that opinion. The fact that it is not mutual is something i have to
live with. As the gemara states, better to be the insulted one rather
than the insulting one.

Kol Tuv,
Eli Turkel

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 11:18:15 -0400
From: "David Eisenman" <eisenman@umich.edu>

"As to R. Lichtenstien's reported objection, I'm not sure I understand
his reasons.  What possible problem could there be in a limiting ones
area of expertise? It's done all the time as was pointed out by a poster
there are para-leagals, para-medics and the like.  Why not a

Regarding HM's comments.  I did not hear R. Lichtenstein's comments and
cannot presume to know his reasoning, but I would note that there is a
difference between training someone to be an independent halachic
specialist (to which R. Aharon may have been referring), and training a
"para-posek" on the analogy of paralegals, paramedics etc.  The latter
are not independently functioning specialists in the sense that the
problems with which they deal are ultimately referred to a more highly
(or differently) trained professional who will be responsible for
rendering the final treatment/decision or whatever.  Anybody treated by
a paramedic then gets seen by a doctor.  Paralegals (to the best of my
understanding) don't have independent practices, rather they work in a
lawyer's office.  The analogous paraposek, then, would not be a yoetzet,
but rather someone who would field questions, digest them and do some of
the research to answering them, and then send a memo to the Rav who
would anwer the question based on a combination of the paraposek's work
and his own knowledge and assesment of the situation.  This is not what
the yoetzet model has been set up to do.  
I personally 10 years ago or so asked R. Lichtenstein a question to
which he responded that it is not a topic in which he has particular
expertise, and I might be better off asking Rabbi X (he gave me the name
of a person to ask).  There is a vast difference, however, between
someone who has comprehensive knowledge of Shas and poskim saying this,
and the concept of training someone specifically to master only one area
of halachah.
I recognize that I have not answered HM's question, but I think this is
an important distinction to recognize when embarking on a quest to
define why halacha might be different that other fields in which
specialization has occured. It may be interesting to note that even in
medicine and law, students receive general training before going on to
specialize in any area.  I am an Otologist (ear specialist), and for
many years there have been voices in the Otolaryngology community
calling for specialized training of Otologists separate from
Otolaryngology training programs.  These voices, though coming from
prominent members of the field, have been lonely ones, and have been all
but silenced by the overwhelming opposition.  No one has called for
training of Otologists before they even complete a general graduate
medical education.

David Eisenman

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 11:35:15 -0400
From: David Glasner <DGLASNER@FTC.GOV>
Re: Destruction of Hungarian Jewry

Eli Clark wrote:

Somehow the person who started this thread thought the yated column
would change the minds of those who "blame" the Gedolim for the
destruction of Hungarian Jewry.  I consider anyone who thinks that way
about the Gedolim to be sick.  Yes, it is tragic that the gedolim did
not foresee what was to come, but no one did and no one could be
expected to.  To me, all this proves is that they were not nevi'im,
which I do not consider a great revelation (though some may be upset by
that conclusion).

A couple of comments.  

First, I think what some people object to about the conduct of 
various Gedolim in discouraging emigration from Hungary (or
other parts of Europe) before the Holocaust is not that the advice
was given.  One can argue whether that was good advice, but 
they cannot be condemned simply because they did not properly
anticipate the future.  However, the fact is that the Belzer Rebbe
told his Hasidim not to leave Hungary (presumably the fact that he
was asked suggests that those asking did feel that escape was an
option) because it was inconceivable that a place occupied by 
so many Tzaddikim would not be protected by the Ribbono Shel
Olam.  It seems to me that someone who gives advice such as 
that does bear a certain responsibility.  But what is even more
blameworthy than the advice is the attempt to deny that the 
advice was ever given.  And that is why people today are properly 

Second.  It is not quite correct to say "it is tragic that the gedolim did
not foresee what was to come, but no one did and no one could be
expected to."  Actually at least one gadol, the Dor Revi'i (whose 75th
yahrzeit was on Shemini Atzeret) did foresee what was to come.

