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Volume 15 : Number 073

Sunday, August 28 2005

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2005 22:17:16 +0300
From: Moshe Feldman <moshe.feldman@gmail.com>
Re: Is Aliyah a Solution to Our Problems?

On 8/23/05, Yisrael Herczeg <yherczeg@013.net> wrote on Areivim:
> This was the response of the Tashbetz (the talmid of Maharam MiRothenburg,
> not the better known one who was the rav of Algiers) when informed by one of
> his students that he was moving to EY. The Tashbetz said that it was all
> right for the talmid, but that he personally was afraid to go because he was
> not on the proper madreigah.

This is what Shu"t Avnei Neizer YD 454 s"k 23 ff. writes (loose translation):
<< The ikkar of the mitzvah of yishuv EY is when there is shalom--that
Jews are ra'ui to the Land. But in the time of the galus--when the Torah
states "Va'yashlicheim el eretz acheres"--how could there be a mitzvah?
After all, at the time that the meraglim sinned, when they wished
afterwards to go [to the Land], Moshe told them, "why do you violate
Hashem's word, [you will not succeed in doing so]." It is true that one
could argue that [in the case of the people at the time of the meraglim]
the people wished to capture the Land against the will of the nations,
and this is like the shevu'a [of the 3 oaths] shelo ya'alu b'choma.

But it can also be said that the world is judged according to the
majority, and when the majority of the Jews are not meritorious, the
Land is taken from them and the Beis HaMikdash is destroyed. But,
nevertheless, given that yishuv EY is a mitzvah devolving upon each
individual, if an individual is meritorious to the extent that if all Jews
were as meritorious as this individual then all Jews would be redeemed,
then there is a mitzvah upon this individual to live in EY.

. . . .R. Zeira [Kesubos 110b], . . . who held [against his rebbe, R.
Yehuda] that there is a mitzvah to move to EY, . . . did not move to EY
. . . and go against the opinion of R. Yehuda . . . until he saw [barley]
in a dream, indicating that he was free from sin and was fitting for EY.
. . . .
s"k 34: With regard to mitzvos de'oraisa, such as mitzvas yishuv EY:
it would seem that it shouldn't depend upon whether or not a person is a
tzaddik and fitting to live in a holy place, given that it is a command of
Hashem, so "be'hadei kavshei d'rachmana lama lach" [=we should not involve
ourselves in Hashem's secrets, but rather should fulfill his command].
However, if the reason to live in [EY] is just because it is holy,
then if a person is not fit to live there, [he should not do so] . . . .

s"k 38: According to this, we must say that the reason that R. Zeira
did not move to EY until he saw barley in a dream, even though with
respect to performing a mitzvah it should not make a difference whether
or not the person is fitting to live in EY, we must explain that this
is because nowadays the mitzvah [of living in EY] is just d'rabbanan,
the gemara in Eiruvim 67b states that with regard to d'rabbanan issues
[one should be respectful of one's rebbeim] and therefore R. Zeira was
respectful of the view of his rebbe, R. Yehuda, that one should not to
move to Israel unless one is sure that one is free of sin [even though
R. Zeira--and the Avnei Neizer--disagree]. . . .

s"k 39: In sum, in making aliyah to EY, one should not distinguish between
whether or not he is a tzaddik, given that this is a mitzvah--according
some it is de'oraisa and according to others it is drabbanan, depending
upon whether kdushah rishona kidsha l'asid lavo. Even if it is drabbanan,
a person should not pay attention to whether or not he is meritorious.

If anyone is interested, I can email them the Hebrew text of the tshuva.

I would add to the Avnei Neizer that whether or not one believes that we
are in the period of aschalta d'geulah, the fact that EY is now a haven
for Jews shows that now Hashem has now given the Land back to the Jewish
people--that the Land is no longer spitting out the Jews. At the time
that the Avnei Neizer (1839-1910) lived, this was not the case, and the
first paragraph of his tshuva is based on the idea that the Land continues
to not accept Klal Yisrael as a whole (though accepting individuals).

I would assume that the Tashbetz mentioned by R' Yisrael Herczeg was
based on the notion that because the Land has spit out Klal Yisrael, only
righteous people can survive in the Land. Today, however, given that the
Land is accepting Klal Yisrael, one could argue that even non-righteous
people will survive in the Land and should therefore make aliyah.

Kol tuv,

Go to top.

Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005 13:06:41 -0400
From: Eli Turkel <eliturkel@gmail.com>
yeush on land

<Karka einah nigzelet. Of course, in the case of EY there was no ye'ush,
and ever since we lost control of the land we have been serving notice
on the world three times a day that we intend to take it back. But
suppose we had not. Suppose we had truly lost hope of ever retrieving
it. Or suppose we did not lose hope, but we had no nevu'ah promising us
that we will retrieve it; since at the time it appeared impossible that
we would ever retrieve it by natural means, our protestations to the
contrary would be unreasonable, and therefore halachically irrelevant
(cf "zuto shel yam"). In the case of movable property, this would sever
our relationship with it, and whoever next took possession of it would
become the new owner (ye'ush and shinui reshut). But in the case of land,
as I understand the halacha, it would remain ours forever, or until the
last yoresh of the Jews who last held it died out, ch"v.>

I am not sure about Yeush but war certainly changes the status of land.
The gemara states that once Sichon won the land from Moav than the
prohibition of taking land from Moav no longer applies. Even in EY
the first kedusha of Yehoshua was through war and so the land lost its
kedusha through war.

It is clear that if one could prove that his family owned a certain plot
of land in bayit sheni that he could not come today, al pi halachah,
and claim the land for himself based on karka eno nizleget.

I vaguely remember there was a case like that when Jerusalem was
reconquered and the psak was that land owned in 1948 was irrevelant
because it was under Jordanian rule in between.

kol tuv,
Eli Turkel

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Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005 22:23:47 +0300
From: Moshe Feldman <moshe.feldman@gmail.com>
Re: Tisha b'Av in America vs. in Israel

I wrote at http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol15/v15n070.shtml#17: 
: I have the sense that American Jews view Tisha b'Av as commemorating
: primarily the destruction of the bais ha'mikdash, while Israeli DL view
: it as commemorating primarily our galus from EY (with the destruction
: of the BhM being just part of that)...

 From R' Micha:
<< There are centuries between churban bayis and the actual leaving
Israel. The entire period of the tannaim and the early amora'im.>>

But clearly the churban ha'bayis was a prelude to the galus--as the
situation in EY deteriorated, more and more went into galus.  And while many
Jews stayed in EY after the churban, there were thousands taken (as slaves)
into captivity by the Romans.  

In any case, the Ramban on Bechokosai (26:28) explains how the tochecha of
Ki Savo applies to Bayis Sheni and says that Roman rule over EY ("v'avadeta
es oyvecha") constituted galus.

R' Micha:
<< Bayis sheni is explained in terms of sin'ah, misplaced anivus, and
other such midos-oriented topics. Which makes sense, as it didn't go
hand-in-hand with being forced from the land.>>

The tochacha of Ki Savo starts with maltreatment in EY, but later talks of
leaving the land (26:63).  (See Ramban, above.)  So presumably those aveiros
can also lead to being forced from the land. 

I wrote:
: Based on this, it is not surprising that the view of the Israeli
: DL community is that voluntarily living in galus today--even one as
: prosperous as America--is problematic, as galus is supposed to be a
: punishment, not a benefit.

R' [MB]
<<You're confusing galus with golah. Both are punishments. But we even
had a bayis (rededicated by the Chashmonaim) throughout galus Yavan!
You can't leave the golah, it requires the Shechinah's return.

Galus and Golah are different forms of the same word. Metzudas David
to Sefer Daniel 9:14 says "mi'hair l'havee golah achar golah, v'hem
galus Yehoyakim...." See also Pisekta Zutresa Davarim Parshas Nitzavim
daf 51a s.v. "Veshav Hashem": "'Veshav Hashem es shevuscha v'richamecha'
--zeh golah shel Bavel. 'Veshav v'gibetzcha mikol ha'amim' -zeh galus
Titus v'Aspasyanus." IOW, golah and galus are synonymous, with galus
being the semichut form of golah. In fact, according to my computer
search, in all of Tanach, galus is always used in the semichut form
(e.g. galus Yehuda, galus Yerushalayim) with the exception of Amos 1:6
and 1:9 "al ha'glosam galus sheleimah," where the word is being used
as referring to the *action* of galus, not a place of galus. Golah,
in contrast, refers to a geographic place.

True, in the Tannaic literature, and even more so in the Middle Ages, galus
was used even without semichut instead of the word golah.  But we find many
synonymous words where one form was used in one era and a different form in
a different era.  For example, the Albeck edition of Bereshis Rabba parsha
76 (on pasuk 8) uses the term "acheinu she'bagolah" while the Vilna edition
of the same passage uses the term "acheinu she'bagalus."

