|Volume 7 Number 106||Wed Feb 25 23:55:02 US/Pacific 1998|
From: Chaim Frazer <email@example.com> Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998 22:33:10 -0500 Subject: Re: Adultery In Volume 7 Number 104 Art Kamlet writes: >Biblical law permitted men to have multiple, simultaneous wives and >concubines. (A concubine is like a wife but without the monetary guarantees a >wife would have should the husband wish to divorce her. Today we might say >she did not have a ketubah (marriage contract). She had a lower status in >the household. Believe it or not, there is an on-going debate today in some >Jewish quarters about whether or not men can have concubines today.) There are a number of misleading contentions in Art's passage. 1. A concubine in _not_ "like a wife but without the monetary guarantees a wife would have should the husband not wish to divorce her", but simply an unmarried woman who makes herself sexually available only to one man. (One Halakhic phrase defining her is "without a marriage contract and without marriage [itself]".) This is important because it means that should their relationship dissolve, there never was a marriage, and thus there is no need for a divorce. 2. It also means that she does not have any of the legal protections of a wife, which are expressed Halakhically as obligations of a husband to a wife. Thus, she is extremely vulnerable and subject to exploitation. 3. Maimonides in Hilkhot Ishut (Laws of Marriage) Chapter 1, Law 4 rules that for the general population a concubine relationship is Biblically prohibited as constituting harlotry. (In Hilkhot Melakhim, Laws of Kings, Chapter 4, Law 4, he restricts the concubine relationship to Kings only.) 4. Most authorities rule with Maimonides that such a relationship is Biblically prohibited except to Kings. (See the discussion in Arukh HaShulchan, a major late 19th-early 20th Century analysis of the Shulchan Arukh and its major commentaries. It is found in Arukh HaShulchan, Even HaEzer, Section 26, Laws 6-10.) 5. Even those authorities who disagree with Maimonides on the technical permissibilty of concubines strongly oppose their practical reality. To ensure that concubines do not exist, every Orthodox authority and community of which I have ever heard prohibits unmarried women from going to the mikvah (except for brides immediately before their weddings). 6. This means that an unmarried woman who has begun to menstruate is always sexually prohibited as a niddah, and sexual relations with her are Biblically forbidden as one of the primary forbidden relationships. (Believe it or not, this really works in Orthodox communities.) 7. I don't know about other parts of Jewry, but in Orthodoxy the only "ongoing debate" regarding concubines is the activity of a tiny number of mentally ill men who use the threat to take concubines to further their extortion regarding not giving Jewish divorces to their wives. In doing so, they defy much explicit Rabbinic authority, and they receive the universal (and earned) condemnation of all Orthodox Rabbinical authorities and communities. Chaim Frazer
From: Binyomin Menachem Adilman <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Tue, 24 Feb 1998 16:10:42 Subject: Adultery Chaim Frazer, in v.104 details very clearly the Biblical definition of adultery. One point needs to be added. According to Biblical law, when a man slept with a single women, it was considered the consummation of his intent to marry her. In such a way she became his wife. Therefore, there is no double standard.
