Avodah Mailing List

Volume 10 : Number 055

Tuesday, November 12 2002

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 03:23:29 -0800 (PST)
From: Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>
Re: Chazal on Astrology

geshmake sevara <geshmakesevara@yahoo.com> wrote:
>> I cannot beleive that anyone would denigrate the 
>> Rambam by attributing to him different sets of values 
>> or truths in writing his Yad and Moreh. 
>> There is only one value that guided the Rambam and 
>> that is the Emes of Torah as transmitted by Chazal. 
>> To attribute two differing sets of values which 
>> conflict denies Emes itself. Attributing different 
>> thoughts and beliefs is about the last thing anyone 
>> would accuse the Rambam of as that would make a liar 
>> out of him. 

> But, the Rambam might have interpreted Torah on 
> different planes. This is not dissimiliar to Ibn Esra 
> interpreting "va'yehi erev" different to his own 
> practise every Shabbat. 
> Just as Tanakh can be interpreted according to peshat, 
> derash and halakha - even when they are contradictory, 
> so too articles of faith can be explained in terms of 
> chakirah (philosophy as in Rambam's Moreh Nevuchim or 
> Ramban's Vikuach), Kabbalah (as in Ramban al Hatorah, 
> and perhaps even traces of it in the Yad) or Halakha 
> (as in Rambam's Sefer Hayad or Ramban's Responsa 
> etc.). 
> However, when it comes to practical decisions we ought 
> to follow Halkha's approach. vedok ki kitzarti. 

Then you are really saying something different. IIUC you are saying
that the Rambam is using a different approach and parameter when he
wrote the Yad vs when he wrote the Moreh. IOW they do not conflict,
they are just different areas of discussion. Well, that is a horse of
an entirely different color. Isn't that obvious, though? In one work,
the Yad, he discusses Halacha based on Chazal which he filters through
his own Hashkafa, derived in the main from his understanding of Torah
and Metzius. In the other, the Moreh, he discusses Hashkafa based on
his understanding through Chazal and the major philosophy of his era
showing the similarities and differences. This is not the same as usinfg
two different sets of values.


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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 15:20:19 EST
From: HENOCHMOSHE@aol.com
Re: Astrology inquiry by a still boggling mind

Maranan, v'Rabanan v'Rabosai;
Afar ani tachas kapos ragleichem.

I am impressed with the fireworks of the back and forth discussion almost
to the point of muteness. Almost; there is one thing though that I have
wanted to add since Motze'oi Shabbos and I see that R' Yosef Gavriel
Bechhofer has mentioned it in a recent post but only as a mareh mokom:

In the Rambam's Peirush HaMishnah to Avodah Zarah 4:7 (I'm using the Kafih
ed.), the Rambam writes at length on the ancient origins of "talismanic
power," astrology and idolatry and their relationship. Near the end,
he writes (my loose translation):

And the Sages have already explained that whatever the
[astrological-idolatrous believers] think is the manifestation of the
talismanic forces is something that could have happened at random but
is [nevertheless] attributed to [these forces]: This is a correct
philosophical notion [as opposed to the beliefs of the so-called
philosophers among the astrological-idolatrous Sabeans - HML]. I have
also found among [the words of the Sages] a he'arah regarding the affairs
of the constellations [which states] that they are just like the other
kinds of divination and augury and [that they are] not something that
causes [things to happen], as the astrologers imagine. [The Sages] said
(Sanhedrin 66a - see marginal note in Vilna ed. and Ein Yaakov version):
You shall not divine (Lev. 19:26); for example, those who divine [using]
a weasel, birds or the stars. Now, this is the view of the philosophers
among them. But there is in the philosophy of the Greeks neither a little
nor a lot of these matters that the Sabeans fabricated.

Now, I believe that at different points in this thread, it was claimed
that the Rambam finds no source in Chazal for his position on astrology. I
think that that narrow point at least has been refuted. Agreed?

Henoch Moshe Levin

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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 12:13:12 +1100
From: "SBA" <sba@iprimus.com.au>

From: "SBA" <sba@iprimus.com.au>
> Another example -- my little granddaughter -- zol zein gezunt un shtark --
> is named Sima. Like Klonimus, there is no posuk in the entire
> T'nach beginning with a samech and ending in alef.
> So what's the eitzah?

