Monday 31 March 2014

Does a Self-Cleaning Oven Satisfy Libbun Gamur? - 3

Comments on the Star K Response -

There are several "sn'iffim l'hokeil"
1. BBQ's are rarely used for Hameitz B'ayyin
2. SCO's - while not as hot as a blowtorch - have a longer cycle
3. Eino ben yomo

For Passover:
SCO should be sufficient to Kasher BBQ

For Treif:
I would suggest using EZ-off to pogeim the ta'am first.

Why am I Meikel?
I believe what my eyes see! After a SCO cycle, there remains nothing but dust. While torches and coals are potentially dangerous.

Consider that - just as EG several modern Poskim have allowed Steel Wool as the equivalent of n'itzah b'karka for cleaning shamnunis off of knives - so too SCO's seem to be a modern technological equivalent to Libbun Gamur.

Kol Tuv,

Israel hands Palestinians proposal to extend peace talks

«"In any case, there won't be any deal without Israel knowing clearly what it will get in exchange," Netanyahu said.

According to a Palestinian official, Israel presented Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas with a draft agreement to relaunch talks. Abbas was to examine the proposal during the night, he said.

An Israeli official would not provide details on the proposal but told AFP: "Now the Palestinians need to reply if they are willing to continue negotiations."

With the talks teetering on the brink of collapse, Washington, which pushed the sides to relaunch talks in July, has been fighting an uphill battle to coax them into accepting a framework proposal which would extend the negotiations beyond April 29.»
Israel hands Palestinians proposal to extend peace talks - occupied Palestinian territory | ReliefWeb

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 30 March 2014

Does a Self-Cleaning Oven Satisfy Libbun Gamur? - 2

Results from a Star K inquiry -
« Once the oven and racks have been cleaned, they may be kashered by libbun kal. The requirement of libbun kal is satisfied by turning the oven to broil or the highest setting for forty minutes. In a gas oven, the broil setting will allow the flame to burn continuously. In a conventional electric oven, the highest setting (550°F) kashers the oven. Only libbun kal is required for the oven racks since it is usual to cook food in a pan and not directly on the racks themselves»

Re: BBQ grates:
«"Barbeque Grills - A grill cannot be kashered by just turning on the gas or electricity. Since food is roasted directly on the grill, it must be heated to a glow in order to be used. This can be done either by using a blowtorch (which should only be done by qualified and experienced individuals) or by sandwiching the grates between the charcoal briquettes and setting them on fire. An alternate method is to replace the grates of the grill. The part of the grill cavity which is level with the grate must also be kashered by heating it to a glow. This is due to the likelihood of food having touched that area during barbequeing. The empty gas grill cavity must be kashered by cleaning, closing the hood and setting it to the highest setting for forty minutes. In the case of a regular grill, the cavity should be filled with charcoal briquettes which should be set on fire.

Other inserts, such as griddles, which come into direct contact with food are treated the same as a grill. Therefore, they would also require application of direct heat until the surface glows red. If not, the insert should be cleaned and not used during Pesach. If the grill has side burners, they should be treated like cooktop grates, assuming no food has been placed directly on them.
Practical Tip: It is easier to determine that the metal has been brought to a glow in a darkened room."»
Kol Tuv,

Passover Panic

Just weeks after the 1979 3 Mile Island Incident, my parents A"H stayed in a hotel for Passover somewhere in Pennsylvania.

But that Notorious Nuclear incident itself did not trigger the "Great Passover Panic of 1979".

Rather, it turns out that the hotel ran out of coffee about a day or so after the s'darim were over. In fact, there WAS indeed more Kosher for Passover Coffee available, but it simply had the "Wrong" Hashgachah! And so the hotel's Mashgicihim were delaying getting coffee until they could procure the "Right" brand.

After the Panic, a near riot ensued. Think of Paris in 1789, "Let them drink tea", or Petrograd 1917, "Let them eat Matzah!" Under such duress, the Kashrut Agency caved and allowed another brand of Coffee to be imported, that which carried a rival organization's supervision.

And so, the famous Passover Panic of 1979 ended on a high note, as the now caffeinated guests drank away their concerns re: 3 Mile Island and happily lived in the After Glow for many years thereafter.

Kol Tuv,

Friday 28 March 2014

Does a Self-Cleaning Oven Satisfy Libbun Gamur?

Let's grant for the sake of argument that the sides and walls of a self-cleaning oven reach temperatures amounting to libbun gamur.

How about the inside cavity? Does it get hot enough to reach Libbun gammur in order to kasher

1. The Oven Racks
2. Stove-Top Grates
3. BBQ Grates

For either -
A. Passover
Or for
B. Treif?

Source #1

Self-cleaning oven - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

«A self-cleaning oven is an oven which uses high temperature approximately *500* degrees Celsius»

Source #2
«How hot does steel or iron have to be to turn red?

Hot hot does it have to be to turn red and bend real easy

Best AnswerAsker's Choice

WOMBAT, Manliness Expert answered 5 years ago

Steel begins to glow faintly red at about *600* degrees celsius. A very slight red color may be visible below this temperature if the light is dim enough.

