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Volume 32: Number 1

Thu, 02 Jan 2014

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Micha Berger <mi...@aishdas.org>
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2013 17:04:24 -0500
Re: [Avodah] rabainu Gershon

On Thu, Dec 26, 2013 at 08:11:02PM -0500, M Cohen wrote:
: A TC mentioned to me that its known that one of rabainu gershon's wives
: tried to kill him

There is a legend that ties the charamim deRabbeinu Gershom together.
In it he had two wives simultaneously, one opened a letter intended
for the other, etc...

I'm not bothering to repeat it because it's just a story. In reality,
he remarried after losing his first wife (the 1906 Jewish Encyc names
her as "Bona") but he never has overlapping marriages, never mind the
rest of the tale.

Tir'u baTov!

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Message: 2
From: Zev Sero <z...@sero.name>
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2013 17:05:23 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Lying for Shalom -- the Sake of Peace

On 31/12/2013 4:57 PM, Micha Berger wrote:
> As an aside: This makes the custom of singing "keitzad meraqdim"
> humorously ironic. We get in front of the bride and sing the words one
> says when they have to be less-than-fully-honest...

BH say that one says this to *all* the kallos, whether or not it's objectively
true.  That's what the singers are doing.  If we only said it to those whom
we *don't* see that way, then it would be just as bad as calling them ugly,
which even BS doesn't recommend.  It would be like calling a child "special",
which started out as a nice thing to say, but has now become an insult,
because it's only ever used as a euphemism.

Zev Sero               A citizen may not be required to offer a 'good and
z...@sero.name          substantial reason' why he should be permitted to
                        exercise his rights. The right's existence is all
                        the reason he needs.
                            - Judge Benson E. Legg, Woollard v. Sheridan

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Message: 3
From: T6...@aol.com
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2013 19:18:40 -0500 (EST)
Re: [Avodah] Lying for Shalom -- the Sake of Peace

From: Micha Berger <mi...@aishdas.org>

That said, tact  is sufficient to permit shinui, misleadingly telling
the truth, but not  lying. In this case, in the eyes of her chasan she
is presumably na'ah  vachasudah. (And hopefully will remain so at 120.)

As an aside: This  makes the custom of singing "keitzad meraqdim"
humorously ironic. We get in  front of the bride and sing the words one
says when they have to be  less-than-fully-honest...

Micha  Berger              

The Gemara is not saying that one has to be less-than-fully-honest when the 
 kallah is not so pretty.  The Gemara is saying that "every bride is  
beautiful" is the REAL truth, more true than "Some are and some aren't."
Similarly -- I want to say I heard this from my father, but I don't  
remember exactly how he put it -- but the idea was, every time you "change"  
something for the sake of peace, for the sake of not hurting a person's feelings  
-- peace is the real emes, and that kind of shinui is not a lie, but a 
deeper  truth.  So not only a bride, but anyone -- if they bought furniture or a 
 dress or a suit or gained a few pounds -- it is always true to say, "That 
is  very pretty, you look nice" and so on.
[OTOH lying to get /yourself/ out of trouble -- especially lying to escape  
your obligations or to escape taking responsibility when you have done 
wrong --  is not "emes" but actual sheker.  Lying over something  relatively 
trivial, in order to avoid an angry argument, is a gray  area -- like telling 
your husband a dress cost a little less than it really  did.]

--Toby  Katz


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Message: 4
From: "Prof. Levine" <llev...@stevens.edu>
Date: Wed, 01 Jan 2014 03:34:55 -0500
[Avodah] The Spirit of Judaism

The following is from RSRH's essay Shevat I that appears in volume II 
of the Collected Writings of RSRH.

