Avodah Mailing List

Volume 06 : Number 128

Friday, February 16 2001

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 14 Feb 2001 23:48:23 -0500
From: "Feldman, Mark" <MFeldman@CM-P.COM>
Aishdas Melaveh Malkah scheduled for March 10

The first ever Aishdas Melaveh Malkah will occur on Motzei Shabbos, March 10
(the Motzei Shabbos immediately after Purim).  It will be held in Hillside,
NJ (right near Elizabeth), which is one half hour from Manhattan and
Brooklyn (right over the Goethals Bridge from Staten Island).

For details, contact Moshe Feldman.

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Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2001 20:13:42 EST
From: C1A1Brown@aol.com
Derech Analysis

1) R' Shimon/Telz - Abstract principle - rov only works if it leads to a 
definitive resolution.   In the meat case, no rov independently can resolve 
the status of the meat to be kosher.  In the B"D case, the status of a 
court's decision must by be based on legal principle, so it is the rov which 
defines that principle which is the focus.  Or alternatively, we just look at 
any rov that resolves the status of the court's decision.  (R' Shimon - 
boiling issue to an abstract essential principle from which the distinctions 

2) Brisk - there are 2 dinim in rov.  Rov can define a cheftza (e.g. rubo 
k'kulo) or rov can define a hanhagas hagavra (rov b'ilos achar hba'al).  The 
rov of the meat case is a rov of hanhagas hagavra - can the person eat the 
meat?  The rov of B"D tries to define the chalos shem B"D on the psak as a 
cheftza.  (Brisk= categorization into types, no attempt to explain why the 
different categories of rov work differently).

3) Hungarian or Polish (I made the attempt, but I profess ignorance at these 
darchei limud!) - we find (Nida 2) that you can be metzaref chazakos, e.g. 
chezkas hagavra being mitztaref with the chezkas mikva.  We do not find a 
similar device to be mitztaref rov.  By the meat the two potential issurim 
join together for a double potential chezkas issur,  which you cannot combine 
rovs to defeat.  By the B"D case there is at best one chezkas mamon.  (Pilpul 
- using external ideas and applying them to this case).

4) Heichi timtza - the case of B"D (acc. to the shita that we follow rov) is 
only in an ukimta where there is no opposing chezkas mamon.  (Classical 
achronim - limit the chiddush to a specific ukimta/factor.  I haven't checked 
the Noda b"yehudah inside to know if this really holds water!).

5) R' Naftali Trop (or R" Chaim Telzer, as described by YGB) - yesh lachkor 
in the case of the meat is the pshat that the rov is not machria anything, or 
is the pshat that the rov is machria the issur neveila/treifa, but since 
whichever issur which is left immediatly kicks in we haven't accomplished 
anything?  If we hold like the former, than in the B"D case rov won't be 
machria either, but if we hold like the second tzad then by B"D where there 
is no issur to remove the rov it is left standing.  (Chakira - analysis of a 
structure into multiple schema).


-Chaim B.

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Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 03:54:48 -0000
From: "Sholem Berger" <sholemberger@hotmail.com>
Re: Vos iz der Chilluk?: #1

Since I normally lurk, I figure I can safely disappear again if my answer
makes no sense...here's running it up the flagpole to see who salutes.

> So, in the case of the [10 stores, 3 of which sell Neveila meat, another 3
> of which sell Treifa meat, and 4 of which sell Kosher meat], the Poskim
> are of uniform opinion: Follow the Majority l'Issur; in the case of the
> Dayanim, there is room for machlokes amongst the Poskim whether we follow
> the majority or the minority.

> Voss Iz Der Chilluk?

Der chilluk iz -- whether different issurim can be summed. In the case of
meat, the relevant issurim all share one property: i.e., they are issurim
relevant to the consumption of meat. However, different dayanishe minds at
times identify different issues entirely, even in the same din-toyre, so
that the issurim found by different dayanim are not necessarily summable.
Why are they not summable? Either because the reasons for a dayan's decision
are more multi-dimensional than the meat-related issurim, or because the
shivim panim-betorah are more likely to be reflected in manifold fashion in
human differences of opinion.

>What Derech have you used to resolve that Chilluk?

Well, this depends on if I actually succeeded. What I was trying to do was
to resolve meat-related issurim and issurim based on dayanishe cognition to
their different essences.

>(Now let us see if this Chaburah actually gets off the ground!)

Probably with someone else's attempt!

Sholem Berger

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Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 10:53:02 +0100
From: Eli Turkel <Eli.Turkel@kvab.be>
RE: Hachono for Derech Analysis / Voss Iz Der Chilluk?

> There are several obvious reasons why both the kushya and teirutz are
> Poilish. The extent to which you are bewildered how such a kushya
> "hoibtech ohn" indicates how brainwashed you really are by our Litvishe
> yeshiva system!

