Avodah Mailing List
Volume 11 : Number 076
Thursday, September 25 2003
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2003 11:31:42 EDT
1. A baalatish answer for 1st night at chatzot. I believe there are
a number of opinions as to the best time to say. According to those
who say earliest time to say is chatzot, maybe it's a case of zrizim
makdim (L'havdil like midnight practices in college basketball on first
2. I am out of town and said slichot at a minyan after dawn but before
sunrise - I noted some people were wearing talit and tfillin, some just
tallit and some neither. Any sources on this? would it be different
after sunrise? Any issue of agudot?
3. Is saying or not saying machnisei rachamim an individual or tzibbur
choice? What is the actual practice in the communities represented?
Go to top.
Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2003 07:41:08 -0700 (PDT)
From: Harry Maryles <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: tehillim
Micha Berger <email@example.com> wrote:
> R Harry Maryles wrote:
>> The fact is that the vast majority
>> of people who recite Tehillim at times like this, DO NOT understand
>> what they are saying. But for the most part they are recited in a
>> most sincere state of mind with the intent that these "Tefilos"
>> should be "accepted" by God toward the end of ending our troubles...
>> or healing a sick individual who is in dire straits. It isn't just a
>> question of saying Tehillim versus learning Torah. It is question of
>> why Tehillim has any efficacy at all.
> Wouldn't the deveiqus of the experience have value even without knowing
> what the words mean? That, AIUI, is the point of the story of the
> uneducated farmer who could only "daven" the aleph beis" -- that the
> experiential deveiqus is more important than the intellectual havanah.
That's exactly what the story implies. I have heard that exact expalnation
of the purpose of saying Tehillim... that it is way of attaining D'veikus
and thereby Zechuyos for the Choleh... or to change a bad Matzav.
Is a person's intent more important than an act mandated by the Torah or
Chazal? I have a difficulty with that because it implies that the entire
purpose of those acts is to acheive D'veikus and if D'veikus could be
achieved without performance of the Mitzvos than we could skip right
over them. In fact, AIUI, Chasidus does indeed say something like that:
i.e., that the goal of all Mitzvos is D'veikus and that man's capacity
to achieve it requires the medium of Mitzvos in order to do so. I invite
those who are more expert in Chasidus than I am to correct my impression
if I am mistaken. OTOH if I am correct, then WADR that sounds almost
Christian. Christianity dispensed with most Mitzvos because their form
of D'Veikus, believing in God thru Jesus, is the ultimate goal and is
all they need to acheive it.
> I'm reminded of the distinction between the verbal tza'aqah and the
> preverbal za'aqah [gedolah umarah]. Sometimes the sheer emotion of the
> experience robs you of words, and you still express something by crying
> out meaningless sounds. For example, those of yelulei yalal or ginunei
> ganach. RYBS describes the qol shofar as that of ze'aqah.
Crying is not praying. A parent can empathise with a crying child
unable to verbalize his distress. A parent can try and comfort that
child in the hope that he or she intuits the source of the child's
distress. But until that child is old enough to verbalize a problem one
cannot totally be sure what the source of the distress is. I realize
that God always knows exactly what our problems are and doesn't need
our verbalization. However, Prayer it seems to me is analagous to to
interaction between parent and child.
When one looks at Chazal's construction of any prayer they will see that
it is verbalized and specific. Chazal could have simply said to us: If
you want to gain favor from HaShem, just cry as hard as you can! They
didn't do that. They constructed specific prayers to either praise God
or to request specifics of Him. The same thing should be true in times
of trouble when we need God's intervention. Random crying may be a way
to beseech God but IMHO just like a verbalization from a child is more
effective way of communicting to a parent, so too verbalization to God.
> According to you, most frum Jews shouldn't bother davening, either.
> After all, you're defining avodah shebeleiv entirely in terms of
> understanding each word as you're saying it. Nevermind that most of us
> aren't even paying attention to the act of saying it altogether. How
> much of tefillah I don't understand at all -- and we here are of the
> mi'ut even trying to learn the taytch!
This is a primary theological problem for me and is, of course, related
to this issue. The Gemmarah Paskin's (IIRC) that without Kavanah, you are
not Yotze Teffilah. In fact (IIRC) this is one of the primary reasons
for Teffilah B'Tzibur, because somehow the combined Kavanah efforts of
the Tzibur is "spread" out to all members of the Tzibur (...sort of a
"strentgh in numbers" situation). But as is the case with most Jews I
do not Daven Teffilah B'Tzibur all the time and I most certainly do not
have the proper Kavvanah each time I Daven alone. Of course, not having
Kavanah does not absolve one of the Chiuv of Teffilah but I am not so sure
that one can be Yotaze Teffilah if one is thinking about the Cubs winning
their division during Shmoneh Esreh, ...no matter how much one Shuckels.