Regarding "Galus Yavan:" According to my computer search, Galus Yavan is
used only 4 times in Tannaitic/Amoraic literature.  Surely, it is not
considered a complete galus in the same sense that Galus Romi is considered
a galus in fulfillment of the Tochacha.  As Saul Mashbaum noted on Areivim,
Galus Yavan is really a case of she'abud malchuyos, and my quick computer
search shows many more times that the term arba malchuyos is used in
Tannaitic/Amoraic literature in connection with Yavan.  At most, Galus Yavan
refers to being in a spiritual condition of galus, while Galus Romi refers
both to the spiritual condition and to the actual movement away from EY.

So I contend that one who lives in Israel is not living in the golah or in
galus, though he may be in the condition of galus.  And, of course, those
who claim that we are in the situation of atchalta d'geulah would claim that
we are only partially in the condition of galus.  Alternatively, see
http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol04/v04n422.shtml#15 where R' Carl Sherer
suggests that people living in Israel do not live in galus but the nation of
Israel is in galus so long as the majority live outside Israel.

Kol tuv,

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Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 21:09:37 +0200
From: Yisrael Medad <yisrael.medad@gmail.com>
Har Habayit (touching the Kotel)

Continuing the discussion, I stumbled upon an interesting testimony.

In Av 1929, the Rayatz, 6th Admor of Chabad, visited Eretz-Yisrael and
on his first afternoon in Yerushalayim, visited the Kotel.  According
to the Chabad in-house history of the events, "Masa HaRebbe b'Eretz
HaKodesh" by David Ze'ev Rotenberg, 1999 (no publisher; distribution:
Eshel - Kfar Chabad), p. 81, the
Rebbe asked if it is the custom to kiss the stones and he did do so.

Btw, on p. 77, translating from a letter he wrote to his daughter
Sheina, he declares that as the Holy City has theatres, one can
perform kri'ah twice and
he did - once upon seeing the city from afar on the train near Betar and the
second time at the Kotel.  

And pp. 131-137 describe his visit to Ma'arat HaMachpela in Chevron inside!

Yisrael Medad

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Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 00:05:51 -0400
From: "JosephMosseri" <joseph.mosseri@verizon.net>
Hatarat Nedarim OuQlalot 2005

Now that Tish'ah BeAb is behind us we are getting closer to Yamim Nora-im
(High Holy Days).

One custom associated with that is Hatarat Nedarim ouQlalot, The Annulment
of Vows and Curses.
This custom, even though based upon the law of annulment of personal
vows doesn't seem to have been done as a communal institution prior to
the 14th century.
Among the important reasons the public hatarah was so established & caught
on is undoubtedly related to the reasons for the Kal Nidre ceremony,
addressing those who under pressure lived publicly as non-Jews & who
desired exoneration for their false statements.

The custom is based upon the Zohar , Perashat Peqoude, page 249, which
says: When there is a blemish on the neshamah and it gets rectified,
it takes 40 days until that blemish is completely wiped out. Or if
someone has unkept vows then prayers cannot be heard in shamayim for 40
days. Therefore, the first hatarah is 40 days before Rosh Hashanah.

There are communities who enact this Hatarah anywhere from once to up
to four times. The 4 times are:

1) 20th of Ab which is 40 days prior to Rosh Hashanah (some say 19th of
   Ab, but I do not know why. Does anyone know the reason for this?)
2) Ereb Rosh Hodesh Eloul, which is 40 days prior to Yom Kipour.
3) Ereb Rosh Hashanah.
4) Ereb Yom Kipour.

The Turkish Jews seem to only do Ereb Rosh Hashanah, The North Africans
and Iraqis do all 4, The Egyptians and Aleppo-Syrians do all except for
that of Ereb Rosh Hodesh Eloul, The original Damascus-Syrian custom was
only twice but nowadays they follow the Aleppo custom.

This custom of Hatarah was always enacted in the morning after Shahrit in
front of a "Bet Din" of 10 Hakhamim, when 10 were unavailable only 3 would
One person would then read the formula on behalf of the congregants to
the religious tribunal and all listened attentively. It's a shame that
now we see everyone reading the Hatarah. Don't they understand that the
Bet Din can only listen to one person? He is reading it for all of them
and the Bet Din will respond to him for the entire assembled congregation!