The spirit of Judaism knows of no cleavage in human existence which 
assigns the spirit of man to God and his body to Satan, by which the 
earth should belong to hell and happiness should begin only in the 
celestial beyond. "Prepare for Me here on earth a holy abode, so that 
I may dwell with you already here on earth," says the spirit of 
Judaism in the-name of God. It takes the whole being of man, both 
sensual and spiritual, into its domain, so that even sensuous 
enjoyment becomes a holy service of God when it is inspired with the 
spirit of modesty, temperance and holiness, and when man enjoys the 
goods and gifts and attractions of the earth in a manner so pure and 
acceptable to God and for such holy and acceptable ends that he can 
raise his eyes cheerfully and joyfully to God and does not need to 
flee from the neighborhood of His Sanctuary. To be able to abide in 
the sphere of God even with his physical satisfaction and enjoyments 
- this is the highest perfection of the morally-endowed man upon earth.

In no respect has Judaism been so much misrepresented as in this. 
Calumny has assailed it from opposite directions. For the sensual and 
frivolous it has been too serious and spiritual, for the dreaming 
idealist earthly and sensuous. Actually it is nothing but Divine 
truth for the whole man who is both spiritual and sensuous, heavenly 
and earthly.
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Message: 5
From: cantorwolb...@cox.net
Date: Wed, 1 Jan 2014 09:44:58 -0500
[Avodah] Eating Out

> It's menuvaldig not to eat by parents. Something that doesn't is close to
> not being on the level of a human being.

For YOU that may be true. However, what is being missed and what was
explained by Prof Levine is that each case should be seen on its own 
circumstances. No two people are exactly alike. No two family situations
are the same. Two courses of action can be identical and for one it may be
very positive and for the other, very negative. We are not talking about a clear
cut mitzvah. There are different minhagim for different people. Ashkenazim 
cannot have kitniyos on Pesach. Sefardim can. One set of parents may feel
it is commendable that their son (or daughter) won?t eat anywhere out of their
own home. Another set of parents may feel is is menuvaldig. Who are WE to
judge someone else?s standards?

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Message: 6
From: "Prof. Levine" <llev...@stevens.edu>
Date: Wed, 01 Jan 2014 10:26:12 -0500
[Avodah] Chronology of Events Leading up to the Last Plague

The following is from the commentary of RSRH on 
Shemos 10:29  Thereupon Moshe said: You have 
spoken well; I will not come before
your face again.

If Moshe could give this reply, the information about the final plague
that would bring a quick end must have already been given to him.
This is confirmed by study of the next two chapters, in which the chronological
sequence of events requires elucidation.

It appears that verse 4 of the next chapter is the continuation of
our verse here, of Moshe?s reply to Pharaoh. But since this reply announces
the death of the firstborn at midnight, this announcement
clearly could not have been made earlier than after midnight of the
night of the 14th, for the following night had to be the 15th. This
would date the three days of darkness as the 11th, 12th, and 13th of

Chapter 12, however, teaches us that, already on the 1st of Nissan,
Moshe and Aharon ? and, through them, the people ? were told that
the death of the firstborn and the resulting exodus would occur on the
night of the 15th. They were also commanded to take a lamb and dedicate
it for an offering in sight of the Egyptians on the 10th of the
month ? i.e., before the onset of the darkness.
If, then, what is told in chapter 12 preceded, in any case, Moshe?s
last mission to Pharaoh, the contents of 11:1?3 could also have preceded
this mission; their interpolation here is only for the sake of providing
the rationale for Moshe?s reply to Pharaoh.

On the other hand, the words Od Nega Ehud  (below, 11:1) could
not possibly have been spoken before the end of the plague of
darkness. But the fact that the people were ordered (below, 11:2)
to ask the Egyptians for articles of gold and silver, which was possible
to do at the latest only until midday of the 14th, indicates that this
order must have been given not long after the ending of the darkness.

