Avodah Mailing List

Volume 09 : Number 026

Tuesday, May 7 2002

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 7 May 2002 21:17:34 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Creation: Guidance or Control

On Tue, May 07, 2002 at 07:47:10AM -0400, Isaac A Zlochower wrote:
: This note is to apologize to the chevra for opening the subject of G-D's
: foreknowledge....

I am not meqabel.

I think it's an important subject, and one that we ought to grapple with.
Regardless of whether we can actually get a definitive answer or not. Much
like parah adumah, declaring something a choq hasn't stopped numerous
ba'alei mesorah from hunting for whatever crumbs of meaning we /can/ find.

: It is also unseemly for me to paint myself as some kind of heretic in
: the eyes of others. Therefore, kindly disregard my previous posts on
: this subject.

Again, I'm not meqabel. Instead it should be me doing the apologizing. You
ought be able to ask why some kefirah isn't muchrach without someone
(who happens to be listowner, to boot) shooting you down. I should have
been much more clear that I was condemning the idea, not the individual.

That said, please: let the discussion continue.


Micha Berger                 Today is the 40th day, which is
micha@aishdas.org            5 weeks and 5 days in/toward the omer.
http://www.aishdas.org       Hod sheb'Yesod: When does
Fax: (413) 403-9905          reliability/self-control mean submitting to others?

Go to top.

Date: Tue, 07 May 2002 11:02:54 -0400
From: David Riceman <dr@insight.att.com>

I've just been reading Rabbi Berger's book, and am puzzled by one major
weakness in his argument. He has sources which convincingly demonstrate
(what I had assumed anyway on practical grounds) that you need to be
alive to be Mashiach. The problem is that he wants to demonstrate more:
he implies that if you believe someone dead is Mashiach that you're
an apikores.

The puzzle is this. Most attempts to write Jewish creeds were during
the middle ages when Jews were familiar with Christian doctrine and
were arguing against it. So if believing that someone dead is Mashiach
makes you an apikores why didn't anyone say so? Admittedly there are a
few places where the Rambam comes close to saying that folly is a form
of apikorsus, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades...

David Riceman

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Date: Tue, 07 May 2002 21:01:58 +0000
From: "Seth Mandel" <sethm37@hotmail.com>
Wearing tzitzis outside one's clothes

There has been a discussion (precipitated by a remark that I made) about
wearing tzitzis outside one's clothes. In my innocence, I had thought
the issue was well-known to members of the list and was going to respond
off-line to R. Sholom Simon's questions. However, the responses that he
got indicate that several people are ignorant of the facts of the matter,
and only know what modern books have told them.

The facts of the matter are that a tales koton is an article of clothing
invented in Ashk'naz, that was apparently not known to S'faradim in the
time of the early rishonim. All of the references to it (as I said in my
post discussing why it is tales -- talesim and tales koton, not k'tanno)
that the Beis Yosef and the R'Mo bring are from people like the Mordekhai,
the T'rumas haDeshen, the Or Zarua', whereas the Ba'al ha'Ittur, who is
the source of much of what the Tur writes, makes no mention of them. By
the time of the M'habber, however, S'faradim were also wearing them;
he says "tales qoton shelonu." Everyone understands that in the time of
Hazal, there was no such thing; their tales was their outside garment,
not a toga, but another garment of the Roman times called the peristyle,
which was a rectangular piece of cloth that they wrapped themselves in
sort of like Indian women wrap themselves in a sari.

We have some idea of what the Ashk'naz garment looked like, some had
straps over the shoulders (not a hole cut for the head, like nowadays),
and some buttoned (i.e. fastened with hooks) at the sides. It was worn
under the clothing, with no tzitzis out: that we know from pictures
depicting Jews throughout the medieval period that show all sorts of
distinctive Jewish clothing -- but NO tztzis showing. NEVER. Unless the
pictures showed the Jews at prayer with a tales godol; in those cases,
the artists showed the tzitzis.

Because this beged did not conform to what Hazal say about a talles,
neither in terms of size nor iin the way it was worn, many rishonim in
fact doubted that it really fulfills the mitzva d'orayso of tzitzis. To
quote a few: the Morekhai says "hanei talesos q'tannim shelanu einam
min hamuvhar" because you cannot cover yourself in them. The Orhos
Hayyim says that someone who makes a b'rokho of l'his'attef on them
"over b'lo tissa." The R'Mo in Darkhe Moshe says that the b'rokho is
'al mitzvas tzitzis "v'hata'am nir'eh li ki 'hash'shu l'divrei hposqim
she'ein yotz'in b'tales qoton kozeh v'lakhen lo m'var'khin l'hit'attef
d'az havei mashma' d'akhshav m'aqayy'min hamitzva." IOW, you are not
yotze the mitzva with a tales qoton. Other rishonim defended the use of
a talles kotos as fulfilling the mitzva at least partially, primarily
basing themselves of the minhog of all Jews to wear them.