An interesting phenomenon has developed among the Syrian Jewish
communities of Brooklyn,NY and Deal,NJ (and now among the Lebanese and
Egyptian congregations who live among them) that the Hatarah is no longer
done in the morning and it is no longer done on these prescribed days. It
is now preformed on the Saturday night prior to each one of the originally
prescribed dates.
What we see is that the Rabbi and committee members of each synagogue
announce on Shabbat morning that Hatarah will be held on Saturday night.
They remind the people, don't forget to tell everyone you know. Then lo
and behold what we see Saturday night is mystifying. Hoards and throngs
of men, women , and children arrive at the synagogue on Saturday night
prior to these dates for Hatarah. Many people that would normally not
go to kenis show up just because they can not miss Hatarah. Ask them
what Hatarah is, and they have no idea!!

As a side point it is interesting to note that in Aleppo, the women did
not go to kenis for Hatarah.
Rather 4 Rabbis would go to each Hosh (courtyard of a multidwelling
complex) and there the women would gather. Three Rabbis sat as a BetDin
and one Rabbi read on behalf of the women. These Rabbis would make
their rounds from Hosh to Hosh until all the ladies in the community
had Hatarah done for them.

Why is Hatarah happening on Saturday night? Is it because it's easier to
get the people together? Has this custom changed strictly for convenience
sake? Some have also asked must everyone really attend Hatarah? Must
they attend all of them? Is just 1 enough? If so, which 1?

Maybe we can say the following: As the public hatarah does not fit well
with the true halakhah of how one must make hatarah when there is a neder
that must be addressed, and as in our days it has been misunderstood
as a type of "bet din dispensation," thereby supporting a misconception
of Judaism's most essential principles, it is not advisable to engage
in all these 4 hatarot but to possibly tamp down the practice as much as
possible. Maybe just one or two times can accomplish whatever legitimately
must be accomplished.

I've heard some say that since the law prescribes that a Bet Din can not
convene at night , the law must apply to Hatarah as well and we can not
do it at night. Can our makeshift BetDin be subject to the actual laws
of a real BetDin?

Regardless, when it is done it surely must be done seriously, not to
add to the frivolity of the occasion that has set in in recent decades.
And the public should know what is going on.

Always keep in mind that minhag is important but when it is
counterproductive, the principles and laws of the Torah must take
precedence. It doesn't matter if unenlightened masses may criticize a
"change," even if their leaders have been going along with the charade.

It would be interesting to find out more about the origins of this custom.
How it was established in each community and how it evolved into what
we see today?

By the way, the above means that the 1st Hatarah, was held this past
Saturday night August 20, 2005.

Your thoughts and comments are most welcome,
Joseph Mosseri
I am not a Rabbi or a Poseq.
I am just interested in discussing Halakhot & Minhagim, laws and customs.
I invite your insights, comments, criticisms, etc..
Please let me know if you would like me to forward the same to my list.
If you would like to be removed from this list or know of someone who would
benefit from it just let me know by including, first name, last name, &
Joseph Mosseri

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Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 13:05:56 +0300
From: Daniel Israel <israel@email.arizona.edu>
NYC Restaraunt Water

I have been in NYC for the last few days and I noticed something at the
nicer restaraunts. They offer bottled water. Let me set the scene:
the bus boy comes over and asks if we want bottled water or tap?
It takes me a minute to figure out what's going on, and then I ask,
"Is the tap water filtered?" He answers, "No." So I get bottled water.

Then I start thinking, IIRC the OU at least (which supervises the
restaraunt in question) posted on their website that they require
filtered water. Finishing the bottle, the waiter asks, "Bottled or tap?"
Again I ask, "Is the tap water filtered?" The waiter answers, "We are
required to filter our water." So I go with tap.

When the bill arrives the bottled water is listed at $5.

Now, it seems to me the restaraunts are taking advantage of the tap water
scare in NYC to squeeze some extra money. I don't remember being given
this choice before the bugs in the water hoopla.

Two questions for Avodah:
(1) Is there any halachic basis for bottled water over filtered water?
(2) Given that water in restaraunts is usually free, and that given the
situation the cost of the bottle is ambiguous when the initial offer is
made, is this a halachically acceptable business practice? Should the
hashgacha be discouraging it?

Please, if anyone has more general comments, I'd love to hear them... on

Daniel M. Israel

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Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 13:58:05 GMT
From: "Gershon Dubin" <gershon.dubin@juno.com>

Rashi says in Sukka that of the 13 midos shehaTorah nidreshes bahen,
only kal vachomer is "do-it-yourself", not hekesh.

Which mida of the 13 is hekesh?


Go to top.

Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005 13:20:36 GMT
From: "Gershon Dubin" <gershon.dubin@juno.com>
Misheberach leyoledes

This morning the gabbai made a misheberach leyoledes zachar. The nusach
that he read from the siddur wished the parents to be megadlo leTorah
lechupah ulmaasim tovim, ulhachniso bivriso shel A"A bizmano.

This always sounded to me like an afterthought; since the lehachniso
comes first in time, should it not also be first in the list of berachos?

This being an Artscroll siddur, I took the opportunity to query Rabbi
Scroll on this, making the observation en passant that I thought some
printer somewhere made a mistake and all subsequent printers copied
the error.

His response was that this is the order in all siddurim. Vekahn haben
sho'el: true or not true? Can some of our erudite chaverim give me
instances of siddurim where the order of berachos matches the order of
kiyum, and/or some explanation of the cited girsa.


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Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005 15:47:09 -0400
From: "Israel Moskowitz" <izm@att.net>
The Humility of R Zechariah b Avkolus

I heard in a shiur from Harav Zelik Epstein Shlit"a the following
explanation which may shed some light on your questions. (Any errors
are mine alone and do not reflect in any way on Rav Zelik, Shlit"a).

First, what is the significance of "Invisinuso," "his humility," how
does humility play into this? Of course, we have Rash"i who explains
this word as "Savlanuso," patience.

Harav Zelik Shlit"a explained this word in light of the gemarah in
Sanhedrin which states that in Dinei Nefoshos (capital cases) we
begin "min hatzad." This is a euphemism for starting with the least
learned Dayan. Why? If the greatest Dayan in Sanhedrin were to state
his opinion first, the others would not have the temerity to state a
dissenting point of view -- all would echo the p'sak of the godol. Thus,
in order to avoid any undue influences, in a case of Dinei Nefoshos,
the Sanhedrin would first hear the opinion of the most junior members,
working up to the most senior dayan.

R Zechariah b Avkolus was, in fact, the greatest member of Sanhedrin at
the time. When the case of Bar Kamtza came before the Sanhedrin he should
have given his opinion last, in accordance with "poschin min hatzad."
However, Rav Zecharia b Avkolus was a great "onov", a humble person
who did not think of himself as the greatest in the Sanhedrin. Thus,
he insisted on being seated "min hatzad," among the ranks of the least
learned. As a result, his opinion was elicited first.

So when he rejected the idea of killing Bar Kamtza for having introduced
a "mum" into "kodshim," ("they will say anyone who introduces a mum is
liable to the death penalty") all the others fell into line and gave
the same psak. For, after all, he was, in reality, greater than them all
despite his protestations to the contrary. Thus, his Anivus contributed
directly to the destruction, since it caused his voice to be heard first
and the death penalty rejected. (Ad Kan).

So in answer to your question, the second judgment, whether to execute
Bar Kamtza was the actual core reason for the destruction since the
decision to spare him allowed his return to Roman authorities and the
resulting events. The prior case, bringing a blemished korban, was a
precursor that explains the situation that Sanhedrin faced.

Israel Moskowitz
izm at att dot net

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Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005 20:02:06 -0400
From: "Zvi Lampel" <hlampel@thejnet.com>

Mon, 15 Aug 2005 R Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org> wrote:
> If there were a baal mesorah who already argued min hamesorah that
> evil as-we-know-it couldn't have existed yet [before the eitz ha-daas],
> perhaps. But without an al mi lismokh...

Actually, there /is/ a mesorah that good and evil as-we-know-it did not
exist at a point in the Creation, although (naturally) before Hashems
statement that "all that He did was very good." It is explained by Rav
Simon Schwab, zt"l, and happens to be discussed a the "Perspective" of
a book entitled "The Dynamics of Dispute. Heres an excerpt. (The full
discussion can be found at www.XXXXXXXXXXXX)

Even after the creation of our world, while it was still solidifying,
its contents and concepts were in an amorphous state devoid of logic
and sense, a state of tohu va'vohu, one that could evoke in the human
mind only perplexity and astonishment (cf. Rashi, B'rayshis 1:2). An
incredulous, baffling, incomprehensible darkness of definitionless,
lawless nature hovered over the mysterious depths--until G-d willed
that Light and Darkness exist, and exist as opposites. And even then,
a crucial issue of reality hung in abeyance: Which was to be considered
"Good"--righteous actions of kindness and truth, or dark acts of murder
and falseness? B'rayshis Rabbah 2:5 refers to G-d's decision:

Said Rebbi Avahu: At the beginning of the world's creation, The
    Holy-One Blessed-be-He gazed at the deeds of the righteous and
    at the deeds of the wicked. . . . "The world was tohu va'vohu"
    (B'rayshis 1:2) refers to the deeds of the wicked. "And G-d said,
    Let there be Light" (B'rayshis 1:3) refers to the deeds of the
    righteous. But I [still] would not know which of them He desires
    the deeds of these or the deeds of those. However, once Scripture
    writes, "And G-d saw the Light that it was Good" (B'rayshis 1:4),
    [we see that] it is the deeds of the righteous that He desires,
    and that He does not desire the deeds of the wicked.

