Avodah Mailing List

Volume 03 : Number 141

Wednesday, July 28 1999

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 10:18:51 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Jonathan J. Baker" <jjbaker@panix.com>
Re: Allegorization

RYGB continues to maintain that the Rambam did not support allegorization.
What about Moreh II:47, which states in part,

You must explain passages not quoted by me by those which I have quoted
in this chapter. Employ your reason, and you will be able to discern what
is said allegorically, figuratively, or hyperbolically, and what is meant
literally, exactly according to the original meaning of the words.  You
will then understand all prophecies, learn and retain rational principles
of faith, pleasing in the eyes of God who is most pleased with truth, and
most displeased with falsehood; your mind and heart will not be so perplexed
as to believe or accept as law what is untrue or improbable, whilst the Law
is perfectly true when properly understood...If you adopt this method, you
will not imagine the existence of things which God has not created, or
accept principles which might partly lead to atheism or to a corruption
of your notions of God so as to ascribe to Him corporeality, attributes,
or emotions, as has been shown by us, nor will you believe that the words
of the prophets are false; for the cause of this disease is ignorance
of what we have explained.

<end quote>

Contrary to the chapter-heading in the table of contents, this principle
applies equally to passages in the Torah as to passages in the Nach,
judging by the examples he gives (Shmot, Yechezkel, Yishayahu, Tehillim).

Conceivably, the extent of the Flood could be dismissed as hyperbole -
it might have been just the Medterranean basin, which was the whole
world they knew at the time - no need to mention the Americas.

    Jonathan Baker     |  D"T: 10ths are serious, 15ths are happy: 10 Tvt, 9
    jjbaker@panix.com  |  Av, Y"K; but all Y"T's are 15ths; 15 Shvt; 15 Av.

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 09:20:12 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Re: allegory

I will be brief.

On Wed, 28 Jul 1999 meir_shinnar@smtplink.mssm.edu wrote:

(Stuff about R' Kook's opinion deleted).

R' Kook never read the pesukim this way. I am sure he would stand
thunderstruck by the way his words have been misused. This is a misfortune
R' Kook has frequently had to undergo, and it is happening here again.
> Again, it is implicit in the Rambam;s discussion of pi haaton.  It was
> claimed that nevua is different, but I see the distinctions made as
> dahuk.  Because of rational considerations, Rambam says that the psukim
> do not mean what they cloarly say, in spite of ein mikra yotze mide
> pshuto (If I would say that the flood happened in a prophetic dream of
> Noah, (with all the enhanced reality that the discussion on avoda
> emphasized that prophetic dreams have), would that have been different? 
> After all, the flood ends with a nevua to Noah about the lack of future
> floods.... 

Yes, it is most certainly different. I must add, you make a mockery
of Chazals - dozens of them - that took the Mabul as a point of reference
for Halachic diiscussions, such as that we recently had in RH.

> Rav Bechhofer disagrees vehemently with this understanding, and requires
> explicit proof of the Rambam (and other rishonim) accepting a particular
> allegory.  I think that this is a misunderstanding of the Rambam's
> shita, but further discussion of this is fruitless. However, the self
> understanding of those who allegorize is that of being solidly based in
> the Rambam, and supported by the reading of at least one major acharon. 

How this can be considered "solid basis" boggles my mind.

The Conservative Halachists believed they had solid basis for saying that
internal combustion engines are not considered to fall within the category
of hava'ara on Shabbos. I consider this similar.

In any event: One's belief that a text says something that one wants it
to say is perhaps sufficient for personal faith, but then one should keep
it to one's person, and not try to lead others in such a questionable

> 2)ein dorshin b'ma'aseh breshit should imply that we just say we do not
> understand.  ein dorshin was previously understood (I think properly) on
> this group to mean that it implies that the simple understanding of the
> psukim is not necessarily correct, and opens the door for nonliteral
> interpretations.  Just as for the first perek of ma'ashe breshit most do
> not take ein dorshin to imply that we should just say we do not
> understand, so too for Noah.  It does not endorse a particular
> interpretation, but expands the interpretations available. 

