Avodah Mailing List
Volume 13 : Number 096
Friday, September 10 2004
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Mon, 6 Sep 2004 18:22:58 +0100
From: Chana Luntz <email@example.com>
Subject: Public expression by women
[Bounced from Areivim. This first email was the one RMSchor replied to
on this list at <http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol13/v13n093.shtml#03>,
the 2nd email under that tag.
[My apologies for how mangled things have been lately. Someday I'll
catch up on my sleep, and things will bet back to their usual level
of mangeledness. -mi]
> The Gemara Brochos 17a writes: [Our Rabbis taught]:
> Greater is the promise made by the Holy One, blessed
> be He, to the women than to the men; for it says,
> Rise up, ye women that are at ease; ye confident
> daughters, give ear unto my speech. Rab said to R.
> Hiyya: Whereby do women earn merit? By making their
> children go to the synagogue to learn Scripture and
> their husbands to the Beth Hamidrash to learn
> Mishnah, and waiting for their husbands till they
> return from the Beth Hamidrash. The Chafetz Chaim
> explains that although women have many Mitzvohs to
> earn merit, the Gemara's question is based on
> the premise that to merit Techias Hamasim, one must
> have Torah merit. (See Keubos 111b)
> The Mishna in Sotah says that a Sotah who is guilty
> may survive for a few years after drinking the
> water, if she has merit. The Gemara Sotah 21a asks
> what kind of merit would be so powerful to protect
> her. If it's Torah study, she is not commanded &
> consequently her reward would not be that great. If
> it's a mitzvah, that would not seem to be great
> enough, since a Mitzvah is compared to a candle
> which is temporary while Torah study is compared to
> a permanent light. One answer of the Gemara is:
> " Rabina said: It is certainly merit of [the study
> of] Torah [which causes the water to suspend its
> effect]; and when you argue that she is in the
> category of one who is not commanded and fulfils,
> [it can be answered] granted that women are not so
> commanded, still when they have their sons taught
> Scripture and Mishnah and wait for their husbands
> until they return from the Schools, should they not
> share [the merit] with them?"
I don't disagree that there is clearly schar for enabling the
study of Torah (and of course, on a man to man basis, there is the
Yissachar/Zevulin relationship) - the interesting thing about this is,
of course, that a woman is not commanded to enable - so this would seem to
be an exception to the greater is the reward of the one who is commanded
than one who is not commanded rule.
And the other thing about this is - waiting is not exactly and totally
the same as enabling, nor is sending off. It is more about the giving
up of a desired presence - the highest form of which would seem to be
that of Rabbi Akiva's wife, Rachel, who did not see him for so many
years (but therefore was not around to do anything for him either).
What is not included in these passages, as far as one can see, is any
reference to nurturing or looking after or even feeding and clothing.
So I am not sure that this analysis necessarily extends as far as you
have extended it. In some ways mightened the very height of this sort of
enabling be the woman who refuses to marry a man she loves knowing that
he will be so heartbroken he will throw himself into the beis medrish
and learn torah day and night?
The discussion in Sotah is clearly even more complex. After all, we are
talking about a Sotah who is guilty. That means that not only has she
secluded herself with another man, but that she has actually committed
adultery with him. That doesn't actually sound like the kind of "waiting"
that should receive reward to me - if anything, it would seem to suggest
that she waited until her husband and children were in yeshiva before
making whoopie with her lover.
And *even so*, she is sharing in the mitzvah? Can that be? Unless what
is being said here is that it is so difficult and lonely to wait in such
circumstances that such daliance is more understandable - that is that
some tolerance has to be given to a spot of adultery as a consequence
of the strains placed on a family due to Torah study?
An alternative did pass through my mind, although I don't know that it
fits in with the thrust of the passage, which is that the saving of her
life for a period of time doesn't really have to do with the Sotah at all,
but with the husband and children on the grounds that, if her husband
and/or children would have been home, then they would have acted as
chaperone and all this would never have happened, but that she survives
so that no blame can be attached to them because the reason they were
not at home was they were engaged in the mitzvah of Torah study. hmm.
The whole survival of the Sotah is doubly odd, don't forget, because if
she survives, then everything is assumed to be OK, and she goes back to
her husband, and he will presumably continue to have relations with her
(which should technically be assur, assur l'baal and assur l'boel).