And so Nature and Morality and Sense were created, and their bylaws,
contained in the Torah and its halachos, were defined for Man. Good
and Evil, Pure and Impure,5 Kosher and Non-Kosher, became absolute
components of our universe. Murder became for us an absolute evil.
Pigs became forbidden food for Jews. Thirty-nine activities became
forbidden on Shabbos. Kindness became a virtue. Virtue became a virtue.6
The Torah's laws, given to us in our world, therefore possess a this-world
rationality, even if intellectual limitations prevent some of us from
grasping the rationality behind all of them in all situations.

5 Said Rabban Yohonon ben Zakkai, By your lives'. Dead bodies do not
[intrinsically] confer tum'ah, impurity; and water containing ashes
of the Red Cow does not [intrinsically] endow taharah, purity. The
Holy One, Blessed-be-He, simply deemed it to be so: 'A decree have I
declared!'" (B'rayshis Rabbah 19:8).

6 Because our ideas of morality and justice are realities only in our
world, our forefathers held G-d answerable to their concepts of right
and justice only when they sensed that G-d "descended" into the spheres
of our universe (see for example B'rayshis 11:21, concerning Avraham
and Sodom, and Sh'mos 2:18, regarding Moses at the burning bush). Only
because G-d "descended" onto Mt. Sinai when He revealed His Torah to us
(Sh'mos 19:18) are we justified in applying to it our system of logic,
which includes, for example, the inadmiss.ibility of contradictions and
the basing of conclusions through obviating them.

Zvi Lampel

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Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 00:02:23 -0400
From: "R. Alexander Seinfeld" <seinfeld@daasbooks.com>
Re: harry potter and kishu

>> From: Shaya Potter <spotter@yucs.org>
>> How the heck does pouring molten lead into a cup over someone's head
>> remove an "ayin hara", ..

> You understand how other segulos work?

> This one has been around for quite a while and obviously works.
> That's the main thing, in fact the ONLY thing..

Here is how segulas work (as explained to me by R. Yitchok Berkovitz,
Shlita): a Jew is supposed to know at all times that Hashem is running
the world. He gives us challenges in order to improve our avodas Hashem
(does this thread now belong on the Avodah list?). A segula, if used
properly, improves a person's kavanah in tefila.

However, if a person thinks that the segula itself is doing anything at
all, then the person is guilty of avodah zara, and the segula becomes
(obviously) assur.

See Rambam's delineation of different kinds of avodah zara.
See also R. Dessler Vol 2: chapter on nature, concealed miracles,
the Golden Calf and the copper snake (ended up in Vol 3 of R. Carmel's


Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld
The amazing new outreach book... 

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Date: Sun, 28 Aug 2005 22:53:07 -0400
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>

On Mon, Aug 22, 2005 at 08:02:06PM -0400, Zvi Lampel wrote:
: Actually, there /is/ a mesorah that good and evil as-we-know-it did not
: exist at a point in the Creation, although (naturally) before Hashems
: statement that "all that He did was very good." It is explained by Rav
: Simon Schwab, zt"l, and happens to be discussed a the "Perspective" of
: a book entitled "The Dynamics of Dispute. Heres an excerpt. (The full
: discussion can be found at www.XXXXXXXXXXXX)

In the confusion of all the backlog caused by my vacation, I forgot
to honor RZL's request to replace that last token with the url of
his fax to me. Sorry.

The full discussion can be found at


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Date: Thu, 25 Aug 2005 23:43:19 -0400
From: "Zvi Lampel" <hlampel@thejnet.com>
Calling A Spade A Spade: Rambam and Kollel

I had noted in my post that the Rambam's objection to accepting public
monies for Torah pursuits referred not only to those learning Torah, but
to university professors of Talmud and pulpit rabbis as well. Therefore,
I stated, one cannot use the Rambam's shittah to place professors and
rabbis together with those who "work for a living," and contrast them
to those who "just sit and learn." I further called attention to the
fact that people tend to look down on those who accept public monies to
"just sit and learn," while they look up to people who are paid by public
funds for purely non-Torah oriented academic work and "occupy themselves
in research." I asked, "Why the outcry when the subject of study is Torah,
and the admiration when the subject of non-economic value is not Torah?"

