Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Purim Quiz

Level 1
1. What is the name of the scroll we read on Purim? Megillas Esther.
2. What was the name of the Persian king in the Book of Esther? Achashverosh.
3. What was the Persian capital city in the Book of Esther? Shushan (Susa).
4. What does Purim literally mean? Lottery.
5. What do we call the fast day before Purim? Taanis Esther.
6. From which nation does tradition tell us Haman descends? Amalek.
7. Which Jewish king lost his right to the kingship for failing to kill out the Amalekites? Shaul.
8. What are the Jews called in the Book of Esther? Yehudim.
9. When is it customary to make noise during the Megillah reading? When mentioning the name Haman.
10. Who was Achashverosh’s first wife? Vashti.
11. Besides Shachris and Mincha, what else do we pray on Purim? Maariv.
12. If Purim is the 14th of Adar, then what do we call the 15th of Adar? Shushan Purim.
13. In years that there are two months of Adar, in which one do we celebrate Purim? The second.
14. How many times do we read the Book of Esther on Purim? Twice.
15. How was Haman killed? Hanged.
16. How many years was the Babylonian Exile? Seventy years.
17. How was Amalek related to Eisav? Eisav was his grandfather.
18. Which miracle happened earlier in history, Purim or Chanuka? Purim.
19. For how many days did the Jews fast in the Book of Esther? Three.
20. The four commandments on Purim are: Read the Megillah, send Mishloach Manos, party, and what else? Give alms to the poor (Matanos LaEvyonim).
Level 2
1. When do we read Parshas Zachor? The week before Purim.
2. In which part of Tanach is the Book of Esther—Torah, Neviim, or Kesuvim? Kesuvim.
3. Over how many provinces did Achashverosh rule? 127 [or Gemara: first 7, then 20, then 100]. 
4. How many sons were hanged with Haman? 10.
5. What special prayer do we say in Shemoneh Esrei on Purim? Al HaNissim.
6. Why did Vashti not wish to appear before Achashverosh? She had tzaraas or grew a tail.
7. Which two people tried to kill Achashverosh? Bigsan and Seresh.
8. How tall were the gallows upon which Haman and sons were hanged? 50 Amos.
9. Why don’t we say Hallel in Purim? The miracle happened outside of the Holy Land, the Megillah is instead of Hallel.
10. Why was Haman happy when the lottery said that he should kill the Jews in the month of Adar? Because that was the month that Moshe Rabbeinu died.
11. When do we say the Bracha She’hechiyanu on Purim? Before reading the Megillah.
12. Which holiday is one month after Purim? Pesach.
13. From which tribe were Mordechai and Shaul HaMelech? Binyamin.
14. In the Bible’s way of counting months, what number month is Adar? Twelve.
15. What do we read from the Torah on Purim at Shachris? The war with Amalek in Shemos.
16. When Achashverosh asked Haman how to repay a man who saved the king’s life what did he say? Mount him on the king’s horse, dress him in the king’s clothes, and proclaim “so shall be done to the man whom the king wishes to honor”.
17. What special prayer do we add to Birkas HaMazon on Purim? Al HaNissim.
18. Which cities celebrate Purim on the fifteenth of Adar? Any city that was walled in the time of Yehoshua.
19. Which Tractate of the Mishnah speaks about the Laws of Purim? Megillah.
20. What is the Bracha for Mishloach Manot? There is no bracha for it.
Level 3
1. Who was Hadassah? Another name for Esther.
2. What is Daniel’s name when he appears in the Book of Esther? Hasach.
3. Which animal represents the Persians in Daniel’s vision of the Four Beasts? The bear.
4. Who was Haman’s wife? Zeresh.
5. Besides the special cantillation tune used for reading Megillas Esther, what other cantillation mode is used in reading some verses of the Megillah? That of Eicha (Lamentations).
6. Why did Bigsan and Seresh want to kill Achashverosh? Ever since he married Esther, he would spend a lot of time being intimate with her and was often thirsty and so he asked them to bring him drinks too often and they didn’t get to sleep (Rashi to Megillah 13b).
