Avodah Mailing List

Volume 21: Number 6

Mon, 13 Nov 2006

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: "Ilana Sober" <sober@pathcom.com>
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2006 19:45:54 -0500
[Avodah] Noach and Lashon T'horah

RZL: To impress upon us the gravity of becoming tamei, or eating tamei, or
violating someone or otherewise making someone tamei, the harsh language is
called for. When Hashem is instructing Noach as to how many of these
non-kosher animals he should allow in the ark, however, a harsh language is
uncalled for.

One challenge in teaching or speaking about taharat hamishpacha with certain
audiences is that women find the use of the term "tumah" to describe a
natural, unavoidable bodily function degrading and insulting. In many other
cases, as well, people become tamei quite involuntarily. So I am a little
puzzled as to why harsh language is called for here. It is not assur to
become tamei, and some important mitzvot (like pru urvu and caring for and
burying the dead) require one to become tamei.

- Ilana

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Message: 2
From: "Ilana Sober" <sober@pathcom.com>
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2006 21:01:43 -0500
[Avodah] chutra or ketura?

A thought on the parsha:

The last time Hagar is mentioned in the Torah - vatikach lo imo isha
me'eretz mitzrayim - Rashi quotes the midrash, "throw a stick in the air and
it will come back to where it started." Hagar (shifcha mitzrit) started out
in Mitzrayim , a country known for moral and spiritual degredation. She
experienced great elevation as a member of Avraham's household, where
interacting with malachim was an everyday occurrence. But in the end,
banished from that household, she descended back to the low standards of her

A stick does not continue to move upwards forever through inertia, nor does
it remain suspended at the highest point of its trajectory. It falls back to
earth. We can be inspired and elevate ourselves, but if we do not constantly
invest the effort in moving upwards, our progress is ephemeral and

After Sarah's death, Avraham marries Keturah. Rashi tells us that Keturah
is, in fact, Hagar but is called Keturah because her deeds were as pleasant
as ketoret (incense). Ketoret is not thrown into the air. It is ground fine
and then burned - transformed completely. The smoke rises and rises and does
not fall down.

Perhaps Hagar teaches us something about growth and transformation. The
stick represents the model of external change. We can make great progress by
changing our environment and our actions, but if we do not change ourselves
internally, our growth may be ephemeral. Ketoret, on the other hand,
represents internal, essential, change. It is through this kind of teshuvah,
that, like incense burned on the altar, we can achieve lasting

- Ilana

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Message: 3
From: "Ilana Sober" <sober@pathcom.com>
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2006 21:36:41 -0500
[Avodah] Yishmael and hester panim

Another thought on the parsha:

Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer:

Yishmael's first wife was from Moav. Avraham went to visit him - promising
Sarah he wouldn't get down from the camel. Only the wife was home. Avraham
asked her for a bit of bread and water, and she refused. He asked her to
give Yishmael a message - change the threshold of your house; it is not
suitable for you. Yishmael understood and divorced his wife, and his mother
took him a wife from her father's house named Fatima.

Three years later, the exact same story - but when Avraham asked Fatima for
bread and water she brought them out for him. Avraham davenned for his son
and the house of Yishmael was filled with good things. When Yishmael came
she told him what had happened and he knew that his father still had mercy
on him, k'rachem av al banim.

Could this be a mashal for the Jewish people in galut, at a time of hester
panim? We do not actually see G-d, just Yishmael was never home when his
father arrived. But G-d's love for us is eternal, and He has not deserted
us. We need to cultivate an awareness of His presence so that we can hear
and respond to His guidance and recognize and give thanks for His brachot.

- Ilana

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Message: 4
From: "Ilana Sober" <sober@pathcom.com>
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2006 07:24:11 -0500
[Avodah] demonstrations

Apropos the discussion on Areivim about the gay pride parade,
counterprotests, garbage-burning, etc.

Is there a Torah perspective on the concept of demonstrations in general? On
the one hand, my experience is that at demonstrations everyone is expected
(and inspired) to shout catchy slogans that almost always represent a gross
oversimplification of the situation. On the other hand, demonstratons may
the most effective, or the only, way for people to influence destructive or
misguided actions of the government.

I can easily imagine many episodes in Shemot and BaMidbar as demonstrations.
Who shouted "Hamibli ein kevarim bemitzrayim" on the shores of yam suf? Like
many speeches at demonstrations, it's clever, and it captures and focuses
the people's mood - but it's wrong. Or the rally in B'haalotc'ha - "No more
Man!" "We want meat!" "What do we want? Kishuim! When do we want it? Now!"
Or Korach's "Men in Techelet" demonstration. Or the meraglim standing before
the people, cleverly steering them from hope to despair. Or the ma'apilim,
fired by misguided religious inspiration.

