Avodah Mailing List

Volume 16 : Number 049

Thursday, December 8 2005

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 07 Dec 2005 02:05:08 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
Re: Just curious...

S & R Coffer wrote:
>On December 5, 2005 RYGB wrote:
>>>Similar R' Tzadok says that because of the revelation of Kabbala
>>>the views of the Rishonim regarding Hashgocha protis and Yichud HaShem -
>>>now have the status of kefirah.

>>where does Reb Tzadok say this?

>He doesn't. He only calls the Yichud Hashem part kefira. The mareh makom
>is Sefer haZichronos, mitvah #3

Baruch haShem we agree that Rav Tzadok asserts that kabbala rejects the
concept of Yichud HaShem of the Rishonim and that one who now asserts
the view of the rishonim on this matter he is asserting kefirah. However
he is also asserting that HP is a consequence of the reality of Yichud
HaShem. Once you understand that HP is not the result of a king ruling at
a distance but that G-d is everywhere - it is inherent that HP can not be
limited to Man as the rishonim asserted but it must apply to everything. I
simply don't understand how you can detach his beginning critique of
the rishonim - and all their philosophically derived hashkofa - with
his conclusion that now we must accept the kabbalistic viewpoint. This
included also maaseh bereishis and reward & punishment. I have a 13 page
pdf or word format version of this part of Sefer Zichronos [DBS version]
for those who want to see the text itself.

Daniel Eidensohn

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Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2005 19:39:55 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
RE: Moshiach is coming today

On December 6, 2005, Ezra Wax wrote:
> According to certain authorities we have to believe that Moshiach is
> coming today.

Which authorities?

> The difficulty many have with that idea is how can one believe that
> Moshiach will come today if he didn't come yesterday and the day
> before. These people will say that it is ridiculous to believe something
> like that.

I think so too. The mitzvah is to wait i.e. yearn for mashiach to come,
not to believe he is coming today.

Simcha Coffer

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Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2005 19:02:40 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
RE: TIDE and TuM

On December 6, 2005, Harry Maryles wrote:
> S & R Coffer <rivkyc@sympatico.ca> wrote:
>> Nobody is denying anything. But it's as you say, gentile culture *seeped*
>> in; it wasn't allowed in and certainly wasn't encouraged.

> Do you wear a suit? a Tie? Did R. Moshe?

> Do you think R Moshe would have worn a tie if there was even a taint of
> Issur invloved... historical or otherwise? ...just because it seeped in?

> A tie is absolutly a convention of modern "gentile" society and definitely
> not a Jewish one. It became Jewish because this is the way men dress
> up... ALL (or most) men, not just Jews and not just non-Jews. You still
> think all non-Jewish Culture isn't "allowed"?

Rambam Hilchos Avodah Zara Perek 11 Halacha Aleph. (my translation)
"We do not walk in the ways of the goyim and do not imitate them, not
in their mode of clothing, nor in their hairstyles and other similar
accoutrements. Because the Torah states "vlo seilchu bichokos hagoyim
etc."...all these verses are saying the same thing; that a Jew should
not be similar to goyim, rather he should be separated from them and
recognizable in his form of dress and the rest of his actions just as
he is separated from them in his knowledge and attitudes."

The Rambam then goes on to say that it is assur to wear a begged that is
*miyuchad* to goyim. A tie is not miyuchad to goyim just as pants, shirts,
jackets and any other universally accepted form of dress are not miyuchad
to them. You can be sure that R' Moshe would never wear jeans though.

Simcha Coffer  

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Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2005 19:59:02 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
RE: Q on Parshas Shemos

On December 6, 2005, Shoshana L. Boublil wrote:
>> The same people who watched them for the next 40 years. When Moshe didn't
>> return to the sheep, I'm sure his father-in-law hired new sheppards.

> I'm sorry, but I beg to disagree. Rivka S's daughter asked a wonderful
> question. She has shown herself to be a true compassionate daughter
> of Israel.

I never implied differently.

> As to the answer it's simple, and it is written in the Torah. Before
> Moshe came, Yitro's daughters watched the sheep.

