Avodah Mailing List

Volume 15 : Number 056

Thursday, July 21 2005

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 06:19:52 +0200
From: Simon Montagu <simon.montagu@gmail.com>
Re: Pareve cultured meat????

|From the article:
|> The production of such "cultured meat" begins by taking a number 
|> of cells from a farm animal

Is there a minimum shiur for ever min hachai?

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Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 00:36:09 -0400
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
re: harry potter and kishuf

On Areivim, "Gershon Seif" <gershonseif@yahoo.com> wrote:
> Zev Sero wrote:
>> But kishuf isn't technology; spells aren't ways to cause things to
>> happen, they're requests/orders to gods/demons.  A successful mechashef
>> is someone who can be confident that his "prayers" will always be
>> answered; one who is less favoured by the gods, or whose demons aren't
>> bound as strongly to his will, is less successful.  In other words,
>> kishuf *is* tefillah, but to beings other than Hashem.

> I just happened to have seen the sefer hachinuch last night (sorry I
> don't remember exactly which siman but I know it's in Parshas Mishpatim)
> which talks about the above. It says there that kishuf and evoking the
> use of sheidim are 2 distinct things. Kishuf is the craft of combining
> elements in the briyah together to create a new thing. When those new
> products are beneficial for Mankind, it is not under the category of
> kishuf and they are allowed, such as producing medicines. (that's the
> Chinuch's example) When they are destructive, that's kishuf.

So lighting a fire to cook with is not kishuf, but lighting a fire to
burn down someone's haystack is? And if the fire is intended to burn
RNS's books, then whether you've done kishuf (an issur skilah) depends
on whether you believe in the authority of the banners? (For those
who were looking for a nafka minah lema'aseh from the ban, in order
to bring it into the realm of psak, *there's* a nafka minah for you!)
Andrei Sakharov and Edward Teller were doing the same thing, on opposite
sides; Sakharov was a mechashef, while Teller was not?

And what about drugs that sometimes turn out to have bad side effects,
such as thalidomide? Were the people who made it retroactively
mechashfim? How about someone who makes it now, a) with the intent
to sell it to pregnant women, b) with the intent to sell it to people
with AIDS or cancer (for whom it may provide some relief), or c) stam,
to sell it for whatever use people want to put it to? In case c), is
the prescribing doctor the mechashef, since he decides which patient
will get it?

I'd like to suggest that here the Chinuch was influenced by the Rambam's
rationalism, and trying to imagine what kishuf might be, if there are no
sheidim or other such spooky powers. But to do so he ends up having to
make the offense depend on the person's intent; how could one ever give
hatra'ah for such an offense?

> Then there's communicating with
> shaidim, a whole different concept. But, the Chinuch continues, sometimes
> one can perform kishuf via shaidim.

Communicating with sheidim may not in itself be kishuf, but IMHO kishuf
is asking or commanding sheidim (and other non-Hashem entities) to do
something, by rituals intended either to gain their favour, or to bind
them to the mechashef's will. And without seeing the Chinuch inside my
first thought is that this is a second approach, an alternative to the
first one, and incompatible with it.

> So based on this chinuch, kishuf is
> actually rooted in something much more technical than tefilla, but sometimes
> we can get the shaidim to perform that technical trick for us.

I think you're combining two incompatible approaches here. I haven't seen
the Chinuch inside yet, but you seem to be saying that if a mechashef
uses sheidim, it's only as lab assistants, and the kishuf still depends
on what he's getting the sheidim to do. In that case, of what relevance
is it whether the scientist/mechashef uses human lab assistants, robots,
or sheidim? If he's working for good he's a scientist, and if not he's
a mechashef!

> So let's say Harry Potter is in the realm of kishuf. Is there a heter for
> permitting the reading of Harry Potter for shalom bayis? I think there would
> be a revolution in my house if I told my kids that after reading 6 long
> volumes, they shouldn't find out what happens in the final 7th volume!

1. Harry Potter, and the good guys in the books, do not use their magic
for evil, so according to the first definition they're not mechashfim.

2. Who says you can't read about a mechashef?

But 3. I am not persuaded to change my initial position, according
to which the magic of the Potterverse, like the magic of almost all
modern fantasy, is not kishuf at all. (One recent exception to this is
_Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell_; the magic in that book *is* kishuf,
at least by my definition. I still don't see where it says that one
shouldn't read about kishuf, though.)

