Letters March 2008

Shabbat Shalom

GM: We have non-practicing relatives that sometimes visit us on Shabbat. They stay overnight on Friday and at times they cook meals (breakfast or something for lunch) on Shabbat day as well, as well as other activities not allowed. I don't know if I am blowing this out of proposition, but is this something we should allow to take place in our home during Shabbat or should we say something?

I feel it sends mixed signals to the kids and I personally don't feel comfortable. I have been told there are people that know way more than I do, and they allow their non–practicing relatives to do similar things at their homes during Shabbat. 

What are your thoughts on the subject? 

Mesora: I would express to them as you did to me that it is uncomfortable, and that it confuses your kids’ perception of right and wrong. Tell them that you prefer they do not violate shabbos in your home. n

Which Judaism?

Joshua: When you say that Orthodox Judaism is the only true form of Judaism, what form are you talking about: Modern Orthodox, Haredi, or Hasidic?

Thank You in advance,


Mesora: I refer to the Shulchan Aruch and the philosophy written in the Torah according to Rishonim. n

Seeing Stars

Reader: I am writing in reference to Volume VII, No.8 Dec. 14, 2007 where your JewishTimes cover page pictured a man's face superimposed on a field of stars. Subsequently, you posted a correction sent in by your friend Naomi saying "...images of stars should not be reproduced even in two-dimensions. This is based on idolatrous prohibitions." It is this comment from Naomi and your acceptance of it that I would like to question.

Rambam's Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 3:11 says "...it is forbidden to make an image of the sun, the moon, the stars..." Moznaim's edition (translation by Rabbi Eliyahu Touger) has this footnote: "Our understanding of the Rambam's statement here can be enhanced by referring to his commentary on the Mishnah, Avodah Zarah 3:3: "This does not mean a sphere which represents the sun or the hemisphere which represents the moon, but rather the images which the astrologers [i.e., those following Greek mythology] attribute to the stars,... e.g., Saturn is represented as an old dark man of venerable age; Venus is represented as a beautiful maiden adorned with gold; and the sun is represented as a king with a diadem sitting in a chariot. [These are forbidden because] they are falsehoods and the nature of falsehood is that it will surely spread."

Rav Kapach supports this interpretation by quoting BeMidbar Rabbah 2:6 which describes the pennant of the tribe of Issachar as having a picture of the sun and the moon. Were these images forbidden, it would be unlikely that Moshe would have told the tribe to depict them. Even if the decree was instituted in the later generations, it is not probable that the Rabbis would forbid images that had previously been used for Torah purpose.

The Ramah (Yorah De'ah 141:3) quotes the Rambam's opinion. The Turei Zahav 141:13 and Siftei Cohen 141:8, however, note that the Rambam's statement which were quoted above (and the Ramah's statements) refer to a question whether one is allowed to keep images of the sun or moon that he finds. Here, the question is whether one is allowed to make such images oneself. From the discussion of the question in  Avodah Zarah 43B, where the Sages question how Rabban Gamliel possessed forms of the moon, it would appear that there is a prohibition against forms of the moon themselves.

This interpretation, however, is also somewhat problematic, because the Rambam writes that there is no prohibition against making images of animals. For example one of the Zodiac constellations is a fish and Gitten 36a describes Rav as making a drawing of a fish. Another is a lion, which is one of the most popular images found in Jewish art. I would have to agree with Rav Kapach, Moshe Rabbeinu would never have aloud any idol image to be used by the tribes on their pennants.

With Love of Klal Yisrael, Shalom

Menachem AviChayil Bahir

Mesora: I disagree with your statement regarding Rabbinical prohibition of images previously permitted. God ultimately prohibited monuments once idolaters used them for corrupt purposes, although Jacob originally created them for God. And you must distinguish between creating images of fish, as opposed to images of the fish constellation Pisces. Those are two divergent drawings, as they differ in intent, although they might look identical. We must also distinguish between drawings made for purposes of Jewish law as with Rabban Gamliel...in contrast to those drawn for idolatrous purposes. In the end, we follow the Shulchan Aruch. See Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah II; siman 141 and the Sifsay Cohane note 8. Read it all, he brings good points to prohibit the actual sun sphere and bow-shaped moon images.