According to all of the foregoing, the chronological order of the
events seems to be as follows:

Already on the 1st of Nissan, the month was designated as the
month of redemption, orders were given for taking the Pesach offering
on the 10th and for offering it on the 14th in the afternoon, and the
death of the firstborn on the night of 15th was announced. The instructions
regarding the demand of gold and silver articles, and the
precise time of the slaying of the firstborn, were not yet given. Both
of these were given only after the darkness had ended. The darkness
receded on the night following the 13th. (After the intense darkness
of the plague, the Egyptians greeted the ordinary darkness of night as
though it were the dawn.) It was at this point that God said to Moshe
what is recorded in verses 1?3 of chapter 11 regarding the demand of
articles, and He also set the precise time for the death of the firstborn
at midnight. (The latter is not mentioned in verses 1?3, because we
learn of it immediately from the continuation of Moshe?s reply to

On that same night (following the 13th) Moshe relayed these
instructions and this precise information to the people, and then
after midnight he was summoned to Pharaoh (v. 24). When Moshe
came to Pharaoh, God had already revealed to him the complete


In any case, the first half of chapter 12 and the first three verses of
chapter 11 are out of chronological order. The reason for this lies in
the function assigned to the narrative. First it describes the whole course
of the plagues and the results of their effect on Pharaoh. Only with
chapter 12 does the narrative focus on Israel and their preparations for
the exodus. Hence chapter 12 is of necessity retrogressive. The events
related in verses 1?3 of chapter 11 occurred almost simultaneously with
Pharaoh?s summons to Moshe; the events immediately preceded the
summons and are interposed in the middle of Moshe?s reply in order
to explain his reply.
came to Pharaoh, God had already revealed to him the complete
The foregoing
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Message: 7
From: "Prof. Levine" <llev...@stevens.edu>
Date: Wed, 01 Jan 2014 11:02:36 -0500
[Avodah] Should One Pray from the Bima or the Amud?

For what I consider a very well written and carefully researched 
article on this topic by Daniel Adler, see


The article is long,  but well worth the read IMO.  Below is just one 
short selection from it.

More familiar to readers is the common custom that in most schuls 
Kabbolas Shabbos, the service recited to welcome the Shabbos, is 
recited from the bima. After this portion of the service concludes, 
the shliach tzibur proceeds to the amud for Borchu. The reason for 
this is that Kabbolas Shabbos, is not part of davening per se. In 
schul, we explicitly show this by reciting Kabbolas Shabbos from the 
bima. Maariv, which is an actual prayer, must be recited from its 
proper location. This is why the shliach tzibur approaches the amud 
before Borchu. Some sources to show this follow:

1.Divrei Kehillos (p. 62) mentions that in Frankfurt, Kabbolas 
Shabbos was not initially accepted[35] for the entire congregation. 
When L'cha Dodi was recited[36], it was only on condition that there 
would be certain restrictions; it was recited from the bima to show 
that it is not part of teffilah, and the chazzan would not wear a 
Tallis. This specific method mentioned in Divrei Kehillos is 
uncommon; just about every synagogue today has the chazzan wear a 
tallis for Kabbolas Shabbos[37]. Further, there is a custom that the 
chazzan only stands on the bima for L'cha Dodi, as mentioned by 
Divrei Kehillos, and the remainder of Kabbolas Shabbos is recited 
from the amud. This custom is practiced among German congregations[38].

2.Rabbi Dr. Elie Munk in his book, "The World of Prayer,"[39] 
explicitly states as follows (p. 4):
"It was pointed out that this festive inauguration of the Sabbath 
(i.e., Kabbolas Shabbos) was not part of the actual Divine service 
and it was therefore decided that this group of psalms, ending with , 
would be recited by the Reader not from the regular Reader's stand, 
but from the Bima".

3."The Commentators' Shabbos Prayers,"[40] (p. 27) has a similar comment:

                 "These prayers before Ma'ariv are to be viewed as an 
integral part of the ceremony of welcoming Shabbos. They are not to 
be considered part of the              Ma'ariv service, which is 
clear from the fact that they are chanted by the Chazzan not from the 
regular reader's stand but rather from the Bima, the 
table              set in the center of the synagogue" (Sender, 2005).
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Message: 8
From: cantorwolb...@cox.net
Date: Wed, 1 Jan 2014 21:56:33 -0500
[Avodah] Ah guten Choidesh

The question has been asked why Rachel?s name is mentioned before Leah?s. Several good 
explanations have been put forth, but there is an excellent one which has been advanced
and I believe it comes from the gemara Nazir. There is the well known dictum: Mitzvah 
haba?ah b?aveira. 