Zev Sero

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Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 07:42:15 GMT
From: "Elazar M. Teitz" <remt@juno.com>
Re: Avodah V15 #54

To buttress R. Samet's expalanation that b'nos Tz'lafchad were motivated
by keeping alive their father's memory, not by feminism (as cited by
R. Gil Student), we have the g'mara which indicates that their argument
was based on a mah nafshach from yibum. As quoted, their argument was that
if they get no share, "tisyabeim imeinu." In other words, if a daughter
is not considered as keeping alive the father's memory, there should
be yibum. Since there isn't, she _does_ represent keeping it alive,
and therefore, they should inherit to accomplish that same purpose.


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Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 09:19:42 -0400
From: "David Riceman" <driceman@worldnet.att.net>
Re: Order of Creation

From: "Zvi Lampel" <hlampel@thejnet.com>
> "besides both shitot cited above seem to assume that the earth existed
> before the sun which does not correspond to modern theories."

> More accurately, they maintain that the earth and the sun as well as
> the rest of the heavens were created simultaneously,

Isn't there a machloketh between Beith Shammai and Beith Hillel about this?

David Riceman

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Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 08:06:37 GMT
From: "Elazar M. Teitz" <remt@juno.com>
re:Beards and peyos in Lithuanian Yeshivos

I believe I once wrote about a conversation my father z"l had, as
a bachur, with the next-to-last Lubavitcher Rebbe. The gist of the
conversation was the Rebbe's desire to form a yeshiva in Lithuania which
would be Litvish in its derech halimud, but Lubavitch in its hashkafa. One
condition would have been that the bochurim not shave.

My father answered that the bochurim would not agree, andplained that they
were trained (at least in Slabodka, where he learned) to dress in keeping
with style and to be clean-shaven. The reason, they were taught, was that
when they come home bein haz'manim and looked bedraggled and bearded,
a father debating his son's future would think, "I don't want my son to
be such a batlan." On the other hand, if he saw a ben Torah, yet one
who looked fashionable, he would certainly entertain the thought of such
a future for his son, as well. Although (as the Lubavitcher argued) the
beard would serve as a deterrent from going places he shouldn't (which,
at that time, was the situation), Slabodka (as my father responded)
felt that it was each bochur's obligation to think not only of himself,
but on the impression and effect he would have on others.


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Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 12:30:28 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Reality of the Universe

On Wed, Jul 20, 2005 at 10:21:46AM -0400, Zvi Lampel wrote:
: Researching how other mefarshim (such as the Shla and Maharal)
: understand the Rambam, I have found that they all explain the Rambam as
: RMB does...

: In addition, I have now discovered a passage in Sefer Ikarrim (IV:3)
: (whose author is also following the Rambam)...

Where does RYA say he's following the Rambam on this?

In any case, here's where I reached the conclusion.

There are two basic approaches to the relationship between the physical
and the spiritual. The first focuses on shefa, and sees the physical as
a course manifestation of a higher reality. The second sees the physical
as clay ("chomer") to be molded. In the first, man's job is to remove
the kelipos that get in the way of our seeing that higher reality,
in the second, it's to give that chomer the tzurah of ruchniyus.

These approaches underly the differences between the Mequbalim and the
rationalists. Lehavdil in Greek thought, they underly the differences
between Platonists and Arisotilians.

It would thertefore be VERY surprising to see the Rambam, a rationalist,
say something in agreement with Plato in disagreement with Aristotle.

LAD, these two schools of thought were amongst the Jews brought to
advise the Babylonian court. Socrates lived in 400 BCE, in the days of
Nechemiah. IOW, these trends in thought first emerged in Greece AFTER our
chachamim and nevi'im were forced into non-Jewish intellectual circles.

Second pet theory: The word "qabbalah" was intended to mean "the art of
reception". Not the Torah that was received, but the Torah about how to
receive shefa.


Micha Berger             None of us will leave this place alive.
micha@aishdas.org        All that is left to us is
http://www.aishdas.org   to be as human as possible while we are here.
Fax: (270) 514-1507            - unkown MD, while a Nazi prisoner

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Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 09:48:12 EDT
From: T613K@aol.com
Re: R' Tradyon's daughter [should be: R' Chanina b. Tradyon's daughter]

>In a women's shiur yesterday, about "hatznea leches" (which was in
>yesterday's haftara), the speaker discussed.... that R' Tradyon's
>daughter was condemned to spend her life in a brothel because of a
>sin she had committed in the area of  tznius.