Yet he will be unable to fulfil the mitzvah of pru u'rvu with her
(assuming he has not done so already - since if she is guilty she surely
will not conceive) etc etc. In a bizarre way, therefore, is he not being
punished by her survival?
> One can ask why is the reward for the encouragement
> to their husbands & children any greater than their
> own study of Torah,
> which the Gemara already rejected as not being
> sufficient because they are not commanded? The
> answer must be that one who enables & causes others
> to do a Mitzva earns the same merit as those who do
> the Mitzvah. The woman is therefore receiving the
> same Zchus as the man who is commanded & as the
> children.(Although it would seem children are not
> commanded, but nevertheless their learning has the
> advantage that children are pure from sin & as the
> Gemara in Shabbos 119b writes the world endures in
> the merit of children learning Torah for that
> reason.) Similarly we find that one who causes
> others to give Tzedaka has even a greater merit than
> one who gives himself.
And yet the halacha is that if a father needs to learn Torah and also to
enable his son to learn, and he doesn't have the means to pay for both
and they are both equal in learning ability, he comes first (Yoreh Deah
siman 245 si'if 1). And yet one would think from the above analysis that
it should be the opposite.
> We can say that the same applies to marrying &
> having children. Although women are not
> commanded,since the man can not fulfill his Mitzva
> without her, she shares the merit with him &
> effectively has the same benefits as one who is
Again though, this would seem to be in violation of the greater is the
reward of one who is commanded and does than one who is not commanded
and does. In this case in fact the actions are exactly parallel, since
just as the man cannot fulfil the mitzvah without the woman, the woman
cannot marry and have children without the man. And yet she gets the
same reward for choosing to as he does for being obligated.
And why should she not be commanded to enable, at least in raising
the kids if not having them? A mitzvah to enable is not unprecedented.
After all, is that not at least one of the things the Cohanim do in the
beis hamikdash - they enable the mitzvah of bringing a korban where that
korban is in fact an obligation of a regular person, but they also get
the mitzvah of schita, zrika etc of that very same korban.
But while we talk about the woman "sharing" in the mitzvah of the man
(which surely the Cohanim should do too, as nobody can fulfil their
obligation to bring a korban without them), we do not talk about a
special mitzva of "enabling".
> As to the question why aren't women actually
> commanded to have children, Rav Meir Simcha of.
> Dvinsk suggested that since women endanger their
> lives in childbirth, the Torah did not want to
> impose this Mitzva on them.
I have heard this one before. Couple of slight problems with it - we
are forbidden to endanger our lives, the logical conclusion of this is
that women should be forbidden to have children. If anything therefore
don't you need a positive Torah mitzvah to outweigh the prohibition?
In addition, I don't think we posken like that in general, because,
at the very least, contraception for women should be freely permissible
according to this explanation. After all, if the Torah did not impose
such an obligation because of the risks to life of the woman, should
a rabbinical authority be poskening (in any case at all) that a woman
should be putting herself in a matzav of sakkana, even if it will deny
the husband the fulfilment of the positive mitzvah of pru u'rvu (and even
more so if the Torah obligation has been fulfilled)? So, it seems to me,
any rabbinical authority that holds in any situation that a woman should
not take contraception is holding against this position.
Just some thoughts.
[Email #2. -mi]
RMB writes [on Areivim, but this is enough to represent my point -mi]:
>Judaism is not synagogue centric. We're teaching women
>otherwise. That is the true cost of feminism. If she
>realized the importance of her role, she wouldn't feel her
>kavod is slighted.
But what is her role? And where is it defined within yehadus?
I *think* you are assuming that her role is as wife and mother.
That certainly is what women have been doing for the last umpteen
centuries both Jewish and non Jewish, frum and non frum.
But, and this is one of my constant recurring questions. Why if that is
the case, is there no mitzvah value placed on a woman doing those roles.
