Avodah Mailing List
Volume 10 : Number 114
Wednesday, February 26 2003
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 01:05:57 +1100
From: "SBA" <email@example.com>
Subject: fw: Austritts: Netziv and Separatism Redux
From: "Yosef Gavriel and Shoshanah M. Bechhofer"
> Indeed, R' Joseph does note MD 1:9, but does not focus as much on that
> short teshuva as on the much more elaborate 1:44. Teshuva 1:9 would make
> RSBA proud! It might even have been written by the Minchas Eluzor.
Thanks for that.
> In it the Netziv says, concerning what seems to be the Bilu'im ("Bais
> Yaakov"), that one may not count them in a minyan, nor join with them in
> any matter of Avodas Hashem (joint activities for Yishuv EY?). Even though
> one cannot avoid them one may not go hand in hand with them, meaning that
> while one cannot avoid commercial activity with them, it is forbidden to
> join in partnership and friendship with them. Although one should not
> combat them because it says "Al tischar im Merei'im," one must be very
> careful not to stumble in their society "Ki zeh shoresh poreh rosh
Obviously he is going according to the Maharsho that I quoted in another
post Krisos 6b - dh Sheharei Chelbeno - where he clearly says that the
chelbeno yid - the poshei yisroel - can only be counted as no. 11 in
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Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 12:47:16 -0500
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
Subject: FW: RSL, RAYHK, the Netziv, and separatism
>> No, one would have to cooperate with it in trying to form a community - not
>> the same as affiliating with a shul....(difference between local Federation
>> ...), and trying to make the shul Orthodox...
> Why is the R temple not coextensive with the community there?
I would not separate from the Reform community. That is quite different
than making use of Reform services. Question: If the Reform shul had
the only gym (or only Jewish advocacy group) in town, and required
membership in the shul, would you join? This is clearly the difference
between gemeinde and austritt...
> 1. I documented the irrelevance of the DR issue elsewhere.
No, you documented that the conflict of the DR could be viewed without
dealing with austritt - but that is not how RAYHK deliberately chose to
view it. The austritt issue was brought into it by RAYHK, who viewed
the fight as a reflection of the austritt mentality. Whether or not
that was the historical case we can argue, but the issue is not the DR,
but what RAYHK says about austritt when talking about the DR.
> 2. the irrelevance of the Netziv is apparent if you look at the teshuva (MD
> 1:44). He is addressing a community where the Rav and Rashei ha'Kehilla are
> shomrei Torah u'mitzvos and admonishing them not to forsake their R brethren
> but be mekarev them by setting up Torah education (even including limudei
> chol) under their auspices to educate the non-O. Outreach.
> Nothing about common institutions.
My Bar Ilan CD is temporarily not available, so I can't look up directly
right now (od hazon lemoed). From the partial English translation in
the Edah Journal cited by RYGB, as well as from Heemek Davar. However, I
think that the summary above is quite different from my recollection, as
well as that of the English - this is the summary of the recommendations
to the community that has separated, rather than the discussion of the
appropriateness of such action, discussed in the body o fhte tshuva.
the netziv was reacting to an article in machzike hadas - which maintained
the Hungarian austritt position -that separated the community into three
parts (roughly zaddikim, middle and reshaim)- and advocated complete
separation from the reshaim
The Netziv argued that the presence of reshaim and kofrim is not a unique
modern phenomenon - bayit rishon was dominated by avoda zara, and bayit
sheni had the zadukkim. Furthermore, he argues that the fights between
teh zaddukkim and perushim, in spite of the perushim being gdole olam,
was machariv bayit sheni (RSBA - note this as a model that criticizing
Hungarian austritt doesn't diminish the gadlus of the individuals).
The presumption is precisely that all of the communal organizations of
bayit rishon and sheni were joint - and there was no separate community
(not (IIRC) in the netziv, but we don't hear of separate prushi/zadukki
sanhedrin, nor separate prushi/zadukki bet hamikdash ..) - we are required
to work together, even though we have strong differences..
