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Volume 19: Number 9

Mon, 18 Sep 2006

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2006 15:25:16 -0400 (EDT)
Re: [Avodah] Chazal are Infallible

On Wed, September 13, 2006 6:00 pm, RCM wrote:
: Of course not. A common response is that they knew that these values were not
: exact, but only approximations. They used these values because in halacha
: these approximations are sufficient. I am not sure if this answer can be used
: for all the later meforshim as well as it may be hard to fit into  some of
: their discussions.

This is an oft visited topic here.

Pi, sqrt(2), the number of days in a month or months in a year are all
irrational numbers. Meaning, there is no way to give an exact number, the
exact value requires an infinite number of digits after the decimal point or a
fraction of infinite digits length to represent. Simply can not be done. It is
therefore meaningless to ask why they didn't use an exact value. Estimation is
the only possibility.

The only question that remains is one of shiur: How close is "close enough"
lehalakhah. As RCM concludes as well. (But, IMHO, for slightly less compelling
reasons. I wanted to point out that the issue isn't merely pragmatic, it's the
only possible outcome.)

I think this also addresses RSK's question about approximations. You can't
deduce anything from their using an estimate over the exact value when the
exact value is irrational. As for his later question:
> I know the Vilna Gaon wrote a math book ...
> but exactly where in the Rambam do we see him discuss equations of pi,
> x-squared, and the Pythagorean theorem?

The Rambam's discussion of qidush hachodash doesn't involve any of these, but
does reflect pretty solid knowledge of spherical trig in his translation of
time to degrees. As the Chazon Ish's commentary shows, somewhere among all
diagrams and proofs. It is also hard to believe that someone who knew
Aristotle as well as the Rambam did skimmed over his discussions of geometry.

On Thu, September 14, 2006 3:45 am, Arie Folger wrote:
: Eh, regarding the Rishonim, let me clearly state the opposite. There are
: elements in the Israeli education scene that want to make Tosafot's proof
: (which is actually from an earlier Jewish source, I believe) standard in
: teaching geometry, because students can more readily grasp it than the usualy
: calculations. That this beautiful and simple proof comes from our masters,
: the Rishonim, is of course an important benefit. The secular Israeli teenager
: will be somewhat exposed to their greatness through a subject matter he
: understands.

Back when I was in YU, R' Dr Eliezer/Leon Ehrenpreis used this Tosafos the
first day of calculus. Their use of concentric rings is a step toward the
concept of limits, which in turn is the basis of Newton's original formulation
of calculus. What's missing is the idea of an infinite number of infintesimal
strings. It is therefore an example of "exhaustion" not "limits", much like
the aforementioned approximation of pi by Archemedes.

: I would restate your speculation, saying that 'Hazal were interested in
: stating things in such a way that a non-scientifically trained person could
: apply halakhah. RMB stated the same thing regarding the height of the sukkah,

I didn't intend to as I have some problem with this sentiment. Are you saying
that the height of the Sukkah is a derabbanan gezeirah far short of the
requirement deOraisa? I thought the rishonim include it as one of the shiurim
that are halakhah leMosheh miSinai.

I believe the height of the sukkah is determined experientially, not
scientifically. IOW, it's not an issue of trig, but of psychology. If the eye
doesn't tend to look at the sekhakh, then one's experience is not that of
sitting in the shade of the sekhakh.


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Message: 2
From: "Joel Rich" <JRich@Segalco.com>
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2006 14:51:20 CDT
Re: [Avodah] Chazal are Infallible

Ok so let's posit that chazal knew geometry. Did they know biology, quantum physics.......?  If so, when was the chain broken? Why?

Ktjoel rich 

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Message: 3
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2006 17:11:05 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Chazal are Infallible

Micha Berger wrote:

> Pi, sqrt(2), the number of days in a month or months in a year are all
> irrational numbers. Meaning, there is no way to give an exact number, the
> exact value requires an infinite number of digits after the decimal point or a
> fraction of infinite digits length to represent. Simply can not be done. It is
> therefore meaningless to ask why they didn't use an exact value. Estimation is
> the only possibility.