I know there are Deios that say that if one at least has Kavanah that
he is addressing God, then even if he does not necessarily concentrate
on the meaning of the words, it is sufficient and thereby Yotzeh, But
I'm not sure that... is a universally accepted truth.
> I wanted to raise a side-note: You describe tachanunim, not tefillah.
> Tefillah is the shaping of the self into being an oveid H' by following
> texts written by greater avadim than us. Tachanunim is the raw plea
> for chein.
I accept your correction as possible teleological one but it is not
definitional. At its more elementary level prayer is designed to either
praise God or beesech Him for help.
Go to top.
Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2003 08:55:25 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Micha Berger" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Tevye's Hisbodedus
One thing I grew quite jealous of is Jerry Brock's portrayal of Tevye
the Milkman's relationship to HQBH. Something that didn't catch my eye,
if present, in Shalom Aleichem's original.
Hashem Yisborach is a real Thou in Tevye's life. His quiet moments are
opportunities for dialogue. G-d is as real and as "there" in his world
as Lazer Wolf. (I'm happy when I can get to the point when He's as "real"
to me as Fruma Sara -- and she only appears as a ghost in Tevye's "white
lie" about having a dream!)
Micha Berger Until he extends the circle of his compassion
email@example.com to all living things,
http://www.aishdas.org man will not himself find peace.
Fax: (413) 403-9905 - Albert Schweitzer
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Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2003 09:41:04 -0400
From: "Markowitz, Chaim" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Halachos Not in Shulchan Aruch
>Also, can you think of any examples of halachos that are not mentioned
>in the SA but are still followed?
three that come to mind (and I could be wrong about htese) are:
1) cutting down a fruit tree
2) loshon hara
3) eating a pealed egg and/or onion that was left over night (for this one I am aware that it is a machlokes among different poskim whether it is shayach b'zman hazeh.)
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Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2003 09:40:24 -0400
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
Subject: Re: Women and Kaddish
>2) The increasing emphasis total separation of the sexes in all aspects -
>something that was clearly not the norm going back to the lvush
>Interesting. Yet the Seridei Eish, the scion of German Neo-Orthodoxy,
>requires separation of genders at public events, absent kiruv necessities
>(SE 2:8). R. Bentzion Uziel does also (Mishpetei Uziel, CM no. 6).
>RM Feinstein even requires a mechitza at public events (Igros Moshe
>OC 1:39). [Note that RMF considers weddings to be private affairs]
RGS misunderstands my post. I am aware of a range of possible
understandings of how much separation is required, and that there are
sources to support some separation at public events.. I would venture
that the current emphasis on separation not merely during formal public
events, but also during routine daily events (eg separate hours in pizza
shops) goes far beyond that norm..
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Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2003 10:05:41 -0400 (EDT)
From: Eli Turkel <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: more on shor/par
From: "Mordecai Kornfeld" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> I don't mean that Shor (in the Torah) is castrated. Rather, Shor refers
> to a large specimen, of the type that work was done with (and that was
> castrated in order to attain its great size, in later times). This is
> how Ralbag and Radak in Shoftim 6:25 seem to understand Par ha'Shor in
> that verse.
> In the Gemara, it refers to a large animal, also. Such animals were more
>prone to Negichah. They may have been castrated to attain that size.
Prof. Eli Turkel, email@example.com on 09/24/2003
Department of Mathematics, Tel Aviv University
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Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2003 10:11:50 -0400
Subject: Question on Maharsho
Posted by: firstname.lastname@example.org
> The Maharsha in Chagiga (daf tes) asks: Why does the gemara mention only
> shacharis and arvis but not mincha? His answer is: If a person skips
> shacharis, the next opportunity to daven will be mincha (same day), and
> if a person skips arvis, the next opportunity to daven will be shacharis
> (same day), but if a person skips mincha, the next opportunity to daven
> will be arvis (next day)...
> Here's the problem: The Maharsha opens by quoting the gemara, which cites
> Koheles that *something which is twisted cannot be fixed,* i.e. a tefilla
> skipped *b'mayzid* cannot be made up. So... why is the Maharsha now
> saying that a person *can* make up for a skipped shacharis or arvis but
> not mincha? If one can't make up for *any* tefilla skipped b'mayzid (per
> the gemara), why does it matter if it's the same day or the next day???
Apossible answer: Maharsho here refers to the end of that posuk -"V'Choser
lo yukhal lehimanos". This meansthe day that one misses prayer cannot
be set right again. Even for a meizid who misses shacharis or arvis,
the day can still be "redeemed" by saying a prayer subsequently. For
Mincha, the day will end as a day which is'Choser".
The issues to consdier is: Are you making up a prayer ora day. From
the fact that make-up is only possible on the day you missed a tefila,
it seems that you, in fact, make up a day.
Go to top.
