Avodah Mailing List

Volume 01 : Number 032

Sunday, August 30 1998

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Sat, 29 Aug 1998 22:15:29 -0400
From: Harry Maryles <C-Maryles@neiu.edu>
Re: Avodah V1 #30

Chaimwass@aol.com wrote:
> In a message dated 98-08-27 20:44:47 EDT, you write:
> << He has this habit of making arguments from personal  interpretation that
> run counter to masorah.>>
> QUESTION: Mah ha'raash? Didn't Ibn Ezra, RaMBaM and that politician Abravanel

Once again my kaanaos is being tested. How do we dare write "That 
politician"---what do we mean by that, how are we describing an early 
Achron--even maybe a late rishon who had a greater knowledge of Torah 
than we can even imagine. Furthermore, it's admirale to defend Mr. 
Hendel however let's talk about his good points not make a comparison to 
the approach of Rishonim people whos knowledge and yiras shamiem put us 
in the category of dwarfs in comparison. If you want to start a thread 
discussing how Ibn ezra was able to gve a psat against chazal that would 
probably be a wonderful and interesting thread, but it must be done with 
the kavod due to a rishon. I think it is specifically this "freedom" of 
expressing one's beliefs that got Mr. Hendel in trouble in the first 
place--we all have our opinions but they must be stated with respect to 
Torah giants who came before us.
Elie Ginsparg

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Date: Sat, 29 Aug 1998 23:50:34 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Re: Time

On Sun, 30 Aug 1998, Daniel Eidensohn wrote:

> We see in fact that the official position has changed over time - though
> it is not clear why. Rabbeinu Tam is now only a Chumra. 

If you read the Maharam Alshakar inside it is obvious why the position was
changed by the Gra & Ba'al HaTanya - back to that of the Ge'onim - the
reality is not as RT assumed, that the sun goes directly "out" from the
"first" sheki'ah, and that there is a "second" sheki'ah when the sun goes
up behind the dome. It therefore becomes untenable in reality to accept
RT's kulla of the second sheki'ah and untenable lomdishely to accept his
reconciliation of the Gemaros in Shabbos and Pesachim.


Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Cong. Bais Tefila, 3555 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL, 60659
ygb@aishdas.org, http://www.aishdas.org/baistefila

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Date: Sat, 29 Aug 1998 23:53:22 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Mis'asek Again

In the Meshech Chochmo (whose yahrzeit was today) on Lo Tasur he notes the
Nesivos on Shogeg b'd'Rabbana, but qualifies it by saying that it only
applies to a shogeg that was a mis'asek, not a lack of knowledge, as that
too can count as insufficient respect of rabbinic authority.


Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Cong. Bais Tefila, 3555 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL, 60659
ygb@aishdas.org, http://www.aishdas.org/baistefila

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Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 13:56:28 +0300
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@netmedia.net.il>
Re: Time

Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer wrote:

> On Sun, 30 Aug 1998, Daniel Eidensohn wrote:
> > We see in fact that the official position has changed over time - though
> > it is not clear why. Rabbeinu Tam is now only a Chumra.
> If you read the Maharam Alshakar inside it is obvious why the position was
> changed by the Gra & Ba'al HaTanya - back to that of the Ge'onim - the
> reality is not as RT assumed, that the sun goes directly "out" from the
> "first" sheki'ah, and that there is a "second" sheki'ah when the sun goes
> up behind the dome. It therefore becomes untenable in reality to accept
> RT's kulla of the second sheki'ah and untenable lomdishely to accept his
> reconciliation of the Gemaros in Shabbos and Pesachim.

Why did it take 400 years to change? Why did it take 150 years after the Gra
and the Bal HaTanya poskened like the Gaonim for it suddenly to become
universal practice? There is apparently no reference in the literature to
explain this sudden change of a centuries old practice. It boggles the mind to
say that suddenly with WWI everybody looked up to the heavens and realized
that the universal practice of following Rabbeinu Tam was wrong! This gets
back to our old discussion of the relationshp of metzius to halacha. This is
one of the more puzzling examples.Why was the shita of the Gaonim abandoned
and why was it reinstated?

