Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Torah from Israel - Ameilut "in the eyes of the Beholder"

A young fellow "Ilan" return from Yeshiva in Israel and I proceeded to engage him in a conversation

RRW: Are they using Hebrew Artscroll G"maras in your yeshiva?

Ilan: Chas v'Shalom

RRW: Why C"V?

Ilan: The day yeshivot start relying on Artscroll for G'mara, is the day Yeshivot will stop being "ameilim b'torah"

RRW: Well can't they be ameilim in Rishonim such as Rosh and Ran instead of struggling with p'shat in the G'mara itself?

Ilan: That doesn't count, the students must struggle to learn p'shat

RRW: Well isn't Rashi a tool for p'shat?.....

RRW: What else are you learning besides g'mara?

Ilan: I do two p'raqim of Navi a day

RRW: Wow! What do you use? Rashi, Metzudot? Radaq?

Ilan: Why Artscroll of course!


Perfect Misunderstannding 11 - Mishnah-Talmud, Talmud-Tosafot

Parameters of
Deflection*, Disputation and Refutation of Higher Authorities

Note: this is also related to the series on Cognitive Dissonance.

Here is a recent exchange among 3 rabbis - slightly fictionalized - illustrating a powerful Talmudic dynamic.

Rabbi X quoting the Gadol haDor [GhD]

From 17th of Tammuz until R"Ch Av has a din of Shloshim!

Rabbi Y interjects:

Din shloshim salqa da'atach?" Where is the issur of bathing and of laundering?

Comes Rabbi Z to be machri'a:

Hachi Qa'amar GhD:
From 17th of Tammuz until R"Ch has a din of yud beis Chodesh, but from R"Ch on has a din of shloshim!

Without Rabbi Z having come along, what right did Rabbi Y have to challenge the "GhD"? Wasn't he exceeding his authority? His boundaries?

What - if anything at all - specifically permits Rabbi Y to speak up?


Now let's go back in time to the Talmud

Mar'eh M'qomot Mishnah P'sachim 3:1
TB P'sachim 42b bottom

"R Eliezer Omeir"

R Eliezer states "Af Tachsheetei Nashim"

The Talmud asks
"Tachsheetei Nashim Salqa Da'atach? Ela Eima af TIPULEI nashim..."

Let's get our bona fides here

What Amora in the Talmud has the authority to question an explicit Tanna?

IOW What permission does this Amora have
to dispute the Tanna R Eliezer?

[Note we won't venture forht into the issue of this being the STAM of the Talmud and thus a very late Amora]

Also note by changing Tachsheetei Nashim to Tippulei Nashim - based upon a Meimra of Rav Yehudah mar Rav - this is really "deflecting" * the Tanna.


Now as for Tosafot deflecting * the talmud

Mar'eh M'qomot
TB Arachan 2b-3a re: Q'riyat haMgillah

R Y'hoshua Ben Levi says "nashim hayavot bMIQRA m'gillah, she'af hein hayu b'oto haneis" ergo they read the M'gillah - ostensibly their obligation is the SAME as that of men. And so codifies the Rambam in MT Hil. M'gilah 1:1 and the SA O"Ch Hil. M'gilah 689:1

Yet Tosafot quoting B'HaG requires women to listen to M'gllah but NOT to read? How can B'Hag deflect* an unapposed Meimra?

Apparently, RYBL is deflected by Tosafot. based upon a "reality check" in the Tosefta. The Tosefta explicitly prohibits women from reading the M'gillah, leaving hearing/listening instead as an avilable alternative.

Now, how are BOTH not overstepping their boundaries?

  1. The Talmud in deflecting the Tanna R Eliezer
  2. Tosafot-B'HaG in deflecting the meimra of RYBL?


Perforce, we must question the rigidity of our rules of Talmud and they apply to at least three related relationships

  1. Amoraim to Tannaim
  2. Rishonim to Amoraim
    Note, in Rambam's nomenclature all post Talmudic Hachamim are termed "G'onim"
  3. And by extension Contemporaries towards our "poseiq hador"

When we say an Amora may not dispute a Tanna, how in reality does this work?

Similarly, we say that Rishnonim may not dispute the Talmud
how in reality does this work?

Finally, if/when we say that contemporaries may not dispute THE GhD - how in reality does this work?


We see DE FACTO Talmud severely modifying the Tanna

And we DE fACTO see Tosafot modifying the simple take of the Bavli, often via dialectic.

Well answering Tosafot is a bit easier
Simply said

Tosafot does to the Talmud what the Talmud does to the Tannaim - IE Mishnah or Braitto.

In this case the reality check proves that RYBL cannot be taken literally.

Now the next part - how does the Talmud itself do it?

The simple approach is:

Checking the reality of a given statement, by comparing it with parallel sources, is not out-of-bounds, nor is it to be construed as a refutation nor as a dispuation.

Here - given the reality of R Y'hudah amar Rav - R Eliezer coudn't have really said "tachsheetei" or at least not meant it tha way.

What about #3? Here comes another slightly fictionalized account

EG one "GhD" allegedly posits that Rema basis himself in a given p'saq on a Rambam

Rabbi A challenges this assumption, because EG the Shach and Taz clearly read the Rema's basis quite differently.

Furthermore, Rabbi A challenges even Talmidei GhD to question the GhD's read.

Rabbi B came along to say we must follow GhD! Rabbi A countered

1. Maybe so, but questioning is essential to the process and does not ipso facto constitute disputation, rather it is a prerequisitie to clarificaton

2 Maybe THIS GhD has been misquoted or misunderstood! It is perhaps only alleged that the GhD said the Rema was based upon Rambam. Why? Because it is unlikely the GhD would formulate in such a way as to contradict an open Shach and Taz. So the communicator of the GhD is more in question than said GhD Himself - JUST as Rabbi X misspoke above. And Just as the Tanna R Eliezer cannot really mean "tachseetei" and just as RYBL cannot really mean Liqro but Lishmo'a.

And had Rabbi Y not seen the GhD's statement as incongruous, a "ziyyuf" of p'shat might have been fostered albeit inadvertently.

Bottom Line, reality checks are not hutzpadik - they are essential! And sometimes better to question than no to! Lo habayshan Lameid!


* Defintion of Deflection as an Anti-Tosafistic Chaveir stated to me what Tosafot does - "deflects" the Talmud!

Comment: Well isn't this the case that The Talmud is deflecting the Tanna R Eliezer? How is it any different?

