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Volume 16 : Number 020

Friday, November 4 2005

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 2 Nov 2005 18:31:34 +0200
From: Simon Montagu <simon.montagu@gmail.com>
Re: rabbinic misconduct

On 10/30/05, S & R Coffer <rivkyc@sympatico.ca> wrote:
> On October 29, 2005 Chana Luntz [mailto:chana@KolSassoon.org.uk] wrote:
>> Aren't you (ie RIS) jumping to conclusions here? Rashi and Radak bring
>> two opinions, the midrash brought from the gemora refers specifically to
>> married women, but there is nothing in the pasuk to indicate that - so
>> why do you assume that according to the opinion that it is indeed
>> k'mashma'o, they were with married rather than single women?

> The above is not addressed to me however I feel compelled to comment. If
> Chazal say that Chofni and Pinchas did not commit any improprieties
> relating to arayos, there can only be one opinion.

The Maharatz Chajes (whose yahrtzeit is today) seems to have a
different opinion. I've never seen it inside, but it's quoted by RGS
on <http://www.yasharbooks.com/2005/03/hazal-and-biblical-characters.html>

The Rabbis had likewise a tradition, as far as possible to praise
the conduct of godly men, to demonstrate their worth and weigh it
against their failings in the scales of merit, and to endeavour in
every way possible to justify the doings of the good. It is in view
of this principle that they state that anyone who maintains that David
sinned is in error, and similarl= y anyone who maintains that Solomon
sinned... [T]he Rabbis teach us that we ought to stress the good deeds
of the righteous and show that all their act= s were performed in the
most perfect manner...


The motive which prompted the Rabbis to adopt this method in these
*aggadic*expositions was their desire to strengthen in the people's
minds the great principle, which the authors of the Mishnah had laid
down, that 'precept draws precept in its train, and transgression draws
transgression'. Consequently, the Rabbis charged the public lecturer
with the duty of inculcating this idea as thoroughly as possible, and
of teaching the people that the man who walks in the way of the Torah
finds it becomes second nature to him, so that it is easy for him to
practice all other good deeds and nothing causes him any difficulty any
longer. Even when we find these people doing something wrong we should try
with the help of the exegetical method to put a favourable construction
on their action and to adduce such mitigating circumstances as to show
that there was, indeed, no crime at all committed as, for example,
in the case of David and Bath-Sheba...

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Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2005 15:39:36 -0600
From: "Gershon Seif" <gershonseif@yahoo.com>
only one opinion

Micha Berger wrote:
> One is as obligated to accept medrashei aggada (and aggadita in Shas)
> as one is medrashei halakhah (and the pesaqim of Shas). However,
> accepting medrash aggada means accepting the truth of the nimshal,
> not the historicity of the mashal.
> I've listed the rishonim and acharonim who make this point. IIRC, RGSeif
> has a collection of mar'eh meqomos for it.

Here's a few. Far from a comprehensive list. Please let me know if you
have more sources.

 - Eruvin 63a

Why does it mention his name and his father's name? In order to inform
us that [the story] is not a metaphor.

This implies that if it's not as specific, then it IS just a metaphor

 - Maharal, Be'er Hagolah, Fourth Be'er (p. 51); Ibid., First Be'er

Now you will see that most of the words of the Sages were in the form
of metaphor and the analogies of the wise... unless they state that a
particular story is not a metaphor, it should be assumed that it is a
metaphor. The matters of great depth were generally expressed by the Sages
using metaphors, and should be understood as metaphors unless they are
explicitly indicated to be taken literally. And therefore one should not
be surprised to find matters in the words of the Sages that appear to be
illogical and distant from the mind. (Berachot 61a - The evil inclination

looks like a fly)

 - One source that I came across years ago is the Ramchal in his Maamar
Haagados where he writes that when it comes to medical advice, chazal were
often cloaking kabbalistic ideas in these pieces of advice. Had they lived
in different times, they would have used more current medical concepts.

 - Also, read Rav Aharon Feldman's book The Juggler and the King which
is mostly an explanation of the the Gra's small sefer on the aggaditas
of Rabba bar bar Chana. In it are explanations of the time he set out
to sea and saw amazing things. (A duck whose feet were in the ocean and
who's head was in the sky....) The GR"A had no problems saying these
are just msholim.