I thought of another solution for the 'Sima problem' this morning.

'Keil Odoyn' that we say Shabbos mornings goes by the Alef-beis.
However when it comes to 'samech' it uses the letter 'sin' .

Using this method, maybe Sima can say a posuk beginning with 'sin'
and ending with 'alef' - eg (Tehilim 86)
"Same'ach nefesh avdecho ki eilecho Hashem nafshi esoh"


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Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002 21:23:53 -0500
From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@juno.com>
Name of Eisav's Third Wife

From: "Carl and Adina Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il>
<<The Maharil Diskin says that you're yotzei reading it either way
because of the machlokes, and then suggests reading it both ways to be
yotzei l'chol ha'deos.>>

I read it only Mochalas since that appears to be the pesak of the
Minchas Shai;
if we start doubling up for every machlokes we'll never get through
the keriah.

Rabbi Guttman told me tonight that he read both, though, but I didn't
have a chance to ask him "mi barosh"

<<I thought reading it "Machalas" first was a nice touch :-)>>

I don't. You first go with the pesak, and then the other possibility,
if you insist.


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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 08:52:13 +0200
From: "Carl and Adina Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il>
Re: Name of Eisav's Third Wife

On 11 Nov 2002 at 21:23, Gershon Dubin wrote:
> <<I thought reading it "Machalas" first was a nice touch :-)>>
>         I don't.  You first go with the pesak, and then the other
> possibility, if you insist.

Koren, Ktav and Simanim (the three we have in the house) all have it
Machalas. Simanim brings the Minchas Shai in the margin that has it

-- 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: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 07:46:21 -0500
From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@juno.com>
Re: Name of Eisav's Third Wife

On Tue, 12 Nov 2002 08:52:13 +0200 "Carl Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il> writes:
> Koren, Ktav and Simanim (the three we have in the house) all have it 
> Machalas. Simanim brings the Minchas Shai in the margin that has it 
> Mochalas.

Minchas Shai trumps.


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Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002 22:24:31 -0500
From: Arie Folger <afolger@ymail.yu.edu>

RCS wrote:
> What if you have more than one name?

Nobody has, from halakhic perspective, more than one name. Yosef Shimon
Ya'akov Ben Tziyon is halakhically merely one very long name starting
with a yod and ending with a nun. (source: rav Bleich beshem sifrei
mequbalim and beshem some posqim, halakhah lema'aseh WRT inyanei nisuin)


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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 17:15:55 +1100
From: "SBA" <sba@iprimus.com.au>
Mrs Yehudis Eisav

From: "Carl and Adina Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il>
> ...he read the name of Eisav's third
> wife as "Machalas" (with three patach's). But when he read it in Maftir
> he read it "Mochalas" (komatz and two patach's). ....

Talking of Eisov's wives...

Last week when being 'menachem ovel' a family
we got to a discussion about Jewish names.

Someone questioned the 'kashrus' of the name Yehudis - 
seeing that the original Yehudis was a Mrs Eisov! (Toldos 26:34).

However, Rashi - 2 parshiyos later (Vayishlach 36:2) 
on 'Oholivomo' - says that that was in fact her true name and Eisav
named her Yehudis to trick his father into thinking she was a tzadeikes -
['kol hakoyfer b'Avodah Zoroh nikro Yehudi'].

Accordingly, this shows that - aderaba -
 Yehudis is indeed a very kosher name...


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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 20:29:35 +0200
From: "Carl M. Sherer" <cmsherer@ssgslaw.co.il>
Re:Mrs Yehudis Eisav

On 12 Nov 2002 at 17:15, SBA wrote:
> Someone questioned the 'kashrus' of the name Yehudis - 
> seeing that the original Yehudis was a Mrs Eisov! (Toldos 26:34).

But it's ma'asim b'chol yom that names of Reshaim are used while the
names of many Tzadikim are never used. There's a Tanna named Rabbi
Yishmael (yes, I know, the Medrash says the original did tshuva, but
still...). There are many Israelis who have named their sons Nimrod.
But do you know anyone named Shem? (I actually have had business dealings
with someone named Aver). Do we have anyone today named Chiya or Avin
or Chidka or Ameimar? Chetzron? Chamul? Salma?