Your answer is precisely the same as mine except that you substitute
Yisro's daughters for my "hired shepherds". The reason I didn't choose
Yisro's daughters is because when the Torah mentions that they were
shepherdesses, Moshe had just escaped mitzrayim and was a young man. When
Hashem spoke to him, he was eighty years old. I'm sure Yisro's daughters
weren't still shepherding their father's flock 50-60 years later. They
were alta bubbas by then. (OTOH, Moshe, despite his age, was robust
until the day he died.)

Simcha Coffer   

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Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2005 19:51:02 -0600
From: "Kohn, Shalom" <skohn@Sidley.com>
RE: midvar sheker tirchak

Per Mike Wiesenberg: 
> Ibn Ezra points out that this is pasuk warning dayanim to be honest(see
> also shevous 31a, where it is interpreted as such). Merely lying with
> no financial gain involved is not necessarily assur.

My reference was to the gemara in Kesuvot (17a) re: Beis Shammai
saying that one should be honest in praising a kallah because of midvar
sheker tirchak, while Beis Hillel allows stretching the point mipnai
darkei hashalom. But Beis Hillel would not seem to disagree that in
other contexts, falsity is not permitted. As I noted originally,
I was not suggesting this le-halacha, but only in terms of proper
approach. Doubtless those who stretch the truth le-shaim-shamayim
(e.g. ArtScroll hagiographies) feel there is a countervailing value.
Others may have a view, however, of whether anything but Shalom is a
sufficient counterweight to the requirement of Emes.


Shalom L. Kohn 

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Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2005 15:59:41 -0800 (PST)
From: Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>
RE: Rabbinical comments on R. Slifkin's Science of Torah

S & R Coffer <rivkyc@sympatico.ca> wrote:
> Well, it shouldn't. I personally reject the demonizing of RNS on
> a personal level but this particular shita of his is exceptionally
> egregious. If you are indeed a kiruv worker, it is most important for
> a person like you to understand the facts and teach them correctly and
> in this case, RNS got it entirely wrong. 

I am not a Kiruv worker, at least not professionally. Poor sentence
structure on my part. Sorry.

But RNS did not get it wrong, at least not what he wrote in his books. We
can quibble abou the details but until this blew up, it was at a minimum
perfectly legitimate that evolution of everything occurred the way it
appears to have only that it was not random. It was through the creative
act of God.

The only area of controversy used to be whether Adam was an independent
creation... or was his "creation" part of the evlolutuinary process. Dr
Gerald Schroeder believes it is the latter. The understanding prior to
the Slifkin affair was that eventhough their are no Rishonim to back
up Schroeder's views, it never-the-less was not Apikursus. The rest of
evolution was deemed quite acceptable as long as one realized that it
was God who guided the proccess.

But of course now this has all changed. And all the Kiruv workers that
I know are having problems with it.

> IMO, it is definitely assur,
> if not bordering on the profession of kefira, to teach a baal tshuva, or
> any Jew for that matter, that the physical depiction of MB as described
> in the Torah never happened as RNS teaches in his book.

Does he say never happened? That would be incorrect. I would not teach it
that way. But if he meant that it didn't happen in six 24 hour days but
instead over a period of millions of years... that used to be considered
just fine and no one considered it K'fira. There were disagreements. There
were those who said everything was created to look old. But no one said
that it was K'fira, until now.


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Date: Wed, 07 Dec 2005 03:58:21 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
Re: Rabbinical comments on R. Slifkin's Science of Torah

S & R Coffer wrote:
>1) RDE claims that the bans compromised halachic guidelines yet neglects
>to illustrate his point.

This point has been rehashed many times. There is a minimum requirement
that a person be allowed to defend himself before being publicly
condemned. At least this is Rav Sternbuch's understanding of the halacha
- as well as that of other poskim I have talked to. The condemnation -
without chance for defense - by wall poster and newspaper ads is very
problematic. Rav Nosson Kaminetsky has described it in greater detail -
as he received the same type of treatment and has written a book (as
yet unpublished) describing the process fully. There are other issues
but that alone is sufficient to justify my statement.

>2) If one Rav or Rosh Yeshiva signed the ban, I might be comfortable
>with the above statement. But since a large number of Gedolim signed
>the ban, the allegation of halachic impropriety seems audacious. 

