Avodah Mailing List

Volume 04 : Number 330

Thursday, January 27 2000

< Previous Next >
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 13:22:50 -0600
From: "Yosef Gavriel and Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Fw: glatt

One of the members of Avodah (RAZZivotofsky) had on article on glatt in the
last Jewish Action. it can be accessed online at:


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

Go to top.

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 14:25:08 EST
From: TROMBAEDU@aol.com
Re: More on MM

In a message dated 1/26/00 12:01:55 PM Eastern Standard Time, 
eisenman@umich.edu writes:

<< So if nothing else, we should learn from him the importance of zehirus
 b'dvareinu, including the application of well-defined halachic
 terminology. >>

Halivai, and I include myself, of course.


Go to top.

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 14:29:42 -0500 (EST)
From: Shalom Carmy <carmy@ymail.yu.edu>
Re: Avodah V4 #325

> p. 111 (an excerpt from "Jerusalem"):
> The Israelites have a divine legislation: laws, commandments, injunctions
> and rules of conduct - instructions they received so they would know what
> G-d wants them to do in order to attain temporal and eternal happiness. In a
> miraculous and supranatural manner, Moses revealed to them these teachings
> and precepts; but he never handed down to them dogmas, doctrines about man's
> salvation, or general pricnciples of reason. the the eternal G-d reveals to
> us, as to anybody else, at all times through nature or in any other manner
> but never through the spoken or written word.

This means that the existence of G-d, immortality of the soul and the like
are proven by reason and do not require revelation. Clearly belief in
mattan Torah and everything connected to that, does require revelation. As
MM states, acceptance of revelation is rational because of the Kuzari's
argument. But the evidence for this belief is available to Jews, not to
many Gentiles.

By the way, MM's position is NOT Kantian or pseudo-Kantian, because Kant
held that the existence of G-d etc. cannot be established or refuted based
on pure reason. It does not address 19th century reality because it is
anchored philosophically in the 18th century.

Whether the Gentile's belief in certain truths is sufficient to
"salvation," depends on whether one follows the Rambam on this. As I have
already mentioned, MM suggested to R. Yaakov Emden that Rambam is a
shittat yahid, & Yaavetz disagreed with him. (Strangely enough, Yaavetz,
who was certainly a kannai, managed to carry on respectful correspondence
with MM without threatening him or screeching at him or rolling his
eyes, but...)

> pp. 113-114 (part of "Bonner's Palingenesis"):
> Does this mean that revelation is unnecessary? It does indeed - for those
> people who have never experienced such an event. The Supreme Being would
> most assuredly have revealed Himself to them had they been incapable of
> realizing the purpose of their existence without such revelation. he granted
> a revelation to the Israelites not because men, as men, could otherwise not
> attain salvation, but because He deemed it wise to bestow on this particular
> people some particular grace. All other nations on earth, Judaism teaches,
> can and actually should live by their natural lights and thereby attain
> salvation. It is this particular people alone to whom the Creator, for very
> definite reasons, revealed some special laws by which they are meant to
> live, be governed, and attain salvation.
> Since then, to be sure, this people has no longer been permitted to seek
> salvation by any other road other than the one delineated for them by G-d.
> And since then, this people has had to suffer patiently and in submission to
> the divine will whatever humiliation, oppresion, derision and persecution it
> encounters along the road, from which it must not swerve a single step. This
> burden, however, is not to be shouldered by anyone not born under Mosaic
> law. Anyone not charged by G-d with these difficult duties should live in
> accord with the law of nature, secure in the knowledge that man, as man, is
> innately capable of comprehending and fulfilling the demands of virtue,
> hence of attaining salvation.
> While the Israelite does not claim to be the only creature G-d selected for
> salvation, he feels he is the only one for whom there is no other way to
> attain this state...
> pp. 148-149 (To Abrham Wolf):

Same ideas as above, but written explicitly in response to a
Christian's missionizing.

To offer minimal historical context: Napoleon asked his "Sanhedrin,"
whether Jews could intermarry with non-Jews like good Frenchmen. They
"paskened" that Judaism could not bless such unions because the brakha
reads "k'dat Moshe ve-Yisrael," and that unfortunately excludes non-Jews.
We would regard such a response as bordering on the counterfeit. The Hatam
Sofer congratulated them on staving off the pressure...

> ...Neither modern nor ancinet Judaism has any real symbols of faith. Very
> few principles or doctrines have been laid down for us. Maimonides
> enumerates thirteen; Albo, however, limits their number to merely three
> without being considered a heretic by anyone.
> What has been prescribed for us are laws, customs, rules of conduct and
> ritual observances. We are free, however, with regard to doctrines Wherever
> there is a diffrence of opinion among the rabbis, any Jew, be he uneducated
> or learned, may agree with one another. For "these as well as these are the
> words of the living G-d," as the rabbis wisely say in such instances...
> Judaism means conformity with regard to ritual observance, and freedom where
> religious doctrine is concerned, except for a few basic principles on which
> all our teachers agreed, and without which the Jewish religion simply could
> not go on existing.