20. Building the Sanctuary

God does not change. This is an essential difference between mitzvoth bein adam le’makom (commandments involving Man and God) and mitzvoth bein adam le’chavero (commandments involving Man and Man): there is only one variable in the former (the Self) while there are two variables in the latter (the Self and the Other). But the Man-God relationship is often anthropomorphized, causing one to blur the lines between changes that he (the Self) has undergone and imagined changes in God, so that absurd sentiments are accepted and expressed, such as, “God no longer needs sacrifices.” This kind of error is especially relevant, on a more subtle level, when considering the interplay of faith and doubt in Halacha.
The Torah has obligated us to study. While it may well be that Torah study that is instantly forgotten still fulfills the mitzvah of Talmud Torah, it is clearly not the ideal. The expectation is that through our study, we will deepen our devotion to Halacha and our faith will grow more reliable and more durable (‘Study is preferred because it leads to action.’). At the same time, in obligating us to constantly immerse ourselves in study, God sets us up for recurring theological and philosophical upheaval, as it is impossible to honestly pursue knowledge without simultaneously being exposed to valid and significant challenges to one’s beliefs (“He who increases knowledge, increases pain,” Kohelet 1:18). It appears, then, that the obligation to learn Torah carries with it mutually exclusive developments: an increase in faith and an increase in doubt.
The misrepresentation of the Man-God relationship causes the concurrence of these two developments to seem impossible, as we naturally consider an increase in faith as indicative of a movement towards a ‘better’ relationship with God and an increase in doubt as indicative of a movement towards a ‘worse’ relationship with God. And how can a relationship get stronger and weaker simultaneously?
In response to this question, most Torah study is approached with the self-sustaining illusion that study which leads to faith is then verified as True Torah and study which leads to doubt can be discounted as False Torah (that is, somewhere along the way, the scholar veered off the proper course of Torah). This is not, however, an accurate depiction of Torah nor an honest appraisal of the Man-God relationship.
The Man-Man relationship, on which we generally (and erroneously) base our perception of the Man-God relationship, takes as a given the existence of both parties. For a Man-Man relationship to exist, it is assumed that all parties in the relationship must be real, at least in some basic sense. Therefore the quality of the relationship in no way hinges on ‘belief’ in the other. Rather, it hinges on who the people are and how they develop over time.
In human relationships, as the two people interact they are each being uncovered to the other, while, simultaneously, they are each being affected by the other. So it is a constant interaction of exposure and development and the very act of exposure affects the development and the varying developments affect what is exposed and how it is exposed, not to mention how it is received by the other. If the relationship is based on something that occurs as a connection between the essence of one person and the essence of the other person, it can be understood why relationships can get ‘better’ or ‘worse’: we are dealing with two existent people who are changing.
But the Man-God relationship deals instead with one existent person who is changing and an unchanging God whose existence is not provable. Is it even fair to call this a ‘relationship’? Certainly not with the same connotation as is implicit when the term is used to describe what occurs between two people.
Imagine a Man-Man relationship in which one party was in doubt as to the existence of the other party. Would we say that an increased belief in the other person’s existence is indicative of a movement towards a ‘better’ relationship? Probably not. We would more likely say that it is a movement closer to or further from sanity, depending on whether the other person is in fact real or imaginary.
Clearly this is not analogous to the investigation into God’s existence since there is no objective standard whereby to affirm or deny His existence—it cannot be said that the believer is sane and the atheist insane, nor vice versa—a further distinction between the Man-Man relationship and the Man-God relationship. But if there does exist a relationship between Man and God—that is, if we can rightly classify it as a relationship—it cannot depend on the level of faith inherent in the particular Man since belief must pre-exist a relationship: you cannot relate to something that is not there.
And this is probably where the problem begins. It could be thought that the Man-God relationship is built exclusively in the realm of faith. This is where God exists and so it is only here that a relationship can develop. In the realm of doubt, God’s existence is questioned and a relationship is impossible. But we so often lose sight of a crucial fact: God’s existence does not depend on whether you believe in Him or not.
There are two possible realities: God exists or God does not exist. And there are two possible beliefs: God exists or God does not exist. And the God I believe in may not be the God that exists. Who do I want to relate to, the God that exists or the God I believe in?
The Man-God relationship does not rise or fall with personal faith or doubt because personal faith and doubt are flawed. Furthermore, since God is unchanging, it cannot be compared to the Man-Man relationship—you cannot judge the progress of your relationship based on how much the two of you have exposed to each other and how much each of you have changed due to the other. There is only one variable—the Self—and the burden of furthering the relationship falls entirely on him.
The Self recognizes a concept: God. This concept can be understood in an infinite number of ways. The self-serving person seeks to further a relationship with God as personally conceived. And, most likely, such a person will allow his God to change along with him. The development of such a Man-God relationship will mirror the Man-Man relationship because both Man and God will be changing over time. And the model will be the classic interpretation of Avraham arguing with God to defend Sodom: Avraham relates to God, presenting his feelings and thoughts and responding to God’s feelings and thoughts. And the relationship is furthered due to this interchange and God has been affected by Avraham: a relationship. But this is not an appropriate interpretation since it involves a change in God.
Ideally, we should have little interest in furthering the above kind of relationship, a relationship with the personally conceived God—for such a God could be a figment of our imagination. The Man-God relationship should be exclusively about furthering a relationship with the objective God, the God that exists regardless of our belief, the unchanging God. This, I believe, is what was happening between Avraham and God regarding Sodom: Avraham was not trying to affect God, he was trying to reveal God, to understand God. (It was Torah study.)
And it shouldn’t much matter if I stand in place and you move a step to the right or you stand in place and I move a step to the left—relatively, the same change has occurred. So as our understanding of God changes, we relatively witness a change in God. Although, in actuality, the Self changes and God does not, the changes in the Self reveal truths about God, truths that were previously unknown and which can be, for the purpose of the relationship, interpreted as changes in God, as long as the reality (God’s eternal consistency) is remembered.
Faith drives a certain kind of investigation, and it is an important investigation. But on its own it will not further the relationship with God. It is doubt—and not just a secondary, subdued voice suggesting that God might not exist, but a voice of equal strength arguing the non-believer’s views—that is essential for the furthering of a relationship with God. Because I must always remember that my conception of God, though sincere, could be misguided: I may believe that He would destroy a city that housed fifty righteous men. Faith will compel me to understand God as I conceive of Him, to understand, based on what I believe, why God would destroy such a city, and that is important. But it is doubt that will allow me to eventually recognize a God who would not destroy a city that housed even ten righteous men. Now I have an updated faith in God because I have changed—I understand God more precisely now. But, relatively, God has changed. Avraham’s relationship with God, after his discussion about Sodom, is thereby deepened.
But God does not listen to us and reconsider His views on life; He does not hear our prayers and change His mind. He is not an imaginary friend that relates to us in whatever way we need Him to relate to us. He has never changed, will never change. If we seek a relationship with God, we have to change. (This is impossible in a Man-Man relationship; if only one party is changing, it is not a relationship, not even in a relative sense—for a Man-Man relationship to exist, both parties must undergo change in response to the other. Again: two variables in ‘bein adam le’chavero,’ one variable in ‘bein adam le’makom.’ Really, there should be a unique word to refer to each of the two kinds of relationships and perhaps this is the significance behind the two classifications of mitzvah-types.)
The Beit HaMikdash existed to give God a place to dwell on Earth. Of course, that is a preposterous concept. It was a place for us. And when people speak of a ritualistic, spiritual Judaism that we no longer understand, I think that the point is being largely missed. Rambam was of the opinion that as we developed as a People, we would move towards a time when sacrifices were no longer needed. Why, because God no longer had a need for them? Certainly not—that would imply a change in God, an impossibility. Rather, because we no longer had a need to offer them. As our faith-system matured, we would no longer require a ‘home’ for God. But our faith-system matures in-line with our doubt-system, and one depends on the other. The Beit HaMikdash was not only a place for us to develop as believers; it was also a place for us to develop as doubters: it is as we ‘visited’ God in the Beit HaMikdash, I imagine, that we were forced to admit how little we knew of God at all. Surrounded by ritual, we had to notice how strange it all was, how confusing, how, in ways, while it seemed so very holy, we were doing something not quite ideal—and certainly this attitude, this doubt, is essential before one can move beyond the lower level of faith that (according to Rambam) includes sacrifice.
The Beit HaMikdash was a place of faith, of true, loyal, unwavering faith, but it must also have been a place of doubt, a place where each Jew had to question his actions, examine his beliefs, look up to heaven and wonder: “Did I just give away my livestock for nothing?” Many consider the mishkan a response to one of the most blatant displays of doubt in our history, the incident with the Golden Calf. Its purpose in this light, as classically viewed, was to transition us towards a preferred level of faith and away from doubt, but, realistically, it must also then have been to provide us with a Halachic venue for our doubt. (Of interest also: the very brief conversation between God and Moshe after Moshe, upon witnessing the idol, broke the tablets, in which Moshe asks God to forgive the people for their sin. There is a strange reverse-parallel between this conversation and Avraham’s conversation with God about Sodom. Here, Moshe wants to be included in the punishment—a sentiment expressed by Ramban, Shemot 32:32—even though he is not actually guilty: he wants his name removed from the Torah should God decide to destroy His people. Essentially, Moshe wants God to punish the innocent along with the guilty, an offer God bluntly refuses. Is this a more precise God than the God at Sodom, a God who was willing to destroy an entire nation if less than ten righteous people resided there? No, God has not changed, but Moshe’s understanding—our understanding—of God has deepened.)
I think that when we now mourn the absence of the Beit HaMikdash, we focus largely on how this has affected our faith, on both a practical and theological level, but we disregard how it has stagnated the development of our doubt, in turn stagnating our increased understanding of God, in essence stunting the continued growth of the Man-God relationship. Faith without doubt, though a tempting (and, often, over-idealized) alternative for anyone who struggles with the shadowy duel of conflicted belief, should not be encouraged or excused; it is, though not necessarily simplistic or dogmatic, an egocentric, passive manner of dealing with the challenges of Torah, highlighted by a relationship with God that reduces our Creator to a complex and portable character, a trusted and feared comrade—in other words, a Being who can be related to in the same manner as one relates to any other being. While we struggle to advance in faith without a home for God on Earth, we must also struggle to advance in doubt, to question God despite His extreme intangibility, to change so that the relationship with God continues to progress. Doubt should not be viewed as the lazy, default status of those with heretical tendencies or sinful drives. It is effort to doubt appropriately, and to fail to make that effort, to fail to bravely accept doubt as an outgrowth of genuine study, is to fail to attempt a relationship with God. Because to question God, to question even his existence as we see it, is truly to question our knowledge of God, our conception of God, our comprehension of His Incomprehensibility, and that is the only way—through sincere doubt coupled with sincere faith—that we may hope to maintain a relationship with God and build for him, again, a Sanctuary on Earth.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Remind You of Anything?