                                            Daniel Eidensohn

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Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 13:28:28 +0100
From: Chana Luntz <heather@luntz.demon.co.uk>
members of this list

Saul J Weinreb <sweinr1@uic.edu> writes:

 > I don't think we need to make any "secure" lists for the discussion =
of >sensitive subjects, we are all adults

Are you sure?  It would not surprise me in the least if there was a 13 =
or 14 year old subscribed. (Many teenagers these days are extremely =
computer literate, and if computers and the web had been part of my =
teenage experience, I don't doubt for a moment that to complement my =
learning I would have found my way to a list such as this one at that =
age.  Yes I would have kept my head down, for fear of making a fool of =
myself, but the fact that such people don't post doesn't mean they are =
not there.

Now admittedly, a 13 or 14 year old on this list is precocious.  But I =
would not say the same for an 18 year old Shana Aleph Sem girl or =
yeshiva bochur (internet connection to communicate with family at home). =
Would you really want some of the posts we have seen printed out and =
passed hand to hand around the dorms of your your standard post high =
school yeshiva or sem?

> and this list itself is supposed to be a high level discussion group =
for >people who have something intellegent to
>contribute, regardless of the subject. =20
I don't think that the *public face* of this group fits that =
distinction.  But you need to remember something about the internet.  =
Although it appears to be a relatively small group of people, each of =
whom chip in (a little or a lot), it is actually a much wider group =
containing both posters and lurkers.  In fact, a better analogy would be =
to your traditional (ie talmudic) yeshiva, where the best students sat =
in the front rows and discussed whatever they were learning that day, =
while behind them, possibly stretching all the way out the door there =
were weaker and weaker students, and even casual passers by right at the =
back, who popped in to hear what they could hear (but would never have =
dreamt of interupting the conversation).

>Devarim Shebitzinah should not be discussed with people who are =
>immature and will misunderstand the material being discussed, but I =
>don't think that our group fits this description.

And I don't know if it is merely a question of being immature.  One of =
things i forgot to mention about the program being run by Rabbonit =
Henkin is that it is open to married women only.  That is not to say =
that us single women are necessarily immature, but there is a strong =
logic to saying that it is not appropriate to learn and discuss devarim =
shebitzina in circumstances where they are not also of practical =
relevance.  My understanding is that this is even more true when we are =
discussing bochrim.

>The problem with R' Hendel's posts were not the subject matter. in my
>opinion, but the fact that he presented his biblical interpretations as =
>they were authoratative even though they were often contradictory to
>Chazal. =20

This is part of the same problem.  For those of us with good enough =
grounding in Chazal (most of the public face of the list), we are quite =
capable of either pressing the down button to skip these sorts of =
postings (something I confess I have been doing automatically in =
relation to anything by R Hendel) or sifting through (as has been =
pointed out, most of us are familiar with Tanach meforshim who give a =
pshat or drash that contradicts Chazal, and we know how and where to =
intergrate that into our overall Torah understanding.  Where we find =
something of that nature, we file it into that category - nice drash, =
perhaps).  However, this is not a closed list, and anybody is *in* =
unless they get deliberately *thrown out*.  As we have already seen, =
there has been one stray post from a new ba'al teshuva (who wanted =
somebody to learn with him).  We know about him because he posted, there =
are almost certainly a dozen others who are out there, possibly looking =
up every non translated word on this list, but of whom we are unaware. =
There are almost certainly more who fall into the yeshiva bochur/sem =
girl category.  Thus while this list is a high level list - meaning that =
we demand that everybody "learn up" to the level of the list, and not =
"learn down" (think of your talmudic academy), we also need not to =
forget that people who are immature and may not understand are not =
barred from listening in.

>If someone wants to present observations from the pesukim, and
>demonstrate where he thinks this seems to contradict chazal, this is a
>legitamate intellectual inquiry, and we must try to understand it.  But =
>consistently presented his interpretations as if this is the
>"Summary"...as you all are familiar with.  As if what he observed was =
>the truth.  None of us know the truth, we can only present our opinions =
>and try to understand things better.  I also strongly oppose the =
>establishment of some sort of rabbinical censorship over our forum.  I =
>will discuss this further in future posts after shabboss IY'H.