>She was walking down the street and heard some Romans  behind her say,
>"See how graceful are the footsteps of this maiden" or  some such thing,
>and she became conscious of her graceful walk and paid  attention to her
>steps--not that she changed her way of walking, but  that she was now
>conscious of it and was presumably flattered by the  attention.<<

In  Avodah V15 #53 dated 7/18/2005  RDE writes:
> Contrary to the speaker - Rashi notes that she took special care to
> walk in the manner that they had commented.

> Avoda Zara (18a) - Soncino translation
>> .... once that daughter of his was walking in front of
>> some great men of Rome who remarked, "How beautiful are the steps of
>> this maiden!' Whereupon she took particular care of her step. ....

> We see from this gemora 1) that tzadikim are judged by a higher standard
> 2) she and her parents fully accepted G-d's justice 3) She was rescued
> by her brother-in-law R' Meir 4) Nothing in fact happened to her 4) Not
> all drashas are based on what the gemora actually says.

The word in the Gemara is "dikdaka" which can be translated as you say,
"she took particular care of her step" and that is not different from
what the speaker said, it is actually the /same/ as what the speaker said
("she paid attention to her steps"). She didn't /change/ her way of
walking but paid attention to her own walk. Formerly her graceful walk
was unconscious; now she made a point of walking in the same graceful
way, but on purpose.

As for the rest of the sequel which you posted, that her sister was
the famous Beruriah and that Bruriah's husband was able to free his
sister-in-law, I now realize that I had heard that story before (and the
speaker should have told us the rest of the story, even if it wasn't
directly relevant to her main point). Thank you for filling it in.

--Toby  Katz

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Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 18:42:26 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
Re: R' Tradyon's daughter [should be: R' Chanina b. Tradyon's daughter]

T613K@aol.com wrote:
> The word in the Gemara is "dikdaka" which can be translated as you 
> say, "she took particular care of her step" and that is not different 
> from what the speaker said, it is actually the /same/ as what the 
> speaker said ("she paid attention to her steps").   She 
> didn't /change/ her way of walking but paid attention to her own 
> walk.  Formerly her graceful walk was unconscious; now she made a 
> point of walking in the same graceful way, but on purpose.

We are in fundamental disagreement as to whether her sin was merely
being aware that her walk was attractive or that once she became aware
that her walk was attractive she made sure to walk that way to attract
attention. Dikdaka does not mean passive awareness but rather care in
doing something. Orchos Tzadikim (Shaar 1 Shaar Gaavah) says, "didaka
yoser" she emphasized or exaggerated her step. Similary in Mesilas
Yesharim #16 he cites this story and said she emphasized her walk. "This
addition was caused by the praised that she received". Thus she had
been consciouslly walking in a unique way and when she was praised she
exaggerated it.

There is an obvious difference in the concept of modesty between
your reading and mine. According to your interpretation, chazal are
indicating that it is sinful to appear attractive - if you are aware of
that attractiveness. According to my understanding, the sin is entirely
in deliberately doing actions to attract men's attention.

Rabbi Falk "Modesty - an Adornment page 47". "It is wrong to do most of
these things even with pure intentions because , they after all attract
attention which is the antithesis of tznius. Although she has no bad
intentions, she is nevertheless forsaking the sacred call of tznius
when she behaves in this manner. It is similarly unrefined for a girl
to sway excessively during davening as she displays her pious qualities
for all to see. The Gemara (Avoda Zarah 18a) relates a story about the
daughter of Rebbi Chanina Ben Tradyon, who was such a refined person that
her footsteps were particularly soft. and unassertive, reflecting her
refinement. She was once in Rome and some of the local nobles saw her.
They were most impressed with the way she walked and even commented on
it. The young lady overheard their comments and immediately "improved
upon" her refined walk, so that everyone would notice just how tznius'dik
she was. For this misconduct she was severely punished as the Gemara
relates. Her failing lay in the fact that, although blessed with a
fine sense of tznius, she allowed her yetzer horah to trip her up and
cause her to seek to impress others with her special ways. For a person
with an acute sense of tznius, this error of judgement was viewed as
an incursion into the negative realm of pritzus and a serious blunder.
[Based on the Mesilas Yesharim Chap. 16 who explains that she walked with
refined footsteps even before hearing the comment] - see Mekoros 3:2. "

Daniel Eidensohn

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Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2005 16:59:28 -0700
From: Daniel Israel <israel@email.arizona.edu>
WikiBooks and Teaching Torah to Non-Jews

This is a post I sent to Areivim back in May, that didn't spark
much discussion. I see that the topic didn't spark much discussion.
I originally chose not to post to Avodah, becuase it is archived,
and given the premise of my question, perhaps that's sub-optimal.
I'm re-posting in the hope of sparking some discussion: I would be happy
to see it on either forum.