Aha! So there are a few basic principles that are necessary and agreed

Anyone who knows my work, in writing or orally, needs no reassurance that
I have no sympathy for the anti-intellectual view current in non-Orthodox
and semi-Orthodox circles, that Judaism has no required beliefs. I
regularly offer a full course (in the "general" philosophy department) in
which I devote much energy to refuting this outlook on both Jewish and
general philosophical grounds. To the extent that MM's formulations
influenced the liberal claim that "Judaism has no dogmas," he
deserves criticism. At the same time, to argue that Judaism does not place
the same weight as Christianity on detailed beliefs, hair-breadth
differences of precise dogmatic formulation by ecclesiastical bodies, for
which men are willing to kill each other-- this seems to be generally

Let me draw several lines of division:
1) Between the anti-intellectual orthoprax on the one side & those who
recognize that Judaism rests on a certain intellectual orientation. Here
MM stands on the same side of the line as R. Bechoffer and I.

2) Between those who recognize that a large part of the Torah's
intellectual baggage is distinctively connected to revelation on the one
side, and those who minimize the role of revelation, who "water it down,"
to use R. Bechoffer's phrase. Here R. Bechoffer and I are on one side of
the line, and Mendelssohn is on the other.

There are at least three legitimate bases to this last disagreement:

a) How one interprets the message of the Torah. This point does not
require elaboration;

b) How one interprets the philosophical atmosphere. MM believed that
unaided reason really could achieve a great deal; I don't. [If I recall
correctly this matter was discussed at great length, with both heat and
light, on this List last year.]

c) Practical considerations: MM, writing to a maskil of his time, says, in
effect: Yes, Judaism requires some beliefs, but not too many; especially
compared to Christianity. Yes, Judaism requires a few beliefs, but none
that contravene reason, like the Trinity. So you, as a maskil, should be
satisfied with Judaism; don't even think about converting to Christianity
and keeping your self-respect. While such watering down may help in the
short run, I and those who think like me, are convinced that this road
leads to ruin. Dogmatology may not play the same role for us that it
plays in the classical Churches, but it is a significant role and one we
don't have to apologize about.

Let me offer an analogy: Traditional Christianity glorifies self-sacrifice
and martyrdom. A Jewish thinker might very well insist that Judaism is
different: Yes, there are a few occasions where the Torah requires one to
be moser nefesh, but these are limited to truly major provocations like
avoda zara, murder, adultery, or anti-religious coercion etc. This is 100%
correct. And yet, such teaching can (and often does) lead to a watered
down conception of Jewish life, in which people's hearts are hardened
against any kind of radical sacrifice in the cause of Torah. (Teachers at
modern Orthodox high schools have told me that many students are simply
unable to accept the idea of mesirut nefesh, except, perhaps, for murder.)
In this situation it may be very important to teach, not that the Torah
minimizes occasions of self-sacrifice, by contrast wth Christianity, but,
to the contrary, that for the Jew love of G-d may override even our
legitimate love for life.

I know that many modern educators are inclined to condone a minimalist
view of belief, to tell a student for example that this or that ikkar
ha-emuna isn't really important as long as one keeps external halakha etc.
It is often painful for me to shut the door to that kind of compromise, to
see estrangement and even hurt replace the fantasy of imagined
intellectual solidarity. But such compromise is neither intellectually
acceptable nor, in the final analysis, effective.

It is because I consider normative belief to be an important element in
Judaism that I am loathe to excommunicate a Jew like MM. If even someone
like MM, who clearly wanted as unobtrusive a set of normative beliefs 
as possible, could not take this step; if even a Jew like MM took a very
hard line against early Bible criticism, despite the damage it caused to
his relation with other intellectuals-- how much more we, who, in many
respects, know better.

Notes: 1) I'd like to see where MM explicitly says that he's offering
certain interpretations to placate his Christian friends. I recall many
matters where this is clearly true, but not where he makes a big deal
about it.

2) The Noda b'Yehuda referred to in Torah uMadda Journal is new to me.

Go to top.

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 14:34:13 -0500
From: richard_wolpoe@ibi.com

Wrt to Eivo, it should be noted that German Rabbonim in general seemd to have 
greater deference to the memsholo than did their Esatern European counterparts 
and did not approve of wearing atallis gadol befarhesyo etc.

I can think of several other examples wherein German Jews did not like to rock 
the boat or make a scene with society.

Rich Wolpoe

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: Avodah V4 #326 
Author:  <avodah@aishdas.org> at tcpgate
Date:    1/26/2000 2:21 PM

In a message dated 1/26/00 10:18:35 AM Eastern Standard Time, 
Tobrr111@aol.com writes:

<<  Also, being that the halacha of Moser is one 
 of the most serious in all of Shulchan Aruch, we have to be very careful 
 it doesn't lead to going to authorities when not necessary. >>

Even though many hold that in the U.S., which is considered a government 
friendly to Jews, those Halachos may not be applied as strictly.


Go to top.