Again - I am not relying on my own judgment but those of poskim that
I talked to. Thus your comfort level is not relevant. Why not ask your
local posek what the halacha requires.

>3) There is an implication that contemporary yiddishkeit should not be
>defined by gedolim. I find this idea problematic.

An interesting deduction but in fact the opposite of what I wrote.

"The attacks are being done by the godolim who define contemporary

I did not say nor did I mean to say that gedolim should not define
contemporary yiddishkeit. If my wording was not clear than I apologize
for creating a false impression.

>4) There is an implication that the only time a ban may be issued is
>if the entire frum world understands the motivating factors of the ban,
>an obvious impossibility. There will always be dissenters.

I discussed this matter in detail with several of Rav Moshe Shapiro's
when he first issued his ban. They said that this is the first time
that Rav Shapiro has ever signed on a ban because he feels that bans
are usually destructive rather than constructive. However they claimed
in his name that he felt that the insidious distortion of hashkofa in
the yeshivos had to be corrected even if it caused the loss of many of
the present generation. A similar issue can be found in Rav Dessler's
writings volume 3 page 355. There he asserts that it is worth paying
the price of even causing 999 out of 1000 to go off the derech in order
to have yeshiva's which produce gedolim. He acknowledged that that was
not the attitude of R S. R. Hirsch. Rabbi Schwab anonymously published
a strong dissent to Rav Dessler's thesis.

Rav Moshe Feinstein writes in his introduction to the Igros Moshe that
the ikkar of psak is sevora. He also said that there is no such thing as
a godol today - who can't be questioned on the basis of sevora. This idea
of respectfully questioning is clearly explained by Rav Chaim Voloshner
in his commentary to Pirkei Avos.

This need for rabbonim to explain themselves is why I complied with
Rav Sternbuch's request to translate and disseminate on the Internet -
his explanation why he felt R' Slifkin's views are kefira. I did not and
do not agree with him - but I greatly appreciate the fact that he took
the time and effort to make sure his views were fully understood. Rav
Feldman also felt a need for explain his views.

Thus while there will always be dissenters - a reasonable effort needs to
be made to explain what is going on. The efforts so far have been largely
embarrasing in their contradictions and lack of cogency. Obviously these
brilliant talmidei chachomim have justification for their views - but
that doesn't exempt them from teaching us what they are.

>5) There is an implication that because rabbinic authority is being
>denigrated, the Rabbis should not have issued the ban. I find this
>viewpoint problematic. "ki yisharim darchei Hashem, v'tzadidkim yeilchu

It has always been recognized that one must persuade in situations where
people have freedom to listen or dissent. Over the last few years we have
experienced a number of shocks resulting from bans on books, sheitel,
zebu etc etc - which have not had a favorable impact on kavod haTorah
and rabbinic authority. It is additionally troubling because there are
legitimate issues here that need to be clarified. There are alternative
ways that these matters could have been handled which would have not
generated the skepticism and cynicism that now exists.The latest round
of letters is a further example of a process generating gratuitous
disorientation. If there was in fact unanimity amongst the gedolim
then perhaps you are right. However we have witnessed Rav Shapiro
and Rav Sternbuch declaring R' Slifkin's views as kefira while R'
Shmuel Kaminetsky has said they are not kefira. We have witnessed R'
Aaron Feldman switch from defending R' Slifkin to attacking him for
kefira in a manner that even his talmidim at Ner Yisroel have found to
be totally disorienting. As I pointed out it is very puzzling why R'
Shmuel Kaminetsky defended R' Slifkin for so long and now has apparently
reversed himself - without explaining what new events had caused him to
see harm in R' Slifkin's works which he had not seen before.

On a lower level we have seen R' Slifkin going from a superstar in kiruv
work to being denounced as a heretic. We have seen R' Dovid Gottlieb & R'
Dovid Orlofsky citing R' Slifkin's works and within a year assert that
it is kefira. We have seen sincere intelligent kiruv workers suddenly
discovering that they have teaching kefira for years.

Yes it is critical that gedolim explain themselves in ways that are
convincing to sincere and committed Jews!