To this R. Meir Shinnar responded,("Shinnar, Meir"
<Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu> 10 Aug 2005) "Because part of the problem
(according to the rambam) is precisely the notion of accepting money puts
torah study on the same level as all other occupations -- and therefore
denigrates torah study."

His response ignores my argument. My question clearly was not on the
Rambam's shittah, but on people's attitude today. I cannot believe that
anyone would seriously suggest that today the reason people object to
the idea of kollel stipends is because they hold a higher respect for
Torah than for other scholarly pursuits. (The idea of "parasites" more
readily comes to mind.) The proof: they don't have the same objection
to pulpit rabbis being paid by their congregations.

My point was that people tend to fudge the Rambam's words with their own
objections and attitudes. RMS sort of admits that the distinction people
make is not the Rambam's. (Actually, he puts it, "this distinction does
not occur in the Rambam." But it's not that the Rambam failed to state
it; he explicitly holds a different distinction altogether.) Yet he too
does not escape from slipping back into that groove of thinking that
the Rambam would distinguish between kollel men and pulpit rabbis. In
his own description of the Rambam's objections, he repeatedly refers to
Rambam's objection to paid "Torah study" without a mention of the selfsame
objection against rabbinical careers. He puts it that "part of the problem
(according to the rambam) is precisely the notion of accepting money
puts torah study [no mention of rabbanus--ZL] on the same level as all
other occupations -- and therefore denigrates torah study [no mention
of rabbanus--ZL]. It is precisely because torah study [no mention of
rabbanus--ZL] is on a higher level than the study of Shakespeare that
one should not financially support it -- and it is only that we have
become so accustomed to supporting torah study financially [no mention of
rabbanus--ZL] that we are not shocked by the casual equating of the two."

I wrote, "The Kessef Mishnah, author of the Shulchan Aruch, gave a
point-by-point rebuttal of the Rambam's arguments against accepting
public money for Torah activities."

RMS disagreed, saying, "The Kesef Mishne, after several attempted
rebuttals, ends up conceding that the rambam is right lecatchila --
but that the torah community would not survive and not have leaders if
there wasn't support -- and therefore this was allowed bdieved.

I don't know how RMS could characterize the Kessef Mishneh as he
does. "/Attempted/ rebuttals"? "Ends up conceding that the Rambam is
right"? "Lechatchilla"?

I am confident a re-reading of the Kessef Mishneh will reveal that his
rebuttals are strong and his position is set that the Rambam's p'sak is
incorrect even lechatchilla.

 I wrote,
"This rejection of the Rambam's strongly expressed shittah was the
normative, mainstream attitude which, in opposition to the Rambam,
saw no objection to Torah educators and rabbis accepting salaries and,
in theory if not in practice, Torah scholars accepting stipends."

RMS responded: "Again, I think a misstatement. This position -- that
the rambam was right lecatchila, but bdieved we allow the support,
was the real norm (at work don't have -- but look in yore dea and the
rama and nose kelim) -- the preferred mode was for the torah scholar
to be independent -- the question was if that was not possible, what
type and modes of support was permissible -- and the majority opinion
was that it was actually quite limited (eg, schar batala and related
ideas). there are a few acharonim who go the other way, and believe that
the honor of torah is manifested in the support given by the community,
but most view the rambam as right lecatchila -- the question is what to
do given social realities."

But a look in Yoreh Deah (246) shows the Rema and nosei kaylim defending
and championing the public support of rabbis and talmidim, and generally
considering the Rambam's shittah as not normative. The social realities
are only brought to buttress the conclusion reached through analysis
of the sources, or to uphold the common practice "even if we were to
hold like the Rambam." The Darkei Mosheh calls Rambam in this case a
"machmir," not a "lechatchilla." The Rema calls the Rambam's shittah a
"maalah gedolah" and "middass chassidus" -- not "lechatchilla." He dwells,
as did the Rambam, on the obligation upon every Jew to be fully learned
in Torah, and to spend the bulk of his day to that end, to minimize his
working hours to be just enough to place food on the table. (Believe me,
this hurts; but emmess is emmess.) He states that it is praiseworthy for a
person to accomplish all that, while also providing for his own parnassa,
"But this is not the middah of every person, for it is impossible for
every person to be osek baTorah and become wise in it and to earn his
own living....And therefore they were noheig in all Jewish m'komos that
the city's rav has parnassa and sippuk from the city's men."

