Avodah Mailing List

Volume 13 : Number 041

Monday, June 28 2004

< Previous Next >
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2004 14:44:27 +0200
From: S Goldstein <goldstin@netvision.net.il>

> can someone help me understand the curious Rashi on mai chazis. He
> says that if you kill another person, you perform an aveira and loose
> all of his potential mitsvos but if you allow yourself to be killed,
> you only loose your mitsvos and not have the additional aveira.

In Sanhedrin 74a, Rashi says, if you kill another person, you perform an
aveira and lose [his] Jewish life but if you allow yourself to be killed,
you only lose [your] Jewish life but no aveira is permitted. [Of course,
the murderer is acting b'issur.]

Shlomo Goldstein

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2004 12:46:41 +0200
From: "Seth & Sheri Kadish" <skadish@012.net.il>
Simanei Sefer ha-Middot

Simanei Sefer ha-Middot (a missing part of the ethical work Orhot
Zaddikim) is now available online in three formats: an image of the
manuscript (pdf), a typed line-by-line transcription, and a corrected
edition with notes.

(I have made some changes to the corrected version since I first announced
the simanim a few months ago; the online version is the most current one.)

An image of the first Hebrew edition (Prague, 1581) is also available
at the same location. See http://www.seforimonline.org/seforim7.html

Seth (Avi) Kadish

Go to top.

Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2004 15:55:40 -0400
From: "Gil Student" <gil@aishdas.org>
Re: New Water Psak

Gershon Dubin wrote:
>But more so, if they are alive they are assur even if they
>originate in a bor; if they're dead then once dead they're
>always mutar and there's no chashash that they'll be
>shoretz al ha'aretz and return to your glass.

Only if you accept that they originate in a bor. If not, then the only
issue is whether they are small enough not to be assur.

Gil Student

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2004 00:29:35 -0400
From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@juno.com>
eating dead bugs

From: "SBA" <sba@iprimus.com.au>  (on Areivim)
<<Sure, if their spontaneous generation took place in a bor rather than
in a be'er or a stream.>>>

<<I didn't realise that there is a difference in dead or alive.

Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 84:1.

Sheratzim that originate in non-flowing boros are mutar to eat (because
the requirement of senapir vekaskeses is only in yamim unechalim) by
bending down and drinking form the water; one need not be concerned that
bugs will come into his mouth. He may not, however, scoop up water and
drink it.

The nos'ei keilim explain that this is because if they jump out of
the glass, they are shoretz al ha'aretz and if they fall back in they
asser the water. So one may not drink water from a bor that may contain
sheratzim, IF they're alive and can jump out and fall back in. Dead bugs
don't jump.


Go to top.

Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2004 23:45:06 -0400
From: "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <rygb@aishdas.org>
Re: Civil Marriage-Gittin

At 04:51 AM 6/21/2004, Allen Gerstl wrote:
>At the end of his first maamar he states:
>"Aval bechol kidushei-arkaot harei he eishet ish LE-CHOL DEVARIM
>ve-tzerichah get bichdei le-hatirah le-almah".  "

>Today I asked a friend who is a musmach of Rav Price and was quite
>close with him. He told me that Rav Price indeed held as Rav Henkin, z"l.

Believe it or not, I own a Mishnas Avraham, and I checked it up and
concede. My mistake!


Go to top.

Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2004 18:26:44 GMT
From: "kennethgmiller@juno.com" <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Re: 9 chanios and probability

R' Micha Berger's father asked <<< Why is it that in the case of 9
chanios that sell kosher and one that sells tarfus, we use the quantity
of stores to determine the relevent odds? What if one were a supermarket,
and its sales exceeded the other eight combined? >>>

I learned long ago that if one tries to view these things through
the modern perspective of probability and statistics, one is asking
for trouble. It's two different languages; there's no common frame
of reference.

I'm far from boki on these things, but they do attract my interest,
so here's my layman's guess about what the answer *might* be:

The focus of Chazal's investigation into this piece of meat was not "Is
it probably kosher, or is it probably not?" Rather, their focus was on
"What happened? Why don't I know whether it is kosher or not?"

The reason I don't know whether it's kosher or not is because a long chain
of events happened to this piece of meat, and Chazal focus on the most
recent of them. Namely, which store did it come from. If one particular
store happens to sell 90% of the town's meat, that is irrelevant. The
kashrus of the meat depends on the store it came from.

