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Volume 21: Number 8

Wed, 15 Nov 2006

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: "kennethgmiller@juno.com" <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 13:46:06 GMT
[Avodah] taking off chalah from cake dough

R' Gershon Dubin wrote:
> 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,...

B'shaas had'chak, the Mechaber 453:4 allows one to make matza with 
ordinary store-bought flour. However, Mishne Brurah 453:24 writes 
that nowadays, the common practice is to wash and soak the wheat, so 
it is assur to use such flour even b'shaas had'chak. Rav Shimon Eider 
(page 213) confirms that this is the practice nowadays, and 
that "commercial flour should be considered as actual chometz."

Based on this, I suspect that our flour is already muchshar l'kabel 
tumah when we buy it, and the act of taking the chalah is more than 
sufficient to insure that it is indeed tamei, solving RGD's concerns. 
But I won't pretend to be overly familiar with hilchos tumah 
v'tahara, and would appreciate hearing comments from the rest of the 

Akiva Miller

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Message: 2
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 10:39:08 -0500 (EST)
Re: [Avodah] Noah and Avraham

On Fri, November 10, 2006 12:08 pm, Prof. Levine wrote:
: The Rambam writes at the beginning of his discussion of Avodah Zarah  1:2
: 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?

1- This seems pretty solid. Avraham found Hashem on his own, and then went to
Noach to develop the thought's full details. We don't need all of the 39 years
need not be all within the 58 years that Avraham's life overlapped Noach's.
After all, it speaks of their "yeshiva", not Noach as an individual.

2- Why need it fit together? It wouldn't be the first time the Abarbanel was
choleiq on the Rambam. Nor would I be surprised that the Rambam wouldn't
credit a mesorah about time spent learning "divine mysteries".

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: 3
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 11:29:39 -0500 (EST)
Re: [Avodah] Noach and Lashon T'horah

On Thu, November 9, 2006 7:45 pm, Ilana Sober wrote:
: 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.

The word "tamei" is itself the "hearsh term" in question. The problem isn't
whether harsh language is appropriate for discussing tum'ah, but why the
gemara would characterized "beheimah temei'ah" as a more harsh turn of phrase
than "beheimah tehorah".

The "Maimonidian" position (put in quotes because I don't think it's the
Rambam's, but attributing it to certain contemporary camps that take a
particular approach centered on the Mishneh Torah) that tum'ah is simply a
halachic state with no negative value associated with it is simply untenable
in light of this (and many other) ma'amarei Chazal. But then, they believe in
a concept of Torah that is so contractual / legal that I can not understand
how it would fit Chazal -- or the Rambam, for that matter. A tangent for
another discussion, one we had once.

I think the problem is resolvable if we assume yahadus has multiple value
systems. There is a value to being tahor over tamei, there is a value to being
qadosh over chol. There are probably also more value systems. (Personally, I
identify three, but that's a blog entry waiting to happen. Another tangent not
to pursue right now.) Someone who performs chessed shel emes at the expense of
becoming tamei is choosing one value at the expense of another.

What does this mean for teaching taharas hamishpachah?

In the blog entries at
<http://www.aishdas.org/asp/category/machashavah/naran/taharah/> (as well as a
mesuqim article, some pre-blog writings, a few AishDas posts) I use RSRH and
the Ramchal to argue that tum'ah is that which shoves our faces in the fact
that we're physical beings having mamallian bodies. This isn't a good thing,
as it plays down the role of free will and man's destiny to ennoble himself.
However, it would mean that to be uncomfortable with the notion of niddah
being temei'ah is to deny that the biological process doesn't present the
woman with a feeling of her body being in control.

Chessed shel emes causes a conflict of associations -- on the one hand, there
is the kavod hameis, on the other, it's handling another human's body,
innanimate. Thus the conflict of values involved.