In 1922, one year after the kehilla of Klausenburg was split by a
small seccessionist faction (mostly Hasidei Sighet) that could no
longer tolerate life under a Zionist Chief Rabbi, the Dor Revi'i 
decided that he had enough and departed for Palestine, leaving
the rabonus to his son R. Akiva.  Before leaving forever, the 
Dor Revi'i spoke to a crowd of several thousand who came to see
him off at the Klausenburg train station.  He told them something
like the following.  "My friends, I beg of you, follow me to Eretz
Yisrael while you can still leave , because I very much fear that a time
will come when you will want to leave, but you will not be able to."

My mother who lived in Klausenburg briefly after marrying my father
has told me many times how after they were consigned to the
ghetto and later in the camps the Jews of Klausenburg kept crying
over and over, "if only we had listened to the Rov, if only we had
listened to the Rov."

I should also mention that members of my family in Israel have told
me that they have been approached by many strangers who, after 
hearing the surname Glasner, wanted to tell them that they owed their
lives to the Dor Revi'i because his farewell speech caused their parents 
or grandparents to emigrate to Palestine.

David Glasner

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 10:42:14 -0500
From: "Yosef Gavriel and Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>

----- Original Message -----
From: Eli Turkel <turkel@cfd.math.tau.ac.il>
To: <avodah@aishdas.org>
Sent: Wednesday, October 20, 1999 10:06 AM

> subject: baseless hatred

> As an opponent of daat Torah, I view one of my benefits that I can
> discuss with some opinion without denigrating the gadol who espouses
> that opinion. The fact that it is not mutual is something i have to
> live with. As the gemara states, better to be the insulted one rather
> than the insulting one.

I do not fully understand your inent in your post, but I would be happy to
have you elaborate.

But, here is an example, in the paragraph cited above, of a bias that is
difficult to overcome.

"As an opponent of Da'as Torah" (forgive the Ashkenazification).

A newcomer to Othodoxy, seeing that phrase, would be shocked - how could
someone be against "The Wisdom of the Torah" and at the same time consider
himself an Orthodox Jew?

Obviously, you would need to explain to that person what you mean by Da'as
Torah. You really need to explain it to me as well, since I believe every
person defines it differently.

Someone else might write "As an opponent of Lubavitch" or "As an opponent of
Modern Orthodoxy". Those phrases take less explanation, and may seem less
shocking to our newly Orthodox friend, but are, in reality, no less
difficult. There are multiple nuances in these arbitrary sociological

These statements promote stereotypes, and negative ones. I confess that I am
occasionally ( :-) ) guilty of them myself. But that makes them no less
onerous. But, the use of a concept to identify a sociological grouping is, I
believe, worse:

1. It renders objective discussion of the concept in and of itself
extraordinarily difficult.

2. It associates a sociological grouping with a concept, thus robbing others
of the capacity to subscribe to the concept without fully joining the group.

3. It marks the concept with a pejorative quality (much the way -
legitimately - Lubavitchers complain that since they have adopted the
Moshiach Campaign - it has become less acceptable for other circles to
discuss Moshiach) to the extent that one finds the group associated with the
concept distasteful.

4. Worst of all, it brands the group associated with the disdained concept
with the negative quality the user imparts to the concept. As this concept
of DT is a very difficult one to define - again, remember our imagined newly
Orthodox friend struggling with Orthodox opposition to DT - the probelm here
is acute.

Me'inyan l'inyan b'osos inyan: In the recent Yo'atzot debate, there were
several times in which I experienced an out of body sensation :-). I was
attacked (usually respectfully) for positions I did not espouse, such as,
allegedly, being against women studying Torah, being unqualifiedly opposed
to the Yo'atzot, questioning the motivations of the owmen involved. Perhaps
I have split personalities, but I do not recall taking any of these
positions. I think, being associated with the, in honor of this post let us
call it: "Da'as Torah Viewpoint" (hope that sounds strange!), some posters
had me viewed as a persona, not a person, a strawman, if you will, to be
attacked for all the real and perceived disagreeabilities of the "DTV"

I was less disturbed by the attacks than by the import of the attacks, as
they indicate that it is hard to overcome the shouting to hear what is being
said :-).

