Avodah Mailing List

Volume 05 : Number 113

Friday, September 1 2000

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 08:54:18 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Subject:
Re: Language and thought


On Wed, Aug 30, 2000 at 04:24:18PM +0000, sethm37@hotmail.com wrote:
:                                    the idea that language shapes our
: thoughts or, even more, determines our thoughts is known as the Whorfian
: hypothesis after its originator.)

I was trying to make a smaller claim than the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (SW).

There is a perennial debate as to whether the Jewish People is a nation,
a religion or an ethnic group. After all, yuchsin argues for the former,
while geirus argues for the latter. A simpler answer is just to suggest
that there is no English word for what the Jewish people are, because
westerners never needed one.

That's not to say that they necessarily percieve the whole subject
differently than they do, they just lack a word that is necessary for the
discussion that we may have. I am not asserting that they would struggle
with learning the word because their minds are organized differently.

IOW, my claim was about conscious world-view, not preconscious
perspective. What ideas are significant to the hashkafah, not what ideas
can be more easily formed.

:                                            Perhaps a more significant
: impediment to our ahava and yir'a of HQBH is the fact that we are used to
: thinking in our terms which are suitable for this world. The statements
: of the Rambam in Yesodei HaTorah indicate that even though it is hard,
: the more the person trains himself to think about the sublime, the better
: he will be able to draw close to Him and understand His glory.

Lahon hakodesh was composed by HKBH for communication with man. Perhaps
we should take lesson as to which distinctions we ought to think are
significant, and which are not. A distinction that requires multiple
words to describe is still thinkable (to repeat my argument against the
need for SW in this discussion), but the lack of jargon would indicate
unimportance.

This brings us back to our entrance in the discussion. The Rambam's words
in Yesodei haTorah aren't just descriptive, but prescriptive. He frames
the chiyuv of Ahavas Hashem in terms of an obligation to do this training.

The chiyuv is on the pe'ulah, but the desired kiyum is in the machshavah.

-mi

-- 
Micha Berger                 When you come to a place of darkness,
micha@aishdas.org            you do not chase out the darkness with a broom.
http://www.aishdas.org       You light a candle.
(973) 916-0287                  - R' Yekusiel Halbserstam of Klausenberg zt"l


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Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 09:17:23 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Subject:
Re: From "Shaarei Tshuvah"


On Wed, Aug 30, 2000 at 11:50:35AM +0000, Feldman, Mark wrote:
:> The first question that arises under such circumstances is, "Why me?".
:> RY advises that we're to realize that it was our sins that brought on
:> afflictions, and to use the moment to return to G-d (2).

: How does this square with "schar mitzvah b'hai alma leika"...

Even without the notion of onesh aveirah bihai alma, we still have
"kol di'avad Rachmana litav avad".

RY observes that man's natural reaction was "Why me?" IOW, there is a
natural connection between tzarah and introspection. We can say that
HKBH sends nisyonos in order to spur such introspection even without
insisting that there is avla involved.

The idea isn't RY's. Berachos 5a tells us that is a person faces tzaros,
he should look to see if he did any aveiros. If he doesn't find an aveirah
(Rashi: of a severity to warrant such severe tzaros) he should assume
it's for bitul Torah.

The Gra (Olilos Ephraim) connects the mention of bitul Torah to "shigegas
talmud olah zadon". Which is why bitul Torah can warrant severe tzaros.
The avlah isn't just in the bitul Torah, but in the things one didn't
do because of that ignorance.

Introspection is needed in two cases: if either the person is doing
something wrong, or if he isn't doing all that he capable of. LAD,
that's the point of the gemara.

If there were sichar mitzvos bihai alma, the latter situation would
never get the tav ("I'm doing this for your own good") of nisyonos.

-mi

-- 
Micha Berger                 When you come to a place of darkness,
micha@aishdas.org            you do not chase out the darkness with a broom.
http://www.aishdas.org       You light a candle.
(973) 916-0287                  - R' Yekusiel Halbserstam of Klausenberg zt"l


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Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 09:00:08 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Subject:
Re: From Shaarei Tshuvah


On Wed, Aug 30, 2000 at 06:16:20PM -0400, Feldman, Mark wrote:
: (Rabbi) Dr. David Berger, in his article about RambaN's view of hashgacha
: pratis (which he claimed was very close to that of the Rambam) distinguished
: between hashgacha of the individual and hashgacha over the Jewish people.
: The Jewish people is generally subject to hashgacha pratis (much of the
: Torah talks about what happens if the Jewish *people* will or will not
: observe the Torah) while individuals often are not.

The RambaM would have to hold this way for two reasons:

1- He holds that there is hashgachah minis over things for which there is
   no hashgachah p'ratis. Viewing Klal Yisrael as a collection of
   individuals, the min would consistantly get hashgachah.

2- Alternatively, we view Klal Yisrael as a entity in and of itself,
   beyond being just the some of the individuals. But lishitaso, tzaddikim
   earn hashgachah p'ratis. The tzibbur has the kedushah that warrants
   hashgachah p'ratis.