 - I believe it's the Maharal (this is from memory so please check)
(Shmos 4:20) who explains the Medrash about the donkey that Moshiach
riding on being the very same donkey as the one Avraham Avinu rode to the
Akeida and that Moshe rode to Mitzrayim as being a moshol for mankind's
ability to overcome physicality (chomrius) (riding the chamor)

 - Someone out there, isn't there a very explicit statement in Moreh
Nevuchim about this?

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Date: Thu, 03 Nov 2005 15:18:41 -0600
From: "brent kaufman" <fallingstar613@hotmail.com>

> Look at the model of the old city at the end of the second Temple and
> one discovers a hippodrone "across the street" from the Bet Hamikdash.
> I dont believe it was only visited by Roman citizens.

You can't compare the two. One (isolationism) is refering to an ideal (at
least according to those that hold that it is an ideal, which seems to be
whom we're discussing) and the other (the BhM across from a hippodrome)
which was frequented by many Jews, is not only NOT an ideal it is foreign
to Torah and was built by and attended by Hellenists, those who were
against many if not most or all Torah ideals.

Also, Spain was never a frum paradise. The Rashba and others of that
time made it their mission to get Jews to put up mezuzos and wear
tzitzis. There were serious problems with Spanish Jewry despite the fact
that it produced many of our leading thinkers. They were exceptions to
the rule.

Of course Judaism is a ghetto religion. I'm sorry if that offends our
modern thinkers. But the fact is that Eretz Yisrael was, by definition,
intended to be a ghetto. The bad non-Jews were expelled and killed to
keep it that way. And non-Jews were only halachically allowed to live
there if they accepted some very fundamental and strict guidelines which
limited their influence on Jewish communities.

Even in the US ghettos aren't required but Jews create them. Squareville
and similar towns, even Boro Park is, by definition, a ghetto and is
mentioned in sociology books as being so. (I remember seeing it mentioned
when I wrote a report in high school about the differences between slums
and ghettos.)

Living in a ghetto doesn't mean to shut out all foreign contact. That
is called a jail. A ghetto allows people to go in and out and conduct
affairs on the outside yet return to an environment that is comfortable
and conducive to the way of life of its citizens.


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Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2005 14:54:27 -0600
From: "Gershon Seif" <gershonseif@yahoo.com>

R' Micha wrote:
> Dei'os 6:1 defines one case in which it's impossible -- when one can't
> withstand peer pressure to do the wrong thing. "She'ein meinichin oso
> leisheiv bemedinah ela im kein nis'areiv imahen venoheig beminhagan hara."

R' Micha, that line of the Rambam is when he talks about running to
the caves, but immediately before that line he writes that one should
isolate himself, I suppose in his house or shul, to avoid the negative
influences of his society. And the Rambam adds that his own society was
such a society. Only after making that point does he continue with the
line you quoted, that if that isn't possible because they won't let him
stay in his house or shul, but they demand that he joins them in their
ways, then he should run to the caves.

Assuming that we all agree that the Rambam saw some virtue in his
surrounding society together with the bad, your pshat cannot be what
the Rambam intended.

He started off the paragraph by saying that it's human nature
to be influenced by one's surroundings. I believe he was saying
that even without society trying to influence you, be aware it's
happening. Therefore you better find a good environment. And if you can't,
such as in our times, stay to yourself. And if you can't because they
won't let you, run away.

[Email #2. -mi]

Shaya Potter wrote:
> perhaps the Rambam was saying that only if the ONLY things you can learn
> from them are bad. But it there are good things you can learn from
> them as well, perhaps his running away to a cave advice wouldn't apply?

Let's not forget, that the Rambam himself wrote that his own society
was such a place. Wouldn't the Rambam agree that his society has some
virtue together with the bad? And still he wrote that one should isolate
himself in that society.

What can I do? Is there a better pshat in this Rambam? I'm not telling
you what I hold, I'm just trying to learn up this Rambam honestly.

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Date: Thu, 03 Nov 2005 16:47:18 -0500
From: David E Cohen <ddcohen@verizon.net>
RE: Rambam and hazal

R' Simcha Coffer and R' Meir Shinnar are debating the Rambam's position
on paskening those disputes in Chazal that have no direct practical
ramification. Perhaps this debate reflects different approaches to the
nature of machalokes.