As we know, Rachel loved her father and therefore she wanted to emancipate him from the witchcraft 
of his idols. So what does she do? She rids the house of the images, but Laban is agitated by the sudden
disappearance of his deities. So because her intentions were noble, she was given the distinction
of being named before her sister, Leah. Nevertheless, the bottom line in Judaism is explicit: 
The ends do not justify the means.  Accordingly, the talmud goes on to say that Rachel?s otherwise
legitimate act is still stealing and becomes a sin. Accordingly, she paid a big penalty, and dies as she 
gives birth to her son, Benjamin. 
What is interesting though, is that in spite of what is obviously a harsh punishment, Rachel 
is still memorialized by her name preceding Leah?s. 

A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits?

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Message: 9
From: "Prof. Levine" <llev...@stevens.edu>
Date: Thu, 02 Jan 2014 06:05:32 -0500
[Avodah] A Yeshiva Curriculum in Western Literature

[I couldn't approve this without adding a reminder to say Tehillim for
R Aharon Lichtentein, PhD English Lit: Aharon ben Bluma.
RAL is recovering from back surgery to relieve pressure from his spine
after a fall. -micha]

 From http://www.hakirah.org/Vol15Goldman.pdf

    Why should observant Jews learn the literature of the West? It seems
    a reasonable question. First, the greatest cultural achievements of
    the Christian West cannot be appreciated in isolation from their
    religious inspiration. Second, secular notion of a Western high
    culture has its origins in a sort of idolatry, namely, to make out
    of art a substitute for religion, starting with the German Classic
    at the end of the 18th century and continuing through the efforts of
    Matthew Arnold late in the 19th. Third, the project itself has failed:
    in his 1995 book The Western Canon, the critic Harold Bloom complains
    that Western literature no longer can be taught to undergraduates
    who do not have sufficient background to understand the dialogue
    among writers of different generations. If the Christian West no
    longer cares about its high culture, why should Jews?

    Judaism has its own autonomous high literature in Tanakh, Talmud,
    rabbinic commentaries and Hebrew poetry. It is argued that the
    elevated literature of the West embodies the best of the universal
    human experience. Judaism, though, looks less toward the universal
    human experience, and rather to the exceptional experience of a people
    apart. Dante and Shakespeare require a longer attention span and
    finer interpretative skills than romance novels or detective stories,
    but scholarship in traditional Jewish sources demands such capacities
    more rigorously than any kind of secular literary criticism.

    Orthodox students who plan to apply to universities, to be sure,
    study the standard English literature curriculum to pass the usual
    examinations. The literature curriculum at Orthodox day schools
    preparing students for university cannot vary much from that of
    secular schools. Yeshiva students, however, have no such requirement.
    But should they study Western literature? There are compelling reasons
    in favor. The most obvious is to master the arts of persuasion what
    the classical Greeks and Romans called liberal arts, that is, the
    arts of free citizens: grammar, rhetoric and logic. Prosperity and
    political survival demand the capacity to use the language of the
    Diaspora with skill. Mastery of language is something to be learned
    from the great masters. Modern language is inherited from the great
    literature of the past; those who are ignorant of the language of
    Shakespeare, the King James Bible translation, Milton and Keats
    never will fully command English usage and cadence.

    There are yet more important reasons, though, to study Western
    literature. Although Jewish religious culture may be thought of as
    autonomous from Western culture, the Diaspora Jew lives in Western
    culture and cannot extricate himself from its influence, except by
    sealing himself off in an alternative culture. Some Hassidim have
    created an alternative culture in Yiddish, including teen fiction
    and musical comedies. To isolate ourselves from the Christian
    culture of the West, though, blinds us to a basic fact of Jewish
    existence: Western democracy as embodied in the United States and
    its political institutions have given the Jewish people a unique
    degree of security as well as honor in the Diaspora. In its best
    manifestations, the political culture of the West draws deeply on
    Torah sources, as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks argued forcefully in
    his 2007 book The Home We Build Together. We cannot understand the
    West without engaging its high culture, any more than gentiles can
    understand their own history without engaging the Jewish people and
    the distinct and separate culture of Torah. And without understanding
    it, we cannot act effectively on behalf of our interests as well as
    the universal principles that the Torah embodies.