Perhaps we can add this idea to the notion of making a Mi Shebeirach as
a means of making a personal tzarah into one of the tzibbur.

But I wouldn't assume that Rabeinu Yonah necessarily holds this way. He
could hold that hashgachah p'ratis is universal.

-mi

-- 
Micha Berger                 When you come to a place of darkness,
micha@aishdas.org            you do not chase out the darkness with a broom.
http://www.aishdas.org       You light a candle.
(973) 916-0287                  - R' Yekusiel Halbserstam of Klausenberg zt"l


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Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 14:14:50 -0400 (EDT)
From: Kenneth Miller <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Subject:
Re: Language and thought


R' Micha Berger wrote:
> Of course when Sarah Imeinu asked Avraham what he was doing, Avraham had
> some way to phrase the answer. According to this theory, he utilized shem
> po'el. The idea is that to the avos, the answer would be what we think of as
> "I am a builder right now" not, "I am building".

From this perspective, we'd have to say that Sarah never really did ask
Avraham what he was doing, but rather she asked him what he was.

I say this not to nitpick, but as yet another example of how language and
thought are so very interdependent.


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Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 18:08:05 GMT
From: "" <sethm37@hotmail.com>
Subject:
Language and thought


On 30 Aug 2000 19:31:48 EDT David Finch wrote:
> The word "blue" might not really describe the distinct concept of the color 
> blue, but one cannot expect to explain blue -- either the word or the 
> concept -- to a blind man.  In this sense our reliance on language leaves 
> all of us blind to HaShem's ultimate reality.  By the practice of Torah we 
> can draw closer to it, but we'll never understand it if we have to rely on 
> anyone's "explanations," even the Rambam's.>

Very good. I think this is exactly what the Rambam means, since he
indicates that we can try to think about it, but we cannot say it in
words. IOW, the fact that we normally rely on language constrains our
thought, and the Rambam is clearly of the camp that there is thought
apart from language.

This also jibes with the Rambam's view that Hebrew (and all languages)
were not given by HQBH or any angels, but developed by man (cf. the
discussion of his idea of why Hebrew is lashon haqodesh by the Ramban
in parashas T'ruma, I believe).

Only one thing I would add to your statement "by the practice of Torah":
the Rambam would also emphasize the learning of Torah and contemplation
of Torah in the process of drawing closer to Him. I am sure you included
those in "the practice of Torah."

Seth Mandel


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Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 16:17:34 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Subject:
Re: Tefillos for non Cholim, (was Areivim: surgery update)


The following is from R' Frand's email for this week. It's the oft-given
answer referring to the request for osheir vichavod in the middle. But the
way he phrases it avoids making it sound like there's something assur about
material success.

-mi



:        ... the pasuk "Lest his heart become lifted above his brethren"
: serves as a counterbalance. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts
: absolutely. The Jewish Monarch must act like a king when he is in front of
: the people, but he is not allowed to let his heart get carried away. He must
: remember who he is and remember who the Only King [G-d] is.

: Rav Shlomo Kluger says that this is what is meant by the fact that the King
: writes two Torah scrolls for himself -- one with which he goes out and one
: which remains at home. When he goes out he has to wear the Torah of "You
: shall surely place upon yourselves a King" -- he must act like a King and
: instill awe like a King. But when he returns home and settles down into the
: privacy of his own abode, he must be aware of the Torah that is hidden away
: at home. That is the Torah of "Lest his heart be lifted above that of his
: brethren". The lesson is that power corrupts.

: In the prayer announcing Rosh Chodesh [the beginning of the new Jewish
: month] which we said last Shabbos, we ask at the beginning for "life that
: contains Fear of Heaven" and then again at the end we repeat a request for
: "a life containing Fear of Heaven". What is the reason for the repetition?
: The answer given by many is that immediately preceding the second request
: for Fear of Heaven is a request for a life of wealth and honor. When we earn
: a little money or receive a little honor -- all too often "Fear of Heaven"
: falls by the wayside.

: The first request is for the "Fear of Heaven" that everyone should have when
: they are humble. The second request for "Fear of Heaven" serves a different
: purpose: Even after we have earned some money or received honor, we must
: not forget the source of all of our wealth and honor.


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Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 21:31:32 EDT
From: DFinchPC@aol.com
Subject:
Re: Language and thought


In a message dated 8/31/2000 8:22:20am PDT, micha@aishdas.org writes:
> IOW, my claim was about conscious world-view, not preconscious
> perspective. What ideas are significant to the hashkafah, not what ideas
> can be more easily formed.

The *idea* that language signifies a "conscious world-view" is in itself a
language-embedded judgment (German, translated into English). The French
have another word for it that isn't quite the same; I am told that the
Chinese have several words for "world-view" that encapsulate thoughts
that are far more sophisticated than even the Germans could appreciate.

Judaism isn't about Weltanschauung. Neither is Hashkafah. They transcend
such devices, and cannot be explained through such devices, either --
in any language.

David Finch


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