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Volume 25: Number 45

Sun, 27 Jan 2008

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: T613K@aol.com
Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2008 13:36:25 EST
Re: [Avodah] Assisted Suicide

From: Micha Berger _micha@aishdas.org_ (mailto:micha@aishdas.org) 

>>And there's  the berakhah, we thank/acknowledge HQBH as "Borei nefashos
rabbos  VECHESRONAM"<<

I'm not sure if you mean this seriously or as a cute drash but the pshat  
surely is not "Hashem creates people and all their defects and lacks."   Rather 
it means, "He creates people and also creates everything that they lack,  i.e., 
everything that they need."  He gave us needs and He also supplies us  with 
the means to fulfill those needs.  Whenever a person feels he is  lacking 
something -- good health, food, parnasah or whatever -- he can daven,  and Hashem 
will provide what the person needs.   (Unless of course  there is an overriding 
reason why Hashem won't provide it, but the vast majority  of times, people 
do recover from illness, do have food, do find a mate to marry,  do have 
children, do have their basic needs met, and do have their prayers  answered.)

--Toby Katz
Romney -- good values,  good family, good hair
Best hope against  Hillary

**************Start the year off right.  Easy ways to stay in shape.     
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Message: 2
From: Richard Wolberg <cantorwolberg@cox.net>
Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2008 14:11:04 -0500
[Avodah] Sending Unsolicited Bulk Emails

The question was asked:
Have any poskim addressed the question of whether sending unsolicited  
bulk emails is assur?

There are poskim who say that having a television is assur. I think  
that question is just as absurd.  However, sending them on Shabbos is  
assur; however, I've heard respected O. rabbonim who say that watching  
television on Shabbos is technically not being m'chalel Shabbos  
although it is certainly against the spirit of Shabbos.
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Message: 3
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2008 14:15:19 -0500
Re: [Avodah] planting during shmitta permitted

Ben Waxman wrote:
> http://www.nrg.co.il/online/11/ART1/688/731.html
> This article states that Rav Avraham Yosef, the head of the rabbinate 
> shmitta committee, permitted planting (al y'dei goy) in some of the 
> areas which were heavily damaged in last week's frost. If this land 
> is under the heter mikhira (HM), why is a special heter needed? If 
> the land is under the ozer beit din, is this throwing issurim out the 
> window without even a HM to be somekh on?

The article says explicitly that the heter applied only to land for
which an authorisation to sell to a goy had been implemented, i.e.
HM land.  Evidently the usual Rabbanut rules do not allow sowing in
such land during shmita itself, even with goyishe labour.

Many of those who oppose HM probably don't know that there are such
rules and restrictions, and think that these lands are worked just
like they are every year; perhaps if they knew that this wasn't the
case they might moderate their opposition.

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

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Message: 4
From: T613K@aol.com
Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2008 14:34:54 EST
Re: [Avodah] Is spam kosher?

In a message dated 1/27/2008 ben1456@smile.net.il writes:

>>Without getting into the question of issur or muttar, the  example 
that you give above is NOT spam in any sense what so ever. See  
http://www.spamhaus.org/definition.html. The people in your address  
book presumably want, appreciate, or at least permit you to send them  
material. Therefore it is not spam.

I will note that since ISPs  forbid sending spam, anyone doing so is 
abusing his  contract.<<

To some degree, spam is in the eye of the beholder.  AOL puts a lot of  stuff 
in my spam folder but when I go there, it gives me the option to  select any 
letter and click, "This is not spam."  It's spam if I say so and  it's not 
spam if I say so.  Wow, what a lot of power I have!  But  getting back to the 
question of whether it's assur to send spam -- as I said  before, I don't see the 
grounds to say it's assur.  Maybe  "ona'ah"?   Is there a general prohibition 
against annoying  people?  

--Toby Katz
Romney  -- good values, good family, good hair
Best hope against  Hillary

**************Start the year off right.  Easy ways to stay in shape.     
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Message: 5
From: "kennethgmiller@juno.com" <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2008 20:54:01 GMT
Re: [Avodah] Assisted Suicide

In contrast to what R' Harry Maryles and R' Richard Wolberg wrote, I feel that there is a VERY big difference between saying "G-d did not answer that prayer" and saying "G-d answered that prayer with a 'no'".