If we say that greater is one who is commanded and does than one who
just does - why is there no commandment on a woman to:
b) have children?
c) look after the husband (except in *very* limited ways, and even more
limited ways if she is wealthy enough to have maidservants - although
at least it would seem that certain things are her at least financial
responsibility to bring to the household)?
d) look after the children (except to nurse them, which is her
responsibility - either to do so herself of find a wetnurse)? Other than
that, the full childcare responsibility both educational and financial
would seem to fall upon the man, and as far as I can tell, her agreeing
to take it on is a pure voluntary act to help him out - even if he is
supporting her, he gets in exchange her ma'ase yadeha, not a deal to look
after his children. You would have thought that the chachamim would have
negotiated that into the kesuba exchange at the very least, but it is
nowhere. It is also not clear to me, on what basis he can halachically
delegate childcare at least of sons above the age of chinnuch to a woman
who is not obligated in talmid torah.
The point being - why does a woman not have any role within our classic
halachic sources, not even what we all define as the "traditional"
one while men have very clearly defined (almost overdefined, they are
supposed to be looking after and educating their sons while simultaneously
supporting them and learning torah and davening and, and, and)? The
closest I have seen to a halachic source for a woman's role is a drash
on the hagada! So why is it that every single one of what might be
considered to be, in the traditional world of both Jews and non Jews,
the particular province of women, marriage, having children, educating
a family, Jewish women are specifically exempt. It is a desperately
striking set of exceptions. Why does the Torah not value what you value,
by giving women that role definition?
Go to top.
Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2004 11:29:48 -0400
From: Micha Berger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Reacting to the death of a rasha
Richard Butler y"sh, the leader of a group called "Aryan Nations" (not
to be confused with the former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq),
The person who stold me the news quoted the pasuq "be'avud resha'im rina".
By "coincidence", this was shortly after I posted to scj(m) the story of
how Shemu'el haQatan was chosen to write birkhas haminim. That it was
probably because we learn in Avos 4:10 that he often repeated Mishlei
24:17-18, "binfol oyivkha al tismach; uvikashlo al yageil libekha...."
So, which should be our response -- "rina" or "al tismach ... al yageil"?
Is there a difference between rinah, simchah and gilah that is relevent?
Or perhaps between oyeiv and rasha? (Although the pasuq in Mishlei is
in a context of contrasting tzadiq and rasha.)
Micha Berger "I hear, then I forget; I see, then I remember;
email@example.com I do, then I understand." - Confucius
http://www.aishdas.org "Hearing doesn't compare to seeing." - Mechilta
Fax: (270) 514-1507 "We will do and we will listen." - Israelites
Go to top.
Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2004 17:06:19 -0400
From: Micha Berger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Following the minhagim of the husband
On Wed, Sep 08, 2004 at 05:16:51PM +0300, eli turkel wrote:
: In conclusion while I agree with Chana that sefardim
: who moved to Eastern Europe changed their mode of tefilla I strongly
: suspect they most of them kept private sefardi minahim in their home....
FWIW, my ancestors were pretty public about keeping their pre-Litvisher
minhagim. We didn't become real Litvaks until my grandfather and his
brother (aleihem hashalom) got to America as youths, and assimilated
the practices of the shul they joined.
Even my ggf R' Shlomo *Zalmen* Berger would not speak anything but
lashon haqodesh on Shabbos.
Go to top.
Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2004 19:35:07 +0100
From: Chana Luntz <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Following the minhagim of the husband
The discussion of following the minhagim of the husband has been taking
place on mail-jewish, not Avodah, so I don't quite know why this post
was sent to Avodah, but since it has been published there, I will
Those who are interested in the discussion should really look at the
mail-jewish archives to see what has already been discussed between
myself and RET (and others) on this topic.
> I don't understand why a psak should be weaker than a minhag.
I have been avoiding getting into the relationship between psak and
minhag, because there is indeed a connection and a strong linkage between
the psak of the mara d'asra and the minhag of the particular makom (think
for example of the minhag in the town of Rabbi Yose to eat chicken and
milk, based of course on his psak). But that would involve a discussion of
"lo tisgoddadu" (which, if I was having this conversation on mail-jewish,
I would in all fairness to the general readership need to define and
give some flavour of the concept, because while I suspect the readership
of Avodah does not need this, I doubt that many of the readership of
mail-jewish has ever even heard of the issur, and certainly not of the
discussions as to the legitimacy of the current situation of multiple
communities cheek by jowl with one another).
> I think the key point is that the Rosh is not an exception.