>6) There is an implication that the secular press and cyberspace babble
>needs to affect the decisions of gedolim when they feel they are fighting
>for the salvation of their nation, an idea that, once again, I take issue

I am not suggesting that because of the reaction of the secular press
that Gedolim refrain from telling us what is kefira and what is the
Torah view. However, I am asserting that there is a need for clearer
explanations than have been provided so far..

Hopefully I have made myself clear and I apologize for not being clearer
the first time around.

In sum, kavod haTorah and kavod Gedolim requires that the present
situation be handled differently

Daniel Eidensohn

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Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2005 00:26:55 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
RE: Rabbinical comments on R. Slifkin's Science of Torah

On December 6, 2005, Herbert Basser wrote:
> I think the point has to be made that while the haredi world considers the
> 13 articles of faith as stated by maimonides to define ultraorthodoxy--

I'm not sure where you got that from. Chareidim look to messorah and
gedoley Yisrael for the defining characteristics of Judaism. The 13
principles of faith are merely the fundamentals of being considered
a halachic Jew. They are far from a definitive statement on the wide
range of issues that othodox Judaism encounters in Western society. If
anything, TuM, a cerebral type movement, puts a bigger stress on studying
the details of the ikkarim than Chareidim do. (not that Chareidim are
unintelligent :-)

> the
> rambam himself states that if he thought the world was never created at
> all but always existed he would not hesitate to interpret the bible in
> such a way.

No such Rambam. What the Rambam actually states is that chidush is not
more niskabel al hasechel than kadmus. But now that we have a kabala
through nevua, we definitely must interpret MB in terms of chidush
regardless of our personal opinions. (Moreh chelek beis perek 16)

> Clearly, maimonides-- whose articles of faith define right
> wing orthodoxy-- supports slifkin's rght to interpret as he thinks
> right in regards to the age of the world.

As I mentioned above, this is incorrect. See the Rambam in the Moreh
quoted above.

> How then can RNS be a kofer, apikoros and rasha? Any ideas??

I don't recall anyone in a responsible leadership role calling Slifkin a
kofer, apikorus or rasha. Espousing questionable theories does not
necessarily earn you the "accolade" kofer. RMB and I had it out on this
point some time ago.

Simcha Coffer

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Date: Wed, 07 Dec 2005 00:55:04 -0500
From: "M. Press" <mpress8@optonline.net>
a few final Slifkin comments

Those on the list who have been bemoaning the impact of the Slifkin ban
should not jump to conclusions. It is clear that many of those in the
Flatbush yeshivishe community who are aware of the issue simply do not
take the banners seriously. This even includes students of some of them.
The world is much more complicated than it seems, and it would be foolish
to overpredict what Judaism will look like in twenty or thirty years.
Go back and reread some of the predictions of thirty years ago.

If one speaks to various names involved in the discussion, it will
readily be confirmed (as has been noted by others) that many of them do
not believe that it is apikorsus to believe in an ancient world. They may
choose not to say so publicly, but they are willing to say so privately.

In fact, it is hard to see how it could not be apikorsus to assert that
one MUST believe that the world is 5766 years old. Such a statement
would fall into the category of "Hachchoshas magideha." Chazal have
stated that Maaseh Breishis is a sod. It is clear that anyone asserting
that the relevant pesukim can ONLY be understood in their literal meaning
is denying that the pesukim embody a sod, since any fool can read them
literally. This assertion is much more serious apikorsus than anything
that Noson Slifkin ever said.

Additionally, it is difficult to understand how questioning a factual
matter can make one an apikorus. Error in fact is not hora'ah - one does
not bring a par he'elem dovor on an error in fact, one does not become a
zoken mamre on an error in fact, etc. Factual errors are in the class
of ta'us, according to Chazal, not hora'ah. While I understand that
one might try to distinguish between hora'ah and belief, I'd be hard
pressed to defend the distinction.

Melech Press
M. Press, Ph.D., Chair, Psychology Dept., Touro College
melechp@touro.edu or mpress8@optonline.net 

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Date: Wed, 7 Dec 2005 11:34:55 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
RE: Slifkin

On December 5, 2005, M. Press wrote:
> 1. One recent poster has raised the issue of "Lo sosur" with regard
> to the opinion of the banners. As has been said before, essentially
> all the rishonim say that "Lo sosur" applies only to Sanhedrin...