> RAYHK remained, bottom line, unaffiliated. You have represented such
> unaffiliation as derech minut...
No, and this is a fundamental misunderstanding. There is no obligation to
affiliate with each particular Jewish institution (think of the membership
fees...:-)). What there is is an obligation to include oneself with the
total community - and work with the total community, including reshaim. He
didn't reject either mizrachi or aguda (was actually invited to its
sessions). It is the notion that one should separate one's community from
the reshaim is what is problematic and derech minut. That does not mean
that one can not criticize, and partially withdraw from some aspects -
but that is quite different from the total institutional separation that
is the hallmark of austritt.
To cite the Netziv on the introduction to sefer breshit (from the article
by Rabbi Joseph in the Edah journal, cited by RYGB)
The book known as Bereishit is called 'SeferHa-Yashar' (upright ones)
by our prophets. Rabbi Yohanan explains the reason as being that it
is the book of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who were called yesharim....
We must understand why our ancestors were called yesharim and not
tsadiqim (righteous ones) or hasidim (pious ones). This is based
on a justification of the destruction of the second Temple that
took place in a 'perverse and crooked generation.' (Deut. 32:3)
I explained there that they were tsadiqim and hasidim and Torah
scholars, but they were not upright in the ways of the world.
Out of sinat hinam in their hearts towards each other they suspected
that those who disagreed with them on religious matters were
Sadduccees or heretics. This brought them to exaggerated levels of
bloodshed and many other evils until the Temple was destroyed. This
is the justification for the destruction: for God is yashar and
God does not tolerate 'tsadiqim' like these. God prefers people who
are yesharim and not those who act crookedly even for the sake of
Heaven, which brings about destruction of creation and desolation
"of the earth.
The greatness of the ancestors was in their not only being tsadiqim
and hasidim and lovers of God in the highest degree possible but
they were also yesharim. Thus they behaved respectfully even towards
the most despicable idol-worshippers. They treated them with love
and cared about their well-being. This sustains the creation. We
thus saw Abraham pray for Sodom even though he hated them for their
wickedness as he explained to the King of Sodom. Nevertheless, he
desired their well being.... Jacob, too, spoke gently with Laban
even though he was justifiably angry with him for trying to destroy
his entire family.... This is why Balaam prayed, "Let me die the
death of yesharim." They are the upholders of the creation. Thus we
have clearly explained why this book is called 'Sefer Ha-Yashar,'
for it is the book of creation.
I would add that this commitment to the wellbeing goes not only to working
with the individuals, but extends to working with the institutions.
Two more points: There is a difference between an institution that is
devoted to the destruction of the torah, populated by people committed
to such destruction, and an institution that is split between ovde
hashem and people denying the torah. The first institution is far more
problematic, and is at the heart of what RAYHK suggests was the rationale
and justification for austritt. However, JTS has always (at least until
recently) a curious mix - combining people with yirat shamayim (such as
R L Ginzburg, R S L, RDHL, others in the talmud department, etc) and
epikorsim such as M Kaplan. Its institutional commitment was never to
the frank elimination of torah - but to a gemeinde vision (whether that
vision accurately reflected reality is a different issue). One should
be leery of using texts devoted to institutions dedicated to rejecting
the torah to institutions where there is a battle going on where some
want to reject torah.
This different vision of the nature of JTS is, I think, at the heart of
the issue - and (to go back to an old point) why the SE could recommend to
his student to join JTS - something that RYGB thinks incomphrehensible -
but actually, to someone who knew the gemeinde communitiy in Germany,
quite within that tradition.
Go to top.
Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 16:54:07 -0500
From: "Yosef Gavriel and Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Austritts, Cont'd
I thank RMF for his kind words earlier. I invite him to agree with me
more often :-) .
Back to business:
>From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
>Subject: RE:RSL, RAYHK, the Netziv, and separatism
>I would not separate from the Reform community. That is quite different
>than making use of Reform services. Question: If the Reform shul had the
>only gym (or only Jewish advocacy group) in town, and required membership in
>the shul, would you join? This is clearly the difference between gemeinde
Correct. RMFeinstein banned joining non-Shomer Shabbos JCC's, apparently
for that reason; although I doubt those who permit such membership would
necessarily extend their leniency to Grossgemeinde situations.
