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Volume 22: Number 5

Fri, 08 Dec 2006

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2006 14:48:41 -0500 (EST)
[Avodah] Minds, Souls and Atzilus

I just finished a pair of blog entries on the relationship between the brain,
the mind and the soul, using the concept of atzilus to explain how they can be
related without needing to invoke causality between spiritual and physical.

The second one ran quite long, taking detours into the Rambam's understanding
of mal'akhim (which in turn dallied in chomer vetzurah and in Aristotilian
physics), a little bit about what's a bit, and the religious meaning of shoes.


I would love to hear feedback. I am also sure not everyone will buy into my

I also have ideas about something on the difference between people and animal
intelligence for a future post, as well as something on the nequdas habchirah
and neuron firing patterns.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             Spirituality is like a bird: if you tighten
micha@aishdas.org        your grip on it, it chokes; slacken your grip,
http://www.aishdas.org   and it flies away.
Fax: (270) 514-1507                            - Rav Yisrael Salanter

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Message: 2
From: "David Riceman" <driceman@worldnet.att.net>
Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2006 15:23:44 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Yetzer HoRa Issues

From: "Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer" <ygbechhofer@gmail.com>

>I have been asked to
> address the fundamental statement made by Chazal (Koheles Rabbah 4:15)
> that is a core issue in the education of high school age students -- 
> viz., that while  one is  born with his or her yetzer ho'ra, the yetzer
> ha'tov only begins its development at the age of bar or bas mitzvah.

You might try the (fairly ancient) identification of the yetzer hatov with 
the koah hasechel and the yetzer hara with the koah hadimyon.  Modern 
(secular) sources start with Piaget (your wife knows more than I do about 
this) and go on from him.

Thirteen would be lav davka (e.g., onas nedarim starts before bar mitzva, 
and the prohibition of selling real estate extends several years later). 
There are lots of sayings in Hazal, but it would take a serious effort to 
collect them.

David Riceman 

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Message: 3
From: "David Riceman" <driceman@worldnet.att.net>
Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2006 15:37:54 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Sinai - Rambam - heard all or nothing?

From: "Daniel Eidensohn" <yadmoshe@012.net.il>

> Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (2:33) states very clearly that at Sinai they
> heard a sound but did not hear any words. The first two commandments
> were attained by intellectual proofs - not prophecy. In contrast he says
> in Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah (8:1) that the validation of Moshe's prophecy
> was not from miracles but because they all heard Gd speaking to Moshe
> and they understood the words.
> Thus Moreh Nevuchim says they heard no words while in Mishna Torah says
> they heard everything that Gd said to Moshe?!

I don't know how helpful it will prove, but see Twersky "Introduction to the 
Code of Maimonides" p. 458 note 247.  Also see Manekin, "Maimonides", the 
final paragraph on p. 57 and the third paragraph on p. 58.

David Riceman 

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Message: 4
From: RallisW@aol.com
Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2006 17:14:18 EST
[Avodah] Fwd: Kissing Places In A Sefer Torah

Does anyone know where the Lubavitch minhog of touching one's tzitzis  to 
both the begining and end of an Aliyoh comes  from?

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Subject: Kissing Places In A Sefer Torah
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Message: 5
From: "Chana Luntz" <chana@kolsassoon.org.uk>
Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2006 23:25:28 -0000
Re: [Avodah] Yichud and fostering

I wrote:

> : I wonder whether this could be considered the basis of the 
> psak referred
> : to above.  After all, if a child is being placed in foster care, the
> : authorities, especially in the first month, are likely to 
> be crawling
> : all over the placement and asking loads of questions...

And RMB replied:

> This is, unfortunately, not the norm in NY or NJ since well 
> before Rav Moshe's arrival in the States. So, if that were 
> the basis of RMF's pesaq,

This appears a bit confused - RMF (as in Rav Moshe Feinstein), as far as
I am aware, did not posken on the issue of foster care that RDK raised.
My understanding from RDK's original post is that a London dayan gave a
psak that allowed the fostering for a month of a 10 year old boy with an
ummarried woman, where the alternative was fostering with a non jewish
family (the only other frum family available not  being able to help for
a month).  There did not seem to be a suggestion that the alternative
was a a non frum Jewish foster family in the locality of RDK (presumably
the UK from his email address, but presumably also not in London).

 it would have based on a 
> misunderstanding of the metzi'us. Gov't agencies aren't "all 
> over the case", to the point that foster children are killed 
> by abuse in stories covered by NY media, every couple of 
> years or so, and in NJ, more than annually.

