Avodah Mailing List

Volume 23: Number 61

Wed, 21 Mar 2007

< Previous Next >
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 12:54:21 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Russian Roulette

Rich, Joel wrote:
> Is one allowed to play Russian Roulette with 2 bullets in a 5 chamber 
> gun to win $1?
> What about 1 in 10 for $1million?
> Vchen Halah?

I assume your question is ultimately based on the pasuk "ve'elav hu
nosei et nafsho", which explicitly authorises a person to risk his life
for parnasa.  It seems obvious that this cannot be a blanket heter, to
take any risk for any reward; there must be gedarim, both in the degree
of risk that is allowed and in the size of the reward that justifies it. 

Zev Sero               Something has gone seriously awry with this Court's
zev@sero.name          interpretation of the Constitution.
                       	                          - Clarence Thomas

Go to top.

Message: 2
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 16:33:07 -0400 (EDT)
Re: [Avodah] microphones on shabbat

On Mon, March 19, 2007 9:22 am, R Harry Maryles wrote:
:   Not only that but even sparks that may be generated by a motor  are not
: considred Aish since they have no substance to them and in any case it is a
: Davar She?Eino Miskavin and the is no Psik Reisha. Such sparks are no worse
: than static sparks that are generated by certain activity on Shabbos.

I have been out of the Electical Engineering world for over a couple of
decades, so I invite RDr Bannet to correct me but IIRC....

I think that for many motors, the sparks are pesiq reishei. For most cheap
motors, unless they get their RPM rate off the voltage cycle of the AC line,
they have brushes and therefore spark quite frequently.

I am not sure why halachic arguments like pesiq reishei or davar she'eino
miskavein would be relevant, if you deny their mamashus or compare them to
static electric sparks. It sounds like getting things down to heter by piling
sefeiqos, rather than a solid sevara from any one clear matir.

:   RSZA also mentions another reason for Assuring the use of electricity, the
: idea of a Shvus.

: In his most recent weekly shiur, Rav Asher Zelig Weiss expressed himself
: about electricity in almost exactly the same terms as RMB does here: the
: prohibition was determined first, and then the poskim looked around for
: a category to fit it into.

: He cited a Yerushalmi (which unfortunately I cannot quote pefectly
: accurately) in which chazal categorized actions forbidden on Shabbat;
: any activity they knew, apparently intuitively,  was prohibited which
: they could not fit into one of the other categories was classified as
: makeh-b'patish....

Notice that both RSZA and RAZW are using sevaros specific to hilkhos Shabbos.

On Sat, March 17, 2007 11:05 pm, Rich, R Joel wrote:
: I have heard him say the same thing but I think Micha's point iiuc was
: that this is a more general phenomena....

Excactly. I am arguing this unity with the gestalt of halakhah, so that you
can know what's right even when you can't articulate it, is the very quality
is takes to be among the gedolei haposeqim.

As RDr Moshe Koppel would put it, the knowledge of a language of the native
speaker or one of its poets. You just know what sounds right. It goes beyond
what an immigrant can do through applying rules from a grammar book.

To my mind, this is the difference between binah, the ability livnos and to
distinguish bein (as RSRH puts it), deductive and inductive logic, and da'as.

Back in v9n72 <http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol09/v09n072.shtml#01> RYGB
posted his Elu ve'Elu essay. On paragraph read:
> The greatest Poskim became one with the Torah itself, and their capacity
> to pasken transcended even the Halachic process itself. Once the Chasam
> Sofer zt"l's son, the Ksav Sofer zt"l, felt that his father's proofs in
> a certain teshuva were questionable. He asked his father, therefore,
> about the validity of the resultant psak. The Chasam Sofer responded
> that in hispiskei halacha, the primary determining factor was his sense
> of what the psak should be. Specific proofs were secondary in importance
> (Nefesh HaRav p. 42. See Eitz Chaim p. 430 for a similar statement by
> HaGaon HaRav Chaim of Volozhin zt"l). Psak Halacha

In that and subsequent discussion we discussed this very notion. RRW
associated it with the Rambam's use of "nir'eh li", and why it makes the
statement HARDER to dispute, not less.

It is that idea I'm trying to convey, not something specific to shevus or

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

Go to top.