Date: Fri, 26 Sep 2003 00:03:50 +0000
From: Micha Berger <email@example.com>
Subject: Avudraham on Berachos
R' Gil emailed me the file at
<http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/faxes/avudraham.pdf> with the following
: Attached is the Avudraham's explanation of berachos that I mentioned
: at the va'ad on Shabbos, with an explanation I find particularly
: meaningful underlined. Can you please upload it to the AishDas
: website and send a notification to Avodah?
Go to top.
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2003 20:09:49 GMT
Subject: Re: Vesivchar leshon arumim
[Thread bounced from Areivim. -mi]
R' Seth Mandel wrote <<< Even had Noah used the same words in the same
way as at Mattan Torah, and used the same syntax, >>>
Do you know this because of the way Noach is quoted in the Torah, or is
there other evidence to it?
It seems to me that the way Torah quotes Noach would not be valid evidence
to this. The Viceroy of Egypt spoke in the vernacular to his servants, but
the Torah translates it into Lashon HaKodesh for us. It seems reasonable
to accept the possibility that Noach may have spoken another language,
which the Torah also translates for us.
The only difference between the two stories is that the Torah reveals to
us that the Viceroy was not speaking Lashon HaKodesh, because it was a
critical element in the storyline that he understood both the vernacular
and he also understood his brothers. But since the language which Noach
spoke is irrelevant to the story, the Torah never mentioned anything
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Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2003 13:48:57 -0400
From: "Seth Mandel" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Vesivchar leshon arumim
>> The primary evidence is Arabic, which clearly has two different consonants
>> (i.e. not just alternative pronunciations), and transliterations into
>> Greek in ancient times. Ever wonder why 'Azza become Gaza, but 'Ovadyah
>> become Obadiah, not Gobadiah?
> Arabic--OK, interesting, not conclusive. Obadiah? I assumed that the
> pronunciation of ayin changed at some point. That the true original
> pronunciation was some kind of gutteral. But you are saying that there
> were always two pronunciations (except we have forgotten one of them).
> Hard to know if you're right. What would be the difference between them?
> What would determine--if we still retained both ayins--which one we
> would read where when reading Tanach?
<TK: Arabic--OK, interesting, not conclusive. Obadiah? I assumed that
the pronunciation of ayin changed at some point. That the true original
pronunciation was some kind of gutteral. But you are saying that there
were always two pronunciations (except we have forgotten one of them).
Hard to know if you're right. What would be the difference between them?
What would determine--if we still retained both ayins--which one we
would read where when reading Tanach?>
You misunderstood my intent. I meant to say that at some point Hebrew
probably had to different 'ayins, which might account for different
meanings of words that appear to have the same root. But these 2 'ayins
fell together before mattan Torah, so to read the Torah the way Moshe
Rabbeinu would have, there would only be one 'ayin. Since Mattan Torah
there have never been 2 different pronunciations of the 'ayin in Standard
Hebrew, though there have been of the resh. However, the Greek suggests
that the different pronunciations remained at least in some communities.
So either 1) the Greek reflects a pronunciation of before the time of
Mattan Torah, or 2) some isolated communities that did not speak standard
Hebrew retained a distinction.
The pronunciation of the 'ayin is retained to this day by all communities
except Ashk'naz. Ashk'nazim do not retain the pronunciation of any sound
that was not within the Yiddish sound system.
<TK: Tzveitens, drittens, fertens: Is it possible that jokes, however
lame, do not require quite such lengthy refutations? I have had this
problem before, with other arvmites. I see I shall have to give in and
clearly label all my attempts at humor with large <g>'s carefully tacked
on, as other arvm veterans do. I know some of my so-called witticisms
may not actually be funny, but when they are not even recognizable as
attempts at humor--that's pretty sad. <g> If you didn't laugh before
you saw the <g> , please do so now.>
Again I have been mistaken. My feeble attempt at humor was to treat your
obviously humerous statement as a serious one, thinking you would enjoy
the parody. Not worth writing about.
Go to top.
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2003 14:33:00 EDT
Subject: Re: Vesivchar leshon arumim
In a message dated 9/25/03 1:49:19 PM EDT, email@example.com writes:
> You misunderstood my intent. I meant to say that at some point Hebrew
> probably had to different 'ayins, which might account for different
> meanings of words that appear to have the same root. But these 2 'ayins
> fell together before mattan Torah, so to read the Torah the way Moshe
> Rabbeinu would have, there would only be one 'ayin.
See, my apikorsus detector WAS picking up something when I wondered
about that word you used, "proto-Hebrew." The Hebrew of the Torah given
at Har Sinai cannot be different than the Hebrew with which the world
was created. Histakel be'oraysh uvarah almah.
Go to top.