On the flip side, how many people do you know who have named their
daughters Chogla (that's a brand of diapers here and is partly owned by
Kimberly Clark!)? Yet there was a woman in the news here not too long
ago whose name is Hagar.

I could go on but you get the idea....

-- Carl (all but two of my children are named for someone in the 
family; of the two whose names were not dictated by family 
considerations, we chose a name that was the name of a Gadol for one 
of them without realizing it until after we had chosen the name!)

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

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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 22:54:18 +0200
From: "Tzvi Harris- Halacha Yomit" <tzvi@halachayomit.com>
re: Mrs. Yehudis Eisav

Rav Herzog zt"l wrote in a t'shuva that there are names of reshaim that
were fully accepted for use. IIRC he brings Alexander as an example.
I would add a note to what R' Carl mentioned about Hagar and Nimrod.
Although these names are very common in Israel, they were (to the best of
my knowledge) not accepted *at all* by anyone in the orthodox spectrum.
According to R' Herzog (I would think that) this would mean that these
names have not been approved for use, since those who understand the
significance of the names refrain from using it. I do miluim with a
fellow named Nimrod, and he's a good, reliable guy, but still- hearing
a Jew being called Nimrod bugs me. I feel funny every time I have to
call him by name.

Tzvi Harris
Talmon, Israel

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Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002 19:49:43 -0600 (CST)
From: sbechhof@casbah.it.northwestern.edu
Re: darkei limud/da'as yachid

> RET: 
>>  I strongly suspect that the academics in Bar Ilan and Hebrew University 
>>  know shas and rishonim better than 99% of the people in kollel. 

I glossed over this statement until RSG brought it up again. It is
meaningless, of course, but it cannot pass without mecho'oh. Consider
it protested.

And, forgive me, but I have been listening recently to book on Teddy
Roosevelet and Winston Churchill, so I feel the need to express myself
in grand terms:

RMS amd others have, with a smirk that comes through loud and clear,
charged that I am a "da'as yachid" or a "yachid b'dara."

Stuff and nonsense.

I represent, here, the cumulative perspective of many Rabbeim and derochim
that I have learnt from.

Going one generation up from the Rabbeim I have been mekkabel from,
these include:

R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach 
R' Isser Zalman Meltzer 
R' Yerucham of Mir 
R' Moshe Mordechai Epstein 
R' Shmuel Rozovsky 
R' Yaakov Ruderman 
R' Chaim Shmuelevitz 
The Alter from Slabodka 

(BTW, while I only learnt under RYBS for three weeks, ro'isi es achorav,
and he ain't with you fellas...)

I will not go into the list of seforim which I feel are my Rabbeim;
Chassidim, Misnagdim and Ba'alei Mussar.

These are the kedoshei elyon that I represent here, 

It is not very lonely here at all... 

As always, 

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Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002 21:41:53 EST
From: Joelirich@aol.com
Re: Halacha vis-a-vis Present Day War

In a message dated 11/11/2002 7:58:42 PM EST, sholom@aishdas.org writes:
> He spoke from the bima of a Conservative shul. The host (C) rabbi,
> who introduced him, also closed by offering the bracha one gives upon
> seeing a talmud chocham.

Did the O folks there answer amen?

Joel Rich

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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 07:31:25 +0200
From: "Ira L. Jacobson" <laser@ieee.org>
Re: zecher/zichron

>I would therefore require some basis for a bald and bold assertion that
>is in disagreement with the Vilna Ga'on's diqduq.

I wonder if I am guilty of a breach of faith in not accepting this aspect
of the Gra's grammar, and if so I express remorse.

Would it be OK for someone who uses three matzos at the Seder and
sets his mezuza at an angle also to express doubts regarding the Gra's
grammatical rulings?

And in any event, any alleged distinction between zeikher and zekher
seems to be, at best, remote from the question regarding whether of not
the meaning of zekher is a subset of the meaning of zikaron, as I held.

And by the bye, the siddur from which I pray every morning has, in both
Ashrei and Psalm 145, the reading zekher rav tuvekha with a segol under
the zayin. Is this due the the Gra's influence?


