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Volume 23: Number 67

Wed, 28 Mar 2007

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2007 20:32:31 -0400
[Avodah] Driving Miss Daisy to Chameitz

My neighbor gave me a lift home from the bus stop last night, and posed
this dilemma.

Every week she drives this 86 yr old lady to the supermarket to help
with her grocery shopping. Friend is sure that the older woman will not
change her very routine menu.

Does he drive the woman, risking lifnei iveir or mesayei'ah?
Or does she not drive, risking the woman having a food shortage?
Should she bow out but find a non-Jewish driver -- is that any less
lifnei iveir otherwise?

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             For a mitzvah is a lamp,
micha@aishdas.org        And the Torah, its light.
http://www.aishdas.org                   - based on Mishlei 6:2
Fax: (270) 514-1507      

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Message: 2
From: "Michael Poppers" <MPoppers@kayescholer.com>
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2007 20:23:19 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Amen

In Avodah Digest V23#66, RnCL responded to me:
> Sorry.  However, I think my criticism stands.  I understand the term
quiet to mean barely, if at all, audible.... <
With respect, I think your criticizing the title of a section of an 
article (especially considering that said title is at best a translation, 
apparently by Chanan Morrison [and see his comments on his undertaking at 
http://www.geocities.com/m_yericho/ravkook/], of something seen in RAYK's 
"Ein Eyah") is beneath you.  What you subsequently write (e.g. "surely the 
idea of itti is one of being in it together") seems to me to be in 
consonance with the content of the article, and I hope we can agree that 
the article's content is what counts ;-).  If it matters any, I understand 
"quiet" in this article not in the sense of the level of audibility but 
rather in the sense of the entirety of a proper, measured response, the 
vast majority of which is mental and thoughtful -- to quote from Mr. 
Morrison's adaptation, "A true Amen is not a loud outburst of emotion, but 
rather the quiet reflection of agreement and inner awareness."  Thanks.

All the best from
Michael Poppers * Elizabeth, NJ, USA
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Message: 3
From: "Meir Shinnar" <chidekel@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2007 20:58:42 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Avodah Digest, Vol 23, Issue 66

> There are a number of issues being mixed here:
> I- Is the halachic process appropriate?
> I would answer yes -- if we limit the question to the halachic ("Brisker",
> as
> RMShinnar put it) sphere. There are laws that do subdivide the Jewish
> people
> based on belief and/or action and expect us to respond differently to
> people
> in each group. We therefore have halachic in and out groups.

The fact that we have halachic in and out groups is correct.  The issue is
whether people have used the ikkarim per se as the halachic criteria  -  and
whether the ikkarim should be subject to that halachic process - and that is
the issue.

Most of RMS's issues are therefore not resolved by discussing what the
> criterion is. The very fact that there is an us vs them means that someone
> will be excluded. And the use of these categories for halachic questions
> means
> that halachic process will get involved.

However, ikkarim per se - have rarely been used in a halachic process - in
the sense that so far, you have not been able to cite a detailed process.

Remember, historically, until the 19th century, it was quite simple - it was
quite easy to determine who were us and who were them - because it was an
act of conscious identification or conscious rebellion.  All discussions of
the ikkarim are tempered by this.

this is why, to choose an ikkar which is less controversial that it is
frequently violated - the fifth ikkar, even though there were many poskim
who worried about the fifth ikkar halacha lema'ase  - and insisted on
changing or omitting piyuttim - I am not aware of any posek, even those who
nominally accepts the ikkarim as defining a kofer or a mumar - who views
anyone who says machnise rachamim as a kofer whose wine can't be drunk..

Eg: IM OCh 3:11-12. In #11, RMF pasqens that shemiras Shabbos is the
> criterion
> for deciding who can be elected shul president. Citing the Rambam who
> rules
> out electing koferim. A mechalel Shabbos who violates issues most of the
> locals observe and know is assur may not be elected.

I am not denying that there is a halachic issue of us versus them -
although, especially today, it is far more complicated than it ever was .