Looking forward to that discussion.  I would just raise the question =
though, that (assuming) you agree that this is supposed to be and should =
remain an Orthodox forum - how do you propose drawing the line?  We =
could easily get an intelligent and mature (and possibly knowledgeable) =
reform rabbi subscribing and posting.  Would you agree that such a =
person should be thrown off the list if he/she posted something to the =
tune of "i am a reform rabbi and this is why Orthodoxy is wrong..."? Now =
there is a clear cut case.  In less explicit cases, where does one draw =
the line?   Is it by the general consensus of the (public face of) this =
list? If you have a rishon/achron on whom to rely? If you have a LOR on =
whom to rely? (What if you are a LOR?)

I had a halacha teacher, a long long time ago, who tried to explain it =
like a river.  There are positions within the river, sometimes =
midstream, sometimes closer to the left bank or the right, but still =
within the river.  Then there are positions ie streams that have clearly =
split off from the river and are on their own.  But at the point at =
which the stream is splitting off from the river is the hardest to spot =
- because maybe all it is doing is widening the river, but maybe it is a =
genuine split (this, by the way, was his explanation for why it was =
important in Europe of the 19th century, to make clear deliniations with =
reform, because even though moving the bima and giving divrei torah in =
the vernacular were not in and of themselves problematic, as the gedolim =
of the time could see that it was a genuine split, and not a widening of =
the river, it was important that that fact be made clear as soon as =
possible, by putting a solid bank between the two, so that people did =
not get misled and think they were one river). This is not an easy issue =
(I know that it is one that Avi Feldblum grappled with constantly in =
moderating the mail-jewish list and deciding what he would let through). =
 This is not a moderated list - but so long as we want to maintain the =
identity of this list as an Orthodox list, the issue will not ever fully =
go away.

Good Shabbos
Shaul Weinreb



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Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 14:57:36 +0100
From: Chana Luntz <heather@luntz.demon.co.uk>
Minhag, psak

cbrown@bestware.com writes:

>The issue of tefillin on chol hamoed and zmanim are pure halachic =
>issues and do not necessarily fall into the guidelines of "al titosh =
torat >imecha" as do minhagim.  Let's not confuse psak with minhag.

This is something I have been grappling with recently - and I would love =
some comment on it, as I am not convinced the issue is so simple.  Take =
a classic example - Sephardim follow the Mechaber, while Ashzenazim =
follow the Rema - is this halacha or minhag?  Now one would assume that =
it is minhag, but it also deals with questions of halacha. Kitnios on =
pesach is clearly minhag, the gezera made by Ashkenazim rabbonim just =
never extended to Sephardim.  But how about more basic halachic issues? =
What do you do when the two clash?

Let me give you a practical example (it may not be the best, but is on =
my mind at the moment as I am quite close to a case like this) Ashkenazi =
girl is marrying Sephardi boy. Just take the wedding - she wants a =
bedekin (all her friends had one, and she had always dreamed of, you =
know how they do at every Ashzenazi wedding you have every been to).  =
Sephardim don't do  beddekin. Now that, it would seem to me is clearly =
minhag.  She wants a yichud room - Sephardim don't have a yichud room.  =
What is more Rav Ovadyah Yosef holds that if you do have a yichud room, =
then the girl must cover her hair at the wedding reception itself, the =
only heter not to is the absence of a yichud room.  Now all her friends =
had typical Ashzenazi weddings and yichud rooms.  But the only thing =
they covered their hair with at the wedding reception was a bit of =
flimsy veil.  Is this minhag? Halacha? what?

And that is only the beginning.  What about women making brochos eg on =
taking a lulav?  She is like, no way am I not making a brocha. If that =
position was based on real knowledge - eg she thinks that Rabbanu Tam is =
emes  - Does that mean that it is halacha, but if she doesn't know the =
sources then it is minhag? Note that Rav Ovadyah says that the girl =
should do hetaras nedarim right before she is married to nullify the =
minhagim she got from her father's house.  Rav Henkin shlita (to =
distinguish him from his grandfather) in Benei Banim has a fascinating =
teshuva on the extent to which a woman is required to take on the man's =
minhagim (bottom line - there has to be one line foodwise, and for the =
household, but that for matters that are not beno uvena, especially if =
they agree this before the wedding, she can keep her own minhagim). Rav =
Ovadyah also has a teshuva on the issue, which I haven't seen inside, =
but is quoted by Rav Henkin - he disagrees saying the woman has to fully =
take on the husband's minhagim. (This is complicated by another teshuva =
of Rav Ovadyah, who says that since Eretz Yisroel is the makom of the =
Mechaber, then everybody should follow Sephardi minhagim there).