Steel is still relatively soft just after the red color fades but at this point it rapidly get harder as it cools.

In bright light, e.g: sunlight, the red color may not be visible until the steel is well into the "cherry red" temperature: more than 750 degrees celsius.»

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 27 March 2014

Almah - Yeshayahu 7:14

«The verses surrounding Isaiah 7:14 tell how Ahaz, the king of Judah, is told of a sign to be given in demonstration that the prophet's promise of God's protection is a true one. The sign is that an almah will give birth to a son who will still be very young when Judah's enemies will be destroyed.[7] Most Christians identify the almah of this prophecy with the Virgin Mary.[8] In Isaiah 7, the almah is already pregnant, and modern Jewish translators have therefore rendered almah here as "young woman".[9] The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, which was completed in the late 2nd century BCE, translated almah into Greek as παρθένος (parthenos). Many scholars render parthenos into English as virgin. However, the Septuagint also describes Dinah as a parthenos even after she has been raped and hence is no longer a virgin.[10]»
Almah - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

If the word Almah really meant B'tulah, then, the traditional understanding IMHO would have been that a B'tulah gave birth as a result of her first co-habition - which in Rabbinic literature is unusual due to the interference of the B'tulim.

It would typically NOT imply that she was still a B'tulah AFTER the pregnancy. And I don't think the ancient Jews would have seen it that way at all.

Kol Tuv,

Justices sound ready to reject contraceptives mandate under Obamacare

«The case also raises the question of whether for-profit corporations can invoke the religious beliefs of their owners in order to seek an exemption from federal law.

David and Barbara Green, founders of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts and crafts stores, sued and won an exemption from a lower court.

Verrilli argued that for-profit corporations do not have a right to religious liberty that trumps federal law.

But Paul Clement, the former solicitor general under President George W. Bush, defended the Greens and argued that they had followed their faith in operating the Hobby Lobby store»
Justices sound ready to reject contraceptives mandate under Obamacare -,0,2642446.story#axzz2wzdjmWcv

Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 26 March 2014


«Saying that suffering is caused by sin blames the victim

The question of why God allows the innocent to suffer is the most challenging in all religion.»

The Jewish Standard [New Jersey]

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 25 March 2014

RCA Supports Religious Liberty and Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., in Amicus Brief to US Supreme Court 

«Mar 25, 2014 -- The United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments tomorrow, March 25, 2014, in the cases of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.

The Rabbinical Council of America has joined with the Orthodox Union, the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, and several other Orthodox organizations in the submission of an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court in the pending cases of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. The cases address fundamental questions of religious liberty in the United States, and we emphatically and proudly support Hobby Lobby and Conestoga in challenging the federal government's asserted power to compel them to act in violation of their religious beliefs. While the specific tenets at issue in the cases are not necessarily ones we share (Hobby Lobby is owned by evangelical Christians and Conestoga by Mennonites), in the great American tradition we of different faiths join together to stand up for religious freedom for all.

The government claims that simply by incorporating, an entrepreneur loses his or her right to free exercise of religion in the course of running a business. As the brief argues, this proposition is both foreign to American jurisprudence and utterly incompatible with the practice of Judaism. If upheld, the government's position would leave Jewish storeowners unprotected against legislation requiring, just for example, that they stay open on the Sabbath, or that they sell non-kosher food. We urge the Justices to rule in favor of the companies involved, thus protecting the interests of the RCA's constituent communities while simultaneously confirming the enduring wisdom of the United States' legal and cultural heritage.»

Kol Tuv,

Karpas Notrikon

K - Kartoffel [potato]
R - Raddish
P - Parsely
S - Celery

Kol Tuv,

Monday 24 March 2014

Was the Earth Really Considered Flat during the Middle Ages?

«Russell suggests that the flat-earth error was able to take such deep hold on the modern imagination because of prejudice and presentism. He specifically mentions "the Protestant prejudice against the Middle Ages for Being Catholic ... the Rationalist prejudice against Judeo-Christianity as a whole", and "the assumption of the superiority of 'our' views to those of older cultures".[45]»
Myth of the Flat Earth - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 23 March 2014

Unwilling to Allow His Wife a Divorce - Is This A Hillul Hashem in the Making?

«Jewish law prohibits men from taking multiple wives. But Mr. Kin, according to several rabbis here, apparently relied on a legal loophole, which says that if a man can get the special permission of 100 rabbis to take a second wife, he is able to do so.

The case has become a powerful symbol for what activists say is a deepening crisis among Orthodox Jews — hundreds of women held hostage in a religious marriage, in some cases for years after civil cases have been settled. According to the intricate religious laws dictating marriage and divorce, only the husband has the power to grant a divorce.»
Unwilling to Allow His Wife a Divorce, He Marries Another -

Kol Tuv,

Friday 21 March 2014

Haftarat Zachor - Onomatopeia

Notice the Onomatopeia "MEH" as the prophet Sh'muel rebukes the King Sha'ul

שמואל א פרק טו

יד וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל, וּמֶה קוֹל-הַצֹּאן הַזֶּה בְּאָזְנָי, וְקוֹל הַבָּקָר, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי שֹׁמֵעַ. 