Though I am from a Galicianer background I still don't understand the
Can you please elaborate on the question/answer and being Polish!
On the other hand I believe that the Minchas Chinuch and Tchebiner Rov and
other gedolim were also Galicianers.

Eli Turkel

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Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 09:05:21 +0200
From: "S. Goldstein" <goldstin@netvision.net.il>
hungarian approach

by issur, if it is not mutar, we cannot eat it. therefore opposite
reasons combine to say don't eat.

by din, we need to know who is right. different reasons, where each reason
is suspect of being false, cannot convince us that one side is correct.

Shlomo Goldstein

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Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 09:14:11 -0500
From: Gil.Student@citicorp.com
Re: Voss Iz Der Chilluk? #1: MC vol. 1 p. 101

RYGB wrote:
> So, in the case of the stores, the Poskim are of uniform opinion: Follow the 
> Majority l'Issur; in the case of the Dayanim, there is room for machlokes 
> amongst the Poskim whether we follow the majority or the minority.
> Why?
From the Brisker point of view, this is easy because it was the subject
of Reb Chaim's bar mitzvah derashah. According to RCS, neveilah and
tereifah are manifestations of the same chalos issur - an animal that is
not shechted properly. This is also why the Rambam paskened that neveilah
and tereifah can be mitztaref to a shiur of kazayis. I've seen this in
a number of places, but Reshimos Shiurim to Shevuos 24a is the only one
that comes to mind right now.

Gil Student

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Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2001 21:11:29 EST
From: C1A1Brown@aol.com
Derech halimud - in machshava

Why stop at darchai halimud of gemara?  I thought apropos of the avodah list
we could maybe come up with a map of darchei halimud of hashkafa.  So here is
a first try, by no means an exhaustive one, and comments and criticism
welcome.  Rather than give a pithy one line summary (which I had difficulty
coming up with for each approach below), I thought an example from the parsha
might be a good way to do this:

We find that BN"Y accep the Torah by gladly saying na'aseh v'nishma, but
Chazal tell us that they had to be coerced, kafah aleihem har k'gigis.  What
is the hesber?

1) MaHaRaL - antithisis/bifurcation.  The Torah in essence is necessity
(hechraich), not an optional idea (ratzon).  Though the BN"Y expressed their
will in accepting the Torah, it had to be given through force to demonstrate
this. (Classification into opposing categories chomer/tzurah, nivdal/nidbak
which define relationships)

2) R' Dessler- the nekudas habechira was raised to the point that there
really was no choice. (Mussar built on mystical/chassidic development of

3) Sefas Emes - the chitzoniyus of BN"Y had to be coerced, but b'pnimiyus
halev there was a nekudah of Shabbos/Torah sheb'al peh which was willing to
accept the Torah with love.

4) Polisher chassidus (Noam Elimelech v'talmidav) - the two ideas represent
two derachim of avodas hatzaddikim....

5) Chabad - there are two nefashos, one which accepts the Torah b'lev shalem,
one which must be coerced.  The two are in battle in the beinoni.

6) Slabodka - How can it be that the Torah expects us to learn from kabbalas
haTorah when the avodah there was through coercion and we are not coerced?
Elah, it must be that man has the potential madreiga where he sees the yad
Hashem so clearly that his avodah is k'ilu forced even today, if we only
strive for it.

7) Navardok - Even after rising to the heights of saying na'aseh v'nishma
still man remained basar v'dam and if not for a kafah aleihem har k'gigis...

8) Rambam (Moreh) - na'aseh v'nishma was an abanadonment of the rational side
of man's nature and thus there had to be the insurance of kafah aleihem hahar.

9) Derashos HaRan - Aderaba - the abandonment of the rational is the highest
level of avodah as the Ramban taught us, but lest man fall prey to his
rational side kabbalas haTorah was followed up with coercion.

10 ) Rav Kook - there exists two functions of law, one as a force of the Ein
Sof which coerces man to be  good, the other as a mystical ideal whivch man
himself can strive to.

11) R' Tzaddok - Torah shebichtav must come as a result of abandoning
cheshek, ratzon, and machshava b'bechinas nukva, but Torah sheb'al Peh must
involve man to reunite the sefiros of malchus and kesser.

Good Shabbos!
-Chaim B.

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Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 10:58:47 +0100
From: Eli Turkel <Eli.Turkel@kvab.be>
RE: Chevras Anshei Luz - Luzzites (not luddites)

> The story  about the town of Luz is well known (about how it's
> inhabitants were meticulously honest, which had the effect of preventing
> the malach hamoves from being able to take their souls).

This reminds me of a question I had when learning this in daf yomi.
The gemara says that when they got old and sick they would leave the town
and die.
Why is this not the equivalent of suicide?
Does this have implications for a person in suffering to refuse to eat in
hospital to hasten his death.