Namely: People whose faith is a bit (or a lot) weak or shaky have been known to use the former statement as a stepping-stone to denying that G-d even heard the prayer, or to denying that He even exists. But the latter statement is an affirmation that He does exist, He did hear the prayer, and He does have our best interests at heart.

That said, I agree with RRW that to tell someone that "G-d said 'no'" is often cruel and pointless. I still maintain that it is often the correct answer, but one must either figure a way to say it with tact and compassion, or shut up.

Akiva Miller
Click for free info on detox treatments for drug &amp; alcohol dependency.

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Message: 6
From: "kennethgmiller@juno.com" <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2008 21:02:14 GMT
Re: [Avodah] Changing God's Mind

R' Micha Berger wrote:
> By turning to the Borei one changes the factors that go
> into His decision.

R' Richard Wohlberg asked:
> how would you respond to "If God is omniscient (and of course,
> knows the future), then how can His mind be changed? In other
> words, God knows what His decisions will be, so it's almost
> an oxymoron to say that your prayers may change His decision.

RRW is correct; we cannot change G-d's mind. For a given situation, If G-d feels that "A" is His response, there is nothing we can do change His mind to prefer the "B" response.

But what we CAN do is to change the *situation*. We can become closer to Him in various ways, and then it's a whole new scenario. And perhaps our actions will have tipped the balance towards one of the many alternate situations in which "B" had been His chosen response from the beginning.

Some may say I'm being simplistic. But to me it really seems simple.

Akiva Miller
Click to help a good cause and make a difference

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Message: 7
From: Arie Folger <afolger@aishdas.org>
Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2008 21:10:13 +0100
Re: [Avodah] planting during shmitta permitted

On Sunday, 27. January 2008 20.23:54 avodah-request@lists.aishdas.org wrote:
> This article states that Rav Avraham Yosef, the head of the rabbinate
> shmitta committee, permitted planting (al y'dei goy) in some of the
> areas which were heavily damaged in last week's frost. If this land
> is under the heter mikhira (HM), why is a special heter needed? If
> the land is under the ozer beit din, is this throwing issurim out the
> window without even a HM to be somekh on?

Sefardim hold by the BY's opinion that shemittah nowadays is rabbinic. Hence 
we have a shvut deshvut bishe'at hade'haq.

Arie Folger

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Message: 8
From: "Michael Makovi" <mikewinddale@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2008 22:17:36 +0200
Re: [Avodah] Cave or desert island

> TK:  I agree with R' Hirsch and emphatically disagree with R' Berkowitz.
> One of the reasons that we were dispersed all over the world was precisely
> because we failed to accomplish our mission of "ohr lagoyim" when we were in
> our own land.  We were therefore given another way and another opportunity
> to do it, scattered among the nations.
> In the nations that we live among, Jews have acquired a reputation for being
> intelligent, industrious, law-abiding and peaceable citizens.  We have had a
> positive influence on the entire course of history and Western civilization.
> Tragically, all too many of our fellow Yiddelech have also been among the
> major destroyers of civilization -- the name of Marx especially comes to
> mind, but one may also count Freud, Asimov, Betty Friedan, Carl Sagan, Peter
> Singer, Noam Chomsky and many other Jewish mechablim, great and small.  But
> the list of Jews who have benefited the countries they lived in, and who
> created a wondrous name for the Jewish people, would literally fill pages.
> "We don't have an army, government, or economy"  -- we don't /need/ an army,
> government or economy to be a memleches kohanim and ohr lagoyim.  Remember
> R' Saadia Gaon's famous dictum, "Ein umaseinu umah eleh betorasa"  -- We are
> a nation by virtue of our Torah.
> While our main purpose as frum Jews scattered among the nations is to live
> Torah lives and serve as a model of probity and morality, we also have an
> obligation to positively and actively influence the goyim among whom we
> live. Of course, that obligation holds only to the extent that circumstances
> make it possible.  In America, we have an obligation to vote for the
> candidates who will most advance the morality of the country.  We also have
> an obligation to make our voices heard in the public square.