Message: 3
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 17:18:36 -0400 (EDT)
Re: [Avodah] Retzei

On Tue, March 20, 2007 9:08 am, Elliott Shevin wrote:
: Micha Berger wrote:
:> The first one in Tanakh that caught my eye:
:> Es hama'aor hagadol lememsheles bayomve'es hama'or haqaton lememsheles
:> balaylah,ve'es
:> hakochavim. "Ve'es hakochavim" seems much like "ve'ishei yisrael".

: Perhaps, if you figure the kochavim are also "to rule the night" as the
: "smaller luminary" is.

Actually, that's what Rashi (1:16, "hakokhavim") seems to assume: "Since He
reduced the levanah, He made her tzeva large to appease her da'as." Or am I
reading to much into the word tzeva'eha, and by Rashi taking the phrase to be
associated with the previous? Is it relevant that it's "ve'eis" with a
tipchah, as opposed to being fully divided as a third equal in the list?

Tir'u baTov!

Go to top.

Message: 4
From: "Daniel Israel" <dmi1@hushmail.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 15:26:50 -0600
Re: [Avodah] Russian Roulette

On Tue, 20 Mar 2007 10:54:21 -0600 Zev Sero <zev@sero.name> wrote:
>Rich, Joel wrote:
>> Is one allowed to play Russian Roulette with 2 bullets in a 5 
>> gun to win $1?
>> What about 1 in 10 for $1million?
>> Vchen Halah?
>I assume your question is ultimately based on the pasuk "ve'elav hu
>nosei et nafsho", which explicitly authorises a person to risk his 
>life for parnasa.  It seems obvious that this cannot be a blanket 
>heter, to take any risk for any reward; there must be gedarim, 
both in 
>the degree of risk that is allowed and in the size of the reward 
>justifies it. 

Two other differences spring to mind.  

First, in this case the connection between the risk and the reward 
is artifial.  That is, working in construction on a skyscraper 
entails a risk of falling, but there is a constructive purpose and 
the risk incidental to it.  Or smoking a cigarette where the 
purpose is the pleasure of the cigarette, and the risk is 
intrinsically attached to the reward.  Whereas in Russian Roulette 
someone has arbitrarily decided to give a financial reward in 
return for taking an otherwise pointless risk.

Second, in this case the maaseh you did (pulling the trigger) is 
directly responsible for your death.  So looking at that act in 
isolation, you committed suicide (even if you did it thinking that 
the chances of it happening were a miut).  However, if you slipped 
while constructing a skyscraper the act you were trying to do (walk 
across a plank 1 foot wide, 500 feet off the ground) was not what 
killed you, it was the accidental slip.  So too, when you smoke, no 
particular puff actually was what killed you.

Of course many poskim still conclude smoking is assur.  So I'm not 
sure how the above affects the halacha, but it does provide some 
context in which we could try to find some halachic differences 
between the examples.

Daniel M. Israel

Go to top.

Message: 5
From: "Jonathan Baker" <jjbaker@panix.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 20:10:48 -0400 (EDT)
[Avodah] Retzei

I've written a long blog post recounting my arguments here, and bringing
a lot of new material on the textual history of the bracha.  There's some
Hebrew in it, different versions of the bracha, so I didn't feel comfortable
posting the whole thing here.

If you're interested, have a gander at:

        name: jon baker              web: http://www.panix.com/~jjbaker
     address: jjbaker@panix.com     blog: http://thanbook.blogspot.com

Go to top.

Message: 6
From: "Michael Kopinsky" <mkopinsky@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 13:30:23 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Amen

On 3/20/07, Rich, Joel <JRich@sibson.com> wrote:
> The halocho is clear that one should not say Amen louder than the Shatz.
> But in a case where there is noise or some of the mispallelim are
> talking etc,  I thought it would be OK.
> Tonight I saw that the MB (124:47) indeed paskens so.
> "Nireh de'im kavonosoy beharimo koloy kedei lezarez ha'am sheyaanu gam
> hem - mutar..."
> _______________________________________________
> Very interesting that it's only dependent on his intent rather then on a
> shikul hadaat as to whether it will be successful
> (although Nireh is not
> a particularly strong endorsement)
Nireh is the lashon the MB always uses when it's his own sevara, and
not something he is bringing from elsewhere.  It has no implication of
weaness of endorsement.