Just a thought: with respect to the issue of teaching Torah to non-Jews,
should we really be contributing to this? I realize, of course, that
many Torah texts are now easily available in stores, as well as on
Jewish internet sites. However, in those cases even thought non-Jews
may find them, they are primarily targeted to Jews, and perhaps the
importance of bringing them to Jews outweighs the issues of non-Jews
reading them. Here they are being put forward in a non-Jewish forum,
perhaps that consideration no longer applies. Certainly the S"A, which
has not been translated in its entirety, AFAIK, contains many things
which anit-Semites will have a field day with.

Daniel M. Israel
Dept. of Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering

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Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 10:33:51 -0700 (PDT)
From: "M. Levin" <mlevinmd@aol.com>
Der Alter [Der Alter] Self Esteem

I had recently been asked to give a mini-vaad on the subject of kavod
atsmo, or self esteem. This caused me to reflect on the total absence
of this topic from classic mussar works and, in contrast, on its
undeniable importance in our times.

As I see, there are three possible approaches to this quandary.

1. Since the concept comes to us via psychology, it is not mussar and
has no place within a mussar approach.

I reject this manner, primarily, because everyday experience bears out
the profound reach and importance of self esteem in every aspect of
life. From early childlhood education to adult dysfunction, the
importance of self esteem is a matter of general consensus. We reject
it at our own peril and to the detriment of those who depend on us for
instruction or advice - and this we should not do.

2. It was there all along. We msut find sources that reveal that self
esteem is a Jewish and a mussar idea. We can , f.e., look to sources
such as "one must have an eighth of an eights of pride (Sotah 5a), or
that a talmid chacham must have backbone and persistence (Taanis 4,
Shabbos 63).

The problem with this is that it is artificail. In addition, the
Rambam decides against the view in Sotah and maintains that one should
have no no pride whatsoever. Is self esteem only for talmidei
chachamim? In that case, we have solved nothing at all.

3. Nishtana Hateva. The world changed; whereas in the past self esteem
was not an important issue it now has become important. What exactly
has changed and could there be a leson for us in that?

It seems to me that one of the most prodound changes that modernity
introduced into human psyche was alenation and dissociation of the
individual from the collective. Whereas in the past every man was a
part of a family, tradition, country, religion and collective destiny,
that is no longer the case. People were tied into a web of
relationships and mutual responsibilites. There was a value within the
collective to each human being irrespective of what he or she
personally accomplished, or what skills he possessed. Each one of us
now travels through life essentially alone, deriving no sense of
identification or support from larger human groupings and formations.

Loneliness leads to fear and despair. Forced to look only within for a
sense of worth, modern man is exposed to a variety of fears and
anxieties, and along with them come addictions, avoidance behaviors,
clinging to false images and depression. Were it be that there was a
lifeline from outside - but, alas, there is nothing there to be found.
Self esteem becomes necessary because it is the only antidote to fear.
Building up one's skills, abilities and record of accomplishment
becomes the only way out- and we call it kavod atsmo.

This analysis suggests that there may be another solution. Working to
identify ourselves with the power without, relying on Hashem's love
for every Jew, accomplished or not, and actively joining our
individual dreams and aspiration to the collective destiny of Am
Israel , may lead to a wider and more satisfying concept of
self-esteem, one that our forefathers knew but we have forgotten.
Posted by M. Levin to Der Alter at 7/21/2005 01:06:00 PM

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Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 15:52:15 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Der Alter [Der Alter] Self Esteem

On Thu, Jul 21, 2005 at 10:33:51AM -0700, M. Levin wrote:
: I had recently been asked to give a mini-vaad on the subject of kavod
: atsmo, or self esteem. This caused me to reflect on the total absence
: of this topic from classic mussar works...

"Bishvili nishma ha'olam"?