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 20 March 2014

Debt-riddled YU close to selling ten apartment buildings in Washington Heights

«Cash-strapped Yeshiva University is banking on the Washington Heights gentrification gold rush to help keep it from going broke.

The uptown orthodox Jewish institution is close to inking a deal to sell 10 of its apartment buildings near its Wilf Campus on Amsterdam Ave. near W. 185th St.

The aging dwellings, some decaying, house thousands of students, faculty and longtime northern Manhattanites — many Dominican immigrants.

President Richard Joel shared scant details of the imminent multimillion-dollar transaction on the school's news blog, explaining that the sale "provides an infusion of cash that will be used to strengthen our financial position."»

Read more:

Debt-riddled Yeshiva University close to selling ten apartment buildings in Washington Heights--NY Daily News--3/19/14

Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Purim: Respecting the Limits by R Avrohom Gordimer

«...Rather than focusing on perceiving the Hidden Hand of Hashem and appreciating the exuberance of salvation from mortal existential enemies, irresponsible alcohol consumption on Purim thoroughly impedes the message of Purim from resonating in the head and heart of the drinker.

The case is somewhat similar with regard to Mishlo'ach Manos, whose theme is the expression of friendship and brotherhood. Yet how much frustration and strife are caused by turning this mitzvah into an effort to outdo others, or to deliver Mishlo'ach Manos to every single possible acquaintance despite the cost, distance and logistics, stressing oneself and one's family the entire day in a mad rush to "make all the rounds" without stop? ...»
Purim: Respecting the Limits | Cross-Currents

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Mi She'eino Yodei'a Lachtoch

Apparently there are indeed at least 2 Halachic criteria re: the Sugya in the Bavli below

1. Not to conflate the sounds of
Aleph / Ayyin [Talmud]
Shin / Sin [Rambam]
Heh / Chet [Acharonim]
Which was my original point

2. Additionally as per Rambam - any very poor articulation is indeed passul.
Note: I searched for a Textual Basis for this Rambam, and the Nos'ei Keilim say it is S'varat Atzmo. In the New Frankel edition the GRA adds nothing,
Indeed, as per Rambam any Ayyin that is really poorly articulated is probably no improvement; though I would suppose that any ayyin that is a reasonable approximation to an "authentic ayyin" [as if we have such a yardstick by which to measure] would be inherently superior....
Note: Hagahot Maimoniyyot makes no objection to the Rambam. Nor does the Rema object to the M'chabbeir. And so the Ta"Z [IIRC mentioned in Lechem Mishneh] is apparently the earliest source for the lack of a distinct Ayyin
Sh'ma Mina: Ashkenazic Rishonim did have some kind of distinct Ayin, and so it seems to have been lost later on.
Note: As per M"B we also "tolerate" a
Shin/Sin mixup [EG Lita] yet it is also implicit that is superior to NOT conflate the sounds - despite Minhag Avos.
Sh'ma Mina: That changing to make a distinction is better.
T"B Megillah 24b
Rambam M"T, Hilchot Birkat Kohannim 15:1[,2]
S"A O"Ch 128:33
Ba'er Heitev 54, 55
M"B 119
Sha'ar Hatziyyun 91, 92, 93

מסכת מגילה פרק ג
דף כד,ב גמרא  תנא מומין שאמרו בפניו ידיו ורגליו אמר ר' יהושע בן לוי ידיו בוהקניות לא ישא את כפיו תניא נמי הכי ידיו בוהקניות לא ישא את כפיו עקומות עקושות לא ישא את כפיו אמר רב אסי חיפני <ובשיני> [ובישני] לא ישא את כפיו
תניא נמי הכי אין מורידין לפני התיבה לא אנשי בית שאן ולא אנשי בית חיפה ולא אנשי טבעונין מפני שקורין לאלפין עיינין ולעיינין אלפין
אמר ליה רבי חייא לר' שמעון בר רבי אלמלי אתה לוי פסול אתה מן הדוכן משום דעבי קלך אתא אמר ליה לאבוה אמר ליה זיל אימא ליה כשאתה מגיע אצל (ישעיהו ח) וחכיתי לה' לא נמצאת מחרף ומגדף אמר רב הונא זבלגן לא ישא את כפיו והא ההוא דהוה בשיבבותיה דרב הונא והוה פריס ידיה ההוא דש בעירו הוה תניא נמי הכי זבלגן לא ישא את כפיו ואם היה דש בעירו מותר
הלכות ברכת כוהנים פרק טו
א  שישה דברים, מונעין נשיאת כפיים--הלשון, והמומין, והעבירה, והשנים, והיין, וטומאת הידיים.
ב  הלשון כיצד:  העילגין שאין מוציאין את האותייות כתקנן, כגון שקורין לאלפין עיינין, ולעיינין אלפין, או לשיבולת סיבולת, וכיוצא בהן--אין נושאין את כפיהם.  וכן כבדי פה וכבדי לשון, שאין דבריהם ניכרין לכול--אין נושאין את כפיהם.
Shalom and Best Regards,

Pathos, not reason, is more and more accepted as the way to live a normal life.

