Avodah Mailing List
Volume 02 : Number 108
Monday, January 4 1999
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Mon, 4 Jan 1999 11:08:33 EST
Subject: Re: justifying leah
He explained that in reality the bas kol mem yom kodem hvlad had
announced that lder one was going to marry the older one, and the younger
one was going to marry the younger one. So she had reason to be scared!
This explains what Leah was saying - mmichah lamadity that you are now the
bechor so I am supposed to be your wife! Also by the dudaim she says to
Rachel you stole my husband - min hashamayim he was supposed to marry me!
It is interesting to note that in the story of Yitzchak and the b'rachos, the
Torah does not refer to Esav as the b'chor, rather it calls him b'no hagadol.
I did not hear the bas kol 40 that emanated at the time of Yaakov and Esav's
conception (40 days prior, actually), and despite my deep reservations that
they are heard by anyone in the physical realm, one must ask if the bas kol
said b'chora li-b'chor, or g'dola lgadol, in which case Esav would still have
had a claim on Leah, and none on Rachel.
Jewish Educational Center
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Date: Mon, 4 Jan 1999 11:57:32 EST
Subject: Re: Erev Rav & Tinok She'Nishba
In a message dated 1/3/99 10:24:59 PM EST, email@example.com
> The SOH"R is discussing a pshuto k'mashma'o case of tinok she'nishba -
> ben mummeres that grew up bein ha'nochrim and was not familiar with our...
> Perhaps you meant Tanya perek 32?
What I was referring to specifically was the end of 79 (in Hilchos Ribis) WRT
Karo'im that since they were brought up this way by their parents they are
like Tinuk Shenishboh (Beineihem). I was aware of the 2nd opinion in 80. and
see also SOH"R O"C 385:3. (in any case the L. Rebbe used many times the term
of Tinokos Shenishbu for Freia Yiddin).
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Date: Mon, 4 Jan 1999 11:57:35 EST
Subject: Re: Avodah V2 #90
In a message dated 1/3/99 10:23:07 PM EST, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
> Number 26 p. 55. I also saw a number of issues on the internet where stories
> of people praying to the L. Rebbe's picture (that he should hear and help
> them) are related.
When I get a chance I will try to get a copy and report back, also please
supply the info on the other Internet sites, so that I can see what is written
As V'hiyeesem Nkiyeem, I want to emphasize that I am not playing cat and
mouse, I do not prescribe to any publications, but from the other side I do
not accept a Psul on another Yid Al Achas Kamoh Vekamoh on many Yidden without
Vedorashto Vechokartoh Heiteiv, that it says exactly what was quoted here, in
many cases it is a matter of 1 word that changes the whole Toichen.
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Date: Mon, 4 Jan 1999 12:10:03 -0500 (EST)
From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@IDT.NET>
Subject: Re: Avodah V2 #105
> From: "Dovid Eliezrie" <email@example.com>
> Subject: Issues of Kiruv
> "I question the above assertion. I think most Lubavitchers do "push
> people into their Shittah". I believe that the very essence of
> Lubavitch Kiruv is to make some one a Lubavitcher first and frum second."
> You seem to think that there is frumkiet and Lubavitch. In other words you
> are mainstream frumkiet and if a guy becomes a Lubavitcher he is something
> very different. When a guy goes to Or Sameach they make him into the
> Litvasher Derech. The minhagim, most important the haskafa etc. is that
===> In the case of -- at least -- *some* B"T Yeshivot, that is an
oversimplification. Also, the issue is not simply "hashkafos" -- but
actual conduct. In other words, if it is true that ChaBaD minahgim
*differ* from the "practices" of many -- possibly even *most* other
shomrei Torah, is it "proper" to point a person along such a path when
that person is not in a position to evaluate the matter "better". The
"practices" of most B"T Yeshivot are (I think!) fairly "normative" within
the "frum world". Thus, someone who goes to a B"T Yeshiva may get *some*
matters of conduct that are "machmir" or different... OTOH, someone
following ChaBaD practices is likely to be very much different from many
other segments of the Frum community.