Eli Turkel

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Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 14:57:48 -0000
From: "Seth Mandel" <sethm37@hotmail.com>
Hebrew in Ashkenaz and Modern Hebrew

Note: I posted this on Areivim, but it touches on issues I wanted to
raise on Avodah as well. With R. Micha's kind permission, I am posting
it here, with just one addition at the end, before I sign.

From: Phyllostac@aol.com
Subject: Hebrew in Ashkenaz - A language in exile - by Lewis Glinert
R. Mordechai: <Another thing I found quite interesting in (in chapter 13)
is that the author (Shelomo Morag) states that the Ashkenazim behind
the revival of Hebrew as a day to day spoken language (e.g. Eliezer
ben Yehuda) chose the (modified) Sephardic pronunciation instead of the
Ashkenazic pronunciation they grew up with, as part of their efforts to
distance themselves from the shtetl religious backgrounds they grew up
in and create a different type of Jew.>

I thought this was known to readers of the list; I have referred to
it briefly in the past. Shlomo Morag (actually an Ashkenaz: Mirkin
or Mirsky, IIRC, was his original name) is one of the greatest modern
scholars about the development of the different traditions of Hebrew and
its pronunciation; that is just for background, so that you should know
that he is a realiable source. But in this case, as I'm sure he would
be the first to admit, this is not his discovery.

As a matter of fact, it was well known way back when, but is one of
the many things (like grey hats and tzitzis inside the clothing) that
have been forgotten and denied by some people. (Of course, different
groups: the people denying the history of the modern Israeli Hebrew
pronunciation have nothing to do with the people denying the grey hats and
tzitzis inside. But you know us Jews: there are so many who hold certain
"truths" to be so self-evident they are willing to deny evidence to the
contrary. Why, there may even be some like that on this list <grin>).

The truth was that Eliezer ben Yehudah was an avowed enemy of all that
he perceived to be part of the shtetl mentality, including Torah. He
was an ardent secularist and socialist, and viewed the reinstitution of
spoken Hebrew as the language of the Jews in Israel, to which he devoted
his energies, as a means to the goal of breaking their relationship to
superstitious ideas, including Torah.

(Boy, were there stories about him in the Alter Yishuv. Many of them were
true, and he deserved them. When he first came to Israel he grew peyos
and a beard and dressed in black to blend in to the Alter Yishuv -- this
to a free-thinker who lived with his wife in Europe rather than marry her
because of his scorn for tradition! He hoped to gain the confidence of
the Jews in the Alter Yishuv in Yerushalayim and "convert" them. When
he failed, he immediately shaved and denounced them for the backward
ignoramuses they really were, in his opinion. The story in the Yishuv
(and I believe it is correct, I checked it once) was that he died on
Friday night as he was being m'hallel shabbos by writing entries to his
dictionary. Small stuff to us, but to the members of the Alter Yishuv,
the depths of depravity. I can testify that there were several prominent
members of the Alter Yishuv who refuse to call Rehov Ben Yehudah by its
name, and insist on describing the street they are talking about.)

Anyway, when Ben Yehudah set about convincing people to speak Hebrew
(rather than what had been used in Yerushalayim for hundreds of years:
Arabic, Ladino, and Yiddish, depending on where you came from), the
problem arose: what pronunciation to use. In the first few years, when the
disciples of Ben Yehuda started teaching spoken Hebrew in schools, there
was anarchy: each teacher used his/her preferred pronunciation. So in
the late 30's, a conference was held of Hebrew teachers to set standards.

The Ashkenaz pronunciation was of course posul: it was used by the
Zionists in the European Jewish culture from which they wanted to free
themselves (you must realize, of course, that because of the ideological
animus of these early Hebrew speakers toward Torah and Judaism, there
were no frum Mizrahi among them). Not being well acquainted with the
Teimani tradition, then, the obvious choice was Sefaradi pronunciation.

But alya v'qotz bah: all the Sefaradim pronounced 'ayin and.het and qof
and all sorts of other strange sounds. 'Tis true that some of the Hebrew
teachers had made efforts to learn the pronunciation of these sounds,
and some even adopted the pronunciation of soft vet like hard bet,
which is standard among most Sefaradim (e.g. the Egyptian family in
Boston that taught me to say Shabua' Tob after shabbos). But most of
the teachers (remember: Zionist socialists from Europe) found it too
much work to learn these new sounds. So they decided on a compromise:
the Sefaradi pronunciation of vowels and soft tav, and the Ashkenazi
consonants. No doubling, either, because Ashkenazim were not used to it.