RSC's approach make sense if one takes the approach that machalokes stems
from a distortion of the mesorah. One party transmitted it faithfully,
and the other got it wrong. "Elu va-elu divrei Elokim Chayim" is a
nice way of saying that everybody means well, but really, one of them
is wrong. When we pasken, we're deciding which party we think was right.
This is no less applicable when the practical ramification of the decision
is indirect.

We know, however, from Sefer ha-Mitzvos, that the Rambam does not
view machalokes like that. For the Rambam, it can just be a matter of
difference in judgment on how to darshen a pasuk, and we can take "elu
va-elu divrei Elokim Chayim" much more literally. I think that this tends
to support RMS's understanding of the Rambam's position on our issue.
On some level, both parties to a dispute are right. But for the sake of
uniformity of practice, when it comes to matters with a direct practical
ramification, we have to choose one, so as a sort of "necessary evil,"
so we have rules for doing so.

In reality, I suspect that either I'm missing something (the likely
explanation)the understandings of RMS and RSC are not as far apart as
they think. Both recognize that there are places in the Mishneh Torah
where the Rambam seemingly "breaks his rule" and does take sides on a
machalokes without direct practical ramification. It's just a question
of whether or not such decisions are "binding," and I'm not even sure
what that would mean.

I would suggest that when the Rambam "breaks" his rule, it's because
he has to. These (e.g. the nature of yemos ha-mashiach, what the sa`ir
ha-mishtaleach accomplishes) are topics that a complete work of halakhah
could not simply leave out altogether, and the Mishneh Torah is not
a place for recording machalokes, so he had to pick the side that he
thought was right. The necessity of picking a side of these disputes
as as great as it is with regard to those disputes that have a direct
practical consequence.


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Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2005 17:29:59 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
RE: rabbinic misconduct

On November 3, 2005 Russell Levy wrote:
>> 4. Importation of concepts into an important Tanachi term where it is
>> not clear they exist. Because you are determined that Eli cannot but
>> have doubted what had to be the exaggerated reports, you are forced to
>> interpret the term hashamuah as meaning a rumour, something that is not
>> known to be true. But, as I mentioned, the root here is shema.

> Shmuel II 13:30, melachim 1 10:7, twp pesukim I encountered in the pasr
> couple days...

Which proves conclusively that Shemua means rumour, not news. Thank you for
the tanya d'misaya li R' Russell.

Simcha Coffer

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Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2005 18:53:41 -0500
From: "Cantor Wolberg" <cantorwolberg@cox.net>
Ikkare Hashkafa

Someone said:
> At the risk of being blasted by the righteously indignant, I propose
> that the first four perakim of the first chelek in Derech Hashem are
> indispensable to the proper understanding of hashkafas haYahadus whereas
> the 13 ikkarim are not necessarily indispensable (although one must
> be aware of these ikkarim in order to possess the halachic title of
> a Jew)....

I'm not quite sure what is meant in the above context by "the halachic
title of a Jew" but I always thought if one's mother is a Jew, that
would be the primary "halachic title of a Jew."

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Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2005 18:59:37 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Ikkare Hashkafa

On Thu, Nov 03, 2005 at 06:53:41PM -0500, Cantor Wolberg wrote:
: I'm not quite sure what is meant in the above context by "the halachic
: title of a Jew" but I always thought if one's mother is a Jew, that
: would be the primary "halachic title of a Jew."

The secondary aspects of the title deal with issues like qualifying
in getting counted toward a minyan, stam yeinam, and retaining one's
reservation for gan eden. It was on the mishnah "Kol Yisrael yeish lahem
cheileq le'olam haba" that the Rambam listed his 13 ikkarim.


Micha Berger             Man is a drop of intellect drowning in a sea
micha@aishdas.org        of instincts.
http://www.aishdas.org                         - Rav Yisrael Salanter
Fax: (270) 514-1507      

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Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2005 21:19:58 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Torah and communal sheleimus

On Sun, Oct 30, 2005 at 04:32:26AM -0800, Harry Maryles wrote:
: Torah behavior is the standard. A blanket statement like, "What the
: hamon am observe isn't really Torah" is false. Some people (Orthoprax)
: fall into that category and some don't. The HaMon Am is just as subject to
: abnormal personality development as the rest of western civilization. But
: most of the Jewish people who are sincere in their beliefs and have had
: normal personality development will never become abusive in any way.