So if you are not yotze the mitzva, why wear it? As the Tur says in
siman 24, in his pep talk "even though a person is not obligated to buy
a tales with four corners to become obligated in tzitzis... nevertheless,
it is good and proper for every man to be zahir and zariz in the mitzva,
and have a small garment with tzitzis that he will wear all the day,
because the 'iqar of the mitzva is remembering the mitzvos..."

This custom of wearing the tales koton totally under one's clothing
continued in Ashk'naz throughout the generations, up until modern times
when we have photographs, not pictures. I could point to the many street
photographs of Poylin and Lita, of Warsaw and Vilna, of Hungary and
Galitzia, before the war, of streets crowded with Jews and no tzitzis
visible. To be sure, some were wearing long coats, so we wouldn't see them
anyway, but enough children and Jews without coats or short coats are
visible to prove that tzitzis of a tales koton were not worn out. Lest
someone claim that these might be the amaratzim and the g'dolim wore,
let us look at the pictures of R. Chayim Ozer and R. Boruch Ber and
R. Shimon Shkop accompanied by their talmidim, all of whom wore short
coats (or, in some pictures in the summer, no coats at all), and their
tzitzis were inside their clothes. Look at the pictures, rabbosai, and
don't blame me: in Mir, in Slabodka, in Lomza, in Kletzk, in Brisk: no
one with tzitzis out, even though presumably the yeshiva leit would be at
their best behavior in front of the rosh yeshiva. Presumably R. Leizer
Yudl, R. Shimon, R. Borukh Ber, R. Velvel, R. Aaron Kotler, would have
known enough to tell their talmidim that they were doing something wrong.

And lest Carl come up with his explanation that the yeshivas did it
because they were afraid of the goyim (an argument which doesn't hold
water), let me point out that Slabodka moved to EY in the 20's, during the
life of the Alter fun Slabodka, and he and R. Moshe Mordekhai Epshtein
and then R. Chatzkel Sarna headed up the replanted Slabodka, now called
Chevron, first in Chevron and then in Geula in Yerushalayim. And we have
hundreds of photographs of the bochurim (not any kalim, either, but the
g'dolim among the talmidim in the presence of their rosh yeshiva), and
none wore their tzitzis out. The first photographs that I know of showing
any bochurim in Chevron with tzitzis out come from the 60's. You can see
the same in the book about the Ponevezher Rov zt'l that was published
a couple of years ago: pictures of him and his talmidim from his early
years in EY (the 40's), show no talmidim with tzitzis out, and only later
picture show the custom starting to change. I asked the Rosh Yeshiva of
Chevron, R. Avrohom Farbshtein, once about it, and he said that never did
any talmid in Mir in chu'l or any talmid in Chevron up through the 40's
ever wear them out. And look at the hundreds of pictures and drawings
of Jews who lived in EY during the last 200 years and show me a picture
before the 40's and 50's of anyone with the tzitzis of the their talles
koton out. Ask R. Elazar Meir Teitz, who was in yeshivos in EY in the 60's
how many people tztizis out then. Not to mention his father, or my rebbi,
RYBS, whose tales koton was clearly visible under his shirt but never
ever did the tzitzis come out. Out of thousands of pictures I have seen,
I have seen only a couple with any tzitzis visible, and these were staged
photographs of children. I also myself heard from R. Amram Blau, who took
credit for his chevra for starting children to wear their tzitzis out by
bribing them with candy if they would (this was before the State, while
he was one of the young men in the Alter Yishuv in Yerushalayim active
in the Aguda, before he broke with his brother R. Moshe who became a
makher in the Agudah). I have no reason to disbelieve his story, and
that would date the start of the minhag in EY to the 40's.

Again, fact: except for a few y'hidim who were mahmir to wear the entire
tales koton above their shirt (mostly in private), all the pious Jews,
both in EY and chu'l wore their tales koton with the tzitis under their
shirts and pants.

Now that we are through with facts (it's always best to get them out of
the way so we can ignore them) let us address R. Sholom's question of why.