From: Ilan Hartuv <email@example.com> Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998 07:16:44 +0200 Subject: Adultery Julian Yudelson refersus to parashot Mishpatim and Jethro and errs in stating that they are found in Genesis. Both are found in "Exodus". Ilan Hartuv
From: Yaakov Menken <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998 20:59:42 -0500 Subject: Is kashrut outdated? Art Kamlet <email@example.com> did a very good job with definitions. Mixing meat and milk is indeed Torah law - not just as far as eating it, but cooking meat and milk, or deriving any sort of benefit from milk/meat combinations, are also prohibited (I think that Halacha prohibits feeding Alpo to pets on this basis). Chicken and milk, on the other hand, are prohibited by Rabbinic decree. The prohibition was made simply because the mixture looks too much like "meat & milk!" John M. Sherwood <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes >>Another syag is built around that one, namely not to mix meat and meat >>utensils, such as pots and pans, or soap. An illustration of that is kosher >>soap. Soap for meat dishes has the word "kosher" imprinted with red dye. >>Soap for milk dishes has the word imprinted with blue dye. The set time >>between eating milk after meat is another syag. >I personally believe that labeling soap as meat or meat -- indeed, even >requiring that soap have a hechsher -- to be a fence around a fence, as Rabbi >Sherwood says when he talks of building a fence around a fence. I must tell you that as an Orthodox Jew who has visited a great number of Orthodox homes, I have yet to discover soap imprinted as "kosher" with red _or_ blue dye. Perhaps this is because dish detergent in our day is generally a liquid, such as Palmolive, rather than a solid... and there is usually one bottle, used for dishes of both varieties. In answer to Art's question, the reason for a hechsher on soap is not to prevent mixtures of meat and milk, but rather to indicate that there is nothing non-kosher in the cleanser. You'd be amazed how many wonderful uses have been found for glycerin, lard, and other popular non-kosher additives. A dedicated vegetarian would be well-advised to buy kosher detergentS! On the other hand, we do use separate sponges. I don't think it takes much of a stretch to imagine real-life cases where milk and meat products could intermingle in hot sink water, even without getting into the issue of flavor absorbed into various items. [Thus it's honestly quite possible that soap was similarly marked by a Jew with entrepreneurial spirit a generation ago, before Palmolive killed the market.] Ruth Levenstein <RuthEllen@ibm.net> writes: > I like this idea of the mitzvot elevating people to a higher level. But my > question is: How does a person embrace this concept without developing a > "holier than thou" attitude. If keeping meat separate from milk, makes me a > better person, then I am likely to look at my fellow Jew who does not do so > and think that they are less than me. [del] Attitudes such as these towards > fellow Jews can't be good for any of us. And while I am confident that a > person CAN embrace the mitzvot without adopting such an attitude, I'd like > to know what the trick is. > > The truth is. This is my primary reason for affiliating Reform. For me > "better, higher, farther along" thing dose not elevate people but brings > them down, far from where I imagine God wants us to be. While I of course agree with Shoshana Boublil that this attitude is a bad thing, I cannot agree with Ruth's assumption that this attitude is a likely result of keeping kosher, or striving for higher standards. Kudos to Heidi Waldmann for her most currect "strong suspicion that those who think they are better than others because of their greater observance are, in that very attitude, transgressing Jewish teaching." As Shoshana said, "the trick is humility." Obviously there must be a way to get around inaction - to manage to observe Torah commandments regarding kashrus and humility at the same time. I don't think the "trick" is hard to pull off (sorry, Julian). A cursory understanding of how the Torah obligates a person to look at him or herself, vs. how the Torah obligates a person to observe _others_, would show that one cannot look down upon others because of one's own observances. Ruth's approach essentially argues that _not_ keeping Kosher is superior, because otherwise we'll fall into the holier-than-thou trap - and this is fraught with difficulties. On the contrary, _anyone_ is liable to claim that he or she is "better," for whatever reason. "Anyone who does more than me is crazy; anyone who does less isn't observant!" Liberal Jews, with all due respect, are just as inherently liable to fall into this trap. For example, if I don't observe because I think Mitzvot are an "anachronism," which are "no longer relevant to modern sensibilities," then how am I likely to look upon those who retain anachronistic practices and antediluvian attitudes? To turn the tables on Ruth, she can now say: "I'm better than those who keep kosher, because I'm so