> When I guy walks into my Chabad House I teach Yiddisihkiet. There is no
> question that on Shabbos I may give over a Sicha of the Rebbe, or answer his
> question with a Chassidesh perspective. And why shouldn't I, that is who I
> am, that is the Shitah that I have found for myself and value.The fact is
> that the ideas of Chassidus many times serve as a persons bridge to
> Yiddiskiet and learning. If the person is drawn to the ideas that is
> wonderful. If he finds his place somewhere else that is also fine.
===> Of course, you answer based upon where *you* are coming from. The
issue is how much you can "shape" the world-views of one who is ignorant
-- in particular as it relates to actual *conduct* and minhagim and not
> As for the rest of the frum world-which is pursing this argument of erev rav
> on this list-let it pick its bachurim and young couples and send them out to
> the places we live in and let us see how well they do. Its davka the
> Chassidus and teachings of the Rebbe that gives us the internal conviction
> to do this. I don't see Meir, Telz Lakewood or anyone else doing anything of
> the kind. Nor for that matter the MO world. I have been told more than once
> by senior members of the RCA and the OU that they cannot find couples to go
> to certain places where there is difficult chinuch etc.
====> I did not see anyone questioning the fact that ChaBaD demonstrates
tremendous mesiras nefesh in this area. Nor that the convctions of ChaBaD
are based upon Chassidus and the teachings of ChaBaD Rebbeim throughout
> Oh they will make a Colel in some large city. But I'm not talking about
> living in LA or Cleveland in the midst of the Pizza Shops, mikves and Shuls
> and maybe inviting a guy over to your house who has had a year hanging
> around my Chabad Center and is now dabbling in the Frum world. It is a lot
> easier after we did the hard work. Try moving to where there are no frum
> people. Start a minyan in your house, move to a storefront and finally
> establish something more permanent. Struggling day by day for parnassa.
> Driving your kids miles to see another frum child. And you worry that I
> might make a person a Lubavitcher, I might teach him a perek Tanya or tell
> him a story from the Rebbe Z"YA. Then in your mind he is not a regular
> frum Jew, but a Lubavitcher. I don't want to burst your bubble by
> Lubavitchers are frum Jews, all of them that I know do their best to keep
> the halachas of Shulchon Aruch.
====> As modified (or understood) by the Rebbeim/Poskim of ChaBaD -- whcih
may differ in certian areas significantly from the practices of other frum
> Dovid Eliezrie
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Date: Mon, 04 Jan 1999 17:18:23 +0000 (GMT)
From: Michael Frankel <FRANKEL@hq.dswa.mil>
Subject: Mo'etzes - 2nd Request, Graetz
1. This is my second request to listmembers for info re the composition of the
Aguda's Mo'etzes Gidolei Torah. How many? What is the current membership? and
who/how is the appointive power? (I've been told recently that the novominsker
- R. Perlow shlito- was current head but that's all the data I have) I had,
perhaps naively, assumed that this would be pretty common knowledge, at least
to those plugged into Agudist or JO circles (i've assumed one need not be a
card carrying party comrade to read the JO, though no doubt it helps. i also
assumed that this information might be made available at regular intervals in
the JO) Since, they used to tell me back in camp A, Agudah's positions are a
direct expression of the rotzone of these gidolei torah (actually the way it
was put was that Agudah followed the gidolei torah, not these gidolei torah - a
very considerable distinction, entirely intended), I would think that this
over-riding authority and direct guidance ascribed to the Mo'etzes would be,
for Agudists, a natural consequence of their respect for, and deference to, the
outstanding individual personalities who comprise its membership. Which would
imply that you knew who they were. So again, especially directed to the
JO-circle fellow travelers amongst us, who are they? or are my suppositions
all quite wrong and you guys and others don't actually know?
2. Since the last round of Graetz bashing I finally got around to re-reading
his description of the RYE**2 controversy and i'm afraid H. Maryles is only
half wrong, or half right, or whatever. While Graetz's treatment of
RYEibeschutz could indeed be characterized in the highly negative terms HM
employed, not so with respect to RYEmden, who comes in for very little, if any,
criticism. Indeed, Graetz's violent antipathy towards anything smacking of
mystical/qabbolistic stuff if anything made him partial to R. Emden who
questioned the simple traditional ascription of R.SBY zohar authorship (i infer
that some readers might insist on inserting a R"L at the end of that phrase.