The word "derash" means to expound. "Ein dorshin" means one may not
expound. Allegorization is expounding in the extreme.

This is the third time, already, R' Meir, in this post, that you seek to
impose your interpretations on isolated passages that the overwhelming
majority of readers through the ages (Well. R' Kook is not ages ago, let's
say. in his case, decades) have read otherwise - at the same time ignoring
all the proofs from the vast majority of Chazals, Rishonim and Acharonim
that are adamantly and unequivocally in opposition to your position.

The rest of the post does not require response from me, as motivation is
subjective, and science, as I have said, in my opiinion, irrelevant.

I wonder about the last line: That there are far more important issues in
Avodas Hashem. I am not sure about this. But I am interested in hearing
what you think they are, and discussing them. Perhaps you might raise them
here and get the ball rolling.


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: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 09:43:24 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Re: Allegorization

On Wed, 28 Jul 1999, Jonathan J. Baker wrote:

> RYGB continues to maintain that the Rambam did not support allegorization.
> What about Moreh II:47, which states in part,


I thank RJJB for bringing to my attention proof positive of my
understanding of the Rambam's position of which I was unaware.

The Rambam begins by noting that there are passages in which dibra Torah
lashon havai, as we noted yesterday, and that all nevuos contain mesholim,
as we all know.

And then he goes on explicitly to say tthat this is not true of passages
such as that which describes the height of Og Melech ha'Bashan! What an
ideal opportunity to allegorize - yet the Rambam takes pains and feels
constrained to explain how this passage is literally true!

It is evident from the Rambam that he holds that narritive portions of the
Torah (not idioms or nevu'os, as above) are true as written. Period.


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: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 09:44:42 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Re: Mezuzah books

R' Twerski, to whom this note is cc'd, has a very nice pamphlet on the
topic. I do not know if it is still in print.

On Wed, 28 Jul 1999, Joshua Cypess wrote:

> Hi all,
> Does anyone know any good books (or articles) out there about the mitzvah
> of Mezuzah that would be good for the under-educated?  
> E.g. If Rav Aryeh Kaplan zt'l has any work on the subject, or scholars of
> similar depth/breadth/respect for the reader.
> thanks,
> Josh Cypess


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: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 11:40:05 -0400 (EDT)
From: Shalom Carmy <carmy@ymail.yu.edu>
Tisha B'Av material

1. Rabbi JJ Schachter is producing a volume of Rav Soloveitchik's
presentations on Kinot.

2. In fact, there are congregations that have attempted to have the Rav's
Torah said over on Tisha B'Av. I am frequently invited to do so, on the
incorrect assumption that I was exposed to the original discourses. (On
the other hand, Tefilla is on the agenda year round!)

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 10:55:08 -0400
From: "Lawrence M. Reisman" <LMReisman@email.msn.com>
Re: Munkacs

YGB states that "For what it is worth, R' Teichthal, Em ha'Banim Semeicha
new ed. p. 98 claims the Munkatcher would have been chozer bo had he been
alive in 1944."
Highly unlikely.  Neither the Brisker Rov nor the Satmar Rebbe changed their
positions because of the war, and neither of them were as extreme as the
Munkatcher in their anti-Zionism.

Levi Reisman

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 12:30:57 -0400 (EDT)
From: micha@aishdas.org (Micha Berger)
Re: Kennedy Curse

Noach Witty commented on the 50 year lag on the middah-kinegged-middah of

Two comments:
1- Are we arguing this was an onesh or a k'lalah? The implication was that the
   curse would have the power of divrei tzaddikim even if the deaths were not
   earned. Which is why I earlier alluded to a problem with resolving k'lalah
   with tzidduk hadin.