humble!" Or, "I'm more authentically Jewish than those who keep Glatt Kosher, because I'm not motivated by conceit or the need to out-pietize others" - paraphrasing Rabbi Simeon Maslin, Reform Judaism magazine, Summer 1996. I must point out, in this context, that roughly 10,000 Orthodox Jews [attempt to] participate in the study of Laws of Proper Speech on a _daily_ basis, while tens of thousands of others have this material incorporated into their Yeshiva and Day School curricula. So it appears that those Jews most concerned about the kashrus of food which goes _into_ their mouths also demonstrate - in concrete terms - the most concern about what comes _out_ of their mouths. To echo Irene Friedman, I, too, don't think fear of feeling "holier than thou" should discourage anyone from accepting the yoke of the mitzvot - and I do think the results of doing so are quite positive in the ethical realm. Yours, Yaakov Menken
From: Ilan Hartuv <email@example.com> Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998 07:16:44 +0200 Subject: Re: Is kashrut outdated? Ruth Levenstin writes that you cannot "sin" in Hebrew, you can only commit an "Avera". She errs; there are many nouns for "sin" in Hebrew i.e. khet and avon and the vbrb "lakhto" [to sin] appears hundreds of times, in its various inflections. "avera" means transgression, which is not as bad as a sin. Ilan Hartuv
From: Ruth Levenstein <RuthEllen@ibm.net> Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 11:40:47 -0800 Subject: Re: Is kashrut outdated? Thanks to all who wrote answers to my question about the trick to having a traditional perspective and maintaining humility. Julian Yudelson wrote: > A conscientious Reform Jew has the responsibility to study and seek out > every mitzvah that might elevate his/her life. That search may lead to > placing more emphasis on some acts than others, but it should not lead to > hatred and intolerance of other's practices. I have to respond to this. My original comment and question did not arise out of hatred or intolerance of traditional practices. Another person suggested to me privately that I am choosing mitzvot based on the actions of others. That is not the case either. I make the choice NOT to consider the mitzvot binding on myself because of how it affects ME and nobody else. I think *I* am a better person with this perspective. I asked the question of how those who have a more traditional view curtail possible negative attitudes only to gain understanding of the traditional perspective and to help me feel better about traditional positions. Here is an example not related to Kashrut. For many years now, we have put up a Sukkah. It's a tradition that positively contributes to my family in many ways. For the first few years I spent quite a lot of time noting all the ways that our sukkah didn't meet all of the requirements of Halachah and of tradition. I found that my musings, apologies and comments about this got in the way of the mitzvah. Another one: On Kashrut, we remove all hamatz from our home for Pesach and each time I stress over certain ingredients. I'm getting better at just making the call and getting on with the mitzvah. Many posters have described Kashrut as a way of paying attention to what we eat and I appreciate the value in that but it leads me to another question. (asked respectfully) Is it possible to pay TOO much attention to details such that one loses sight of the big picture? If so, how does one guard against that? These things get particularly disturbing to me when one ends up having to evaluate another's practice, something that really can't be avoided when you are talking about Kashrut. A Kosher individual certainly has the right to decide whose food and kitchen meet their standards. I look forward to your comments. Ruth (Is being called a "pork eater" a slur like being called a "black hat"?) RuthEllen@ibm.net
From: Eric Simon <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 12:52:47 -0500 Subject: So what's wrong with "man made" fences? Ruth Etkin has written about the propriety of 'fences'. She wrote: >In v7n101, Rabbi Sherwood discussed the number of fences around the >commandment of not seething a kid in its mother's milk. He made it sound like >these fences are equivalent to law (forgive me if I misinterpret). They are >not, although accepted as such by the orthodox. They belong to the traditions >of men that are passed off as law. and, more recently >In discussing "the fences around the Torah" Ron Judenberg said, "G-d gave the >Rabbis the power to create new halachot". I would be very interested to >learn just where and when this "power" is described and ordained. It's a >concept that I find hard to accept. If one believes that the Torah was G-d >written and given, then it's G-d who made "rules". If one believes it was >written by man to codify the beliefs and values of Judaism, then no one >person, Rabbi or not, pious, learned man that he (or she?) might be, has more >"power" than anyone else. How *else* do laws get made (or, how *else* have laws been made since Sinai?) but by men (or, more recently, by men and women). You