On the other hand, Eliyahu HaNavi held a massive korban rally on Har
HaKarmel and inspired the people to resist Achav, get off the fence, and
shout "H' Hu Ha'Elokim!"

 - Ilana

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Message: 5
From: "Gershon Dubin" <gershon.dubin@juno.com>
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2006 15:15:40 GMT
[Avodah] taking off chalah from cake dough

From: "Ilana Sober" <sober@pathcom.com>

<<I think there are also questions about whether the recipe includes
water, whether water is the primary liquid, etc - in some cases one
would take challah from cake without a bracha.>>

Making a dough without water is chayav in chala (Y"D 329:9).  

However, it causes another problem.  

We burn chala nowadays because it's tamei, since we are all teme'ei
mesim. In order for it to become tamei, it must have hechsher mashkeh,
which it does NOT get if no water is in the recipe.  

You are then stuck with chala tehora which one is not allowed to burn,
and you must give it to a kohen (or kahenes) katan or kohen gadol who
is tahor mitum'a hayotz'ah alav migufo (Y"D 329:10; 322:5) to eat (with
a beracha asher kideshanu bikdushaso shel Aharon...)

Doesn't matter if it's mostly water or just some;  doesn't have to be
water so long as it's one of the 7 mashkim.


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Message: 6
From: "Prof. Levine" <llevine@stevens.edu>
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2006 12:08:17 -0500
[Avodah] Noah and Avraham

The Rambam writes at the beginning of his discussion of Avodah Zarah  1:2

"After Abraham was weaned, while still an infant, his mind began to 
reflect. By day and by night he was thinking and wondering: "How is 
it possible that this [celestial] sphere should continuously be 
guiding the world and have no one to guide it and cause it to turn 
round; for it cannot be that it turns round of itself." He had no 
teacher, no one to instruct him in aught. He was submerged in Ur of 
the Chaldees, among silly idolaters. His father and mother and the 
entire population worshiped idols, and he worshiped with them. But 
his mind was busily working and reflecting until he had attained the 
way of truth, apprehended the correct line of thought, and knew that 
there is one God, that He guides the celestial sphere and created 
everything, and that among all that exist, there is no god besides 
Him. He realized that men everywhere were in error, and that what had 
occasioned their error was that they worshiped the stars and the 
images, so that the truth perished from their minds. Abraham was 
forty years old when he recognized his Creator."

The Abarbanel  says that Avraham knew Noah. (Their lives overlapped 
for 58 years.) Someone told me that the Doros Rishonim says that 
Avraham fled from Ur and spent many years in the house of Noah. The 
Me'Am Lo'az says that Noah and Shem convinced Terach that Avraham was 
right about Avodah Zarah being meaningless.  He also says that 
according to some Avraham "went to an academy that Noah and Shem had 
established, and spent 39 years there, learning the divine mysteries."

My question is, "How does all of this fit together?" Is the Rambam 
referring to Avraham's youth when he says that he had no teacher? 
Because, according to the Abarbanel and the Me'Am Lo'Az, he 
apparently did have teachers after he met Noah and while he attended 
the "academy."

Yitzchok Levine 
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Message: 7
From: "Ilana Sober" <sober@pathcom.com>
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2006 13:24:26 -0500
Re: [Avodah] taking off chalah from cake dough

I did run into this once l'maaseh. A group of sisterhood ladies had baked
hamentaschen in the shul kitchen for a Purim party. This was a really big
batch of hamentaschen - an amount that was chayav in challah. But they
didn't realize it because of course they never took challah when baking
normal-size batches of hamentaschen at home. Fortunately, someone noticed
the problem and challah was separated from the hamentaschen after they had
been baked.

- Ilana

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Message: 8
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2006 13:59:33 -0500 (EST)
Re: [Avodah] Knowledge of Good and Bad

On Thu, November 2, 2006 9:43 am, kennethgmiller@juno.com wrote:
: Let's begin with the idea that in the beginning, Adam and Chava only
: knew emes and sheker, and did not understand tov and ra until after
: eating from the tree.

I am not sure this is a given. Rav Dessler writes that their yeitzer hara was
externalized (in the nachash), but doesn't say they didn't understand the
concept. Leshitaso, they understood the concepts of good and evil, but the
battle wasn't internalized until the cheit.

I would assume REED would point to the fact that da'as implies intimacy, and
lada'as therefore isn't merely to understand objectively, in the abstract.