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: 4
From: Yisrael Herczeg <yherczg1@013.net>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 17:31:00 +0200
Re: [Avodah] [YGB - ??"?] Another Good BK Q, from our talmid

With respect to the avno, etc., there are two points in their existence that might be termed asiyah -- when the object was made, and when it was made into a bor. Rashi's point on daf gimel is that the gemara there uses asiyah in the second sense. But with regard to the tree or wall, their becoming a bor was not the result of "asiyah" at all, for that term implies active human involvement. Therefore, on daf vav, the term asiyah must refer to the construction of the wall or the planting of the tree. And that asiyah was not lenezek.
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer 
  To: Avodah ; Yisrael Herczeg ; Yitzchok Zirkind 
  Sent: Tuesday, November 14, 2006 1:15 PM
  Subject: [YGB - ??"?] Another Good BK Q, from our talmid Daniel Apfel

  This one is easier to answer, but since I received (mostly offline) so many wonderful answers to yesterday's questions, here is today's:

  On :?? ?, the ??' says that an ????', that a person puts into ???? ?????, is???? ?????? ???? . ??? explains that this is so because when it became a ???, (when he put it in ???? ?????) it was able to do ???.

  But, on :?? ? the ??' says that a tree or wall that was in a persons private property that fall into the middle of ???? ?????, and the person doesn?t get rid of it and it does damage, he's ????. The ??' continues to say that this is not a case of ???, rather it's learned out from both ??? and ???. The reason this is says the ??', is because its not ???? ?????? ????. ??? explains that the reason behind this is because when the wall was first built, and the tree first planted they were not able to do damage as a ???. But according to the first ??' it should be ???? ?????? ????, because when they first were in ???? ????? they were able to do damage as a ????? So what is ???? ?????? ????? Is it that when it was first in ???? ????? it was able to do damage as a ???, or is it that when it was first created/recognizable as a wall, tree, rock etc., it was able to do damage as a ?????? 
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Message: 5
From: Yaakov Moser <ymoser@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 19:59:47 +0200
Re: [Avodah] Yishmael and hester panim

Chief Rabbi Professor Jonathan Sacks wants to read the story as a 
reference to Islam (based on Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer being an 8th Century 
text). I refer you to



Jason Moser

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Message: 6
From: Arie Folger <afolger@aishdas.org>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 21:45:42 +0100
Re: [Avodah] establishing mamzerut

RMB wrote:
> 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.

Correction: an error of less than 1 in a thousand is enough to allow.

> 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

Once you assume that DNA is quasy faultless, it equals certainty. You no 
longer can claim that there is a reasonable interpretation of the presence of 
the bo'el's DNA in the child.

Actually, I believe there is a reasonable interpretation which would suffice, 
and I am surprised that it wasn't suggested at the conference: the child 
might be the bo'el's and still not be a mamzer, since it could have been 
conveived by IUF, IVF etc.

Unfortunately, at the time, I didn't feel sufficiently at home to publicly 
confront the speaker (a major figure) with that question. It would also have 
been embarassing to say "there is an elefant in the room", namely, that DNA 
is a lot more reliable than 999/1000.


Arie Folger

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Message: 7
From: Arie Folger <afolger@aishdas.org>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 22:03:30 +0100
Re: [Avodah] taking off chalah from cake dough

RTK wrote:
> How big a cake would that have to be? ?Put ?it in terms I can understand: ?
> how many Duncan Hines cake mixes?

Ckae batter is made of flour, fat and sugar in roughly equal proportions, held 
together by an emusifier (eggs). Thus, I would not be far off if I'd guess 
you need to take challah when baking 3.6 kg of mix. (though Dunkin Hines 
might use E470/1/2 as an emulsifier (sorry I don't know the American trade 
names) instead of eggs, and lots more sugar. Definitely don't make a berakhah 
on less than 10 pounds.

Even better, contact the OU (or whomever certifies it) and have one of their 
rabbis tell you how much % flour there is in the mix. However, you'd still 
have to keep in mind that flour is less dense than sugar, and the percentage 
given by the kashrut agency will likely be by weight.

> 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?

You can combine them. Read the article linked to by RAM in Avodah 4:6

> 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? 

Good question. I am not sure here. RGD?

> When would you take the challah? ?While the ?dough was still 
> liquid or after the cake was baked? ?I assume the ?latter.

'Hallah is only taken from cakes (from "belilah rakah") after baking.