2- The Ribbono shel olam waited far longer than that for K'lal Yisrael to do
   teshuvah at the end of bayis rishon. Perhaps this too is a measure of His


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 28-Jul-99: Revi'i, Eikev
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H O"Ch 345:14-20
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 14a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Melachim-I 10

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 12:33:37 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
More on the Rambam

I should note further on the Moreh that RJJB cited this morning, that here
the Rambam also presents us with his opinion that the yearts of the
individuals mentioned in Bereishis and Noach are actual lengths of time,
only that they were limited to the people mentioned. Were the Rambam to
have held of some notion of "para-hisotry" which is all "allegory", he
might have far more readily dismissed these verses than grappled with


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: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 13:53:53 -0400
From: "Michael Poppers" <MPoppers@kayescholer.com>
kiruv (was "allegory")

In V3#140, MShinnar wrote:
> Chana's post
about the work of kiruv organizations in England shows that the kiruv
organizations recognize that the position that science has not yet reached
understanding of torah is not one that increases kavod hatora (most do not
this as showing that tora is ki hi chochmatchem uvinatchem.le'eyne
Anyone involved in kiruv knows that this is a problem. <
WADR to others involved in kiruv, anyone involved in kiruv knows that one
can't generalize about whether or not this is a problem [for the ones we
are trying to be m'karaiv] any more than one could generalize about whether
or not it's a problem for the m'ka'ravim.  Specifically re the alleged
necessity to reconcile Torah with current scientific notions, some of both
groups will not feel the desire, while others of both groups (viz. the
"mamzer"-question poster quoted by MFeldman some issues ago) will not be
satisfied with the attempt.

All the best from
Michael Poppers =*= Elizabeth, NJ

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 21:06 +0200
From: BACKON@vms.huji.ac.il
Kuntrus DI SHEMAYA for Daf Yomi RH

Two weeks too late, I just came across a terrific aid for those struggling
with the current Daf Yomi in Rosh Hashana. It's a pamphlet entitled
Kuntrus DI SHEMAYA that explains in simple English/Hebrew the difficult
to understand astronomical concepts (orbits, conjunctions [molad] etc.).
Cost is less than $3.25.

It's published in Israel. Has it reached the USA ?


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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 15:30:54 -0400 (EDT)
From: micha@aishdas.org (Micha Berger)
Re: Kever Rachel - Is it real?

Unequivically yes.

Is it where Rachel Imeinu was actually buried? Yirmiyahu would seem to
indicate that Rachel's burial place would be NW of Yerushalayim, as does
the idea that she died upon entering Israel. Yoseif's anger at her not being
buried in Chevron implies that Chevron wasn't unthinkably far, though.

However, too many people have prayed in her zechus at that location to say the
location itself has no importance, and no connection to Rachel. (I guess you can
say semi-jokingly that the location has allegorical value as kever Rachel,
regardless of its historicity.)

I also don't appreciate the location being robbed of its emotional content for
purely theoretical intellectualist reasons. I'd have been happier being in
ignorance that any doubts existed.


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 28-Jul-99: Revi'i, Eikev
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H O"Ch 345:14-20
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 14a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Melachim-I 10

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 15:40:58 -0400 (EDT)
From: micha@aishdas.org (Micha Berger)
Re: Allegorization

I don't like the idea of allegorizing anything other than ma'aseh bireshis
and ma'aseh hamerkavah (given the understanding that declaring an event to
be binivuah isn't the same as saying it's not historical). That said...

The question isn't whether Chazal and the Rishonim understood the mabul to
be historical. It's whether they'd agree to the process: When scientific
evidence disagrees with the claims of the Torah, is assuming the naarative
is an allegory a valid approach to resolution? Since Chazal didn't face that
conflict WRT the mabul, citing that they actually held it was historical
may not be relevent.

Personally, I believe the answer to be that the methodology isn't valid. I
can't prove it, though. Yelling "slippery slope" proves the idea holds danger
-- not that it's incorrect.


