Avodah Mailing List
Volume 03 : Number 148
Sunday, August 1 1999
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999 00:52:49 +0300
From: Daniel Eidensohn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: allegory-Supermarket Orthodoxy
> Chazal tell us that dancing is forbidden on Shabbos. Tosfos say, well, not
> today because things are different. The Aruch HaShulchan says, what we do
> isn't really dancing.
> What happened to the absolute following of every psak of Chazal?
You are setting up a straw man. Chazal establish the halacha but how it is
properly understood is up to the understanding of contemporary gedolim. An
ordinary talmid chachom is an adequate authority for selecting standard opinions
found in Shulchan Aruch or the rishonim etc. but when an apparent major change
is involved - a major talmid chachom is needed to validate it.
> No. What we do, and what halacha is, is OUR acceptance of Chazal. If a
> Sanhedrin were constituted today, it could overturn vast parts of what was
> already accepted. And how do we re-institute said Sanhedrin? But OUR
> accepting upon ourselves people as authoritative, by restarting s'micha. It
> is really all up to US. What we accept is what we follow.
The above incredible statement is simply not true. Semicha is not restarted by a
vote of the distinguished members of this discussion group nor of a telephone
survey of the members of the RCA or the Aguda. The Rambam (Sanhedrin 4:11) says
"It appears to me that if there were agreement of all the sages in Eretz Yisrael
to appoint judges and to give them smicha they would have smicha..." It is
reinstituted only by the agreement of all the *Sages* in Israel. Furthermore even
if we except your flattering evaluation of us as the Sages of Israel (or at least
those of us who live here in Israel) it still doesn't justify you conclusion. The
power to alter halacha is not in us but in the Sanhedrin which is created. Your
logic is that since I elect the President of the United States I therefore have
the same power and prerogatives as the President!?!
To reiterate my point made in a previous posting - If R' Spero had in fact
explained how his position was consistent with our mesora and if his arguments
were publicly accepted by someone viewed as a gadol - then I think we could all
acknowledge that such a position has some validity and needs to be seriously
considered. However, since he has done neither - your comparison to the halachic
understanding of dancing is not appropriate. Your description of the halachic
process is that of the Conservative movement where a vote of layman and rabbis
determines the status of halacha and hashkofa. Where do you see such a process
Go to top.
Date: Sat, 31 Jul 1999 23:54:54 EDT
Subject: Acceptance of Chazal - response to R' Teitz
>>>Chazal tell us that dancing is forbidden on Shabbos. Tosfos say, well,
today because things are different. The Aruch HaShulchan says, what we do
isn't really dancing. What happened to the absolute following of every psak
of Chazal? No. What we do, and what halacha is, is OUR acceptance of
False analogy. There is a difference between saying Chazal prohibited
circumstance X and not circumstance Y, and saying Chazal did prohibit X but
we have a right to dismiss their prohibition. Your conclusion does not
>>>If a Sanhedrin were constituted today, it could overturn vast parts of
already accepted. <<<
Wrong. The Mishna says that you need a B"D of greater chochma and minyan to
overturn a takkanah. The Kesef Mishne in Mamrim 2:1 writes that although
theoretically acc. to the Rambam a later Sanhedrin can rule against the
derasha or limud of a former Sanhedrin (not all Rishonim agree even with
this!) there is a kabbalah not to do so after the chasimas haTalmud. What do
you do with the sources?
>>> And how do we re-institute said Sanhedrin? But OUR accepting upon
ourselves people as authoritative, by restarting s'micha. It is really all
up to US.<<<
Wrong again. Smicha is transmitted ish m'pi ish from Moshe - its not an
election. The only historical attempt to revive smicha was based on the
Rambam;s chiddush that if all chachmei Eretz Yisrael agree to grant smicha to
a certain person it is valid. Aside from the question of whether the Rambam's
chiddush is correct (Rambam himself Sanhedrin 4:11 writes 'hadavar tzarich
hecreia''!), l'ma;aseh it was never acheived and remains a pragmatic
Go to top.