Originally published 6/29/10, 2:24 pm.
The Saturday of the G20 summit in Toronto was marked by extensive violence by protesters that included, for example, the torching of police cars and much vandalism. The response of the police, was, as such, to be much more vigilant on Sunday to ensure that the violence that occurred the day before would not be repeated.

As can be expected, though, in response to this stronger police action some people voiced criticisms notwithstanding that this tougher police enforcement was successful in stopping the violence. As Toronto's 680News further reported "[Toronto] Police Chief Bill Blair [further] defend[ed] the actions of the Toronto police during the G20 and displayed the cache of weapons seized from protesters over the weekend. Some of the weapons seized by police were arrows, baseball bats, crowbars, bamboo poles, aluminium poles, metal pipes and incendiary devices."

So lets get this straight. Protesters who are expected to act peacefully do not. In fact, they actually brought weapons with them in order to cause violence. The authorities who, at first, believe that they will be peaceful, give them some leeway. In response, the protesters do become violent and the authorities are left with no other alternative but to respond in a strong manner. To show that these protesters always intended to cause violence, the authorities show the media the weapons that they captured from these supposedly peaceful protesters.

Guess what? There has also been a call for an independent investigation of what happened -- and the police have dismissed it for obvious reasons.

Does this sound similar to any other current events that you might be aware of that have occurred in the past few months?

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Ethical Dilemma #10 - Free CD

The Fictional "Hebraica Chazonisher Society" has a new program on Greatest Hazzanim Their introductory offer is a free CD, with the best hits of "Bubbele Goldfarb" - pay only shipping and handling.

Shipping and handling - how much does it cost? $8.95.

Now the cost of copying a CD is about $1. The cost of shipping a CD in the USA via "media mail" is about $1.

So I ask you dear readers - is calling $8.95 "free" - ethical?


Saturday, 26 June 2010

Rubashkin Verdict


Editorial: Let me say this In point of fact Rubashkin might be "guilty as sin" Or "As Pure as virgin snow" But Neither way would I take the "word on the street" from the press... Because we see how they have lynched Israel!

Because the press certainly is no better a barometer of truth than say the 10 M'raglim who reported back in parshat Sh'lach.

Don't convict [or for that matter absolve] by rumor or imnuendo alone

My 2 cents

Friday, 25 June 2010

Schadenfreude III - Correcting Torah Readers

A recent MAHPACH thread dealt with Torah Readings that need correction, and the best strategies to make the Torah Readings as accurate as possible - and to protect the feelings of the reader - especially a YOUNG Reader.

Probably the most counter-productive form of correcting a reader is the "attack" mode. Like a sniper lying in wait, some people can't wait to say "Gotcha". Underneath it all, what motivates the aggressive correcter? Is it hyper-vigilance for excellence? Perhaps. And this may be true for many "correctors". But it would seem that some who lie in ambush do so because they enjoy detecting an error. Now this might be in good fun, or it might be having fun at the expense of another [viz. The Lainer].

Too much joy attaching to correcting - seems to point to the underlying motivator as "schadenfreude", the joy of seeing others in shame.
So what alternatives have we?
Let's snip a few points off of the Mahpach thread:


Poster Chaim: «but where the Halacha requires that you correct - I am all for respecting the feeling of individuals, but please, let's have some Rachamanus on the Torah»

My response: AISI - Corrections are [sometimes] a must and dignity is a must A Wise rabbi-gabba-congregation will respect BOTH feelings and proper diction w/o sacrificing either. It takes compassion, wisdom, and accurate editions to work from. When I am a gabbai, I can pause most readers and whisper the correction in his ear. If they are not rushing they fix it w/o any hard feelings or loss of composure.

The problem AISI is correcting by "attacking". [And as noted here - sometimes motivated by "gotcha"-itis.]

Kol Tuv

Neo Karaism I Expanded - Ia and Ib

Earlier in this series we said:

Neo-Karaism I is the original form of Halachah as prescribed by God in the Talmud! Neo-Karaite Judaism rejects later additions to the Talmud (Jewish Canon) such as the Rabbinic Oral Law [EG Shulchan Aruch] and places the ultimate responsibility of interpreting the Talmud on each individual. Neo-Karaism might not reject various Talmudical interpretations but rather holds every interpretation up to the same objective scrutiny regardless of its source
OK - Neo-Karaism Ia is essentially similar to the above Namely There is ONE and ONLY one truth to be ferreted out from the Talmudic text using EG Philology instead of classic Posqim

Here is Ib

Neo-Karaism Ib is the original form of Halachah as prescribed by God in the Talmud! Neo-Karaite Judaism Ib rejects later additions to the Talmud (Jewish Canon) such as the Shulchan Aruch, and places the ultimate responsibility of interpreting the Talmud on each individual. Neo-Karaism Ib does not reject various Talmudical interpretations and nor does it reject Opinions within the Talmud itself - all recorded opinions and interpretations are equally valid. Therefore, there are no RULES of P'saq, just source materials one may use for P'saq

This school is quite liberal but also radical Throw out all Posqim and do not sort thru EG "Ya'al KaGam" - rather allow any Talmudic opinion as authoritative for Halachic purposes.
  • There is NO post-Talmudic Halachah
  • There is NO single Halachah in talmud rather there is unlimited elu v'elu within the "Sea of Talmud"

Admittedly, this school is not so much fundamentalisitc as it is simply anti-Traditional. Precedent and history play no role rather only the Rabbi who wields unlimited authority over the source material.


The Fascinating History of Ananburg

Praiseworthy is the man who has not sat in the community of scoffers. {Psalms1:1}

This is a brief history of a small community that has come to our attention via recent archaeological investigations and documental analysis. The name of this community is Ananburg. It was situated in the mountains in the old Austro-Hungarian Empire with a thriving Jewish community in a small village until the Holocaust.

Circa 1800 CE, the rabbi of Ananburg was Rabbi Avraham. He was a very deep-thinking critical scholar. He noticed the major trends and revolutions in Judaism during the course of the 18th century. Grouped them into 3 major divisions:

  1. Mithgnagdim led by the GRA
  2. Hassidim led by Ba’al Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezerich
  3. Haskallah – led by several including M. Mendelsohnn etc.

The first two groups tended to modify traditional practice based upon Kabbalah, while the last by means of reason during the 18th Century Age of Reason. What caused these groups to deviate from Tradition? What was their common denominator? Why was Judaism in the process of a major revisionist movement? He concluded after years of study that the Acharonim were flawed.

He carefully outlined and published many cases of faulty decisions, non-sequitors, conflations, misunderstanding of texts, not to mention out and out pilpulistic digressions that had been endemic to most Rabbinic Acharonim. He felt that it was a reaction to these kinds of deviations from the Torah-True Judaism that had led to the founding of the three groups above.

He then issued a final ruling shortly before his death:

No one is to pay any attention of the decisions of the Acharonim due to their logic flaws.

While this decision was seen as a bit radical, his careful publication of papers supporting this thesis over the years had in fact supported this conclusion.