Thus was born the Israeli pronunciation, which really should be
called Ashkefard or Sefanazi: a mixture of both. The uvular resh, the
lack of doubling of consonants, the lack of 'ayin,.het, qof,.tet, the
pronunciation of tzadi as ts, all from Ashkenaz. The vowels, with only
5 vowels: a, e, i, o, and u, from Sefaradi. The shva pronounced almost
like segol from Ashkenaz.

Linguists (who love to complain, as some of you may have noticed by now)
note that this Ashkefard pronunciation loses some of the best elements
of each tradition; even worse, it seems to have taken the worst features
of each. No longer is 'atta (now) distinguished from 'atta (you). Words
like kosav/katav (he wrote) and kattav (modern Hebrew for correspondent)
are now identical, even though they would have been distinguished
both by Ashkenazim and Sefaradim. Linguists also complain about this
pronunciation being called Sefaradi, when in truth it is as far from
Sefaradi as from Ashkenazi.

It was called Sefaradi by the Zionist immigrants because it was unlike
their native Ashkenaz pronunciation, just like European Jews called
the nusah of t'filla used by hasidim, which was a mixture of Ashkenaz
and Sefaradi (because the Ari's nusah was almost entirely Sefaradi),
"nusah sfard," even though it was as far from the Sefaradi nusah as
from Ashkenaz.

Real linguists call modern Hebrew and its pronunciation 'Abazit, roshei
tevos for 'Ivrit Bat Z'manenu. Not only is its pronuciation different,
its grammar and lexicon is as well. Ben Yehuda, of course, found the use
of Mishnaic Hebrew abhorrent: he wanted to use Biblical Hebrew, following
the idea of many maskilim that the Bible was from a period before Jews
were "corrupted" by "rabbinic" interpretations and rules (including in
their eyes mitzvos). So from Mishnaic "natal" he went back to Biblical
"laqah," which in L'shon Hazal mostly means to buy. But pure Biblical
Hebrew was too far from European languages in its grammar and syntax,
and so the conference decided against such pure Hebrew phenomenon
as vav hahippukh. Syntactically and grammatically, 'Abazit is really
Yiddish spoken with Hebrew words. (Homework exercise: take a couple
of psuqim from the T'NaKh, translate them into English, if necessary,
and then translate them into 'Abazit, i.e. modern Hebrew. You will see
differences in grammar, syntax, and lexicon. And there would be huge
differences in pronunciation, too, I can guarantee.)

Now is that enough belly aching from a linguist?

And here we have an exact parallel to the whole issue of the establishment
of the State of Israel, which has been discussed on this list many times.
It is unquestionably true that modern Hebrew was founded and developed
by enemies of Torah, just like most of the founders of the State were
enemies of Torah. On the other hand, HQB'H, in His infinite wisdom and
calculations that confound the simplistic ideas of man, has seen to it
that much good has come out of the fact that now all Jews can speak to
each other with one tongue and that the State exists. Far too complex
for me to figure out, at any rate. Anything with more factors than I
have thumbs confuses me. Blessed be He and His plans!

Lest people misunderstand, this is not meant to say that there is
something wrong with speaking modern Hebrew. Even if it is not a true
development of Hebrew historically, it is the language spoken in Israel,
and, as such, is no worse than any spoken language. When in Rome, as
they say, men darf reden Latin, as did Hazal. Is modern Hebrew any worse
than Latin? Has v'shalom, it at least has many many traces of true Loshon
haQodesh (like "psikhologia," "breiksim," "visherim" ;-)).

As a matter of fact, if Hebrew had been spoken continuously in Eretz
Yisroel to the present day, it probably would have ended up much like
Samaritan, at least for those who lived in Haifa, Shomron and the
Galil. Have any of you ever heard the way Samaritans read Hebrew? I
personally guarantee that you will have a very hard time understanding
a single word, and I know whereof I speak, for reasons that are not
relevant here.

All the best, kol tuv, alles gut, ma'a salaame, and viszontlátásra,
Seth Mandel

Ps. with true stories like this, Eliezer ben Yehuda growing peyos and a
beard, who needs made up stories? RYBS used to keep his audience laughing
and spellbound with his true stories, and never found it necessary to
tell over mayselakh, as he called them.

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Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2001 20:11:31 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: RYBS on Piutim of RH and YK

On Mon, Feb 12, 2001 at 08:50:16AM +0200, Carl and Adina Sherer wrote:
:> What's Pshat in "Lavda Ulishamra" (Breishis 2:15)?

: The Rav I heard it from didn't explain it. My guess is that "l'avda
: ul'shamra" was not existential for Adam HaRishon or that it was not a
: daily routine of having to get up every day and do something (he obviously
: did not have to physically tend to the Gan the way we go to work today).

