mail-jewish Vol.66 #60 Digest

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Nov 5, 2023, 4:26:47 PM11/5/23
Mail.Jewish Mailing List
Volume 66 Number 60
Produced: Sun, 05 Nov 23 16:26:45 -0500

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

[Micha Berger]
Fasting Priority
[David Ziants]
Proof of God's Existence?
[Ari Trachtenberg]
Techeilet (was Blowing chatzotzrot ...)
[Martin Stern]
When may the shatz begin?
[Martin Stern]
Younger teenage boy as shatz
[Joel Rich]


From: Micha Berger <>
Date: Wed, Oct 25,2023 at 01:17 PM
Subject: AI/Psak

Joel Rich wrote (MJ 66#59):

> In its current format ChatGPT will not have all the data on the poseik
> because it will only include written responses not any of the discussions
> that led up to those and not ones that were oral.

That is a very small set nowadays. So many articles and web citings, few
oral answers remain oral.

> A more basic issue in the whole metaphysical context is what is
> consciousness or sentience, how do we know the ChatGPT will not have
> hashra'at shechina.

Last iteration I suggested that a pesaq needs a poseiq. And we discussed this in
numerous conversations aout whether women can be posqos. And a nokhri certainly
can't give hora'ah.

But, the AI could be a good resource for a poseiq to use.

> There's also a longer-term issue concerning the joint AI/human component.
> Once radiologists stop looking at thousands of scans in detail, and only
> look at the questionable ones with ChatGPT, will they eventually lose their
> ability to read scans much as I think many people have lost the ability to
> navigate because they have Waze in their cars.

Another repeated idea, but stated shorter:

There are the facts themselves, and then learning how they are usually handled.
It think the latter is critical, which is why the gemara has a machloqes about
which negative epithet to use for someone who learned the facts but didn't do
shimush -- apprenticeship -- and yet still pasqens.

We haven't seen an AI yet built around processing facts. What we are talking
about is large language models (LLMs), like GPTs. For a LLM, the proxy for
learning mode of thought is learning mode of writing.

So, you would not only need a GPT trained on the web, you would need one so
heavily trained on teshuvos and pesaqim that it ends up combining the facts in a
pesaq-friendly way.

Now for a new extension of the thought:

People can compartmentalize, and have different styles based on context. I don't
think our LLMs are up to that yet. This is a major shortcoming, as it means the
typical poseiq may use one mode of thinking when dealing with the metzi'us,
another when dealing with the people involved, and a third when dealing with the
various halachic concepts they have to apply to all of the above.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger


From: David Ziants <>
Date: Tue, Oct 31,2023 at 09:17 AM
Subject: Fasting Priority

Joel Rich asked (MJ 66#59) how to analyse with regards to Tzom Gedlaya (and I
assume other minor fasts) the law concerning Yom Kippur:

> ... that its better to stay in bed all day on Yom Kippur in order to be able
> to complete the fast rather than to go to shul (t'fila b'tzibur et al) and
> have to have even a small break (ie shiurim).

This seems to me, to be the answer:

On Yom Kippur, fasting is d'oraita [a law written in the Torah], and so one
should not put oneself into a position where one might need to break the fast
because of danger (like a weak person getting out bed). Eating shiurim [i.e a
little bit of food and drink at a time], ensures that one is technically not
breaking a Torah law, but if one is able to avoid this, then even better. There
is no Torah imperative to pray like we do and our texts are also Rabbinic (and
in many cases later added poems), whether with a minyan or not - so also fasting
trumps praying.

Possibly, a rav might say to a certain ill person that it is better for his
health that he goes to shul at least some of the time, and eat in shiurim,
rather than stay in bed, because that way he keeps his mind off his empty stomach.

The minor fast days are d'rabbanan [rabbinic], and the halacha is very clear
that weak people for whom the fast might be a heavy burden, are exempt. People
who have no special medical needs and can cope, should of course join in with
the community. There is no need to eat in shiurim on such a day, because that is
only used to circumvent a Torah precept.

It is well known that Tisha b'Av is stricter with regards of the necessity of
weak people to fast - because of the nature of the day - but the day is also
d'rabbanan and I don't think there is a precedent for suggesting shiurim or
staying in bed all day for extra weak people.

David Ziants


From: Ari Trachtenberg <>
Date: Sun, Oct 29,2023 at 10:17 PM
Subject: Proof of God's Existence?

Micha Berger wrote (MJ 66#59):

> ...
> Nowadays, the mesorah is so attenuated, I don't think R. Yehuda Halevi's
> position still works. OTOH, since Kant, we have other ideas about justifying
> beliefs. The nearest to R. Yehuda Halevi's is Reliabilism - trusting something
> you got from a source that otherwise proved itself reliable. Or maybe the
> first-hand experiences the religion creates. Not the aesthetics, but the
> properties of the experience that one is making the aesthetic judgment of
> being "elegant" or the like about. (The way mathemeticians manage to largely
> agree about which proofs are beautiful.)

I'd love to see some specifics! Beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder,
and changes over time. You see this in music with the ambiguity of the
dissonance of the perfect fourth or the awkwardness of the pentatonic
scale to the Western ear.