I suggested that this shtims with the Rambam, since the role of an external
yeitzer hara would therefore be to convince them of the goodness of something
that was overall evil, and thus their internal battle would be emes vasheqer.

That's the basic nequdah of our dispute about how to understand the cheit.

The second, less primary, issue is whether their having emotion should or
shouldn't play a role in this discussion.

: A long time ago, I understood this in a manner very reminiscent of
: Mr. Spock from Star Trek, that they had no emotions or opinions, and
: made their decisions in a purely logical manner....

Not all emotions are ta'avos. Neither are all opinions. For that matter, logic
alone can't bring you conclusions. Logic manipulates first principles, your
accepted postulates, to produce further truths. To reach a conclusion, you
need another mechanism to give you those first principles. Observation is
colored by the assumptions brought by the observer, and so even with straight
logic they can reach a falsehood.

:                                                 However, Chava's
: observation - prior to eating - that the fruit was "tov l'maachal"
: has shown me that they *did* have emotions and opinions prior to
: eating. This was my (unstated) reason for beginning this thread,
: whose purpose is to suggest that "tov v'ra" should not be translated
: as "good and bad", but as "right and wrong".

Also, as I noted, Adam was lonely until Chavah was separated off of him.
That's an emotion. And I agree that tov vara must be on the moral plane, not
also the functional and aesthetic ones.

But I disagree with your middle step. Someone can assess something as being
functionally good without having emotions. Aesthetics are a blurrier area; is
prettiness (or tastiness) an emotional thing, or an abstract property shared
by things which cause a common emotion?

: and RMB asked:
:> How? Why would Adam and Chava possibly believe that
:> disobeying the Source of everything would bring benefit?
:> ... I still wonder why Chava would possibly lack the
:> knowledge that doing G-d's will must in the long run lead
:> to more benefit than would defying it.

: Chava lacked that knowledge because no one had taught it to her.

My primary objection is that REED assumes they did understand good and evil.

Secondarily, it's trivial to know that her Maker's will should be more
important than that of a fellow creature. Particularly to someone whose
husband chatted with Hashem; she wouldn't have had uncertainty about His
reality. It's therefore hard to surmise her missing that ranking of authority.

The nachash instead sold her on the idea that she could better serve Hashem if
she would eat the fruit, but Hashem wanted to protector from the personal
risk. (And it just struck me -- if that was his argument, was the nachash
necessarily lying? I could see arguing either way.)

: Why didn't she give more credence to the Creator? I'm not sure, but
: my guess is that although they had emotions and desires, that relates
: to ideas like "which do I enjoy more", or "which is more beneficial".
: The topic here is a different emotion, namely: trust.

Judging the reliability of a source, or Source, isn't necessarily emotion.
Going with the One Who actually made the facts in question should be
self-evident. I wouldn't assume Chava was sufficiently dull to miss that

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             Spirituality is like a bird: if you tighten
micha@aishdas.org        your grip on it, it chokes; slacken your grip,
http://www.aishdas.org   and it flies away.
Fax: (270) 514-1507                            - Rav Yisrael Salanter

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Message: 9
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2006 14:16:46 -0500 (EST)
Re: [Avodah] establishing mamzerut

On Thu, November 2, 2006 2:23 pm, Rabbiner Arie Folger wrote:
: Let's just repeat that the speakers at the Conference of European Rabbis,
: including one that was trying to represent RYSE's POV, considered the
: validity of DNA testing for both 'igun and mamzerut to be in the same
: category. To be matir an 'agunah, you need a greater than 999?% (promille)
: certainty. That is definitely enough to supercede rov be'ilot a'har haba'al.

I was under the impression that we bend over backward lehatir agunos, as well
as to presume kosher yichus. And thus, I am very surprised that 1:1,000
understainty is sufficient le'esor.

I once asked the chevrah to help me make a list of dinim in which there is a
stated preference to be meiqil. (My purpose was for a scjm debate over C's
version of "koach deheteira adif". I was trying to show that the fact that
these are stated exceptions, the norm is obviously not that one is supposed to
*seek* qulos.) All of them because of a "hidden" qulah in choosing the other
tzad). The first ones on the list were agunah, mamzeirus, and eiruvin.