Which is the motivation RSRH gives for the shitah I cited earlier, that
the point of li'avdah was to exercise chessed, and lishamrah is about


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Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2001 20:24:41 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Kaddish after aleinu

On Tue, Feb 13, 2001 at 08:25:49AM -0500, Joelirich@aol.com wrote:
: Did it ever bother you why that neshama didn't just ask R' Akiva to say
: kaddish for him? There must be something about the father son relationship
: or else why did he bother (unless the goal was to change the son as well!)

I can't explain how a child who never met his father can add to the zechus
of the father. In the usual case, we can consider the son's kaddish
to be evidence of the father's hashpa'ah -- and the zechus is of that
hashpa'ah. This allows tzidduk hadin, the person is being rewarded for
his own actions.

Perhaps in this case, the man is being rewarded for the act of appearing
to R' Akiva with the intent to be mashbi'ah his son. R' Akiva, though,
wouldn't be mushpah by the chalom to be even greater.


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 Halberstam of Klausenberg zt"l

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Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 13:56:21 +0200
From: "Carl and Adina Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il>
Quick Vort on the Parsha

On the way into Geula this morning, I caught most of Rav Yisrael Meir
Lau's (the Ashkenazi Rav Roshi) vort for Shabbos, and I'd like to share
it with you. This way, I will BE"H also remember it to say at the table
over Shabbos :-)

Rashi in the first pasuk on the Parsha brings the Gemara in Zvachim which
asks what Yisro heard that made him come to join Klal Yisrael. The Gemara
over there answers that he heard about Kriyas Yam Suf and Milchemes
Amalek. The question seems obvious - what about the Makos and Yetzias
Mitzrayim. Why davka Kriyas Yam Suf and Milchemes Amalek and why would
those things inspire Yisro to come join Klal Yisrael?

When Hashem brought the Makos to Mitzrayim, we know that Moshe Rabbeinu
did not perform the first three Makos out of a sense of Hakoras HaTov. The
first two Makos involved the Ye'or, in which Moshe floated until Bas
Paroh found him. The third Maka involved the ground, in which Moshe
had buried the Mitzri whom he had killed for hitting a Jew. Even though
these were inanimate objects, nevertheless, Moshe Rabbeinu had a Hakoras
HaTov to them because of Chasodim they did with him. From here we see
the importance of Hakoras HaTov. Chazal say that someone who is a Kafuy
Tov is R"L a Kofer b'Ikar.

Yisro saw Kriyas Yam Suf and Milchemes Amalek, and he saw a contrast in
the behavior of Klal Yisrael. At Kriyas Yam Suf, the pasuk says "Hashem
yelachem lochem v'atem tachrishun." That Hashem fought for the Bnei
Yisrael, but beyond the hishtadlus of davening and going into the Yam,
Bnei Yisrael did not have to do anything to fight against the Mitzriyim
- Hashem did everything. By contrast, by Milchemes Amalek Moshe tells
Yehoshua "bchar lanu anashim v'tzei hilachem b'Amalek." Bnei Yisrael
had to go out and fight with Amalek. Bnei Yisrael had Hashem's help -
Moshe held his arms up and Bnei Yisrael were reminded to be meshabed
their hearts to Hashem, but nevertheless, Bnei Yisrael had to go out
and fight the war. Why the difference?

Rav Lau explained that Bnei Yisrael had a hakoras ha'tov to the
Mitzrim. Even though at the end of Bnei Yisrael's sojourn in Mitzrayim,
the Mitzriyim treated them miserably, nevertheless, they still did not
forget that when they arrived in Mitzrayim, the Mtizriyim treated them
well, settling them in Goshen ("meitav ha'aretz"), giving them food and
so on. Yes, the Mitzriyim forgot Yosef, but that was no reason not to
be makir tova to the Mitzriyim for what they DID do earlier on.

But with Amalek, Bnei Yisrael had no reason to be makir tova, because
Amalek has never done us any tovos. So when it came to Amalek, Bnei
Yisrael went out and fought them because when Amalek attacked there was
no reason not to fight back.

It was this difference in the behavior of Klal Yisrael that inspired
Yisro to come and be misgayer. Yisro saw that Klal Yisrael was so makpid
in Hakoras HaTov that they would not fight the Mitzriyim by themselves,
but they would fight Amalek by themselves. Yisro wanted to join a nation
that had this sense of refinement.

And just to show that we are BE"H approaching Yemos HaMashiach (RSBA
will appreciate this), the Dvar Torah was sponsored l'iluy nishmas the
Munkatcher Rebbetzin, whose yahrtzeit is this week....

Gutten Shabbos everyone.

-- Carl

Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for our son,
Baruch Yosef ben Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.
Thank you very much.