That is a practical issue of deciding who is a kofer  -  but it is not based
on the ikkarim.  Hillul shabbat befarhesya is clearly mentioned in the
poskim - but the problem has been, as the binyan tziyon noted, that today
being mechallel shabbat befarhesya is fundamentally different than before -
the rishonim don't have any idea of someone who would go to a hashkama
minyan on shabbat so he could open up his store.  In the past, being
mechallel shabbat befarhesya was an act of rebellion against the community -
understood that way both by the individual and by the community.  Today,
that isn't so - and you know the struggles different poskim have of trying
to define this notion
(and, as RC Luntz had once pointed out, halacha lema'ase, today no one
treats being mechallel shabbat lefarhesya in the classical sense - because
almost everyone approves of kiruv activities directed at these mechallelley
shabbat befarhesya)

In #12, RMF discusses answering the berakhah of a kofeir. There the
> criterion
> is belief in a Borei. I'm not sure it's as relevent, as RMF is making a
> logical point about berakhos in particular; if the person doesn't believe
> in
> "E-lokeinu" or that He is "Melekh haolam" then to him these are just empty
> words, the berakhah was not said beSheim uMalkhus, and does not get an
> "amein". So I would be reluctant to generalize from that.
> But still, you see RMF addressing this division of us vs them as a
> halachic
> question.

yes, the division is - but it is based on very concrete halachic issues and
meaning of words - rather than the philosophical bases of ikkarim.

II- What is the criterion?
> Here there are a number of criteria. And I think I am on shakier ground
> saying
> we use one or the other.
> 1- The 13 ikkarim.
> I still say that in practice, this (in some rather loose form) what's
> used.
> RHS seems to hold this way in the already cited recording. However, see
> below.
> RMS's basic disagreement to this position is that he does not feel it was
> reached via valid halachic process. To recap, my feeling was that:
> a- This pesaq would not be made in error due to ignorance. There is enough
> obvious information that many of the ikkarim were contentious in the past
> from
> sources like the Ra'avad for me to believe that even non-historians know
> the
> background.
> RMS says the Ra'avad (as an example) is being spun to minimize that
> dissonance.
> b- There are teshuvos, like RASoloveitchik's about L messianism, or
> references
> to the ikkarim in stam yeinam, that do refer to them.
> IIUC, RMS replied that he thinks the term is being used idiomatically,
> without
> a conscious thought about "the ikkarim" vs "someone who believes" in
> general
> and therefore not necessarily used to mean these specific beliefs.
> I do not think either of these responses reflect the seriousness with
> which
> teshuvos are written in practice. This issue is not debatable, it boils
> down
> to differences of opinion about people.

No, it is debatable and provable.  To go back to one of your examples, the
size of a zayit I can find multiple debates in the literature. When someone
uses a term in a specific halachic sense - it means that the term has a
known meaning to which one can refer - and that the posek is referring to a
known meaning.  Halacha is not open ended - and halachic terms have specific
meaning - although poskim can debate about which particular meaning to give
a term in a given context.

You concede that one is talking about the ikkarim in some loose sense - and
I am saying that that statement means that one is not talking about the
ikkarim in a halachic sense.  If one says that denying the ikkarim is kfira
- one has to be able to point to a specific version of the ikkarim that the
posek has accepted as defining kfira.  Even if one accepts your position
that poskim can argue about the precise definition of ikkarim - and have
different definitions -  there is no such discussion in the literature.(the
closest is the attempt of the Minchat Elazar to show that tefillot to
malachim do not violate the fifth ikkar - and that actually has a different
aim) - and therefore the ikkarim are not a halachic term..  The lack of such
definition, and your agreement that the ikkarim as defined by the rambam or
in the siddur are not the actual version - means that they are being used
loosely.  Again, to use the canonical example - do you think RAS thinks
people who say barchuni leshalom are kofrim.  If not, which version is he
using??  That is what I mean that people are using it idiomatically -
because both of us agree that we can not point to a version of the ikkarim
that is meant - nor to a significant halachic literature that actually
discusses the precise definition of the ikkarim.

2- Some less demanding belief set
> With each of #1 and #2 we get two variants:
> a- The belief itself
> b- Belief through rebellion
> I do not know of a shitah that holds 1a, that a person must believe the
> ikkarim and is an outsider even if he denies any of them due to sincere
> logical error. My guess would be that more common would be a combination
> of 1b
> (belief of the ikkarim OR honest error) and 2a (as long as that honest
> error
> isn't about something as basic as monotheism).

the rambam probably holds 1a - but not most others.  There is the brisker
notion of nebbich epikoros - but again, it is not applied systematically to
the ikkarim.  However, your statement about 1a means that you accept the
radbaz's shitta.

As I wrote, this position sounds shakier as I continue looking at it.