:-), implicitly undermining ancient authority for mystical pursuit. Now i
hasten to add that the edition i own and checked is the six volume english
version "Popular History of the Jews" rather than the longer original
Geschichte, which might perhaps contain additional negative material on this
BTW - I'm still interested in that yeitiv leiv citation if anyone knows it.
Mechy Frankel firstname.lastname@example.org
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Date: Mon, 4 Jan 1999 12:31:39 EST
Subject: Re: justifying leah
In a message dated 1/4/99 11:08:50 AM EST, EDTeitz@aol.com writes:
> Torah does not refer to Esav as the b'chor,
See 27:19, (see also 27:37 and Rashi there).
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Date: Mon, 4 Jan 1999 12:31:42 EST
Subject: Re: Addendum to Forks2, Halacha Section
In a message dated 1/3/99 11:17:52 PM EST, email@example.com
> R' Yehoshua of Neshchiz, in his old age, was no longer able to eat plain
> matzo, so he ate gebrokts. Nevertheless, he distributed shirayim from the
> gebrokts to all those assembled - despite the fact that they, of course,
> were makpid on gebrokts (Ta'amei HaMinhagim p. 221).
That may shed light on the permissibility of cooking Gebrokts on Erev Shabbos
with Heter Eiruv Tavshilin for Shabbos Achron Shel Pessach.
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Date: Mon, 4 Jan 1999 12:58:28 EST
Subject: Re: Avodah V2 #105
In a message dated 1/4/99 12:10:24 PM EST, weissz@IDT.NET writes:
> ===> In the case of -- at least -- *some* B"T Yeshivot, that is an
> oversimplification. Also, the issue is not simply "hashkafos" -- but
> actual conduct. In other words, if it is true that ChaBaD minahgim
> *differ* from the "practices" of many -- possibly even *most* other
> shomrei Torah, is it "proper" to point a person along such a path when
> that person is not in a position to evaluate the matter "better". The
> "practices" of most B"T Yeshivot are (I think!) fairly "normative" within
> the "frum world". Thus, someone who goes to a B"T Yeshiva may get *some*
> matters of conduct that are "machmir" or different... OTOH, someone
> following ChaBaD practices is likely to be very much different from many
> other segments of the Frum community.
WRT Minhogei ChaBaD vs. others there is not that much diffrence then say other
Chasidishe Kreizin vs. Litvishe, as such the *practacies* are fairly
If one is permitted to not tell someone that his parents wore Rabbeinu Taam,
and didn't wear Tfilin on Chol Hamoeid, and said Haleil Btzibur pessach night,
then Lubavitch would be permitted not to tell him minhogim (or even issues of
Halacha Ukdli'l) that would make him uneasy in the frum environment this BT
will be in.
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Date: Mon, 4 Jan 1999 12:59:13 -0500 (EST)
From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@IDT.NET>
Subject: Re: Avodah V2 #106
> From: "Jonathan J. Baker" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Subject: Re: Chasidim/Mitnagdim
> From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@IDT.NET>
> > ===> No, it is NOT a different discussion. Minhag Avos is VERY important.
> > There is a MAJOR difference if a person carefully chooses to "become
> > chassidishe" and adopt chassidishe minhagim (and even then, I think that
> > there may be inyanim of neder involved) as opposed to a Tinok shenishba
> > who does not know any better. This is a simple matter of imtellectual
> Are we rehashing the old 18th-century vikuchim? This was a big arguments
> against the chasidim: that they replaced the customs of their fathers with
> strange new ones regarding prayer, shechitah, and other issues.
===> No. I am NOT questioning the correctness of the "new" minhagim,
themselves. I *am* questioning the *correctness* of "passing it on" to
people who are unable to appreciate the original minhagim and make an
> Speaking of quotes, and to what they refer: I saw one in Haamek Davar
> Bereshit 27:(7?), discussing the material-welfare bracha meant for Esav
> due him for being a baal chesed, which guaranteed a reward in this world.
