Avodah Mailing List

Volume 40: Number 63

Wed, 21 Sep 2022

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Micha Berger
Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2022 14:14:36 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Sheqel Kesef

On Mon, Sep 19, 2022 at 09:27:39PM -0400, Akiva Miller via Avodah wrote:
> I am working on trying to understand when the root k-s-f refers to the
> metal silver, and when it refers to generic money. At the same time, I'm
> working on when sh-q-l involves weights and weighing, and when it refers to
> a specific coin.

The first question: when did these distinctions first come into

Jumping to the end of the post first:
> NOTE: I am aware of a claim that coins were not yet invented in Avraham's
> time, or even in Moshe Rabenu's time....

Historians would tell you that the first coins were minted in the 5th or
6th century BCE. Meaning, you couldn't really put it much before Yirmiyahu
(even without the "missing years").

Which would mean that anything deOraisa would be about weights.

But the origins are shrouded in a bit of mystry. According to the World
History Encyc (a Google find; <https://www.worldhistory.org/coinage>:

    According to Herdotous (I, 94), coins were first minted by the
    Lydians, while Aristotle claims that the first coins were minted by
    Demodike of Kyrme, the wife of King Midas of Phrygia. Numismatists
    consider that the first coins were minted on the Greek island of
    Aegina, either by the local rulers or by king Pheidon of Argos.

Medrashically, we have the Avraham coin (BQ 97b). Even if we assume
that medrash was historical, it could have been more a medalion than
a coin. It could even have been a coin circulating then, but minted in
*commemoration* of Avraham & Sarah, Yitzchaq and Rivqa.

However, I think there is another medrash on which I would pin the
invention of coinage. Shemos 30:13, "*Zeh* yitenu kol ha'oveir al
hapiqudim, machatzis hasheqel..." The Tanchuma
quoted by Rashi) says Hashem showed Moshe a half-sheqel of fire from
under the Kisei haKavod.

The bit about from under the Kisei haKavod weakens my theory, but perhaps
the reason why Moshe needed to be shown what a half-sheqel looks like
was because Hashem wanted us to give coins, and coins weren't invented
yet. The first step was to mint the half-sheqels.

And then, if coinage was only used for the mitzvah of machatzis hasheqel,
it would explain why the idea of standardizing money didn't get picked
up by others for centuries, or parhaps waited reinvention. Then again, it
would mean we too didn't adopt standard coinage, despite its utility for
trade. Even though we picked up a coin every Adar to donate. Maybe the
feel was that it would be a chilul, that coins were for qodesh use only,
until coins became a thing in general society?

Conjecture atop conjecture, I know. Either way, Hashem showed Moshe a
half-sheqel, which implies it had a specific look. I think the Tanchuma
is saying that *halachically*, the mitzvah deOraisa was never about
giving just a lump of metal of a certain weight. And thus, should be
assumed to be historical.

Now, jumping back up:
> Bereshis 23:16 tells of when Avraham Avinu purchased land from Efron for a
> burial plot. This pasuk ought to be a good source of information on these
> questions, as it contains each of those roots twice. Unfortunately, I am
> puzzled by this pasuk.

I would take the purchase of Me'aras haMachpeilah with sheqlim that
were "oveir lasocheir" to imply chunks of metal. Standardized silver
pieces, whether coins or something else, wouldn't be ranked in terms
of acceptability.

> One idea that occurred to me is that these coins were larger than normal,
> but Avraham did not give 400 of them to Efron. Instead he gave Efron a
> smaller number, but he weighed them out to show Efron that he was indeed
> getting his full 400 sheqel *weight* of silver....
> Most likely, I'm simply unfamiliar with the idiom. Maybe the verb "to
> weigh" *IS* how they speak about counting coins. Anyone else have a guess?

There is also the purity issue. I have no idea, before Archimedes
had his Eureka! moment about how to check the volume of something of
a given weight, how they would know whether something was 95% or 99.9%
silver. Maybe oveir lasokheir refers to how it looked -- no businessman
would doubt the purity.


but don't focus on in the rest of the email.

1- Silver as an easy thing to barter with vs. "money".

This is harder, because it's a shades of gray issue. I would think that
once you charge interest rather than renting out your merchandise, you're
lending money. But without a ribbis market and compounding interest,
I am not sure where to put that end of the spectrum.

2- When does "kesef" not mean "silver"? Which is only possible after
there is enough of a concept of money for "kesef" to translate to.

For this, at least, we have halachic indicators. When is a gold piece
money, and when is it a commodity? Bava Metziah pereq 4 -- Gold is qoneh
kesef, kesef isn't qoneh zahav. At least WRT to qinyan, it isn't a foreign
exchange deal with money vs money -- gold is a commodity, it is bought
with silver.

Also means that silver is more than just the local convenient thing to
carry around to barter with. Silver is money.

