mail-jewish Vol.65 #60 Digest

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Jul 18, 2022, 4:11:18 PM7/18/22
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Volume 65 Number 60
Produced: Mon, 18 Jul 22 16:11:15 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

[Martin Stern]
Abortion and chemotherapy (2)
[Sammy Finkelman Martin Stern]
Abortion, peyote and religious observance
[Irwin Weiss]
Ba'al Peor and Balfour
[Prof. L. Levine]
Do Hasidic Rebbes have Semicha? (2)
[Martin Stern Yisrael Medad]
Israelis Don't Turn Up for Reserve Duty, and the Consequences
[Prof. L. Levine]
Israelis Living Overseas
[Prof. L. Levine]
Rav Yosef Breuer on marital duties
[Martin Stern]
Tallit resting on top of a siddur tephilla
[Perry Zamek]


From: Martin Stern <>
Date: Sun, Jul 17,2022 at 01:17 PM
Subject: Abortion

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz wrote (MJ 65#56):

> After reading all the articles on the subject, I realized that everyone seems
> to miss the point about the ruling. The Supreme Court stated that there is no
> article or amendment in the constitution that deals with abortion. That is the
> reason that they sent the cases back to the individual states. ...

It appears to me, writing from the other side of the pond, that some people
view pregnancy as a particularly dangerous kind of venereal disease (STD),
which needs to be cured before it ruins the lives of those 'infected'. I
find this very sad.

Having children is an affirmation of one's confidence in the future of
society and its avoidance a symptom of existential despair. That is not to
say that, at any particular time, circumstances might preclude fecundity
but, in a healthy society, that should not be the norm.

Unfortunately, modernity, by emphasising the individual as opposed to social
groups, encourages a negative attitude to having children. Many European
countries have below replacement birth rates and depend on immigration from
the third world to maintain themselves.

This is in contrast to the classical Jewish position which can be described as
pro-natalist (i.e. children are seen as a blessing) and, subject to pikuach
nefesh considerations (which might be somewhat vague and depend on the
circumstances of a particular couple - so it would require a knowledgeable Rav
to decide each case on its merits), the more children the better.

Martin Stern


From: Sammy Finkelman <>
Date: Sun, Jul 17,2022 at 07:17 PM
Subject: Abortion and chemotherapy

Joseph Kaplan wrote (MJ 65#58):

> Sammy Finkelman writes (MJ 65#57):
>> And probably it wasn't so much their sense of ethics and values but that
>> they didn't want to be sued.
> Im not a doctor but I have plenty of friends and family who are and I
> object on their behalf. Many doctors angst over difficult ethical and value
> issues the same way Sammy undoubtedly does. (I dont know his profession
> but whatever it is he most likely has ethical and value issues as most of
> us do in our professions.) He should withdraw the slur against the medical
> profession.

I wasn't speaking so much about the regular doctors but gave my feelings about
hospitals and medical practices, who indeed, I think pay attention to lawyers.
It's too institutionalized but I can't find an example of something I read that
would go to my point.


From: Martin Stern <>
Date: Mon, Jul 18,2022 at 12:17 PM
Subject: Abortion and chemotherapy

In response to Joseph Kaplan (MJ 65#58):

While Sammy Finkelman may have painted the medical profession with too broad a
brush, there is some truth in his allegations, at least if one believes a recent
article in the NY Times "They Had Miscarriages, and New Abortion Laws Obstructed
Treatment" which Leah Gordon kindly forwarded to me.

Having read it, it strikes me that there is a real problem in that some doctors
are being over-cautious about procedures, for example in treating miscarriages,
which were similar to those used in causing an abortion.

From the article, it is clear that this possibility, that they might incorrectly
be accused of procuring an abortion, affects their clinical judgement.

What is needed in my opinion is a (probably federal) law that permits such
procedures when performed for purely therapeutic purposes. It would be necessary
to state that, when it is suspected that an abortion has been procured, the onus
of proof shall lie with the accuser, i.e. the assumption will be that the
procedure was therapeutic rather than an abortion. I presume it would override
state laws restricting abortion. I am not a lawyer but I am sure such a law can
be drafted.

It would, incidentally, align US law much more closely with halachah or, at
least, its philosophic underpinnings, which should be welcome.

Martin Stern


From: Irwin Weiss <>
Date: Mon, Jul 18,2022 at 07:17 AM
Subject: Abortion, peyote and religious observance

The conflict between Halacha and American law is an interesting topic.

Thirty two years ago, the Supreme Court decided a case called Employment
Division, Department of Human Resources v. Smith, 494 US 872 (1990). Smith was
an Indian, who used peyote as part of a religious ritual. The state of Oregon
forbade its use, and Mr. Smith was denied unemployment benefits when he was
fired for violating the state law on the use of peyote. The Supreme Court said,
essentially, that states have the power to accommodate otherwise illegal acts
performed in the performance of religious beliefs and ritual, but the states are
not required to do so. Thus, Mr. Smith lost.