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Cong. Bais Tefila, 3555 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL 60659
http://www.aishdas.org/baistefila    ygb@aishdas.org

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 12:22:20 -0400
From: richard_wolpoe@ibi.com
Yoatzot and Tzinus

There has been concern expressed about Yoatzot becoming "quasi-rabbis" etc.

The bottom line for me; and certainly one that is consonant with RW more's re: 
tznius, is that the more independent and self-contained women are wrt to 
specifically feminine issues, the better.

Traditionally midwives delivered babies.  And the modern trend of having female 
gynecologists (or should that be GIRLnecolists <smile>) should be embraced by 
the RW as giving women an alternative to disrobing for the sake of a medical 

IOW, the more capable women become in handling their own intimate, feminine 
issues w/o needing to escalate to a male poseik or physician, etc. the greater 
the degree of tznius.

The time for men to be alarmed about women becoming rabbis might be reserved 
if/when they start confirming women to "advise" on issues of Shabbos, etc.  
However, when women are helping other women to avoid issues of busha, it would 
seem poshut that not only the MO is well-served, but the RW is served by a 
higher level of tznius.

Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 11:26:42 -0500
From: david.nadoff@bfkpn.com
Gematria and Grammar

Following up on this thread, I've spent some time trying to discern the
possible grammatical bases for d'rashos that seem to be based on g'matria,
in line with Russell Hendel's theory on this subject. I haven't had much luck,
but that proves nothing given my meager knowledge of Hebrew grammar and
limited ingenuity.

In this week's parsha Rashi brings the d'rasha from N'darim 32a that the 318
"chanichim" who fought the four kings with Avram were in fact just Eliezer,
whose name equals 318. I was wondering if Russell has worked out (or
perhaps already offered on his Rashi list) an alternative grammatical basis for
d'rasha that he could share with us, along with his thoughts on why chazal would
cloak a straightforward grammatical inference in g'matria form (and elevate
to the level of a mida shehaTora nidreshes ba).

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 12:29:51 -0400
From: richard_wolpoe@ibi.com
Identifying Patterns

RJ Hendel and RYGB have a dispute wrt to Grammatical Rules.

This seems to me to be predicated on the following:

RYGB claims one must have "proof".

RJH claims he can deonstrate the pattern what further proof is needed?

I would say that in the areas of drush and machshovo, identifying patterns and 
interpreting them is valid by cemonstartion alone and that Proof is not a 

(BTW - even rules of grammare were not codified ujntil the era of Mnachme be 
Srok (sp?) ibn G'nach and Donas ibn Labrat; they identifed patterns and pointed 
out exceptions - and did not always agree with each other either.)

RYGB's concerns seem valid OTOH in the realm of Halocho.  If halocho were 
impacted by setting up a "rule" one maythen question that rule, and demand 
further proof or a source.  

I would think demandning that level of "proof" or demanding a source in Chazal 
when one ineitfies a pattern seems unduly rigid in the area of parshonus.

Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Mon, 27 Aug 1956 20:55:12 +0000
From: David Riceman <driceman@WORLDNET.ATT.NET>

As usual, I'm well behind on Avoda (August 31).  Nonetheless, my mind is
boggling at one thread, and I'd like to comment on it.

  As I understand it R. Bechhofer's position is that one may censor
certain information even if it gives a misleading impression, and the
position R. Eidensohn is defending (I don't know if it's his) is that
one may intentionally lie.
  Both of these certainly have reputable antecedents.  For R.
Bechhofer's see the common Talmudic expression "halacha v'ain morin
kain".  For R. Eidensohn's see R. Schwab's astounding article in which
he asserts that Chazal deliberately lied about the chronology of the
Second Commonwealth.
  What puzzles me is how one is to fulfill the mitzvah of Talmud Torah
under these conditions.  R. Bechhofer has previously, for example,
adumbrated a principle that one may interpret Scripture allegorically
only if there is precedent in Chazal (I believe he even postulated a
Chazal we don't have to reconcile his opinion with a Ramban, but I may
be conflating two distinct discussions).  How is one to know that Chazal
may not have had a censored, orally transmitted, tradition that a
certain passage is to be understood allegorically, and that time has now
lifted the need for censorship?
  I hasten to add that time changing the need for censorship is itself a
well known principle.  For example, the mekubbalim say that even scum
like me (no, they don't mention me by name) should study what in ancient
times were secrets revealed only to extremely pious people.
  R. Eidensohn's position is even more troubling.  How is one to engage
in massa umatan shel halacha when confronted with the possibility that a
legal precedent is in fact a fiction?