The Rambam, in PhM to the mishna in Eruvin, gives exactly this
explanation for why the mishna says pi is 3.  It's impossible to give
the exact value, it has to be rounded *somewhere*, and Rebbi decided
to round it to an integer.   This is a wonderful and complete
explanation for the mishna, and it works just as well for the
underlying pasuk (the real diameter of the yam was somewhere between
9.5 and 9.7, thus rounding to 10, while the real circumference was
between 29.8 and 30.5, thus rounding to 30).

Unfortunately, it doesn't explain the gemara, but the Rambam wasn't
commenting on that, so he doesn't have to deal with it.  Tosfos,
which does have to deal with the gemara, notes the problem, and
doesn't even offer an attempt at resolving it.

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

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Message: 4
From: hankman <salman@videotron.ca>
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2006 17:35:51 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Chazal are Infallible

CM wrote:
>Actual the Babylonians and Greeks had better values than the ones used
in shas. It is safe to assume that chazal knew these values that well
preceded the time of the mishna and gemara even if you choose to assume
that chazal only knew what the intelligencia of their day knew in
science. They chose to use these rounded values since these approx. were
sufficient halachakly and easier for the less sophisticated hamon am to

RSK responded:
Why do we assume Chazal had a good "secular" education, and more
particularly, since we are dealing with shiurim to be yotzeh according
to halacha, why would chazal NOT be as precise as possible?  Again, see
the gemara I cited.

I [CM] respond:
I take it as an article of faith, that at the very least, chazal, our intelligencia, was no less knowledgeable in the secular fields of knowledge than the best of any other nation. Why would you assume otherwise? We can produce Einsteins today, but not then? (The obvious counter examples of our day where many gedolim do not have such knowledge is a discussion for another day).

As to your second point, "why would chazal NOT be as precise as possible?"  You misunderstood my comment. They were precise in halacha, not mathematically. That is to say, The precise value halachakly is 3 (not 3.1415...), The precise mathematical value, in discussions of halacha, IS the approximation to the correct halachik value of 3. (Presumably the Torah adopted this value of 3 rather than pi for halachik calculations due to its ease of use. But for halachik purposes it is the correct value, not an approximation, just don't expect a real circle to close by use of this value).

Chaim Manaster
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Message: 5
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2006 17:24:07 -0400
[Avodah] Chalav Hacompanie, again

On Areivim, Danny Schoemann wrote:

> In Europe and Israel too, it's not uncommon for milk to come for lots
> of little farms...
> So you never know how much kangaroo milk this mashgiach was ingesting... :-)

See the third teshuva in the series in Igrot Moshe (YD1).  IMHO if
its thesis is upheld, then it renders unnecessary the first two.
He explicitly extends the heter to milk that the large company buys
from small farms.

Though he doesn't say so, I can't think of a reason why the same
logic wouldn't extend it to any milk bought in a sealed carton or
bottle from a goyishe grocery, or even from a Jewish grocery if the
grocery bought it from a goyishe distributor, who in turn bought it
from the dairy already sealed.

*ALL* of this, however, is premised on the assumption that there is
no chance that more than 1/60 of the product is actual chalev teme'ah.
In a country where that can't be assumed, the gezera against chalav
akum doesn't even come into play; instead it's a safek deoraita, and
there was no need for Chazal to make any gezera.

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

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Message: 6
From: "Chana Luntz" <chana@kolsassoon.org.uk>
Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2006 10:32:41 +0100
Re: [Avodah] [Areivim] Chicken Scandal

From Areivim but sent to Avodah - please redirect if there is a reason
you posted this on Areivim:

RMB wrote:

> While cleaning up, I tried explaining how I saw it. Chezqas 
> kashrus isn't just a rule of thumb by which we are allowed to 
> live. It allows us to trust other Jews. It's a means to 
> unity. If we hadn't trusted people, enabling them to abuse 
> that trust, we would have been spiritually flawed on a pretty 
> fundamental level.
> The fact that we are told to rely on the eid echad would seem 
> to imply that tarfus is the lesser of the two problems.

I think one of the key things though is to learn the sugyas that relate
to chezkas kashrus.