Let me note that nowhere in the g'moro does it say that the tzitzis should
be visible. As a matter of fact, the place where the g'moro B'rokhos
refers obliquely to the issue, it appears that the tzitzis in the time
of Hazal were not readily visible except when getting undressed. The
posuq "Ur'isem oso" specifically means according to the Torah Sheb'al
Peh that the mitzva is only during z'man r'iyyah, i.e. during the day
(or for a k'sut yom, according to the Rosh), and has nothing to do with
looking at the tzitzis.

The trop in the posuq indicates the same thing. Ur'isem osso has a
r'via' whereas "uzkhartem et kol mitzvot haShem" has a zoqef koton. This
indicates that the first is part of the second phrase, and so means
"when you see it, remember all the mitzvos of haShem." If it meant "look
at it," the first phrase would have a zoqef qoton as well, and then the
clause would mean "look at them, and remember..." Of course, no one really
suggests that it should mean that, or there would be a mitzva to look at
the tzitzis on a regular basis. Just like there is a mitzva to spend as
much time in the sukka as possible, or to wear t'fillin all day, there
would be a mitzva to look at tzitzis as much as possible. But there is
no such mitzva. Adrabba, the g'moro makes clear that there is not even
a mitzva to acquire a tales that is hayyav in tzitzis. And the g'moro
makes no reference, none at all, to the requirement that tzitzis be kept
visible, even though the g'moro discusses tzitzis quite extensively.

So where does this idea that tzitzis should be visible come from? You
will look in vain in the rishonim for anybody who says that tzitzis
must be visible. Those who question the talles koton do so on the basis
of size and the way it is worn, not because it was worn underneath the
clothes. Even the Tur quoted above exhorts people to wear tzitzis on a
garment that he will wear all the day, not that to have tzitzis visible.

The seeds of the idea can be traced to the M'habber. He comes up with
the notion that it is proper to wear a talles koton outside, over all
the clothes. He acknowledges that they are worn underneath the clothing,
but says "nir'eh" that the 'iqar mitzva is to wear them over the clothes,
so that it can is visible all the time. He bases himself on the Tur
quoted above that the 'iqar is remembering the mitzvos, and on the
Nimmuqei Yosef.

The Nimmuqei Yosef (R. Yosef Haviva, Spain 15th century) is worth
discussing. First because of his language: twice he mentions "talitot
k'tannim", twice "talit g'dola", once "talit katan" (leading to my
suggestion that talit katan was a term borrowed from the Ashk'nazi
rishonim, who used talit in the masculine). More importantly, because
of what he says (my translation, with comments in square brackets,
and translation, when lengthy original is quoted, in {}):

Some rishonim say that the mitzva of tallit [sic] is not fulfilled without
'atifat harosh, to cover the head and the body or most of it, as it says
"asher t'kshasseh bah." According to them, there is no mitzva of tzitzit
b'elu tallitot k'tannim shenahagu lilbosh b'rov malkhuyot {in these talles
kotons that it is customary in most places to wear [n.b. by his time,
in most areas people wore them]. But this appears to be incorrect. The
b'rokho of l'hit'attef is [not because you must do 'atifat harosh, but]
because that is a mitzva min hamuvhar [but not obligatory], or perhaps
it was acccording to their custom, for they did not wear a tallit bat
'arba' k'nafot [i.e. a tallit katan, a very early use of the term "arba
kanfos"] but rather a tallit gadol... But according to shurat haddin
[straight halokho], any 4-cornered garment is hayyav in in tzitzit,
and you fulfill with it the mitzva of tzitzit, even though you cannot
do with it neither kissuy nor 'ittuf, since the Torah says bigdeikhem
and k'sut'kha, which includes any malbush and any k'sut, as long as they
have [4] corners. The words "asher t'khasseh bah" do not come to require
kissuy hagguf or 'atifat harosh, but to include the clothing of a blind
person or a garment with 5 corners [or more]. After all, the g'moro says
a tallit that a koton could cover his head with and a gadol would go
temporarily outside in is hayyav, and in all likelihood a gadol could
not do 'atifrat harosh or cover up most of his body [with a garment
of such size]. And the custom has spread to all Yisroel in accordance
with this, since most Jes do not have a tallit g'dolah that they can do
'atifa in [!!!], but [instead] they make tallitot q'tannim thay ehy wear,
since the Torah excludes by saying "ur'item 'oto" only k'sut layla {a
night garment} or k'sut of a blind person, but NOT a garment that is
worn underneath the miqtoren {overclothes}. This appears to me to be a
clear proof [that tzitzit do not have to be worn on an outside garment
that one can cover himself in], and so the Rif paskened and there is
no question about that. Nevertheless, it is a mitzva min hamuvhar that
he can wrap himself completely in this mitzva, and this is the way of a
y'rei shamayim to be m'habbev the mitzva, certainly so with the mitzva of
tzitzit that is sh'qula k'neged kol hammitzvot, but it is not m'aqqev at
all... And regarding the question about what a person should do first,
put on t'fillin or wrap himself in a tallit, it seems to me that it is
proper to do the mitzva of tzitzit first... and so Rabbinu Yonah wrote
in the Sefer haYir'ah. However, those people who wrap themselves in a
tallit g'dolah [remember, he says most people don't have], since it is
customary to do the 'atifa only after they have put one all their clothes
and the hats on their head [so German Jews do until today, they put the
tallit over their hat when they put in on], for those people the mitzva
of t'fillin comes first, and they make the b'rakha on it first, since
'ein ma'avirin 'al hammitzvot. [IOW, since you would put on the t'fillin
under the hat, the proper thing is to put on the t'fillin, then the hat,
then do 'atifat harosh. German Jews do not do this.] Even those people
who only have a tallit katan, it is proper for them to wear it over their
clothes, to completely fulfill the words "v'lo taturu 'aharei l'vavkhem
v'aharei 'eineikhem"...