I therefore did not assume that a form of birur that can be matir WRT agunah
would necessarily be use to declare someone a mamzeir, since the former runs
with the general trend, and the latter against it. Whether is would be
generalized in cases where we don't actively seek lehatir also seemed open,
but more probable.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             Spirituality is like a bird: if you tighten
micha@aishdas.org        your grip on it, it chokes; slacken your grip,
http://www.aishdas.org   and it flies away.
Fax: (270) 514-1507                            - Rav Yisrael Salanter

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Message: 10
From: "kennethgmiller@juno.com" <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2006 19:26:49 GMT
Re: [Avodah] taking off chalah from cake dough

R"s Gershon Dubin, Mordechai Cohen, Samuel Svarc, Arie Folger, and 
Ilana Sober all seemed to say that it is unlikely to reach the shiur 
for challah when one bakes at home.

But the article from Rabbi Dovid Heber of the Star-K, at 
http://www.star-k.org/kashrus/kk-issues-challah.htm, which RMC had 
pointed us to, says that the shiur by bread is 12.25 or 16.5 cups of 
flour, while for mezonos it's only 8.66 cups. So I'm wondering what 
their point was. In other words, it seems to me that anyone who has 
to take challah from the bread they bake is even MORE likely to have 
to take challah from the cake they bake.

Akiva Miller

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Message: 11
From: "kennethgmiller@juno.com" <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 2006 19:31:27 GMT
Re: [Avodah] What is the source for the minhag of Chasidim to

R' David Bannett wrote:
> 1. In T. Bavli, Shabbat 115,  Rashi explains that
> while one reads nevi'im on Shabbat one does not
> read ketuvim on Shabbat.
> 2. Magdil yeshu'ot is in Tehilim. Tehilim is in
> ketuvim. One does not read ketuvim on Shabbat.

Are you suggesting that we should skip Ashrei (and most of the rest 
of Psukei D'zimra) on Shabbat?

Or perhaps what you mean is that Rashi skipped Ashrei on Shabbat?

Akiva Miller

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Message: 12
From: T613K@aol.com
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2006 09:04:14 EST
Re: [Avodah] taking off chalah from cake dough

From: Sterling Touch _sterlingtouch@yahoo.com_ 
(mailto:sterlingtouch@yahoo.com) :

<<  Someone just told me that one is required to remove chalah from cake
dough  as well as bread dough. Has anybody else heard this?>>
RGD replied:

It's not likely to happen that someone will bake a shiur chala  of cake
except commercially, but yes it is chayav bechala.  
How big a cake would that have to be?  Put  it in terms I can understand:  
how many Duncan Hines cake mixes?  And  would they all have to be in one big pan 
or would you combine (mentally) several  different cakes to make one big one 
that needs challah taken?  Would they  then all have to be in the oven at the 
same time or would you be required to  take challah if you baked the cakes 
serially and left them all on the table at  the same time to cool?  When would 
you take the challah?  While the  dough was still liquid or after the cake was 
baked?  I assume the  latter.

--Toby  Katz
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Message: 13
From: T613K@aol.com
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2006 09:12:28 EST
Re: [Avodah] Minhag for women to abstain from work on Rosh

Dr. Josh Backon wrote:

> BTW when Rashi mentions "mori  ha'zaken", to whom is he referring ??

R' Zev Sero  replied:

>>R Yaakov ben Yakar, who was a talmid of RGMH.<<
I think you mean R' Gershom Me'or Hagolah but can you please verify?   (Not a 
good idea to use abbreviations for names that don't come up often on  
Avodah).  Thank you.

--Toby  Katz

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Message: 14
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2006 11:01:46 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Minhag for women to abstain from work on Rosh

T613K@aol.com wrote:
> R' Zev Sero wrote:
> Dr. Josh Backon wrote:

>>> BTW when Rashi mentions "mori ha'zaken", to whom is he referring ??

>>R Yaakov ben Yakar, who was a talmid of RGMH.

> I think you mean R' Gershom Me'or Hagolah but can you please verify?  
> (Not a good idea to use abbreviations for names that don't come up often 
> on Avodah).  Thank you.

Yes.  R Yaakov ben Yakar was a talmid of Rabenu Gershom Meor Hagolah.

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: 15
From: Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer <ygbechhofer@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2006 13:29:15 -0500
[Avodah] BK Questions


I have been stumped by two questions by talmidim in as many days.

The first one was asked by Moshe Shulman: On 3a Rashi says that V'Nafal 
refers to both Misah and Nizakin (l'maskonas ha'sugya) yet on 28b he 
says it refers to Misah only?!

The second one was asked by Eliyahu Putterman: Also on 3a, in the case 
of Avno, Sakino u'Maso'o, Rashi writes "v'niskalu bahem bnei adam." Why 
only people? On this questions I have a pilpulistic answer based on a 
machlokes Rambam vs. Rashi, that I will post when it's written up, but 
it's not all that great.

Any eitzos much appreciated!



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