I thought healthy self esteem is the difference between only
thinking this pasuq applies (ga'avah) and remembering that it
stands in dialectic with "va'anochi afar va'eifer". See also

In fact, you might even argue that anavah is the shevil hazahav between
ga'avah and shefeilus, and therefore extreme anivus is the chacham's
puruit of the mean, not necessarily that chassid's extending beyond.

In any case, self esteem is RATwersky's bread-and-butter. I'm sure his
works would be a treasure trove of potential sources. As he writes,
the ba'al ga'avah is someone with a poor self-image who is wallpapering
over it so that no one -- including himself -- will notice. Thus, anivus
requires self image. However, as this is an observation made about the
ba'alei ga'avah of our generation, it's no disproof of RML's words.


Micha Berger             Take time,
micha@aishdas.org        be exact,
http://www.aishdas.org   unclutter the mind.
Fax: (270) 514-1507            - Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv, Alter of Kelm

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Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 21:52:35 +0200
From: "D&E-H Bannett" <dbnet@zahav.net.il>
Re: darkhei Emori

Because of the comment on my posting, I have to make it clear that the
comment by the Litivishe RY that he doubted that the Emori were noheg
kakh was meant as a joke and was said with a broad grin.

If I had thought anybody would take it seriously, I would have added
a smiley.

I'm sure that those who know me and my postings also know that they
usually have humor or jokes either galui or nistar.

Sorry to have made people think seriously instead of just grinning.


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Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 13:47:48 -0400
From: "Ben Rothke" <brothke@hotmail.com>
Re: Darkhei Emori? Or worse? => Avodah V15 #55

From: "D&E-H Bannett" <dbnet@zahav.net.il>
> The mesader kiddushin was the RY of his yeshiva high school. After my
> grandson made a siyyum on masekhet Kiddushin and the ketuba paperwork
> was completed, he was instructed by the RY to untie his necktie and his
> shoelaces before going to the chuppa.
> Where do they get these crazy customs?


I vaguely recollect hearing, not seeing inside (so I unfortunately don't
have a source), that the minhag of loosening knots on the choson is that
there should be no "pressure" on him when he goes to the chuppa.

I thought this was more of a hasidish minhag, so perhaps a sefer on
hasidish chasuna minhagim could uncover the details of the minhag,
of which I personally would refrain from calling "crazy".

Kol tuv,

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Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 13:52:41 -0400
From: Yitzchok Levine <llevine@stevens.edu>
The Yeshiva Bochur Who Did Not Learn Well

 From pages 174-175 of the English translation of R. Dov Katz's "The Mussar 

Note: Reb Yisroel Salanter considered Reb Zundel of Salant to be his rebbe.

          Another story characteristic of R. Zundel (of Salant) gained
          wide currency. A certain Yeshivah bachur would eat one meal each
          week in R. Zundel's home, as was the custom of Yeshivah students
          in those times to "eat days" (i. e. each householder would
          give the bachur his midday meal once a week). Once R. Zundel's
          wife had gone out. The bachur came for dinner. Having finished
          his food, he recited the Grace after Meals and was about to
          leave. R. Zundel called him back and remonstrated with him:
          "My son, you have not learned well." An excellent student,
          the bachur was taken aback. "Sir", he asked, "What fault
          have you found in me? Did I not recite the Grace or wash my
          hands properly ?" "No, my son," R. Zundel replied. "Had you
          studied Torah as you should have, you would have acquired good
          manners as well, since everything is included in the Torah and
          everything is Torah. You washed your hands, ate and recited
          Grace. Fine! But why hadn't you learned to clear the table
          when you finished? You saw that the wife of the house was not
          at home. So who should clear the table for you? Would it not
          have been proper for you to put the knife and salt back where
          they belong, and the bread, too, so that all would be ready
          for the next meal ?"

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Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 15:39:22 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: The Yeshiva Bochur Who Did Not Learn Well

On Thu, Jul 21, 2005 at 01:52:41PM -0400, Yitzchok Levine quotes this
story from Tenu'as haMussar:
:           Another story characteristic of R. Zundel (of Salant) gained
:           wide currency....  You saw that the wife of the house was not
:           at home. So who should clear the table for you? Would it not
:           have been proper for you to put the knife and salt back where
:           they belong, and the bread, too, so that all would be ready
:           for the next meal ?"

I'm really thrown. Why would have been more appropriate for the bachur to
have created work is the woman of the house would have been home?