So that is the source of the Beit Yosef. Does he say that the tallit
katan should be worn over the clothes? Certainly... BUT. That is only,
according to him, for a person who does not have a tallit gadol. The
person who has a tallit gadol wears it out during davening, and afterwards
removes it, and the rest of the day has only his tallit katan under his
clothes. Following his logic, and the thread of his reasoning, a person
who does not have a tallit gadol should wear his tallit katan over his
clothes during davening, but it would not be mandatory for the rest of
the day. It seems to me that this is what the Darkhei Moshe means when
Beit Yosef's says "v'khen katav Nimmuqei Yosef," the Darkhei Moshe write
"v'ayyen b'Nimmuqei Yosef." At any rate, although there may have been
some few talmidim of the M'habber who wore their tallit katan over
their clothes, this did not continue for long, because the Ari held
that a tallit katan should specifically be worn under the clothes for
mystical reasons, as quoted by R. Hayyim Vital in Sefer 'Etz Hayyim,
Sha'ar Tzitzit 1.

The Magan Avraham quotes the Ari in SA OH 8:11, but then says "it appears
to me that the tzitzit should be outside, not like those people who
tuck them in the corners." [He brings what he considers perhaps support
from the g'moro about lo'eg larash in a cemetary, but that is not worth
discussing regarding a tallit katan, since at the time of the g'moro they
wore a tallit gadol all day, and that is what the g'moro is referring
to.] IOW, the Magen Avraham likes the chiddush of the M'habber that the
tallis koton should be worn outside, but in the light of the Ari, he
comes up with the further chiddush that only the tzitzit need be outside.

What happened to the opinion of the Magen Avraham? Don't ask me, but
pictures and photographs show that no Ashk'nazim nor S'faradim followed
it. Perhaps the old custom of wearing the talis koton inside one's
clothes was too well established to change; and remember that the R'Mo'
did not advocate changing it.

So the change in the minhog of k'lal Yisroel, in EY and chu'l, in the
last 60 years, cannot be laid to the Magen Avraham, whose opinion was
published in the 17th century. Rather, the change is partially due to
the recent view in the yeshva world that the Mishna B'rurah is a book
of p'saq halokho that should be followed by b'nei Torah and to the work
of the young Turks of the Agudah in EY before the founding of the State.

The latter I have already mentioned. Anyone who knows what life in the
Old Yishuv in Yerushalayim was like before 1948 will readily understand
why candy was a very efficient bribe for doing something which not only
didn't seem to have anything wrong with it, but also was being pushed by
some of the most energetic members of the Eida Chareidis. Such things
indeed take a little while to spread, but if you get enough of a group
doing something and telling others in yeshiva that they should be doing
it, it does indeed spread. Witness the spread of the upsheren/halaqa,
which was not even a chasidisher minhog in the time of the BeSh'T and the
Mezritcher Maggid, indeed was first introduced long after their deaths,
and now has become (AFAUI) a universal minhog among chasidim, and is
spreading to non-chasidim as well. Readers can confirm this from the
pictures from yeshivos in EY: in the 50's the pictures show a couple of
bochurim with their tzitzis out, by the 70's it is a sizeable percentage,
and now it is universal. It started a little later in the US, but has
ended up in the same place. Now it is ubiquitous in all the DL yeshivos
in EY, and I think it is the norm in YU as well.