We don't know which one is the store that it came from, but there is
still a very strong causal relationship here. If it came from store A,
B, C, E, F, G, H, I, or J, then the meat is definitely kosher, and if
it came from store D, then it is definitely not kosher.

Now that we've clarified what we *do* know about the situation, we can
go to what we don't know. Namely, "Why don't I know which store it came
from?" If the reason is because I found it in the street, Chazal take
one approach, and if the reason is because I forgot where I bought it,
Chazal take another approach. (The difference between those two approaches
is slightly off-topic; my goal here was to guess why Chazal don't care
about sales data of the various stores.)

Akiva Miller

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2004 15:46:27 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
progress - relationship between Jewish and worldly ideas

I was recently involved in a discussion concerning the concepts of
progress (spiritual, moral, knowledge) or progressive revelation. Jewish
sources discussing this are Rav Tzadok, Leshem, Rav Kook.

1) Does anyone have sources that predate the general belief in progress
in the non Jewish world - i.e., 16th -17th century?

2) Furthermore are there sources other than Rav Tzadok and Rav Kook who
assert a correspondence (correlational or causal) between ideas in the
Jewish world and the world in general?

Daniel Eidensohn

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2004 10:20:14 -0400
From: Mlevinmd@aol.com
Re: murder

>can someone help me understand the curious Rashi on mai chazis. He
>says that if you kill another person, you perform an aveira and loose
>all of his potential mitsvos but if you allow yourself to be killed,
>you only loose your mitsvos and not have the additional aveira.

In Sanhedrin 74a, Rashi says, if you kill another person,
you perform an aveira and lose [his] Jewish life but if you
allow yourself to be killed, you only lose [your] Jewish life but no aveira
is permitted. [Of course, the murderer is acting b'issur.]

I misread that Rashi and to compound it, quoted it from memory,
My fault and apologies to the Avodah readership.
M. Levin

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2004 13:34:11 EDT
From: T613K@aol.com
Re: VIDC - murder, drowning

In Avodah V13 #40 dated 6/25/04 "Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer" <rygb@aishdas.org> 
[Prev RnTK:]
>> ...of course there has to be a "which person
>> to save first" rule. The alternative would be a distasteful 
>> randomness....[--old TK]

> What's so bad about randomness? Since the list in Horios is very lo 
> l'ma'aseh, mah ho'ilu Chachomim anyway?

Mah ho-ilu Chachamim?

1. This exact scenario may never occur, but other scenarios, presently
unforeseen, may occur in which knowing whom to save first may be critical
to making split-second decisions and taking necessary action. Even if
you don't know or don't remember from your learning whether A or B has
kadimah, the very fact that you once learned this may set your brain, when
something must be done, into the mode of: "Whose rescue would most benefit
Klal Yisrael? Whom would the Torah want me to save first, right now?"

2. The order of priority tells you who gets kadimah in respect and
deference, in day-to-day situations where there are no life-and-death
issues involved. To give an analogy, we have an order of who succeeds to
the presidency in the event of the president's death. I don't remember
the order, but if the vice president dies, then someone else becomes
president, and if he dies too--well, you get the picture. This has
never happened and it's a safe bet that the tenth person in the line
of succession will never become president by assassinating the current
office holder. In fact, it has never happened even that the third in
line ever became president. But the very fact that the order is spelled
out tells you the order of kovod and authority in more ordinary legal
and diplomatic situations.

 -Toby Katz

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2004 12:09:58 EDT
From: T613K@aol.com
Re: Totally Safe Psak

In Avodah V13 #40 dated 6/25/04 Zvi Lampel <hlampel@thejnet.com> writes:
>> To me, this indicated that despite everything one might say, NO psak
>> can EVER offer one a "totally safe position".

> This brings to mind the Brisker Rov's vort on why Ploni Almoni did
> not want to marry Ruth, despite the Sanhedrin's p'sak of "Moabi v'lo
> Moabiss." I.e., he feared that a later Bes Din may change the halacha,
> and subject his offspring to the status of mamzerus.... 
> even though  ...was a Halachah
> L'Moshe MiSinai--he still feared that later generations may forget this
> fact...

I remember a shiur given by my father, R' Bulman zt'l, about Rus and this
particular question. Until Rus came to convert, why was the halacha of
"Moavi velo Moavis" not generally known to the chachamim--why HAD it been
forgotten? And why was it again forgotten, or left as a doubt in people's
minds, after Rus was converted, to the extent--as you write--that some
people doubted Dovid Hamelech's yichus?