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Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 15:24:48 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Covenant and Conversation - Pinchas

I found this vort interesting both in RJS's identifying a pasuq referring
to separate Judicial, Legislative and Executive roles, and in his
distinction between power and influence.


Covenant and Conversation
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Office of the Chief Rabbi

Influence and Power

Knowing that he is about to die, Moses turns to G-d and asks him to
appoint a successor:

"Moses said to the Lord, 'May the Lord, G-d of the spirits of all mankind,
appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them,
one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord's people will
not be like sheep without a shepherd.'"

It is a farsighted, selfless gesture. As Rashi comments: "This is to tell
the praise of the righteous -- that when they are about to leave this
world, they put aside their personal needs and become preoccupied with
the needs of the community." Great leaders think about the long-term
future. They are concerned with succession and continuity. So it was
with Moses.

G-d tells Moses to appoint Joshua, 'a man in whom there is spirit'. He
gives him precise instructions about how to arrange the succession:

"Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand
on him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly
and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority
so the whole Israelite community will obey him... At his command he and
the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command
they will come in."

There are three actions involved here: [1] Moses was to lay his hand
on Joshua, [2] have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire
assembly, and [3] give him "some of your authority [me-hodecha]". What
is the significance of this threefold process? What does it tell us
about the nature of leadership in Judaism?

There is also a fascinating midrash about the first and third of these

"'And lay your hand on him' -- this is like lighting one candle with
another. 'Give him some of your authority' -- this is like emptying one
vessel into another." (Bamidbar Rabbah 21: 15)

Beneath these enigmatic words is a fundamental truth about leadership.

In L'Esprit des lois (1748), Montesquieu, one of the great political
philosophers of the Enlightenment, set out his theory of the "separation
of powers" into three branches: the legislature, the executive and the
judiciary. Behind it lay a concern for the future of freedom if power
were concentrated in a single source:.

Liberty does not flourish because men have natural rights, or because
they revolt if their leaders push them too far. It flourishes because
power is so distributed and so organized that whoever is tempted to
abuse it finds legal restraints in his way.

Montesquieu's source was not the Bible -- but there is, in a verse in
Isaiah, a strikingly similar idea:

"For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our law-giver; the Lord is our
king; he will save us." (Isaiah 33:22)

This tripartite division can also be found in Devarim/Deuteronomy 17-18 in
the passage dealing with the various leadership roles in ancient Israel:
the king, the priest and the prophet. The sages later spoke about "three
crowns" -- the crowns of Torah, priesthood and kingship. Stuart Cohen,
who has written an elegant book on the subject, The Three Crowns, notes
that "what emerges from the [biblical] texts is not democracy throughout
the political system, but a distinct notion of power-sharing at its
highest levels. Neither Scripture nor early rabbinic writings express
any sympathy whatsoever for a system of government in which a single
body all group possesses a monopoly of political authority."

The three-fold process through which Joshua was to be inducted into
office had to do with the three types of leadership. Specifically the
second stage -- "Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire
assembly and commission him in their presence" -- had to do with the fact
that Moses was not a priest. His successor had to be formally recognized
by the representative of the priesthood, Eleazar the High Priest.

Power and influence are often thought of as being the same kind of
thing: those who have power have influence and vice versa. In fact,
though, they are quite different. If I have total power and then decide
to share it with nine others, I now have only one-tenth of the power I
had before. If I have a certain measure of influence and then share it
with nine others, I do not have less. I have more. Instead of one person
radiating this influence, there are now ten. Power works by division,
influence by multiplication.

Moses occupied two roles. He was the functional equivalent of a king. He
made the key decisions relating to the people: how they should be
organized, the route they were to take on their journey, when and with
whom they should engage in war. But he was also the greatest of the
prophets. He spoke the word of G-d.

A king had power. He ruled. He made military, economic and political
decisions. Those who disobeyed him faced the possible penalty of death.
A prophet had no power whatsoever. He commanded no battalions. He had no
way of enforcing his views. But he had massive influence. Today we barely
remember the names of most of Israel's and Judah's kings. But the words
of the prophets continue to inspire by the sheer force of their vision
and ideals. As Kierkegaard once said: When a king dies, his power ends;
when a prophet dies, his influence begins.