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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 01:30:19 EST
From: Phyllostac@aol.com
teaching of female spiritual superiority - additional questions / problems

From: HENOCHMOSHE@aol.com
> Now if the teachers of this idea mean that women are superior in all ways
> and across the board, I am with the critics. Frankly, though, I find that
> implausible; I imagine that they mean that women are superior in some ways
> (although perhaps they stress the significance of those aspects).

I think that those that propagate (perhaps with some exception)
this notion, teach that women are superior overall - not just in
some aspects. (btw - I would like to know what they say - what they
are teaching their students - not what a sympathetic outside party may
think 'they mean'. We have a klal that 'devorim shebileiv einom divorim'
[words that remain unexpressed are not considered words]. This should
be easy to find out. What are they actually saying / teaching ?)

That is quite questionable and dangerous. According to them, do they
believe that every Rebbetzin of every 'godol' (whoever you put in that
category) is greater than her husband ? So, lishitosom......Rebbetzin Sima
Feinstein z"l > Rav Moshe Feinstein......Rebbetzin Ella Soloveitchik
> Rav Aharon Soloveitchik ......Rebbetzins Yaakov Kaminetsky > Rav
Yaakov Kaminetsky ......Rebbetzin Tanya Soloveitchik > Rav Yosef Ber
Soloveitchik, etc., etc. Do they hold as above ? If not, why not ?

Perhaps people should ask the womenfolk (esp. the younger ones - I
think the older ones were not exposed to it - or much less so) in their
families, mechanchos, etc., - what exactly is being taught about this
among frum women ? How many Beis Yaakov's are teaching it ? Seminaries
? Which ones ? I believe that Lubavitch institutions are basically
totally suffused with this idea and are among the prime propagators of it.

 I find it funny that the female contingent of Aishdas does not seem
 to have
joined this discussion at present.....I'm sure they could add something
to this talk......Let us hear their voices....bivakasha......Let us hear
some honest talk about this issue from the women's side.......

Another problem is, IMHO, as follows - even if one says, that on the
whole, women are stronger / higher in some things, we must realize that
there are exceptions to rules and also that women may lose some of their
spiritual attributes by not acting properly......e.g. a woman that is
not tznius'dik is pogeia in her femininity which could diminish her
bina yiseira.....

Another question - to those who defend the teaching of female superiority
- even in some aspects - would they feel okay if Yeshivos would start,
in an organized fashion, teaching that males are spiritually superior to
females based on the sources mentioned earlier ? Or is it only okay when
women are taught that they are superior, but would be verboten for men ?

Finally (?), one can question if this whole enterprise is something
that should be gotten into. What benefits emerge from such a discussion,
beyond creating a new battlefield for a war of the genders (and allegedly
under the umbrella of 'Torah') ? Is this helpful to avodas Hashem ? Why
not instead encourage cooperation rather than rhetoric as to which gender
is greater ? Where is the AYH in this enterprise ?


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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 04:55:32 -0500
From: "Allen Gerstl" <acgerstl@hotmail.com>
Re: Rashi as Medakdek, Was Agadot, Avodah V10 #53

On Mon, 11 Nov 2002 11:07:39 GMT Eli Turkel <turkel@math.tau.ac.il>
>... While Ramban accepts Rashi other more "rational" [Spanish]rishonim 
>> rejected Rashi even later because RASHI DID NOT KNOW ENOUGH DIKDUK and 
>> his commentary was not enough pshat.

I would much appreciate if R' Turkel could please cite examples of Spanish
Rishonim generally rejecting (as opposed to disagreeing with specific
instances of his commentary) of Rashi's Torah and/or Nach commentaries
on the ground of his allegedly deficient knowledge of DIKDUK.

I am rather surprised in light of what I read in the book Rashi, the man
and his world by Esra Shereshevsky published by Sepher-Hermon Press (New
York:1982).I don't have that book at hand but I recall that in a chapter
on Rashi as medakdek the author states (based mainly IIRC upon a series
of papers by another author and that appeared in the HUC Annual and that
I looked up and photocopied) that Rashi was surprisingly knowledgeable and
up to date (especially given the limitations on communication of his era)
as to the conclusions of medakdekim of his times and those preceding
him. I thought that both the Ibn Ezra and Rashi cited, discussed and
analyzed the conclusions of medakdekim in their commentaries but that
neither were specialist medakdekim but generalist mefareshim and that
their commentaries were intended primarily as general commentaries for
use by a wide spectrum of the public.