Arie Folger

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Message: 8
From: T613K@aol.com
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 13:53:35 EST
Re: [Avodah] Yishmael

From: "Yisrael Medad" _yisrael.medad@gmail.com_ 


>>Since we're on the subject, those who read the parsha carefully  noticed an
example of semantic deconstruction.  The verses  21:16-17read:

*"And she [Hagar] sat over against him, and lifted up her  voice, and wept.
And God heard the voice of the lad;"*

True, the  Midrash notes that Hashem listens to those who pray, and
extrapolates that  Yishmael must have prayed, but the literay aspect is why
didn't he listen to  Hagar and why doesn't it explicitly say that Yishmael
prayed?  There's a  subtle dislocation here.  A mother's voice is not up to
the mark?   And why not write "an Yishmael prayed, too  and..."?<<

"A mother's voice is not up to the mark?"  It depends which  mother.  Hagar's 
voice was not up to the mark.  At least in part (I'm  assuming) because she 
didn't stay near her son but moved away from him because  she didn't want to 
see him die -- IOW it was her own distress she cared about  more than her son's. 
 She would rather he die alone than that she  have to experience the horror 
of witnessing his death.  So her tefilla  -- "Please don't let me see my son 
die" rather than "Please save my son's life"  -- wasn't up to snuff.
>>And why not write "and Yishmael prayed, too  and..."?<<  Because the Torah 
almost never puts in one extra  word.  Whenever the necessary information can 
be inferred from what /is/  stated, there is no need to spell out what is 
/not/ stated.  You find  examples of this all over Chumash, where missing 
information can be inferred  from the text.   "Hashem answered Yishmael" tells you all 
that you  need to know -- makes it obvious that Yishmael prayed.
An example that comes to mind is with Dena and Shechem.  Not until  we read 
that her brothers took her from Shechem's home (after killing all the  men of 
the city) do we realize that she has been held captive during all the  
preceding conversations and negotiations.  ("My son loves her, please let  him have 
her." "These Jews want to intermarry with us and do business with us,  let's go 
along with them" etc)  When you realize that she was kidnapped and  held 
captive the whole time, it puts a different spin on the actions of Shimon  and Levy.

--Toby  Katz
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Message: 9
From: Arie Folger <afolger@aishdas.org>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 21:55:35 +0100
Re: [Avodah] Avodah Digest, Vol 4, Issue 6

RAM wrote:
> 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.

Bim'hilat kevod Toratkha, you seem to have misunderstood. 8.66 cups of flour 
is always the minimal shiur (1.2 kg). A berakhah is only recited on regular 
bread, and then only on a larger shiur. There are two issues conflated here: 
the shi'ur for safek 'hiyuv vs. the shi'ur for vadai 'hiyuv, and the kind of 
dough for which one needs to make a blessing.

Arie Folger

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Message: 10
From: "Rabbi Y. H. Henkin" <henkin@012.net.il>
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 2006 15:52:05 +0200
[Avodah] Distinguishing Peshat from Derash

 From my book "Equality Lost," chapter three
[Urim Publications, 1999. -mi
Rabbi Yeuda Henkin

Torah exegesis is traditionally divided into four categories: peshat,
remez, derash and sod, forming the acrostic PaRDeS (literally: orchard).

Sod (literally: secret) is mystical or esoteric interpretation. Nothing
further will be said here about it, other than that sod employs unfettered
metaphor and pure symbolism to link events and personages to Divine
forces and historic processes.

Remez (literally: hint) finds oblique references in the text to events
often far removed from its immediate time and place. An example of this
can be found in my Torah commentary, Chibah Yeteirah: In Bereishit 30:1,
Rachel told Yaakov, "Give me children (banim), or else I die." Banim
translates as "sons" or "children," in the plural. So, too, when she
eventually had a child, "... she called his name Yosef, saying 'May
haShem afford me another [or: a different] son' " (v. 24). Apparently,
having only one son was insufficient.

The remez is to the fact that Ephraim and Menasheh, the tribes descended
from Yosef, were among the Ten Tribes exiled by Assyria who never
returned. If Rachel had had only one son her seed would have been
eradicated; her future was secured only through the descendants of her
second son, Binyamin.

Derash, aggadic and homiletic exposition, constitutes the main non-legal
exegetical activity of the rabbis of the Talmud and Midrash. Contrary to
misconception, derash usually relies on some textual reading. An example
is the Midrash Rabbah to Bereishit 25:22. On the verse describing Rivkah's
pregnancy, "the children struggled together within her" (vayitrotzetzu
habanim bekirbah), the Midrash relates: "When Rivkah passed houses of
prayer and study, Yaakov struggled to emerge, and when she passed houses
of idol worship, Esau ran and struggled to emerge." This has not one but
two textual pegs. First, the verb vayitrotretzu contains the root letters
resh tzadi which form the word ratz (to run). Second, in the unvocalized
Torah bekirbah, ("within her [womb]") can just as easily be read bekarvah
("when she came close"). Came close to what? The Midrash follows.