>No, you documented that the conflict of the DR could be viewed without
>dealing with austritt - but that is not how RAYHK deliberately chose to view
>it. The austritt issue was brought into it by RAYHK, who viewed the fight
>as a reflection of the austritt mentality. Whether or not that was the
>historical case we can argue, but the issue is not the DR, but what RAYHK
>says about austritt when talking about the DR.
Right, which is why I have asked RDG to fax me RAYHK's letter in defense
of the DR. I still cannot understand why RAYHK would bring the irrelevant
issue of Austritts into the discussion, so I would like to see it to
>My Bar Ilan CD is temporarily not available, so I can't look up directly
>right now (od hazon lemoed). From the partial English translation in the
>Edah Journal cited by RYGB, as well as from Heemek Davar.
>However, I think that the summary above is quite different from my
>recollection, as well as that of the English - this is the summary of the
>recommendations to the community that has separated, rather than the
>discussion of the appropriateness of such action, discussed in the body o
If you need the teshuva emailed to you, my BI CD is alive and well. I
refer to 1:44; I sent you 1:9.
>the netziv was reacting to an article in machzike hadas - which maintained
>the Hungarian austritt position -that separated the community into three
>parts (roughly zaddikim, middle and reshaim)- and advocated complete
>separation from the reshaim
As individuals. Institutions are not mentioned.
>No, and this is a fundamental misunderstanding. There is no obligation to
>affiliate with each particular Jewish institution (think of the membership
>fees...:-)). What there is is an obligation to include oneself with the
>total community - and work with the total community, including reshaim. He
>didn't reject either mizrachi or aguda (was actually invited to its
>sessions). It is the notion that one should separate one's community from
>the reshaim is what is problematic and derech minut. That does not mean
>that one can not criticize, and partially withdraw from some aspects - but
>that is quite different from the total institutional separation that is the
>hallmark of austritt.
I do not understand.
I thought that you were citing precedent for PSL to join the JTS faculty
from Gemeinde Orthodoxy. Since PSL was not required to join the faculty,
the implication is that it is incumbent upon an individual to join the
community and its institutions, even those that are not co-extensive
with Emunah and Shemiras Shabbos. etc. You then imputed this perspective
to RAYHK. Taken to its natural conclusion, it would have been incumbent
upon him to join the Zionist organization, via the Mizrachi, as (from
your perspective) the Grossgemeinde of EY. Have I missed something?
>To cite the Netziv on the introduction to sefer breshit (from the article by
>Rabbi Joseph in the Edah journal, cited by RYGB)
>The book known as Bereishit is called 'SeferHa-Yashar'
>(upright ones) by our prophets. Rabbi Yohanan
>explains the reason as being that it is the book of
>Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who were called yesharim....
>We must understand why our ancestors were called
>yesharim and not tsadiqim (righteous ones) or
>hasidim (pious ones). This is based on a justification
>of the destruction of the second Temple that took
>place in a 'perverse and crooked generation.' (Deut.
>32:3) I explained there that they were tsadiqim and
>hasidim and Torah scholars, but they were not
>upright in the ways of the world.
>Out of sinat hinam in their hearts towards each
>other they suspected that those who disagreed with
>them on religious matters were Sadduccees or
>heretics. This brought them to exaggerated levels
>of bloodshed and many other evils until the
>Temple was destroyed. This is the justification
>for the destruction: for God is yashar and God
>does not tolerate 'tsadiqim' like these. God prefers
>people who are yesharim and not those who act
>crookedly even for the sake of Heaven, which
>brings about destruction of creation and desolation
>"of the earth.
>The greatness of the ancestors was in their not
>only being tsadiqim and hasidim and lovers of
>God in the highest degree possible but they were
>also yesharim. Thus they behaved respectfully even
>towards the most despicable idol-worshippers.