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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 19:29:23 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Hugging and Kissing Close Relatives (from Machon Zomet)

More on RYHH's position.


----- Forwarded message from Machon Zomet <zomet@NETVISION.NET.IL> -----
: Shabbat-B'Shabbato - Parshat Vayeitzei
:          No 935: 11 Kislev 5763 (16 November 2002)
: TORAH, SOCIETY, AND GOVERNMENT: Hugging and Kissing Close Relatives
: by Rabbi Uri Dasberg
: "Yaacov kissed Rachel, and he raised his voice and wept" [Bereishit 29:11].
: Some commentators explained that he cried because in the future some people
: would misinterpret his act of kissing. What is the halacha with respect to
: hugging and kissing of family members? This question may seem unimportant
: to those sectors of the nation who have become used to refraining from this
: practice during many generations, but it may be a vital question for
: others, especially those who have only recently become religious. Quite
: often, their relatives are offended by a "new" custom of refraining from
: demonstrating affection within the family.
: According to many rabbis, the prohibition of hugging and kissing between
: people who are not permitted to have relations is not a rabbinical law but
: rather a direct Torah prohibition. This may be derived from the verse, "Do
: not approach to uncover nakedness" [Vayikra 18:6]. That is, even to
: approach is forbidden. An exception can be made for shows of affection that
: have no possible link to sexual lust, such as between parents and children,
: especially when they are very young.
: The Talmud tells of several rabbis who were lenient in this matter. For
: example, Rabbi Acha Bar Abba let his granddaughter sit on his lap, even
: after she was married. Ullah carried a bride on his shoulders in order to
: make her happy on her wedding day, and he also kissed his sisters. Some
: commentators feel that only people at such a high level of piety as these
: rabbis were permitted to do these things, and that we cannot presume to
: learn from them. For them, and only for them, it was clear that their
: actions would not lead them to have impure thoughts. Others have permitted
: these actions for anybody who is considered righteous, or who has become
: used to the practice, such that there is no danger that the act may lead to
: impure thoughts or evil actions. For this reason, there are communities
: where it is accepted for a man to shake a woman's hand (either allowing the
: man to take the initiative or at least to respond to a woman who puts out
: her hand), or where men and women sit together at weddings and during Torah
: study. In these places, it is assumed that because of the common practice
: the senses have been dulled and there is no danger of evil.
: However, even in cases that are evidently permitted, this should only be
: for a chance encounter. It should not be a regularly repeated action, and
: it should be kept short. It is possible to explain why one refrains from
: these practices, and the relatives will understand the motives of the
: person who holds back, even if in the past he or she acted the same way
: that they do. Remember that this is similar to other practices that have
: changed as a result of repentance, such as observing the mitzvot of Shabbat
: and kashrut, among other things. An appropriate explanation can prevent any
: insult.
: Reference: Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin, "Techumin," volume 21, pages 374-384

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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 15:20:21 EST
From: HENOCHMOSHE@aol.com
re: Spiritual superiority of women:A false teaching?

> This is in response to R' Akiva Miller, who quoted me saying: <<< In the 
> Torah's description of the
> creation of the genders, we see that the female underwent more tikkun
> at the hands of the Ribbono shel Olam than did the male. >>>

And R' Akiva asked:
> Is this a reference to the *creation* of the genders, or or changes that
> occured after they ate from the Etz HaDaas Tov V'Ra? I do not recall
> any tikkunim for either gender at the initial creation.

I am referring to the creation of Adam and the creation of Chavah. Adam
was created from the afar and the Ribbono shel Olam breathed the breath
of life into him. That is basically the final stage in the creation of
the male in the Mikra (let me stress that, the Mikra). But as far as the
female is concerned, the creative act continues: The Ribbono shel Olam
takes a tzela from the male and forms into it into the female. Thus,
you might even say that Adam was the raw material for Chavah, and Chavah
was the finished product.

I have not yet researched the classic sources who speak about the
significance of this "extra Divine handling," but I feel reasonably sure
that there must be something out there.