~ Steve M.

The Daily Daf: Why Steal a Lulav?

«Despite the (very limited) success of Jewish outreach[1] many times more Jews leave observance every year than join in. And while the reasons for such are varied the financial scandals that plague our community do little to help and much to hurt. Being an Orthodox Jew should be synonymous with the highest levels of honesty, trust, integrity, straight talk and the like. Whether Jews who are not shomer Shabbat  are in fact any less honest than others is irrelevant[2]. Until we are seen as paragons of virtue in this area we will have little chance of influencing more than a handful of Jews. 
While simple in theory we know how difficult this is in practice. Our sages recognized long ago that the lust for money runs deep and wide; the same person who would never dream of having a glass of milk at the conclusion of a meat meal - something that is a "mere" custom" - may find fifty ways to justify violating the Torah's laws on theft. Our sages were dead serious when they taught that the first question we will be asked when we meet our Maker i.e. the most basic definition of a religious Jew, is "Were your business dealings conducted faithfully?" (Shabbat 31a).»

Kol Tuv,

Monday 17 March 2014


"If You Like Your Synagogue, You Can Keep Your Synagogue" Penalties For Non-Participation, Surcharges For Excess Kvetching, Drinking Special to The Kustanowitz Kronikle       
»The Pew survey of U. S. Jews released last October has resulted in an unprecedented synagogue membership initiative undertaken by the Conference of Presidents of Major Conferences of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (COPOMCOPOMJO).«
Jewish Humor Central: "Judaicare" Program Planned to Ensure That All Jews Have Synagogue Membership

Kol Tuv,

Identifying Achashverosh and Esther in Secular Sources

«According to Herodotus, the wife of Xerxes was named Amestris, and she was the daughter of a military commander named Otanes. (In the Megillah, Esther is described as the daughter of Avichail.) »
My modest contribution to this was to identify "Avi-Chayil" as possibly being a TITLE instead of a Proper name; namely the Captain/Commander of the army or the guard.
the Seforim blog: Identifying Achashverosh and Esther in Secular Sources

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 16 March 2014

Adloyada - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kol Tuv,

Behind Our Masks, By Rabbi Eliyahu Safran

~In the musical, Les Miserables, Jean Valjean was a good and decent man who stole a loaf of bread to feed his family.  Imprisoned for his crime, he is given a chance to become good and decent again only to have events he has long sought to escape come back to threaten him time and time again.  To protect his hidden status, he need only allow Javert, the police detective, to take another into custody in his stead.  But, what kind of person could allow such a thing to happen?  And so he sings, Who am I? giving voice to that deepest of human needs, to know who we truly are.

Who am I?

We are all called to ask the question and yet we wear masks, figurative and real.  They hide who we are, our emotions and personalities.   They sometimes reveal, but most often disguise, conceal, deceive, pretend, protect and allow the wearer to not be "who he is."

But if masks are so clearly deceitful, why do we wear them on Purim?  What is it that we hide and disguise on this holiday?»
Who Am I? » - The Online Voice of Torah Jewry

Kol Tuv,

Friday 14 March 2014

HHH: Kitzur SA 141:15, Goldin Translation

The Text of the Kitzur SA in 141:15 refers to the 4 Verses of G'ulah said aloud by the congregation;

1. Ish Yehudi
2. UMordechai
3. Lay'hudim
4. Ki Mordechai [Last Pasuk]

The Goldin Translation* erroneously translates this as referring to the 4 expression of
found in 8:16.

* This is the 4 volume Revised bilingual edition
(C) 1961 Hebrew Publishing

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 13 March 2014

פורים כפורים

פורים כפורים | הרב וייס

 פורים ככפורים

 ידועים הם דברי הזוהר[1] ש"פורים ככפורים".  שיום כפור נקרא יום כפורים שהוא כמו פורים,
(תקוני זהר תקון כ"א אות תתב)

Kol Tuv,

Tunisia and Norwegian Cruise Lines

Nishmablog would like to acknowledge the assistance of
R Barry Kornblau

Dear Friends,
Please take a few moments to thank Norwegian Cruise Line for its strong stand against Tunisia's bigoted, anti-Israeli, and anti-Semitic disembarkment policy by emailing their corporate office at

Their statement is cited below.
We must not only remember to oppose our people's enemies but must also show appreciation to our friends.


«The government of Tunisia refused to allow Israeli nationals the right to disembark Norwegian Jade in the Port of La Goulette, Tunis on Sunday, March 9, 2014. In response to this discriminatory act, Norwegian Cruise Line announced today that it has cancelled all remaining calls to Tunisia and will not return.

"We want to send a strong message to Tunisia and ports around the world that we will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests," said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line's CEO. "We are outraged by this act and the fact that we were not notified in advance of this practice. We apologize sincerely to our guests who were affected and want them to know that we have taken the appropriate action in response."

Norwegian Cruise Line employs more than 90 different nationalities and welcomes people of all nationalities aboard its vessels. The Company does not condone or tolerate discrimination of any type and with these cancellations hopes to send a message to those who do that such acts are completely unacceptable.»