I don't know the the placement procedures are in NJ/NY so I can't
comment. And I am sure there are cases of this in England too, although
one more commonly reads in our media about:

A) over zealous social workers taking children away from their natural
families due to suspicions of abuse which appear to have been unfounded
(there are a group of now adults who are trying to sue for having been
taken away which has got some media prominence); and

B) a couple of cases where the social workers did not take the child
away from their natural family and the child was indeed killed, with the
investigations and reports into the particular social services
departments running and running for years - with demands to know what
the department is doing about the situation and general upheaval (the
relevant social worker and various others associated likely to never
work again).

Certainly the impression that the media here gives in this regard is
therefore that social workers tend to err on the side of suspicion of
abuse, even when dealing with natural families, and hence one would
assume even more so with foster families where the foster family has no
real standing to dispute anything.

 Other than these media reports, I know only a little bit more about
what the actual procedures are in the UK - but I do know that at least
at the beginning of a placement, social work visits and various other
follow ups are required by law. I know this because as you know, my
oldest son David (aged five) is very very disabled.  Recently we have
been able to arrange respite care where a very nice lady [no, she is not
frum, there don't as you say seem to be frum families doing this kind of
thing out there,- she is rather an upstanding member of her Reform
Temple - something that no doubt would be more of an issue for us if
David ever had a hope of reaching the level of development required for
chinuch] takes him for one weekend a month to give us some respite (and
last month she took him for a week to enable us to have the first
holiday we have had in five years).  However, this arrangement is
through the social services and Norwood (Jewish children's agency), and
involved him being deemed a "looked after" child - ie it is a form of
fostering.  Certainly our social worker has been required by some sort
of law or regulation to make various visits to the home of his "link
carer" during the periods when he is there (including the first and
second time he was there and the first time he was there for a week) and
to write various reports (this is in addition to the independent review
that is required to take place every six months which we all need to
attend - ie our social worker from the local authority, her social
worker from Norwood her and us, chaired by this independent expert).

I am quite sure though that if there was abuse (and any sexual
impropriety with a minor is certainly categorised as such under law) and
the social worker failed to detect it, there would be serious
ramifications for her job, meaning that she has a positive duty of
"drisha v'chakira" at least in the colloquial sense that Rav Moshe used
it in the teshuva I referred to.

> Rather, Rav Moshe relies on incest usually coming out to the 
> wife (or, I presume husband in the reverse case) eventually, 

Well that wasn't quite the way I read the teshuva I quoted.  The issue
seemed to me to be less "incest coming out eventually" but that the very
fact of the extra and deep tie that a mother has with her natural
daughter meant that the husband had a greater fear of anything untoward
coming out than he would in the normal case - thereboy creating a
greater deterent to his doing anything were a yichud situation to occur.
The logic appears to be that yichud is there to prevent the chance of
untoward things happening.  Where there is another additional reason why
somebody might be scared (analogous to the wife's fear if the husband is
in town) then yichud may be permitted. It being this greater fear than
the norm which thereby meant that yichud could be permitted.

> and inappropriate foster and adoption relationships would 
> similarly. But this does require that the foster parents be a 
> couple who live in the same home. For RMF this is true for 
> all children, for the TE, it's only for children who enter 
> the home at a young age.

I am not sure where you are seeing this from this teshuva - are you
referring to some other teshuva?  The basis of the TE seems to me to be
quite different.  His understanding is that a child who is raised from
infancy really is, psychologically, like your own child, and hence the
rules of yichud do not apply just as they do not apply to your own
genetic child.  But this aspect of this teshuva of RMF seems to be
dealing with a different case - ie the particular part I quoted would
seem to apply even where the daughter was well over puberty by the time
she was adopted (ie in no sense a child) and where the relationship
between the husband and her was not necessarily that of father and
daughter really at all).

> That's WRT yichud; normal parental kissing and hugging is 
> mutar according to RMF. (I am told RSZA is machmir, and only 
> allows with younger children. For me, this would be ein 
> yachol la'amod bah, so I never checked anyway.)
> BTW, are you sure you didn't confuse #64 (2), with #7 (also 
> in EH 4)? Because I believe this sevara is in #64, whereas 
> #71 is the one usually cited about marrying a woman with a daughter.

