Avodah Mailing List

Volume 13 : Number 097

Friday, September 10 2004

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 11:46:54 +0300
From: Zoo Torah <zoorabbi@zootorah.com>
Re: Non-literal explanations/ Gan Eden

In response to RAA referring to Rambam's view that some of the episodes in
the Torah refer to prophetic visions, RMB writes:
>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.

Aw, c'mon, you've gotta be kidding! Agreed, there are different types
of non-literal interpretation. There is allegory, idiom, exaggeration,
spiritual reality, dreams, and so on. But I think that when most people
speak about literal vs. non literal (including the Rishonim), they refer
to simple surface-level meaning vs. novel meaning. And I don't think
anyone would say that the simple reading of the Torah indicates that
the melachim were a vision, or that the episode of Bilaam's donkey was
a vision. With your definition, you could make any allegory literal -
it's the literal account of an allegory!

On a related note, have you every noticed how people commonly say things
like, "I'm literally starving" or "I literally died from embarrassment"
- which, of course, is the exact opposite of what "literal" means!

RMB continues:
>Similarly, giving proof that the Ralbag took the story of gan eden as a 
>metaphor doesn't say anything about its historicity. Everyone agrees 
>the story has deeper meaning. But the mashal could have been written in 
>the form of events, and not necessarily into the text of the chumash 
>alone. Proving there's a nimshal says nothing about whether the mashal 
>was historical.

Of course, everyone agrees that the story has deeper meaning. But the
reason why several authorities, such as Abarbanel, disagreed with Ralbag
and Rambam is that these Rishonim not only explained a deeper meaning -
they also denied the literal meaning.

>FWIW, I think a large part of the reason why this thread is going on 
>and on is the format. People feel their points aren't being addressed, 
>or that the other person is reading too much -- and incorrectly -- 
>between the lines. I think it's because we're using a dialogue format 
>rather than laying out our positions in a more orderly manner.

I don't think that's the reason, and nor do all the other people that
have been writing to me off-list. But I will respond to your questions,
and I will also address the objections raised by R' Tzvi Lampel.

    Question 1: What is the relationship between Bereishis 1:1 and the
    rest of the pereq? (E.g. Is it an introduction to the story or a first
    event? If a first event, was it immediately before 1:2, years before
    but within this olam, before a cycle of olamos, or something else?

I think that's really aimed at RYGB. I see no reason to set it apart
from the rest of the parashah, but reasons may well exist.

    Q2: Is yom used literally, idiomatically, allegorically,
    relativistically (ala RGSchroeder) or something else?

My understanding of Rav Dessler, endorsed by Rav Aryeh Carmell, (and
we know RYGB disagrees,) is that the word yom does not mean that there
was an actual 24 hour day (that is just something easy to grasp) and
it instead allegorically refers to the spiritual equivalent of a yom,
which is a "Sefirah." Note that this does not say anything about what
is described as happening during the yom.

The idea that the days are literal and the physical universe is less
than 6000 years old is refuted by evidence from many different fields of
science. R' Tzvi Lampel rejects this as "a discipline which, in principle
and by self-definition, arbitrarily refuses to consider the reasonable
possibility of a six-day Creation." Actually, it was the other way around
- it was discoveries in nature that first led religious scientists to
reject the six-day Creation. This is the cause for rejection - I will
soon explain the license.

R' Tzvi Lampel feels that if Rambam etc. stood up to the in-vogue theories
of their day re. the eternity of the universe, then we should stand up to
the in-vogue theories of our day re. the age of the universe, evolution,
etc. This is confusing the issue. It's not a matter of vogue, and the
eternity of the universe was neither scientifically nor philosophically
proven. There were philosophical arguments offered that Rambam countered.
Nobody has seriously countered the scientific arguments. Rambam held that
things that are indeed proven do license allegorization against mesorah
(I'm sure RYGB disagrees).

    Q3: Is the sequence of events and the events themselves on the six
    days literal, literal in some non-physical way, idiomatic, alegorecal
    or something else?

I would say that it is literal in a non-physical way, i.e. following a
spiritual hierarchy. Which is non-literal, i.e. allegorical, according
to the way most people use the words. However this is not quite the
same type of allegory that Sefer Iyov is proposed to be by some. It
does follow a spiritual reality. To learn it this way, I am presenting
a cause and a license (these should really be in reverse order, but I
am writing them this way because the first is shorter to explain).

The cause for taking this approach is the impossibility of reconciling the
order in Bereishis with the order of events that has been scientifically
proven to the satisfaction of the overwhelming majority of scientists,
both religious and secular, in a broad range of disciplines. (E.g. the
sun being 4 billion years before plants, terrestrial creatures being
before birds and flying insects.)