In Yore Deah siman 119 si'if 1 the Mechaber explain the din in respect
of somebody who is suspected of eating treif:

"One who is suspected of eating things which are forbidden whether he is
suspected on an issur torah or suspected on an issur d'rabbanan one does
not rely on him, and if one is a guest by him he should not eat from him
of things on which he is suspected."

The key portion for our purposes, however, is the Rema there:

"There are those who say [Yesh omrim] that it isn't just one who is
suspected but even one that one does not know [she'ain mechirin oto]
that he is machzik b'kashrus it is forbidden to *buy* [emphasis mine]
from him wine or other things that there is in them a suspicion of issur
but in any event if he is a guest by him he may eat from him."

From this Rema it is easy to see a distinction being drawn between what
one is given eg as a guest and buying.  It is imperative that, on an
individual level, we trust our neighbours, as you have explained above,
and that therefore chezkas kashrus has to trump and there is no question
about that. When it comes to commercial arrangements, however, there are
those who say that it is legitimate to be more wary - and it is upon
this basis and for this reason that we have put in place our hashgacha
systems, ie why we do not fully rely on the chezkas kashrus of a seller
in the way we would and should do when eating of food that he gives to
us.  That admittedly does appear to leave us in the odd situation that
we may end up eating at other people's houses from hashgachas that one
would not rely on for one's own house, but IMHO that is what, in order
to maintain the trust that you describe, the halachic system requires.

However, note that a) this yesh omrim is apparently based on the
position of the Rambam, and b) the one area where there appears to be a
significant level of agreement with the yesh omrim is in relation to
meat.  I quote the Shach there in si'if katan 1:

"chashud l'echol:  derive from this that this that we do not rely on him
is davka if he is known to be suspected but with a stam yisroel we rely
upon him even in respect of an issur d'orisa like the Tur writes - about
what are we speaking with one who is suspected, but b'stam kol adam hu
b'chezkas kasher l'echol imo and so is the opinion of the Ra'avid and
Rashi and there is support for this from the Yerushalmi ... And not like
the opinion of the Rambam (which is the yesh omrim brought by the Rav)
that we need davka that we know that he is muchzak b'kashrus and the
minhag is not like the opinion of the Rambam but rather that we consider
every person b'chezkas kashrus".

But the Shach then brings that there appears to be a contradiction
between this position and the position brought by the mechaber in siman
1 of Yoreh Deah, where he appears to posken like the Rambam that you
need a shochet ne'eman and that in the Beis Yosef there he writes that
it is not like the opinion of the Mordechai that it is not necessary
because stam yisroel is b'chezkas kashrus and similarly he writes that
we do not buy meat from any butcher who shechts for himself and sells
unless he is established in kashrus like the Rambam.  And the Shach
further notes that this is also a kasha on the Tur who similarly brings
the Rambam in relation to this.  So to resolve this contradiction the
Shach explains that a butcher shochet is different "d'shechicha tuva" [I
am not 100% sure what he means by this so hesitate to translate it] and
also the laws of shechita are numerous and it is easy to have a
situation of shehiya or drusa or other of the instances that possel
shechita and hence if he is not muchzak b'kashrus, ossur.

That is, the general rule regarding relying on stam chezkas kashrus does
not apply to a butcher who shechts and then sells.  Of course our case
here is about a butcher who did not himself shecht.  But at least some
of the reasons that it is logical to view meat differently, and to
follow the Rambam with regard to the sale of meat might well apply to
the whole meat process.  Because nowhere is the divergence in price
between a kosher and non kosher product so dramatic as with meat, and
the arbitrage opportunity for the unscrupulous is obvious.  This does
not mean that one upsets the chezkas kashrus reliance if one is a guest
at another's table or simcha even in relation to meat products (see the
ROY teshuva I quoted on previous posts of this), but it does mean that
it is reasonable to expect and demand that before one buys a good
hechsher takes a much greater role when dealing with meat products than
would seem to be necessary in other circumstances.