Date: Sun, 1 Aug 1999 12:14:17 +0200
From: "Stokar, Saul (MED)" <STOKASA@euromsx.gemse.fr>
If I have understood Rav Bechhofer's remarks in V3 #145 correctly, he is
opposed to "chidush" in allegorization (i.e. allegorizing narratives
portions of the Tanach that were understood literally by Chazal and
Rishonim) since such re-interpretation, even when stemming from hitherto
unconceived problems (e.g. inconsistency with contemporary scientific
paradigms unknown to earlier Sages) would imply
"that Chazal were no more certain about the Torah's truth then we
are. They only assumed it to be true because they were not enlightened by
science as we are. But they were wrong. Do you realize the meaning and
ramifications of such a perspective?! "
The logical extension of this position is that any interpretation of the
basic pshat of Tanach that Chazal could not have understood is a priori
unacceptable. In particular, I do not understand how this leaves room for
Prof. Schroeder's interpretation of the creation story (viz. the six days
are actually the approximately 15 billion years espoused by modern
scientific cosmology, when viewed in the rest frame of the expanding
universe), which Rav Bechhofer has cited earlier as "acceptable" (my phrase,
not RYGB's), although perhaps unnecessary (again, my paraphrase, of how I
understood RYGB). Indeed, in my opinion that is precisely one of the
problems with Prof. Schroeder's approach - it implies that nobody has ever
understood Bereishit properly since Matan Torah (forget the Rishonim, what
about Moshe Rabbenu), since they did not understand the General Theory of
Relativity! If we wish to maintain the validity of Prof. Schroeder's
approach we seem to have a number of options, including:
[a] Yes, general relativity is indeed an integral part of the
creation narrative. This would imply that there is a religous duty to learn
the general theory of relativity (yes, Micha, including tensor analysis!).
Of course, this is not a valid resolution of the problem, since we are
working under Rav Bechhofer's assumption that analyses without Chazalian
precedent are unacceptable.
[b] Chazal had foreknowledge of general relativity (again perhaps
"kashering" the study of tensor analysis, Micha). In fact, I was told as a
teenager in Yeshiva high school that Chazal has foreknowledge of all of
science and mathematics. Despite the fact that I have no problem believing
that the Prophets had foreknowledge of historical events (within the
parameters of Free Will), I find it hard to take this hypothesis seriously.
[c] The "general relativity" aspect of the creation story is of
minor importance and it is "ok" that Chazal didn't grasp this aspect since
it wasn't relevant for them. Even if we grant this (hard to do, since the 6
days seem quite central to the story), according to the philosophy expressed
by Rav Bechhofer, this answer seems unacceptable since it still means "we
know better than Chazal". After all, what's true vis a vis allegorization
should be true vis a vis all other types of parshanut. Thus we seem
inexorably led to the idea that an understanding of general relativity is
unnecessary for understanding the narrative. Indeed, I have often gotten the
impression from some people that explanations such as those of Prof.
Schroeder are in fact "unnecessary" for "shlomei emunei Yisrael" although
they are useful as tools to answer the doubts of others, especially
beginners to Orthodoxy (e.g. useful in Arachim or Discovery seminars). I am
not comfortable with this philosophy as it seems to sanction intellectual
In my opinion, the correct resolution of the above dilemma is to
reject parshanut which assumes that G-d wrote something in the Torah that
requires a late 20th century Ph.D. in physics to understand.
To raise another point in another direction, where is the "Rishonic"
precedent for the allegorization of Talmudic and Midrashic stories performed
by such luminaries as the GR"A, Maharsha and Maharal? Indeed, according to
Rav Bechhofer's thesis, is such precedent required for such texts, or is it
only required for Biblical texts? If the latter, why distinguish between
Go to top.
Date: Sun, 01 Aug 1999 23:19:03 +1000
From: SBA <email@example.com>
Subject: Munkacs: Tshuvo in Minchas Elozor and Krischners translation
Saul J Weinreb <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
>> I was always familiar with the vehemently anti-zionist
philosophy of the Minchas Elazar, but I was quite taken aback by
the teshuvah which Reb eli posted for us. I had never heard this
before...However, it is still shocking to hear those words coming
from a gadol beYisrael. >>>>
Daniel Eidensohn wrote:
>>>There is a major difference between the original excerpts
which indicates that he simply felt all the Jews who disagreed
with his position should be destroyed and the full tshuva in
which he expresses his great anguish....<<<
Thanks to R' D Eidensohn for being somewhat Matzdik
Hatzadik Demeikoro. This seems to be a classic case for
'Chachomim Hizharu B'divrechem'. There is a huge difference in
the words first posted by R' Eli Turkel (>> "The Agudah wanted
to have a fast day in the 1930s because of the worsening
situation in Germany. They requested various rabbis to join in
the proclamation of the fast. The rav from Munkacz refused on
the grounds that German Jewry deserved what was happening to
them as the overwhelming majority of German Jews were not
religious. He was sure that Nazism would not affect east
European jewry since they were religious !!!"< (which RET has
said is from the Robert Krischner translation) and the original
responsa in Minchas Elozor
It is obvious to anyone reading the Tshuvo in ME, the hurt and pain
the Munkatcher Rebbe felt ("mamesh nechlesi") for the suffering
of the German Jews - despite his sharp and unbending Kanous. I
respectfully suggest to those who have been following this thread
to take the time to read it.