The license is based on a combination of the ideas expressed in Michtav
Me-Eliyahu (concerning the nature of the days and time) and the ideas
discussed by Rav Nadel z"l (concerning our Rishon-granted license
to reinterpret things differently from how the Rishonim themselves
interpreted them).

For example, as R' Zvi Lampel convincingly demonstrates, the overwhelming
and probably universal consensus amongst the Rishonim etc. is that
the six days were six literal 24 hour days. Yet it is widely accepted
today in the Torah world that they could have been six long periods
(which I think doesn't work, but that's not the point for now.) How
can everyone take a different approach from the Rishonim? Rav Nadel z"l
raises this point and explains that the Rishonim did not have to deal
with the incontrovertible scientific evidence for a universe that is
billions of years old. We see that when Rambam was faced with things
in his day that he felt contradicted the literal meaning of Torah, he
allowed for the Torah's allegorization. Rav Nadel explains that we have
simply taken the principle of Rambam (and Ralbag, RSG etc.) and applied
it to the new circumstances.

On this theme, R' Tzvi Lampel points out that
>even the best meforshim get into trouble when (as is of course natural) 
>they explain p'sukim using the wisdom of their day as a reference. I 
>find it ironic when the Malbim rejects Abarbanel's explanation of 
>"shammayim"--because it is based on the old view of a calestial sphere 
>revolving around the earth--only to replace it with the "modern," "now 
>we know" "fact" of... ether!

And yet we see that Abarbanel did indeed interpret it according to
the wisdom of his day, and Malbim did indeed reject the traditional
understanding and replace it with the scientific understanding of our
day! Malbim explicitly states that ALL the views found in the Rishonim
concerning the nature of the rakiya have been proven wrong! And I think
we have WAY more reason than Malbim to follow the same approach, and to
reject both the understanding of both Abarbanel and Malbim. Or does R'
Lampel believe in the existence of celestial spheres? After all, the
mesorah from the Rishonim is in favor of them!

Also concerning the six days, R' Tzvi Lampel wrote:
>I've yet to see, in the two-thousand year literature of our ba'alei 
>mesorah, any profound concepts that are supposedly derivable from a 
>supposed disguising, as six days, of the "real" time Hashem took in 
>creating the universe.

Actually, I already quoted one such concept from Rav Dessler. He states
that it is to emphasize the spiritual insignificance of this duration
(much like the millions of light-years of space are spiritually
insignificant relative to Earth).

    Q4: What does the creation of man as "afar min ha'adamah" mean?

Rav Nadel z"l explains it to refer to man being made from raw physical
material, like that of which animals are made, i.e. with no spiritual
component yet. He states that it does not mean that Hashem made man out
of clay like a child in kindergarten. He brings some minor support from
Seforno, and he also mentions that the evidence is convincing that there
were human-like creatures before Adam HaRishon.

Rav Nadel's approach is that even though no Rishon allegorized Adam's
origins, this is of no consequence. The Rambam (and Ralbag, RSG
etc.) tell us that things can be allegorized given sufficient cause
(again, we know that RYGB disagrees). In Rav Nadel's opinion, modern
science gives sufficient cause.

Personally, I would add to Rav Nadel's "sufficient cause" of prehistoric
man. Having (somewhat) studied human anatomy, there are many aspects of it
that do not make much sense if man was independently designed and created
from earth, but which make a lot more sense if his body was adapted from
an animal. Additionally, my understanding of Torah philosophy, based
on Daas Chochmah U'Mussar, is that Hashem works through nature wherever
possible. Furthermore, I see no reason why the idea of man's body coming
from an animal is an unacceptable Jewish belief. Putting these factors
together, it seems most reasonable to me that Hashem adapted man's body
from an apelike creature via a naturalistic process. Of course, this
must be qualified by saying that Torah philosophy definitely requires
that man is not just an evolved ape, but that he possess a neshamah,
that animals lack.

With regard to the specific allegorical significance of the Torah saying
that man was made from the earth, there is a famous Maharal that speaks
of man's conceptual similarity to earth in possessing tremendous hidden
potential, unlike animals. I think that this is a far more important
lesson for the Torah to teach us, than telling us the origins of man's
physical body (which Malbim explains to be periphetal to man's true
identity, which is based on his soul).

    Q5: Would you include gan eden in the above answers?