We end up with a weird position, in that silver chunks are more "money"
than gold coins! (Probably only seems weird to people who aren't thinking
in a language where kesef = kesef.)

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 Spirituality is like a bird: if you tighten
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   your grip on it, it chokes; slacken your grip,
Author: Widen Your Tent      and it flies away.
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF                          - Rav Yisrael Salanter

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Message: 2
From: Joel Rich
Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2022 16:19:51 -0400
[Avodah] Proteksia

Your thoughts on the halachic appropriateness of this post which was on a
community list?
"A good friend had a bad fall, and was approved to get into xxxx rehab
after her surgery-but needs to wait for an available bed
Does anyone have proteksia- someone who might be able to make this happen
Let's assume that this rehab has a waiting list, receives government
funding and has  a standard protocol for allocating new beds to new clients.
Joel Rich
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Message: 3
From: Akiva Miller
Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2022 16:29:28 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Eating Before Davening

R' David Riceman asked:

> It's true that several poskim rule that one may drink tea or
> coffee before davening. I'm unaware of anyone who includes milk
> or sugar in the leniency.


> What bothers me is that the stated reason is that they are maya
> b'alma. Now that we consider them psychotropic drugs, and, thus,
> devarim hashuvim, how can the heter still apply?

My wild guess is that these drinks are l'tzorech hatefilah, precisely
because they *are* psychotropic. On days that I oversleep, and I don't have
time for coffee before minyan, it is a bit more difficult to concentrate.

Now, I concede that if we'd ask a posek, RDR's point might prevail over my
teirutz. Either way, though, the question about "devarim hashuvim" stands.

So I'd like to enlarge the question: Exactly how do we define this category
of "maya b'alma", and might it have different definitions for different

If coffee and tea NOT "maya b'alma", are they be subject to Bishul Akum?
If coffee and tea ARE "maya b'alma", can we drink them before Havdala?
If coffee and tea ARE "maya b'alma", do we say Shehakol if we're not
thirsty, and we're only drinking it for medicinal/psychotropic purposes?
Maybe there are other areas of halacha to ask about also?
PS: I gotta tell ya folks, this "maya b'alma" business has been bothering
me for a long time, and I thank RDR for this opportunity to ask about it.
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Message: 4
From: Micha Berger
Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2022 17:34:52 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Eating Before Davening

On Tue, Sep 20, 2022 at 04:29:28PM -0400, Akiva Miller via Avodah wrote:
> R' David Riceman asked:
> > It's true that several poskim rule that one may drink tea or
> > coffee before davening. I'm unaware of anyone who includes milk
> > or sugar in the leniency.
> See
> https://www.halachipedia.com/index.php?title=Eating_Before_Davening#cite_note-5

Which ends by mentioning an AhS I raised on-list in the past.

Despite the chevrah's best efforts, I am not convinced that RYME lumped
together teih and teih matoq. I think sugar was so hard to come by, sweet
tea was considered more than just water. While tea wasn't.

In this particular din, he notes the MB requires drinking tea through
the sugar (yes, volumes 1 & 3 of the MB predate the AhS OC, the last
Tur of AhS to be written). But he disagrees because he feels it is
a question of what is filling, not what has chashivus.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 None of us will leave this place alive.
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   All that is left to us is
Author: Widen Your Tent      to be as human as possible while we are here.
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF          - Anonymous MD, while a Nazi prisoner

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Message: 5
From: Zev Sero
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 2022 10:11:16 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Eating Before Davening

On 20/9/22 16:29, Akiva Miller via Avodah wrote:
> If coffee and tea ARE "maya b'alma", can we drink them before Havdala?

That would be strange, since if wine is not available we can use them 
*for* havdala!

Zev Sero            ?Were we directed from Washington when to sow
z...@sero.name       and when to reap, we should soon want bread.?
                    ?Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821.

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Message: 6
From: Prof. L. Levine
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 2022 13:00:37 +0000
[Avodah] Which foods should one avoid eating on Rosh Hashana?

From today's OU Kosher Halacha Yomis

Q. Which foods should one avoid eating on Rosh Hashana?

A. Just as we eat sweet apples and other foods on Rosh Hashana because of
their symbolic significance, it is customary to avoid bitter and vinegary
foods on Rosh Hashana (see, for example, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 129:9).

The Rama (Orach Chaim 583:2) writes that some avoid eating egozim (walnuts)
on Rosh Hashana. This is because the gematria (numerical value) of the
Hebrew word ?egoz? is the same as the numerical value of the word cheit
(sin). Additionally, nuts cause an increase in phlegm which can disturb
one?s prayers. Magen Avrohom (583:4) points out that according to the
second reason, one should not eat any nut, and not only egozim (walnuts).
Be?er Moshe (3:97) writes that ground nuts (other than walnuts) that are
part of a recipe do not pose a concern.