Had the MB not weighed in on the issue, the spread of this new custom
would doubtless have been slower, and would have not spread so rapidly in
yeshivos, but rather among chasidim and balebatim. But tzitzis was one
of the issue that the Chofetz Chayyim felt very strongly about. After
quoting the MA, he quotes the M'habber who says the tallis koton should
be worn outside "so that he can always see it and remember the mitzvos"
and comments "as it says ur'item oto uzkhartem... And those people
who put their tzitzis in their pants, they ignore the commandment of
God and will pay the price for that. Regarding their excuse that they
go among the Gentiles, for that they could put the tzitzis inside the
corner. If they had a gift from a human king on which the name of the
king were inscribed, they would always exhibit it prominentaly in the
eyes of others; qal vahomer for tztiz that contain a remez to the Name
of God (as the SA mentions in 24, that by holding the front two tzitzis
during k'riyas sh'ma, the 10 knots and the 16 strings add up to 26,
the g'matriya of yod ke vov ke).

Several comments are in order about this MB:

1) the assertion that ur'item oto contains a reference to having the
tzitzis visible goes against all of the rishonim.

2) the MB makes a distinction between putting the tzitzis in the pants
versus putting them in the corners. I do not understand how the latter
is done, nor have I ever heard anyone explain it. The clothing that the
MB wore is basically the same as is worn today (except for the outer
jacket and the tie).

3) This is a chiddus of the MB; he is not quoting any source that I
have seen.

4) As his chiddush, not even all the talmidim in his own yeshiva adopted
this; so I was told by several people who learned in Radin.

5) As we noted, it was not practised by talmidim in any other yeshiva
in Europe, nor have I seen pictures of balebatim in communities who
practised it (although there must have been a few).

There, of course, is nothing at all wrong that I know of with wearing
your tztizis out, or, indeed, with wearing the entire talis koton out
(except according to the Ari). (I will also note that the talmidim of the
Vilner Gaon noted that he wore a talis godol made of cotton underneath his
clothes, but do not say he wore the tzitzis out, which, as a chiddush,
they would have mentioned; nor do the followers of the BeSh'T or the
Mezricher Maggid, to the best of my knowledge, make any such claims about
them.) I am, however, bemused, by how insistent some yehsiva leit are that
wearing tzitzis out is the way it must be done, and by balebatim who have
swallowed that line and feel somewhat ashamed that they do not wear theirs
out. May those who find deep meaning in new-fangled customs gain a deeper
measure of ahavas haShem and consciousness of the mitzvos from wearing
them out. I, however, prefer to follow what R. Velvel Brisker and RYBS,
R. Leizer Yudl and R. Chaim Shmuelevitz, R. MM Epstein and R. Chatzkel
Sarna, the Ponievizher Rov and R. Isser Zalman and their talmidim did.

Seth Mandel

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Date: Tue, 7 May 2002 23:04:19 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Learning and Yir'as Shamayim

Way back in v2n96-110 or thereabouts, we discussed RYGB's Forks essay
<http://www.aishdas.org/rygb/forks.htm>. One point we discussed was the
following (footnotes expanded in-line):

> The interpretation of lishma is the subject of a great debate between the
> Besht and R. Chaim of Volozhin. The Besht [Tzava'as HaRivash simanim 29-30
> and the nuscha'os acheirim there. Rivash = R. Yisroel Ba'al Shem.] held
> that Torah lishma means the study of Torah with the purpose of achieving
> dveykus to G-d. The Besht, therefore, advised his followers to interrupt
> their studies at regular intervals in order to meditate on the dveykus
> that the studies allowed one to achieve. A radical illustration of this
> approach is provided by the story that one of the early great Chassidic
> leaders, the Rebbe R.Zushya of Hanipoli, once spent an entire night
> staring at the first line of the first mishna in Bava Metzia, so awed
> was he at the prospect of dveykus to G-d inherent in the Torah.

> To the Besht, the study itself was almost a b'di'eved (reluctant
> obligation): "Although during the time one is studying it is not possible
> to involved in dveykus to G-d, nevertheless, one must learn, for the
> Torah polishes one's soul and is a tree of life to those who grasp it. If
> one does not learn, therefore, he cannot achieve dveykus. One's attitude
> must be that just as when one is asleep he cannot be involved in dveykus
> [but, nevertheless, one must sleep]... the time allotted for learning
> is no worse." The goal was the focus on G-d that study facilitated,
> not the focus on the study per se.