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 28-Jul-99: Revi'i, Eikev
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H O"Ch 345:14-20
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 14a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Melachim-I 10

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 22:45:53 +0300
From: Hershel Ginsburg <ginzy@netvision.net.il>
R. Zevin on Army Service

Given the ongoing thread on Hesderniks vs. the (LOBT) "hareidi" view of
yeshiva learning and Army service, I thought many on this list might be
interested in a short article written many years ago by Rav Shlomo Yosef
Zevin on the question of en masse deferments for Yeshiva students.  An
English translation of the article appeared about 14 yeas ago in Tradition.
The article was omitted from the Artscroll collection of R.Zevin's writings
(I wonder why).

I have scanned the article and will gladly e-mail it (or FAX if need be) to
anyone for the asking.  Available file formats are:  PICT, TIFF
(compressed), JPEG, PCX, GIF, and Visioneer Paperport.  Smallest files are

If you want a copy, please send me an **OFFLIST** e-mail, and please be
sure to specify the file format you want.

If you can't handle image files or it is not sufficiently legible after
getting it, I will FAX the article to you.  Send me an e-mail (**OFFLIST**)
to that effect with your FAX number.  Since this is an international list,
please be sure to include your country code and area code, and delete any
numerical prefixes that are only used for calls inside your country.  And
please include mention of your geographical location.


                             Hershel Ginsburg, Ph.D.
              Licensed Patent Attorney and Biotechnology Consultant
                          P.O. Box 1058 / Rimon St. 27
                                  Efrat, 90435
              Phone: 972-2-993-8134        FAX: 972-2-993-8122
                         e-mail: ginzy@netvision.net.il

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 15:59:59 -0400 (EDT)
From: micha@aishdas.org (Micha Berger)
Re: Mitzvot Ma`asiyyot/What Moves Us

In v3n138, C' Eli Clark gives the following advice:
: Regarding mitzvot ma'asiyyot, I think RYGB's point is well taken,
: although I would ascribe the root cause of the problem to routinization.
:  For an Ashkenazic mitnaged, attending a Yemenite seder or hasidic
: hakafot ...
: Another aspect of many mitzvot ma'asiyot that weakens their emotional
: impact is formalization....

The problem with these two observations is that they run counter to what
halachah appears to indicate is the ideal. We aren't supposed to vary from
our own minhagim (my personal tendencies aside for the moment). Formalization,
such as finally insisting on Rashi over R' Tam tephillin instead of letting the
plurality persist, appears to be a normal function of p'sak.

Perhaps that's another element to my attachment to tzitzis. Because the process
of p'sak never concretized a single method for tying tzitzis with chulios (we
rely on the Rosh's opinion that chulios aren't required without techeiles) I
had the opportunity to choose the method that best fit my own havanos. Which
really boiled down to what best fit the Collected Writings of RSRH vol III.

:                       No doubt the popularity of "Carlebach minyanim"
: also derives in part from this.

I just want to stress the "in part". Music itself has power.

:                                                 The use of different
: boxes is, of course, an issue of interior decorating, not kiyyum
: ha-mitzvah.

The concept of hiddur mitzvah is real. If one is choosing the box to decorate
one's home, I'd agree. If one does it because it's a way of showing chibah for
the mitzvah, I don't.

:                               Many of the mitzvot ma'asiyyot, such as
: tefillin and arba minim seem fairly oblique in their symbolism.  While
: devotees of Aryeh Kaplan or others who dabble in nistarot may find
: depths of meaning in some of these mitzvot...

As would us Hirschian-wanna-bes -- without explicit mention of any nistaros.

Either way, it's not so much finding a single definitive reason as much as
making the effort to explore reasons. Just having a connection between "eitz
hadar - sheta'am eitzo upiryo shaveh" and the difference between the ideal and
real implied by "eitz p'ri" and "eitz oseh p'ri" gives me added inspiration
when I hold an esrog. The little bit by itself, without knowing the ta'am (pun
intended -- and probably relevent to understanding esrog) in its entirety.