Go to top.

Message: 7
From: "Moshe Yehuda Gluck" <mgluck@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 18:52:54 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Retzei

*> There's at least one other in Tefillah: Hamelech B'chvodo Tamid Yimloch
*> Aleinu, V'al Kol Ma'asav.
R' Jon Baker:
*Nope, that doesn't work, because they're both objects of the verb Yimloch:
*  1. Al-einu (on us)
*  2. Al col ma'asav (on all His works)
*Aleinu is just a contraction of "al anachnu".

Your point is well taken, but it raises the question of why "L'olam Va'ed"
(which I see I forgot to write in my OP) is not at the end of the sentence?


Go to top.

Message: 8
From: "Meir Rabi" <meirabi@optusnet.com.au>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 15:55:00 -0700
[Avodah] Rashi appears to identify Shogeg as Mezid

Rashi Vayikra 4:17, in explaining why the paroches in this Passuk is not
identified as HaKodesh, unlike Passuk 6, says that when the entire nation
SorChoo the king's Pamalyo is no longer standing. SorChoo seems to imply
deliberate sinning & rebellion. Similarly the notion that the PaMalYo no
longer stands indicates a rebellion not an unintentional breach. However,
the Passuk is clearly speaking of unintentional sins.



-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avodah-aishdas.org/attachments/20070321/5b86fb07/attachment-0001.htm 

Go to top.

Message: 9
From: "Samuel Svarc" <ssvarc@yeshivanet.com>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 01:54:15 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Halachic who is right from "The Lost Scotch"

>From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
>Subject: Re: [Avodah] Halachic who is right from "The Lost Scotch"

>On another note: I think RMS raises a good question about this genre of

R' Micha is referring to R' MS's comment, "This emphasizes a trend that I
think is all too common - in order to emphasize the independence of the
halacha from the normal moral order of the surrounding society, and that
therefore we are not contaminated by foreign influences, there is an attempt
to show how different "halachic" reasoning really is."

In actuality I think that R' MS is misunderstanding the reality. I explain
more fully below. 

R' Micha continued:
>There is a real taaveh to provide an interesting and unexpected

I think R' Micha has correctly identified the dynamic at play here. No
author wants to write a book where one can easily guess the correct answer.
It wouldn't sell, because it wouldn't be interesting. So the author cherry
picks cases where the halacha has a surprise ending. R' Micha feels this is
a bad thing, while I beg to differ. It brings to light many halachic issues
that one is unaware of, besides for making good entertainment. 

>A push away from the intuitive or local civil law that has
>nothing to do with din. Which means that you must assess each sefer
>to know if it really reflects meaningful pesaq. I am not saying
>anything about this particular sefer -- I have never seen it.

In this case, having seen the book and speaking to one of the Rabbonim that
gave an haskamah to it, I can say that it does reflect meaningful pesaq.


Go to top.

Message: 10
From: "Chana Luntz" <chana@kolsassoon.org.uk>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 10:14:00 -0000
Re: [Avodah] Halachic who is right from "The Lost Scotch"


> On Mon, Mar 19, 2007 at 11:34:54PM -0000, Chana Luntz wrote:
> : First of all, and only being slightly cute here - at the 
> time that this
> : all occurred, Yehoshua was already married to Devorah and 
> ishto k'gufo.
> : Yehoshua may have been surprised by the appearance of Chaim 
> ben Zundel,
> : but the Yehoshua/Devorah combination was not.
> I think this is meaningful, and wish you hadn't stated it so 
> cutely. It deserves serious consideration.

I think you are missing my point here.  While I agree with you that we
need to look at the combination and not ignore the effect of the kala
(which is why I referred to the derech of Devorah later in that post) -
the question that this particular piece raises is whether the fact that
they were married made a difference.  Ishto k'gufo is a technical
halachic term which results in real halachic differences in psak.  But
in this case, should the fact that the story occurred half and hour
after they were formally man and wife, rather than half an hour before,
make a difference?   Some of the concern expressed here has been about
the use of technicality rather than more general moral principles.  But
that criticism works both ways.  If one does not want to look too
closely at the technical halacha, morally it should not make a
difference that they were formally man and wife at this point.  They did
not in reality know each other any better than they did a half an hour
ago.  That is why I phrased it the way I did, I was using technical law
to answer technical law.

