mail-jewish Vol.66 #55 Digest

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Sep 19, 2023, 1:36:55 PM9/19/23
Mail.Jewish Mailing List
Volume 66 Number 55
Produced: Tue, 19 Sep 23 13:36:52 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Does the psak of bet din evidence the ratzon Hashem?
[Joel Rich]
Straws in the wind?
[Chaim Casper]
Women Saying Kaddish (2)
[Carl Singer Aryeh Frimer]


From: Joel Rich <>
Date: Wed, Sep 13,2023 at 10:17 AM
Subject: Does the psak of bet din evidence the ratzon Hashem?

Does the psak of bet din evidence the ratzon Hashem or is it normative law to
adjudicate in this world.

Example: My friend and I agree that we will each purchase a mega millions ticket
each week and if either of us win the big prize we will split it. I win. Would
bet din say our agreement is an asmachta so I get to keep it?

If so, might I feel ethically bound to split it anyway or would that be wrong
because HKBH wanted me to have the whole prize? If I gave 1/2 would I still have
to give maaser ksafim on the whole thing and my friend on the 1/2 I give him?
(We never won)

Joel Rich


From: Chaim Casper <>
Date: Mon, Sep 11,2023 at 08:17 PM
Subject: Straws in the wind?

Leah Gordon responded (MJ 66#54) to my post (MJ 66#53) that [most non-Orthodox
American Jews] "have no [spiritual or religious] need for the synagogue nor have
they for the last 100+ years ..." She wanted "to know on what evidence Chaim
bases this claim?!"

My apologies but I currently don't have the time to research what I have read in
the past, but there are four points I would like to make.

1. Marshall Sklaar, z"l, the "dean" of Jewish American sociologists in the
1950s-70s, dealt with this issue extensively in his books and articles on
Conservative Judaism. While Conservative Judaism in the US in the 1930s-1980s
promoted itself (when it was the dominant expression of Judaism in the US during
that period) as the middle ground between Orthodoxy and Reform, the reality was
that its members wanted a place where they could express their attachment to
Jewish tradition without having to get "too involved" (my term).

2. The Pew Research Center back in 2021 reported

If you look at their chart, you will see that 32% of American Jews do not belong
to any "branch" of Judaism, i.e a third of American Jews have nothing to do
with any organized religious community. A third! I offer for you that this
amount has not changed over my lifetime (the last 70+ years). Yes, there are
people who belong to synagogues, but a good segment of our community does not
partake of any Jewish spiritual expression.

3. In 2013, the Pew Research Center reported

44% of American Jews said that religion (i.e. Judaism) is not important in the
lives. And this same survey said that roughly half of American Jews fast on Yom
Kippur. What do the other half do? 70% participate in some sort of a Pesah
seder which means that 30% have no connection to a seder and by extension to
Jewish tradition.

4. Food for thought (no pun intended): In 1952, the OU (Union of Orthodox
Jewish Congregations of America, the sponsor of the largest kosher certifying
organization in the world) conducted a survey and found that 75% of American
Jews kept kosher at least to the point that they bought their meat from a kosher
butcher. They may have gone out and eaten at the local Chinese restaurant, but,
as Rabbi Shlomo Riskin shlit"a would say, at least their dishes wound up in
Heaven. But 25 years later, in 1977, the OU conducted a similar survey and
discovered that only 25% of American Jews still bought their meat from a kosher
butcher. And during that same time period, consumption of glatt kosher meat
increased by 400%! The take away from the survey was that the people who kept
kashrut for sociological reasons were passing away while those who kept kosher
for religious reasons were "frumming out" and observing a stricter form of
kosher. By the way, the 2013 Pew survey said that at that time 22% of American
Jews were keeping kosher. Maybe we have bottomed out for our fellow Jews not
keeping kosher?

When I was a Hillel director in the 1980s, I had the greatest respect for my
Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist colleagues. We learned Torah
together, sat down together and broke bread at professional conferences and
observed many of the same mitzvot. But in return for my respect, I got publicly
lambasted by the Agudah on one hand and on the other hand, fired by the
(Conservative) Federation president for being Orthodox. But what about my
colleagues co-religionists? Did they learn Torah and observe non-life cycle
mitzvot? Based on the Pew surveys above and my own empirical experience here
in Florida, the estimates are that 70% of Floridian Jews don't belong to a
synagogue for the reason I stated in my post, namely, that they have no use for
a synagogue if they have no life cycle observance at that point in time.

But, as I hope I have shown, the vast majority of American Jews do not observe
Shabbat, don't keep kosher and they do not go to synagogue. Occasionally, there
will be a local newspaper story about a group of non-Orthodox women who have
"re-invented" and rediscovered the mikvah as a way to express their Judaism. But
the reality is the overwhelming majority of non-Orthodox women find use of a
mikvah to be very distasteful. And these people don't intentionally learn Torah
at any point during the year. The 2013 Pew survey quoted above concluded that a
third of American Jews have a Christmas tree in their home. If so, then how can
one laud their spiritual yearnings? And so, for me, the conclusion remains that
[most non-Orthodox American Jews] "have no [spiritual or religious] need for the
synagogue nor have they for the last 100+ years".

B'virkat Torah u'virkat shanah tovah u'metukah,

Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL
Neve Mikhael, Israel


From: Carl Singer <>
Date: Mon, Sep 11,2023 at 04:17 PM
Subject: Women Saying Kaddish

Again -- I am not paskening or looking at the various halachic aspects of
whether a woman may say kaddish, I speak to the practical mechanics. Depending
on the shul's architecture if a woman is on the other side of the mechitzah or
in the balcony -- and no men are saying kaddish -- there is a strong possibility
that the woman will not be heard and the tzibbur will continue without pausing
and thus not respond to her kaddish.

Speaking from recent experience: (Our shul has a balcony for women.) This is
the worst case scenario -- it happened about 2 months ago -- a woman went
upstairs to the balcony and none of the men were aware of her presence -- the
tzibbur could not hear her, and did not pause or answer her kaddish.
Fortunately (?) the Gabbai says one last kaddish when no one else does, this
kaddish was the only time the woman in the balcony could say kaddish and hear an
appropriate response.

Carl Singer
70 Howard Avenue
Passaic, NJ


From: Aryeh Frimer <>
Date: Mon, Sep 18,2023 at 05:17 AM
Subject: Women Saying Kaddish

Joel Rich wrote (MJ 66#54):

> Can Aryeh explain the reasons why the women would not do so alone?

Despite the many poskim who permit a yetomah to say Kaddish, even alone, some
women follow the ruling that a man must accompany them in reciting Kaddish, as
maintained by Rav Henkin. Other women feel uncomfortable (shy, not tsanua?)
about standing out in Shul, since it is not normative.

There is a similar hesitancy regarding a women saying birkat haGomel in Shul.

Dr. Aryeh A. Frimer
Ethel and David Resnick Professor Emeritus of Active Oxygen Chemistry
Chemistry Dept., Bar-Ilan University
Ramat Gan 5290002,

E-mail (office):

Tel: 972-3-5318610; Fax: 972-3-7384053
Tel Home: 972-8-9473819/9470834
E-mail (home):
Cellphone: 972-54-7540761


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