He answered that the remembering and the forgetting of this halacha
was part of the Divine cosmic plan. The Hashgacha wanted Rus to come
in to the fold, but did not want a flood of Moabite women to come in.
She was the bearer of all the good that Avraham Avinu had instilled in
his nephew Lot--and that had gone underground for generations in Ammon
and Moav. After that goodness returned to its proper home in Am Yisrael,
Ammon and Moav duly disappeared from the stage of world history.

It is not difficult to extrapolate from my father's teaching that all
halachic remembering and forgetting--in good faith--are the result of
Hashgacha Pratis. If the major authorities, gedolim and poskim, taught a
halacha and their halacha was accepted and practiced that way by the hamon
am--that way and not another way--it is because Hashgacha wanted it thus.

I don't know whether--as another poster asked--there is some Platonic
ideal of halacha towards which human poskim attempt to reach as close an
approximation as possible. I do know that behind the scenes and sometimes
right in front of the scenes--HKB"H is a player in halachic deliberations.

That being the case, if you followed the psak of a rav who is a talmid
chacham and yerei Shomayim, you do not have to lie awake nights worrying
about whether he made a mistake.

 -Toby Katz

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2004 11:11:30 -0700
From: Shaya Potter <spotter@yucs.org>
Re: eating dead bugs

Gershon Dubin wrote:
> Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 84:1.
> Sheratzim that originate in non-flowing boros are mutar to eat (because
> the requirement of senapir vekaskeses is only in yamim unechalim) by
> bending down and drinking form the water; one need not be concerned that
> bugs will come into his mouth. He may not, however, scoop up water and
> drink it.

How does one know if a Bor is non flowing or not? now perhaps we can use
technology to figure it out, but 500, 1000, 2000 years ago how did they
figure these things out?

Go to top.

Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2004 14:28:50 -0400
From: gershon.dubin@juno.com
New Water Psak

From: Daniel Nachman <nachman@austin.rr.com>
<<- If you boil an egg (in its shell) in this water, is the egg kosher?
Is the pan still kosher?>>

Ta'am of sheratzim is mutar; yes to both.

<<- Can you use the water to wash your dishes?>>

I am aware of one rav who is very emphatic about filtering the water, and
he required someone who rinsed out a cup to dry it afterward before using.
Not sure if he'd extend that to air-dried dishes. Certainly if you wipe
them after washing it would be fine.

<<- Can you use the water for netilat yadim?>>

Why not?


Go to top.

Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2004 11:48:56 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
Zoo Torah: Identifying the Animals of the Torah, Part One

I had some questions on RNS's latest missive. I thought I'd share it with the
list and give you time to mull it over before asking.


------------------------------ Original Message ------------------------------
Subject: Zoo Torah: Identifying the Animals of the Torah, Part One
From:    zoorabbi@zootorah.com
Date:    Thu, June 24, 2004 9:00 am
To:      nature@ohr.edu

Dear Zoo Torah reader,


Here is part one of an essay which is an expanded version of the lecture that
I presented at the OU conference on the mesorah of kosher animals and birds.
It will be printed in The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom, a work
about which I shall write more in the next e-mail. The lecture can also be
heard online at the "Lecture Series" section of www.zootorah.com.

At the OU conference, Rav Zushe Blech spoke on the topic of "Anomalies of
Simanei Kashrus." My correspondence with Rav Blech concerning his lecture can
be read at www.zootorah.com/essays/chevrotain.htm.

Rabbi Nosson Slifkin

    Identifying the Animals of the Torah

Identifying the animals of Torah and Scripture is not an easy task. Biblical
Hebrew has not been a spoken language for thousands of years. The meaning of
the names in Modern Hebrew is not always the same as their meanings in
Biblical Hebrew - they are simply the assessments of those who created Modern

In attempting to identify the animals of the Torah, a methodology can be
established. This takes seven factors into account:

. All references to the creature in Torah literature;
. Comprehensive and accurate zoological knowledge;
. The names of the creature in other ancient languages;
. Geographical awareness - the animals of the Torah are those indigenous to
the region of Israel;
. The understanding that it is generally not viable to posit that the animal
is unknown or extinct;
. A thorough review of previous research in this area;
. An intelligent and measured analysis of all the information.

We shall now proceed to discuss these factors in detail, and apply them by way
of example to some of the animals in the Torah.