The Supreme Court said in this case that laws which have an impact on religious
practice do not violate the free exercise of religion clause of the 1st
amendment, so long as the laws are neutral and apply to all persons and are not
motivated by animus toward religion.

This means that a state could pass a law (and some have) saying that you cannot
have an abortion at all (no exception for threat to the life of a mother), and,
so long as this law is applicable to Jews and non-Jews, it would be likely to be
held constitutional. Thus, a Jewish woman whose life is threatened by the
pregnancy, who clearly is obliged to have an abortion, devastatingly sad and
painful though it might be, would be in violation of the state's law if she were
to do so, and hence, would have to travel elsewhere, at great cost and

Suppose a state forbade Shechitah or Brit Milah. (Some European countries have
done these things, I think). With regard to neutrality of application of the
law, Anatole France wrote, "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and
poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread."

Irwin Weiss

Baltimore, MD


From: Prof. L. Levine <>
Date: Sat, Jul 16,2022 at 11:17 PM
Subject: Ba'al Peor and Balfour

"Israel became attached to Baal Peor, and the anger of the Lord flared against
Israel." (Bamidbar 25:3)

In the margin of Rav Schwab's Chumash (page 468), on this pasuk, Rav
Schwab wrote as follows:

> Ba'al Peor is related to the matter of the restriction against adding mitzvos,
> because the very desire to denigrate idolatry and to shame it in a way that has
> not been commanded by the Torah brings to avodah zarah and this was the sin of
> Ba'al Peor. People inherently possess a yetzer hara to invent new mitzvos that
> are contrary to the Torah. Moshe Rabbeinu was buried on Har Nevo, opposite the
> Peor idol, to atone for this sin of Klal Yisrael's, which was an expression of
> this yetzer hara. The "yetzer hara for mitzvos" can destroy the whole Torah.
> Such a yetzer hara is the force behind every mashiach sheker, false messiah.
> The ma'apilim of the Torah, who wished to force their way into Eretz Yisrael,
> held that the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisrael was greater than that of
> listening to Hashem and their Torah teachers. The Balfour Declaration of 1917
> established the right of Jews to return to the Holy Land. Some Zionists took
> this as an impetus to create new mitzvos, i.e., the settling of Eretz Yisrael
> above all other mitzvos. This they did despite Chazal's warning of "Don't rebel
> against the nations of the world" (Kesubos 111 a), trying to force the hand of
> Mashiach.

And the Rav mused: "Is there any lesson to be learned from the similarity of the
words Ba'al Peor and Balfour?"

I am sure that many will have comments on this last sentence.

Yitzchok Levine


From: Martin Stern <>
Date: Mon, Jul 18,2022 at 04:17 AM
Subject: Do Hasidic Rebbes have Semicha?

Avraham Friedenberg wrote (MJ 65#59):

> The question came up a few weeks ago at a Shabbat meal: do some, most, or even
> all Hasidic Rebbes obtain a formal Semicha (for example, the Rebbes of Satmar,
> Bobov, Belz, Ger, Vizhnitz, etc.)? Is there a requirement that someone in any
> of these (or any of the many other) dynasties actually take a formal
> farher/bechina before becoming a Rebbe?

I think most Rebbes are appointed by their predecessor in his will. They may
have received semichah previously but that was to permit them to pasken sha'alot
not to act as the charismatic leader of their chasidic group.

In fact there was an old (mitnagdic) joke:

Q What is the difference between a Rav and a Rebbe

A One can varher (test) a Rav.

Martin Stern


From: Yisrael Medad <>
Date: Mon, Jul 18,2022 at 12:17 PM
Subject: Do Hasidic Rebbes have Semicha?

IN response to Avraham Friedenberg (MJ 65#5():

I do not know. According to David Assaf in his "The Regal Way: The Life and
Times of R. Israel of Ruzhin", Yisrael of Ruzhin could barely write, so I guess
if a test were required, it would have had to have been oral.
Yisrael Medad


From: Prof. L. Levine <>
Date: Sat, Jul 16,2022 at 11:17 PM
Subject: Israelis Don't Turn Up for Reserve Duty, and the Consequences

Ha'aretz reported on July 14:

> A mere 4 percent of the eligible population continues to serve in the Israeli
> army reserves. As the rich and well-connected evade duty, the ranks are being
> filled with settlers and people from low socioeconomic backgrounds
> ...
> The unavoidable conclusion from these statistics is that the conception of the
> IDF as the "people's army" - a term coined by David Ben-Gurion in 1948 to
> describe a military force based on universal, egalitarian conscription - is
> fading and already today is far from accurate. According to the data, only 17
> percent of discharged soldiers and officers are categorized as reservists and
> only 4 percent are listed as serving actively.