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2003 15:24:48 -0400
From: "Seth Mandel" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Vesivchar leshon arumim
> In a message dated 9/25/03 1:49:19 PM EDT, email@example.com writes:
>> You misunderstood my intent. I meant to say that at some point Hebrew
>> probably had to different 'ayins, which might account for different
>> meanings of words that appear to have the same root. But these 2 'ayins
>> fell together before mattan Torah, so to read the Torah the way Moshe
>> Rabbeinu would have, there would only be one 'ayin.
> See, my apikorsus detector WAS picking up something when I wondered
> about that word you used, "proto-Hebrew." The Hebrew of the Torah given
> at Har Sinai cannot be different than the Hebrew with which the world
> was created. Histakel be'oraysh uvarah almah.
WADR, R.n Toby, your objection is not carefully thought out. For 2
1) The Torah existed before the world, but dibb'ro Torah bilshon b'nei
odom -- meaning the language by spoken by people at the time it was given.
HQB'H planned Mattan Torah from the Beginning and knew how people would be
speaking at the time. Had he given it to Noah exactly as it was given,
Noah would have probably understood it but thought its language to be
a little funny: he might have used other words that were more common in
2) I was referring to pronunciation. Even had Noah used the same
words in the same way as at Mattan Torah, and used the same syntax,
why does pronouncing words differently suggest to you epikorsus?
Galitzianer surely have the same Torah as Litvaks, and both the same
Torah as S'faradim, although none of the three might understand each
other when he reads from the Torah.
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Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2003 12:00:13 -0400
From: "Stein, Aryeh" <AStein@wtplaw.com>
Subject: Re: Why is Bee Honey Kosher?
To Bee Or Not To Bee:
A Kashrus Guide to Honey and Other Bee Derivatives
Rabbi Dovid Heber, Star-K Kashrus Administrator
For hundreds of years, the Jewish custom has been to begin Rosh Hashana
with an apple dipped in honey as a symbol for a sweet new year. It is
quite interesting that most honey in the United States is produced by
the bees and collected by beekeepers in the summer - just in time to
serve on the Yom Tov table.
Even older than this custom is the question regarding the kosher status of
honey. Many of us are familiar with the famous halacha that states that
derivatives of non-kosher species are not kosher.1 This would include
camel's milk or ostrich eggs. Since a bee is a non-kosher species, how
is honey, which comes from a bee, permissible? Furthermore, if honey is
kosher, are all products manufactured by the bee, such as royal jelly,
beeswax, bee venom, and propolis (all described below) also kosher?
A brief entomological review of this remarkable insect is necessary in
order to answer these questions: Bees suck nectar from flowers with their
proboscis (mouth). The nectar mixes with saliva and is swallowed into the
honey sac where enzymes from the saliva break down the nectar into honey.
The nectar is never "digested," it is only transformed into honey by the
saliva. Upon the bee's return to the hive, the honey is regurgitated,
dried, and placed into the honeycomb. Beekeepers then extract millions
of drops of honey from the cavities of the honeycomb by using a machine
that applies centrifugal force to the comb.
Why Is Honey a Kosher Product? The Gemara2 explains that honey is kosher
as it is not a secretion from the bee; the bee functions only as a carrier
and facilitator.3 Honey is kosher nectar, which enters the honey sac,
is transformed into honey, and placed into the honeycomb retaining its
kosher status throughout the "transformation."
The second opinion in the Gemara permits honey because of a g'zairas
hakasuv, a deduction from a passuk.4 Therefore, 100% pure honey, whether
from Montana, North Dakota, or any state or country, is kosher and does
not require a hechsher.
Nevertheless, there are two important issues one must bear in mind when
purchasing honey. Honey is usually described by the flower from which the
bees draw the nectar. The most popular variety of honey, Clover Honey,
is honey that the bees have processed from the nectar of the clover leaf.
Orange Honey is nectar that originates from orange groves, where the bees
have sucked the nectar from orange bushes and transformed it into honey.
However, there are some companies who flavor their honey with an orange
flavor and call it "orange honey." This orange flavored honey would
require a hechsher as flavors can be composed of various non-kosher
ingredients. One should always check the label carefully to verify that
the product is 100% pure honey with no flavors added.
The second issue relates to the use of pure honey on Pesach. Potentially,
honey can be adulterated with additives such as corn syrup. Corn syrup,
a yotzei min hakitniyos sweetener, is derived from corn, a legume, and
may not be used on Pesach. For example, soda companies must substitute
this sweetener with liquid sugar when producing Kosher for Passover
soda. Some honey producers have been found to mix the inexpensive corn
syrup into honey and illegally label and sell it as "pure honey," with
no mention of this almost undetectable "filler." Although this practice
is the exception, one should, nevertheless, only purchase pure honey
for Pesach, with a reliable Pesachdik hechsher. This problem does not
impact the use of honey during the rest of the year.
Propolis - Another important product of the bee is propolis. Bees collect
this material from the sap of a tree, and carry it in their proboscis. In
its pure state, propolis is kosher and is used as an anti-bacterial and
anti-fungal remedy, polishing agent, and preservative. However, companies
commonly process the propolis with other ingredients such as alcohol.