I am not sure I understand your numbering here - but I did indeed mean
#64(2).  #71 is very short and does not give any real reasoning just
that it is a ma'ase b'kol yom that men marry a second time where there
are daughters involved, and that if it is possible that the wife might
come at any time there is no issur yichud.  #64(2) however seems to go
beyond this - which is why I quoted from it, ie that he will have a
particular fear not present in the normal case that his wife is likely
to engage in drisha v'chakira with her daughter.

What I was then doing was likening the additional "fear" and the "drisha
v'chakira" with the additional fear that a foster carer might have of
the authorities and the drisha v'chakira which they are required to
engage in.  Of course, if it is known that the social services do not
engage in such investigations, then there is likely to be no additional
fear over and above the fear of discovery felt by any other person that
found themselves in a yichud situation.  But given the climate in
England, certainly the mythology of the social services is that such
that I would have expected additional fear to indeed exist.

>Tir'u baTov!



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Message: 6
From: "kennethgmiller@juno.com" <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2006 00:05:05 GMT
Re: [Avodah] Yetzer HoRa Issues

I asked:
> 10) Many children do seem to have a desire to do good. How
> can this be explained, if they do not yet have a Yetzer Tov?

Cantor Wolberg responded:
> 10) ... The child doesn't have a fully developed yetzer tov,
> but the potential and bud is there. 

I will now admit that my question was sort of rhetorical. I do not 
understand how it can be said that children do not have a yetzer tov. 
Cantor Wohlberg and I seem to agree that children do seem to have at 
least a partially-developed yetzer tov.

I also asked:
> 11) Has anyone noticed (either in themselves or in someone
> else) that this desire to do good either appears or gets
> stronger at bar/bas mitzvah age?

Cantor Wolberg responded:
> 11) Just as the desire to do good gets stronger at bar/bat
> mitzvah age, so too, does the desire to do bad also
> increases.  Hence, the battle is harder.

Again, we seem to agree that these aspects of a person develop over 
time. They seem no different than any other aspect of a person, such 
as physical strength, mental abilities, and all sorts of other things.

Someone else had asked:
> What happens at thirteen that makes the yetzer ha'tov come
> to life?  Is it biological? Is it related to sexual
> development? Is it social?

R' Akiva Atwood responded:
> ... Puberty -- and the social expectations on the "soon-to-be"
> husband/father -- force the person into a more responsible
> course of action. ...

From his inclusion of the word "more", it seems that he too would 
agree that this sense of responsibility existed even as a child, but 
at puberty certain circumstances help the yetzer tov to mature and 

But wouldn't this also occur under other circumstances? For example, 
a child (of any age) who loses a parent will tend to find that he 
must suddenly mature in unexpected ways. There were many events 
scattered throughout both my childhood and adult life which made a 
profound impact on my personality, and I fail to see why this Medrash 
assigns particular significance to the age of bar/bas mitzvah.

Furthermore, however one would interpret this Medrash, we cannot deny 
that it puts a different timetable to the development of the yetzer 
tov than to the development of the yetzer hara. Why would this be? 
The sense of responsibility which RAA cited can be just as easily 
offset by the sense of independence which a young adult feels.

In summary, I would say that I find this Medrash (which RYGB 
summarized as "that while  one is born with his or her yetzer ho'ra, 
the yetzer ha'tov only begins its development at the age of bar or 
bas mitzvah") to be extremely difficult to understand. It seems to go 
against what we remember of our own childhoods, and what we see in 
others' childhoods.

And so I reiterate some of the questions that we posted in the OP of 
this thread:

1) What was the deeper basis for the assumption made in Koheles 

2) Do Chazal address this issue in greater detail anywhere else?

4) Were Abraham's theological musings as a child as reported in the 
Midrashic literature detached from his moral development or did they 
occur after he was thirteen years old?

Or, in short, what does this Medrash MEAN???

Akiva Miller

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Message: 7
From: "Dov Kay" <dov_kay@hotmail.co.uk>
Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2006 14:09:36 +0000
[Avodah] Yichud and fostering

<<And yet again: If everyone reading RnCL's words would realize the severity 
the issue and therefore start seriously considering foster care, the agency
would have no problem saving this woman for placing girls. It's only because
there aren't enough foster parents among us rachmanim, bayshanim vegomelei
chasadim compared to the need that there was a she'eilah asked.>>

I should mention that when this young lady asked her Rav the question, she 
explained that although she always asked shailos seeking an objective psak, 
in this case she really was asking for a kula!