Rabbi Avraham on his deathbed designated his successor – i.e. his own son Rabbi Baruch. Rabbi Baruch continued his father’s work on discrediting Acharonim. Then, he noticed that MANY Rishonim were ALSO guilty of the same kinds of errors, mis-reads, pilpulistic alterations etc. He found a straighter read of Torah Judaism in the Gaonic literature. He amended his fathers ruling as follows:

No one is to pay any attention of the decision of the Acharonim or Rishonim due to their logical flaws.

Rabbi Baruch had a son Rabbi Gershon. He found many strange statements by Gaonim. He felt that Halachot Gedolot was off the mark from the Talmud in many cases. He therefore amended his father and grandfather’s rules to now read:

No one is to pay any attention of the decisions of the Acharonim or Rishonim or the Gaonim due to their logical flaws.

The next generation produced Rabbi David. He noticed that the Amoraim were frequently not philologically true to the Mishnah nor to the Braiitot. He revised the rule to read:

No one is to pay any attention of the decisions of the Acharonim or Rishonim or the Gaonim, or Amoraim due to their logical flaws.

His son Rabbi Hillel took over the 5th generation. He noticed that the rules against Milk and Meat were WAY out of line with the simple read of Scriptures. He therefore concluded that many Tannin had flawed view of the TRUE will of God. He also found mounds of literature that supported the ideas of Karaim and Tzadokkim – and in fact this had been said for over 2000 years! He took the next step and ruled:

No one is to pay any attention of the decisions of the Acharonim or Rishonim or the Gaonim, or Amoraim or Tannin due to their logical flaws.

Rabbi Hillel had a willing audience because the populace had been conditioned to distrust Rabbinic thought fro four previous generations of criticism and rejection. Each had undermined a preceding epoch. He found a willing movement to hitch up with the small community of Kara’im {Karaites} and converted Ananburg to that sect.

With the advent of the Holocaust, this community was wiped out along with most of its memory. However, the documents outlining its history have remained with us to this day.

So ends the fascinating history of Ananburg and its evolution to ever more fundamentalist reads of Jewish texts and the trends that cause it to give up on Rabbinism and to advocate Karaism.

Previously Posted Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Thursday, 24 June 2010

R' Nathan Lopes Cardozo's "Return to Talmud" - V.2

In light of several new links I'm revising my previous post - RRW

Original Link

«On the Nature and Future of Halakha in Relation to Autonomous Religiosity | Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals»

Two follow-up Links courtesy of Reb Micha Berger - esteemed leader of

R' Gidon Rothstein's critique of RNLC's manifesto

LinFollowup by R' Moshe Simon-Shoshan:

My comments streamlined

The simplest retort to the proposal of rolling back the Shulchan Aruch is to
A. NOT go back 1,000 years to the Talmud but
B. Rather roll back to just a few years prior to SA namely Tur-BY-DM. That will provide almost all the desired flexibility and none of the Talmud's obscurity

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Defining Acceptable Halachic Autonomy

I have also read Rabbi Cordozo's "On the Nature and Future of Halakha in Relation to Autonomous Religiosity" and, as did Rabbi Wolpoe, found it most interesting albeit I have hesitations with much of his thesis. My main concern, though, is somewhat different that Rabbi Wolpoe's and for this reason I thought that, rather than just commenting in this regard on Rabbi Wolpoe's post, I would present my own post because it takes the question in a different direction.

The specific thing that bothered me in regard to Rabbi Cordozo's article was his use of the word autonomy. There is no doubt that the modern world stresses the value of autonomy and that an absence of any autonomous element within Orthodoxy can be a challenge to many individuals brought up within the consciousness of modern thought. This in its own right, though, can not be an argument for making Orthodoxy more open to autonomy for who is to say that this value is one shared by Torah. On one level one can ask: so what if Torah is not autonomous and as such loses many potential adherents? It could be argued that this argument is similar to arguing that Torah should have more permissive views on sexuality for then it would be more attractive to members of our society who see open sexual expression as healthy. An argument that Torah is not autonomous and therefore is not as attractive as it could be simply is weak.

The point is, though, that Rabbi Cordozo must believe, as do I, that there is actually a value to autonomy and the problem is not solely a marketing one but a substantial one. If Torah values autonomy then its lack in modern day Orthodoxy is a problem. Then the fact that people are "turned off" Torah because it lacks autonomy becomes more real. What is really being said is that people are turning away from Torah because what is being presented to them as
Torah is not really Torah. As such there aversion is actually positive. While I think that Rabbi Cordozo could have presented a stronger argument for the value of autonomy, he may have wished to write this article with this recognition as a given. That is acceptable.

What is problematic, though, is that Halachic autonomy is still different than the value of autonomy that is advocated within Western thought. Halachic autonomy does not give the individual the right to choose his/her beliefs but the right to be involved in the intense intellectual endeavour of searching for the correct belief al pi Torah. On one level, Halachic autonomy means that we must value divergent opinions of scholarship. It does not mean that anyone can choose a view based upon their own perceptions of what they think is right within Torah. I believe that Rabbi Cordozo does not clearly state this and, as such, gives the impression that Halacha is like a smorgasbord from which any person can choose what they like. This is indeed problematic because the realm of the objective and thought is ignored. Clearly the reality of eilu v'eilu points to a reality that Torah is not singularly objective but it also does not advocate a total acceptance of subjectivity. It is the complexity of advocating eilu v'eilu within a realm of intense thought that often is furthermore ignored.

The only right, and this is clear from the gemara in Eruvin, that a non-scholar has is to be able to choose between systems. One can pick to follow Beit Hillel or Beit Shammai but cannot pick and choose between them (unless one is in the scholarly process of developing one's own scholarly system). Of course the words of Asei lecha Rav is precisely on point. Amongst the numerous possibilities of Rabbinic scholars, you can choose -- based on your subjective criteria -- which one to follow. After that choice, all choices are subject to scholarship.

This point I believe is not stressed by Rabbi Cordozo and that is an essential fault. To argue for Torah autonomy must include a clear definition of what this term means -- and the fact that it does not just grant an individual a right to make decisions but still insists on decisions based on scholarship. Once that is recognized, the whole nature of the choice also changes -- as will the whole perception of Torah. It is towards this perception that we must move.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

R' Nathan Lopes Cardozo's "Return to Talmud" - Quick Response


«On the Nature and Future of Halakha in Relation to Autonomous Religiosity | Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals»

One fellow from the Avodah List once called me "an independent thinker" in matters of

My secret? I learn Tur Bet Yosef and Darchei Moshe

The simplest retort to the proposal of rolling back the Shulchan Aruch is to

A. NOT go back 1,000 years to the Talmud but

B. Rather roll back to just a few years prior to SA namely Tur-BY-DM.

That will provide almost all the desired flexibility and none of the Talmud's obscurity


Tuesday, 22 June 2010

They are BOTH ThyChildren

Regarding Choni haM'aggeil see Biography in Blackman Mishnah Z'raim p. 506

Josephus relates that he was stoned to death by the party of Hyrcanus when they were besieging Aristobolus in Jerusalem in 65 BCE. He was asked to pray for the besiegers. Spreading his hands to heaven he exclaimed: "They are both THY children. Listen not if they pray against each other for evil, but only for good"

I do find it hard to LOVE every fellow Jew. Because I'm not quite on that madreigah. So I work to ACCEPT
Every fellow Jew, and to respect them.

That much I CAN do.


Monday, 21 June 2010

Schadenfreude II - More on Anti-Semitism

Schadenfreude – Part II Parshat Balak

I always intuitively felt that the mindset or hashkafa of the Anti-Smite was predicated on Schadenfreude. It both surprised me and pleased me to find evidence for this in the previously posted web site:

It surprised me to find that my intuitive guess re" Anti-Semitism had been documented about AH [Yimach Shmo] himseff. So I found my suspicion confirmed in one of History's most outstanding Anti-Semites. To wit:

In popular culture

Now the connexion between Schadenfreude and Anti-Semitism seems to have a serious nexus in the most heinous anti-Semite since Haman. True, it could be chalked up to co-incidence, but I think this character flaw goes to the core of the mind-set of the typical Anti-Semite and dovetails well [see Schadenfreude I] with the characterization of Balak as:
  • out to Curse Israel with Downfall
  • than to Bless His Own Nation [Mo'ab] with Success.