David Riceman

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 20:50:54 +0100
From: Chana/Heather Luntz <Chana/Heather@luntz.demon.co.uk>
Mikvah ladies

In message , Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org> writes
>Which have yet to be shown to require yoatzot to fill the role. I've repeatedly
>pointed out that my wife, as mikvah lady, was trained and expected to serve as
>liaison between shy women and the Rabbi. Why would a woman who isn't going to
>a mikvah lady go to a yoetzes? I saw one person tangentially touch on a reply,
>but the overwhelming majority, like you, assume the point.  I expressed to a
>number of chaveirim my frustration at feeling ignored, speaking of mutually
>ignoring issues raised by the other side.

My apologies, I really didn't think you were seriously proposing this as
an alternative.

To explain why I don't think a mikvah lady is appropriate, you need
first to look at the process of TM, which begins from the onset of nida
(or when it is expected) and culminates in mikvah.  That is, mikvah is
way at the end of the process, and most shialas that have been discussed
so far, and which people assume that the yoetzes will handle are shialas
that related to earlier stages of the process.  Now there are serious
tevilla shialas that come up - but a lot of people are already using
mikva ladies for these, but it does not seem intuitively logical to
involve mikvah ladies earlier in the process - it is such a completely
different area, with different shialas and issues.

Secondly, even if one wanted to try and use mikvah ladies, the way the
mikvah is set up to operated discourages this.  This is because, the
mikvahs I have attended (and from what I understand, mikvahs all over
the world) operate a deliberate anonimity policy.  That is, they do
everything in their power not to find out your name or know who you are
(eg, even when you make a Friday night appointment, the only night for
which, in my mikvah, you have to make appointments instead of just
showing up, they will not take down your name, even though it may mean
they lose financially, by people not paying.)  This I understand is
deliberate policy.  Just as going to mikvah is done after dark because
it is supposed to be kept private, so the atmosphere created in the
mikvah is one of anonimity.  In fact, the one time I went and there was
somebody I knew from the outside world sitting at the front desk I felt
extremely uncomfortable, as if one of the rules had been broken, and to
be honest I am hoping I don't fall on her night again (and she was just
doing desk, not actually the mikvah lady).  Eye contact in the waiting
room tends to be kept to a minimum, and it is all very functional.  The
mikvah ladies are universally very nice, but again, there is a
deliberate air of anonimity preserved - so while you can ask them
something that is directly relevant to the current situation - eg to
check your back, it feels highly inappropriate to discuss other matters.
that might identify you in any way other than the body which you have in
front of them.  Besides which, you don't ever see the actual mikvah lady
until you have rung the bell and she has opened the door - by which time
you are supposed to be fully prepared, naked, and  ready for tevilla.
The woman at the front door is there to collect money, I doubt she is a
mikvah lady in another life.  So I can't work out, if you wanted to,
just who you would ask and in what context for anything other than a
tevilla question.

Yes there are two telephone numbers.  The first (operational all day) is
to make Friday night appointments.  The woman who answers it is most
reluctant to answer any question besides making a Friday night
appointment (I know this, because when I tried to ask her where I could
get bedika cloths to take with me to Israel for the week before my
wedding she was *most* unhelpful and unfriendly, I nearly phoned her up
afterwards and told her that it was a good thing I was reasonably
committed, because that sort of reaction to a kalla who was so-so about
keeping taharas hamishpacha would have meant she threw it all in as too
difficult).  Anyhow, she did give me the number of the mikvah. But of
course at that time they were only open from 9pm, and they told me I
would have to come in and collect, and at that time I was not living so
close (30 minutes walk, no car, no husband to drive me), so it was a
major operation.  But even now that we live around the corner, I just
can't imagine, the way the mikva is structured, who exactly you would
ask and how (and the one I went to in Israel was the same set-up).