I find the reverse issue. In many mitzvos bein adam lachaveiro (and some
lamakom's) the ta'am is obvious. There is nothing to explore or contemplate.


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 28-Jul-99: Revi'i, Eikev
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H O"Ch 345:14-20
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 14a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Melachim-I 10

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 17:07:10 -0400
From: richard_wolpoe@ibi.com

R Zvi Weiss:>>
===> There are two objections here.  first of all, ChaZaL did not simply
"believe in the flood", they described it as "supra-scientific"<<

And it's possible/likely that the flood phenomeninum was the result of such 
highly advanced technology that it is still undescriable and will still be 
undesribable for many generations to come.  Just as the Torah would have lacked 
words to desdribe  jet-plane - even though Hashem possessed that power - so too 
the Torah is lacking the means to communicate super-advanced technology.

So the flood might have been a historical event for which we lack the means to 
describe.  And therefore we can accept that it did happen, yet not take the 
specific descriptions as literal but perhaps metaphorical.  EG "kanfei neshorim"
might have been a device the Torah used to describe Jetplane flight in the the 
pre-jet era.  So too mabbul might refer to a tremendous upheaval with boiling 
water etc. being used to describe some yet unkwon phenonemenum?  On the lighter 
side, maybe Korach was swallowed by a black hole?1

Rich Wolpoe   

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 16:22:43 -0400
From: Michael.Frankel@dtra.mil
M'ol and Mul

Catching up on back issues i didn't notice that anyone had responded to
RYGB's inquiry on the form of m'ol vice the more usual mul in the first
posuq of sefer divorim. i am aware of two approaches to this issue. Which
one you might prefer probably also correlates with other things.

1. There is a midrashic (tanchumoh) exegesis, quoted by the maharam, which
deals with this - connecting the use of m'ol here with the act of miloh,
precisely as in the usage of m'ol"ing" the binei yisroel with the charvos
tzurim. the midrosh would then have yisroel meriting a qiriyas hayom because
of the merit of mitzvas miloh. 
2. The shift from mul to m'ol is caused by hebrew's tendency to
"dissimulate' similar sounding vowels too close together.  Thus the shift
here is actually caused by the proximity of following word "suf". This vowel
shift "rule", originally cited in Gesenius's classical hebrew grammar,
section 29w, was offered as an explanation for m'ol in divorim 1:1 by M.
Weinsomething of the hebrew u.- (though Gesenius only offers examples of
vowel shifts because of proximity within a single word) 

Mechy Frankel				W: (703) 325-1277
michael.frankel@dtra.mil		H: (301) 593-3949	

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 16:26:31 -0400
From: Michael.Frankel@dtra.mil
Avodah archive search?

Is there a way of doing either a keyword or author search of the avodah
archive?  one is occasionally told to check previous discussions of some
matter or other and occasionally one may actually want to do so.
Mechy Frankel 

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 16:31:56 -0400 (EDT)
From: micha@aishdas.org (Micha Berger)
Second vs. Third Person in B'rachos

Someone on soc.culture.jewish asked about the shift from 2nd to 3rd person in
many b'rachos. Every b'rachah begins "baruch *Ata* Hashem", and yet many
conclude "kidshanu bimitzvo*sav*" or "nasan lanu es Tora*so*".

People provided some ideas, but nothing with a makor, and nothing that really
satisfied me. Any thoughts?


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 28-Jul-99: Revi'i, Eikev
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H O"Ch 345:14-20
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 14a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Melachim-I 10

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 16:35:03 -0400 (EDT)
From: Eli Turkel <turkel@icase.edu>

The Fifteenth of Av celebrations are underway as religious and secular
Israelis, alike, celebrate this holiday of love, MA'ARIV reported.  Today,
scores of  people in Jerusalem join Kabbalists to pray for love

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 16:35:38 -0400 (EDT)
From: micha@aishdas.org (Micha Berger)
Re: Avodah Archive Search

There isn't really a good search engine. Using
http://www.aishdas.org/search.html and including "avodah" as a keyword for the
search is the closest I have. If anyone wants to volunteer...