See the above URL for the rest of this article. YL

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Message: 10
From: "Kenneth Miller" <kennethgmil...@juno.com>
Date: Thu, 2 Jan 2014 15:31:46 GMT
Re: [Avodah] shehechyanu on engagement ring

R' M Cohen asked:

> It would appear that a girl s/ say shehechyanu on rcving the
> engagement ring (and so say poskim in print)
> It appears to me that the common minhag is not to say.
> Reasons?

Occam's Razor would suggest that the reason for omitting the Shehecheyanu
is that people haven't seen the poskim in print to whom RMC refers. It is
important to distinguish between this lack of awareness, vs. a specific
minhag to avoid the bracha.

On a related note, I have been at many simchas which would have been a
Sheva Brachos, but they lacked a minyan or a panim chadashos.
Unfortunately, far too few people are aware that in such situations, they
can still say Asher Bara at the benching -- and in fact, this is exactly
why Asher Bara opens with Baruch, rather than being a Bracha Smucha like
the two before it.

Compounding the unfortunateness, when I've tried to teach this to people,
they often claim that "the minhag is not to do that", but their only
evidence for such a minhag is that they've never seen it anywhere. "Lo
ra-inu aino raayah," I say, but what can I do? If anyone can offer a
stronger evidence for a specific minhag to omit Asher Bara -- or to omit
Shehecheyanu on the engagement ring -- I'd like to hear it.

Akiva Miller
Do THIS before eating carbs &#40;every time&#41;
1 EASY tip to increase fat-burning, lower blood sugar & decrease fat storage

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Message: 11
From: "Kenneth Miller" <kennethgmil...@juno.com>
Date: Thu, 2 Jan 2014 15:46:03 GMT
Re: [Avodah] eating out

R' Yitzchok Levine wrote:

> I have a friend whose parents never wanted their kids and
> grandchildren to come to eat at their home.  They preferred
> to eat in their basement on Pesach rather than go to their
> son for Sedarim.

Is there a typo somewhere in this section?

The second sentence says that the grandparents are the sort of people who
only eat in their own home, and that is the idea which this thread has been
focusing on.

But the *first* sentence seems to be on a different topic entirely. It
seems to be saying that the grandparents never wanted to HOST their
children and grandchildren. To me, that appears to be a bizarre and
unloving relationship, and very unnatural for grandparents.

My only guess is that the first sentence expresses the grandparents' hope
that their children and grandchildren would take on the family practice of
not eating elsewhere, even in the home of a very close relative. Am I

Akiva Miller
Do THIS before eating carbs &#40;every time&#41;
1 EASY tip to increase fat-burning, lower blood sugar & decrease fat storage

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Message: 12
From: "Prof. Levine" <llev...@stevens.edu>
Date: Thu, 02 Jan 2014 06:09:32 -0500
[Avodah] The Movement of the Chanukah Menorah Indoors: An

 From http://www.hakirah.org/Vol%2016%20Walter.pdf

The precision and alacrity exhibited by 21st-century Jews in adhering to
the detail and minutiae of halachah is a reason to rejoice. Many areas of
halachah and mitzvah observance which, historically, could feasibly 
be fulfilled
only according to the baseline position or minority opinion are today
fulfilled l'mehadrin, in optimal fashion.

Jewish communities classically owned one or two sets of the four species
for Sukkot, battim (leather casings) for tefillin were not manufactured
to the same degree of excellence as are those of today, and the kashrut of
a contemporary mikvah is far superior to mikvaot of yesteryear. The opportunity
that now exists to perform mitzvot to perfection often replaces halachic
principles such as b'dieved, she'at hadechak, ikar hadin, and she'at hasakanah
with halachic terminology such as machmir tavo alav berachah, l'chatchilah
and mehadrin.

Is one to deduce from this that religious observance today is on a 
higher level than it was in the past? YL
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