 From Ralbag, Ramban and many others, it seems clear that there is
a physical place that is referred to as Gan Eden. Ralbag states that
there was no actual tree of knowledge or snake. Rambam, according to
the understanding of everyone except RYGB, says that the story that
took place in Gan Eden concerning the sin etc. is allegorical and did
not happen in the literal historical sense.

    Q6: What is your criterion for saying something is ahistorical
    allegory, if ever?

RMB says that the cause must be entirely within TSBP. It is clear (again,
probably not to RYGB, but to everyone else) that at least some of the
Rishonim felt differently. Rambam and Ralbag make it clear that things
can be allegorized if they conflict with that which is proven, which in
their day meant by the intellect. Rav Nadel z"l states that things can
be allegorized if they conflict with scientific evidence.

On a smaller scale (i.e. individual phrases rather than entire narratives)
it is even more clear that things are taken non-literally without basis
in TSBP. Pretty much everyone accepts that when the Torah describes the
hare as bringing up the cud, this can be explained idiomatically (i.e.
non-literally) to refer to its rather unappealing habit of reingesting
certain pellets produced specifically for this purpose. Yet there is no
Rishon explaining it this way and it seems clear that this was not the
traditional understanding.

R. Tzvi Lampel writes that "One may want to introduce new, unheard of
interpretations of the psukim and chazal, but this is not Torah following
a mesorah." But the mesorah from some significant Rishonim and Acharonim
is that we may indeed introduce new, unheard of intepretations, given
the appropriate circumstances, and furthermore that we should indeed do
so rather than ignoring what we consider proven.

Thus, R' Tzvi Lampel's position, while I am sure he can find support
for it, is not that of certain prominent Rishonim, Acharonim and recent
gedolei Torah. He is entitled to his position, and I am entitled to mine.

RMB adds:
>I do not like the idea of declaring something allegorical despite a 
>total absence of intra-Torah reason for saying so. It's an epistomolgy 
>that puts Torah on the retreat, lurking only in corners for which the 
>person has no other means of answering.

I also don't like it, and I don't think Rav Nadel did, either. But
when faced with overwhelming cause, and given a license to do so by the
Rishonim and others, there isn't a choice.

    Q6a: How does your answer to Q6 justify insisting that ma'amad har
    Sinai is historical?

First, there is no evidence to justify believing that it was not
historical. Second, allegorization is only done with episodes for which
there is no practical consequence. Allegorizing yetziyas mitzrayim or
maamad Har Sinai has the unspeakable consequence of rendering avodas
Hashem as baseless. In the hypothetical scenario that evidence was
presented that these didn't take place, "an akeida of the intellect"
would indeed be required. No such sacrifice is required in the other
cases we discussed.

There is an interesting discussion of this point (and indeed of this
entire topic) by Joshua Golding entitled "On the Limits of Non-Literal
Interpretation of Scripture from an Orthodox Perspective." It is available
as a free download from the RIETS website, or I can e-mail it to anyone
who requests it. I can also show the transcript from Rav Nadel to anyone
who comes to my house, but I can't send it out.

[Email #2. -mi]

RYGB wrote:
>>Bereishis 1:1 alludes to the pre-existing creation; the following
>>pesukim describe the re-creation at the beginning of this cycle.

To which I asked:
>Sorry, I am still not entirely clear as to what you are saying. Please
>elaborate; does this mean that the sun and moon existed for millions of 
>years (in the previous cycles), then ceased to exist, then were created 
>anew 5764 years ago? And that, for a period, there was no dry land 
>until the waters receded 5764 years ago?

To which RYGB responded to the first question with:
>It does not say the sun and moon were created on the fourth day.

Yet again I must ask RYGB for a clearer answer, one that will not require
me to ask more questions to clarify his view. What I am asking for (and I
think this is obvious) is a history of the sun and moon - what did happen
with them in Bereishis? Bereishis 1:16-17 states "And Hashem made the two
great luminaries... And He set them in the firmament" According to RYGB
this was an event that happened 5764 years ago, after billions of years
of history. I would like to know what event this passuk is describing,
and what the words "made" and "set in the firmament" mean. If RYGB is
adopting Rashi's approach that it means that Hashem "suspended them
in place," then I would like to know what this means. Where were they
before they were suspended in place? Please give clear answers.

RYGB answers my second question with:
>Yes, there was no dry land for a period until the waters receded.

Amazing! So according to RYGB, if I am understanding him correctly,
there was not one but TWO global deluges in the last 6000 years in
which all life was wiped out. Incredibly, all traces of these deluges
have been unnnoticed or wilfully ignored by all scientists in the fields
of geology, dendrochronology, geophysics, varve analysis, paleontology,
archeology, and anthropology, all of whom utterly reject the possibility
that any such global events happened. And yet RYGB would claim this as
an appropriate approach to take with someone who is seriously bothered
by conflicts between Torah and science!