See for more:

Apparently, it is not just boys learning in chareidi yeshivas who do not serve
in the IDF.

Yitzchok Levine


From: Prof. L. Levine <>
Date: Sun, Jul 17,2022 at 05:17 PM
Subject: Israelis Living Overseas

Joel Rich wrote (MJ 65#59):

> Yitzchok Levine wrote (MJ 65#58):
>> I have always found it strange that those who have made Aliyah want others
>> to do the same, yet are unconcerned about the large numbers of Israelis who
>> leave Israel.
>> ...
>> Shouldn't this be at least as important concern as making Aliyah?
> Sure, everyone has their own story. To me the question was: What will I answer
> HKB"H when he asks,"Why didn't you try to come home? Was I unclear about the
> centrality of eretz yisrael?"

As I have pointed out more than once, Rav Dovid Kronglass told me: "One does not
just go to EY. One has to be on the proper spiritual level to live in this land
that has Kedusha."

He continued:

> I think about the R' J Sacks (as a university student) story of meeting the
> Lubavitcher Rebbe who asked him a question. When Rabbi Sacks began his
> response with "in the situation I find myself in", the Rebbe interrupted him
> with "one does not find oneself in a situation, one puts oneself in a
> situation"

WADR to RMMS, did RMMS put himself in the situation of never having children? If
he did, then he violated a mitzva D'Oreisa!

Did I put myself in the position of having to bury a 15 year-old son?


"In Loving Memory of Avi Levine" The Jewish Press, January 6, 2012, page 66.

I think not! The Ribbono Shel Olam runs the world, doesn't He? Isn't it true
that Ha Kol Biydei Shamayim Chutz may Yiras Shamayim.

Professor Yitzchok Levine


From: Martin Stern <>
Date: Sun, Jul 17,2022 at 12:17 PM
Subject: Rav Yosef Breuer on marital duties

Yitzchok Levine wrote (MJ 65#54):

> This reminds me of a story that my friend Reb Motel Twerski, A"H, told me
> years ago ... [about] a son who had a chavrusa who was getting married
> ... [who] went to Rav Yosef Breuer, ZT"L for a Bracha. [He] asked him what he
> planned to do after he married. He replied that he was going to learn in
> Kollel. Rav Breuer then asked him how he was going to support his wife and
> himself. The fellow replied that his wife was going to work and would support
> them. Rav Breuer then asked him if he had the Kesuba with him that was going
> to be used at the Chasuna. The fellow replied that he did not. Rav Breuer then
> asked him to return the next day with the Kesuba.
> The young man was totally perplexed but returned the next day with the Kesuba.
> Rav Breuer asked him to give him the Kesuba, looked at it and said, "Here it
> says you are going to support your wife, not the other way around. Auf a
> falsha zach kein Bracha!"

Perhaps the young man was not as sharp as he might have been. He could have
replied "Bikhvod haRav, he has missed out one word. In the kesuba, I promise to
feed and sustain my wife 'bekushta'. While this is usually translated 'with
faithfulness', in this case it means 'in Constantinople'. What I am promising is
that, in the unlikely case that we were to live in Constantinople, I will work
to support her but, as we intend, I am going elsewhere to learn in kollel, I
make no such commitment and she will go out to work to support us."

Martin Stern


From: Perry Zamek <>
Date: Mon, Jul 18,2022 at 01:17 AM
Subject: Tallit resting on top of a siddur tephilla

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 65#59):

> While I do not recollect any ruling regarding putting a tallit on top of a
> siddur, there is a problem with putting it on top of one's tefillin, which
> might be a more helpful place to look, though tefillin are tashmishei kedushah
> [inherently sanctified] whereas a siddur is only tashmishei mitzvah [something
> only used for mitzvah purposes].

If Martin is referring to placing one's tallit on top of tefillin, I would
differ: In my tallit bag, the tallit is on top of the tefillin, so that it is
the first thing I take out, in order to put it on before the tefillin (tadir
veshe'eino tadir, tadir kodem [that which is more frequently used i.e. tallit,
all seven days of the week, takes precedence over that which is less frequently
used, i.e. tefillin, six days a week).

Were I to have the tefillin on top, and bypass them to take the tallit, I would
be transgressing the principle of "ein ma'avirin al hamitzvot [not to pass over
(or skip over) one mitzvah in order to do another]". Indeed, the halacha is
that, should one take out the tefillin first, he should put them on and then put
on the tallit.

All the best

Perry Zamek


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