However I am surprised that even RDE has not mentioned that
the truth is quite the OPPOSITE to RET's quote. The
Munkatcher Rebbe clearly states, that, notwithstanding his (well-
known) opinions on the entire spectrum of Jewish political
groups - which therefore does not allow him to add his signature
for an "international day of fasting" - and even though that
according to the Mogen Avrohom and Chasam Sofer, in such
situations a Taanis Tzibbur should not be called, and despite the
fact that most of the businesses suffering the Nazi boycott are
Mechallel Shabbos (and fasting for the removal of the boycott
could be seen as an approval of the Chillul Shabbos),
nevertheless every rav should declare a fast in his town (''al ken
bevaday ro'ui ligzor taanis...kol rav b'iro''). These words are
quite the reverse to the original quote by RET.
Not having Krischner's book, I can't say if he censored the
Tshuvo or RET was simply overly-Mekatzer (which would bring
to mind the Pri Megodim's famous warning to rabbonim "V'al
Yoreh Mitoch Hakitzurim")
BTW, to literally translate the melitzos from Chazal (eg
"vehofchu es hakaaro kemahapechas s'dom v'amoro'") into
English (as Krischner does) simply doesn't work and does not do
justice to the original.
Finally, I am happy to fax a copy of the Tshuvo to those
Go to top.
Date: Sun, 1 Aug 1999 13:02:01 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: allegorization
On Sun, 1 Aug 1999, Stokar, Saul (MED) wrote:
> If I have understood Rav Bechhofer's remarks in V3 #145 correctly, he is
> opposed to "chidush" in allegorization (i.e. allegorizing narratives
> portions of the Tanach that were understood literally by Chazal and
> Rishonim) since such re-interpretation, even when stemming from hitherto
> unconceived problems (e.g. inconsistency with contemporary scientific
> paradigms unknown to earlier Sages) would imply
> "that Chazal were no more certain about the Torah's truth then we
> are. They only assumed it to be true because they were not enlightened
> by science as we are. But they were wrong. Do you realize the meaning
> and ramifications of such a perspective?! "
One caveat to reiterate: Allegory is only improper when it is used to
negate, undermine or replace pshat of a passage in Tanach that Chazal have
transmitted to us as true as written - as evinced by their regard of the
parasha in question. Allegory as a supplement to pshat is legitimate and
time-honored. It is the essence of Derash/Derush. It is when the darshan
supplants, rahter than supplements pshat with his derash that a probnlem
> The logical extension of this position is that any interpretation of the
> basic pshat of Tanach that Chazal could not have understood is a priori
> unacceptable. In particular, I do not understand how this leaves room
> for Prof. Schroeder's interpretation of the creation story (viz. the six
> days are actually the approximately 15 billion years espoused by modern
> scientific cosmology, when viewed in the rest frame of the expanding
> universe), which Rav Bechhofer has cited earlier as "acceptable" (my
> phrase, not RYGB's), although perhaps unnecessary (again, my paraphrase,
> of how I understood RYGB). Indeed, in my opinion that is precisely one
> of the problems with Prof. Schroeder's approach - it implies that nobody
> has ever understood Bereishit properly since Matan Torah (forget the
> Rishonim, what about Moshe Rabbenu), since they did not understand the
> General Theory of Relativity! If we wish to maintain the validity of
> Prof. Schroeder's approach we seem to have a number of options,
Chazal have not said anything that would negate Prof. Schroeder's
approach. New insights in pshat that do not negate Chazal's understanding
but enhance it have arisen in all generations. Note the Malbim as a major
step in this regard. As long as these are enhancements, not contradictions
or alternatives, there is no problem manifest (although, again, I am not
that comfortable with Prof. Schroeder'streatment of Day 6).
> beginners to Orthodoxy (e.g. useful in Arachim or Discovery seminars). I
> am not comfortable with this philosophy as it seems to sanction
> intellectual dishonesty.
> To raise another point in another direction, where is the
> "Rishonic" precedent for the allegorization of Talmudic and Midrashic
> stories performed by such luminaries as the GR"A, Maharsha and Maharal?
> Indeed, according to Rav Bechhofer's thesis, is such precedent required
> for such texts, or is it only required for Biblical texts? If the
> latter, why distinguish between these sources?