But many of these issues are very much halachic - non glatt meat, =
according to the Sephardim it is mamash treif.  Is this a halachic issue =
or a minhag? Difficult to say that the Ashkenazi minhag is overriding a =
halachic issur.  Does that mean that if a Sephardi guy decided that he =
thought the Ashkenazi position was emes, he could eat non glatt meat?  =
More practically, if she has had non glatt meat on her dishes, can they =
then use them after they are married? (The answer would seem to be yes, =
given that he is currently allowed to eat in non glatt restuarants so =
long as he only has chicken and not the beef or lamb - to my amazement I =
have discovered that a popular restuarant here in london, which is under =
the supervision of the Sephardi Beis Din, serves non glatt meat.  =
Apparently when asked how they can justify that, they said that 80 =
percent of the customers are Ashzenazim, and he claims he couldn't stay =
in business if he had to buy the more expensive glatt meat).- How about =
the three weeks, the Sephardim generally start most of the mourning in =
shevua sh'chal bo. I assume that what the Ashekenazim do is purely =
minhag, but it is based on the Rema.

I am sure if I knew more about it I could come up with a dozen more =
examples of this, based purely on the *minhag* or whatever it is, of =
Sephardim following the Mechaber while Ashkenazim follow the Rema.  Once =
you throw Yeminites into the picture, it no doubt gets even more =

So I would love some comment on the precise distinction - because I am =
not so sure that whether one puts tephillin on on chol hamoed or not is =
purely halachic.  Why is this any different to the Sephardi/Ashkenazi =
case (except that the varieties in the different *minhagim* are more =
dispersed between the two groups)?

>My view, which others on the list have disagreed with in the past, is =
>we follow emes whether it discovered by R"T, the GR"A, or you and me.  =
>The GR"A wasn't right because the GR"A said so, the GR"A was right =
>because empirically we know his position to be closer to the truth then =
>that of R"T.  YGB has taken basically the same stand (although he has =
>not openly asserted this formulation) in expressing his right to =
disregard >R' Moshe's view in light of what he feels is emes.

YGB and I had, a while ago (before my computer gave up the ghost) a =
private email discussion on the authority of a rav and learning to =
posken for yourself (in fact, it might have been that discussion that =
sparked off this whole thread). When he raised the idea of bringing the =
discussion into this forum - I said that I thought that you would get =
the typical left/right split that we get all over, ie the left will say =
learn enough so you can posken yourself, and the right will say that you =
always need to be m'vatel to gedolim and ask shailas - and his response =
was that being m'vatel daas only applies to daas torah and not to =
halacha.  I never had a chance to reply, but I think I disagree - I had =
said in an earlier post that another reason to ask a shiala is that when =
one is nogea b'davar, there is always a danger that one will posken =
wrong - either because one wants a particular outcome l'kula, or because =
one is scared that one might want a particular outcome, and therefore to =
over come one's perceived bias one poskens l'chumra where it is not =
appropriate. I gave a personal example about breaking my fast one tisha =
b'av, where I was almost certainly being stupid, and possibly putting =
myself in danger, because I didn't feel able to do to myself what I =
would have done had it been anybody else, ie forced them to break it.  =
Agreed, in that circumstance part of the reason I needed to break the =
fast was because I was too sick for thought out rational judgments, but =
in more subtle ways, any decision where the outcome is dear to one's =
heart has the potential for self justification or bias.  After all, a =
judge is forbidden to judge his own case, for fear of bias, and =
poskening and judging. as has been pointed out, is very close.  And, if =
anything, the more learned and more brilliant a person is, the greater =
danger there is.  Those who sat on the Sanhedrin were apparently able to =
prove in 70 ways that a sheretz is kosher. Now we may not be on that =
level, but the more we know and the brighter we are, the more likely it =
is that we are able to do something similar and being m'vatel daas, it =
seems to me (in fact to me the critical part, although clearly others =
disagree) is part of  kabbalas oyl malkus shamayim and  is even more =
important for halachic matters than not.