7. The word pur means “lottery”. What is another word in the Book of Esther which means the same thing? Goral.
8. What does sris ha-Melech mean? Royal eunuch/minister.
9. How many Aliyahs are read from the Torah on Purim at Shachris? 3.
10. What did Memuchan say in the Megillah? Make a proclamation that the man is in charge of the 
house, replace Vashti with another queen.
11. The Bracha on reading the Megillah is read in the same tune as what other Brachah? The Bracha before blowing the Shofar.
12. What part of the Megillah happened in the month of Teves? Esther was taken to Achashverosh.
13. What was the relationship between Esther and Mordechai? First cousin, husband and wife (some say niece, but it’s a mistake!).
14. If the 14th of Adar falls out on Shabbos, when do we read the Megillah? On the 15th.
15. What Purim delicacy is named after a character in the Megillah? Hamantaschen, Oznei Haman.
16. What part of the Megillah is customary to be read in one breath? The ten sons of Haman.
17. What do we call the 14th of Adar in the first of Adar in years that there are two Adars? Purim Koton.
18. What is the end of this passuk, “LaYehudim Haysa Orah…”? “VeSimcha veSasson VaYikar”.
19. The commandment of Mishloach Manot requires sending foodstuffs to who many people? One.
20. Who was Haman’s father? Hamdasa.
Level 4
1. Why did the Jews in the time of Haman deserve to be destroyed? They bowed to the idol of Nebuchadnazzar or they partook in Achashverosh’s party.
2. How many maidservants did Queen Esther have? Seven.
3. In cities that celebrate Purim on the 14th of Adar, what do we read from the Torah on Shushan Purim? Nothing special.
4. What did Achashverosh do to the islands at the end of the Megillah? He taxed them.
5. Who was Vashti’s grandfather? Belshazzar, king of Babylon.
6. On what day of the year was Moshe Rabbeinu born? 7th of Adar.
7. How long did the assembled virgins have to prepare before being brought to Achashverosh? 12 months.
8. Which Babylonian king exiled Joachin from Jerusalem? Nebuchadnazzar.
9. In what month did the Jews fast in the story of Purim? Nissan.
10. In what year of Achashverosh’s reign did Haman cast his lottery for choosing the month to destroy the Jews? 12th year.
11. What Bracha do we say in Kiddush on Purim? There is no Kiddush on Purim.
12. According to a poem read after the Megillah, when the Jews saw which element of Mordechai’s clothes did they become happy? The techeiles (either on his tzitzis or as royal clothes).
13. Who was Parshandasa? A son of Haman (according to one Midrash, the minister of the Kurds).
14. Who killed the Amalek king Agag? Shmuel HaNavi.
15. Who was in charge of Achashverosh’s harem? Heygai or Heygeh.
16. When we read the verse BaLayla HaHu Nudedah Shnas HaMelech the custom is to chant the word HAMELECH. When else do we say the word HaMelech in that tune? On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.
17. Who was Esther’s father? Avichayil.
18. How many Megillas are there in Tanach? Five.
19. How many languages was a member of the Sanhedrin required to know? Seventy.
20. Who said the famous words, Mi Hu Ze VeEizeh Hu? Achashverosh.
Level 5
1. Who was Kish in Megillas Esther? Mordechai’s great-grandfather.
2. How many times in a 19-year cycle are there two Adars? Seven.
3. On what day of the year did the proclamation go out that the Jews are allowed to defend themselves? 23rd of Sivan.
4. The Talmud relates that one time on Purim, Rabbah got drunk and slaughtered Rav Zeira. What happened afterwards? He prayed for his resurrection and he came back to life.