Henoch Moshe Levin

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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 16:26:40 -0500
From: "Gil Student" <gil@aishdas.org>
Re: Mrs Yehudis Eisav

SBA wrote:
>Someone questioned the 'kashrus' of the name Yehudis -
>seeing that the original Yehudis was a Mrs Eisov! (Toldos 26:34).

See Tosafos in Yoma 38b and Kesuvos 104b sv shnei that if there was a tzadik
who had the same name as a rasha one can give that name to a child - "keivan
de'echad hayah tzadik maskinan bishmeih".

Here, too, since there was a tzadeikes named Yehudis we can give that name
to children.  Personally, I have bigger problems with the name Chayah (see
Ibn Ezra on Bereishis 3:20).

Gil Student

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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 09:47:04 -0500
From: "Gil Student" <gil@aishdas.org>
Re: Atzas Gedolim

FWIW, R' Avraham ben haRambam has a teshuvah explaining the phrase
"chacham adif mi-navi" which, evidently, some philosophers were using
to disparage Tanach. RABhR says that a navi who is also a chacham
(i.e. the authors of Nach) is certainly greater than a plain chacham.
But a plain (talmid) chacham is greater than a navi who is not a chacham
(e.g. malachei Shaul in 1 Shmuel 19:20-21) because the navi is obligated
to go to the chacham with his halachic questions and to follow whatever
the chacham paskens.

The teshuvah can be found in the back of R' Reuven Margoliyos' edition
of RABhR's Milchamos Hashem, iggeres 7.

Gil Student

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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 09:50:20 -0500
From: "Gil Student" <gil@aishdas.org>
Mechaber and Rambam's Peirush HaMishnayos

I seem to recall seeing somewhere that the Mechaber (Kessef Mishneh,
Beis Yosef) never saw the Rambam's Peirush HaMishnayos. Is this true?
Does anyone know of a source that says this?

I think that the Kessef Mishneh on hilchos tefillah 8:11 is proof because
he concludes the Rambam learns like Tosafos when it is clear in the
Peirush HaMishnayos to Megillah that the Rambam has another derech.

Gil Student

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Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 21:04:57 +0200
From: "Daniel Eidensohn" <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
Mussar & bulletproofing the mind

> Daniel Eidensohn wrote:
>>Chazon Ish also voices criticism of the baalei mussar in the
>>2nd chapter of emunah and bitachon. He criticizes the baalei
>>musar who start with notions such as that being nice is a
>>foundation principle and then try to bend the halacha to fit.
>>He notes that instead one starts with what the Torah says
>>and not what one thinks the Torah should have meant.
> The way the Alter of Slabodka and his talmid R' Avraham Grodzinski
> explained it, they were following in the path of R' Nissim Gaon who held
> that there is a "natural law" that all human beings are obligated to
> follow. I believe that R' Norman Lamm wrote a long essay on the history
> of the theory of Natural Law in Judaism. This isn't something that the
> ba'alei mussar invented.

First of all I would highly recommend an article in the current New
York Times Magazine concerning "Bulletproofing the Mind". It is a nice
paradigm for the Mussar Movement.

The criticism of the Chazon Ish is not related to Rabbeinu Nissim who
asserts that one is obligated to keep mitzvos that commonsense (natural
law) dictates as well as those that are specifically commanded. This
in itself is not a major chidush. Chizkuni(Bereishis 7:21) Sefer
Chasidim(153/1004) Moreh Nevuch (3:17),Netziv(Haskomo to Ahavas Chesed),
Shelah (Matos) etc etc.

The Mussar Movement goes beyond merely adding the obligations of
commonsense. It is a way of thinking which is not natural or spontaneous
but requires considerable effort and training and is therefore by
definition not commonsense but what they view as Torah sense. The Chazon
Ish made two points 1) Mussar insists that there are new rules such as
that our forefathers were tzadikim and evidence to the contrary must
be reinterpreted. He notes that in the case of Egypt and the Midbar
such a rule is clearly contrary to the many sources of Chazal. 2) Some
Mussar proponents used humanistic principles to interpret halachic
obligations rather than work entirely in the realm of halacha. [ R Y
Salanter utilized a sefer for improving midos which was based upon the
techniques of Benjamin Franklin because it worked.]

The Seridei Aish notes that there are two major strategies in dealing
with the yetzer harah 1) being two busy to sin (he claims that is the
chassidic derech) 2) trying to outsmart it (Mussar).