The reason I referred to the Rosh as something of an exception, is that
travelling gedolim who really do move place to place, but do not do so
in order to become the mara d'asra of the place to which they move are
something of an exception (mostly when gedolim have moved, they have
moved to take up a rabbinical position of leadership). The situation
with the Rosh is that here you had somebody who has clearly reached the
status of being on a level to pasken, but not functioning in that role
in the community he moved to.
But that does not change the basic halacha as explained in my previous
posts to mail-jewish, which is that the halacha is that if one moves from
one place to another with the intention not to return, one adopts the
minhagim of the new place. This is set out very clearly by the Tur (who
of course was the son of the Rosh) in Yoreh Deah siman 468 as follows:
One who goes from a place where it is the minhag to do [in this case
to work on erev pesach up until chatzos] to a place where it is not the
custom to do or the opposite he should do as the minhag of the place that
he intends to settle if his intention is to settle in the place he comes
to he should do according to that minhag ben l'chumra ben l'kula but if
his intention is to return to his place, he should do as the custom of
the people of his [original] place, but when is this, in private, and
not before the people of the place which he has come to, but in front
of them if there is a suspicion of maklokus if he deviates from their
minhag, he should leave the minhag of the people of his place and go
according to their minhag even if they go l'kula and kol she ken l'chumra"
Given that the Tur was the son of the Rosh, and followed his psak, it
is not surprising that this is a summary of the position set out by the
Rosh in Psachim on daf 51a (where he also gives the relevant gemoras
that are the basis for this halacha, the one in pesachim about work,
the one in chullin about eating meat considered treif in one place and
kosher in another etc). Note that the Rosh adds at the end there when
discussing how the person who intends to return should behave, and how
he can only do this in private, but not publically "because greater
is shalom and it is upon him to be over on the minhag of his place,
because there is not in it an issur d'orisa but rather they go in it as
if an issur to be machmir upon themselves".
>Gedolim throughout the generations have changed, for
>themselves, local customs that were accepted for generations
>based on their own logic. Perhaps the most famous case if
>the Gra. R. Chaim Soloveitchik did not wear tefillin on chol
>hamoed although the Ramah was accepted in Lita because he
>was convinced that was right. His grandson RYBS has changed
>parts of the tefilla for his own minyan. In particular
>they use the sefard version of the avodah on yom kippur. R.
>Moshe Feinstein has a teshuva about sitting for havdalah and
>concludes that he hopes that all his talmidim will keep this
>minhag. So he clearly felt they should give up their family
>customs and follow his psak.
All this is true but not dealing with the basic issue being discussed
here, which is that both RMF and ROY hold that a woman when she marries
falls into the category (as summarised above from the Tur, but the
Shulchan Aruch says similarly) of somebody who moves from one place to
another without the intention to return (for those interested in the
basic inyan, I set this all out in mail-jewish, and also set out Rav YH
Henkin's position on this question which is different from RMF and ROY).
How and the extent to which gedolim are or are not authorised to posken
vis a vis particular minhagim which they have reviewed in the light of
their Torah knowledge is a different issue, especially in the light of
the absence (in most cases) of a mara d'asra today in most of the places
in which we live.
>In conclusion while I agree with Chana that sefardim
>who moved to Eastern Europe changed their mode of tefilla I
>strongly suspect they most of them kept private sefardi
>minahim in their home.
As you can see from the citation from the Tur above, this is only
permissible if they have the intention ultimately to return. The key point
that both RMF and ROY stress is that a woman who marries has no intention
to return (and in fact it is not in her power to do so, as the only way
she can "return" is via her husband choosing to divorce her or dying),
and hence this part of it would not apply.
> Hence, even according to RMF I see nothing wrong with a
>married woman keeping her previous private customs.
Note that RMF specifically refers to the situation of people moving
in Europe in previous generations in Orech Chaim chelek 4, siman 33 in
which he states:
"And in the olden days if one left his place to settle in another place
his din was as the minhag of the other place also in connection with
nusach hatefila. But now due to the uprooting of the communities in
Given that the specific point I referred to vis a vis the RMF and ROY
psak was changing the nusach of tefilla, I do not see on what basis you
can state that:
>I think that RMF psak is being extended to areas he did not mean.
Go to top.
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 00:58:53 +0300
From: Akiva Atwood <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Age of the Universe
> As I have noted, the Rambam does NOT allow allegorization. No other
> "reputable sources" have been cited.