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Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001 08:03:33 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: RAV -07: "Catharsis," Part 1

: The Rav draws a sharp contrast between the Biblical (Jewish) and the classical
: (Greek) understandings of heroism. Classical heroism is an aesthetic category;
: it is a grand gesture designed to impress an audience, to attain renown and
: thus immortality. ...
: In contrast, Biblical heroism is neither the product of an ephemeral mood
: nor is it theatrical in nature.

I'm reminded of RSRH's distinction between "yaft E-lokim liYefes" and
"viyishkon bi'ohalei Sheim".

Yefes has culture, it has formal rules, it has ettiquete. Sheim, as
epitomized by Avraham Avinu, has a concept of chedded, of hachnasas

Ettiquete is behaving according to the proper rules. It's formal -- forms
for people to follow. It's a surface thing. It's therefore yofi -- beauty.

Chessed, OTOH, is situationally responsive, not rules. It's acting out
of a sense of kindness, of concern for others. It's BI-ohalei Sheim,
acting out of an /internal/ feeling of what is right.

One sees a similar contrast between the heroism that Yefes idealizes,
vs. that RYBS attributes to Yahadus. The former is extrernal perception,
the latter an internal struggle. The hero who is koveish es yitzro.


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 Halberstam of Klausenberg zt"l

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Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2001 22:42:41 EST
From: Zeliglaw@aol.com
Fwd: RAV -08: Sanctity and the Body

Another installment in this series.
            Steve Brizel

			     by Rav Ronnie Ziegler

		      LECTURE #8: Sanctity and the Body -
		      The Catharsis of Physical Existence

This shiur is dedicated in memory of the victims of this morning's
terrorist attack. Hashem yikkom damam.

In the second half of "Catharsis," Rav Soloveitchik divides our
"total existential experience" into four realms - aesthetic-hedonic,
emotional, intellectual, and moral-religious - and shows how the
principle of catharsis applies to each. This section of the essay is
particularly fascinating not only since we can directly apply it to our
daily lives, but because the Rav provides powerful examples in each
area. The themes developed here recur throughout the Rav's writings,
testifying to the central place they occupy in his thought. Because of
the importance of these ideas, I would like to treat at length each area
delineated by the Rav, building on his discussions both in "Catharsis"
and in other essays. We will begin this week by exploring the nature of
catharsis in the first area of human experience, namely, that of physical
existence. [Apart from "Catharsis," the main source for our examination
of this theme is "U-vikkashtem Mi-sham," pp. 207-217. This motif also
figures in "Halakhic Man" and "The Lonely Man of Faith."]


In this area, encompassing our physical drives and bodily pleasures, the
need for catharsis is clear and asserts itself more frequently than in
any other realm. Here, catharsis consists of withdrawal from an external
temptation, or, stated differently, in restraining and channeling one's
inner desire.

    "The stronger the grip of the physiological drive is felt by man,
    the more intoxicating and bewildering the prospect of hedonic
    gratification, the greater the redemptive capacity of the dialectical
    catharsis - of the movement of recoil." (p. 45)

This is beautifully illustrated in a midrash quoted by the Rav:

    "It often happens that a man takes a wife when he is thirty or
    forty years of age. When, after going to great expense, he wishes to
    associate with her, she says to him, 'I have seen a rose-red speck
    [of menstrual blood].' He immediately recoils. What made him keep
    away from her? Was there an iron fence, did a serpent bite him,
    did a scorpion sting him? Only the words of the Torah, which are as
    soft as a bed of lilies...

    "A dish of meat is placed before a man and he is told that some
    forbidden fat has fallen into it. He withdraws his hand from the
    food. What stopped him from tasting it? Did a serpent bite him? Did
    a scorpion sting him? Only the words of the Torah, which are as soft
    as a bed of lilies." (Midrash Rabba on Shir Ha-shirim 7:3)

The identification of kedusha with restraint of man's primal drives
has a long history. For example, the Rambam (like the above midrash)
groups together the laws of forbidden sexual unions and forbidden foods
in his "Sefer Kedusha" (The Book of Holiness). [Rav Soloveitchik groups
a third drive with these two - the desire for acquisition, which must
similarly be restrained and sanctified.] What separates man from the
beast is whether he controls his drives or whether they control him. In
this sense, the Torah's restrictions in these areas actually give him
freedom - he is not a slave to his passions, but rather their master. I
believe this is part of what is meant in the following celebrated maxim:

    "Said Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi ... 'And the writing was the writing
    of God engraved upon the tablets' (Shemot 32:16) - do not read
    'engraved' (charut) but rather 'freedom' (cherut), for no man is
    truly free except he who engages in the study of Torah." (Avot 6:2)

This type of understanding can lead to an ascetic approach which negates
the value of man's physical existence, considering it a hindrance to
his spiritual pursuits. Such a position, indeed, has been espoused by
some Jewish thinkers (most prominently by the Rambam in his Guide of the
Perplexed). Rav Soloveitchik, however, takes the opposite approach. The
act of withdrawal purifies and redeems man's natural urges, endowing them
with sanctity and allowing them to serve as means for spiritual growth.