might consider, say, the Torah as the US equivalent to the Constitition. Subsequent laws (or "torah fences"), are, then, the US equivalent of Congressional legislation. Should any one person have more "power" than another? Well, in our system, some men and women _do_ get more power when they become judges or senators, etc. If each person made their own laws (even provided that they all complied with the US Constitution), we would call it anarchy. (This still doesn't answer your first question: where does the authority come from. The Constitution itself specifies that Congress can make laws. Similarly, the authority for rabbis to make halacha, according to Maimonides, comes from Deuteronomy 17:8-10). "Fences", properly used, are not necessarily bad devices. We *all* use fences -- it's simply a matter of where we draw that line. I presume that most liberal Jews would not want their spouse to sleep in the same bed as another person of the opposite sex. Even if the spouses have a rule about fidelity, a spouse would not countenance that. This is clearly a fence. There are certain parts of one's spouse's body that a person would not want anybody else to touch (in addition to the obvious organs and glands). That's a fence. So, some folks extend that 'prohibited touching' to _all_ parts of a body (e.g. Orthodox men and women that will not shake hands with a person of the opposite sex). It's just a bigger fence. Big deal. Consider this: why is mere possession of, say, crack cocaine illegal? Or possession of a weapon on an airplane? What's wrong with mere possession? It's the *use* that's the problem, not the possession. Again: this is clearly a fence. One other point: >In short, Torah is not violated if you put a dollop of sour cream on your >chicken paprika, nor if you eat any other grain not included in the 5 species >(the gluten-containing grains). I'm not sure that liberal Jews are being consistent when this "Torah defense" is invoked -- because we clearly violate the letter of Torah in so many other actions (e.g., marriage of a Cohen to a divorcee, eating prohibited foods, etc.) This appears to me to be picking and choosing. Furthermore, to simply claim that "Torah is not violated if you put a dollop of sour cream on your chicken paprika" raises two other objections: (1) Using the 'constitution' analogy, one could say that possession of crack cocaine and/or a weapon on an airplane is not violative of the Consitution (so what?); and (2) one might also say "putting someone's eye out for injuring another eye" is not violative of Torah (the point being that Torah, alone, is not enough to explain). It is the Talmud (whether you believe it was given at Sinai as Oral Law, or written by mere 'men' afterwards) that tells us that "putting someone's eye out..." was _never_ part of the _original_ Written meaning. The point here is that relying purely on written Torah as a basis for our behavior is something that liberal Jews have never done. (Those who do are called Karaites). But this is getting off on a tangent. My main point: I think we all agree that "fences" are useful. It seems to me that our only disagreement involves the precise placement of those fences. Eric
From: Bernard Rotmil <CUSSINJO@worldnet.att.net> Date: Tue, 24 Feb 1998 10:40:47 -0400 Subject: Thou Shalt Not Raise A False Report... Julian, reflecting similar views by others, states rightly: > Considering the media onslaught as the source of the "adultery" thread, I > would suggest that the list use Genesis 23:1 from Mishpatim, not Genesis > 20:14 from Yithro as the operative proof text. > "Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to > be an unrighteous witness." This should be especially meaningful to us Jews. As persecuted minority and legendary scapegoats, we have been the butt of many innuendos, conspiracy theories and had to pay a heavy price in life and property for thousands of years. There are always those Sherlock Holmes Wannabes with an agenda who can assemble apparently innocuous facts and make them look like horrible crimes. We need to assess the nature of what is alleged and apply to it a judicious proportionality. Then, we must look at the accusers and ferret out any motives-- search for political power-- that is behind all this broohaha. In the end we need to separate that which represents misuse of Presidential powers and that which would normally be deferred to a domestic court-- assuming that it was consentual-- as it is a matter between the spouses involved and no one else's business. This is an area of morality which is given different weight by different people depending on religious or other beliefs as it has no victims and is not a crime according to law. In order to prove guilt for perjury and obstructing justice there has to be an underlying crime. I am not sure whether the media is necessarily responsible for this madness though they have lost that halo of sainthood-- which is a shame because there are a few good and courageous ones. It is the nature of the beast for them to build a negative stereotype of the White House resident-- especially this one-- so that it can maintain a chain of scandal mongering and preserve whatever competitive advantage they might derive. (I do not buy the notion that the press has to be adverserial; it has a primary responsibility to report objectively above all) To some it might be a question of survival. The wisdom of the American people never ceases to amaze me because, according to all the polls, they see through all of this and I hope they will continue to do so. Bernard Rotmil