Therefore, such a product would require a reliable hechsher.
Bee Pollen - Bees have brushes on their legs which collect the pollen
from the flowers. The pollen is brushed toward the back of the bee and
is pressed into baskets found on their legs. The bees add traces of
saliva and nectar to make a more effective "press," because pollen is
naturally dusty and requires a binding agent. This popular health food
product is kosher.
Royal Jelly - The most important bee in the hive is the "Queen Bee,"
who attains her "royal" status by her constant extra nutritious diet
of royal jelly. What is Royal Jelly? This product is a secretion from
the hypharyngeal and mandibular glands located in the head of the
bee. It is rich in protein, vitamins, fatty acids, and amino acids,
and is available in health food stores. It is also a common ingredient
in various health food products and remedies. Because it is a yotzei min
hatamei, an actual product that is secreted from the bee, royal jelly
should be considered non-kosher.5
Apis Mellifica - This homeopathic remedy is derived from the body of the
honeybee and is not kosher. However, as in most homeopathic remedies, the
active ingredient is less than 1/60 and is therefore batel b'shishim.6
If the inactive ingredients are kosher, and the honeybee is batel,
this product would be halachically permissible to take.
Bee Venom - This product is synthesized in the venom glands of the
bee and is released when a bee stings. Using a machine, bee venom is
collected from bees and is used as an anti-inflammatory agent or for the
treatment of arthritis. It is non-kosher7 and may only be taken orally
if it is batel b'shishim in kosher inactive ingredients. It may be used
topically or by injection even if the venom is not batel.
Beeswax - Used to form the honeycomb in the hive, beeswax is secreted
from wax glands located on the underside of the abdomen. The cells of
the honeycomb are where bees grow from larva into mature bees. They also
store not only honey, but various other products. Beeswax is sold both
pure and with honey inside.
In its original state, beeswax is used in non-food grade applications,
since the human body cannot adequately digest this material. It is
commonly used in candles, lipstick, shoe and floor polish, and buffing
wax for surfboards. Since it is not a "ma'achal," a "food," its status
as a yotzei min hatamei does not cause it to be non-kosher.8 Therefore,
beeswax is considered kosher, provided that no non-kosher solvents are
used, and it contains no non-kosher additives.
Although pure beeswax is generally not eaten, its kosher status is
important for various reasons. Beeswax may be extracted to create a
chemical used in the flavor industry. This extract is a kosher chemical
(provided that all additives and solvents are approved), since the actual
beeswax is not a food. It is even permissible for one to chew beeswax
for its pollen content, or swallow it, with or without the honey mixed in.
The bee's ability to produce such a wide spectrum of ingredients used
in both health food and snack food is quite fascinating. Appreciating
these niflaos haBorei, wonders of our Creator, is key to understanding
the kashrus ramifications.
1. Hayotzei min hatamei tamei.
2. Bechoros 7b
3. Mipnei shemachnisos ligufan v'ain mimatzvos osan migufan.
4. Vayikra 11:21 Ach es zeh...
5. See Tzitz Eliezer 11:59 who allows it.
6. This is true if the dilution is at least 2x (1:102) and higher, or at
least 1c (1:100) and higher. For a full discussion of homeopathic products
and their inactive ingredients, see "Vitamins, Nutritionals, and Homeopathic
Remedies: Kashrus and Halachic Guidelines
7. Since it is a yotzei min hatamei.
8. See Igros Moshe, Y.D. 2:24 - V'gam.
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Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2003 10:41:22 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Ari Z. Zivotofsky - FAM" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Why is Bee Honey Kosher?
On Thu, 25 Sep 2003, [R Nosson Slifkin at] Zoo Torah wrote:
> The Gemara says that bee honey is kosher "Because it brings the nectar into
> its body, and does not produce it from its body" (Bechoros 7b - it also
> gives an alternative reason based on a gezeras hakasuv). But bees do add
> enzymes to the nectar, such as diastase and invertase. With royal jelly,
> although Tzitz Eliezer permits it based on the Gemara's gezeras hakasuv,
> others prohibit it because it is a product of the bee - shouldn't honey be a
> problem for the same reason?
see my article below that appeared in the Washington Jewish Week
9/2/99, Cleveland Jewish News 9/10/99 and Jewish World Review (online
at www.jewishworldreview.com/kosher/living.html ) on 9/16/99.
Apples Dipped in Honey for Rosh Hashana
By: Ari Z. Zivotofsky
There is a surefire way to quickly identify the central theme of any
Jewish holiday - listen to the songs the four-year olds are singing.