HOWEVER, it won't distinguish between multiple posts in the same digest. So it
might pick up the name from one post, and a keyword from another.

Alternatively, http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/ix.html indexes by subject line and
user name. (That's why I harp on about keeping your subject lines meaningful.)
So, if you know the keyword is in the subject, you can search that page for it.


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 28-Jul-99: Revi'i, Eikev
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H O"Ch 345:14-20
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 14a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Melachim-I 10

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 13:44:10 -0700 (PDT)
From: Moshe Feldman <moshe_feldman@yahoo.com>
Re: T"T as intellectual experience

--- C1A1Brown@aol.com wrote:
> >>>I recently posted WRT learning, that I wonder how much of the
> attraction to
> learning -- and the excitement it generates -- is religious, and
> how much is
> inherent in intellectual persuits.  
<snip>> <<<
> See the comments of MaHaRaL at the end of ch. 7 of Nesiv HaTorah
> who makes 
> this point and learns that is pshat in the gemera that the churban
> was caused 
> bec. no birchas haTorah was recited - Torah was an intellectual
> experience, 
> not a religious one.

Clearly if talmud torah is *only* an intellectual experience, this
qualifies as "al azvam et torati."  However, if one studies Torah
because of the religious chiyuv but has intellectual pleasure as
well, I would think that this would fall into the classic chassidic
notion of elevating the material to become spiritual.  It's similar
to having pleasure from eating on Yom Tov.

Even if 99% of the pleasure from talmud torah is intellectual, so
long as the person is doing it as part of avodat hashem, I would
think that this falls under the rubric of mitoch shelo lishma ba
lishma, rather than al azvam et torati.

Kol tuv,
Do You Yahoo!?
Free instant messaging and more at http://messenger.yahoo.com

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Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 00:22:05 +0300
From: Hershel Ginsburg <ginzy@netvision.net.il>
Re: Avodah V3 #139: Beit Lechem

>Date: Tue, 27 Jul 1999 21:54:38 EDT
>From: Kenneth G Miller <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
>Subject: Re: Beit Lechem
>Most maps indicate that Beit Lechem is south of Yerushalyim. I understand
>that some people feel that the story of the galus to Bavel would be
>easier to understand if it were north of Yerushalayim instead. I have
>been very suprprised to hear that the city which most maps call "Beit
>Lechem" is not the same Beit Lechem as the one where Rachel Imenu is

a)  I did not say anything so unequivocal.  I said in effect "maybe" and
that some have questioned the location and have a basis for their question.
That does not prove them right or wrong or make them heretics (I hope).

b)  Beit Lechem is south of Yerushalayim, at least for the past several
hundreds of years, if not longer. There is no denying it.  I just checked a
map (assuming it's correct).  But there is also a Beit Lechem in the Galil,
and there is no denying that even if you weren't aware of its existance.
My **UNDERSTANDING** is that it has been there quite a long time, and it is
not an "artifact" of the modern Israeli state.  I don't have the time or
easy access to sources to track down the earliest reference to the town.

c)  The last time I checked, belief in the infallibility of maps didn't
make it into the Rambam's 13 Ikarim.  That present day maps indicate that
the city immediately south of Yeruhalalyim is true, but doesn't address the
question of which ancient location is the one where Rachel was buried.

d)  It is not uncommon in this part of the world for the same place name to
be used for several different places.  It happens in the US too.