* * * * *

Dear FB Members:

Please like, share, and comment on

Please send out emails - EG

Dear Norwegian Cruise Lines

We appreciate your support for decency and the common good of all humanity, by not caving in to the haters. We are spreading the word to others about your principled stand.


Or similar language to address your friends

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Shabbat Saves a Life

«The saying goes, "More than the Jews have kept the Shabbos (Sabbath), the Shabbos has kept the Jews."  When I think of that saying, I picture my life if I were constantly wired 7 days a week.  As it is, I feel like a slave to my digital devices, but the knowledge that Shabbos is right around the corner keeps me going. From sundown Friday evening until when the stars come out on Saturday night it's 25 hours spent completely offline and it's blissful.  It's 25 hours spent praying to G-d and consuming obscene amounts of calories eating scrumptious meals with family and friends.  It's perfect.  Sure anyone can always disconnect, but there's something awesome about the forced routine that can't be properly explained to one who hasn't experienced it.»

Kol Tuv,

Monday 10 March 2014

The origins of Taanit Esther

Originally published 3/15/11, 10:11 am.

See The Origin of Ta'anit Esther

The origin of this fast has always been a mystery. A fast on the 13th of Adar is not mentioned in the Megillah. Nor is such a fast mentioned in Tannaitic or Amoraic literature. Megillat Ta'anit, compiled in the first century C.E., includes the 13th of Adar as a day upon which Jews were prohibited from fasting.
A widespread view today is that the fast arose as a post-Talmudic custom intended to commemorate the three days of fasting initiated by Esther in Nissan. There are Rishonim who take this approach.[1] But...

- Mitchell First


The Origin of Zeicher/ Zecher

Posted by R David Bannett on the Avodah List

«I started learn to read the Torah some 75 years ago in Flatbush and was taught to read both ways. We did not repeat the entire pasuk but only the phrase "timcheh et zeikher Amalek". I don't remember if I was taught the order but, many years later, I decided to read the incorrect zekher first and then correct myself by saying zeikher the second time. Similarly, in the megilla, when the megilla has the incorrect bifneihem and laharog I read as written and then correct myself by repeating the phrase only: v'ish.... lifneihem and k'hashmid.... v'laharog. If the megilla is correct I read only once.

Anyone slightly interested in the subject should read R'Mordekhai Breuer's article. Those very interested should go directly to R' Prof Penkower's article. He gives the entire history, about 45 pages, including statistics on manuscripts from the time of ben Asher as well as customs of reading, etc.
The double reading evidently started slightly before the Hafetz Hayyim made it popular. Penkower cites a ba'al Kriah who was instructed by R' Sh'neur Zalman mi'Lublin to read twice. This R' Sh"Z died in 1902. The Mishna B'rura was printed in 1906.

I was delighted to read that R' Penkower read twice despite his indisputable proofs that zeikher is correct. A few years ago I gave a Friday night talk proving that there is absolutely no justification for double reading. On the following morning I read parashat zakhor and read zekher followed by zeikher. I too do as I was taught and do not allow myself to be confused with facts. I am overjoyed to find that I follow the derekh of the expert.

It should be pointed out that no eidah other than the Ashkenazi ever questioned the correct reading. AFAIK, Yekkes are the only Ashkenazi unaffected by the double-reading syndrome.

As to developments in Israel: One of my grandchildren told me his rosh yeshiva told him to read only once (based on Breuer). On the other hand I davenned this year at a yeshiva where in addition to reading in Abazit, Ashkenoz, Moroccan, and Yemenite they also had Parsi and what might have been Iraqi.

I have also heard a ba'al k'riah reading in mivta Ashkenazi repeat Machlas and Mochlas, and yahalom and yohalom. He told me that he was told to do so by Harav Nebenzahl. At this rate, it won't be long before we'll be hearing hundreds of p'sukim read twice.

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 9 March 2014

RCA/BDA Responds Regarding Past Conversions 

RCA/BDA Statement Regarding Past Conversions

«Mar 7, 2014 -- A JTA op-ed (March 6, 2014) accuses the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and its affiliated rabbinical court, the Beth Din of America (BDA), of actively challenging the validity of prior conversions performed by members of the RCA.

We disagree. At no time have the RCA or the Beth Din proactively sought to reevaluate conversions; that is not our interest or desire. However, Halachah does have its standards, and we have acted and will continue to act as a source of information to those Rabbinic agencies which seek to determine if Halachic standards have been upheld. In creating the "Geirus Protocol Standards" system, we have facilitated the acceptance of U.S. conversions throughout the world. Furthermore, it is only natural, as a responsible local presence of halachic authority, that we are a resource for rabbinical agencies, in Israel and worldwide.

As always, consistent with confidentiality policies, both the RCA and the Beth Din decline to comment regarding the specific facts and circumstances of particular cases.

Rabbi Leonard Matanky,
RCA President

Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann,
Director, BDA»

Kol Tuv,

Allegations Against RCA re: Conversion Policy

»The problem with this statement is that when I visited the chief rabbi's office with Weiss' attorney, we were told directly that the chief rabbinate was acting upon the recommendation of RCA officials.