How do you know that what the hamon am observe really is Torah. I'm not
talking about whether or not they follow halakhah. As I wrote earlier,
I'm concerned about opinions like the Vilna Gaon's, that even "shelo
lishmah" needs to be for the sake of becoming lishmah.

:> 2- Torah does not guarantee sheleimus; it's a tool that people can use
:> to seek sheleimus. However, they still have to actively seek it.

: I agree. Torah does not guarantee anything. We have Bechira Chafshis.
: An abnormal personality can... and sometimes will succumb to his Taavos.

Bechirah chafshi could be seen as the choice to follow halakhah or not.
If keeping halakhah were a guarantee of ennoblement, as the Chinukh seems
to say -- ha'adam nif'al lefi pe'ulaso -- then the choice of following
halakhah is the choice of seeing

I wouldn't raise bechirah chofshi and abnormal psych in the same paragraph
without dealing with the huge can of worms it implies.

BTW, the Gra also comments (in Even Sheleimah) on the comparison between
Torah and water. Water makes things grow. If you have weeds, though,
all it helps do is grow bigger weeds.

Which sort of validates this 2nd option: that the Torah is a tool someone
determined to ennoble himself can use, not a guarantee of ennoblement.

I guess the difference between my two options can be simply put as
follows. Most shomerei halakhah are not operating from an orientation of
it being an innobling. If you define Torah as including that orientation,
then I would assert assert that the tiny difference in crime demographics
is because that which most shomerei halakhah observe is not really Torah.
If not, then I would say that the Torah is a tool, and while they're
firmly grasping the tool, they aren't using it for enoblement.

The difference becomes semantic; although the semantic of the word Torah
is no small thing.

Both choices seem more reasonable to me than assuming that most
halakhah observers have abnormal psyches, and are therefore less
redeemable. Although redemption is defined relative to starting point
and opportunity...


Micha Berger             Man is equipped with such far-reaching vision,
micha@aishdas.org        yet the smallest coin can obstruct his view.
http://www.aishdas.org                         - Rav Yisrael Salanter
Fax: (270) 514-1507      

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Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2005 21:50:55 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: RSRH and the symbolism of color

On Mon, Oct 31, 2005 at 11:29:41PM +0200, Saul Mashbaum wrote:
: The curtains of the mishkan, and the bigdei k'huna, were made of
: white linen, and woolen threads of three colors: shani, argaman, and
: t'chelet. RSRH takes shani and argaman to be two shades of red.

Are you sure? To me it sounds like argaman is somewhere between red and
blue. As you write:
: Wool is of animal origin, and thus represents the animal elements of the
: human being: locomotion, sensation, volition. The colors shani, argaman,
: and tchelet are in ascending order of nobility.

: Linen is of vegetable origin, and represents the vegetative element of
: the human being. Its white color represents purity: kedusha is associated
: with control of the vegetative functions of digestion and reproduction.

Growth seems to always be of plant origin, but never is something
colored green (that I can think of) for the mitzvah. Lulav, hadasim,
aravos and hoshanos must still be alive, but nothing dyed green. Plants
get dyed white.

I think this is because growth is potential. Potential lacks value --
value is in how you channel and use that potential. As in "yiyshar
kochakha!" It's therefore represented as a clean slate, ready for you
to color heavenly blue or physicality red. And the tola'as shani turns
white on Yom Kippur, the slate is wiped clean.

As for tekhelet and kachol...

RMClark's Hirschian dictionary has "to color" for kachol, with "to color
blue" as the default (See Yechezqeil 23:49). This allows RSRH to relate
the shoresh to /gchl/ to extract coal, which is use to draw black, and
/ychl/, to expect. OTOH, as already noted, RSRH gets techeiles from /klh/,
and therefore the end of the rainbow. This is why he makes techeiles a
color and not kachol.

Argaman was hard to find there, since I can't figure out a shoresh --
/rgm/ as in "vayirgemu oso ba'avanim"? I went instead to Brown Driver
Briggs. They reinforce the meaning of red or purple cloth. Notably, rgmn
(in a number of conjugations I can't tell apart) is red, not purple or
a kind of fabric, in Sanscrit.