Possibly. But there is the letter of the law and the spirit of the
law. (see first Ramban in parshas kedoshim). Adopting the opinions of
gedoley Torah, although not necessarily enjoined by the former, would
surely be enjoined by the latter.

> 2. Statements by Talmidei Chachomim not on Sanhedrin are not sacramentally
> binding (that is a Roman Catholic belief) but binding based on their
> rationality. Anyone capable of understanding has a right to expect a
> Rov to explain the bases of his psak and to debate those bases if he is
> so capable... 

None of this has anything to do with what we are talking about. The ban is
a united opinion by many gedoley Torah concerning our collective messora
regarding certain fundamental issues which pertain to Jewish outlook. For
messora, we go to gedoley Torah. If there is a dispute precisely what the
mesora is, then one follows his own Rebbi. In this case, a very large
number of gedoley Torah were disturbed by RNS's opinions and thus, one
would be foolish to simply disregard there admonition in lieu of ones
own grasp of the "psak". I personally own all of RNS's books (I bought
them before the ban) but due to this ban, I would be very careful who
I lend them to.

> 3. We should stop using the term Godol as a blanket authorization to have
> an opinion in all areas of Torah. Many of those signed on recent issurim
> are people to whom one would never ask a shaila about a chicken, never
> show a mar'eh, never expect to be mesader a get, never ask a question in
> dikduk, etc. Great knowledge of limited areas remains great knowledge
> of limited areas.

Not necessarily true. Even some of the Rishonim didn't put their kochos
into studying kodshim and taharos but you wouldn't say that they weren't
gedoley Toarh to whom it would be advisable to listen to. Daas Torah,
although a somewhat elusive doctrine, definitely possesses distinct
parameters (i.e. it is a real phenomenon) and does not require its
possessor to know every halacha in shulachan aruch (although obviously,
the more you know, the greater is your daas Torah).

> 4. Not every error is kefirah. One can be wrong and not be an apikorus.
> And one can be very learned and be a kofer.

I've made the following point several times by now. No one is calling
RNS a kofer. The gedoley Torah are merely protesting his shittos some
of which, in their opinion, are kefiradic in nature. RNS is not a
kofer! He can't be; there are too many people, some of them learned,
that still follow his erroneous shittos. If their will ever come a time
in our history when there will be an almost universal acceptance of the
opinions of the banners, we can talk about him being a kofer at that
time. Hopefully mashiach will come first.

> 5. Those who demand respect for the current rabbonim should think twice
> before speaking contemptuously of geonim and rishonim. To say that
> the words of Rav Sherira are apikorsus if uttered today surely requires
> strong evidence.

The last person who said that Rav Sherira gaon was dismissing Chazal
was also banned. (see Maharal's definition for RSG's term umdina in
Beer haGola).

Simcha Coffer

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Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2005 14:51:02 +0200
From: "Shoshana L. Boublil" <toramada@bezeqint.net>
RE: Slifkin ban

From: MPoppers@kayescholer.com 
> In Areivim PDA Digest V16 #104, RnSB wrote: 
>> One of the greatest things about Torah has always been the philosophy
>> behind it that it was given by Hashem. Hashem by definition, knows all.
>> If [H]e didn't Assur something, and perhaps even permitted it, then it
>> we should truly believe in Him and not be so quick to assur new things. <

> What does such a position say about the CS ("chadash asur min haTorah")
> or those who accept such a restriction?

Well, prior to marriage -- I was a Litvak.  So this was irrelevant to me.

After marriage, to a Sephardi (Minhag Libya/Levorno) -- it's once again
irrelevant to me.

But seriously speaking, there have been wonderful articles on this topic,
including the sources mentioned in the original post.

Yes, I agree that there is an issue of Eit La'asot. I just think that
there is something very wrong with Yiddishkeit if the only mechanism it
can find to cope is by building another fence that is intended to hide
the truth.

In Bereishit, Hashem tells Adam to go forth and conquer the world.
This is the exact opposite of hiding behind a fence. I feel that this
view of the world includes not just the land, but also what's on it.

Rav Kook has a wonderful discussion on this in one of his Igrot.
I'll try to find the source and post it.

(for a short bio in Hebrew on Rav Kook see:

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