> He dropped a line in that "bchol dor yesh apikorsim baalei chesed" or
> Could he have been referring to the Chasidim and/or the Reform? Was the
> Netziv known for any antipathy to Chasidut?
====> I think that he was referring to the Reform. The Netziv was "known"
for being worried about Am Yisrael splitting over "religious issues". If
anyone can locate it, there is a Teshuva from the Netziv that discusses
this at some length....
> From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <email@example.com>
> Subject: Erev Rav & Tinok She'Nishba
> On Fri, 1 Jan 1999, Zvi Weiss wrote:
> > ===> I do not understand the Kal VaChomer here. One who is not a shomer
> > mitzva can be a Tinok shenishba and need not have ANY of the middos
> > ra'os identified.
> This requires opening a new thread. The concept of tinok she'nishba
> pertaining to non-Orthodox, to the best of my knowledge - while something
> I subscribe to personally - is a relatively recent "chiddush." I believe
> the Chofetz Chayim and Chazon Ish were the chief promulgators of this
> perspective in Misnagdic Orthodoxy. I am not sure where you will find this
> idea elsewhere, i.e., in Chassidus (beyond, of course, the non-mainstream
> :-) ).
===> again, since the "villain" was always described in terms of
*character traits*, I do not see why we have to only think that this is a
"new concept". I *think* that historically (with the exception of those
who could nto stand up to pressure -- such as the Marranos) most people
who became non-frum were ALSO "mordim" as described.. However, if you
find someone NOT like that, It is not clear that there is any sort of Kal
> > ===> Only if you can show that the "tzioni" in particular is in that
> > type of rebellion -- otherwise, all the Eida is doing is circularly
> > justifying its sin'a. At best, I can see this applied to those in
> > meretz and hadash who are doing their best to introduce non-frumkeit
> > into the State under the guise of "pluralism" and/or "freedom".
> I am, of course, not interested in defending the Eida Chareidis. However,
> again to play devil's advocate, they do not, to the best of my
> understanding, believe in the tinok she'nishba concept relevant to
====> since it is -- obviously -- easier to legitimize one's hatred,
> Date: Sat, 2 Jan 1999 11:40:58 -0800
> From: "Dovid Eliezrie" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Subject: Kiruv, Minhagim, et. al
> "I would like to know where you received your stats... Maybe it is
> because I was in contact with people who have been "mekurav" through NCSY
> that I have a different perspective. But, I can recognize the value of
> any group engaged in kiruv without the sort of self-congrats that seems to
> follow above. In truth, how many B"T that are mekurav via ChaBaD actually
> GO to non-ChaBaD Yeshivot? If you could answer that, it would help to
> understand how "exclusive" ChaBaD actually may be..."
> I do not have any actual stats. My statement is based on over twenty years
> in the field and my personal observations.
> First you must understand that most we deal with do not go on to Yeshiva.
> Most Chabad Centers are located in communities where we work with families.
> They come to our Shuls, attend Adult Educationa, clebrate the holidays etc.
> We educate the kids, some we are lucky to go to day schools and Yeshivas
> others to our Hebrew Schools. We work with the families, some become frum.
> Most mover closer to observance.
===> I think that you raise an item that is a bit different. You are
describing the phenomena of "evolving" Shemirat Hamitzvot. In such a
context, the issues of "minhag" are (to me) a lot less critical since
everyone is concerned (as you correctly describe) with *survival.
> For instance on Friday I visited two families to put up Mezuzas. In one home
> I tried to get the mother to move her child from the non orthodox day school
> that has almost no Torah to our day school. In the other I spoke to the
> second mother about moving her kids from the Reform Hebrew School to our
> Hebrew School. The issue here is not minhagim its Jewish survival and
> assimilation. Most families are three four generations removed from
> observance. Its trying to save family by family. It is hard work.
> On the other side every Schliach B"H sends people to Yeshivas. I had a boy
> I sent to Israel a year or so ago in my house Shabbos, he is Machon Meir in
> Jerusalem. One of regular Minyan members, whose wife this Shabbos went to
> the Conservative Temple where she "lains" on occasion has a daughter we sent
> to Stern, but she spends many weekends in Crown Heights.