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 14:40:15 -0500
From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@juno.com>

Am I happy to know nothing whatever (until a day or so ago, anyway) about
him!  As RYZ says,  in different context,  ani es nafshi hitzalti.


Go to top.

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 11:39:01 PST
From: "aviva fee" <aviva613@hotmail.com>

Michael Frankel" <mechyfrankel@zdnetonebox.com wrote in V4 #329

For his final “source” RYGB cites R. Wein. I have not read R. Wein’s volume 
- though I once listened to every single one of his “history” tapes while 
driving back and forth to work over a period of some months – they were 
hilarious and not just for the intended jokes – some of which were pretty 
good, at least the first three times they cropped up. Suffice it to say that 
R. Wein is no historian

How do you jump to the assertion that Rabbi Berl Wein is not a historian?


Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com

Go to top.

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 14:42:57 EST
From: TROMBAEDU@aol.com
Re: Mendelssohn

In a message dated 1/26/00 2:23:27 PM Eastern Standard Time, 
sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu writes:

<< in both your and RSC's case implies that you are both superior in
 your knowledge to the EJ, Graetz and R' Wein collectively, >>

Actually, Graetz has long been considered out of date at best, and terribly 
biased in general. (Mechy, into the breach) Rabbi Wein, who is a big T'Ch, is 
not a terribly reliable source for History of ideas, and probably has about 
as much of an agenda on one side as Graetz does on the other.


Go to top.

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 14:47:14 EST
From: TROMBAEDU@aol.com
Re: Mendelssohn

In a message dated 1/26/00 2:39:24 PM Eastern Standard Time, 
aviva613@hotmail.com writes:

<< How do you jump to the assertion that Rabbi Berl Wein is not a historian?
Well, c'mon now.


Go to top.

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 14:48:01 -0500
From: gil.student@citicorp.com
Re: Chalav Yisrael

RR Wolpoe wrote:

>>Is the connection from the Rambam and the Pri Chadahs related to the fact 
that both were Sefardim?  There is greater chumro amonst sefardim with 
bishul akkum and this might be an extension of same, perhaps?>>

I was saying that the Pri Chadash and the Rambam are MEIKEL.  As someone 
pointed out in a private e-mail, R. Moshe Feinstein did not pasken like the 
Pri Chadash.  The Pri Chadash said that when there is no chashash of 
non-kosher milk there is no need for a mashgiach on the milk.  RMF said 
that the US govt. qualified as a mashgiach.  Big difference in theory but 
not in practice.

Go to top.

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 11:48:18 -0800 (PST)
From: Daniel Levine <daniel2121_99@yahoo.com>
Smoking Ban

This raises the fascinating and perplexing question of
why such an issur has never been issued before on a
communal basis (e.g., through the Moetzes).  

Although there may be conceptual pilpulim as to
whether smoking is technically assur (see Igros
Moshe), all would agree that it is extremely
dangerous, to say the very least.

If such an issur was issued when the Surgeon General
came out with his famous report years ago, thousands
of lives could have been saved.  Is this any less
important to the "Moetzes" than assuring the internet.

Given the control that Orthodox (or at least charedi)
rabbis have over their flock, this could have had
incredible life-saving potential.  Indeed, saving even
one life would have made it all worth it.  

(As a case in point of the potential effect of such an
issur, note (as HM pointed out last week) that social
taboos among the Orthodox have,  almost completely
eliminated incidences of tobacco use (at least
publicly) among Orthodox women.)

>A couple of weeks ago, there were some posts about
>smoking. I read in
>the Jerusalem Post this week that Maran HaRav Smuel
>Vosner (Wosner)
>Shlita Assured people from smoking. 
Do You Yahoo!?
Talk to your friends online with Yahoo! Messenger.

Go to top.

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 13:49:11 -0600
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Administrivia: Temporary list shut-down


The Avodah list has gotten overly heated, yielding little of value compared
to the cost. Judging from the number of DNAs and requests for DNAs that
I've been getting lately, others agree.

I have warned the chevrah of doing this in the past, but I think the time has
finally come. We could use a one week cooling off period. In a few minutes,
Avodah will not be accepting new submissions.

Enjoy the week. Spend more time with your family, chavrusos and friends. Get
caught up with work. Hopefully, I'll see a boom of articles from our chevrah
in the printed media in the coming month.


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 26-Jan-00: Revi'i, Yisro
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H 
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 105a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Melachim-II 14

Go to top.

Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000 14:19:49 -0600
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>

I give up on figuring out how to manually force a new digest. As it's
been 24 hours since the start of this digest, sending this email will
do the job.


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 27-Jan-00: Chamishi, Yisro
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H 
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 105b
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         

Go to top.


[ Distributed to the Avodah mailing list, digested version.                   ]
[ To post: mail to avodah@aishdas.org                                         ]
[ For back issues: mail "get avodah-digest vXX.nYYY" to majordomo@aishdas.org ]
[ or, the archive can be found at http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/              ]
[ For general requests: mail the word "help" to majordomo@aishdas.org         ]

< Previous Next >