But in general I think some of the critism of what the book is trying to
do is misguided.  In this particular case, I do not agree with the
analysis of the applicability of the si'if in the Shulchan Aruch.  But
it is very normal to have a system of technical law onto which is
layered more moral (and yet legal considerations) - the common law
system works exactly this way, with its division between law and equity.

For the last couple of days I have been hoping to respond to the last
point in RMK's post about middus chassidus, which in this case is
probably more correctly called lifnin meshuras hadin - but have not had
a chance, and as I have a very wriggly baby on my lap at the moment, it
is not going to happen now, maybe tonight.   Not that I think you need
it in this case, but it is arguably the equivalent of equity (especially
if you follow the side of the machlokus brought by the Rema in Hoshen
Mishpat 12;2 that a judge can impose lifnin meshuras hadin).  But you
need to know law first before you can apply equity correctly, and the
same here.

The other factor you need to bear in mind is that in general, in matters
of contract, local law and custom will prevail, so that in this
particular case, if it occurred in America, American contract law
probably governs, making it even more theoretical.  That is why,
espeically given the general level of ignorance of this area of halacha,
I suspect that any contribution is likely to have value in generating



Go to top.

Message: 11
From: "D&E-H Bannett" <dbnet@zahav.net.il>
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2007 23:31:20 +0200
[Avodah] Re microphone on shabbos

Re: <<There is a machlokes between the CI and the MB as to 
why  umbrellas are forbidden on shabbos.>>

See Mishnayot Tiferet Yisrael (Yakhin Boaz), Introduction to 
Seder Moed, named Kalkalat Ha-Shabbat. There is a long 
explanation entitled "regenschirm," over two full pages of 
small Rashi script, in which the ba'al Tiferet Yisrael 
"proves" that there is no issur.  Even after he hears that 
the Noda' Bihuda has assered the regenschirm, he reviews his 
arguments and sticks by his heter.

I haven't looked at this in many many years and might not 
remember things exactly.  As such heterim are usually 
forgotten nowadays, I recommend studying this "out-of-date" 



Go to top.

Message: 12
From: "Yisrael Medad" <yisrael.medad@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 14:47:43 +0200
[Avodah] Fast of the Bechorim

Picked this up off of the Seforim blog, composed by Eliezer Brodt at

In regard to Pesach there is an amazing original piece as to why the bechorim
(first born) fast on Erev Pesach. R. Shlomo Zalman writes that if it is
solely due to the fact that the bechorim were saved from death, then all of
the descendants of the bechorim should also fast ? not just bechorim! (The
answer is a bit more complex and includes several other components to this
answer, as well.) To this, R. Shlomo Zalman says that the reason for the
fast is not for the fact that they were saved but rather it was
because the bechorim
were supposed to do the avodah in the Beit Hamikdash, but that they lost it
due to the sin of the Golden Calf. So on the fourteenth day of Nissan when
they came to the Beit Hamikdash and they saw the kohanim and levi'im doing
the beautiful avodah they felt very sad so they did not eat. So they decided
to make a day to remember this as there was one time they were able to do
this ? when Hashem skipped over the houses and to atone for the Golden Calf
which caused them to lose this great job (Halikhot Shlomo 3:179-180).

Yisrael Medad
Mobile Post Efraim 44830
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avodah-aishdas.org/attachments/20070321/032a9b26/attachment.html 

Go to top.

Message: 13
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 14:42:17 -0400 (EDT)
Re: [Avodah] AishDas and Mussar

On Thu, March 15, 2007 7:05 pm, Daniel Israel wrote:
:>You are right, I did underplay the number of derakhim that can't
:>be deepened through mussar. Brisk (outside of RYBS and RAS) is a more
:>mainstream example among contemporary O Jews of a derekh that values
:>seichel to the near exclusion of dimyon.

:>R' Itzele Blazer was physically evicted from Vilozhin by talmidim
:>who chanted "A blatt gemara iz de bester mussar seifer."  The
:>two worldviews can't be added.