Peshat is the "simple" or 'plain" import of the text. The text
itself consists of letters, words, sentences, chapters and larger
units. Sometimes the meaning of a word or sentence taken alone differs
from its meaning in a wider context. In that case, the latter is almost
invariably peshat while the former is a source for derash.

There can be more than one peshat in a given passage. Often, the language
leaves ample room for different interpretations. For example, in Vayikra
19:17, "You shall not hate your brother in your heart; definitely
rebuke your neighbor, and do not bear (velo tisa alav) sin about him,"
the words tisa alav can mean at least three different things as seen in
other texts of the Bible:

1) In Vayikra 22:9, "velo yis'u alav cheit" means that "they should
not bear sin because of it [ritual impurity]." Following this usage,
the verse in chapter 19 is a warning lest you yourself sin when rebuking
your neighbor, e.g. by shaming him publicly.[1]

2) In Devarim 25:49, "Yisa haShem alecha goi mirachok" means that "G-d
will bring a nation from afar upon you." According to this meaning, our
verse warns against rebuking your neighbor if by doing so you bring sin
upon him, i. e., if thus far he acted out of ignorance, but if rebuked
would sin willfully which would be a far greater sin.[2]

3) In II Kings 9:25, "nasa alav et hamasa" means that the prophet "spoke
G-d's words about [the fate of Ahab's family]." The verse in Vayikra would
thus mean not to attribute sin to your neighbor, that is to say: don't
assume he is a willful sinner who can't be changed and that therefore
there is no point in talking to him. Don't hate your neighbor in your
heart, but instead openly remonstrate with him.

In addition, the text alone is often insufficient to provide any complete
picture of what is going on, particularly in the narrative sections of
the Torah. The reason for this is the extreme terseness of the Biblical
text: the background to the events, the thoughts of the protaganists
and other important information are frequently missing and need to be
generated. Both peshat and derash aim to fill these gaps. How can we
distinguish between the two types of commentary?

I suggest three criteria for distinguishing between peshat and derash
as well as between various degrees of peshat: necessity, economy and
plausibility.[3] To illustrate, we may use the midrash concerning
Rivkah's pregnancy mentioned above, "When Rivkah would pass houses of
prayer and study...." It fails the three criteria: it is unnecessary,
in that to explain the Hebrew vayitrotzetzu habanim bekirbah as simply a
description of a difficult twin pregnancy leaves no textual difficulty or
unanswered question. It lacks economy, in that it introduces new elements,
such as houses of prayer and study which are nowhere indicated in the
text. Finally, it lacks plausibility: fetuses do not behave that way,
in our experience, and there is no reason to suppose that we are dealing
with a miracle.

In fact, the midrash is not talking about Yaakov and Esau, Rivkah's
children, at all. Talmudic thought rejects the notion that an individual
can be an idol-worshipper or a monotheist from his mother's womb.[4]
Rather, the political/religious point intended is that the Jewish people
from its inception has been God-fearing, while Rome (=Edom=Esau) has
been idolatrous.


1. Erchin 17b. R. Yonah in Shaarei Teshuvah 3:72 explains the verse as
meaning, rebuke your neighbor lest his sin be accounted as yours since
you could have prevented it. According to this the verse is a Biblical
source for areivut, the religious responsibility one has for another. I
have suggested that the Talmud does not propose this interpretation
because the obligation to rebuke applies even to bad practices such as
drunkenness that are not, strictly-speaking, sins; see my Bnei Banim,
II, resp. no. 26.

2. This is a Biblical source for the Talmudic dictum "mutav sheyihyu
shogegin v'al yihyu mezidin," "better that they should be ignorant sinners
than willful ones"; see Bnei Banim, II, no. 27, note, and III, maamar 1.

3. Contrast Yeshayahu Maori's criteria for distinguishing peshat from
derash, translated in Tradition, vol. 21, no. 3 (Fall 1984) p. 41:
"1) whether the explanation is logically coherent; 2) whether it fits
the context, and 3) whether it is compatible with the grammar of the
language." It is unclear how these criteria would enable the midrash
about Rivkah to be classified as derash rather than peshat.

4. Tractate Berachot 33b, "Everything is in the hands of Heaven except
for the fear of Heaven," and many similar statements, and see Rambam,
Hilchot Teshuvah, chap. 5.


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