As many people have noted, the Rambam allegorizes the visit of the 3
melachim. Therefore he allows it.
Go to top.
Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2004 18:25:54 -0400
From: "Herb Basser" <email@example.com>
Subject: Non-literal explanations of Torah and age of the Universe
Non-literal explanations of Torah and age of the Universe
One has to discard all commentary to Bereshis-- The beauty and force
of the narrative is too powerful to reduce to any kind of reason
statement. bereshis bara elokim eis hashomayim ve'eis haaretz.-- there
is no sentence in the entire corpus of literature of any culture to
compare with the elegance of this sentence. Commentary destroys the
sheer beauty. Percy Bysshe Shelley noted long ago that narratives have a
realm all their own that cannot be reduced to reason statements. Irony,
innuenedo, ambiguity-- so much emanates from the narrative that defies
categorization or description short of the very narrative. Malinowski
noted the power of narrative in the psyche of a culture that cannot be
torn from its context and national rituals. Shabbos is the celebration
of bereshis, not of Aristotle or Rambam or Rashi or Ralbag-- but of the
very life force of bereshis as lived in our communities. If Maimonides
needed to find something freudian to say about Adam, Hava and Mr
Nachash-- and to reduce it to the tri-faculty medieval concept of the
psyche/soul (rational/imaginative/animal) that was his right. Qumran
pesher/Philo/rabbis all engage in expanding the narrative of the Torah
in terms of their own poltical/social/religious contexts. In so doing
they recreate the biblical Word in the image of their intelelctual
community. But after all the Rambams and Ralbags and Rashis and Litvaks
have had their say-- the pristine Torah is what we recite over kiddush--
not these rishonim-- these words make shabbos and no others. It strikes
me that one has to accept all these things as drush-- for their time
and place as we have the right to say what we will-- but in the end no
one really finds truth values in what Maimonides or Ralbag held to be
maaseh merkava or maaseh bereshis, although some may darshan them to
fit some more contemporary palatable views. The power of the narrative
is what we read in Shul and what we make a brocho on today. To ask what
bershis means is like asking what shmaltz herring and schnapps means at
a kiddush. No I'm wrong-- thats reducing it too much.
Go to top.
Date: Thu, 09 Sep 2004 18:32:04 -0400
From: "Yosef Gavriel & Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Non-literal explanations/Gan Eden
At 06:50 AM 9/9/2004, you wrote:
>> It does not. While it shows that elements in an account may be understood
>> as allegory, it also shows that the existence of the account's principals
>> and the reality of the events must be taken literally - at odds with
>> the Spero school.
>Nonsense -- there are Rishonim who hold the visit of the 3 malachim ONLY
>took place in a dream. They obviously don't agree that "events must be
A prophetic dream is reality. We've been through this before too.
[Email #2. -mi]
At 10:30 AM 9/9/2004, [RNS] wrote:
>Why on earth does RYGB keep talking about the "Spero school"? Rabbi Spero
>states that the entire story of Noach and the Flood was allegorical. I
>was never discussing Noach and the Flood. I was only ever discussing
>alleogrizing some limited portions of Bereishis. Plenty of people who
>reject R' Spero's approach to Noach nevertheless accept my approach to
>Bereishis. Once again, I am asking RYGB to refrain from dragging this
>discussion into a different direction.
In previous Avodah discussions you expressed your solidarity with the
Spero School on account of the archeological/geological evidence (or
lack thereof). It seems evident to me that your rejection of the order
of Ma'aseh Bereishis on the basis of the similar evidence is of a piece
with your global approach.
>RYGB now states that Ralbag shows that "elements" in an account may
>indeed be understood allegorically. This surely means that it would have
>been acceptable for Rambam to learn this way, too (Ralbag explicitly
>states that he is going less far than Rambam). This would also contradict
>RYGB's position that Rambam could not possibly have written what everyone
>understands him to have written.
Nothing can contradict my position in the Rambam except proof from the
Rambam himself. In his post today, Rabbi Lampel explained the Rambam
very well, and in perfect accord with my understanding.