Kol tuv,
Nosson Slifkin

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Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2004 22:07:08 -0400
From: "MYG" <mslatfatf@access4less.net>
Re: Torah as Allegory

I (MYG) wrote:
> And if parts of the Torah are an allegory, then who says that Matan 
> Torah and/or Yetzias Mitzrayim ever really happened - maybe the 
> _entire_ Torah is an allegory - and none of it is literally true? And 
> if it's because we have a 3000 year old kabbalah, than we have to take
> into account that they had a 2500 year kabbalah about B'riyas Ha'Olam 
> happening 2500 years before. If our Kabbalah is literal, why shouldn't
> their's be?

To which R' Rich Wolpoe responded :
>The simple answer is that some passages are meant to be understood
>literally and others are not. 
>comes into play...

To which I respond:

True. I agree that anywhere the Gemara or most rishonim say that part of
the Torah is an allegory we must accept that. However, the subject under
discussion is whether _we_ can decide that incidents recorded in the
Torah are allegorical. The main questions on the table seem to be briyas
ha'olam and briyas ha'adam being considered an allegory _specifically
because_ of the influence of modern science. I don't want to rehash all
the arguments of RYGB, RNS, RZL, etc. etc., but it does seem for sure
that the gemara and most rishonim understood these things literally -
and THEY are our oral tradition. (Now, I will not argue that if someone
has a rishon on his side - and RNS may have many - that there is anything
wrong with their belief. I'm saying that in general, the Oral Tradition
does not address these issues in the way contemporary religioscience
does, and I'm thus struggling with the reason for the viewpoint that
feels we must be consistent with science - which was the part of my post
that R' RW didn't quote.) As such, I hope that R' RW is not suggesting
that scientific research is part of our kabbalah, ish mipi ish to Har
Sinai, and therefore we can accept a world many billions of years old,
or an ensouled huminoid. (Thanks R' ZL for that wonderful word tucked
inside that wonderful post.)

Kol tuv,
Moshe Yehuda Gluck

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Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 10:47:14 -0400
From: Mlevinmd@aol.com
Peshat and Derash

I would assure you that while I had not read every source you cited,
I did read and think about a number of them. As I indicated, my post was
brief because the subject is vast. PErhaps, I ahc d not been clear. Had
you contacted me with your comment, I would have gladly made that point
to you.
Specifically, I had read:
David Weiss Halivni, Peshat and Derash: Plain and Applied Meaning in
Rabbinic Exegesis, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1991.
M. Friedlaender, Essays on the Writings of Abraham Ibn Ezra, The Society
of Hebrew Literature, London 1877 (I have a copy-offset).
Avraham Grossman, "The School of Literal Exegesis in Northern France,"
in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation. Volume
I: From the Beginnings to the Middle Ages (Until 1300).
J. Heinemann, Aggadah and Its Development, Jerusalem, Keter, 1970:
There are also sources that I have considered that you did not cite.


Please do not take the following comments as referring to you. I hope
that we can respectfully dialogue adn I look forward to learning from
you. I would very much appreciate reading the draft of your presentation.

I must be clear. I am not an academic in Jewish studies, although I
am a trained scientist with several advanced degrees. What I try to
understand is how Chazal interpret and I am not willing to tolerate the
kind of speculation that goes on in the field of academic studies. I
often read learned speculations by people who have little understanding
of the original sources, have never been yeshiva trained, (of course,
many authors you quoted are accomplished scholars) or do not have broad
training in various miktsaot hatorah, sufficient to bring depth and
breath to the discussion. Some do not possess requisite commitment
to mesorah; others do not understand or value ideology/ hashkafa or
they hold tendentious positions. Basing oneself solely on these sources
leads us to the phenomenon so often seen in academia - full of secondary
quotations, little regard for primary sources or implications of positions
advanced. There are consequences to these specualtions - "little foxes
that destroy gardens". There are sectors and individuals who esteeem
these authors and consider their suggestions as proven fact. I believe
that Chazal are our teachers and that they were more sophisticated than
we in the art of interpretation; plus, they had traditions of various
kinds, including many Sinaitic ones.

Getting buried in the kind of literature you cited hurts my faith and
is inconsistant with everything I know and believe.