> R.Chaim [Nefesh HaChaim Sha'ar 4:1-2.] expends a great deal of effort
> rejecting this approach. R.Chaim defines Torah lishma as Torah for
> its own sake, as complete and total immersion in study for no other
> purpose but the study itself. For R.Chaim, interruption of any sort -
> even for thoughts of dveykus - was Bittul Torah (a waste of time that
> might otherwise have been spent in Torah study), pure and simple. Only
> by studying with the greatest possible concentration, depth and breadth,
> could one approach shleymus.

This week's "Sichot" mailing from Yeshivat Har Etzion (below) made me
think about something related to this machloqes that didn't hit me when
I chazered Nefesh haChaim last fall.

(If you read it already, please skip down to my question at the bottom.
I'm including it in full because it touches on a number of inyanim I'd
like to see discussed more often.)

: Sicha of Harav Yehuda Amital shlit"a
: Summarized by Dov Karoll
: Yeshivat Har Etzion

: Halakha with Spirituality

: The last verse of this week's parasha (26:2) states, "You shall guard my
: Shabbat and be in awe of my Mikdash (sanctuary), for I am G-d." The Ba'al
: Ha-turim (based on Yevamot 6a) explains that the Mikdash is juxtaposed
: to Shabbat to teach that the construction of the Mikdash does not justify
: violation of Shabbat. It is specifically regarding the Mikdash, the center of
: spirituality and religious experience, where there is a concern that people
: will think that other elements of Halakha can be neglected. When people are
: in an environment containing a high level of spirituality, there is a risk
: of their stepping beyond the boundaries which can normally control them. We
: can expand this concept to all spiritual experiences, making it relevant
: even when the Mikdash no longer exists.

: Along these lines, Rav Chayyim of Volozhin explains (Nefesh Ha-chayyim,
: in chapter 7 of the section between the third and fourth She'arim) that
: the evil inclination will often try to mislead a person to believe that
: the only thing which is important is a person's intent. Thus, a sin done
: with good intentions is considered to be following the proper path. The
: evil inclination can even quote various Talmudic sources to "prove" this
: point. It will also bring a proof from the way our forefathers used to act
: before the Torah was given, since they did merely what they felt was right,
: without specific Divine commands.

: In response to such an approach (which he felt characterized contemporary
: Chasidim), Rav Chayyim explains that it was proper only in the time before
: the Torah was given. After the giving of the Torah, it is not permissible
: for a person to determine what is and is not the proper way to serve G-d,
: since He has set down the specific rules in the Torah. Rav Chayyim's approach
: strengthens the idea that a person cannot allow his desire to come closer
: to G-d to supersede the guidelines set down by the Halakha. Rather, a person
: can come closer to G-d only within the parameters of Halakha.

: It is clear that virtually everyone needs some sort of spiritual
: experience. People need some spiritual fulfillment beyond intellectual
: areas. However, it is important that this search for fulfillment be channeled
: properly. Far too often, I see that this is not the case. A few weeks ago,
: I noticed a sign advertising a course in "the hidden secrets of Judaism" -- a
: Kabbalistic institute, exposing people with no Jewish background, observance
: or commitment, to the esoteric elements of Judaism. This should not be a
: person's primary exposure to Jewish sources! The impression people can get
: from these groups is that all Judaism asks of a person is that he strive
: to come closer to G-d, without any commitment to His commandments. People
: claim that such projects succeed in bringing people closer to Judaism,
: but I question what kind of Judaism they are being brought close to!

: This is not a phenomenon specific to Judaism. In the newspapers, I read all the
: time about mathematicians, physicists and people involved in other quantitative
: fields in America who find themselves joining cults or other fringe groups,
: out of a need for some sort of spiritual experience. There are countless
: people who travel to India to take part in eastern spirituality, in addition
: to the groups within Judaism which seek primarily the experiential side of
: religion. Since these groups usually claim to offer "quick-fix" solutions to
: all of your problems, they are very enticing to many people. Many of these
: groups suggest spiritual activity supplemented by limited action. The idea
: that some amulet or magic formula can solve all of one's problems is much
: less demanding than leading a life according to the Torah. As a result,
: the Kabbala is enjoying popularity today beyond what it ever had in the
: past, and people feel that Kabbala alone is the guiding principle for their
: spiritual lives. However, what has to be the guiding principle of a person's
: life is really the Halakha.