It is fair to say that not all those who engage in Schadenfreude are or will become Anti-Semites. It is also possible to say that Anti-Semitism is further down the continuum of the Schadenfreude-oriented persona, or iow Schadenfreude is a typical - if not necessary - prerequisite or component of the prototypical Anti-Semite.


Sunday, 20 June 2010

Hilchot Issuing Protests

1. Is there a procedure to be followed before going public with a protest?

2. Are there guidelines for issuing a Macha'ah?

3. When is the time to start a Q'tatah with cynics who are belittling Torah Observance?


Before issuing any public Hochacah or starting a "K'tatah"
I strongly recommend seeing Siman 1 of Mishnah Brurah's Bei'ur Halacha -
D"H V'lo Yitbaiyesh"

Only following "ufatach b'shalom v'lo nishm'u d'varav," are we entitled to make a Hochachah

And then, OTOH, afterwards, we are obliged to make a strong protest against "mal'igim"


Saturday, 19 June 2010

Schadenfreude I - Parshat Balak

Schadenfreude –I Parshat Balak

The Torah Claims that Balak hired Bil’am because:
“Those whom he blessed were blessed, and those whom he cursed were cursed.” Rashi objects to a literal read, because after all, Balak is seeking ONLY a curse and he considers the Blessings just so much flattering blather But what would happen if the literal truth were true and Bil’am was equally capable of blessing as well as cursing? If that were the case, then Balak would have had a choice in how to deal with the Israelite threat to his territory:
  1. Curse the Israelites to make THEM vulnerable
  2. Bless the Moabites to make HIS nation invincible.
And what choice did Balak make? And why is that an important Torah lesson? Well the choice he made was indeed to have Bil’am curse the Israelites. The psychology of Balak was that it was overall MORE important to curse the Israelites than toe Bless his OWN people?

What does the Torah tell us about life in general? The first lesson the Torah teaches us is: It is more important for the Anti-Semite to do harm to the Jews than it is for him to obtain his own success. We will BEH explore this further on a series of posts
Shabbat Shalom,
Background Information:

Dictionary: schadenfreude (shäd'n-froi'də) n.
Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.[German : Schaden, damage (from Middle High German schade, from Old High German scado) + Freude, joy (from Middle High German vreude, from Old High German

Word Overheard: schadenfreude
Columnist George Will, who seems to enjoy the seven deadly sins almost as much as he does baseball, decided to add a pleasurable eighth — schadenfreude. "Sins can be such fun. Of the seven supposedly deadly ones, only envy does not give the sinner at least momentary pleasure. And an eighth, schadenfreude — enjoyment of other persons' misfortunes — is almost the national pastime."
Link: The economics of baseball — George Will
Posted October 15, 2006

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The Lubavicher Rebbe and Viktor Frankl

«Marguerite steeled herself and continued: "Rabbi Schneerson, known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, sent a message for you: Remain strong! Continue your work with complete resolve. Don't give up. Ultimately you will prevail."

The hitherto apathetic doctor suddenly transformed before a shocked Marguerite's eyes. Tears filled his eyes. ...»

The Rebbe and Viktor Frankl - Contemporary

Viktor Frankl, perhaps more than Kant and RYD Soloveichik, provided the world with a reason to believe, and a new meaning for Religion - the search for meaning itself


Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Dress and Dignity

Originally published 6/16/10, 4:35 pm.
The fundamentalist Muslim attitude towards women, as portrayed in their dress code, is often presented as similar to the attitude of Orthodox Judaism as portrayed in its dress code. Is this similarity, though, actually true? I would contend that the Muslim dress code for women is not a proper manifestation of the Torah concept of tzniut. In fact, it is a dress that contradicts that concept.

See further

Monday, 14 June 2010

Results of Poll on: Attitudes in Education

In our last poll, we inquired:

POLL: Attitudes in Education

Perhaps the single-most important relationship an Observant Jewish. family has - outside of itself - is with its children's Yeshivah or Day School(s). With this in mind, this poll addresses the desired attitudes amongst the parents, schools and students with regard to their co-operative venture in molding the next generation

Please feel free to choose one or more answers

Scenario- a child does extremely well on 7 subjects and fair to poor in 3 others. What are our expectations as parents?

A. That the school should accentuate the positive

B That the school should point out the negative that needs to be "fixed"

C. Since this child is apparently overwhelmingly bright, the school should
take responsibility for "fixing" the 3 weak subjects - since it was the school that was not able to help this child make the grade in those areas.

D. Since this child is apparently overwhelmingly bright, the parents and student should
take responsibility for "fixing" the 3 weak subjects - which would seem to be due to the child's lack of motivation

E The child - A Unique Creature of Hashem - has been blessed with talents in some areas and weaknesses in others. The main thing is to accept the child as he/she is - and NOT to try to force "square pegs into round holes"

Your Responses (participants 4 / answers 5 - multiple answers were accepted)

Option A - 25% / 20% (1)
Option B - 0% (0)
Option C - 0% (0)
Option D - 25% / 20% (1)
Option E - 75% / 60% (3)

Rabbi Hecht

I guess the first thing I find interesting is the very lack of response to the poll. I really can't venture why this was so. I hope is was not because of a lack of concern for the issue. Mishlei states, chanoch l'na'ar al pi darcho which is a remarkable recognition of the subjective nature of education and how each person's education should really be tailor made for that child. One of the challenges of our educational system is that, given the nature of the classroom, it is most difficult if not impossible to reach this goal. This is why the option of home education is becoming more and more acceptable. In any event, our schools must always remember the principle expressed in Mishlei as they try to educate our children within the group setting. This is an idea that also came through in our poll.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Traditonal Karasim and Neo Karaism II

Now for a slightly different Flavour of Neo-Karaism

Karaite Korner - Home of the World Karaite Movement!

«Karaism is the original form of Judaism as prescribed by God in the Torah. Karaite Judaism rejects later additions to the Tanach (Jewish Bible) such as the Rabbinic Oral Law and places the ultimate responsibility of interpreting the Bible on each individual. Karaism does not reject Biblical interpretation but rather holds every interpretation up to the same objective scrutiny regardless of its source»

Now for Neo-Karaism type II let's paraphrase the above:

«Neo-Karaism II is the sole proper form of Halachah as prescribed by God found in the Rambam's Mishnah Torah! Neo-Karaite II Judaism rejects later additions to the Talmud (Jewish Canon) such as Tosafot etc. and places the ultimate responsibility of interpreting the Talmud on the Rambam alone. Neo-Karaism II might not reject Various interpretations of the Rambam but rather holds every interpretation up to the same objective scrutiny regardless of its source»

And there you have Neo-Karaism II it in a nutshell


Friday, 11 June 2010

Traditonal Karaism and Neo Karaism I

Karaite Korner - Home of the World Karaite Movement!

«Karaism is the original form of Judaism as prescribed by God in the Torah. Karaite Judaism rejects later additions to the Tanach (Jewish Bible) such as the Rabbinic Oral Law and places the ultimate responsibility of interpreting the Bible on each individual. Karaism does not reject Biblical interpretation but rather holds every interpretation up to the same objective scrutiny regardless of its source»

Now for Neo-Karaism type I let's paraphrase the above:

«Neo-Karaism is the original form of Halachah as prescribed by God in the Talmud! Neo-Karaite Judaism rejects later additions to the Talmud (Jewish Canon) such as the Rabbinic Oral Law and places the ultimate responsibility of interpreting the Talmud on each individual. Neo-Karaism might not reject various Talmudical interpretations but rather holds every interpretation up to the same objective scrutiny regardless of its source»

And there you have it in a nutshell


Thursday, 10 June 2010

Why do Yekkes Wait 3 hours After Meat instead of 1 or 6?

This were some highly useful points that emerged out of a LONG private thread.


  1. Tosafot/ BeHeG require NO waiting between meat and milk - except to end 1 meal and to being another - totally subjective timing.
  2. Rema codifies 1 hour. - though he RECOMMENDS [nachon] to wait 6.
  3. Meharshal/Shach/Chochmas Adam,and others take anything less than 6 hours as some kind of major deviation against Halachah despite the fact that yekkes were waiting 3 during that very same era and the Dutch only 1 [as per Rema]. [Caveat Chochmas Adam is meikel in the case of illness to rely upon 1 hour.]
Avodah Colleague Michael Poppers then asked Me:

I wonder if 3 is actually a chumra of 1-hr immigrants who immigrated to a 6-hr territory and justified 3 rather than 6 on the smaller gaps between meals in their way of life. What do you think?