To summarize, there is a great deal of valuable information in the sources
you quoted but one needs to take a fresh look at the problem on the basis
of traditional literature. Have you seen Midrash and Method. If not,
I would benefit from your feedback. It will give you an idea of where
I am coming form

Thank you for you point and I look forward...,
M. Levin

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Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 17:12:14 +0200
From: Saul Mashbaum <smash52@netvision.net.il>
Fw: Calendar

Mazal tov and much nachat to new zaide Gershon Dubin
<gershon.dubin@juno.com> who wrote (about my posting on molad v"yd and
molad b"hrd):
> I believe it was Rabbi Reisman (quoting someone?) who said that this is
> the reason we write "leminyan she'anu monim" since the way we count is
> dependent on minhag.

This is a *very* interesting heara. If I understand this correctly,
this means to say that the statement "in the year 5764 from creation,
according to the customary way of counting in Lakewood", (for example :))
means that according to another minhag, we would say "in the year 5763";
the number of the year since creation is what is determined by minhag.
This is different from the "usual" interpretation (as explained in the
Nachalat Shiva, for example, a standard and authoritative sefer on nusach
hashtarot) where the minhag referred to is the minhag to count from
creation, rather than from the year of the local king's rule, or minyan
shtarot, as was done in the time of the gaonim. According to the "usual"
explanation, *what we are counting from* is what is determined by minhag.
According to Rabbi Reisman, it is *how we count from creation*.

I am very gratified that a posting of mine caused RGD to recall a chiddush
on the ktuba shortly after he married off a child. It would be nice if
somebody wrote something which would remind him of a chiddush on inyanei
brit milah :).

Saul Mashbaum

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Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 11:23:38 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Fw: Calendar

On Fri, Sep 10, 2004 at 05:12:14PM +0200, Saul Mashbaum wrote:
: This is a *very* interesting heara. If I understand this correctly,
: this means to say that the statement "in the year 5764 from creation,
: according to the customary way of counting in Lakewood", (for example :))
: means that according to another minhag, we would say "in the year 5763";
: the number of the year since creation is what is determined by minhag.

It also protects us from problems if R' Yosi ben Chalafta was wrong. On a
number of debates, he chooses a side within a machloqes tana'im.

And incidentally, if R' Schwab's suggestion about 168 years taken out
of the caendar were correct.


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Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2004 18:24:05 -0400
From: "" <hlampel@thejnet.com>
Re: "Fuhn a kashya shtarbt men nisht."

Hullin 87a states:

Said that Tsadukee to Rebbi, "The one who created wind did not create
mountains, for it is written 'For behold the former of mountains and
the creator of wind...' (Amos 4:13)"

[Rebbi] said to him, "Fool! Go down to the end of the posuk: 'Hashem
[Elokay] Tz'vakos sh'mo.'

"Give me three days, and I'll deliver an answer [to your kushya]."

Rebbi sat three fast-days. When he wanted to make a bracha [to eat],
they told him, "A Tsadukee is standing at the door." He said, 'And they
put a bitter thing in my meal" (Tehillim 69:22).

[The Tsadukee at the door] said to him, "Rebbi, I come to you with good
news! Your opponent could not find an answer and fell from the roof
and died."

It seems that as a Tsadukee, the suicide did not hold of the fundamental
talmudic k'lall, "Fuhn a kashya shtarbt men nisht," "You don't die from
a kushya."

Zvi Lampel

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Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2004 20:11:51 EDT
From: Phyllostac@aol.com
Minhogei Beis Haknesses Livnei Ashkenaz 5765 luach available

(I posted this to areivim, but the thought just occurred to me that it
may be of interest to some chaveirim who just read avodah too. With the
permission of the moderator, I would like to post it here as well.)

I have recently gotten a copy of 'Minhogei beis haknesses livnei Ashkenaz
- luach liShabbosos uMoadei hashono lishnas Taf shin samech heh' from
Rav Binyomin Shlomo Hamburger shlit"a of Mochon Moreshes Ashkenaz.

I have looked at it a bit and have found it of great interest. It
comprises app. 37 pages in *pdf format and covers minhogim in significant
detail. It is of interest not only to bnei Ashkenaz ('Yekkes'), to whom
it is directed, but to other Ashkenazim as well, to interested Jews,
connoisseurs of minhogim, and scholars bichlal.

With the permission of the mechaber, I am offering it to interested
parties on request, free of charge.

Bivirkas kesiva vachasima tova......

[How large is it? Maybe we can put it on the web server. -mi]

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Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2004 23:25:31 EDT
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Re: A Woman's Public Role

In a message dated 9/2/2004 2:54:35 PM EDT, jkaplan@tenzerlunin.com writes:
> Rabbi Wolpoe submitted the following matrix:
>> Men performing for men - OK
>> Women performing for women - OK
>> Women performing for men or mixed - not kavod or tznius
>> Men performing for women or mixed - a problem of tzinus but a necessary
>> exception must be made when shluchei tzibbur do so in a shul etc. or a
>> man blowing shofar or reading megillah for women.