5. What Haftarah is read on Purim? There is none.
6. What is another name for Mordechai? Pesachya or Malachi.
7. How many enemies did the Jews kill in the city of Shushan? 500.
8. Is Job one of the five Megillas? No.
9. What do they call it in Jerusalem when the 15th of Adar falls out on Shabbos? Purim Meshulash.
10. How many times does Haman’s name appear in the Megillah? 54.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Halachic Status of Transgender Surgery

Dina Gielchinsky, a counter-terrorism lawyer living in Teaneck, New Jersey wrote the following in an article entitled "Beit Din Orders Woman to Give Get" for the New York Jewish Week:
A recent ruling by the Haifa beit din underscores the need for rabbinical courts to reexamine the halachic status of transgender individuals with deference to the individual’s new reality.
In the case before the beit din, an individual who had undergone sexual reassignment surgery to become a woman refused to give her divorcing wife a gett, claiming that she was prohibited from doing so on the basis that a woman cannot give a gett. The individual’s wife requested an annulment of the marriage because the individual was no longer a man.  The court denied the request, asserting that despite the surgery, the individual was still halachically a man.  The court ordered the individual to give the gett, to which she eventually agreed.
By the court’s reasoning, a transgender man could not be barred from entering a women’s mikvah, as he is still halachically a woman.  A mesader kiddushin would have no ostensible basis to refuse to officiate a wedding between the same transgender man and another man, as the former is still halachically a woman.  And yet, imagine if either of these scenarios actually materialized.  The transgender man would be barred from the women’s mikvah, and would also be barred from marrying another man.  The transgender man’s present and former gender would both be denied.
U.S. courts have uniformly recognized the new gender of an individual who has undergone gender reassignment surgery since the issue first presented itself over forty years ago.  In M.T. v. J.T., 140 N.J. Super. 77 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1976), the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey addressed the claim of M.T., an individual who was born a male and transitioned to a female, that she was entitled to support and maintenance from her divorced husband.  Her husband claimed that he owed no support because their marriage was void, as M.T. had been born male, and New Jersey at the time prohibited same-sex marriages.  The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s holding that “[t]he entire area of transsexualism is repugnant to the nature of many persons within our society. However, this should not govern the legal acceptance of a fact.”  In other words, like it or not, transgender surgery changes an individual’s gender.  
Awareness of, and education regarding, transgender individuals must continue to improve.  Regardless, as the New Jersey court opined, personal judgments should not factor into the halachic recognition of the individual’s reassigned gender.  Further, reality dictates that any halachic impermissibility of gender reassignment surgery cannot render the new gender void.  To simply say that the surgery was halachically prohibited and so the transgender individual is now not a transgender individual leaves the individual without any recognized gender at all.
In response to her article, I sent her and her editor a letter saying the following:
In her recent article about the halachic status of transgendered individuals, Ms. Gielchinsky takes quite a few leaps in logic. She begins her article by citing a case reported by Arutz7 of a married man who had surgery to look like a woman. He was forced by a Beit Din in Haifa to grant his wife a get (bill of divorce), despite his protesting that he is really a woman. Ms. Gielchinsky correctly deduced from this ruling that the Beit Din understands that this man's legal status is unchanged by whatever surgery he has undertaken. The same should be ostensibly true of a woman who similarly underwent surgery to appear like a man.
However, Ms. Gielchinsky then throws in a red herring which seems to contradict this latter corollary of the Beit Din's stance: She makes an a priori assumption that if a woman who had surgery to appear like a man would then want to immerse in a Mikvah or to marry a man, then she would be barred from doing so. She brands such a non-existent ruling as inconsistent with the above mentioned stance expressed by the Haifa Beit Din. Nonetheless, in truth, even if such a woman was banned from using the Mikvah or from marrying a man, such restrictions would probably be enforced for such reasons as other people's right to privacy/decency or to avoiding something which has the outer appearances of being prohibited (i.e. two "men" "marrying" each other), as opposed to an actual question over the woman's personal halachic status. A woman who has a surgery to look like a man remains a woman. And vice versa. One's gender cannot change whatsoever in halacha.