So I think that you (or your wife, but probably you) are confusing two
completely different areas of taharas hamishpacha shialas, those pre,
and those mikva related.  But it is not a confusion that I think any
woman would make. So I agree, if you are standing there naked and you
don't know whether or not you need to do something about eg a nail
(let's say it is still attached, but not completely), obviously the
mikvah lady is the one to ask, and if it is a complicated shiala then
she will probably be the go between between you and the Rav (as the
telephones are outside where everybody else is, so you would have to get
dressed again to go and use them).  And obviously she needs to be
sensitive to this, because if you are too embarressed to say to her,
what about this nail?, you may do a non kosher tevilla.  But I can't
imagine waiting in the queue to use the rooms off the mikvah, and the
pulling the bell, in order to tell her that actually you have this
bedika shiala, and maybe you can't do tevilla at all (and in at least
some questions, the alternative is do you have to wait seven or more
days until you can do tevilla, or do you not need to worry at all.
Somehow I suspect that her response in such cases would be, in the
nicest possible way, that why are you taking up a room that is needed by
somebody else in the queue when you have no need for the mikvah

The other thing that I confess worries me about your discription about
what your wife did, is the limited amount of time of training.  *Four
evenings* is not a lot.  Lets forget about the complexity of taharas
hamishpacha here - take the other thing you mentioned - training them to
watch out for signs of abuse.  Now I guarantee you that my mother
(Social Worker - 4 years in a full time social work programme for her
basic social work degree, 2 years masters) would be horrified at the
idea that you can teach to watch out for signs of abuse and learn to
deal with it even in four full sessions completely devoted to the topic
(ie assume your wife and her classmates learnt absolutely nothing else).
Yes you can make people aware that there is a lot of abuse going on (you
can cite some statistics at them, and so sensitise them).  That's about
the limit in that length of a course.  It is difficult to see how you
can do it properly.

Four evenings is not something that in the secular world would be
regarded as approaching serious study of anything. (To illustrate, some
colleagues of mine are doing an 8 week course at the moment allowing
them to be a solicitor in England and Wales, having already qualified as
as solicitor in Australia.  And the course is widely regarded as a joke
- ie a means of the Law Society here regulating who comes in, by making
them sit two pathetically easy exams.  So, like I did before them, they
are jumping the hoops, in the full knowledge that you cannot be said to
have learnt anything serious in a course that short).

So either you have to conclude that yiddishkeit, by contrast to the
secular world, is extremely basic and simple, if all a mikvah lady needs
to know to cover all of taharas mishpacha is four evening courses, or
that these courses, in and of themselves, are inadequate preparation.

After all, a good mikvah lady may not only be required to pass on to the
Rav the question about the nail, she may have to spot it in the first
place - and simultaneously know how to look for such matters without
completely freaking out her clientelle.  And I have been suprised by the
variety.  The mikvah lady in Israel did check my hands and feet, one of
the one's here goes through a checklist asking if you checked. Some ask
me to lift my hair to see my back and some don't etc etc.

So there is plenty enough to learn without even touching complicated
issues such as abuse or earlier stages of taharas hamishpacha.  And it
does worry me if a four week course is being substituted for an
apprenticeship with an experienced mikvah lady (who will have seen
hundreds if not thousands of tevillas).  I would have hoped that any new
mikvah lady would go on duty with an experienced one (ideally even for a
couple of years, but an absolute minimum of six months) watching what
she did and how she handled the women - and then doing it herself under
the watchful eye of the more experienced.  Not having four evenings of
classes and then be thrown in the deep end.  If that is what is going
on, I am a lot more concerned about the reliability of what is happening
than I was.

>- -mi
>- -- 
>Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 19-Oct-99: Shelishi, Lech-Lecha
>micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H 
>http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 55b
>For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         

Kind Regards


Chana/Heather Luntz

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