>I think it is common knowledge that contemporary Bnei Brak was built from
>scratch in a location which was estimated to approximate the Bnei Brak of
>Rabbi Akiva. I had been under the impression that contemporary Beit
>Lechem was of an entirely different nature. I thought that Beit Lechem
>has been populated without interruption, from before the Avos and Imahos,
>through the early Christian days, until today.

a) Do you have a source for that?  And again, which Beit Lechem?  They are
not mutually exclusive.

b)  Assuming you take a literal understanding of the Midrash that describes
the Jews passing Kever Rachel on the way to Galut Bavel, a location in the
Galil makes more sense.

>Am I mistaken? Was today's Beit Lechem built at some point, based on where the
>old Beit LEchem was thought to be?
>How long has "Beit Lechem Haglili" been around? Why is *it's* name
>qualified while the southern one's is not? Is anyone worried that we'll
>someday find a "Yerushalyim Haglili" with the *real* Har Habayit? Or a
>"Chevron Haglili" with the *real* Machpela?

a) The location of Har Habayit has a lot stronger tradition (although the
Moslem Wakf insists that the "real" Har Habayit is somewhere near Shechem).
I recall that some ancient writings describe Jews being allowed to go up to
Har Habayit only once a year on Tish'ah B'av to mourn the destruction of
the Beit Hamikdash.   Also there is a lot of very solid archeolgical
evidence to boot (most notably massive Herodian structures, and many
physical items and features that match descriptions in Massechet Midot).
However there is a fair amount of controversy about the location of Kodesh
HaKodashim, as the physical evidence is somewhat contradictory.

b)  It is fairly certain that the reliability location of many important
sites is at best tenuous.  Antique maps are as much metaphor (if not more
so) as geography. Other sources are of doubtful value.  The source for the
location of a number of Kevarim (e.g., Kever Shmuel, Kever Yosef) are arab
sources which are historically relatively recent.  In some cases Crusaders
were known to threaten Arabs at sword point unless the Arab "revealed" the
location of the tomb of interest.  Needless to say, any site would do under
those circumstances.  Many locations of the graves of tana'im only were
"identified" in the 1500's (CE).  The journal of a Jewish medieval traveler
from Europe who specifically came to Eretz Yisra'el to daven at the graves
of Tzadikim does not mention many of the graves we take for granted today.

And a very questionable "identification process" continues to this day.  A
year or two ago, Israel TV carried an interview with someone who claims to
have identified the graves of Shimshon and his father Mano'ach. His
identification is based on his close reading of Sefer Shoftim which states
that Shimshon was buried next to his father between Tzor'ah and Eshta'ol.
So this enterprising gentleman scours the area between Tzor'ah and Eshta'ol
(I am sure he has identified these two location with great certainty), and
finds two tomb-like structures next to each other and proclaims them the
tomb of Shimshon and his father.

I suspect that some years from now, these tombs will become sites for
tefilot, that many will swear by miracles that happened to them as a result
of visitng the grave of Shimshon and his father, and that anyone who
questions their validity will be labelled an Apikores.

With regard to Ma'arat Hamachpelah, the current structure (which was built
as a mosque) was built on an older building from the time of Herod.  Indeed
the present building incorporated some of the massive Herodian stones into
its structure.  The building (both the Mosque and the Herodian structure)
is actually built over a cave (for which there is a closed entrance in the
floor of the present structure) which apparantly was used for burial.
There was a sealed door at the end of the cave.  The cave was last explored
shortly after the '67 war when Moshe Dayan (I think) sent an adventuresome
niece (or someother female relative who was small enough to fit through the
down the tight entrance) to check out the cave.  A facinating article about
this appeared in the Israeli weekly Makor Rishon about a year ago (+/-).

food for thought....


                             Hershel Ginsburg, Ph.D.
              Licensed Patent Attorney and Biotechnology Consultant
                          P.O. Box 1058 / Rimon St. 27
                                  Efrat, 90435
              Phone: 972-2-993-8134        FAX: 972-2-993-8122
                         e-mail: ginzy@netvision.net.il

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