>They treated them with love and cared about their
>well-being. This sustains the creation. We thus saw
>Abraham pray for Sodom even though he hated
>them for their wickedness as he explained to the
>King of Sodom. Nevertheless, he desired their well
>being.... Jacob, too, spoke gently with Laban even
>though he was justifiably angry with him for trying
>to destroy his entire family.... This is why Balaam
>prayed, "Let me die the death of yesharim." They
>are the upholders of the creation. Thus we have
>clearly explained why this book is called 'Sefer
>Ha-Yashar,' for it is the book of creation.
>I would add that this commitment to the wellbeing goes not only to working
>with the individuals, but extends to working with the institutions.
Of course, you (or perhaps R' Joseph) imply that many Gedolim v'Tovim
were not yeshorim.
However, recall Rav Breuer's famous dictum
"Besser glatt yosher als glatt kosher."
Something tells me that he, in the tradition of his illustrious forbears,
The strived to be yeshorim.
Yosher is predicated on emes.
There is a vast gulf between sinas chinam and respectful, even strident,
For example, we often have strident disagreements here, yet I hope none
of us are son'im of the others. Aderaba.
This Netziv is, therefore, beautiful, fundamental - and well known -
>Two more points: There is a difference between an institution that is
>devoted to the destruction of the torah, populated by people committed to
>such destruction, and an institution that is split between ovde hashem and
>people denying the torah. The first institution is far more problematic,
>and is at the heart of what RAYHK suggests was the rationale and
>justification for austritt. However, JTS has always (at least until
>recently) a curious mix - combining people with yirat shamayim (such as R L
>Ginzburg, R S L, RDHL, others in the talmud department, etc) and epikorsim
>such as RMK. Its institutional commitment was never to the frank
>elimination of torah - but to a gemeinde vision (whether that vision
>accurately reflected reality is a different issue). One should be leery of
>using texts devoted to institutions dedicated to rejecting the torah to
>institutions where there is a battle going on where some want to reject
I do not know how you know that Louis Ginberg was a yerei shomayim! We
do not even know if he believed in God (or kept Shabbos)! And while PSL
was a shomer Torah u'Mitvos, is that the sum total definition, in your
estimation, of yiras shomayim?! Grist for our mill!
>This different vision of the nature of JTS is, I think, at the heart of the
>issue - and (to go back to an old point) why the SE could recommend to his
>student to join JTS - something that RYGB thinks incomphrehensible - but
>actually, to someone who knew the gemeinde communitiy in Germany, quite
>within that tradition.
No, my comprehension is quite good, thank you. I see your chilluk. I
contend that it is not mechallek. (The SE, BTW, was he a Grossgemeinde
kind'a guy? The Hidesheimer seminary was pro-Austritts - do you know
that he was against the official policy?) I have not seen any ra'ayah,
other than your contention and your claim that it is otherwise.
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
essays, tapes and seforim at: www.aishdas.org;
on-line Yerushalmi shiurim at www.yerushalmionline.org
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Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 11:22:33 -0500
From: "Michael Frankel" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: "Status Quo" communities
"Seth Mandel" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> One small correction: just as there were Gemeinde communities in Germany,
> Hungary had its own not insignificant number of "Status Quo" communities,
> besides the Orthodox (=Austritt) and Neolog (=Reform).
> AFAIK they were often O-types - who voted to stay neutral rather
> than make a choice of joining R or C...