Kol tuv
Dov Kay

It's Hotmail's 10th Birthday! Come and play Pass the Parcel 

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Message: 8
From: "Chana Luntz" <chana@kolsassoon.org.uk>
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 2006 22:26:05 -0000
Re: [Avodah] Yichud and fostering

RMB writes:

> RnCL ended her post with the following (which I forgot to 
> address before hitting send):
> > And might there not  also be some justification to say that this is
a kind of a case of 
> > pidyon shevuim?

>So, the comparison you make in  the last line is in accord with his
pesaq, perhaps overly 
> *weak* or perhaps we can't divorce the risk of shemad from piqyon

Well the language of the Rambam (Hilchos matanos anyim perek 8 halacha
10) is:

Pidyon shevuim has priority over [kodem] feeding the poor and clothing
them.  And there isn't a greater mitzvah than pidyon shevuim because the
captured behold he is in the category of the hungry, the thirsty, the
naked and he stands at risk of death (sakanos nafashos). And one who
averts his eyes from his redempion behold he is violating "lo t'ametz es
l'vavcha v'lo tikfotz es yadecha" and "lo tamud al dam re'echa" and "lo
yardenu b'farech l'eynecha" and he is batel the mitzvah of "pesoach
tiftach es yadecha lo" and the mitzvah of "v'chai achicha imach" and
"v'ahavta re'echa kamocha" "v'hatzal lchochim lamus" and many like this
[v'harbe dvarim k'elu].

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah siman 252, si'if 2) quotes this last
sentence verbatum and in si'if 3 states that any second that one delays
pidyon shevuim when it is possible to speed it up harei k'ilu shofech

So I am not sure the comparison is weak (if by that you mean that pidyon
shevuim is kal).

> BUT, that's adoption, not foster care. AND, it's about 
> finding /any/ Jewish home. Nidon didan is a home where there 
> is no parent of the same gender as the child. So, the heter 
> isn't versus a non-Jewish home or one where kashrus and 
> Shabbos etc... aren't observed kehalakhah. It's versus the 
> risk of not finding an observant home with fewer yichud issues.
Well my understanding of the brief excerpt posted was that this was the
only Jewish home available for the next month. 

So, I guess my question/hypothesis is - why is the placement of a Jewish
child by non Jewish social workers/the State in a non Jewish home, even
for only a month, not considered the equivalent of that child being
captured for a month (and if open ended, an open ended capture)?  Does
the fact that the state believes it is acting in the best interests of
the child change things (and is it not possible that a Roman soldier
might have taken a fancy to a Jewish child and resolved to bring it up
in all the pomp and slendour of Rome, believing that to indeed be in the
best interests of the child - and yet would anybody have said that
redeeming such a child was not pidyon shevuim)?  The commentators on
pidyon shevuim point out that the captured is totally within the control
of the captor, allowing the captor to starve, overwork and even kill the
captured (see Baba Basra 8b).   So it would seem, at least if you do not
accept the argument in my previous post that the government controls
give sufficient weight so as to operate to prevent inappropriate
behaviour  in a frum Jewish home, then you must surely say that they are
unlikely/unable to be able to prevent inappropriate behaviour in a non
Jewish placement - meaning that indeed the child is being placed totally
within the control of their host family. And even if one were to say
that an element of fear of the government exists (perhaps strong enough
to allow for yichud in a frum context) that does not necessarily change
things in the non Jewish context (does having "Geneva convention" type
laws make pidyon shevuim any less of a mitzvah?).  So how indeed does
this kind of case differ from a form capture from which redemption is
required and necessary?

> Tir'u baTov!
> -mi

Shabbat Shalom


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Message: 9
From: "D&E-H Bannett" <dbnet@zahav.net.il>
Date: Fri, 8 Dec 2006 14:58:31 +0200
Re: [Avodah] Besamim Rosh

Those who followed the discussion about the Besamim Rosh in 
Avodah (or was it perhaps in Areivim??) should be interested 
in an article summarizing the various arguments for and 
against and also giving the attitude of RAYHK.




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Message: 10
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
Date: Fri, 08 Dec 2006 12:11:47 +0200
[Avodah] Prophet - mashgiach or godol hador?