We may not know who is telling the truth in this case, but we do know that the RCA has not been candid about its recent approach to conversion.

In 2007 the RCA drafted a new centralized policy on conversions. This policy brought conversions under the auspices of a new and more stringent approach. At the time, there were some who warned that this new policy could lead to retroactive annulments of previously accepted conversions.»
Op-Ed: The RCA breaks its word on conversion | Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 6 March 2014

Refusing Orders

Originally published 3/24/08, 2:17 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.

The following article seems to make the simple point that a soldier must refuse to follow an order when it contradicts Halacha. While that may seem pretty straightforward, the article actually ignores the complexity of such a situation and decision. Here are some questions that illustrate this complexity:

What if there is a machloket in Halacha and the commanding officer follows one opinion and the solider follows another? What if the army as a whole follows one opinion and the soldier another?

What if there are consequences in not following the order thereby initiating a halachic exempiton such as the case of piku'ach nefesh, when one's life is threatened? In the case of positive commandments, an exemption kicks in at a great monetary loss, as another example? What if there is a disagreement over the facts and causal understandings of what is happening?

There is also a reference in this article to the actions of Mordechai as a model for us today. Yet there was great controversy over Mordechai's behaviour in regards to Haman. While Mordechai was vindicated, there are attempts to show the uniqueness of that situation, thus limiting the story as an example for us.

Of course one must be devoted to Torah in the fact of external pressure but this in itself demands further analysis. First of all, the Torah itself defines the devotion necessary. Second, one must define the Torah demand. Third, one must be sensitive to unique situations in any case of this matter.

This is something to think about with a recognition of the complexity.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Mishenichnas Adar Marbin BePurim Torah

originally posted 03/08/09

Rabbi R sent out this:


“I’m a vegetarian.
Do I have to have meat on my Seder plate?” "

A supplemental question has been e-mailed me via cyber space:

I'm a carnivore.
Must I eat karpas/greens and marror/bitters at the seder?

the late Dr. Robert Atkins, MD

Q: How do we know that the wicked Haman was descended from Amaleiq?

A: The Torah reading for Purim is taken from the end of the Portion Beshalach - "and then along came Amaleiq"

So we know that Purim is connected to Amaleiq but we do not yet know that Haman is connected to Amaleiq.

Well just prior to Amaleiq in Beshalach is the portion of "The Manna" in Hebrew it is the portion of "Haman"

Thus the juxtaposition of the two portions indicates a connection indicative that Haman is descended from Amaleiq.

Note: the text is in reverse order. Rashi states there is no specific order in the torah!


This one is said in the name of Rabbi Haim Soloveichik I, aka Reb Haim Brisker..

It says in Esther and in the "Al haNissim" prayer that Haman sought to destroy all Jews, men, women, and children on ONE DAY, viz. The 13th of Adar...

Q: Why is it significant to focus on a SINGLE DAY? Does that imply that had Haman sought to destroy the Jews over a week's period would Haman been any less wicked?

A: Yes. Haman was so wicked that he wanted to give the Jews just one day to celebrate his defeat, and not more!


Q: Why do yeshiva boys drink more on Purim than most people?

A: The rema shulchan aruch orach hayyim 695:2
says that people should drink "yoteir milimudo"
(more than their training).
And Since yeshiva boys are actively in training in their Torah studies therefore they need to drink more!


A customer just came in.

Customer: I have fly to Seattle.
Me: When?
Customer On Purim right after the meal!

Me: I guess you'll be flying "high" then! :-)

Abie: Izzy, how come you attack cynicism so much?
Izzy: Who says I do? And anyway, why shoudn't I?
Abie: Because YOU Izzy are quite the cynic yourself!
Izzy: And your point?
Abie: don't you see that you are a cynic and yet you are against cynicism!
Izzy: Not at all! I'm just so cynical that I'm even cycnical about cynicism!
Abie: Ya gotta be kidding!
Izzie: And after all, aren't you being cynical about my answer!?

Wednesday 5 March 2014

More on Truthers and Anti-Semitism, the Book of Esther

«Every book in the Bible condemns the violent racism of modern Zionism… except one: the book of Esther. The source of the annual feast of Purim, Esther celebrates the Jews' slaughter of more than 75,000 Gentiles (which included women and children). No Biblical book has so influenced evangelical attitudes toward Israel, especially in approving Israel's brutality against Arabs. Esther thus plays a pivotal role for both Jews and Christians in their unconditional defense of the state of Israel.

For nearly 2,000 years, a minority of Christian scholars have been troubled by the book's omission of anything truly spiritual. Athanasius, some of the church fathers, and Martin Luther rejected it as apocryphal. The book never mentions God; nor do its protagonists, Esther and Mordecai. The Jewish people are delivered from annihilation yet never resort to prayer or thanking God afterward.

Instead, this book exalts and appeals to racist Jewish tribalism and appetite for revenge. It began the now familiar Zionist theme: long-suffering Jews as victims of irrational hatred from murderous Gentiles. It celebrates the triumph of Jews who obtain peace not by faith in God but by slaughter.»