There's a certain conflation of somewhat different inyonim in the
discussions of asutritt communities and the Hungarian analogues. As
Rseth points out hungary was indeed "blessed" by status quo communities
but the n'qudoh of the difference was not quite the same as the german
front. A Status Quo community really had nothing to do with staying
"neutral between C and R" as RSBA has it. Its distinguishing feature was
not the particular form of its sectarian adherence to halakhic norms, nor
whether it was a "big tent" einheitgemeinde in the german fashion. Some
were and some weren't, they came in all sorts of flavors. Status Quo
rather refers to their willingness or obligation to join the national
organization -- a completely new political superstructure which for the
first time imposed demands and constraints on the absolute and traditional
freedom of choice of localities. -- as you can well imagine. Try telling
some chassidishe rov that he must subordinate himself to a bunch of
ashkenazishe apparatchiks off in Budapest or something. There were
often bitter fights within communities between the pros and the antis
(the latter of whom who were thus the status quo proponents), both
of whom were often quite frum -- as was the case e.g. in Sighet where
some of my revered ancestors happily slugged it out as leaders of both
warring factions. The pros and antis might also separate into separate
communal organizations -- one side generally representing themselves to
the government authorities as "Sefardim" and thus practically a separate
religion, but the point of machloqes was always focused on the issue
of joining the national organization or not. While germany certainly
had a national organization of frummies as well (the free association)
the n'qudah of the german austritters was the internal organization of
the individual city.
The discussion of austritt vs grossgemeinde has been mostly well done
and RYGB, to give credit when its due (and enhance my own credibility as
an objective observer when I must, sadly all too often, disagree with
him) has been mostly on target with his descriptions of gemeinde as it
appeared to RSRH. In particular RYGB has picked up on an important but
subtle point when he introduced the notion of TIDE into the discussion
of austritt. This is worthy of some elaboration since TIDE, as an
educational program, might lichoroh seem to be a completely separate
issue to the notion of communal austritt or not. But they were indeed
fused in RSRH's mind as can be seen by his puzzling invocation of TIDE
in his lengthy response to R. Bamberger's condescending letter on the
subject of austritt. Having noted this important conceptual link however,
I believe that RYGB has missed RSRH's actual point here. There is an
article by the late Jacob Katz which touches on this matter and which,
if the subject develops any legs, we can discuss at another opportunity.
Mechy Frankel W: (703) 845-2357
email@example.com H: (301) 593-3949
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Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 14:01:39 +0200
From: "Mishpachat Freedenberg" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Airev Rav?
> [Translated by me]
> "The idea that an Airev Rav will rule the land (EY) before
> Mashiach comes is mentioned in the Zohar several times and
> also the Gaon MiVilna wrote it. These things are as clear
> as the sun and are not in the sky, that those who rule now
> are the Airev Rav, and the more they pressure and oppress
> faithful Jews, their merits will expire earlier hastening
> the Geula."
> Anyone have a source for the Zohar and Gra he's referring to?
The Zohar in Bereishis chaf hey  aleph and bais. The Gra speaks
about it in tons of places; it is spoken about in Kol HaTor p. 80 and 81,
especially on p.81. Kol HaTor was written by Rav Hillel Shikolover, talmid
of the Gra. Also see Even Shelaima Chapter 11; there is a peirush there
underneath where they bring other sources of the Gra on the subject. Look
in Maor v'shemesh in the beginning of parshas Beshalach; the Ohr HaChaim
mentions it as well, but not in the future tense.
Hope this gives you enough to get started with :-)
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Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 13:35:34 +1100
From: "SBA" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Half a pasuk/savrei moronon
From: Micha Berger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> LAD, this is VERY close to RRW's "esnachta" proposal
I saw it in one of the meforshim recently (I can't recall which).
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Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2003 22:18:32 -0500
Subject: re: Midvar Sheker Tirchak
R' Harry Maryles wrote <<< Never-the-less the Torah tell's us "Midvar
Sheker Tirchak"... that one must avoid questionable methods no matter
how noble the goal. Questionable means (the Torah tells us) are NEVER
And yet, there are specific cases where we are told TO lie, because of
shalom. Is this not a case where the ends (shalom) justify the means
Again we see that an apparently ironclad rule DOES have exceptions.
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Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2003 20:54:52 -0500
From: Gershon Dubin <email@example.com>
Subject: Maamar vs. Dibur
Why is it asher "bidevaro" ma'ariv aravim, but "bema'amaro" barah
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Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 17:51:44 -0500
From: "Brown, Charles.F" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Shoshanas ya'akov
Just throwing this out for discussion:
"Shoshanas ya'akov tzahala v'sameicha birosam yachad techeilas mordechai"
1) why ya'akov and not yisrael?