Again, the primary issue has always been rebellion against the community and
the authority of the torah.  That is why you can find halachic literature
labeling people as kofrim for a variety of beliefs that are quite removed
from the ikkarim - but, in that community, is viewed as rebellious - whether
that is about the authorship of the zohar or recent literature about aggadot
hazal.    The question is the seriousness of the label - but the
understanding was the deliberate self distancing of people from the

3- Shemiras Shabbos
> As in the above-cited IM.
> 3a- As an action
> 3b- As sufficient proof of belief. This is kind of a hybrid between
> answers #2
> and #3. The definition of the "in group" is some less demanding belief
> set,
> and rather than trying to be psychic, we use his shemiras Shabbos as
> sufficient proof that a person believes it.

You miss 3c - because the classical halachic literature viewed mechllel
shabbat befarhesya as being hutz lamachane - and an act of rebellion against
the community.

4- Kol haTorah kulah
> With the above questions of whether we mean lehach'is or even letei'avon
> or
> honest error, of whether it's the ma'aseh or the belief implied by
> following
> through.
> However, RMYG already cited Teshuvos haRadvaz (1:344), and this is also
> the
> position of the AhS
> Frankly, this is so restrictive that the ikkarim look downright liberal by
> comparison.

The question is of course  against  rebellion - the same basic issue.  If I
don't keep shatnes  because it is difficult - I am perhaps a mumar
lete'avon, not a kofer.  If I don't keep shatnes because I think it is an
outmoded law designed against avoda zara in the distant past - I am
rebelling, and am a kofer (by the AhS and Radbaz).  If  I have some faulty
halachic logic why it no longer applies - I am wrong and over, but not a
kofer....it isn't restrictive.

5- There is also the RHS as recently used by RGStudent in Hirhurim
> <http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2007/03/intermarriage-and-minyan.html>:
> > R. Hershel Schachter (Eretz Ha-Tzvi 17:4-5) quotes in the name of R.
> Joseph
> > B. Soloveitchik, based on Eruvin 19a, that God's covenant with Avraham
> > required four things of Jews: 1) Belief in God's unity, 2) Performing
> > circumcision, 3) Not intermarrying, 4) Belief that God gave to Avraham
> and
> > his descendants the land of Israel. R. Schachter suggests that
> fulfilling
> > these four conditions is a prerequisite for being a part of the Jewish
> > people (regardless of one's personal status as a Jew). Therefore,
> someone
> > who violates any of these conditions (e.g. intermarries) is not a part
> of
> > the Jewish people and, if this is taken literally, should not be called
> to
> > the Torah or counted for a minyan. I'm not entirely sure if R. Schachter
> > would extend this idea that far, although see his article "Synagogue
> > Membership" in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society.

The fact that you  are  not sure  is further proof of the primary aggadic
nature of this version.  Remember that Rav Chaim broke with other gdolim in
insisting that someone who on principle did not mal his children or himself
is still part of klal yisrael..., so I highly doubt that this was RYBS's

Again, there is a sense that  being part of am yisrael requires  some
identification with being part of am yisrael - but defining this is not one
on which there is a tremendous halachic literature - suggesting that it
isn't a halachic issue.  As discussed elsewhere, some of us  have major
moral issues with RHS's views on these issues.
Meir Shinnar
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Message: 4
From: Arie Folger <afolger@aishdas.org>
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2007 08:18:10 +0200
Re: [Avodah] Ikkarim Redux

RMB quoted RGStudent's blog:
> > R. Hershel Schachter (Eretz Ha-Tzvi 17:4-5) quotes in the name of R.
> > Joseph B. Soloveitchik, based on Eruvin 19a, that God's covenant with
> > Avraham required four things of Jews: 1) Belief in God's unity, 2)
> > Performing circumcision, 3) Not intermarrying, 4) Belief that God gave to
> > Avraham and his descendants the land of Israel.
> > I'm not entirely sure if R. Schachter
> > would extend this idea that far, although see his article "Synagogue
> > Membership" in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society.

Hehe. I heard RHS, in his shiur about synagogue membership (available IIRC 
from http://www.torahweb.org), explicitly states that nowadays, many of the 
intermarried are intermarried out of ignorance of the seriousness, and not 
out of rebellion. Remarkably, his story about contact with an intermarried 
man was about someone who had been in a yeshivah day school! Spotting him 
once in a shiur about hilkhot 'hanukah, when stating that a wife can light 
for her husband, he added: "of course that only applies if the wife is 
Jewish." Most people found this a hillarious joke, but, added RHS, he had 
meant it for the one intermarried man he had spotted. I shall care to add, 
perhaps this was the first shiur the man had attended in years.