Tthe thought of being influenced by fellow Jews is something I just (relatively speaking) thought of; based on how YD 89 is explained, with the mandate to separate between meals and all that, I previously posited and still believe, as you note, that having three rather than two meals per day may have had an impact upon the practice to wait three rather than six hours

All the best from --Michael Poppers

There are a number of answers. I personally have never factored in immigration as one of them. It is a very good point to ponder.

More background:
  1. The Hagahos Shaa'rei Dura - suggests that 1 hours is a mere humra over the position of Tosafos.
  2. Gra objects to this line of reasoning and cites the Zohar on Mishpatim as requiring 1-hour bidirectionally.
Question: What is the source/origin for 3 hours?
  1. Rav Schwb ZTL held it was a humra based upon 1 hour.
  2. Some say it is 6 hours using the very shortest Sha'os Z;maniyos
  3. Some say it is averaging the zero [or perhaps 1] hour option with the 6 hour option and getting 3 [or 3.5 rounded to 3].

Question: how did we get 6 any? [W/O going back to the Gmara]
  1. Rambam talks about how long the meat lingers in the mouth before dissolving from its state of "meatiness" due to digestive saliva.
  2. Rashi talks about internal digestion of fats lingering for 6 hours..
  3. Rif taking the Gmara a bit more literally waits between meals. He then used the Talmudic model where the morning meal [app.11:00AM until noon] and the evening meal [app.6:00 pm] as the boundaries based upon societal standards. The Rif therefore suggests but does NOT codify 6 hours. AFAIK It is the Rambam who is the first to use that magic number.

Ashkenazim tend to view things in a more sociological prism than others as opposed to just using text. The Rif was basing himself upon a 2-meal a day model. However, in parts of Ashkenaz the daily routine had evolved into a 3-day a meal plan. [I speculate that this was first manifest in Vienna - a city that may have been the culinary capital of the world.]

Now you COULD stick to the Rif's model based upon Talmudic timing OR apply the Rif CONCEPTUALLY to the idea of one SOCIETY-timed meal to the next. [Tosafos had already taken the poistion of one PERSONAL SUBJECTIVE meal to the next.] Therfore, since society was only waiting 3 hours between meals the Rif implictly would require [approx.] a 3 hour wait after meat in a 3 meal-a-day society.

Bottom line: I see the Ashkenazic 3 hours as an application of the Rif's principles to a different society.

[Caveat to my friend Jon Baker: No, I do not have any historical evidence to support this. It is merely educated speculation. Michael Poppers hypothesis about immigration may have been the historically correct phenomenon.]
Kol Tuv / Best Regards,
Please Visit:

Previously published in 2007

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

On Pilpulism 2 - Mitzvat Matzah

Mitzvat Matzah

Question: Aside from the Seder Night - is there a Positive Mitzvah to eat Matzah?

A: The GRA posits YES, there is a Mitzvah Qiyumit but NOT a Mitzvah Hiyyuvit

Aside from this da'at Yachid , AFAIK the overwhelming concensus is NO, the only mitzvah is a negative aseh - not to eat Hameitz. IOW a "Lav habbah miklal Aseh"

Now the Torah states about 7 times to EAT Matzah for 7 days. Only ONCE does it state just 6 days [Namely Parshat R'eih - Kol Hab'chor see below]

Q: Why ignore the P'shat of the overwhelming majority of P'suqim?

A: See the Braitto of R. Yishma'el principle #8 ...v'yatza min hak'lal..

As a result of Midrash Halachah, the mitzvah is reduced to strictly optional - while the Seder Night remains a mitzvah ONLY due to another Passuq - namely "Bo'erev Toch'lu Matzot."

This is despite that the p'shat in D'varim 16:8 - which states only 6 days - can easily be construed as "Go eat Matzah for 6 days and then on the 7th have an Atzeret" Which - when you think about it - might not imply anything either way about Matzah on the 7th day itself. And so this could easily mean that re: 7th day - on the P'shat level - there is no explicit exemption at all!

But no mind! Because in the final analysis, the Midrash Halachah trumps, P'shat - as per the Rashbam previously cited in the opening post.

And I'm not here to argue the merits of Matzah! Rather to show that pilpul is indigenous to Talmudic discourse and is not an invention of Tosafot or of the Acharonim.

Now, do later Rabbinical figures take pilpul to another level? Perhaps so. Perhaps the dosage has been ratcheted up, and that Pilpul has been abused by Post-Talmudic Rabbinism. But that is a judgment call, an opinion, not objective fact.

Tangentilly, it is obvious to me that the GRA was uncomfortable in taking the Midrash as far as it has been widely accepted. AISI he feels the P'shat level must have some validity in the real world, and so he "splits the baby" hiyyuv no, qiyyum yes.


Tuesday, 8 June 2010

On Pilpulism 1 - Triumph of the Text

I would argue simply this, that promoting the Bavli over the Yerushalmi, Tosefta, Sifrei, etc. Was a direct endorsement of pilpulism and dialectic learning over p'shat learning - at least in the realm of Halachah

One of the premier pashtanim - the Rashbam himself - makes this very point; namely that Midrash Halachah trumps p'shat

The Plain P'shat in "arami oved avi" is that it is either a reference to Avraham Avinu or to Yaakov Avinu. [EG Ibn Ezra says one of them]

The fact that ever year we declare, we affirm, we recite at the seder that it is a reference to Lavan, is an endorsement of Midrash Halachah over p'shat and by extension of pilpulism and dialecticism over the simple read.

For yet another example - see Onkelos on Lo t'vasheil G'di.

I once met an Andalusian fundamentlalist who opposes Tosafot completely and even Bavli partially for this very reason; and sees the Mishnah and the Yerushalmi as more loyal to the Oral Law. It would make for an interesting debte between this fellow and Talmudic fundamentalists who see the Bavli as "uber alles"

As I once commented in the Bet Midrash - Tosafot is applying the Talmud's own methodology towards that text itself. In fact, Tosafot saw themselves as perpetuating tht very tradition of learning. As such it goes beyond what the Talmud SAYS to what the Talmud DOES.

Those who dissent and endorse Bavli and oppose Tosafot are in effect saying With regards to the Talmud "do as I SAY but not as I DO!"

If the Amora'im and the "S'tamma'im" of the Talmud wanted to create a "Mishnah- Torah-style" document - they could have. But they didn't

The Bavli-style instead was preserved - albeit moderately reduced - by EG sh'iltot, Halachot G'dolot, Hilchot haRi"f - even Torat Habayyit ho'oruch. But Rambam's codification was a radical break with the structure of the past.

Shloymie: But Rabbi Wolpoe - you at times present yourself as somewhat of a "strict constructionist". And so how does that jibe with your defense and apology of Pilpulism?

The best answer is that I'm not always consistent! ;-). Let's simply admit that I'm ambivalent towards Pilpulism, and that I might have made different choices earlier in our history if I had the power to do so.

But the real answer is that while I'm no big proponent of Pilpul, I must be honest enough to concede that it has been endorsed at several critical junctures in Rabbinic History.

So although I might WISH things were different, I accept the verdict of history and allow that things didn't go my way.

I oppose the dishonesty of re-writing or retrofitting Rabbinic History by pretending that Talmudism has been opposed to pilpul and dilectic. It is what it is.

OTOH, maybe the Rambam's point was simply valid, in that what was good THEN does not work anymore and on a go-forward basis we should move away from Pilpul. But even if the Rambam had a valid point ...

So even though our Halachic world leans a bit more towards various codes, we cannot "Poo-Poo" the Prominence of Pilpulism - especially in Perpetuating the Paramount Position of the Talmud.


Quasi- Rhetorical Questions in Haftarat Korach

Just as in the Parshah we were able to outline numerous Rhetorical Questions

So too we have a similar dynamic in the Haftarah.