: Since its inception, this yeshiva has always recited both "Ba-meh Madlikin"
: (in accordance with Nusach Ashkenaz) and "Ke-gavna" (in accordance with Nusach
: Sefarad) between Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma'ariv in the Friday night services,
: even though the Yeshiva generally follows Nusach Sefarad. I am aware that
: most Siddurim do not have the text of both tefillot in them (which is why I
: always have two siddurim on Friday night). While I do not recall the reason
: why I decided that the Yeshiva should say both, I think that in retrospect it
: was based upon the principle which I just mentioned. The text of "Ke-gavna"
: is taken from the Zohar (Parashat Teruma 163:2). It deals with the spiritual
: nature of Shabbat, explaining at length how one can come closer to G-d through
: Shabbat. "Ba-meh Madlikin," on the other hand, contains the mishnayot of the
: second chapter of Massekhet Shabbat, delineating the laws of candlelighting. I
: believe that it is crucial to have the element of Shabbat outlined in
: "Ke-gavna" -- the spiritual, esoteric nature of Shabbat. However, it cannot
: be seen as the exclusive defining factor of Shabbat. Here in the Yeshiva, we
: cannot focus on "Ke-gavna" without also focusing upon the halakhot governing
: Shabbat, "Ba-meh Madlikin." The spiritual experience of Shabbat cannot break
: through the bounds set down by the Halakha for proper Shabbat conduct.

: The Nefesh Ha-chayyim (4:7) cites a beraita of the school of Rabbi Yishma'el,
: originally appearing in Massekhet Shabbat (31a). It states that a person
: is allowed to place one bushel of "chometin," a sand-like preservative,
: into a heap of grain. Rav Chayyim explains that this statement teaches
: an important principle. A person is allowed to throw this bushel of sand
: into his grain, even though it would seem to be harmful, since in the end,
: the sand will help preserve the grain. The application of this principle,
: according to Rav Chayyim, is that a person is allowed to spend some of his
: time just thinking about his relationship with G-d. Even though this takes
: away time from his learning, it is done in order to maintain the sanctity
: of his learning. Of course, if a person has no depth to his relationship
: with G-d, there is no real use in his thinking about it. Such contemplation
: would be comparable to having a preservative with no grain.

: Along these same lines, the Nefesh Ha-chayyim (in Article 19 at the end of
: the book) states that Torah is the essence of one's relationship with G-d,
: and that Yir'at Hashem, the awe of G-d, is the storehouse which guards it. He
: estimates that according to the measurements provided by the gemara above
: (a bushel of "chometin" in a heap of grain), the "preservative" should take
: up only about five minutes of one's day. The rest of one's time, according to
: the Nefesh Ha-chayyim, should be spent gathering grain -- learning Torah. In
: our day, perhaps we need a little bit more "preservative" than Rav Chayyim
: recommended. Maybe ten minutes, or even half an hour, out of a day filled
: with Torah should be spent learning books of machshava (Jewish thought)
: and mussar (ethical works).

: To summarize, it is important for a person to have spiritual elements in his
: relationship with G-d. However, it is crucial for those spiritual elements to
: be based firmly in objective Halakhic action, and a Torah true life. To use
: the example I gave before, you need to have the "Ke-gavna" element to your
: Shabbat, but it is meaningless without the hard-core observance symbolized by
: "Ba-meh Madlikin."

: (Originally delivered at seuda shelishit, Shabbat Parashat Behar 5757.)

I don't understand how RCV can say that yir'as Shamayim is "chometin"
for one's relationship with HQBH. Isn't yir'ah a *component* of that

However, if it is a component, then the fact that one must pause in
learning in order to develop yir'ah proves the Besht's side of the
machlokes. So not understanding this nequdah means I'm missing R'
Chaim's entire mehalech! Help!!!


Micha Berger                 Today is the 40th day, which is
micha@aishdas.org            5 weeks and 5 days in/toward the omer.
http://www.aishdas.org       Hod sheb'Yesod: When does
Fax: (413) 403-9905          reliability/self-control mean submitting to others?

Micha Berger                 Today is the 40th day, which is
micha@aishdas.org            5 weeks and 5 days in/toward the omer.
http://www.aishdas.org       Hod sheb'Yesod: When does
Fax: (413) 403-9905          reliability/self-control mean submitting to others?

Go to top.

Date: Tue, 7 May 2002 18:21:16 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Jonathan Baker" <jjbaker@panix.com>
Brooklyn eruvin

From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
> RMF reluctantly answered them. He wanted to say out of it because RMF
> acknowledged that his definition of 60ribo is a da'as yachid. However,
> when pushed he did answer it and any other eiruv in Brooklyn would be
> pasul -- but he noted that this was because of his unique shitah.