2) what is the chiluk between tzahala and sameicha?
3) why the emphasis on "yachad" (obviously the theme is unity, but
this theme is not played up in megilla; adreaba, there are distinctions
between bnei kfarim, kerachim, and cities in reading megilla)
4) what was the gadlus of seeing mordechai wearing techeiles - the
culmination of the nes is the downfall of haman, the saving of klal
yisrael, etc. why is this nekudah of wearing techelis so critical?
I have seen #4 asked in a few places and it strikes me as the most
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Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 13:13:41 +0200
From: "Akiva Atwood" <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Self Evident Apikorsus
Regarding variations of the Bible text:
The Idea of the Sanctity of the Biblical Text and the Science of Textual
Professor of Bible, Bar-Ilan University
Director, Miqraot Gedolot HaKeter Project
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Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 19:46:23 +0200
From: "Daniel Eidensohn" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Rav Moshe and Conservative rabbis as witnesses
> The story makes no sense, and is therefore of suspect authenticity.
> There was very much RMF could do for her, which is to be mevarer, if
> possible, who were the witnesses.
> Indeed, that a CR is passul l'eydus is only helpful if the CR serves as an
> eid kiddushin, or if the umdena is muchach that he used passul witnesses.
> Thus, the whole story is clearly incomplete and not at all of halachic
> significance. Aside from the fact that it is hearsay.
There is an interesting comment that the Oheiv Yisroel made about Noach.
Rashi describes him as one of little faith because he didn't believe
fully that the mabul was coming. The Oheiv Yisroel said he couldn't
understand how a great tzadik such as Noach didn't have full faith that
there would be a mabul even though G-d had told him. Answers the Oheiv
Yisroel - the bitachon of a tzadik establishes reality. Noach disbelieved
that there would be a mabul in order that he should not be a partner in
the destruction of the world. If he really didn't believe it - it would
In order to understand my story one needs to be aware that there is a
distinction between permitting someone presumed to be an aishes ish to
remarry and someone suspected of being a mamzer. See Igros Moshe EH IV
#13.4 page 29.[concerning doubts of the validity of Conservative marriages
even if there are kosher witnesses...] Reb Moshe there states "I have
mentioned a number of sefeikos concerning the kiddushin of the first
husband...even though concerning permitting the wife herself to remarry
I would be afraid to permit it because of the seriousness of aishes ish
which chazal were very strict but since this question involves the son and
daughter which is the question of mamzeres which in contrast the Torah is
very lenient.The rabbonim were also very lenient so therefore it is quite
clear that they can be permitted to remarry [based on the doubts raised]."
The doubts discussed involved the quality of eidus 1) the conservative
rabbi typically was the only witness - invalid doreissa 2) even if there
were two kosher witnesses that joined with him - the combination is posul
because the rabbi is posul 3) even if there were kosher witnesses who
did not join him formally there are circumstances that all would be posul
even though they did not intend to be witnesses but just to observe like
everyone else according to the Rosh ... even though this is very unlikely
that they would be posul nevertheless it adds an additional small sofek...
Igros Moshe EH III #3 page 422 "concerning the Reform all of them are
posul for eidus because they deny Torah from Heaven and therefore even
without direct testimony concerning whether they keep mitzvos the name
Reform testifies that they are kofrim...therefore it is not necessary
to have eidim to the fact that they are kofrim that it is enough that
they consider themselves Reform and there is no greater chazaka than
the status of Reform"
We see from this the degree that Reb Moshe went to find a hetair for
mamzerus. Thus it was enough to establish that the rabbi was Reform
or Conservative and rely on the chazaka of kafira. However if it can
be established that there is no such chazaka than the whole edifice
collapses. In many cases additional information was not obtainable.
In sum - Reform or Conservative has a chazaka of kefira. The story was
only to illustrate that if a person was in fact shomer mitzvos - though
employed by a Conservative shul the chazaka is apparently removed. I was
not trying to prove that there is absolutely no other basis for hetair. I
agree with R' Bechhoffer that theoretically that there might have been
other information that might have provided a hetair. However why and
whether this was or was not considered does not invalidate my point.