In the passuq [Sh'muel I 12:3]
"Et Shor mi laqachtai?"
Sh'muel asks quasi-rhetorically "have I done anything wrong?"

The assembled people confirm Sh'muel's honesty.

Perhaps Sh'mu'el was merely asking for. An answer, for feedback?

In the parallel Pasuq in the Torah, Moshe does not ask - rather he affirms - «Lo Hamor ehad mei'hem nasatti

Therefore the most likely read would be that Sh'mu'el is making a parallel statement albeit by invoking the interrogative instead of the declarative.

But of course, an affirmative answer is provided in the Haftarah, so we cannot dismiss Sh'mu'el's statement as entirely rhetorical.

Defining "Quasi-Rhetorical"

The Prophet's question is not a search for an answer to open-ended fact-finding. As such - like a rhetorical question - only one answer is anticipated by the question

Unlike the usual rhetorical question SOME response is elicited - while in a "true" rhetorical nothing need be said at all.

EG P. Shmini 10:13
«Hayiitav b'einei Hashem

Moshe responds 10:20 «Vayitav b'einav»

Notice Hashem is not responding - so was Aharon REALLY soliciting Hashem's response? Or was he soliciting what Moshe would suppose Hashem's Response would be?

Thus it appears that Sh'mu'el is seeking something else - namely confirmation. While a true rhetorical question makes a point w/o needing any response at all, Sh'mu'el's interrogative is tantamount to saying

"You are witnesses to the fact that I took nothing"

And the response
"We confirm"

See EG the dialogue between Ya'akov and Lavan at the end of Vayeitze where declarations and confirmations are made EG 31:51 «eid hagal hazzeh v'eidah hamatzeivah»

While Sh'mu'el is not explicitly asking for such confirmation nevertheless in context it is obvious that he is soliciting it


Monday, 7 June 2010

On Suicide Pacts

The Constitution is not a suicide pact - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

«"The Constitution is not a suicide pact" is a rhetorical phrase in American political and legal discourse. The phrase expresses the belief that constitutional restrictions on governmental power must give way to urgent practical needs....»

Yet when it comes to those Jewish groups who support Palestine over Israel, isn't that itself a "suicide pact"?

What could be more destrucitve to existential needs of Israel's survival than for Jews to play with Israel's right to exist for the sake of Palestinianism?

Does Jewish "Leftism"
Trump Jewish survival
Does this suicide-pact mentality really stem from a form of Jewish self-hatred?


Some snips from above that might be applicable to Halachic norms...

Jefferson on the Louisiana Purchase
«In justifying his actions, he later wrote: "[a] strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means."[1]»

Lincoln defending his suspension of Habeus Corpus

«Lincoln responded in a Special Session to Congress on July 4, 1861 that an insurrection "in nearly one-third of the States had subverted the whole of the laws . . . Are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?" »

Justice Jackson in a dissent against William O. Douglas permitting a pro-nazi rlly..

«Jackson wrote a twenty-four page dissent in response to the Court's four page decision, [that permitted a pro-nazi rally] which concluded: "The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact."»

Even the Constitution needs "tweeking" in an urgency

«"Horo'at sho'oh" supercedes Halachah. In those cases "meta-Halachah" trumps»


“Please Don’t Confuse Me with the Facts”: Thoughts on the Flotilla Absurdity

The following is an article that I wrote on the flotilla incident of last week to be published this week in The Jewish Tribune (Toronto).

The events of the past week seem like scenes from the Theatre of the Absurd. First there was the rhetoric that Israel attacked a boat filled with ‘unarmed civilians’. But, how were Israeli soldiers then injured? So the move was on to rhetoric #2 that while there were individuals on the boat armed with pipes and even knives, the force of the Israeli response was clearly disproportionate. But how then were Israeli soldiers injured through gunfire? In any event, how were the Israeli soldiers supposed to determine what is ‘appropriate’ given that they did not know what they were facing? Weren’t these boats, knowing that they would face the blockade, still presented as peaceful? Once the soldiers recognized that they were facing a lie, what were they supposed to do? In our world, of course, defending yourself is now a problem. If you really want to avoid the label of applying ‘disproportionate force’, make sure that you have more casualties than your enemy.

Then there was rhetoric #3 which admitted that the Israeli soldiers were fired upon and even that there were indeed a small minority on one of the boats that were preparing for violence – but still the Israeli response was inappropriate for the vast majority on the boats were peaceable. Israel should have considered that and withheld their response. And with the same logic we should protest against the Canadian government for ‘wasting’ one billion dollars on security for the upcoming G20 summit for, after all, 99%, even 99.9%, of the people who will be in downtown Toronto during this time will be non-violent. In the same vein, we should stop ‘wasting’ money on airport security for the vast majority of passengers truly have no intention towards violence. Absurd is indeed the one word that comes to mind.

The question, though, still emerges; what are these vocal critics thinking? The ridiculousness of their charges, the clear evidence from videos of what happened—how can people still present such divisive and unsupportable arguments? Of course, this rhetoric from those who hate Israel is to be expected; we don’t expect the facts to get in the way of their agenda, of what they want to scream. But can we project this motivation, an inherent anti-Semitism, as the sole basis for this rhetoric? Many from the West, who, at times, have supported Israel, also continue to advocate for this absurdity, joining, it would seem, in this declaration– ‘please do not confuse us with the facts’. What this may reflect is a broader problem of which we must be aware.

At issue is the perception of oppression as the main motivation for violence with the subsequent view of a potential utopia if oppression is defeated. Buttressed by the words of Marx, many want to believe that violence, and subsequently modern terrorism, is basically a response to oppression. The argument thus is that with the end of tyranny, the violence will also end; even these vicious terrorists do not really want to act in this manner, they really want to be peaceable. So the solution for bringing about peace is always deemed to be through the instrumental end of oppression – after all why would people be violent if they are not oppressed? All we have to do is eliminate oppression; all people are basically good and we all desire peace. The problem is, though, that in order to apply this model you need an oppressor and an oppressed.

It is this mistaken utopian view that is challenging us. If oppression is solely that which leads to negative behaviour, then there is a potentially easy solution to the challenge of peace: remove oppression and everything will eventually be fine. This dominates how many look, and wish to look, at the situation in Israel. It is not surprising that South Africa becomes the model, no matter how different and much more complex the situation is on the banks of the Mediterranean. As long as Israel can be labeled the oppressor, this vision of humanity and a harmonious world can be upheld. Recognize that Israel is not an oppressor and you have to find another reason for the violence and you have to confront a much more difficult truth.

The reality of the devastating effects emerging from the theology of radical Islam thus, for example, cannot be accepted by proponents of this rhetoric. They will retort that people are only turning to radical Islam because they are oppressed. There may also be an additional intent not to assign any real power or value to religious influences or desire. In any event, the overriding need, in order to maintain this utopian hope, is to maintain the picture of oppressor and oppressed. It must be maintained above all else – and please don’t confuse advocates of this perspective with the facts.

The Arabs understand this and thus recognize the value and possibility of maintaining, no matter how flimsy the argument, this perception of oppressor and oppressed. And as much as Israel may take action to help the average Palestinian, the Arabs will act to block that aid – the goal is to maintain the image of oppression. And with such a perception, certain segments of the media will continue their slant; to portray another problem will challenge their whole vision of the world and life. Terrorists, it must be maintained, really do not want to hurt others; all people—except of course, they’ll admit, for some psychopathic individuals – really just want to live in generic peace. Individuals with this surmise do not want to confront the reality of a growing radical Islam which adheres to a dissenting view of life, humanity and vision of utopia. Our response must be, though, to challenge individuals to start seeing what is really happening and to start recognizing, no matter how destructive it may be to one’s specific dream of a utopia for humanity, what the truth is. We must make it clear to them that abiding by, allowing, this Theater of the Absurd will just engender a new violence against any restorative ambitions and hope. If you see what you want to see and not what is there – you are a terrorist. Your victim is truth and your victims are the innocent

Rhetorical Questions in Parshat Korach

I'm wondering how many times Rhetorical Questions occur in Humash? How ubiquitous is it?

EG How many times they are employed by Moshe? Aharon?