NPN Article: The Pseudo-Biblical Book of Esther - Mainspring of Zionism

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Is the Rambam Always the Consummate Rationalist?

The Rambam is widely perceived as an Aristotelian Rationalist.

And yet, in his Sefer Hamtzvot - Lav 287 re: the testimony of relatives - the Rambam states:

"Even if a Father were to testify against his son, we do not accept it. It is a G'zeirat Hakkatuv "she'ein Lah Ta'am K'lal"

So even for the Rambam, not every case or Mitzvah has a rational explanation, nor can it be "rationalized".

Kol Tuv,

Parsha Ki Tissa: Moses’ Horns is Not a Mistranslation

«Most commentators have simply said that Jerome mistranslated "keren" as "horned" rather than  "radiant."  But Bena Elisha Medjuck, a McGill University Department of Jewish Studies graduate student, offered a more complex explanation in his 1988 thesis "Exodus 34:29-35: Moses' 'Horns' in Early Bible Translation and Interpretation."[1]  Medjuck explains that Jerome was well-acquainted both with the variant meanings of "keren" and with the prevailing translation of his contemporary Jewish scholars – with whom he consulted!   Jerome chose the "horned" translation as metaphor faithful to the text: a depiction of Moses' strength and authority, and a glorification of the Lord!  Jerome even explained this in his accompanying commentary!  

Horns were almost universally viewed by ancient civilizations as symbols of power, not as the negative or demonic symbols they became for Christians thousands of years later.  For example, both Alexander the Great and Attila the Hun were described as wearing horns.  Mellinkoff reminds us that horned helmets were often worn by priests and kings, with the horns connoting that divine power and authority had been bestowed upon them.  

Moreover, in his book Did Moses Really Have Horns? (URJ Press, 2009) Rabbi Dr. Rifat Sonsino reminds us that the Hebrew Bible contains many other references to "horns" as symbols of power and authority....»
Ki Tissa: Moses' Horns: Not a Mistranslation > Rabbi Dr. Art Levine

Kol Tuv,

Can old minhogim realistically make a comeback?

«There are some people, who, upon learning about vintage minhogim whose observance has been lost in some quarters, such as, let us take for example, the singular Ashkenazic kaddish, and some others mentioned at the conclusion of the previous post, agree that ideally they should be reinstituted or reinvigorated. »
The Yoshon Renaissance and Vintage Minhogim – החזרת עטרה ליושנה: אפשר או א"א? ישן ומנהגים ישנים | TREASURES OF ASHKENAZ

Kol Tuv,

Monday 3 March 2014

What Nishma is Really All About

T.B. Eruvin 13b states that we follow Beit Hillel because, in presenting their views, they still presented the views of Beit Shammai first. Have you ever thought of the difference between presenting a view independently and presenting it subsequent to a presentation, with respect, of the opposing view?

The result is the dialectic. Ideas are so often presented in a monolithic manner. Beit Hillel  challenged this. In offering Beit Shammai's view first, they declared that ideas did not arrive from this monolithic approach but were the reasoned conclusions of individuals who recognized the multi-dimensional nature of reality. They had to quote Beit Shammai first for it was only within this context that the true nature of their own idea could be understood.

This is what Nishma is all about. Too much, within this world, ideas are presented within a monolithic context. Within the growing fragmentation of the Jewish and Torah world, there is a lack of presenting the other side honestly, let alone first. We must again pronounce the value of the dialectic. This is Nishma.

I know that I have said this before. I know that this rallying call of Nishma has been proclaimed before. I just think it has to be said again -- and again!

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Religious Freedom – The Mounting War Against Religion in the USA

Guest Blogger:
Rabbi Phil Lefkowitz
Religious Freedom and Arizona Bill 1062 – The Mounting War Against Religion in the United States