I recently realized that the Rambam's concept of a prophet seems to be 
that of mashgiach. He is concerned with human perfection - both 
individual and national - but not halacha nor with leadership. He is not 
an authority or posek. For example Moreh Nevuchim (2:36). Furthermore he 
doesn't even seem to require that the prophet be a Torah scholar Finally 
the prophet as prophet is prophibited to be involved in halacha.

In contrast there are a number of sources which view the prophet as the 
ultimate leader - the godol hador. The following indicate that true 
leadership involves some aspect o prophecy

*Ramban(Devarim 17:11): Left and Right.  *...t he Torah was given to us 
in writing and it is known that people don?t think identically in all 
matters. Therefore it would be natural for disputes over what the Torah 
means to continually multiply and it would end up that there would be 
many Torahs instead of one. That is why this verse tells you that one 
must obey the Sanhedrin which convenes in G?d?s presence in the Temple ? 
in everything they say concerning the understanding of the Torah. There 
is no difference in the requrement to obey whether this Torah 
understanding is part of the Tradition which goes back what G?d told 
Moshe or what their understanding of the meaning or intent of a Torah 
verse.  This requirement to accept their Torah understanding is because 
the Torah was in fact given to us according to their understanding. 
Therefore they must be obeyed even if their view contrasts with your 
understanding as left contrasts with right and surely if you agree with 
their understanding. That is because G?d?s spirit is on those who serve 
in His Temple and He does not desert His pious ones. G?d always protects 
them from error and mistake. The Sifri (Shoftim 154) says that you must 
obey them even if appears that they have reversed right with left and 
left with right.

*Chinuch (#516): *We are commanded to listen to all the prophets in all 
that they command us to do. They are to be obeyed even if they tell us 
to temporarily do something against one of the mitzvos of the Torah or 
even many of them - except for idol worship. Since he is a true prophet 
all his intentions are for the good and whatever he does it is to 
strenghten the religion and the belief in G?d. This is clearly stated in 
the Torah (Devarim 18:15) and is explained in the Sifre (175). The basis 
of this mitzva is that the ultimate level that a man can achieve is that 
of a prophecy. Furthermore for a human being in this world, prophecy is 
the highest level of knowledge of the truth possible. It is knowledge 
that is not open to dispute since it comes from the fountain of truth 
itself. Few people achieve the level of development that is required to 
reach prophecy. The ladder needed to reach it is immense with its feet 
on the earth and its top in the heavens. Who is the man with the proper 
fear of G?d who has the merit to ascend G?d's mountain and stand in His 
holy place? Only one of hundreds of thousands of men achieves this level 
and only in a generation that is deserving of it. Therefore the Torah 
commanded us that one who in fact achieves this ultimate level of human 
achievement and he is known to us as having the spiritual qualities and 
conduct of a true prophet ? he is to be obeyed in all that he commands. 
That is because he is the one who knows the way of truth and therefore 
he will guide us in it. We should not be so arrogant as to defy his 
words and to disagree with him because any dispute with him on any 
matter is a total error and can only be because of the lack of knowledge 
of the truth.

Kuzari (*3:40-41): T*he prohibition (Devarim 4:2) of not adding or 
subtracting from the Torah only applies to the masses. It means that the 
masses should not innovate commandments on their own and attribute 
these  contrived commandments to the Torah as the Karaites do. In other 
words they were  commanded by the Torah not to add or subtract from the 
Torah on their own ? but rather that they should accept new commandments 
from the prophets that came after Moshe  as well as the priests and the 
judges. The intent of the Torah is to prevent the addition to the 
commandments given by Moshe in the Torah or that which has been 
legitimately commanded by the prophets or to add on to that which we 
have been told by the priests and the judges of the Sanhedrin. The 
reason for obeying the additions of these authorities is that they have 
received Divine assistance in their judgments ? which is not true for 
the masses. Additionally since these authorities are very large in 
number it is not likely that they would agree amongst themselves to 
something which is against the Torah. Furthermore it is very unlikely 
that they would err because of their great wisdom  which they have 
acquired ? partly because of inherited tradition, partly because of 
their natural superior intelligence and partly because of their personal 
effort.  It is known through tradition that the Sanhedrin was required 
to have mastered all the branches of wisdom. In addition the Sanhedrin 
existed at the period where prophecy - or bas kol which took its  place 
- had just ended.

Is it reasonable to conclude that only the Rambam views the prophet or 
one with ruach hakodesh as mashgiach while others view him as the godol 
hador with Daas Torah i.e., - the infallible rosh yeshiva, posek, leader 

Daniel Eidensohn

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