Beyond this, almost all mathematical proofs are not rigorous down to the
foundations, and I would caution against establishing a religious framework upon
such thinking.

In my view, God's existence is axiomatic and independent of human reasoning,
much like the axiom of choice or the generalized continuum hypothesis.

You choose on which side of the fence you'd like to live your life, and that
determines everything else about it.



From: Martin Stern <>
Date: Sun, Nov 5,2023 at 04:17 PM
Subject: Techeilet (was Blowing chatzotzrot ...)

David Ziants wrote (MJ 66#59):

> ...
> Many communities and individuals have adopted "newer" customs, or
> have renewed customs and laws which became lost over the centuries. This is
> especially in Israel - and possibly the precedence started from the students
> of the Gaon from Vilna, who introduced birkat kohanim every day as part of
> nusach ashkenaz as well as other changes. My impression is that Yekkes are
> against this sort of thing - although I understand that most Yekke shuls in
> Israel (but not in the Galil) do birkat hakohanim everyday as this became the
> minhag hamakom [custom of the place]. Their being against it is because of the
> philosophy that we don't make changes to our Torah way of life, also in the
> cases when it is felt that our parents, grandparents and recent ancestors were
> not doing things in the perfect way.
> ...
> A well known, day-to-day example of this on the level of the individual, that
> I can think of is techailet - the blue dye from the chilazon (a kind of a sea
> snail) on one's tzitzit that the Torah mandates, but only over the last few
> decades, researchers have managed to identify the correct creature and worked
> out how to extract this.
> ...

The identification of the chilazon is disputed - see Menachem Bornstein's
exhaustive work "Hatecheilet" (Sifriati, 5748). The Rozhiner Rebbe did some
extensive research and concluded it was a type of cuttlefish whereas Rav
Herzog, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, came to the conclusion that it was
a type of murex snail.

> Maybe Martin does have techailet on his tztitzit - and in which case my
> generalisation is completely out of place - so I really do apologise. But, my
> feeling is that a Yekke would not go for this (and I know people from this
> upbringing who are set against this).
> ...

I don't use what purports to be techeilet for several reasons. Firstly, as
the Mishnah (Menachot 4:1) points out, the lack of a blue thread does not
invalidate the tzitzit. Secondly, we do not have a mesorah [tradition]
regarding the identity of the chilazon, and any other type of blue thread would
be pasul [invalid]. This was a common problem even in Talmudic times when
unscrupulous dealers would use a much cheaper dye called kala ilan, of
vegetable origin (probably indigo). The mesorah was probably lost after the
the Arab conquest of the Byzantine Levant when the upper classes stopped
wearing Tyrian purple - probably argaman which was a similar dye.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <>
Date: Sun, Nov 5,2023 at 05:17 AM
Subject: When may the shatz begin?

Further to what I wrote (MJ 66#59):

> Carl Singer wrote (MJ 66#58):
> ...
>> I have no sources -- but the minhag that I see and have seen for over six
>> decades is that the Gabbai looks around and once he determines
>> that SIX have completed their amida he signals the shatz to begin.
> This is based on the requirement of "minyan or rov minyan". While we usually
> use the word "minyan" to mean the people present for davening, it really means
> the quorum of adult males which is TEN. Thus "rov minyan" means more than half
> of them, i.e. SIX. It does NOT mean the majority of those present for
> davening, as some slow daveners - or should I perhaps call them those who
> concentrate more intently on their tefillot - would like to suggest.

There are two problems with starting chazarat hashatz, the need for a minyan for
the repetition itself, and the need for it for the recital of kedushah.

As regards the first, the shatz can have in mind that, should there not be nine
others listening, his shemoneh esrei should be considered a tefillat nedavah
[voluntary (extra private) prayer] which, obviously, would not require a minyan.
Normally we don't add tefillot nedavah but, in this case where there MIGHT BE
nine others, we are lenient. (In present circumstances where, unfortunately, not
everyone can maintain the required degree of concentartion, it might be
advisable for the shatz always to make this stipulation.)

However this would not help for saying kedushah since we do not say it except
when there is a minyan, which would not be the case for a tefillat nedavah. So
the question comes back of why rov minyan, i.e. six, should be sufficient for
the shatz to begin his repetition. While I have not seen this argument, I would
suggest that this might depend on an assumption that, if six have PHYSICALLY
stepped back, at least a further three will have reached Elokai netzor and
therefore would be able to respond to kedushah (assuming they have said "yihyu
leratzon imrei fi ..." at least before it if not also at its end) while still
standing in their places and, thereby, be counted to the required minyan.

Martin Stern


From: Joel Rich <>
Date: Wed, Nov 1,2023 at 01:17 AM
Subject: Younger teenage boy as shatz

I have noticed that in a number of chareidi shuls that I attend from time to
time there seems to be a practice that if there is no chiyuv, a younger teenage
boy goes up as shatz. I was wondering as to the halachic underpinnings of this
practice given the Shulchan Aruch 53:4 writes:

"Hence, the chazan must be an upright, highly regarded, humble, amiable person,
who has a pleasant voice and is accustomed to reading the Torah, Neviim and


Hashem Oz Lamo Yiten Hashem Yvarech Et Amo Bashalom

Joel Rich


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