On Tue, Nov 01, 2005 at 11:02:51PM +0200, saul mashbaum wrote:
: RSRH in any event makes no reference at all to the argaman dye having
: to come from a specific animal, certainly not the snail. Other mforshim,
: AFAIK, do not relate to the source of the argaman dye at all (see Rashi
: on Shmot 25:3, where tchelet is defined as wool dyed with chilazon blood,
: and argaman is defined as wool dyed with "argaman-colored dye". It is
: virtually explicit that Rashi does not understand argaman as coming from
: the chilazon, and it seems that argaman-dye can come from any source,
: the color is whatis important)....

Argaman may have to come from an animal source.

The Baal Tekheiles, in Sefunei Temunei Chol, writes that the problem with
kaleh ilan is that plant chemicals don't stick well to animal fibers,
their "heat" is wrong. It seems that in general, historically people
believed that.

So, no one would have even asked whether wool could be died colorfast
purple with a plant or mineral dye.


Micha Berger             When faced, with a decision, ask yourself,
micha@aishdas.org        "How would I decide if it were Ne'ilah now,
http://www.aishdas.org   at the closing moments of Yom Kippur?"
Fax: (270) 514-1507                            - Rav Yisrael Salanter

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Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2005 22:11:37 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: isolation

On Thu, Nov 03, 2005 at 02:54:27PM -0600, Gershon Seif wrote:
: R' Micha, that line of the Rambam is when he talks about running to
: the caves, but immediately before that line he writes that one should
: isolate himself, I suppose in his house or shul, to avoid the negative
: influences of his society...

I'm working with the assumption that since this wasn't in the Rambam's
list of three sins he performed daily, the naive reading is incorrect.

He doesn't simply describe the culture as evil "minhogoseha ra'im"
but the people aren't just "ve'ein ansheha holkhim bederekh yesharah",
then a person should look to move. It's only when speaking of where to
move once you're moving that the Rambam writes "kemo zemaneinu zeh". So
perhaps he's saying that someone who lives in an evil place is chayav
to move to a good one. A bad one that isn't quite evil doesn't warrant
moving there -- then the person can stay in the evil place, as long
as he takes precautions not to be influenced. And if they are "ra'im
vechata'im" and won't let him live there without following their evil
ways, then he should go into seclusion.

Read this way, the Rambam doesn't consider most of his contemporary
society as evil enough to warrant disengagement. Disengagement is from
evil, not merely the absence of good or the mixed basket.


Micha Berger             A life of reaction is a life of slavery,
micha@aishdas.org        intellectually and spiritually. One must
http://www.aishdas.org   fight for a life of action, not reaction.
Fax: (270) 514-1507      		      -Rita Mae Brown

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Date: Fri, 4 Nov 2005 01:18:28 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
RE: isolation - is it right or wrong?

On November 3, 2005, Micha Berger wrote:
> On Mon, Oct 31, 2005 at 12:14:47AM -0800, Gershon Seif wrote:
> : Do I detect two divergent world views here? An this is *The Rambam* who is
> : so bandied about as being so open and integrated. (I'm curious if someone
> : from the TuM camp has a pshat in this Rambam that fits their approach

> RSRH also found that there's a place for DE and participation in society
> and a place for Austritt.

Not everyone agrees with this interpretation of TIDE. There are two
camps. One holds that RSRH felt that TIDE was the preferable approach
whereas the second camp maintains that TIDE as a movement was created
to address a situation, but intrinsically, RSRH would say that ideally,
and if possible, one should devote his life entirely to Torah without
wasting time on participation in foreign societies. Personally, I believe
the latter is self evident and is supported by the Rambam himself in
several places.

Simcha Coffer

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Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2005 22:03:03 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: only one opinion

On Thu, Nov 03, 2005 at 02:04:12AM -0500, S & R Coffer wrote:
: Can you name me any Rishonim who eschew maamarey Chazal whenever they are
: contrary to the simple pshat? Examples please. Perhaps if you illustrate
: your point we can flush out the issue.

Rashbam, who even questions "vayhi erev vayhi voqer" as meaning that
night precedes day. Ralbag too, I'd bet.


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