1. Other References in Torah Literature

The first factor to take into account is that one must study all references to
the creature concerned in the entire gamut of Torah literature. Additional
clues to the creature's identity may be found elsewhere in Scripture or in the
Talmud. One must also ascertain that the presumed conclusion is not
contradicted by conflicting information elsewhere in the Torah.

For example, in listing non-kosher animals, the Torah mentions the shafan as
an animal that brings up the cud but lacks true hooves. One might be tempted
to identify it as a member of the camel family, such as a llama. However, in
Proverbs, the shafan is described as a small animal, and in Psalms it is
described as hiding under rocks. These descriptions would not match any member
of the camel family.

2. Comprehensive Zoological Knowledge

The second factor is that one's knowledge of zoology must be comprehensive,
and the information as accurate as possible. In past times, when knowledge of
the animal world was very poor, some people made mistakes about the identities
of the animals of the Torah. Even today, the most accurate information is not
to be found in the average encyclopedia of animals found in homes and
libraries. Such books usually contain second- or third-hand information which
is sometimes inaccurate. Most of us are not able to make detailed studies of
animals in the field. But our information should ideally come from those who
have specialized in individual groups of creatures, either via authoritative
publications, scientific journals, or personal communication.

For example, we mentioned the shafan as an animal described in the Torah as
bringing up its cud. This animal is generally identified by those expert in
Biblical zoology as the hyrax. An argument often presented against this
identification, or against the Torah's accuracy, is that the hyrax does not
bring up its cud. This information is found in most animal encyclopedias.
However, when one investigates the scientific literature more carefully, and
interviews the experts in the field, a different picture emerges; there are
reports that the hyrax does indeed practice a minor form of regurgitation and
further swallowing.

3. Names in Other Languages

Another valuable technique in identifying the names of creatures found in the
Torah is to look at which creatures possess the same or similar names in other
languages. Ibn Ezra (in his commentary to Leviticus 11:13) utilizes this
method in identifying the nesher, pointing out that there is a bird by this
name in the language of Yishmael (the Arabs). It transpires that this is the
griffon vulture, which may be surprising to many as the identity of the
nesher, but for which there are ample further lines of proof. Ibn Ezra adds
that the Arabic name is "somewhat of a proof, in that the two languages are
very similar."

Of the thousands of languages, clearly not all concern us. The languages of
importance to this technique are those closest to the region and preferably
the era of the giving of the Torah. This includes not only various dialects of
Arabic, but also other Semitic languages and also languages in the broader
Afro-Asiatic family.

The limitations of this technique must be recognized. As Ibn Ezra states, it
is "somewhat" of a proof, but it is not foolproof. Among the many different
dialects of Arabic, for example, one can find the same name used for several
very different species. Still, this technique is an important one of which to
be aware, although its implementation can be difficult, due to the rare
expertise in ancient languages that is required.

4. Geographical Awareness

The Creator of the World obviously knows every creature that He created.
However it seems clear the Torah would only mention animals that were familiar
to the generation that received it. There is a principle that "the Torah
speaks in the language of man." This does not mean mankind in general, but
rather the people who initially received the Torah. For example, the Torah
contains figures of speech and references that were used by the Jewish People
at that time. It prescribes that Passover be celebrated in spring, even though
such would not be the case for later Jewish communities in South Africa and

By the same token, the Torah would only mention animals that were familiar to
the Jewish People at that time. These are the animals that are indigenous to
the region of the Land of Israel. It is often not appreciated that these are
very different from the animals of Europe or America.

This principle is all the more true with the rest of Scripture - the books of
Prophets and Writings. Prophesies were received and transmitted by the
prophets in terms of concepts that were familiar to them and their intended
audience. The animals mentioned in Scripture, usually to symbolize and convey
concepts, were animals familiar to the audience - which are the animals of the
region of the Land of Israel.

(A qualification to this principle is that some animals, while not indigenous
to that region, were nevertheless familiar to people due to their being
imported to the area. The animals in this category are the monkeys and
peacocks that were shipped to King Shlomo.)