> What this means ("women performing for men or mixed-not kavod or tsnius")
> is that no woman can deliver a lecture at any convention, seminar or
> school where there will be men present, no woman may serve of the board
> of any organization which has men on the board, no woman can speak up
> at a shul meeting, no Orthodox woman can teach anything at YU, Tuoro
> or Lander etc. etc. I suppose that's a possible position, but I wonder
> if that's really the role we want woman to play today in both Jewish
> and general society....

Disclaimer, Joseph Kaplan's extrapolotions as to what I mean are is and not 
mine.  I make no claim to agree with his interpretations. 

Rather,I was giving a broad outline of women's roles and gender
separations and not giving specfic parameters.

And yes the pun above WAS intended!

K'siva vaChasima Tova!
Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 10:57:54 +0200
From: S Goldstein <goldstin@netvision.net.il>
Fw: halcha vs agada

> The Meiri ... doesn't analyze the gemora to show that this view is
> wrong but simply argues from a metarule that Jews must have free will
> and that is why he rejects this view. Rambam does the same thing in
> rejecting the validity of any evidence against free will - which he
> acknowledges does apparently exist in various verses. He[ the Meiri]
> nowhere demonstrates where and how Shas rejects this view - but he says
> instead that *he* rejects this view....

> The Meiri does in fact state that there is a view in Chazal of "ein
> mazal lyisroel".  The chidush is how he deals with the opposing view of
> "yeish mazal lyisroel". He simply dismisses it as being from "confused
> scholars". How does he know that they are confused? Simply because he knows
> that this view violates the principle of free will....

> You misread my assertion. I am not saying that the Rambam is arguing
> with psukim but rejecting the evidence that they present. I stated,
>> He is acknowledging that psukim exist which seem to contradict the principle
>> of free will. He says not to pay attention to this *evidence* because there
>> is an explanation of why they in fact say that man has no free will. The
>> following are a number of citations from Rishonim...

> Meiri(Shabbos 55a): That is because our religious beliefs are not
> dependent upon proofs from the simple meaning of verses and agadata. There
> is the established principle that one does not resolve issues entirely
> on the basis agadata.

> Chovas HaLevavos (3:8): ג€¦ Our sages had intense debates about how to
> reconcile Divine compulsion and Divine justiceג€¦

> The Meiri says that the views of these sages found in the gemora should be
> ignored ie., they are wrong and are not part of the mesora. That in fact
> they arrived at these erroneous views because of overwhelming personal
> experience which made them confused. How do you read the Meiri?

First, the Meiri in Shabbos says, "ein mshivim al haagadita". This is not,
"There is the established principle that one does not resolve issues
entirely on the basis agadata" Rather, it means the agada itself does
not fully express its own opinion, in contrast to halacha.

Second, The ChHL does not say "our" sages. He merely says chachamim. It
seems to be referring to Gentile(Arab) philosophers.

Third, I don't understand what you see in your quotes of Rishonim. What
is the commonality between the Meiri on mazal and the Rambam on free-will?
Where does the Meiri say "I" reject the amora who says yesh mazal yisroel?
It should be obvious that the Meiri IS trying to understand the Gemara. I
understand the Meiri on mazal as follows:

Chazal say ein mazal lyisroel. This means it is foolish to believe in
fortune. Rather, our lives are run by Divine involvement based on din
and/or rachamim. This opinion is universal throughout Chazal. We find some
apparent exceptions to this understanding in Chazal. Even these opinions
agreed initially, wholeheartedly with this premise against the belief in
fate. Yet, this minority view was bothered by the difficult question of
tzaddik v'ra lo which was felt most acutely by this minority element in
Chazal. They would have been better off saying "shtarbt men nisht fun a
kashya". Unfortunately, they said that it seems that at least sometimes we
find that life is based on fate. This comment should be rejected and one
should stick with the primary, rationalist view of Chazal against fate.

Shlomo Goldstein

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Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2004 23:32:20 EDT
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Re: Pi

In a message dated 9/3/2004 3:37:59 PM EDT, micha@aishdas.org writes:
>: Lemashal if Chazal were alive NOW and found out that the Julian calendar
>: has drifedt from the Gregorian adustment to the point of 12-13 day gap -
>: would now be OK with making the same adjustment Halachically themselves?
>: My guess is that they would have shifted according to the more recently
>: refined Gregorian correctionf...