Moses was to confer both roles on Joshua as his successor. "Lay your
hand on him" means, give him your role as a prophet, the intermediary
through whom G-d's word is conveyed to the people. To this day we use
the same word, semicha (laying on of hands), to describe the process
whereby a rabbi ordains his disciples. "Give him some of your authority
[me-hodecha]" refers to the second role. It means, invest him with the
power you hold as a king.

We now understand the midrash. Influence is like lighting one candle with
another. Sharing your influence with someone else does not mean you have
less; you have more. When we use the flame of a candle to light another
candle, the first is not diminished. There is now, simply, more light.

Transferring power, though, is like emptying one vessel into another.
The more power you give away, the less you have. Moses' power ended with
his death. His influence, though, remains to this day.

Judaism has an ambivalent attitude towards power. It is necessary. Without
it, in the words of Rabbi Hanina, deputy High Priest, "people would eat
one another alive" (Avot 3:2). But Judaism long ago recognized that (to
quote Lord Acton), power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts
absolutely. Influence -- the relation of prophet to people, teacher to
disciple -- is altogether different. It is a non-zero-sum game. Through
it, both teacher and disciple grow. Both are enhanced.

Moses gave Joshua his power and his influence. The first was essential
to the political and military tasks ahead. But it was the second that
made Joshua one of the great figures of our tradition. Influence is
simply more enduring than power.

Go to top.

Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 21:16:53 +0300
From: Moshe Feldman <moshe.feldman@gmail.com>
Rav Lichtenstein's halachic analysis of whether soldiers may refuse orders

Article by Rav Lichtenstein about soldiers refusing orders (article was
translated from Hebrew):

"Reflections on decisive times and decisive orders"

The article argues that even if one is against the disengagement for
halachic reasons, still it is halachically improper for soldiers to
refuse orders in the context of carrying out the disengagement.

Excerpts from the article:

<<Unity of the army, bearing the common burden, bringing people closer
together and deepening mutual understanding and concern - all of this
is an invaluable national asset whose influence extends far beyond
the ranks of the army, on all of society. Army service makes possible
the encounter between diverse strands of the people in a national
framework, whose key banners wave above and beyond sectarian and
personal interests. Sectarianism is liable to unravel this fabric and
turn constructive contact into a segregating and divisive force.

Three, there is also an internal price, which the national-religious
public is paying. National unity is not only a need of the army
or the state; it is a social and spiritual need of the Torah- and
mitzvah-observant public itself. The values of unity of the Jewish people
and the obligation of mutual responsibility were not brought to the beit
midrash (house of Torah study) from foreign fields. They were spawned
under the canopy of the Torah.

. . . .

As for the outlining of a policy of principle, our moral and halakhic
lines are clear. There may, by all means, be circumstances in which
refusing to obey orders is not only an option but also an obligation. In
the ancient argument between Antigone and Creon, a moral and sensitive
conscience, and even more so a religious conscience, will side with
her. Moreover, in our world, this decision is rooted in an express
religious ruling: "He who annuls the king's decree in order for us to
engage in the mitzvot, even in a light mitzvah, is absolved. The master's
words and the servant's words - the master's words take precedence,
and a fortiori, if a king's decree annuls a mitzvah, that it is ignored"
(Maimonides, Laws of Kings, 3:9).
. . . .

In regard to the disengagement, then, the question is to which of
the two categories cited above it belongs - to that which is marked by
violations of the halakha without any foreseeable grounds for permitting
their commission, or to that which, possibly, if only on the strength
of a doubt, includes an element that would permit its commission. The
government contends that the plan will in the long term and in the broad
perspective bolster our diplomatic and security strength, and will reduce
the chances of war. In other words, the government believes that its
plan will have the effect of saving human life - a halakhic argument of
the first rank. And because this is the case, its defenders will claim,
it is appropriate, halakhically speaking, to obey its orders.

Anyone disputing this conclusion can take one of two stands. It may be
argued that, as the late Rabbi Goren said when he called for refusing to
obey an order - in a different context - that the integrity of the Land
of Israel is more important than saving lives. To put it in the most
extreme terms, one could say that even if tens of thousands of rivers
of blood were to flow in battle, territories of the Land of Israel must
not be conceded. This makes clear the obligation to refuse an order
that promotes the dissection of the Land of Israel, even if we were to
assume that the government's hopes would be realized.

Alternatively, it could be claimed that the government's predictions
should not be taken seriously, either because of a deep belief and
certainty that the Guardian of Israel will not rest and will not slumber,
or because even an objective and completely secular analysis will lead to
the conclusion that it is no more than wishful thinking. Consequently,
any order related to an initiative that calls for the violation of a
precept of the Torah must be defied.