> I never went into the Yeshivas and did a total but I think my information is
> correct. Most Baalie Teshuva have had involvement with Lubavitch.I would say
> that easily fifty percent of the young Baali Teshuva go to programs other
> that ours.
===> Obviously, this will depend upon how the "evolution" is nurtured.
> The families who start coming to our Shuls move step by step to Shmiras
> Hamitzvos. If they become really frum they have a tendency to move into LA
> I am in a suburb in Orange County) where there are more Frum people. What
===> I think that the reason for this move relates to what we are
discussing. As those people evolve in their shemiras hamitzvos, they also
want to "find themselves" -- which they can do more easily when there are
more frum people around.
> is revolutionary is we are out there in neighborhood after neighborhood and
> we are competing head on with the Conservative and Reform for people. The
> fact that someone will come to us and not them is shift in the modern Jewish
> community. In our neighborhood there is a Conservative Temple. While we are
> finishing construction of a new building they are still in an office park.
> Five miles away are two Reform Temples and a bit further two more
> conservative. Still we are competing head on with these other places.
> The area that we are weak in is where NCSY excels is high school programs.
===> Indeed. and, then many of these same people "reached" through NCSY
go on to "reach" yet other people.
> We do not do mixed groups at that age. When your groups don't include boys
> and girls most non frum are not to interested in you. We are much better in
> the below teen, families, adult education, and college students.
> As for sending kids on. How many NCSYers go to Chabad Yeshivas. I think we
> might be an bit more opened minded than they are ?
===> In the case of NCSY, the real question would be: How many kids *of
ChaBaD background* do they send to ChaBaD yeshivot? Your formulation is
not quite fair.
> Dovid Eliezrie
> From: C1A1Brown@aol.com
> Subject: GM'Ch shelo lishma for an Akum - Netziv
> The Netziv (50:7) writes that although the servents of Pharoah escorted
> Ya'akov's body to burial only out of respect for Yosef's position, not out of
> kavod hameis, this was still a kiyum of gemilus chessed, as with all other
> mitzvos done shelo lishma. A few problems: (1) regarding tzedakah it is
> mashma BB daf 10b that there is no kiyum for an akum if done she'lo lishma,
> e.g. haomer sela zu l'tzedaka al minas sheyechye b'ni is a kiyum only for a
> yisrael. (2) There is a difference between lishma and kavanah. Even if a
> mitzva counts shelo lishma, still mitzvos tzrichos kavanah. (3) Is there any
> mitzva for a B"N to do gemilus chessed? Does a B"N need kavanah to fufill a
==> I am not sure that this is considered part of the Mitzva of Tzedaka.
Note that it is described as *Gemillus Chesed*.
The Netziv is pretty explicit in other places that Gemillus chesed is part
of the "norm" for the entire world -- Not just for Jews. He cites Olam
Chesed Yibaneh. He discusses the sin of S'dom. And, he *contrasts* the
Chesed that Yisrael does with the chesed done by Umos Ha'olam.
> (Perhaps the mitzva of GM"Ch is different as Chovos HaLevavos writes all good
> is ultimately motivated by personal gain - thus having personal benefit in
> mind is not really a shelo lishma in this case.)
> - -Chaim
> From: Yzkd@aol.com
> Subject: Re: Outreach
> Just for clarification,
> Is it the custom of the Litvishe that when they are Mkareiv someone that comes
> from chassidishe Upshtam to tell him and encourage him to follow the Minhag of
> his parents regarding cutting of beard and Peios, Tzitzitz on the outside,
> Davening with a Gartel, going to Mikveh Erev Shabbos, etc.
====> Are you referring to the Mihag of the *parents* (or their immediate
ancestors) or to the "Upshtam", in general? My *impression* (at least for
NCSY) is that they are most concerned that the person not "move too fast"
and then decide to "chuck it all".