> Why do you assume that? This is exactly the point made at the start
> of this thread about pi and sqrt(2).
> The question is just how precise does halakhah require us to be. Perfect
> precision is not a choice.

Well the {average} molad is quite precise. The Julian year of 365.25
is {relatively} quite inaccurate and we have drifted over 13 days since
circa 350.

It seems to me that in the short run such an apporximation would be
fine. But to call Tekufas Tishrei about 13 days off from physical Tekufas
Tishrei would probably not be what the Chazal anticiapted. I think we got
locked into something that Chazal didn't anticiapte nor would they have
necessarily agreed to how we treat it now. But that is just my opinion.

K'siva vaChasima Tova!
Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Thu, 9 Sep 2004 23:57:27 EDT
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Re: Shiv'im Panim

In a message dated 9/3/2004 6:52:22 AM EDT, zev@sero.name writes:
> One slight problem: the Beit Din Hagadol has *71* members.

But the term shi'vim is used for the zkeinim and is not to be taken always so 

K'siva vaChasima Tova!
Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 00:00:49 EDT
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Re: tfillin not worn

In a message dated 9/3/2004 6:52:21 AM EDT, zivotoa@mail.biu.ac.il writes:
> where do you see chalita forgotten.
> The Rambam requires it and many frum taimanim in Israel are careful to do
> it to all meat.

Chalitta is not allowed for grain before pesach.

Chalitta is no longer in use for kasheiring liver as per Gaonic edict -
see Rambam and Rif on this matter.

Here is a bit of a chiddush based upon the Rambam...

The Rambam expands the Rif an dsays that Chalita should be done until
the liver turns a certain color. Then he mentiosn that we are not be'k'im
in chalita. AISI Rambam is talking about the shade of color needed that
is unclear...

K'siva vaChasima Tova!
Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 12:19:38 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Rosh Hashanah at the End of the Year

On Wed, Sep 08, 2004 at 10:58:13AM -0700, HG Schild wrote:
: Someone asked me this question which I also heard posed on a
: tape. Logically, judgement and forgiveness for sins etc for a year
: would seem to be better placed at the end of that year rather than in
: the accounting for the upcoming year. Does anyone bring this svara that
: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur should be at the close of the year rather
: than at the beginning of the next one?

I think you have the wrong model to understand din. We aren't judged
for what we did, but for what we made of ourselves. See below for a vort
where I argue this point.

Therefore, the person one is at the start of the year is a primary factor
in determining his fate for he year. The purpose is not retrospective. Any
retrospection is for the sake of causing future change; not just to mull
on the past.


Note to Gil: I wasn't going to let it go to waste!

Micha Berger             A cheerful disposition is an inestimable treasure.
micha@aishdas.org        It preserves health, promotes convalescence,
http://www.aishdas.org   and helps us cope with adversity.
Fax: (270) 514-1507         - R' SR Hirsch, "From the Wisdom of Mishlei"

As the Yamim Nora'im approach, it is only logical to wonder about the
phenomenon of teshuvah. Chazal tell us that teshuvah is a gift from
Hashem Yisborach, that Divine Justice alone would not allow a man to be
freed from accountability for one of his actions. What is teshuvah? By
what mechanism does it work?

Let's take a step back and look at sechar va'onesh -- reward and
punishment. Perhaps if we understood what punishment is, we would
understand why teshuvah can "pass through the evil of the decree."[1]

Psychologists have developed many methods for changing an undesired
character trait. Among them is a technique called "behavior
modification." Theorists have found that by consciously deciding to behave
a certain way, your character will change to fit that behavior. It is
inevitable to compare this to the Halachic concept "Mitoch shelo lishma,
ba lishma" -- "From [doing a mitzvah] without proper intent, one will
come to do it with proper intent." The goal of a mitzvah is not only to
express ones love of G-d and his fellow man, but also a way to generate
those feelings.

Behavior modification focuses on teaching a child that actions have
consequences. These consequences are broken down into two classes: they
can be imposed, a punishment meted out by the parent; or they can be
natural, the normal consequences by cause and effect. For example, a child
could learn not to touch a stove by either getting slapped on the hand
each time she reaches for it, or by touching it once and getting hurt. The
first is safer, the other is more effective. Which does Hashem use?

To ask the question another way: Does Hashem punish us to correct evil
behavior, or did He build the world so that sin causes punishment as a
natural consequence?

Yirmiyahu Hanavi writes, "From the 'Mouth' of the One Above, come neither
the evil nor the good."[2] Rashi comments on this, using two pesukim
from this week's parashah.