: OTOH, the Ramchal, who is the author of _the_ classic mussar sefer,
: emphasizes very strongly the seichel (I'm thinking of derech HaShem
: here, but it's true of Mesilas Yesharim as well).  So I don't think
: that  the distinction can be drawn as sharply as you say.  Even R'
: Chaim of Vilozhin wasn't saying that mussar was not a real part of
: Torah, he was, IMHO, suggesting that what needed to be learned
: could be absorbed by learning gemara.

First, this was well after Rav Chaim Vilozhiner's day. Rav Chaim was niftar
before Mussar split off from the yeshiva movement. R' Yitzchaq Blazer / R'
Itzele Petersburger was a talmid of RYS, who was a talmid of R' Zundel
Salanter, who was a talmid of R' Chaim Vilozhiner.

Given that both movements show ancestry to RCV, I am not sure he shared the
sentiment you ascribe to him, in either of our understandings. I am not even
sure the Rosh Yeshiva of the time (the Netziv?) did -- students who carry a
gadol out of the building are rarely acting on the direction of their rebbe.

I think we need to distinguish Derekh Hashem from Mesilas Yesharim. One is a
philosophy text, the other a mussar one. I am a firm believer in engaging
seikhel, dimyon and emotions; I would expect the Ramchal didn't mean one to
the exclusion of the other. The question is whether he intended Mesilas
Yesharim to be a seikhel excercise, or a dimyon one. Looking at the haqdamah
and pereq 1 (which is an overview), I didn't see indication one way or the

But more importantly, I did NOT define mussar as placing dimyon, emotion, the
ecstatic experience, to the exclusion of seichel. Actually, I defined
chassidus as having that tendency, finding a full expression in Bretslov. I
also just now identified Brisk as showing the opposite tendency -- by which I
mean Brisker derekh, not Rav Chaim as a whole person. Both in contrast to
mussar, which promotes a fusion -- one needs the use of dimyon and experience
to change one's middos, but one needs the use of seikhel and the Litvisher
focus on learning (although perhaps not always the same set of texts) to know
what to change them to!

On a number of occasions, RYBS told a story about RCBrisker that sounds like a
typical RYS story. I found a version at
originally a JO article by R Chaim Leib Balgly:
: The Jewish "Bund" had played a large role in the 1905 laborers' revolt
: against the Czar's government. The Czar suppressed the revolt and had all
: the offenders shot. Furthermore he issued a decree, that if a "proclamation"
: should be found in anyone's possession, that person should be shot on the
: spot.

: Once, Erev Yorn Kippur, two Jewish Bundists were caught, bearing
: "proclamations" on their persons. They were arrested and placed in jail.
: Their trial - and certain death - was scheduled for the next day. When Reb
: Chaim learned of this, he immediately contacted some wealthy men who had
: connections with the army, instructing them to arrange for food to be given
: to the prisoners; in addition, they should use all their contacts, and make
: every effort to save these youths.

: The men did as Reb Chaim requested, and notified him that there was a
: possibility of freeing the men with 10,000 rubles. Where does one get 10,000
: rubles - a huge sum of money, especially in those poverty-stricken times?
: Time was running out, and the lives of these unfortunate youths were hanging
: in the balance. Reb Chaim dispatched messengers to all shuls and yeshivos,
: batei midrashim and shtieblach, to convene a meeting of the gabboim
: (trustees). At the meeting, Reb Chaim established a fixed amount for each
: shul to raise by that very same evening, and also decreed that Kol Nidrei
: not be said until he would give the word.

: That evening, the money was brought to Reb Chaim's house. When they had
: collected the entire amount, Reb Chaim sent the shammos to notify the
: various shuls that Kol Nidrei could be said ... and the boys were, of
: course, freed.

Chillul YK to save anti-Torah Communists from a punishment of a crime,
treason, of which they were actually guilty.

Brisker Derekh worked for Rav Chaim because he didn't need to get his middos
from a book. Halevai that were true of living our milieu. Rav Yisrael Salanter
didn't think that was true for the masses in Litta in the 19th cent. It's
certainly orders of magnitude more difficult to do so today.

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


Avodah mailing list

End of Avodah Digest, Vol 23, Issue 61

Send Avodah mailing list submissions to

To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit
or, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to

You can reach the person managing the list at

When replying, please edit your Subject line so it is more specific
than "Re: Contents of Avodah digest..."

< Previous Next >