That is one of the reasons why, inter alia, I am concerned that people
tend to get hung up on the need for "specialised expertise in food
technology (such as the complex field of flavouring)" where the risks
are generally, at most, d'rabbanan and where there are usually opinions
(even if minority ones) that in fact the matter is mutar l'chatchila.
Because arguably this has a tendency to divert attention from those
problems of kashrus that, since time immemorial, have caused the
violation by the rabbim of issurei d'orisa.  That arguably the whole
hashgacha system is in fact following the Rambam, which according to the
Shach is a minority opinion except in relation to meat and therefore we
ought reasonably to expect that in relation to meat products the
standards would and should be higher than in relation to any other
product.  Note that also, it is explicit from the gemora that in
relation to a shochet's knives we do not rely on eid echad ne'eman
b'issurin, but have them checked by a chacham, even though we do rely on
this principle for other issurei d'orisa (it being learnt from the issur
d'orisa of nida).  That already should signal that meat and its
production falls into a different category.

> -mi

Shabbat Shalom


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Message: 7
From: saul mashbaum <smash52@netvision.net.il>
Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2006 14:41:41 +0200
Re: [Avodah] Henna parties

RISober concisely summarized many of the laws of chatzita, based in YD 198:17 and other seifim, and stated:
>Acrylic nails or nail  polish is a minority of her body about which she is
> not makpedet - in fact, the polish or acrylic is
> decorative and she wants it to remain in place [ are not a chatzitza]

RAMiller asked
>If so, then why is it that women *do* remove their acrylic nails and 
>nail polish prior to tevilah? I recall once hearing that this is 
>*not* halacha, only a minhag of the women. The phrase "das yehudis" 
>might have been applied to this.

AIUI, what RAM heard is correct. RIS alluded to this when she summarized:
L'chat'chila, we try to remove all foreign substances before tevilah. Bediavad - when a woman has a need or desire not to remove some foreign object (e.g., a medical, cosmetic, or unremovable item) a specific individual she'elah should always be asked, especially if the alternative is delaying mikveh or chas v'shalom dropping mikveh observance altogether.

Tvila is an area of halacha in which the gap between ikkar-hadin and the common practice is very large.
For example, Rav Menashe Klein has a very intersting tshuva in Shu"t Mishne Halachot VI:155, in which he discusses
false eyelashes regarding tvila. He comes to the conclusion that since they are designed not to be removed,                               and the woman wants them to be in place, they are not a chatzitza. This is me-ikkar hadin. He then notes that
in practice for various reasons we are inclined to be stringent in these laws, far beyond the demands of the halacha.

Thus we have the situation, referred to by RIS, where the posek being asked a shayla has to carefully consider the level of
halachic  committment of the woman asking the question when formulating his answer. Althi\ough often the most accurate   
answer is " It's ok meikkar hadin, but our practice is to avoid it", many women prefer a less nuanced answer. 
"Just tell me what to do" many women are inclined to say. In cases like this, many rabbonim will give a meikil psak if they think 
a machmir one will negatively affect the woman's observance of tvilla. OTOH, a woman who is in general meticulous in
halachic observance will surely be instructed to follow common practice. 

As RTK pointed out in her Avodah posting on the subject, mikva ladies are made aware of ikkar hadin, and apparently are insructed to use some judgement in instructing the tovlot how to conduct themselves, based on the level of their halachic committment. Presumably this applies to yoatzot halacha as well (mikva ladies were obviously the first yoatzot). I well imagine most women who take kallah classes are instucted *only* in the common, stringent, l'chatchilla, practice, and are not made aware of ikkar hadin regarding chatzitza; RTK indicates was the case by herself, until she learned to be a mikva lady.  Although someting may be said for this teaching strategy, I think most kallot nowadays are sophisicated enough to be taught both, and instructed to follow the accepted practice. 

Saul Mashbaum

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Message: 8
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2006 13:39:40 +0200
[Avodah] Monsey Chicken Scandal

Rav Shurkin mentioned to me that as a general rule that one buys from a 
store because of the mashgiach not because of the butcher.

He also told me that the Brisker Rav held that one should buy from a 
butcher who doesn't have a beard. Such a person is always treated with 
suspicion. In contrast the appearance of a chasidic butcher can lull one 
into thinking that there can't possibly be a problem.