Go to top.
Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 12:47:05 -0500
Subject: When to investigate a chazakah
On Areivim, Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn told a story of a woman where <<< R'
Moshe told her that she was not a mamzer because the parent's marriage was
posul because of the chazaka that the Conservative Rabbi was not shomer
shabbos. She being very frum investigated and found that the rabbi was
in fact shomer mitzvos. When she called back to announce her discover R'
Moshe was very upset and said that there was nothing he could do for
her now. >>>
I asked, and two people indicated that Rav Moshe was upset not only
because of the position that the woman was now in, but that she
investigated on her own when it wasn't necessary.
I'd like to open a discussion on what sort of "chazakah" this situation
is, and why it should not be investigated. It has been my understanding
that the purpose of the rules of "rov" and "chazakah" are to determine
how to deal with a situation in which the facts are unknown -- and
(I thought) unknowable.
Three classic cases of these rules involve situations like:
1) An anonymous piece of meat has been found. We have no idea where the
meat came from, but depending on various circumstantial evidence such as
the ratio of kosher butchers locally, presence or absence of simanim,
or the circumstances involving the finding, halacha may presume it to
be kosher or not.
2) One pound of nonkosher food falls into two pounds of kosher. We know
for a fact that we have 3 pounds of a 33/66 mixture, but it is impossible
to separate the food, so the status of the mixture comes into question
even though the facts of the case are clearly known.
3) A couple has been married. Later on one of them claims that it was a
mekach ta'us. It is now impossible to determine what their true intentions
had been back then, so various established chazakos are used to presume
whether the original kinyan was valid or not.
But the case of the woman in the story is very different, as I see
it. If it had been impossible for her to find any information about
that Conservative Rabbi, then she has what to rely on. But if she *can*
clarify the facts, why is there no obligation to do so?
Go to top.
Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2003 15:21:04 -0500
Subject: Re: Ikkarim
I thank all those who responded. I would like to address several of your
points and then cease posting on this issue. Please feel free to e-mail
me directly, however. I prospectively ask mechila for speaking strongly
but that is just a side effect of studying Novar'dok for so long :-).
Several respondents eloquently criticised my position on the basis that
beliefs are not something that can be chosen; rather, one either "sees"
them or not. Some have even claimed that it is more honest and greater
avodas hashem to harbor doubts than to proclaim adherence to positions
they cannot accept. I quote a representative sample:
"How, though, does one force a certain set of beliefs upon oneself?
If one is actually intellectually convinced of the truth of a certain
position, but when questioned, says that he believes in a different,
"more machmir" position, is he then okay? What if he chooses a sort of
cognitive dissonance, and tells himself that while my intellect tells
me "x," I nonetheless have blind faith in the truth of "y?" Can this
really be called a belief? If this is what will get him into Olam HaBa,
just Whom does he think he is fooling?
It should be evident from what I wrote above that I disagree with
the whole premise of this question, that one can actually "pick one's
views" and then "follow them." However, I will attempt to give my opinion
anyway. Consider the following two hypothetical people, Reuven and Shimon,
both of whom have learned in the course of their academic studies that
the text of the Torah as we have it now is not word-for-word exactly the
same as what the Tannaim had. (I'm sticking to issues of lower criticism
for now to keep things simple.)
Reuven accepts the conclusions of this research, but still believes
100% that he is obligated to observe the Torah as devar Hashem, and
that chaza"l were the authentic ba'alei hamesorah. He points out that
some rishonim had views similar to his, and also maintained, of course,
that this didn't take take one iota from the authority of the Torah.
Shimon understands the evidence, but, having a certain understanding of
the Rambam's ikarim, thinks that if he were to actually admit to himself
taking this evidence to its logical conclusions, he would be "outside
the fold." Thus, he compartmentalizes his mind. In the part of his mind
that can't help but accept what he's seen to be true, he thinks that
since the Rambam says that this is a fundamental principle of Judaism,
he must not be really be obligated to observe Torah at all. However,
he cannot bear to deal with the emotional and social consequences of
such a conslusion, so in the other part of his mind, he maintains a
half-hearted allegiance to the Rambam's ikarim.