I've been told by another list chaver that RMF initially said "don't
ask me", and some rabbis (the ones who built the eruv?  other rabbis?
he didn't clarify to me) asked him anyway, and he was forced to say no.
> This fits RJJB's post:
> : In fact, he admits that his understanding of 60 ribu is his own chidush.
> : Apparently, SA OH 435:7 says that one needs a) an area 12 mil x 12 mil,
> : in which b) 60 ribu are in the street. Everyone else understands 60 ribu
> : in the street *at one time*, where RMF's chidush is that 60 ribu is *over
> : the course of a day*....
> (Okay, I think he misidentified what part the chiddush was. But it's
> been a while, and I can't be sure of that kind of detail.)

I read the teshuvot last week.  Maybe I misunderstood.  I know I didn't get
everything he was saying.  But from what I can tell, his chidush was the
60 ribu in the street over the course of the day, rather than at one time.
I don't understand why Arie Folger calls this a "kulla" - sounds like a
chumra to me.
> Some took that pronouncement WRT Flatbush as a hechsher; after all,
> RMF said that rov would matir. However, that wasn't what RMF said
> his own pesaq was.

That's certainly the sense I got from 4:87 - he's writing because 
people are saying "RMF mattired the eruv", and he hadn't.  My point
is that there's a difference between mattiring and assering, and it's
not clear from the written record that he assered the eruv.  
> RDC felt that while he himself might be machshir, he would not explore
> the issue lema'aseh once RMF did. That if you ask for a pesaq it's
> chutzpah not to follow it. (He might have said it's assur not to, I do
> not recall. But he certainly called it "chutzpadik".)
> Note that RDC left open the possibility that similar eiruvim, because
> they didn't happen to ask RMF, would be kosher.

Which in itself leaves open several possibilities:

1) which rabbis asked him, the builders, or others?
   a) If the builders, then did RMF asser
      i) building it, or
      ii) using it?
   b) If others, did the issur extend to
      i) just those guys and their followers?
      ii) everyone?  (since it's known that not everyone follows RMF as HLMmS)
2) if he assered it for the builders, what about those of us today who have
moved into flatbush since RMF's petirah?  It seems to me that bedieved, we
should be able to use the eruv, recognizing that it's based on a chiddush.

I know it sounds odd, to hold that something is usable that was initially
assered, but I look at, e.g., R' Frimer's article on women's davening 
groups, and the interaction of the Rav and R' Riskin thereon, 
 [particularly footnotes 236, 249, 253, 264.             ]
 [<http://www.mail-jewish.org/Womens_Prayer_Service.doc> ]
and have to wonder, where is the line between lechatchilah and bedieved?
For some people it's enough to say "RMF assered it."  But exactly what 
did he asser, and how universal was the issur expected to be?

   - jon baker    jjbaker@panix.com     <http://www.panix.com/~jjbaker> -

Go to top.

Date: Tue, 7 May 2002 21:30:41 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: gerut and names

On Fri, May 03, 2002 at 12:05:59PM -0500, yidubitsky@JTSA.EDU wrote:
:                But if his surname ... is, again for instance, Christof or
: "sonofJesus" ... etc, is there a hiyuv/reason to change it? I would think it
: would sound rather amusing to meet a, for instance, Yehudah SonofJesus.

Any odder than a nevi'ah named after Ishtar (a variant on the Canaanite
Asheirah)? Or a navi named for Marduk (Molech)? A month named Tammuz?
Or the numerous Jews of our gandparents' generation named Isidor (gift
of Isis)?

I can't explain WHY we are meiqil in these cases, but I never heard of
a rav requiring Isidor to change his name to Yonasan or Yishai.

For that matter, Aquilas was still Aquilas after his geirus. (Or was
getting called Onkelos sufficient?) Not AFAIK a heretical name, but
still, a proper name that did not get changed.

OTOH, I doubt Bityah bas Paro' was named "Bityah" before her conversion.
(I'm avoiding the word "geirus" as this is pre-Sinai.) More likely it
was whatever means daughter-of-Ra, as Ra was their sun god, ancestor of
the Pharaohs.


Micha Berger                 Today is the 40th day, which is
micha@aishdas.org            5 weeks and 5 days in/toward the omer.
http://www.aishdas.org       Hod sheb'Yesod: When does
Fax: (413) 403-9905          reliability/self-control mean submitting to others?

Go to top.


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