Last year, not only did my four-year old daughter Shlomit have one
favorite Rosh Hashana song, but she quickly taught two-year old Yosef to
sing it as well. All the way until Chanukah they were both singing "apples
dipped in honey for Rosh Hashanah," in both English and Hebrew. Clearly,
Rosh Hashana revolves around dipping apples in honey ;-)
Honey is sweet and therefore used on Rosh Hashana to anticipate a sweet
year. In most people's minds it also conjures up the praises of the
Land of Israel - a land flowing with milk and honey. Interestingly,
in biblical Hebrew the simple term "devash," the modern Hebrew word for
bee honey, refers not to bee honey but to date honey, and it is to date
honey that the Bible refers when it praises the Land of Israel.
Honey is a most unusual entity regarding the laws of kashrut.
There is a general principal that any product of a non-kosher animal is
non-kosher. Thus, for example, camel's milk, ostrich eggs, and sturgeon's
caviar are all not kosher. Yet honey is kosher despite its origin in the
non-kosher bee. The Talmud and legal codes explain the permissibility of
honey by noting that the bee does not actually "produce" the honey the way
a camel produces milk. For something to be considered the product of an
animal, the animal's body must produce it from its constituent elements.
Honey, according to the Talmud, is not produced by the bee. Rather,
the bee takes in nectar from plants and then simply regurgitates it in
the hive to be stored as winter food.
To better understand what the rabbis were referring to, I consulted with
Gene E. Robinson, Professor of Entomology at the University of Illinois
and a specialist in bees. He noted that what comes out of the bee as
honey is not identical to what the bee takes in via its proboscis.
Enzymes in the bee's saliva acts upon the 12-carbon sucrose molecules
in nectar and splits them each into two 6-carbon molecules, glucose and
fructose. Saliva also causes a steep drop in the Ph of the honey compared
to nectar. Finally, the honey is fanned by the bees to concentrate it.
Robinson agreed that the talmudic distinction was solid. The bee does not
decompose food into base components and then "produce" honey. Nothing
new is added to the nectar besides the minute quantities of enzymes,
nor is it ever decomposed. The nectar is indeed "spit back out," having
undergone only a minor chemical transformation.
What is even more amazing about the kashrut of honey is that in the
days of old, limbs - wings or legs - of the bee would find their way
into the honey. Despite the cooking of the honey with these non-kosher
limbs present, the honey is nonetheless considered kosher. A variety of
reasons have been offered for this strange law, but it is agreed to by
all authorities. Today, even the simplest straining procedure, performed
on the vast majority of commercially sold, removes all bee parts. Only
if one buys raw, unstrained honey is this a practical issue today.
Based on the above laws, 100% pure bee honey is kosher without the need
for rabbinic certification. Although all bee honey is "made" by bees,
different honey can have different "raw materials" depending on what kind
of flower the bee got the nectar from. A popular Israeli variety is the
light orange honey, in which the nectar originates in orange blossoms. In
this country popular types are clover honey and buckwheat honey, where
the nectar comes from clover leaf or buckwheat plants. Honey from all
types of nectar are kosher. However, flavored honeys, such as orange
flavored in which a flavoring is added, do require kosher certification
to ensure that they are kosher.
There are some bee products to which the principal "any product of a
non-kosher animal is non-kosher" does apply. For example, a popular
product in health food stores is known as royal jelly or bee's milk
and is rich in protein, vitamins, fatty acids, and amino acids. It is a
product secreted by bees from their hypopharyngeal and mandibular glands
as royal food for the queen bee. Since this is truly a product of the
bee it is non-kosher.
But there is no need to worry that the kosher consumer is losing out on
the bee's healthy products. Recent research has confirmed that honey is
a great deal more than just sugar water. It is, after all, the principal
source of nutrition for adult bees. In addition to all the nutrients it
contains, it has now been shown to also possess surprising quantities of
antioxidants. It has been found that in general, the darker the honey the
higher its antioxidant activity. For example, Illinois buckwheat honey,
the darkest tested, had the greatest concentration of antioxidant. An
exception is the fairly light, popular sweet-clover honey that is
Antioxidants have been shown to be beneficial in preventing disease. They
are also useful is preserving food. Thus dipping an apple in honey will
help prevent it from turning brown and challah baked with honey will
maintain its moisture longer.
There is a verse from Psalms that is included in the weekly shabbat
prayer service in which honey is used as the epitome of sweetness.
There is also an ancient source that records the custom of eating honey
on the holiday of Shavuot since the Torah is compared to it. With the
honey we eat this year, we should all be blessed with a sweet, healthy,
and Torah filled year!
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Date: Thu, September 25, 2003 2:42 am
From: Ari Kahn <email@example.com>
This was written one year ago:
Teshuva, Tefilah, Zedakah and Zechut Avot
(Repentance, Prayer, Charity and Ancestral Merit)
Rabbi Ari D. Kahn
This is a true story written with the permission and blessing of those
The phone rang during the nine days leading up to Tisha Bav. This is
normally a time of sadness and mourning, a poignant reminder that the
Temple remains unbuilt and the world unredeemed. The present climate
in Israel makes matters even worse: ringing phones cause unease. With
this combination of the political quagmire and the calendric situation,
the last thing I expected was good news.