Which one of them is engaged in a more genuine, "better" service of God?
I would argue that it's definitely Reuven. RML, though, would seem to
suggest that one who finds himself in this position should take the path
of Shimon. What does everybody else think?"
Another respondent wrote: "I suggest you review the chapter in the MN
about the meaning of 'belief'.
"The Rambam thought that all his principles could be proven. You seem to
think that a person can chose whether or not to belive them."
I think that there is a major fallacy in this argument. This way of
thinking is quite modern and not at all in accordance with the mindset
of the Torah. Modern man has dethroned G-d as the ruler and guide of
Nature and has correspondingly removed the soul from its position as the
arbiter of the mind and the psyche. For the world, it means reductionist
and mechanical determinism; for the individual it is psychological and
moral determinism. Our culture is convinced that man's heart and even his
mind are not in his control and cannot be changed and that the freedom of
choice is more of an illusion than reality. "I am what I am" and "Kiss
me I am Irish" (polish, gay whatever). The greatest sin in contemporary
culture is not to accept another individual for what they are- for they
cannot be anything else and it is grossly unfair to reject another one
for something that he cannot change. Such is the case not only with
skin color, ethnic origin and other unchangeable characteristics but
also for sexual orientation, political beliefs, and moral positions.
This is not the way of the Torah. It quite clearly assumes that man is
in charge of his destiny; that he makes decisions with his whole being -
body, mind , heart and soul; and that chovos hal'vovos are subject to
conscious and rational choice. In other words, it is like choosing to
marry someone. The decision comes out of somewhere very deep; you may
not even be able to rationally explain it. Yet it is no less real as a
decision. Free choice is also operative regarding feeling, beliefs and
attitudes. See the introduction to Chovos Hal'vovos, for example.
All of this is quite explicit in the Chinukh, Vaeschanan, on lo
tis'ave. Also see the well known Beis Halevy in Shemos.
Not being able to believe what the Torah, following its rules of psak ,
tells you, is not an occasion for self-congratulation for perfecting
the middah of honesty, courage and truth seeking. It is a wake-up call
that should occasion a great deal of self-examination. At times, harbe
yaldus ose; at other times, harbe chevra raah oseh. See Radak's comments
to Yirmiah 4, on the posuk "niru lachem nir val tizr'eu el kotsim".
As far as the Rambam's definition of belief, see R. Chaim Heller's
discussion of the meaning of the Arabic "Amanat" in the first few notes
to his edition of Sefer Hamitsvos. This has been discussed in this
forum. Suffices to quote is the observation of R. N. Hertz Wiesel in
Sefer Hamiddos. He points out that Emes and Emun are only different in
one letter. Emes is that which is incontrovertibly true - the sun rises
in the East. Emunah is that which is very likely true but can be argued
against by an akshan. His example ( a bit edited) is the claim that your
Rosh Yeshiva is the one who stole your kid's bicycle. Everything that
we know of the personality of the accused and the state of things argues
against this suggestion. Yet, it is concievable that it really happened;
an argument can possilby be presented to that effect.
So, belief, even according to Rambam is the logical supposition, not
the entirely provable fact. You know that his is so, for the Rambam
includes unprovable ikkarim in his list of 13, including, Creation (#
4, see discussion in Fendel's book on the principles) that he himself
states in the Guide cannot be convincingly proven and # 12 and 13.
I do not trivialize the challenges that this worldview presents. But
in essence this is no different than other spiritual challenges. One
needs to assess his inner and outer environment, his capabilities,
set goals, devise an action plan and on-going assessment measures and a
timetable. It may take a lifetime and uncovering of deeper and deeper
levels of challenge. If we reject the concept, how can we respond to
an unfortunate person who, for example, is undergoing a a lifelong and
very deep challenge of gender identity conflict, , and what can we ask
of an individual who claims inability to change other deeply ingrained
Thank you for listening,
Go to top.
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