>In RYGB's new position, it is only the "principals" of the account that
>must be taken literally. (And also the "reality of events", but I don't
>what that means - of course anything that is reality is not allegorical,
>but the point under discussion is what the reality was!) Well, I don't
>know how you can define the entire incident with the snake, tree of
>knowledge, and sin of eating, as not being a "principal" of the account
>- it's nineteen pesukim and a complete and signficant story in and of
>itself! And we see that Ralbag takes it allegorically.
The point is: The episode with the nachash occurred - the nachash in this
case being the yetzer ho'ra, etc. I think the Ralbag is wrong and has
no right to say what he says, but it is a far cry from taking aspects
of an episode allegorically to unilaterally declaring that the order of
Ma'aseh Bereishis is some (hithertoo unkown!) allegory because of the
credence given to the fossil record.
>In another post, RYGB stated that to allegorize Adam being created from
>earth is wrong and perhaps assur. Adam's origins are certainly far less
>of a principal part of the story than is the whole episode of the snake
>and tree! It is a mere element of the story, and even according to RYGB,
>Ralbag theoretically permits allegorizing elements. Also, in light of the
>recent revelation that Rav Nadel z'l allegorized Adam's origins, based on
>the license given in the Rishonim, it wouldn't seem like such a good idea
>to describe it as wrong and perhaps assur. Or at least, we can comfortably
>dismiss the opinion of RYGB, and side with Rav Nadel z"l instead.
Rabbi Nadel is not a demonstrable link in the chain of the mesorah.
Moreover, it is very dubious to assert legitimacy on the basis of an
opinion which is unverifiable. In essence, it remains Rabbi Slifkin's
assertion - you may believe it is Rabbi Nadel's, but we have no way of
knowing what he said and why he said it.
If the Ralbag has any validity, it is only if a source in Chazal can be
found to back his assertion. Perhaps there is - the Zohar (Bereishis 52a)
may be adduced, and while it is unlikely that the Ralbag saw the Zohar,
perhaps he found some parallel Chazal.
You, however, sans Chazal, may not allegorize anything.
>It was not self-evident to two Rishonim, a major Acharon, and a
>contemporary gadol who was specifically renowned for his expertise in
>Rambam, that Rambam was not interpreting certain events allegorically. In
>fact, it was self-evident to them that he was indeed interpreting certain
>quite significant events allegorically.
I did not notice two Rishonim (the Abravanel is not a rishon), nor a
"major" Acharon - did the Noda b'Yehuda or Chasam Sofer weigh in on this
>My second point was that I was astounded that RYGB apparently expects us
>to accept his interpretation of Moreh Nevuchim over that of two Rishonim,
>a major Acharon, and a contemporary gadol who was specifically renowned
>for his expertise in Rambam. In accordance with RYGB's suggestion, I am
>no longer astounded. But I will still reject his lone view in favor of
>that of the consensus of more senior authorities.
That is too bad. It is a pity that you will not go back to the Rambam
himself and note that I am correct.
>RYGB asked for the reference to R' Kapach's account. It is in his footnote
>to Mishne Torah, Hilchos Shabbos 5:3.
Then I do not have access to it. Since it is not in RYK's commentary on MN
(why not?) I cannot comment. Suffice it to say that MN does not corroborate
such an approach.
Go to top.
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 10:54:48 -0400
From: Micha Berger <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Non-literal explanations/Gan Eden
On Thu, Sep 09, 2004 at 09:58:51PM -0400, Shinnar, Meir wrote:
:> I'll only go with this answer if someone proposed it for reasons entirely
:> within the Torah -- TSBK or TSBP. For example, if the Torah's description
:> of mal'akhim seems to contradict, it would be fitting (as does the Rambam)
:> to suggest that some of the description is allegory.
: The problem with this understanding is that the rambam isn't only
: talking about the three malachim - his shitta is that every time the
: torah mentions a malach, what is occuring is occuring in nevu'a.
: I don't know any source in TSBK or TSBP that would be the source of the
: rambam's position on this - do you have such a source?
It thought I was quite clear. There is a straight mesoretic reason for
saying it's nevu'ah. The implication of one part of the mesorah, it's
description of mal'achim as non-physical beings, contradicts (in the
Rambam's opinion) the notion that they were physically seen.
Note, though, the differences:
1- Less significant to my point: The Rambam makes the event real, but
observed prophetically rather than physically. He does not declare the
Torah as relating an allegory, but as relating a real reception of an
allegory by a navi.