> Kol Tuv
> Yitzchok Zirkind
> From: Daniel Eidensohn <email@example.com>
> Subject: Re: Outreach
> Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer wrote:
> > On Sat, 2 Jan 1999 firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
> > > Kindly look at T'shuvos V'Hanhagos by Rav Moshe Shterbuch, Vol. 1, Siman
> > > 354. He discusses the issue of Ba'alei T'Shuva and their ancestors'
> > > minhagim. He records a machlokes poskim on the issue, but his last
> > > words there clearly read that the ones who brought him back to the
> > > derech are to be considered to be his "avos"
> > >
> > What is R' Sternbuch's basis for this stunning chiddush?
> The basis for this "stunning chiddush" is Rav Sternbuch's simple sevora that
> if you want to keep a recent bal tshuva stable and healthy - he needs to fit
> into the surroundings which provide him with his major support. Thus if a
> person does not have direct experience in his family of any minhag - to make
> him look and act differently than his present frum environment is a solid
> recipe to destroy his yiddishkeit.
===> sorry -- that "simple sevora" is not so simple to me. There are
ways of "providing support" -- some that follow minhag avos and some that
may not. Also, the "present frum environment" may not emphasize ANY
minahgim because it is a bit like a "merkaz klita" with people coming in
who have no background.
OTOH, if we *do* gently guide a person to minhag avos, that may be
tremendously supportive if this person should be fortunate enough to
finally meet other relatives who ARE frum. Having a different set of
minhagim (esp. in the case of ChaBaD where some are *markedly* different)
could also be disorienting and unsettling.
Without having seen the material, it would make more sense to say that the
one responsible for "bringing the B"T back" is the one who is like a
"father" BUT that "father" must exercise extreme caution and not simply
act as if the fellow has no *other* parents or background.
> I think the focus of this discussion has to be on the next phase. Once someone
> expresses a preference for another approach - is he actively discouraged. I
> don't think anyone has - so far - presented any evidence that people are
> being deliberately misled as to options or is being held on to when he or she
> would function better in a different environment. A friend in kiruv at one of
> the big name kiruv yeshivos here told me of a case where someone found out
> that he was from a chassidishe background (several generations before) - had
> no interest in being a chassid but wanted to put on his tefillin in accord
> with his family tradition. The rosh yeshiva discouraged it - that it would
> make him stand out too much and reduce chances for a shidduch - since he would
> be perceived as half chassid half litvak ie. confused. The decision was based
> on the danger being different would bring about - not because of an anti
> chassidic bias..
===> Actually, this was NOT "anti-chassdic bias" at all. The Rosh Yeshiva
seems to be saying that one is not supposed to "pick and choose" minhagim
like that. TO choose just one "family minhag" and ignore others does not
seem so proper either. OTOH, I note that the R"Y apparently only
"discouraged" the matter because of shidduch concerns.. implying that if
this guy really got his act together and STILL wanted to do the "famliy
Tefillin" stuff, then the R"Y may have acquieced....
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Date: Mon, 04 Jan 1999 13:07:50 -0500
From: David Glasner <DGLASNER@FTC.GOV>
Subject: Avodah V2 #104 -Reply
> shocked and appalled that you would attribute it to me. Can't you see
> that I am trying to take what the Torah tells us about the Avot
> seriously and am trying to understand for myself what the Torah is
> trying to tell us? It is very nice to just sit back and say oh well
> Chazal said this was fine and that was okay and the Rishonim didn't make
> a fuss, so who am I to ask questions. But if I don't understand, I will
> continue to raise issues that I think are worth discussing. If you can
> point me to places where these issues have been addressed, I will be
> most grateful. I certainly make no claims to b'kius
I don't accept your humility.
As RM Frankel has pointed out, you are the Dor Shevi'i (and have a fair
mastery of the Dor Revi'i)
Time out. I allow my friend Mechy a certain license on this appelation based
on deep personal affection and regard. However, I don't think that I can
allow the term Dor Shevi'i (especially with a definite article) to enter into
common usage, at least in reference to myself for reasons that I think should
be obvious. Time in
and are a significant scholar. In previous
Avos-Bashing discussions, others have pointed out Midrashim and Chazals,
and you have, for the most part, dismissed them - generally because of
fealty to what you perceive the text itself tells us. I see no reason to
believe you will not to the same here and now.