According to the Rav, God does not desire that man live an otherworldly
ascetic existence, nor does He wish for man to adopt an ethereal
and abstract spirituality. Rather, God wants man to lead a full and
enjoyable natural life. However, he must instill it with meaning and
direction, thus grounding his spirituality in his concrete life.
For example, if unrestrained and unredeemed, the sexual act can
be brutish and dehumanizing. Man succumbs to a frenzy of primitive
passions and treats his sexual partners as things, as mere means to
fulfill his desire. However, within the framework of marriage (and
at the permitted times), sexuality becomes something beautiful and
sacred. Hedged in by prohibitions, it turns into an act conforming to
God's will. Between husband and wife, it expresses love and commitment
(which are also desired by God). Furthermore, it actually becomes a
vehicle for fulfilling mitzvot, such as procreation ("peru u-revu")
and the obligation of conjugal relations (onah). Thus, one's physical
life becomes the fountainhead of kedusha.


Although he does not state it explicitly, it seems that Rav Soloveitchik
perceives the "yetzer ha-ra," commonly translated as the "evil impulse,"
to be identical with man's natural biological drives. These in themselves
are neutral and necessary for survival, and can be turned to good or
evil. If one gives in to them without recognizing any restraints or
exercizing any selectivity, they drag him down to, at best, a coarse and
animalistic existence. At worst, in a relentless quest for gratification
of his ever-increasing desires, man can become criminal and depraved,
almost satanic. On the other hand, if one exercises control over these
natural urges, they can be a force for good.

This approach is firmly rooted in talmudic sources. For example, an
aggadic passage in Yoma (69b) recounts that once the sages managed to
imprison the yetzer ha-ra. Three days later, however, they searched
for a freshly- laid egg and could not find one in the entire Land of
Israel. The sages realized that if they would not free the yetzer ha-ra
at once, the world would be destroyed. This approach is also articulated
in a midrash explaining why on the first five days of creation God beheld
His works and "saw that they were good," while on the sixth day "God saw
ALL that He had created, and behold, it was VERY good" (Bereishit 1:31):

    "'Very good' (tov me'od) - this refers to the yetzer ha-ra, for
    without it, one would not build a house, marry, beget children,
    or engage in business." (Bereishit Rabba 9:7)

The gemara (Berakhot 54a) teaches that the commandment to "love the Lord
your God with your WHOLE heart (be-KHOL levavkha)" (Devarim 6:5) refers
to "your two impulses: the good impulse and the evil impulse." It seems
to me that the most plausible way to understand this gemara is along the
lines suggested above - you must serve God through both your spiritual
and physical impulses. The necessity of this approach and its attendant
dangers are highlighted in the following aggadic passage:

    "One's 'yetzer' ... should be pushed away with his left hand and
    brought near with his right." (Sota 47a, Sanhedrin 107b)


Rav Soloveitchik takes the Sages' approach a step further by stating
that not only are man's natural urges necessary for his survival
but, as mentioned above, they themselves can be a source of sanctity.
In fact, the Halakha insists that man's spirituality be based precisely
on his physical existence and that it penetrate every aspect of that
existence. Large portions of "Halakhic Man" and "U-vikkashtem Mi-sham"
polemicize against the type of spirituality which ignores or denies man's
natural life. [In chapter 8 of "Halakhic Man," the Rav offers two major
reasons for rejecting such an approach: 1) man cannot free himself of his
physicality, and a doctrine based on the desire to do so is inherently
false; 2) such an apwould be confined to a small elite, rendering
religion an esoteric and undemocratic affair.] Halakhic religiosity is
focused on this world; as opposed to those who pine for the purity of
the World-to-Come, the Halakha abhors death, assigning anything connected
to it to the realm of impurity (see "Halakhic Man," pp. 31-37).

As the Rav points out in "Halakhic Man" (p. 51), Halakha is a realistic
doctrine which takes literally the statement, "God saw all that He had
created, and behold, it was very good." It affirms the value and dignity
of man's physical existence by giving it direction and meaning. What
Halakha opposes is boundlessness and non- directedness, the darkness of
untrammeled bestial drives, but not physicality per se. To the contrary,
man must serve God with all the powers at his disposal, starting with
his body.

This is why, for example, so many mitzvot revolve around the meal.