Yirmiyahu is not implying that what happens to us is by chance. "Chai
gever al chata'av -- a man lives on his sins." The suffering of the sinner
is not attributed to Hashem, because it is a natural consequence of the
sin. Similarly, R. Yochanan comments on the more famous pasuk, "Behold
I have placed before you, the life and that which is good, and death and
that which is evil. Choose life!" Choosing between good and evil is not
choosing between whether Hashem will reciprocate with life or death. By
choosing between good and evil, you bring on yourself one or the other.

The Ikkarim describes gehennom a natural consequence of one's actions. He
writes that the "fires" of gehennom" are those of shame.[3] Rabbeinu
Yonah compares a sinful soul to a sick person. Just as a sick person
suffers from his illness, the sinner suffers from his sins.[4]

R. Chaim Vilozhiner shows the same idea from a gemara in Eiruvin. "The
wicked deepen gehennom for themselves."[5] What you get in the World to
Come is the consequence of the mitzvos you do. R. Chaim takes this one
step further. Each sin, he writes, causes a flaw in your soul. In true
Divine Mercy, the punishment is both the natural consequence of this
flaw and a key tool for healing it.[6]

The Ramchal writes, "Sin detracts from one's perfection."[7] Rav Eliyahu
E. Dessler explains the expression "aveirah goreres aveirah -- one sin is
followed by [another] sin" by saying that after repeatedly doing a given
sin, it becomes part of one's nature; so that no conscious decision is
required next time the situation arises.[8]

We read on Rosh HaShanah that when Hagar and Yishm'ael were kicked out
of Avraham's home, and were on the verge of death from thirst in the
desert, G-d gave them a well. Yishma'el was not judged for the evil
he did that made him unacceptable to Avraham's home, or the evil he
will do, and his children still do. Yishma'el was repaid in terms of
"ba'asher hu sham -- as he was there."[9] The way your soul stands at
that moment is the direct cause of reward or punishment.

Notice that this implies a major statement. We are not judged for what
we did, we pay the consequences for who we are. As the midrash states,
one of the first three questions the A-lmighty will ask as part of the
final judgment is, "Why did you not fulfill your potential?" Man is
judged based upon the gap between reality and potential. Mitzvos were
given as vehicles for closing this gap.

This also gives us a means to start addressing another difficult point. We
learn that a man gets a minor punishment for aveiros beshogeg (accidental
sins). Why would a man deserve any punishment for a crime he did not
intend to commit? Now we can understand that Hashem is not pinning blame,
but rather the damage caused by the wrongful act is correcting itself. An
action can be destructive whether we intended it to be or not.

The key to teshuvah is to make a basic character change, to take the
character flaw associated with a given sin and eradicate it by conscious
decision. As we said above, man is judged by what he is. After teshuvah,
he is no longer the person who is capable of such a sin. By removing
the flaw, he is that much closer to his potential. He no longer needs
punishment to correct his behavior. The gap is that much smaller, and
so the punishment is so much less.

In this context, teshuvah is more understandable. The Rambam says:
"What is complete teshuvah? When the opportunity to do an aveira he
did earlier comes to him, and he is able to do it, but he refrains from
it, and doesn't do it -- because of the teshuvah."[10] Rav Yoseph Ber
Soleveitchik explains, "the Baal Teshuvah says that he is a new man;
the man who performed the sin no longer exists."[11]

Since, as R. Chaim Vilozhiner writes, punishment is the natural
consequence of the flaw in your soul, by taking the effort to remove
that flaw, the punishment disappears on its own.

Teshuvah mei'ahavah, teshuvah caused by love of the Creator, causes the
aveiros not just to be ignored, but even to be considered as mitzvos.[12]
Through teshuvah a person can improve himself to the extent of being
beyond where he would have been had he not sinned. Each aveirah can
become something to regret, motivation for learning a lesson, so that
each brings him closer to the ideal Hashem has for him. And in that way,
it serves the role of a mitzvah, a tool for self-improvement.

Lishana tovah teikateivu veteichateimu! May Hashem take our teshuvah and
fulfill another pasuk of this week's parsahah, "And Hashem will return
your captives, and have mercy upon you." (30:3)


[1] Mussaf, Yamim Nora'im
[2] Eichah 3:38
[3] Ikkarim 4:33
[4] Sha'arei Teshuvah 4:1
[5] Eiruvin 19a
[6] Derech HaChaim 1:21
[7] Derech Hashem 1:4:5
[8] Michtav MeiEliyahu vol 1 pp 113-114
[9] Bereishis 21:17
[10] Hilchos Teshuvah 1:2
[11] Al HaTeshuvah
[12] Reish Lakish, Yuma 86b

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