The Bach comments, "The Beis Yosef wrote that the chochmaei hadoros were
not noheig like him [the Rambam]. And the proofs the Rambam brought
for his words can be brushed aside. And on the contrary, proofs can
be brought to fortify [the practice of] those who give and those who
receive." And the Rashbatz [Rav Shimon bar Tsemach] has sufficiently
written and elaborated in his Teshuvos to disagree with the Rambam and
to contradict (sosair) all his words."

The Derisha approvingly cites the Teshuvas HaRashbatz as well, as
"to be sosair all the Rambam's proofs and to fortify the /chachamim/
/and the talmidim/ who take gifts from the public." He adds, "Insofar
as the statement at the beginning of siman 255, that 'one must keep
himself away from accepting charity...' that's speaking of charity,
while this is speaking of payment given in an honorable way."

Shach writes: "And also Maharshal... wrote to fortify the minhag and
concludes, 'and it is true. For otherwise the Torah would have long
become batul from Israel. For it is impossible for every person to
engross himself in Torah and to become wise in it and also to make his
own parnassa through the work of his own hands. Furthermore, I say that
whoever is capable of study and spreading Torah to the masses... it
is an avvone in his hand not to accept from otehrs, even if he knows
a melachah."

Indeed, the Rambam himself introduces his powerful criticism of
accepting payment for Torah pursuits (such as rabbanus and research)
by acknowledging that the entire Jewish nation in his time and in the
recent past had this practice and considered it proper.

RMS is correct to say that "the issue of how much time one has to devote
to parnasa depends on many factors -- and therefore no one rule applies"
but I think he is overstating the Rambam's shittah when he continues,
" -- except that it is preferable to work full time with no study rather
than to take charity." "Work full time with /no/ study?" Given that grim
dilemma of either accepting support (to avoid, according to Rambam,
an issur of chillul Hashem), or not learning Torah at all, I wouldn't
be so sure. Rav Moshe Feinstein, indeed, understands the Rambam quite
differently in an important Teshuva on the subject. In any case, given
such a horrible choice between financial independence and Torah study,
the decision to completely abandon Torah study is definitely not the
choice one senses as advocated by the Shulchan Aruch's nosei kaylim.

I also wrote that "One should distinguish between public support and
family support. It is worth remembering that the Rambam himself attained
his Torah greatness through his brother's financial support for his
full-time learning."

RMS responded:
> I think that this statement misrepresents the halachic issues involved.
> The rambam codifies certain ways in which it is permissible to support
> torah study. One way is to help in investments -- someone may take equity
> from a scholar and invest it and not charge for the labor -- or, as in
> the rambam's case, take equity, invest it in merchandise, sell it, and
> not give the scholar the profits without charging.

[A technicality: I don't think this will be found in Rambam's codification
(i.e., his Mishneh Torah); it's in his commentary on Avos, where he
proposes this as the way, not one of the ways, for a scholar to gain
income while learning full-time.

>                        The rambam's brother ran the family business --
> and therefore invested the equity of the rambam for him in the business
> and gave him his return.... There is nothing to suggest that the rambam
> would agree that the family should support an adult torah student --
> except in helping him invest his share in the family wealth."

I would be interested in seeing a source for this claim that the
Rambam's brother's support was dependent upon capital that the Rambam
supplied. [Where would he have had capital from, anyway, since he did
not yet have any profession? Unless we assume he had inherited a sum of
money--but then this would not serve to illustrate the ideal of earning
one's living "through the work of one's own hands."] As for something to
suggest that the Rambam would be agreeable to family financial support of
an adult Torah student, this is explicit in Hilchos Mattanis L'Oniyyim,
    "One who provides sustenance for his adult sons and daughters, for
    whom one is not obligated to provide such, in order to teach the
    males Torah and to train the daughters in the straight path [Do I
    sense a hint to a Bais Yaakov education here?--ZL] so that they will
    not be humiliated, as well as one who provides sustenance to his
    father and to his mother--behold this is included in the category
    of Tsedakah. And it is a Tsedakah Gedolah, because one's relatives
    [brothers as well as parents--ZL] have preference."

I will close again as I did in my original post:
No doubt there are many authorities and gedolim past and present who
for a variety of reasons recommend many to spend the bulk (time-wise) of
their activities, and find as the source for their incomes, non-kollel
pursuits. I am merely urging that we correctly understand the Rambam's
unique position, and that it should not be confused with other gedolim's
shittos or touted to support other people's personal opinions and

Zvi Lampel

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