If you can't find the recording, you may email me, and I will check my 
archives. I should have some downloaded shiurim I listened to on my mp3 

Arie Folger

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Message: 5
From: "kennethgmiller@juno.com" <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2007 06:55:57 GMT
Re: [Avodah] Minhag Avos and Minhag haMaqom

R' Micha Berger opened this thread:
> In most of our communities today ... the locale does not
> have its own minhag. Rather, we are still looking back to
> our father's or grandfather's place of origin and retaining
> that location's minhag. ... As pointed out on Areivim, this
> is mutar. The typical town is like the talmudic case of one
> with two batei din. ... I do not see how this is a good
> thing, or how minhag is /supposed/ to work. Yom tov sheini
> shel goliyos, the textbook "minhag avoseihem beyadeihem",
> depends on where someone calls home, perhaps even for
> shorter stays, not whether my family happened to live in EY
> or in Bavel during bayis sheini. The ideal for minhag is
> for a locale to have a norm.

So, then, how did the current "two batei din" situation develop?

Better, how did the whole concept of "two batei din" -- which, let's 
keep in mind, is never a lechatchilah situation -- ever develop to 
begin with, even in Gemara times?

My guess is that there are two ways it can happen:

The first is where an individual moves to a place of different 
minhagim, and he does not adapt as he ought to. Perhaps he does not 
know that he is supposed to take their minhagim, or maybe he is just 
emotionally unable or unwilling. But eventually, he has children, or 
like-minded people move in, and now you have a whole 'nother 
community. That's life; such things do happen. But let's not pretend 
that this is how it is *supposed* to work.

Another answer can be a case where a group of people move -- as a 
group -- to a new area. If they truly go to an uninhabited place, 
they certainly keep their previous minhagim. But how is "place" 
defined in this context? When the Talmidei HaGra moved to Eretz 
Yisrael, were they a distinct group who were entitled to keep their 
minhagim? Or perhaps, even if they lived separately, the greater 
geography must be considered. I do not know the answer, and IIRC it 
was debated even in their day. But the point I want to make here is 
that even in a situation where the new group really is isolated to 
the point where they can keep their minhagim, the town will grow in 
the future. And the neighboring town will grow too. And eventually 
they may merge. And that is my second guess as to how this can happen.

But somehow, R' David Cohen understands all this very differently 
than how I do. He wrote:
> R' Micha's basic thesis very much echoes my own thoughts.
> Let's summarize "the rule" as follows: The gradual
> convergence on a uniform minhag hamakom over the course of
> a few generations is inevitable, legitimate, and even
> desirable, but it must be a natural process, which should
> not be implemented deliberately, and certainly cannot be
> done overnight by proclamation.

Why can this not be done "overnight by proclamation"? Doesn't the 
halacha *require* us to change, immediately upon moving to the new 

I do realize that people are human, and there is a learning curve 
involved. While the halacha does require an immediate change, it 
might not be possible on a practical level, if for no reason other 
than simply learning the new ways. Perhaps we can compare it to a new 
ger, who is required l'halacha to make all sorts of changes 
immediately, but who will take some time, l'maaseh. But it should not 
take "a few generations" to accomplish this.

But there is an additional problem in the l'maaseh, in that we are 
living in a fragmented society, of far more than merely "two batei 
din" in town. The halacha still stands that the new resident must 
immediately accept the local minhagim, this only applies to minhagim 
which are truly universal in the community, i.e., minhagim about 
which one could say that there is only *one* beis din in town.

And such minhagim are few and far between, especially in Chu"l. Less 
so in Eretz Yisrael, where, for example, no one wears tefilin on Chol 
HaMoed (in public, at least), and (as RDC wrote) everyone says Sim 
Shalom at Shabbos Mincha. But there are still plenty of differences. 
Like the vast majority of the rest of the siddur.

I do not know how these differences will ever get ironed out. Perhaps 
they won't. And life will continue anyway.

Akiva Miller

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Message: 6
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2007 15:29:16 -0400 (EDT)
Re: [Avodah] Minhag Avos and Minhag haMaqom

On Mon, March 26, 2007 12:45 pm, Rich, R Joel wrote:
: The question that always bothered me is when (and why)  did the nature
: change from primarily community based to family based? I say primarily
: because IIRC the chatam sofer and R' Moshe allowed a ben Yeshiva to
: change his minhag to that of the Yeshiva.

I would think that we're looking at an abnormal time. A few years -- compared
to the full span of the history of halakhah -- after a massive relocation of
people from multiple minhagim to new geographical groupings.