The voice at the other end of the phone was an old friend of my wife's
family, calling from America to tell us that she was engaged to be
married. This was wonderful news; this woman had passed her 35th birthday,
and she had begun to doubt whether she would ever marry.
After the requisite "mazel tov" came the more important questions:
"When? It was here that the intrigue began:
"Well, the wedding will be as soon as possible."
"Basically we want to elope, and we want to get married in Israel."
"Well, he is not really religious..."
While the first two answers had a certain logic to them, in view
of the age and circumstances of the couple, the third seemed most
confounding. This woman was raised in what is known as a "modern orthodox"
home. At some point in her early adulthood, she had strayed somewhat
from some of the beliefs of her youth, only to return subsequently with
even greater dedication. The most difficult challenge she endured was
the sudden death of her father when she was 15.
As an adult she became very active in the Jewish community and outreach,
bringing a great many estranged Jews to Shabbat meals and other communal
activities that introduced them to Judaism. By this point, she had been
learning Torah regularly for quite some time, and had grown to be a
leader in her community, known for her charitable activities, but more
importantly for encouraging others to become similarly involved.
She was now exploring the possibility of my performing her wedding in
Israel in less than two weeks, to a man who did not seem to share the
same ideals. Was this simply the case of a woman whose biological clock
was ticking so loudly that she could no longer think clearly?
The groom would be flying to Israel the following day, she said, and I
would have the opportunity to meet him and speak to him. Only then would
we continue our conversation. In the meantime, there were so many wedding
arrangements to be organized; fortunately, countless friends materialized,
all willing to help put together a wedding in less than two weeks.
A special ketubah was commissioned from a local artist; I needed to make
sure that the names were written correctly, and it was only then that
I asked his name. She said, "It is Landau and he is a Levi"
I said "Landau - a Levi? Could he be a descendant of Rav Yechezkel
She asked "Who is that?" I answered, "One of the great Rabbis of the
18th century. His surname was Landau and he, too, was a Levi."
"I don't think there are any rabbis in his family, but he is a Levi."
With that the conversation came to an end.
I met him a few days later. He was everything she wasn't: She is a New
Yorker, brought up on Long Island, he is a southern gentleman with a
thick twang, developed over years in Memphis and Texas. Standing in front
of me was a former United States Marine, who now teaches high school
history, along with being a football and wrestling coach. He was polite,
dignified, and he had passion. He had a deep understanding that Israel is
"the Lord's Land" and that the Jews are "the Lord's People". These basic
Jewish beliefs were engraved deep in his heart.
As a former Marine, he offered a number of suggestions for quickly
and permanently solving the Middle East crisis; diplomacy was not among
them. I found him engaging and interesting, yet I still was not convinced
that this union was made in heaven.
We headed over to the offices of the Religious Council, where the marriage
would need to be registered. We arrived at 12:06; the office apparently
closed at 12:00. I went over to the gentleman in the booth, and explained
that we needed to open a file for a wedding. "Impossible. The office is
closed." "But the wedding is in less than 10 days," I said. He looked at
me incredulously and said "Impossible. It takes at least two weeks for a
file to be processed". After a minute of negotiations he sent me to Rabbi
Ralbag, the man in charge, so that he could tell me officially that this
was impossible. As far as I was concerned, we were on our way out.
We entered the office of the Rabbi, who recognized me, and I introduced
my new friend. When Rabbi Ralbag heard the name Landau - he, too, said:
"You could be from the family of the Noda B'Yehuda". I informed the
Rabbi that Mr. Landau is a Levi, strengthening his assumption. Meanwhile,
we opened up the envelope the groom had brought with him from the U.S.;
I had instructed them earlier to bring signed affidavits establishing
their marital status and Jewishness in order to expedite the registration
process. The groom produced a letter written by Rabbi Ephraim Greenblatt
of Memphis, a well- known author and sage who was raised in Jerusalem,
but traveled to America years ago to learn with Rav Moshe Feinstein and
was sent to Memphis to lead the Jewish community there.
Rabbi Greenblatt wrote that he knew the family and in fact had attended
the brit mila (circumcision) of the groom forty-one years ago. He
then added that the reader should be aware that Mr. Landau is indeed
a descendant of the Noda B'Yehuda - seven generations removed. Rabbi
Ralbag and I looked at one another, appreciating the significance of his
lineage, while the groom was somewhat nonchalant, not really appreciating
the importance of his own lineage.
The file was quickly opened, and we were on our way. I suspected that I
might have just witnessed a little intercession from above which helped
open closed doors and, more impressively, subdue Israeli Bureaucracy.