2- The Rambam does not feel Torah is challenged by some other chokhmah,
and therefore needs to be reassessed. He is trying to resolve a problem
internal to Torah itself.
Unlike RMS's characterization that:
> It is a deep debate about how extensive the mesora actually is -
> those who believe in a very extensive mesora view the nonliteralists
> as violating the mesora, while those who believe that the mesora is not
> that extensive view the attempt to extend it to these areas as a ziyuf
> hamesora - regardless of how they actually interprete those areas.
I am not arguing that one must take the answer from within mesorah. What
I am saying is that mesorah must only be shaped by mesorah (and sevarah,
of course, you have to be able to reason), not by accepting synthetic
conclusions of other disciplines.
I might again point out that RYBS makes this point WRT halakhah, which
is how he understands R' Chaim's rejection of Radziner techeiles, his
understanding of the dinim of malei vechaseir, his refusal to resolve
orez as being rice once the ba'alei Tosados claim it's a safeiq, and the
unknown words in Megillah 18a. (See Nefesh haRav pp 52-54, or at least
my summary at <http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol05/v05n073.shtml#12>.)
The mesorah must be able to stand on its own.
Micha Berger Until he extends the circle of his compassion
firstname.lastname@example.org to all living things,
http://www.aishdas.org man will not himself find peace.
Fax: (270) 514-1507 - Albert Schweitzer
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Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2004 21:58:51 -0400
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
Subject: Re: Non-literal explanations/Gan Eden
> It does mean the Torah is to be understood literally. The literal
> retelling of what was seen in a prophetic vision. The mashal is the
> nevu'ah, not the chumash's retelling of it.
> As the Rambam understands it, "Vayeira H'" is a pasuq telling you that
> the Torah is about to repeat a nevu'ah.
> I'll only go with this answer if someone proposed it for reasons entirely
> within the Torah -- TSBK or TSBP. For example, if the Torah's description
> of mal'akhim seems to contradict, it would be fitting (as does the Rambam)
> to suggest that some of the description is allegory.
The problem with this understanding is that the rambam isn't only
talking about the three malachim - his shitta is that every time the
torah mentions a malach, what is occuring is occuring in nevu'a.
I don't know any source in TSBK or TSBP that would be the source of the
rambam's position on this - do you have such a source?
I would add that the efodi, (This is censored in the current printed
editions - I was sent a copy of the text, but am not sure I can locate it
now), being consistent, applies this to the akeda - as a malach appears
in the akeda, this must be a mar'eh nevua - a far more radical position
than anything that was said here.
Now, I am not quite sure of your distinction between people saying it
is an "allegory", but saying it is literal, but occuring in a prophetic
vision. I asked a similar question of RYGB: If someone were to say
that the mabul occured literally, but in Noach's prophetic vision, how
different is that from allegory? In both cases, it is nonliteral in the
normal understanding of the term. In avraham, there were no physical
angels, no physical bread, no physical meat, and in noach, no physical
mabul. If you were to argue that every story line in tanach has to be
understood literally, but not necessarily as occuring in this physical
world - I am not sure of the source, but I think few of the allegorists
would have a substantial issue with understanding allegory that way -
inherently, allegory reflects that it is occuring on a nonphysical
plane, but the fact that it is in the torah means that it has deep,
serious meaning. The problem is those who view allegory as equivalent
to Aesop's fables - misunderstanding the position of the allegorists.
WRT to your question for the specific understanding and interpretation
of the psukim, that in itself reflects a certain bias. The fundamental
issue is the question of the limits of interpretive freedom - not whether
that interpretive freedom applies to specific psukim. I may believe in
the literal understanding of a pasuk, while believing that the mesora
(as embodied in the rambam) allows for a nonliteral understanding if our
reason compels it - even if I am not compelled to use that permission.
Part of the fundamental difference between us is that the areas where
reason compels a nonliteral understanding are different for us than
those of the rambam - and therefore whether or not the rambam understood
something literally is not the issue, the question is whether the mesora
compels one to understand it literally.
It is a deep debate about how extensive the mesora actually is -
those who believe in a very extensive mesora view the nonliteralists
as violating the mesora, while those who believe that the mesora is not
that extensive view the attempt to extend it to these areas as a ziyuf
hamesora - regardless of how they actually interprete those areas.
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