Mussar movement generated many unnatural strategies or manipulations
of self and others. Many are described in great detail in Rav Nosson
Kamenetsky's "Making of a Godol". p601 R' Grodzinsky declined to remarry
after his wife died when he was 47. R' Nosson said he apparently felt
he could have more influence on the bochurim unmarried when they
would see his suffering (celibacy). R' Simcha Sissel did not teach his
daughter how to pray - to see if she would spontaneously pray based on
her understanding of hashkofa. At age of six he realized the experiment
had failed and he started teaching her. The Alter was makpid never to be
seen studying Torah. In fact his wife once complained that she hadn't
seen him with a sefer in 30 years. Novardhak was famous for bizarre
behavior which was encouraged to enable the students to withstand
social pressure. Kelm was proud of its focus on task and ability to
avoid distraction. R. Yaakov Kaminetsky decided he wanted to spend a
zman in Kelm but he knew that if he asked the Alter directly he would
be refused. One day he took a round about path to the outhouse instead
of the direct one he always used. The alter called him over and sent
him to Kelm to learn discipline. [Heard from R' Yaakov's son-in-law].

Mussar was strongly opposed by most[p479] gedolim (See Pulmos HaMussar
by R' Dov Katz). However when it became obvious that the secular forces
were attracting away the best and the brightest, the yeshivos starting
switching over to Mussar programs which made students more resistant
to assimilation. The Chofetz Chaim [p 573-574] was one of those who
resisted the Mussar approach until [1905]he saw that the damage that
was occuring was too much. Even so the switch over to Mussar was not
without opposition. Slobodka split into two yeshivos as the result of
the opposition to having a mashgiach supervising one's existence. The
idea of learning Mussar seforim for a short time each day was considered
fine by most but the Mussar approach introduced new ways of thinking
and a lot of psychological manipulation by mashgichim. For example
R' Avraham Eliyahu Kaplan came to Slobodaka with strong attraction to
Zionism. The Alter had his roommate read his diary every day and report
to him the contents so that he could properly straighten him out. R'
Simcha Zissel would deliberately eat fish with small bones when he broke
a fast to train himself to not eat fast - otherwise he would have choked.

It is also important to note the words of Rav YB Soleveitchik that
Mussar was a way of frightening people to be frum and it didn't get
accepted until it switched to focusing on the positive. R' Nosson [p
571]says that this was apparently the result of the loss of the Alter's
youngest son to socialism and kefira. The Alter's wife once heard him
give a speech about kindness and she bitterly remarked concerning the
cane that her husband had used on their son.

Another example of a new principle Michtav M'Eliyahu IV page 354 claims
that the statements of Chazal are the only "pshat mamash" in understanding
Tanach. He explains the inescapable fact that many of the commentaries of
the rishonim and achronim deviate from Chazal as that these explanations
were written for the confused who couldn't accept the views of Chazal. He
claims that this is the meaning of R' Shmuel HaNagid that when agadata
doesn't make sense it can be put aside. [Michtav M'Eliyahu clearly
ignores the many sources which indicate otherwise].

[p572] The Alter said "The true Light of Torah had not shone on me
[before becoming a Mussar adherent] and I had switched truth for falsity
and good for evil and the character of Torah for its opposite". 'Since
R. Finkel perceived the general, non-Musar view of Torah in such a totally
negative light, it is little wonder that he fought for the ascendancy
of the Musar approach with such ferocity. It seems that as a result of
his deep conviction that Musar is the only true understanding of what
Judaism is, and any other approach is the "opposite" of what Torah seeks,
he did not relax his concern that Musar be disseminated in the citadels
of Torah study despite having won his battles both in the Musar Dispute
and in this period.

Final note. I mentioned our recent discussion of Rambam and astrology
to a well known rosh yeshiva. He said that asserting that the Rambam
was basing his understanding of astrology on his understanding of Chazal
rather than his own logic was "nonsense". When I asked if I could quote
him he refused. "The last time I said something like this I was accused
of being an apikorus by those people. These are new rules made up by the
Mussar/Chassidish world in order to give greater respect to Chazal but
they are not the way that these things have been understood throughout
the ages."

                                                    Daniel Eidensohn

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