    "Eating, the animalistic function upon which man's life depends, was
    refined by the Halakha into a form of religious worship and an act
    of high morality." ("U-vikkashtem Mi-sham," henceforth UVM, p. 208)

    "Eating is the act of realizing the idea of kedusha, which means
    sanctifying both the body and the spirit. If a person eats in the
    appropriate manner, in accordance with the demands of Halakha, then
    he is eating before God, serving Him by means of this 'despicable'
    function, and cleaving to Him." (ibid., p. 212; note: quotations
    from UVM are my translations)

Not only are there restrictions on what we may eat (kashrut), and not
only are we obligated to pronounce blessings before and after eating, but
many of the most sublime mitzvot are fulfilled through the consumption
of food - e.g. eating kodshim (offerings), matza, kiddush, rejoicing on
festivals, etc. These are not mysterious symbolic rituals, like Catholic
communion, but real acts of eating which one enjoys and which satisfy
his hunger. In fact, if one eats in a manner which does not please him,
such as if he is already full and is now merely stuffing himself (akhila
gassa), it is questionable whether he has fulfilled these mitzvot.

Furthermore, as the Rav points out, the Halakha turns eating into "an
act of high morality." First of all, it is forbidden to eat stolen food,
and any mitzva utilizing it is disqualified. Secondly, in all halakhic
feasts (e.g. eating kodshim, the seder, a se'udat mitzva, etc.) one must
invite the needy and unfortunate to dine along with him. As the Rambam
so memorably puts it,

    "When a person eats and drinks [in celebration of a holiday],
    he must feed the stranger, orphan, widow, and other unfortunates
    who are destitute. In contrast, a person who locks the gates of his
    courtyard and eats and drinks with his children and his wife, without
    feeding the poor and the embittered, is not engaging in the rejoicing
    of a mitzva but rather in the rejoicing of his belly." (Hilkhot Yom
    Tov 6:18)

Inviting the poor is not extrinsic to the mitzva of rejoicing but rather
is part of its very fulfillment. This is not only an act of charity,
but, more importantly, an expression of community, fellowship and
concern. Your own enjoyment should not be complete if others are alone and
suffering. [This thought should give us all pause when planning weddings,
bar mitzvas, and the like.]


Having purified our aesthetic-hedonic experience, what is the nature of
our enjoyment? The Rav writes:

    "The Halakha commands man to enjoy the splendor and beauty of creation
    to a degree no less than that of the sybarite. However, the pleasure
    of the man of Halakha is refined, bounded-in and purified... The
    Halakha never forbade man the pleasures of this world nor did it
    demand of him asceticism and self- torture... [But] the Halakha does
    despise the chaos of hedone ... Halakha distances man from madness
    and the hysteria of desire. Halakhic enjoyment lacks overintensity,
    overstimulation and drunkenness of the senses. However, it possesses
    the beauty of gentility and the aesthetic splendor of life. When
    man enjoys the world in accordance with the view of the Halakha,
    his enjoyment is modest and refined, lacking the mania of sexual
    desire and the frenzy of gluttony." (UVM, pp. 207-208)

Halakha's belief that physical life can be sanctified stands in stark
contrast to the dualistic approach of Western (i.e. Greek and Christian)
thought. The latter "despaired metaphysically and morally of man's
natural side and devoted itself to his spiritual-intellectual side"
(UVM, p. 207). It created an unbridgeable gap between the physical and
the spiritual. While the Torah declared, "And you shall eat before the
Lord your God, in the place where He will choose to establish His Name,
the tithes of your new grain and wine and oil, and the firstlings of
your herds and flocks, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God
always" (Devarim 14:23), Greek thought would not be able to fathom such
a command:

    "The animal eats; man thinks and cognizes the spiritual, general and
    ideal. The intellect, not the stomach, approaches God. 'And you shall
    eat before God' - is there anything more self-contradictory? [But
    Judaism says:] Nevertheless!" (UVM, p. 208)

In Judaism, the Rav teaches, all spirituality is based on the real,
the concrete, the physical. Anything holy must have a defined time and
place (see his essay "Sacred and Profane"). In response to those who
mock Halakha's "excessive" attention to physical life, the Rav proudly
and unabashedly declares:

    "Indeed, the Halakha is the law of the body. But this is where
    you find its greatness; by sanctifying the physical, it creates a
    unified psychosomatic individual who serves his Creator with both
    his spirit and his body and elevates the animal [in him] to the
    heights of eternity." (UVM, p. 215)

Next week we will discuss the catharsis of the second realm of human
experience, namely, the world of emotions.


1. Natural Man and Spiritual Man: see Rav Soloveitchik's essay

2. Jewish vs. Greek View of Eating: see UVM, pp. 211-212, where the Rav
contrasts the Jewish se'uda with the Greek symposium.

3. Sanctification of Physical Life: this theme is examined by Chaim Navon,
"'Ve-hinei Tov Me'od' - Ha'ala'at Ha-guf Be-mishnat Ha-grid Soloveitchik,"
Alon Shevut 149 (Nisan 5757), pp. 131-147.

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