Well, what can I say? My position about Midrashim and Chazals is that, if
they have not been assimilated into the corpus of halachah l'ma'aseh, I am
not bound to accept them as "controlling legal authority." So when I look at
the Chumash and the M'forshim I try to understand what they say, but if I see
a difficulty in the Chumash that they have not addressed or that they have
addressed in a way that I, lowly creature that I am, troubled by, I am prepared
to entertain other alternatives in a provisional way. So if you, or someone
else can show me how to interpret the text or the M'forshim in a way that
resolves my difficulty, I am delighted to reconsider. As far as I can tell, this
does not involve a repudiation of any of the thirteen prinicples of Maimonides,
in fact, it doesn't even come close to doing so, so I remain puzzled by the
vehemence of the response. What you are dismissing as (false) humility is
simply my acknowledgment of the obvious, that I have not read, much less
mastered, all the relevant Midrashim and M'forshim. You are right, however,
that I did not make any commitment in advance to accept some proffered
Midrash or M'forash if it does not address to my satisfaction the particular
difficulty that I have identified. That may sound arrogant as if I am claiming
some degree of superiority over Chazal. To which I reply chas v'sholom. We
know that Chazal, for all their greatness, were human beings and that they
could make mistakes and that they disagreed with each other frequently on
matters of interpretation. We are also told that the Torah has 70 aspects,
which I interpret as a lower bound. Precisely because there is no single
official interpretation of the Torah, except in connection with halachah
l'ma'aseh where Sanhedrin/Chazal choose a particular reading of the text as
"controlling" (and even here we know that another Sanhedrin could change
the halachah based on an alternative interpretation of the relevant text) I see
no reason why anyone may not, with proper humility and a clear conscience,
offer an alternative interpretation to those offered by standard M'forshim and
Let me repeat once again that the particular issue I was addressing is how
we are to evaluate a mental reservation as extenuation for telling a
faslehood. My question is not directed some much at Jacob's conduct as at
why Chazal thought that by parsing the words "anochi eisav b'chorecha" in
a way different from the way that Isaac understood them and the way that
Jacob intended for Isaac to understand them, they had mitigated the moral
blameworthiness of the falsehood. I suggested (in passing) that the Torah
itself had implicitly passed judgment on Jacob's conduct by the details of the
subsequent narrative. I repeat this is a point that had been made before on
this list in connection with an article published in a volume edited by
Professor Carmy whose posting on Avos Bashing you had cited with
approval. Since the point passed without triggering any outraged responses,
I assumed that this interepretation of the Biblical narrative was not treif. But
the issue I was seeking to discuss is how mental reservations that are used
as a means of perpetrating a geneivat da'at mitigate the blame for the
geneivat da'at that was in fact perpetrated, which seems to be the underlying
assumption of the Midrashim and M'forshim that offer alternative syntactical
readings of "anochi eisav b'chorecha."
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Date: Mon, 04 Jan 1999 13:11:28 -0500
From: David Glasner <DGLASNER@FTC.GOV>
Subject: Avodah V2 #104 -Reply
Zvi Weiss wrote:
> Sorreee! Even I as the unwilling representative of the Bash the Avos
> on this list could not conceive of such an obscene equation and I am
> shocked and appalled that you would attribute it to me. Can't you see that
> am trying to take what the Torah tells us about the Avot seriously and am
> trying to understand for myself what the Torah is trying to tell us?
===> Actually, I did *not* see that at all! The poster did not simply
say: "I do not understand something..." On the contrary, there was an
entire firmulation of the "wrong" that Yaakov had done and how he was
repeatedly punished for that wrong!
As I have already noted, when I suggested that the Torah itself indicates a
certain disapproval of Yaakov's deception of his father because Yaakov was
subsequently the repeated victim of the deception of others, I did not feel
that I was making an observation that would be viewed as controversial on
this list, because the same point had been made previously without eliciting
> It is very
> nice to just sit back and say oh well Chazal said this was fine and that
> was okay and the Rishonim didn't make a fuss, so who am I to ask
> questions. But if I don't understand, I will continue to raise issues
> that I think
===> But, before "making a fuss", why not try to figure out WHY the
Rishonim are not bothered by these matters. In other words, try to think:
what must have been going on when a Rishon learned this parsha....