From: Martin Graffman <email@example.com> Date: Sun, 22 Feb 1998 20:29:20 -0800 Subject: Why Have Hereditary Descent At All? I assume that a "conservative" Jew is one whose whose orientation is the keeping intact or conservation of traditional viewpoints and laws, and a liberal Jew is one whose orientation is the freedom to interpret, modify and develop new religious viewpoints and laws. Although the guardians of halachah are generally "conservative", it is easy to demonstrate modifications of the tradition which at the time were considered to be liberal if not radical, and most experienced and responsible liberal Jews believe they must consider halachah and the resons that lead to particular halachic pronouncements before considering a modification of those halachic principles and laws. I am a liberal Jew, and I have great difficulty accepting the validity of both matrilineal amd patrilineal descent. The acceptance of a hereditary descent appears to be impediment an for Judaism in a number of areas. The norm of hereditary descent is utilized primarily in divorce and inheritance matters. Yet, most Reform and Conservative Jews utilize the secular legal system to adjudicate these problems. The norm of hereditary descent is also utilized to identify who is a Jew. Again, almost every Jew, of any Jewish denomination, rejects special privelege that is dependent on blood lines. In America, we do not accept monarchies (which are dependent on blood lines). Liberal Jews accept the division of Jews into hereditary classes (Kohanim, Levites, and Isarelities) only as a symbolic ritual; outside of the religious service they have absolutely no significance or validity, and they might argue that these class distinctions do historical but not spiritual value. The twentieth century has witnessed the horror that can occur when a people are classified by only blood lines. Six million Jews died because of their blood lines including many who had converted from Judaism or were no longer practicing Jews. Finally, why in the world would liberal Jews want to create a barrier of blood lines against those people who want to become Jews? We demand that those who wish to become Jews must be circumcised or survive a discouraging and/or elaborate conversion process. (Many temples and synagogues no longer attempt to discourage the prospective convert, but many do. Those that do appear to discouage the prospective convert simulate a humiliating fraternity iniatiation.) Modern Jews are assimilating at a dangerous rate and Judaism is dependent on conversion. Those people who convert to Judaism are often our "best Jews." They simply try harder. Many, if not the majority, of our correctly bred modern liberal Jews rarely attend any religious or Jewish social functions, and they are not very "good" Jews at all. Perhaps, there was once a good reason to discourage conversion, and part of this was a fear of retaliation by the Christian Church. Today, the risk of retaliation is minimal. We should ask ourselves if Judaism has value outside the Jewish community. Most of us would state that Jewish values and ethics as well beliefs and rituals have a universal value. (The Christian Church retained Jewish ethics and values.) If this is the case, then we should bend over backwards to offer Judaism to the world. On the other hand, some Jews reject the above arguement on the ground that Jews are a chosen people. Yet, this belief is often an embarrassment to many liberal Jews. Every religion in recorded history has developed a belief that they are theologically special. (My theology tells me that we Jews chose God; it is far more beneficial to choose God then achieve a small particularistic historical significance.) Moreover, the exclusivity of a chosen people limits its growth and deprives humanity of a greater tikkun olam. For these reasons, I am opposed to any form of hereditary definition of the Jew. I am also opposed to any process that impedes those who wish to become Jews. It is far more beneficial both to the convert to Judaism and to all Jews that the Jew is identified by what he does rather than depend on an accident of birth. Martin Graffman
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Avi Hyman) Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 11:27:18 EST Subject: Announcement: Jewish Studies Fellowships available, Temple Univ. The Feinstein Center at Temple University makes available several fellowships for the study of American Jewry - please see our website for details: http://www.temple.edu/feinsteinctr Thank you, Avi Hyman, Feinstein Center, Temple University
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