I suggested in my email that barring the melekh or Sanhedrin intervening, we
would see minhagim emerge according to our new places of settlement. Now, I'm
not as sure. One thing fundamentally changed, ease of transportation. People
don't necessarily tie themselves to one municipality generation after
generation. The increased mobility may mean that no one will ever hang around
long enough to obtain an alternative self-identification to "Litvak",
"Syrian", or "Italki".

: An ancillary question - we know the halacha of 2 batei dinim but why
: would there have been 2 batei dinim in the town in the time of the
: gemara - is it lchatchilla or bdieved?

Given priorities like berov am hadras Melekh, and the problem of agudos agudos
in one shul even where the town has two batei din (e.g. next week, wearing
tefillin in NY), I would think it's bedi'eved. That such violations of achdus
are not ideal.

That said, I think that with the diversity of people even within one locale,
it is hard to see why derekh-inspired practices ought to be uniform. A strict
notion of minhag hamaqom would mean that choosing to be a chassid would be
something done on a locale level. OTOH, this problem is not specific to minhag
hamaqom. Minhag avos means that if someone's parents are chassidim, the child
would be violating minhag if that's not what works for them and chose to

More on this thought in a moment.

On Mon, 26 Mar 2007 20:22:47 +0200, R David E Cohen <ddcohen@gmail.com> wrote:
: The gradual convergence on a uniform minhag hamakom
: over the course of a few generations is inevitable, legitimate, and even
: desirable, but it must be a natural process, which should not be implemented
: deliberately, and certainly cannot be done overnight by proclamation.

: However, this sometimes leaves me conflicted.  According to this approach,
: as long as the uniform minhag hamakom has not yet naturally evolved, one
: should keep minhag avos.  However, if everybody were to abide by this rule,
: then the eventual convergence, which I consider desirable, would never
: happen.  The convergence will only happen thanks to those who are willing to
: make a deliberate, clean break with minhag avos even before the majority
: practice has reached the level of acceptance that would classify it as a
: minhag hamakom, something that I do not deem it appropriate to do myself.

Why must it be a "*deliberate* clean break"? Couldn't forgetting and learning
from your neighbors pull off such convergence?

Second, back to the idea above...

We are speaking of a contradiction between two values -- the uniformity of
minhag by location and the preservation of minhag avos. Unless there already
is a uniform minhag hamaqom, minhag avos wins, and once there is a uniform
minhag hamaqom, it wins.

I want to suggest the possibility that we need to add another value -- the
hanhagos of adherents of a derekh. But the only sources I can think to justify
the idea are historical examples. We did eventually get to the point where
even most Litvaks accept Chassidic practices as existing minhag. (Rav Moshe
allows a change in nusach from "Sfard" to Ashkenaz, but not necessarily the
reverse. But he does allow people to continue with "Sfard".) The Breuer's
kehillah isn't expected to revert back to their pre-RSRH minhagim. Talmidei
haGra similarly. When Qabbalah swept Sepharad, many qehillos changed large
chunks of their minhag. Etc...

It is not weighing two conflicting imperatives, but three. Perhaps one is
allowed to consciously change if the argument from the paneh laTorah which you
follow is sufficiently strong? I don't know, just thinking out loud.

On Mon, 26 Mar 2007 21:21:46 +0200 R Eli Turkel <eliturkel@gmail.com> wrote:
: Numerous other poskim bring the analogy of a symphony. The best music is
: when each instrument plays its instrument well not when they are all
: identical. Hence, the optimum is each community keeping its own minhag but
: in togetherness to form a symphony.

This merely shifts my question. Should "community" be defined by heritage,
current location, the approach to avodas Hashem that best fits the person's
neti'os, or some mixture of the three? And if it's a combination, what kind of

: As RMF paskens for NY today there is no longer minhag hamakom and each
: community keeps its own minhagim....

(Assuming from your usage you mean "community of origin".)

That doesn't necessarily mean he holds that NY having multiple batei din is a
good thing. Only that given the fact that unifying under RJJ didn't work,
minhag avos must prevail.

: In spite of all this argument the litvak world does tend to insist on
: uniformity.

Well, achdus is generally seen as the preferable choice. And tefillin on ch"m
raises issues all about unity within a single mossad -- which seems very
parallel to the question of the minhag of someone who is living at yeshiva.

: While in Voloshin each bachur was encouraged to keep his family minhagim
: in yeshivot there is a force of uniformity within the yeshiva at the
: expense of family customs expecially in tefillah.

Perhaps the difference is that Volozhin didn't have everyone sleeping and
eating in the same place, and thus talmidim had more of a private life outside
the yeshiva than they do now. (Not that I'm saying the rationale *consciously*
drove the change.)

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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