On the other hand, I also tend to agree that where you think, eg that =
the GRA is the emes, over Rabbanu Tam, there needs to be room for =
following that too. =20
I am hesitantly feeling my way here, but I guess that somehow we need a =
balance - sometimes we need to ask because we don't know, sometimes we =
need to ask even though we have learnt all the sources to make sure we =
are still within the framework of the mesorah and sometimes we need to =
make decisions for ourselves assuming we know enough, and think that the =
position we hold is emes (and of course, sometimes we need to make =
decisions for ourselves because there is nobody around to ask in =
sufficient time, and not to make a decision would be an inappropriate =
abdication of responsibility). And how exactly we decide which is =
appropriate in what circumstance must be the most difficult decision of =

- -Chaim B.



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Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 10:26:34 EDT
From: JoshHoff@aol.com
Re: Brisker Shevarim

Regarding the comment that people have said the device of  blowing five
shorter shevarim was conceived by Rav Yoshe Ber, zt"l, the source for this is
R.Ahron Soloveichek. He said that his brother mentioned this to his father
R.Moshe as a way of accomplishing the shitos of both Rashi and Tosafos with
the same shevarim. R.Moshe then told it to R.Chaim, who accepted it. 

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Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 11:09:21 EDT
From: kennethgmiller@juno.com (Kenneth G Miller)
Re: Bein Hash'mashos

Rabbi Turkel wrote: <<< I have become completely convinced that physical
evidence is on the side of the Gra and geonim and against Rabbenu Tam.
Anyone who has been in Israel clearly sees that the sky is completely
dark 15-20 minutes after sunset. The sunset of Rabbenu Tam takes place
with the stars fully shining.  In fact one of the defenses of Rabbenu Tam
is that he was only discussing northern Europe and not Israel (I have
never been to Iraq but suspect it is closer to Israel than Europe in
terms of sunsets). Hence, it is clear to me that the 72 minutes depend on
the location... >>>

The shiur of 72 minutes is not a European invention. The Gemara Pesachim
94a explains that an average person walks 10 parsaos (40 mil) in a day,
and that there are 4 or 5 mil from alos to netz, and again from shkia to
tzeis. Various opinions in the gemara itself and in the rishonim later
discuss whether twilight is 4 mil or 5 mil, and whether the 40 mil day
runs from netz to shkia, or from alos to tzeis. These discussions result
in the various shitos for the length of a mil being 18 minutes (1/40 of
12 hours), 22.5 minutes (1/32 of 12 hours), or 24 minutes (1/30 of 12

I think far too many people confuse the term "bein hashmashos" with the
phrase "from shkia until tzeis". I was taught that everyone agrees that
there are 4 mil from shkia to tzeis, and everyone agrees that bein
hashmashos lasts only 3/4 of one mil, and everyone agrees that one may do
melacha until bein hashmashos on Friday, and one may do melacha after
bein hashmashos on Saturday. The only machlokes is whether the bein
hashmashos is the first 3/4 mil after shkia, or the last 3/4 mil before

I think this confusion arose because of a lack of clear definition of the
word "shkia", which led to some poskim making reference to a "first
shkia" being when the sun sets, and a "second shkia", which I understand
as meaning when the *light* sets (admittedly too vague). In any case, it
is undeniable that the gemara above makes reference to the length of a
day, and that the end of the day and/or tzeis hakochavim takes place well
over an hour past astronomical sunset. I think that those of us who
believe that the <<< physical evidence is on the side of the Gra and
geonim and against Rabbenu Tam >>>, need a better understanding of what
the Gemara and Rabenu Tam meant by "tzeis hakochavim". Perhaps the many
stars which we see shortly after shkia were considered by Rabenu Tam to
be too large to be significant, and that's why they want us to wait 72-96
minutes, until the appearance of what they call *medium* sized stars!

Here's another idea to support my proposal that even from the "physical
evidence" point of view, the time for tzeis could indeed be more than an
hour after shkia: Please notice that the idea of "bein hashmashos" exists
only in the evening, not in the morning. Would anyone suggest that Alos
Hashachar occurs merely 15-20 minutes before sunrise? I think not, and
the reason is that there is indeed a small amount of light visible in the
east long before sunrise. I suggest that our Gemara is using the same
amount of light to define tzeis.

Akiva Miller

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