Returning to our example of the shafan, we now have a further reason why it
could not refer to a llama (aside from the llama not being a small animal).
The shafan is mentioned by both King David in Psalms and King Shlomo in
Proverbs. Furthermore, it is described in the context of its natural habitat,
as something familiar to the audience. But llamas have only ever been found in
South America. Even if one were to posit the highly unlikely possibility that
a llama was shipped to King Shlomo, he would not have been able to describe
its existence in its natural habitat to the Jewish People for them to relate

5. Difficulties with Unknowns and Extinctions

In many cases, perhaps even the majority, identifying the animals of Scripture
is extremely difficult. Often there is no known creature that accurately
matches the clues at hand. In face of these difficulties, it is sometimes
suggested that the creature is unknown or extinct. For example, since it is
difficult to interpret the Torah's description of the shafan as a ruminating
animal as referring to the hyrax, some posit that the true shafan is extinct.

While this concept is freely used, it is actually highly difficult to
substantiate. That a creature from Scripture should be living and unknown to
us is extraordinarily unlikely. Although there are still new discoveries in
the animal kingdom, these are exclusively from remote regions of the world.
Israel and the surrounding area, on the other hand, has been a center of human
society for thousands of years. There are countless artifacts from ancient
civilizations of the area which give us enormous information about the world
in which these people lived, including its animal life.

Another important source of information for establishing a picture of the
animals formerly in existence is the fossil record. In some cases, the fossil
record does give us important information about animals that we would not
otherwise think to be mentioned in the Torah. There are remains of animals
that were formerly living in the region of Israel, but now only live
elsewhere, such as the hippopotamus. We also find evidence of some animals
that are now entirely extinct, such as the aurochs. But we should be skeptical
of claims that a creature formerly existed if there is no evidence for it in
the fossil record.

One might argue that there is insufficient evidence to determine that a given
creature did not exist, as it is only under very specific conditions that an
animal will fossilize. However, since the fossil record provides extensive
evidence for the overwhelming majority of known animals, this indicates that
we do possess very comprehensive coverage. Overall, then, in most cases it is
extremely unreasonable to argue that the true creature discussed in the Torah
is altogether unknown to us from current animal life, ancient accounts, and
the fossil record.

Furthermore, extinction due to natural causes (i.e. before the destruction by
man in the last few centuries) is a very rare event. Although 98% of all known
species are extinct, these extinctions took place after each species had lived
for many millions of years. The likelihood of a given species becoming extinct
in the last few thousand years is very low.

(In the next part of this essay, we shall look at prior research in the field
of Biblical Zoology.)

Zoo Torah is a non-profit educational enterprise that offers a series of
books, programs for both adults and children, zoo tours, and safaris, all on
the theme of Judaism and the animal kingdom. For more details and a taste of
the experience, see www.zootorah.com. This essay is produced by Zoo Torah in
collaboration with Ohr Somayach Institutions (www.ohr.edu). For details of the
books from which these essays are extracted, see

(c) Copyright by Rabbi Nosson Slifkin 2004, zoorabbi@zootorah.com. All rights
reserved. This essay may be further distributed free of charge, provided that
the header and footer information is preserved intact. To subscribe to this
list send an e-mail to nature-subscribe@ohr.edu. To unsubscribe send an e-mail
to nature-unsubscribe@ohr.edu.

Go to top.

Date: Sun, 27 Jun 2004 13:14:36 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: progress - relationship between Jewish and worldly ideas

On Fri, Jun 25, 2004 at 03:46:27PM +0200, Daniel Eidensohn wrote:
: 2) Furthermore are there sources other than Rav Tzadok and Rav Kook who
: assert a correspondence (correlational or causal) between ideas in the
: Jewish world and the world in general?

The Gra. We still have an article on line by R' Aharon Moshe Schreiber
from a discussion of the Vilna Gaon and his shitah on the 7 chochmos

Included in the article is a reference to a relatively well-known Zohar
about the necessary rise of mada in year 660 of the sixth millenium
(5660) as part of the redemption process.


Micha Berger             "I hear, then I forget; I see, then I remember;
micha@aishdas.org        I do, then I understand." - Confucius
http://www.aishdas.org   "Hearing doesn't compare to seeing." - Mechilta
Fax: (413) 403-9905      "We will do and we will listen." - Israelites

Go to top.


[ Distributed to the Avodah mailing list, digested version.                   ]
[ To post: mail to avodah@aishdas.org                                         ]
[ For back issues: mail "get avodah-digest vXX.nYYY" to majordomo@aishdas.org ]
[ or, the archive can be found at http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/              ]
[ For general requests: mail the word "help" to majordomo@aishdas.org         ]

< Previous Next >