Daniel Eidensohn

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Message: 9
From: "David Riceman" <driceman@worldnet.att.net>
Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2006 08:52:41 -0400
[Avodah] asher yatzar

My son and I are studying siddur, and we're curious about the bracha asher 
yatzar.  Isn't it praising God for a bug rather than a feature? Surely 
making human beings resistant against slight changes in form would be better 

David Riceman 

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Message: 10
From: saul mashbaum <smash52@netvision.net.il>
Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2006 02:19:41 +0200
Re: [Avodah] Henna parties

RISober wrote
AFAIK, we can be lenient with hair dye because she is ainah makpedet - on the contrary, she wants her hair to be dyed, and also because the dye has no independent substance but is absorbed into the hair. (I imagine that the same principle would apply if one were matbil an item of dyed clothing for tumah/taharah purposes?)

Yes, the same priciple definitely applies. In fact, the case of dyed cloth is cited as a proof of the principle that dye is not a chatzitza (for the two reasons RIS notes).
The Mishna in Shkalim 8:4 descibes the procedure for tvila of the parochet in the mikdash (the procedure varies depending on the level of tumah which affected the parochet). The parochet was wool dyed in various colors. The BY in YD 198 says that the fact that the parochet could be toveled demonstrates that dye is not a chatzitza. The G"ra on YD  198:17 mentions this proof as well.

Saul Mashbaum

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Message: 11
From: "SBA" <sba@sba2.com>
Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2006 20:10:58 +1000
[Avodah] Re Meh

From: hankman
<. My father alav hashalom always pointed out: grammatically we use mah with
a patach or kamatz except in front of a guttural letter (see eg Mah anu, Meh
chayeenu in Leolam yehei adam).
One exception: in the haftorah re Shaul and Amalek Shmuel hanavi says to
Shaul:   Meh Kol Hatzon?

Why Meh and not mah? Think about it -- what noise do sheep make? Me'e'eh
CM notes:
My dikduk is almost nonexistent so I could easily be wrong, but I will stick
my neck out anyway even though I would be wiser not to venture an opinion.
I was told that mah or moh precedes what we would call a vowel  while meh
precedes what we would call a consonant. I imagine that a "guttural" letter
= a "vowel" or is there a difference?
The point being to make pronunciation easier.
An example:  Bameh madlikin ubamoh ain madlikin

Sorry. Meh is almost always only in front of a guttural letter. Again I
refer you to Leolam yehei adam (and Neilah). Bameh is different --the rule I
cited relates to mah/meh on its own. 

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Message: 12
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2006 15:44:48 -0400
[Avodah] Kashering Corningware

"Beach Runner" <Bob4Health@hotmail.com> wrote the following to scjm:
Message-ID: <1158329120.740470.180210@i3g2000cwc.googlegroups.com>
> cindys wrote:
>> I don't know about before, but I do know that if Corningware is currently
>> glazed stoneware, it cannot be kashered.
>> Best regards,

> I wrote a long posting on Corning, but I suppose it had too much off
> topic information regarding the company, so I guess it wasn't posted.
> So, I'll just summarize.

> "Corningware" is a very wide product line that includes many diverse
> products. The unique product, Correll is rather unique. Correll was
> originally produced by accident, when an oven lost control and went
> exponentially higher than it was supposed to. It produced a new material
> with unique characteristics.

> The surface tension was much stronger, making it very non-reactive.
> In fact, it is nothing like glazed dishes. It contains much internal
> energy that makes in non-reactive and thus, doesn't interact with food
> or chemicals. While the bonds that keep it non reactive are strong,
> when it does break, it explodes.

> Consequently, anyone trying to determine rules for them being kashered,
> they would need to understand the properties of the substance. Correll is
> unique, and my favorite since it is so clean and pure.

> Corningware by the way, is not made by Corning, as their Consumer Product
> Division was sold several years ago.

So, why /is/ kashering Corningware considered so difficult? If it has
a very high surface tension, I wouldn't think it absorbs ta'am.


Micha Berger             You cannot propel yourself forward
micha@aishdas.org        by patting yourself on the back.
http://www.aishdas.org                   -Anonymous
Fax: (270) 514-1507      

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Message: 13
From: "Ashkanazy, Zev" <ZQAshkanazy@aaachicago.com>
Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2006 15:02:35 -0400
[Avodah] Ona'as D'varim

Could being an anonymous blogger or making an anonymous comment on a
blog fall into the category of Ona'as D'varim?



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