A most valid question. Sources off the top of my head in the Rishonim are
the Rashba and Ritva in the seventh perek of BB on the Agadata of Rabba
bar bar Chana, and the Rambasm in his Introduction to the Mishna. I
believe there is already Geonic material on the interpretation of Aggados
Chazal, but I do not recall offhand where.
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Cong. Bais Tefila, 3555 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL, 60659
Go to top.
Date: Sun, 1 Aug 1999 15:17:58 EDT
Subject: Re: allegorization
In a message dated 8/1/99 1:02:30 PM EST, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
> Chazal have not said anything that would negate Prof. Schroeder's
I have not read his approach (although I once heard parts of it, and IMHO it
is Mufrach), I would just point to the Chazal Chagiga 12a Midas Yom Umidas
> (although, again, I am not
> that comfortable with Prof. Schroeder'streatment of Day 6).
Again I haven't seen it, so all my questions (with many more) are out of
1) What support is there to make distinction between days 4,5,6.?
2) What is the meaning of 25 of Elul was the creation of the world? (I am
aware of the Shakloh Vtaryoh on this Vein Kan Mkoimoi).
3) Are all days divided equally? (what will be if science will "prove" that
one period of time was longer then the other)?
4) What is the meaning of "Nichnas Imoy Kchut Hasaaroh," or "Erev Shabbos
Go to top.
Date: Mon, 02 Aug 1999 00:53:16 +0300
From: Daniel Eidensohn <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: machlokes
Eli Turkel wrote:
> > Daniel Eidensohn writes
> > You seem to posit that any violent disputes lacking in respect are not
> > the result of a genuine Torah position - which means they were the
> > result either of psycho pathology or living in a more primitive culture
> > than we have to day. I have great difficulty with such an alternative
> > The fairly consistent historical data is that there have been a lot of
> > vehement disrespectful disputes. How do you explain this fact?
> I don't disagree with the facts as stated.
> My problem is that viewed from hindsight frequently the machlokes
> caused more problems than the problem they were meant to cure.
> I hope is that we would learn from history that frequently the cure
> of vehement disrespectful disputes, of book burning, of cherems, etc
> is worse than the disease. This is especially true since in most cases
> the cure does not even remove the disease. Thus, after the fights
> the two sides continued their ways. These fights rarely convinced
> anyone to change their ways.
I think you are greatly oversimplifying the issue of disputes. There are
definitely dangers and harm that can come from fights - but there are also
severe dangers from not defending what you consider sacred. My statistics
professor once asked, "How do you know whether the results of an experiment are
meaningful". We of course answered that if is less than 1 chance out of a
hundred that the results could have occurred by chance than they are
meaningful. He said "Wrong. Something is meaningful only if you are willing to
risk you money or your job on it." Similarly - Torah has meaning not only
because it is Torah but because we are willing to sacrifice for it.
I was once bothered by the statement of the Shaarei Tshuva 482:2. Two people
are in jail during Pesach with a single kazayis of Matzoh tossed in to them.
The halacha is that they must fight for that kazayis. The Shaarei Tshuva says
this is the paradigm for Avodas HaShem as we see with Yaakov & Eisav and Boaz.
I asked Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach - why can't they just be nice and let the
other guy have the Kazayis. He smiled his famous smile and said, "If you aren't
willing to fight for the Mitzva that shows you don't care about it. It is an
insult to the Mitzva."
What would you do differently if you are faced with what you view as a threat
to yiddishkeit. 1) Refuse to fight for your view because you know that fighting
is frequently not productive 2) Insist that eilu v'eilu means that everyone's
view is of the same value so that all positions are equally valid and therefore
always agree with someone who is combative? 3) Fight for your views half
heartedly so that you maintain good relations with your opponents - and the
other side always wins? 4) fight for what you consider right but feel guilty
about it since you know this is the wrong way to resolve disputes?
In sum. You seem to be asserting that pacifism is the best approach. I
don't think pacifism is a Jewish concept. I think that the issue is closer to
what Yeshaya told Chezkiayu (Berachos 10a). Chezkiyahu knew with Ruach HaKodesh
that his children would be bums. So he decided not to have any. Yeshaya told
him it was none of his business that his children would be bums - he had an
obligation to have children. As punishment he was to lose his life and his Olam
HaBah. G-d's message is that one must do the best he can. If a gadol decides
that a particular view can not be tolerated than he must react - even if he
realizes that it might be destructive. There are fights that could have been
handled better - at least with the benefit of hindsight. But I don't think we
can simply dismiss the many disputes of gedolei Torah with the attitude that we
know better and wonder when they are going to get their act together. Without
the willingness to fight for what is right - nothing really has any importance.
Go to top.
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