As for the first argument, it fits in with a more general landscape of
weighing the sanctity of human life against the sanctity of land, and
determining the status of people and land, and this is not the place to
go into this subject in depth or breadth. I will only note that I will
admit without embarrassment that I come from a beit midrash that some
of my adversaries consider to be tainted by a Diaspora mentality, that
is very sensitive to human life in particular and to the human aspect
in general. But I hope that even those who challenge the emphases of
my upbringing recognize the need to take into account the pros and cons
in either direction. It is my hope that they, too, will be willing to
consider that if the government's scenario comes true, and masses of
human lives are saved, in exchange for withdrawal from a section of
the country that, should we ever accomplish peace, has no chance of
remaining in our possession, that it will be possible to accept the plan
with responsibility and with a love of the people and the land alike.

I relate to the second argument differently, but my conclusion as to its
weight in regard to the question of the refusal to obey orders is the
same. I will say that to my best understanding, there are no guarantees
that the plan, if executed, will succeed, and I am not convinced it will
achieve its objectives. I understand the doubts and fears that not only
will the security situation not improve, but it will, heaven forbid,
be aggravated. And I listen attentively to the murmurs that say that
as long as we are giving up land, we should have gotten something in
exchange and carried out the withdrawal as part of a bilateral, and even
inclusive, agreement.

But the question is not whether it is clear that the objectives will
be achieved, but whether it is clear they will not be achieved. The
conclusion of the issue of saving a life as it appears in the tractate
of Yoma (85b) is that even the uncertain possibility of saving a life
overrides Sabbath observance, and this is the practice embraced by
every Jewish community. The comparison between the disengagement and
desecration of the Sabbath is inadequate, then, to serve as a basis for
insubordination. Its justification must rest on the additional premise
that we rank the integrity of the Land of Israel above and beyond Sabbath
observance - either because it is substantively more important or because
we must distinguish between an isolated, passing act of "desecration"
and harm to the national fabric that is liable to remain like a permanent
scar until the arrival of a just redeemer. Alternatively, we can lay
down hard-and-fast claims that there is no doubt here, not even the
shadow of a doubt, and that it is obvious to anyone with his wits about
him that the plan is headed for utter failure.
. . . .
In the final analysis, we - the government, the army, and it goes
without saying the citizens and their spiritual leadership - face a hazy
reality. To a certain extent, one may also refer in this context to a
halakhic haze, since it is difficult to gauge the level of uncertainty
that justifies exposure to risks. A decision on this matter is presumably
assigned to religious judges erudite in halakha. But on the operative
plane, a decision reached on this point will not dispel the fog until we
can gauge the actual dosage. Even if we agree that it is the arbiters
of halakha who define the level of danger and of utility that permits
eating on Yom Kippur, only physicians know how to determine the extent to
which a certain meal is needed for a said patient. Similarly, diplomatic
issues that are veiled in the darkness of the decision-making apparatus
should be entrusted to the government, partly because it has the tools
and the perspective that are not always available to others. The prime
minister's statement, "We see things here that you can't see from over
there," is not an empty slogan. It has been proven, in other countries
and other periods, as concrete truth. Primarily, however, because of
its status. Although there is no absolute certainty that the realistic
assessments of the government are correct, there is absolute certainty
that it is the administration and that it has the right and obligation to
govern. Its authority is not all encompassing or unhindered. A well-run
state has a system of law and order that differentiates between law of
the kingdom and oppression of the kingdom. But when it comes to taking
initiatives that fall within its decision-making purview, in accordance
with an assessment of the reality it faces, the government's opinion
and will are sovereign.
. . . .

In regards to refusal to obey orders related to disengagement, herein
lies the critical point. When the root of the argument is more factual
than normative, it is inconceivable for every soldier or every officer,
as long as he is in uniform and serving the country, to make decisions
for himself and usurp - he or his rabbi - the chief of staff, foreign
minister, defense minister and prime minister. This does not entail any
denial of the status or conscience of the individual; there are certain
circumstances and questions of specific principles and values to which
they apply. This does not constitute a call to blind obedience in every
situation and at every price. What there is here is a sense of limiting
its extent, renewing awareness of legitimate authority and encouraging
sensitivity to collective responsibility.

Go to top.


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