It is recorded (Ma?ase Rav 210) that the Vilna Gaon did not eat grapes on
Rosh Hashana. Some explain that this is because on Rosh Hashana, Adam ate
from the Tree of Knowledge, and according to some opinions in the Gemara
the forbidden fruit was the grape. However, Kaf Ha?chaim (583:21) writes
that only black grapes need be avoided. He explains the custom of the Vilna
Gaon based on the Gemara (Berachos 56b) that black grapes are considered a
bad sign.

Professor Yitzchok Levine

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Message: 7
From: Micha Berger
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 2022 14:32:14 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Eating Before Davening

On Wed, Sep 21, 2022 at 10:11:16AM -0400, Zev Sero via Avodah wrote:
> On 20/9/22 16:29, Akiva Miller via Avodah wrote:
> > If coffee and tea ARE "maya b'alma", can we drink them before Havdala?

> That would be strange, since if wine is not available we can use them *for*
> havdala!

The AhS I mentioned earlier helps:

The relevant feature of a drink for havdalah is chashivus,
but the releavent feature is whether it fills.

The AhS holds that tea with sugar* has chashivus, but isn't filling
until there is milk in your coffee or tea.

* Others in the chevrah believe he would say the same of tea without the
sugar. I also mentioned this earlier disagreement in my prior comment
in this thread.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 Weeds are flowers too
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   once you get to know them.
Author: Widen Your Tent             - Eeyore ("Winnie-the-Pooh" by AA Milne)
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF

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Message: 8
From: Micha Berger
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 2022 15:02:45 -0400
Re: [Avodah] milchama

On Tue, Aug 02, 2022 at 05:52:59PM -0400, Joel Rich via Avodah wrote:
> The Rambam (Malachim 5:2) codifies the Mishna (Sanhedrin 20b) "umotzi
> lmilchemet hareshut al pi bet din shel shivim vechad" When studying this, I
> wondered what criteria bet din would use to approve the war...

I don't know. I'm going to go off on a tangent instead:

I just think it's interesting that halkhah sets up a multibranch
government -- Melekh, Sanhedrin, kehunah (maybe the Navi is his own
branch, maybe it is part of the Melukhah) and launching a war requires
the support of all of them.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 I thank God for my handicaps, for, through them,
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   I have found myself, my work, and my God.
Author: Widen Your Tent                   - Helen Keller
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF

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Message: 9
From: Micha Berger
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 2022 15:14:30 -0400
Re: [Avodah] tainted money

On Tue, Aug 16, 2022 at 05:02:07PM -0400, Joel Rich via Avodah wrote:
> I wonder in the case of a next generation inheriting a non-kosher
> steakhouse, if the parent's income is only from that steakhouse and they
> are giving money to the next generation now, is the next generation allowed
> to take those funds given that they know that it's coming from sale of
> forbidden items?

I would think the two possibilities are different:

Either they could use the money, or they don't inherit the steakhouse.

Issurei hana'ah are valueless and yerushah doesn't apply. Like if someone
dies on Pesach, their chameitz does not become their children's problem.
Noda beYehudah (MK OC 20)

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 The trick is learning to be passionate in one's
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   ideals, but compassionate to one's peers.
Author: Widen Your Tent
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF

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Message: 10
From: Micha Berger
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 2022 15:23:33 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Normative Law?

On Tue, Aug 09, 2022 at 04:22:59PM -0400, Joel Rich via Avodah wrote:
> Sometimes it seems to me that there may have been original reasons for a
> practice but that practice then becomes something more like normative law
> detached from the reasons. An example might be turning around for lcha
> dodi. Originally the practice may  have been to face the west or to face
> the doors etc. but in many communities, it  just became to turn around.

It's minhag, not law, despite the wording in your subject line. The
role of mimeticism is more central than for halakhah.

Still, I think in this particular case, the masses are simply wrong.
There is no meaning to facing the back of the shul, rather than the
west, particularly if this is done regardless of whether the doors are
in the back. (And even if they happen to be in the back in your shul,
that's incidental; the norm is to turn around either way.)

There is a reason to face west. One might say that facing the entrance
has a similar symbolism. But to face the back regardless? Until we give
it meaning, can it be minhag?

I think a hanhagah needs some kind of significance to become a minhag. To
pick one of my usual examples: Milchigs on Shavuos apparenlyt started
out being a way to enjoy the Yom Tov with milk and cheese from the
new spring grass (rather than the drab dairy from hay you had all
winder). Veharaayah, the Notzrim in the same region where the minhag
began had their dairy festival usually in the same week. (Unless Pesach
was in the 2nd month of Spring, then Easter and Pesach are a month apart,
and so too the subsequent holidays.) It was only once we came up with
connecitons to the Yom Tov, whether two force 2 meals, or to remember
the lack of kosher meat at Har Sinai, that just a logical practice became

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 Integrity is choosing to practice our values
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   rather than simply professing them.
Author: Widen Your Tent                  - Brene Brown
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF


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