Ms. Gielchinsky then cites precedents from the US Courts that recognize the new gender of a person who has had such a surgery as if that should have any bearing on the halachic discussion. But obviously case law from the US court bear no relevance to on halachic decisions. She then builds a strawman argument and attributes it to the rabbinic decision-makers that argues that because such gender-bending surgeries are halachicly forbidden, they cannot affect one's gender status. Of course such logic is flawed and nobody argues that the halachic prohibition against genital mutilation per se disqualifies its ability to affect one's gender. Rather, the rabbinic understand is that gender is not fluid and cannot change at all, regardless of the fact that trying to do so surgically may be forbidden.
Ms. Gielchinsky ends her article by implying that the rabbinic view leaves transgendered peoples as "individual[s] without any recognized gender at all". This, of course, is a gross misinterpretation of the halacha. As we have already explained, such individuals maintain their original gender, while complications from their bizarre lifestyle and/or other considerations might bar them from realizing all the benefits given to such static-gendered individuals.
In her comments and in his first paragraph, Ms. Gielchinsky makes it clear that she feels that the Haifa Beit Din should have "annulled" the marriage in question. This assertion belays a lack of understanding of the halachic concept of "annulment"--which is, of course, non-existent. According to the Mishnah in Kiddushin, a married woman can only become free to marry somebody else if either her husband dies or he grants her a divorce. There is no such thing as an "annulment", but halacha does recognize that if a woman entered a marriage under false pretenses due to a pre-existing condition on the part of the man, then in certain cases, we can say that her initial consent to the marriage was unfounded, thereby voiding the marriage retroactively. In the case in discussion, it seems that the man had the surgery to look like a woman after the couple was already married. In that case, there can be no argument that the woman's initial consent to enter the marriage was mistaken and there is no grounds for a so-called "annulment".
In my work ha-Makom me-Rachok on Yevamos (pgs. 126-127), I cite the theoretical case of a man who "became" a woman (in an empirical way) and showed how that might effectively annul his original marriage to his wife. But in truth, that possibility too was based on a logical jump that some commentaries take to explain an otherwise enigmatic comment of Rashi. It was meant as an ad absurdum reductio rather than as a full-fledged halachic position. The matter remains purely hypothetical and in the realm of Talmudic pilpul. In practice, even if one can switch genders in an empirical way, it seems that his original gender status remains--certainly such is the ruling for one who merely changes one's gender in an optical way.
To this, she replied:
Thanks for your response, Rabbi Klein.
I do not deny that there are other pretextual reasons for restricting a transgendered woman from using the mikvah or marrying a man.  Those reasons,  however, do not negate the reality that the individual will be left de-gendered.  It’s a reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and creativity.
Feel free to post your comment on the website.  I am certainly no halachic authority, and I’m curious to see if others will weigh in with different halachic interpretations.
I responded with the following:
I think I must be misunderstanding something here. You wrote that you do not deny that there are other "pretextual" reasons for restricting a transgendered woman from using the mikvah or marrying a man, yet you still conflate that with such women being "de-gendered." Those issues would not have anything to do with gender, per se. To illustrate the point, I will use an extreme example: Let's say a man cuts off his arms, can he now argue that he has been "de-gendered" because other men are allowed to wear tefillin and he is now different from other men? Obviously not, it has nothing to do with gender, his circumstances ban him being able to do what other men can, but that doesn't mean he is "de-gendered". I think the same would apply to a person who undergoes a surgery to look like the opposite gender. While their personal halachic status remains unchanged, the facts on the ground might bar them from fully being able to continue acting as though they are indeed what they once were before. I am beginning to suspect that you don't really care for the halachic quagmire that transgendered people have inserted themselves into, but that you would rather halacha fully recognize the whims of transgendered people and allow their "status" change to be halachicly recognized. I also don't understand why you feel the need to insert yourself into offering halachic consul, if by your own admission you are not an halachic authority. As a bankruptcy lawyer, would you dare offer your "expert" opinion to a criminal case? Why would something even more important like halacha be any different?I'm not going to post my comment on your website because I'm not trying to spur a debate, I'm trying to understand what exactly you want and seeing if there is anything to it. 
 

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