Here is a small sampling I found in Parshat Korach

Korach, Datan va'Aviram


Datan va'Aviram

Moshe and Aharon

B'nei Yisro'el

Can you tell the good guys from the bad guys by their respective uses of rhetorical questions?

Are rhetorical questions anything other than a rhetorical device?

Or do value judgments attach to the use of rhetorical questions?


Sunday, 6 June 2010

SA Choshen Mishpat 25:1 - Evolution of Halachah's Baseline

What key clause evolved between Rambam' formulation of a Dayyan who errs against well-known law in
MT Sanhedrin 6:1

The M'chabeir's parallel formulation in Choshen Mishpat 25:1?


Saturday, 5 June 2010

The Case of the Missing Sukkah

Often Sifrei Halachah cross-reference issues that overlap. For example you might find a subset of Hilchot Aveilut in Hilchot Shabbat. Some Hilchot MLichah appear in Hilchot Bassar b'Chalav etc.

This week I've been covering Ben Ish Chai year 1 Parshat b'Ha'alot'cha. It deals with brachot and hefseqot during a meal. The various cases of interruption do mention a L'vaya - Bar Minon - and t'filah b'tzibbur.

Mention is made re: changing locations during a meal, and starting a meal in one place and completing it in another.

But no mention is made of the most common illustration of a "roving meal". That is when one starts one's S'udah in the Sukkah and is forced to move indoors due to inclement weather. This case is perhaps the single most common cause for a shift in venue, yet its omission here is glaring. AFAIK it's not in Shulchan Aruch or similar codes either.

Isn't that "Missing Sukkah" a strange mystery?


Friday, 4 June 2010

"Were all Said Sinai"

Originally published 6/4/10, 8:00 pm.
«vayikra rabba 22:1:   what a senior student will in the future say before his teacher, they were all(sic) said to Moses at Sinai. »

Simple Meaning
"...Were all enabled to be said by given Moshe the torah at Sinai"

Permit me to explain these three M'shalim and one Nimshal

1. Computer Languges
When the authors of EG COBOL created a new language with rules of syntax, logic, command structure etc.
Then any subsequent program in that language resulted from that creation, and was inherent [meaning inherently possible] to program all future algorithms as a result of the original formulation.

2.  DNA
When Johnny "Appleseed" walked around America tossing around apple seeds, he planted the trees that would one day create most future apple trees throughout the continent.

3. Chess
Given the rules and a chessboard and chess pieces, every future game is made possible, and potentiated, and foreseeable.

When Hashem gave the Torah, even the havvayot of Abbaye and Rava were foreseen. That is the Aggadah. [And from Hashem's timeless perspective it is SO]

My spin is to change "fore-seen" to "foresee-able" Thus the Torah was given not only as laws but as instruction. Jurisprudence and rules of how to apply laws and to make Drashot were also given. Thus any future drash was given at Sinai means that both the chomer and the tzurh for all future investigations were enabled at Mattan Torah, via the very DNA inherent therein. And this is Hazal's point.

Or perhaps there is indeed another point! Just don't take it too literally and thereby miss every point!


Thursday, 3 June 2010

Rema Choshen Mishpat 14:1 Are all Rabbis Created Equal?

Concerning Dayyanim:

«If two Hachamim have equal s'micha - we go after the greater - "the Gadol"»

So if their objective ranking is the same how is it thay one can be greater?

  • Are all Rabbis created equal?
  • Are all Dayyanim created equal?

Or has the "subjective" ranking always been a factor in Beth Din?


Wednesday, 2 June 2010

SA Choshen Mishpat 7:12 - Qatan Mimenu

«He who is summoned to be judged by someone lesser than he (Dayyan Qatan Mimenu) »

Now in a hierarchical caste-like system, or a meritocracy, such stratification makes sense. While in a democratic or egalitarian system this becomes difficult to understand. EG there are some "Liberal" rabbis who have a kind of iconoclastic attitude towards "G'dolim" - may we term it "g'dolocastic"?

These "g'doloclasts" seem to mimic Korach's complaint towards Moshe's leadership. Korach asserted "Ki CHOL ho'eidah KULAM Q'doshim". And therefore you Moshe and Aharon, "Madu'a Titnas'u al Q'hal Hashem?"

Coming from this egalitarian paradigm how can one understand this Halachah at all? What does it mean for a Jew to be summoned to a Dayyan who is "qatan mimenu"? Only if there exists some kind of higher and lower status amongst scholars and or officials is this "shayyach" (possible) somehow.


Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Mussar from a Discussion List

R Dov Kaiser of Avodah graciously permitted me to reprint his post.
I'm selecting one passage to make 2 separate points. Yet the two points are related as we shell see.

R. Dov Kaiser:
Point #1
«You are certainly entitled to read the Gemara and SA differently from R. Dovid Oppenheim, the Nesivos and R. Akiva Eiger, but others might choose to favour their reading over yours. As we have discussed many times, when it comes to psak halacha (as opposed to lomdus), there is something slightly unorthodox (even unOrthodox) about jumping from the Gemara to the SA to psak halacha, while ignoring the voluminous halachic literature written since then, especially when it emanates from such greats as R. Akiva Eiger. And even if you think it is a legitimate approach to disregard Acharonim in formulating halacha, you certainly can't accuse those who follow the mainstream approach of making things up. »
Here we have a defense of Halachic precedent over revisionism. It's perhaps OK to look back to original texts such as Talmud and SA and to understand them in a novel manner.
However there are two issues here
A. Revising Halachah based upon a novel [revised] understanding of the key texts - in opposition to the classic, Traditional Understanding
B. Even if the above were OK, it's egregious Impose this POV as THE nomrative p'saq when objecting to the mainstream understanding.
This constitutes
C. Ish kol Hayashar b'einav Yaaseh
D. Ki chol ho'eidah Kullam Q'doshim umau'a titnas'u on Q'hl Hashem?
These Hashqafot are not acceptable
Shoymie: so what do YOU think IS acceptable given people sincerely dispute a traditional read of a text?
RRW: I would propose stating "I see the text differently and it appears to have been an early mis-understanding that has been perpetuated - IN MY HUMBLE OPINION [IMHO] or l'fi aniyat Da'ati [lfad]. However, consult YOUR poseiq as how to proceed...
Shloymie: so re you saying that one should raise the flag of objection, but not go further and repeal the law as it is?
RRW: yes along those lines. Remember that we may have a good "law" and a bad source. So revising an understanding is often insufficient weight to overturn the practice. BE"H I will post about Laws agreed to, but whose sources may be "flaky".
And also note, while some such as the M'harshal felt entitled to overrule Posqim by appealing directly to Shas - still AFAIK, he never ignored the Posqim. Also note that in very few instances did M'harshal win the day against the mainstream.

Point #2
«Language such as *How can you possibly imagine that this law allows the public to move the grave and build the road?* appears just a bit over the top when great Acharonim imagined just such a thing. Also, as I have pointed out before in this forum, I think this sort of language on [this list] creates more heat than light, to use a cliche, and lowers the tone of discussion.»
Here we have the great pitfall of the internet used for Torah. Bad manners may prevail and snide tones may turn off readers from valid points. Frequently even excellent points may be compromised by hubris or condescension. I know that I have been guilty of condescension myself especially when I perceive antagonists vehemently arguing with me AND I've perceived that they have failed to comprehend my point..
So this Mussar certain applies to me
The valid WHAT's of making a point do not justify inappropriate HOW's. Derech Eretz Qodmah l'Torah. Tone counts.
Shoymie: Nu what's that common denominator you alluded to before?
RRW: a kind of azzut, or hubris, or hutzpah. Thus, the common denominator is
  1. "Since I think I'm right I may ignore the opinions of all other"
  2. "Since I think I'm right I may ignore having derech eretz towards all others"
The common flaw is a kind of "egotism"
Shoymie: so what about the egotism of objecting? Shouldn't that also be shunned?
RRW: Lav davqa. In milhemet haTorah, we need honesty, sincerity, and good analysis. But it must be couched respectfully and strong "rayot brurot" must be brought to bare. Condescension compromises the nobility of trying to fix something, and may transform it into being egotistical or one upsmanship.
Question away! Challenge away! But couch it "halo limadtanu...?"