I called the bride and I reported the progress we had made. I questioned
her again, more closely, to make sure that she had really thought this
decision through. She told me that he loves her, that he will care for
her, that he is ready to make a commitment. So may of the men she met in
NY who were her age had their eyes open only for younger women. So many
had "commitment issues", or in their words, "enjoyed their 'freedom'
". She felt on a core level, on a soul level, that this was right. She
felt that together they could build something great. She felt God had sent
him her way. She felt that once in a Jewish environment, he would grow:
He is interested and committed to growth, and he was sure from the day
they met that they would marry - to him it was "fate". She convinced me
that this was "meant to be".
Who was I to argue? He was a man of sterling character, consistent,
decent; he was a good man. What he lacked was merely a bit of outward
religious trappings and some ritual behavior. Our sages tell us that
character is far more difficult to change than practice, yet I remained
Before we hung up, I recalled the letter written by Rabbi Greenblatt,
and informed her that indeed her soon-to-be-husband comes from a leading
rabbinic family and that he is the seventh generation from the Noda
Again, she asked "Who is that?"
I responded "He was a leading Rabbi a little more than 200 years
ago. While the Vilna Gaon sat and studied in Vilna this man was considered
to be the greatest decider of Halacha of his time. He lived in Prague,
and questions poured in from all over the world for his opinion. His
full name was Rabbi Yechezkel ben Yehudah Landau (1713 -1793).
She said "wow".
A day later I get another call from the bride; this time she was far more
excited. "You won't believe this," she gushed. She mentioned the Noda
B'Yehuda connection to one of her closest friends, who responded by saying
"Don't move". Her friend quickly went into the next room and brought
back a photo album. There was a picture taken one year earlier. These two
friends, both single, had decided to accompany Rebbitzen Esther Jungreiss
to Prague, to pray at the graves of righteous Jews. The bride's friend
held up one picture: There was the bride, praying by the grave of Rav
Yechezkal Landau, the famed Noda B'Yehuda, asking him to open some gates
in heaven and help her find her "soul mate".
As she told me this, things finally became clear: She had traveled
to the grave of the Noda B'Yehuda and asked to meet her soul mate.
The Noda B'Yehuda apparently offered a "deal" - I will introduce you to
my own great-great-great grandson on condition that you bring him a bit
closer to our heritage.
The wedding was on the porch of the Aish HaTorah building overlooking
the Kotel. The day was Tu B'av. Despite trying to "elope," a crowd of
people would not let this wedding happen quietly. They boarded a plane
and came to Israel, despite "the situation", in order to rejoice with
bride and groom. As we were preparing the ketubah for signing, an elderly,
distinguished-looking rabbi appeared; I looked up and introduced myself,
and he identified himself as Rabbi Efraim Greenblatt. He was in Israel
for a visit, and he felt he should attend the wedding. Soon other leading
rabbis appeared: a Kabbalist appeared, soon a leading Chabad Rabbi,
Simon Jacobson joined. We marched and danced both bride and groom to the
chupah. The bride's father, as I mentioned earlier, passed away years ago,
and her mother was unable to fly. The groom's parents were unable to make
the wedding, but the bride and groom each had a brother accompany them,
together with close friends.
There was a power to that wedding the likes of which I had never felt;
perhaps the location helped, but there was something more. There was
electricity in the air, the music was intense, people sang and sang as
we prepared for the actual ceremony. The Shechinah could be felt. This
wasn't just my subjective feeling; every person present I spoke to later
told me "they felt something".
I know that her father was smiling down, watching his only daughter get
married. He was a kind man, a charitable man. In fact, when Rebbetzen
Jungreiss first started her "mission" 27 years ago, he was the first to
hold a "parlor meeting" for her in order to raise much-needed funds.
But I am sure that there was another presence there: the spirit of
the Noda B'Yehuda, Rabbi Yechezkal ben Yehudah Landau, looking down,
enjoying this marriage - which was certainly arranged in heaven.
As Yom Kippur approaches I think back to that wedding. Our sages tell
us that the happiest days in the calendar were Yom Kippur and Tu Bav:
Yom Kippur was day of forgiveness and Tu Bav was a day of marriages. On
both of these days people would dance in the streets.
This Yom Kippur we should all remember that we, too, have connections in
heaven. Perhaps some of us have more famous ancestors than others, but
we should remind ourselves that we are all descendants of Avraham and
Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivkah, and Yaakov and Leah and Rachel. These are
our ancestors. But more importantly, every time we say "Avinu Malkenu"
we should remember that we have a Father in heaven who is capable of
We all need to do some Teshuva, to improve at least one area of our
lives. We need to give Tzdaka (and encourage others to do the same!)
and we all need to call out to our Father in Heaven, who is capable of
changing and liberating the entire world "in the blink of an eye", and of
intervening in even the most intimate details of each individual's life.
He can even help two people find one another, and happiness. Gmar
(c) Rabbi Ari D. Kahn
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