Okay, I admit it. I was lazy and I was, in my own way, inviting others to help
me out. Thank you for helping.
> You do not address my basic question, which is why is the moral
> blameworthiness (which you acknowledge, though you believe it justified
> extenuating circumstances) of Jacob's deception of his father is in any way
> mitigated by the mental reservation postulated by the Midrash. I am
> by these hidden mental reservations that somehow are supposed to make
> permissible what would otherwise be a lie. The Midrash uses it to absolve
> Jacob from blame and a similar mental reservation is the linchpin of
Clinton's> defense (I hate to keep bringing him into this) but how is the
> mitigated by resort to a mental reservation?
===> I see no indication from the Midrash that the "mental reservation" is
what made anything permitted. Yaakov acted as he had to because he was
ordered by his mother. Yet, even when he *had* to say something deceptive
(and this is described as a tremendous "nisayon" for Yaakov because it
goes against ALL of his being which is one of "emes") -- he tried to do so
in as "un-sheker" a way as possible, if you will. The point of the
Midrash to me is that even at *this time* Yaakov struggled to somehow
minimize the sheker... It would seem to me that you "over-invested" this
midrash -- especially as various commentaries ALL mention that there WAS
deception here (cf Netziv, RSRH, etc.)
I find your suggestion attractive, but it doesn't seem to be borne out by some
of the M'farshim like Or Ha-Hayim and the Gur Aryeh (both cited by Elie
Ginsparg) which seem to me to suggest that Jacob could not have received
the blessings based on a sheker and that the mental reservation was a
necessary condition for his receiving the blessings. But I am prepared to
entertain the possibility of disagreement with M'phorshim of their stature. See
below for a further substantive comment.
> Whether it is p'shat in the pasuk or not, I will not dispute now. My
> main point
> is that if Jacob really replied to his father's direct question about
> who he was
> with a statement that, in the context, he knew and intended for his father to
> interpret in a false way when he, because of a mental reservation, could
> interpret in a different way, I don't see how the moral blameworthiness of his
> conduct is any way less than if he had responded with a straightforward,
> unambiguous (honest) lie. That is the question to which I am seeking a
===> Again, the "moral blameworthiness" seems to be much more
upon the fact that he listened to his Mother. I owuld point out that I
beleive there are midrashim that when Yaakov was called forward so that
Yitzchak could feel him, he was terrified and G-d sent Malachim to help
Yaakov move forward... Obviously, this had the "highest degree" of
approval regardless of the fact that there was a deception involved (note
the midrash that the "scent of Gan Eden" entered with Yaakov. And, the
Netzivpoints out that afterwards, Yitzchak gave Yaakov a "Yasher
Koach"for performing the deception... As noted above, the ambiguous
because (I think) of Yaakov's OWN struggles...
I agree that one can solve the riddle by saying that Jacob was following
orders and so no blame attaches to him. But if so, why did Jacob have to
resort to a mental reservation? Your answer, which strikes me as a hidush, is
that the mental reservation was unnecessary, but that Jacob found it
psychologically easier to tell a lie in such a way that he could rationalize it to
himself as being truthful. If that is the interpretation, I don't think that it is as
favorable to Jacob as you do, because to me it suggests that Jacob was
deceiving himself in thinking that his mental reservation made his response to
his father any less untruthful than it was.
> And as I already noted, I am not suggesting a comparison between them. I
> am questioning the use of a mental reservation as a way of escaping blame
> for lieing.
====> then it should not have been mentioned.
No, I disagree. By doing so, I was underscoring the issue of why a hidden
mental reservation could somehow transform what would otherwise be a lie
into something not quite so bad. I am afraid that I'm starting to get fatigued at
this point and I hope that you won't mind if I don't respond further since the
original focus of my posting was on the mental reservation issue not on the
extent to which the Biblical account can be interpreted as an implicit
judgment on Jacob's culpability for the deception that he perpretrated. But I
do very much appreciate your careful response to my posting and I am sorry
for causing discomfort.
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