The 1990 decision of the United States Supreme Court in Employment Division vs Smith was understood by almost everyone as weakening the free exercise of religion guaranteed to us by the Constitution. The Court determined that a neutral law of general applicability that puts a "burden" upon the free exercise of religion was not unconstitutional. To remedy this situation, in 1992 a bi-partisan Bill, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, RFRA, was overwhelmingly passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. This law reinstated the strict scrutiny test for any perceived infringement of religious exercise by the government.   Responding to this law the Supreme Court determined that this legislation did not apply to the states because it felt Congress had acted beyond the scope of its powers under the Constitution. The result of this determination of the Supreme Court was that most states passed Religious Freedom Restoration Acts applying a strict scrutiny test to all government action by the State. Among those states enacting a RFRA law was Arizona.   Subsequent to RFRA being enacted in Arizona, the State Legislature added specific applications of religious freedom to this law regarding religious land use and the protection of professional licenses but the law was not been updated since it was first passed in 1999.   The recent turmoil regarding some new additions to the Arizona RFRA law, referred to as SB1062, passed by the Legislature and  vetoed by the Governor, sought to clarify the definition of "person" in the law as referring to all types of businesses and legal entities. This was obviously in response to the national debate resulting from the Obama administration's insistence in regard to the HHS mandate that the freedom of religion guaranteed to us by the First Amendment does not cover a person in his private business or in fact even not-for-profit religious organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor, which employ individuals not of their particular Faith.  As you know this issue will soon be before the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case in which all streams of the Orthodox Jewish community including the Rabbinical Council of America and Agudath Israel, have filed an amicus brief through COLPA. What is most interesting is that Arizona law in general already defines a "person" as including corporations or business entities.  SB1062 as well ensures that a government law cannot infringe upon religious beliefs merely because that law allows for its enforcement by a private individual.   I have written on several occasions in the Chicago Jewish Star regarding the ever further encroachment upon religious freedom that is occurring in the United States. A recent example of this is the unanimous ruling of the New Mexico Supreme Court in August 2013 in Elane Photography vs. Willock. In this instance the photographer refused to photograph a commitment ceremony between two women as it was against the photographer's religious beliefs. One of the Justices in a concurring opinion wrote that the "price of citizenship" is being forced to compromise one's religious beliefs. We Jews have heard this concept invoked throughout our history in Europe which all too often led to the persecution and, in some instances, the physical attack upon the Jewish community.   In the case of Arizona, those against the law, claimed this legislation would allow discrimination against gay individuals -  retail establishments would refuse to serve them. To drum up an outcry against the passage of this bill into law, the fight for civil rights for African Americans to be served equally in retail businesses in the 1960s was cited.  Even Bernie Goldberg, who in his reportage is rather conservative, a regular on Fox T.V. News, chanted this mantra.   The reality of the law however is quite different. It simply protected a person in business from being forced to participate in an activity that is against his\her religious beliefs.  As in the case I cited in a previous article regarding a florist in Washington State who refused to provide the floral arrangements for a gay wedding, with one of the gay individuals involved in the "marriage" being a long-time customer of the florist with whom he enjoyed a cordial relationship, the florist's objection was that she did not want to participate in the preparations for that ceremony, which include being at the hall, setting the flowers on the stage, on the tables etc.   Sadly, largely because of the Obama administration's hard line on this issue with regard to the HHS Mandate, what has always been considered a major foundational underpinning of our unique society here in the United States, one that has been of immense importance to the Jewish community - freedom of religion, is now under siege.
Kol Tuv,

Sunday 2 March 2014

Women, Tefillin and Tzitzit

«Of particular interest is the first of the two rationales presented here. For R. Epstein, a key problem with women's participation in exempted daily obligations — tzitzis, and by the same logic tefillin — is that daily obligations are "not pleasant" for women, and therefore represent ostentation, yuhara. But what is the connection?

R. Epstein appears to argue that with regard to women's observances, there is a need to circumscribe public displays of religious ostentation — sincere or not — which have a particularly corrosive effect on others, and ultimately societal structure.

Unlike shofar, lulav, and almost every other time-bound religious obligation, women's public observances of a daily commitment has the potential to foster a socioreligious hierarchy in which feminine piety is identified with observance of this commitment. A publicly-observed option has a way of becoming an obligation — both for idealistic reasons (why should I not do an extra mitzvah and amass more merits?) and not-so-idealistic reasons (I want to show my community that I am a groyse k'nocker, a big shot). Perhaps this is the meaning of yuhara: ostentation in the setting of daily ritual commitments is corrosive because it raises a non-obligatory mitzvah to an obligation and inevitably crowds out other values to which the Torah assigns importance, or at least which women should be allowed to opt for unselfconsciously (e.g., child-bearing and -rearing, which don't lend themselves to a commitment to attendance and participation in daily public time-sensitive rituals). Women are encumbered by fewer responsibilities but have access to all privileges — with the exception of privileges that inevitably become responsibilities for other women.»
Halakhic Dead White Men? | Torah Musings

Kol Tuv,

Settling Unresolved Issues

We were discussing the role of the Masoretes such as Ben Asher as to the finalization of the Masoretic text.
It seems that some people feel that the Masoretes MUST have settled every outstanding issue.

A Colleague of mine and also a teacher remarked -
"In the G'mara you find "Teiku" but you'll NEVER find Teiku in the Shulchan Aruch"

Meaning to imply: that the S"A settled all the gray areas one way or another.

Unfortunately for my chaveir, I was there and I also knew this to be an exaggeration; and so like the good Captain of the HMS Pinnafore, it is a good idea to emend NEVER to "Hardly Ever".

For exceptions see S"A O"Ch 3, S'ifim 12, 13, 14

There, instead of Teiku, the M'chabbeir uses the bittuy "Yeish l'histappeik" as his way of expressing a doubt as to how to resolve the issue.

So the S"A hardly ever leaves an issue unresolved, but does so on some occasions. Of course since 3 of those occasions are near the very beginning, many of us come across these more frequently than say more obscure examples.

So to say that the S"A settled every case without exclusion is IMHO an exaggeration, but close to the truth.

Maybe the same for the Masoretes.
Just a thought.

Shalom and Best Regards,

MISTAKES are always forgivable
If you have the courage to admit them.