Absolutely, I'm not saying that Jews in galut don't have a kiddush
hashem effect. But this is secondary. Rav Hirsch himself, in his essay
to Tisha b'Av I think, as well as elsewhere I'm sure, says that the
primary location from which we are to execute our task, is from davka
eretz yisrael, where we will have a land, whose entire national
existence is devoted to Torah, from economy to army to government. And
Rav Hirsch wasn't what you'd call a Zionist. He himself says that our
being exiled has an incidental effect of our being able to do kiddush
hashem. But the primary purpose of galut was to educate us, not the

> RMM:  >>....Likewise, we don't serve for Olam Haba....Rav Hirsch says that
> Judaism exists for
> this world, and that is why the Torah doesn't speak of olam haba -
> because it's really not very important. ....Rather, the Messianic Era will
> come, and we'll be
> resurrected, and thus we'll live in the Messianic Era for eternity -
> see Rabbi Berkovits [in] G-d Man and History.<<
> TK:  I am very uncomfortable with the way you keep quoting R' Berkovits and
> RSRH, as if they were equals and contemporaries.  The two are simply not
> comparable, and R' Berkowitz is barely even on the normative Orthodox scale.

Rabbi Shalom Carmy in his review of Essential Essays says it is
dangerous to judge a thinker by his most provocative work. He says
that G-d, Man, and History is an excellent work of Jewish hashkafa
that says very little new but puts it in a fantastic vehicle.

And of course Rav Hirsch is higher on the scale. But IMHO, Rav
Berkovits was no small fry, not by a long shot. And IMHO, even his
provocative work has serious merit (as Rabbi Carmy shows in the same
review, despite his vociferous protest to other aspects), kal vachomer
his non-provocative work.

> I also think you are seriously misreading Hirsch if you have come to the
> conclusion that "olam haba really isn't important."  Your understanding of
> Hirsch has been influenced by your reading of a modern left-Orthodox
> philosopher, it seems to me.

I gave the sources. Rav Hirsch himself says he never seriously
contemplated the afterlife, because it's almost incidental to doing
mitzvot here on earth.

Notice how throughout Pirkei Avot, Rav Hirsch uses almost any
opportunity to wax at length about schar mitzvah mitzvah, not in the
sense of mitzvah goreret mitzvah [acheret], but rather that the schar
IS the mitzvah; likewise in his other writings, this theme is one of
his favorites. But in Avot, when afterlife comes us, Rav Hirsch merely
parrots what the Mishna already said, giving it a mere sentence or
two. His intention is obvious IMHO.

> RMM:  But why? Why did He choose us? Why did He love us? Why did He
> sanctify
> us with His mitzvot and proclaim His name on us?
> AL KEN n'kaveh...AL KEN. The reason He chose us, the ENTIRE reason,
> the entire reason for the entire first paragraph of Aleinu, is for us
> to bring the whole world to worship Him. <<
> TK:  I think there is a confusion here about the two meanings of the word
> "why."  (There may even be more than two meanings.)  "Why?" can mean, "What
> is the reason, the cause?" or it can mean, "What is the purpose?"
> The *reason*:  the Avos chose Him.  In sharp contrast to all the nations who
> rejected or just ignored Him, our forefathers sought Him out and chose to
> cling to Him in defiance of all the other gods and religions of their time.
> A similar thing happened again when Hashem offered the Torah to all the
> nations of the world, and once again, the goyim rejected the Torah while the
> nation of Yisrael embraced it.
> BTW this is as good a time as any to quote again one of my favorite bits of
> doggerel.  This was in answer to the anti-Semitic couplet, "How odd of G-d/
> to choose the Jews."  The response was:  "It's not so odd/ the Jews chose
> G-d."

Absolutely. No disagreement here. Hashem offered the Torah to all the
nations, and they all spurned it. I myself am quite fond of that

BUT, why did He offer it to them in the first place? One could follow
Maharal that this Midrash shows that the Torah was never meant for the
nations, and He offered it to them just to show us that they'd reject
it, and that it was meant for us all along.

But I'd say davka the opposite: He offered it to them because after
all, the Torah isn't meant for only us. Rather, it is meant for all
humanity. And someday, the day will come when this becomes reality. As
Rabbi Meir says, this is the law which if a MAN keeps...

(Now, don't take me too literally and say that they'll be 100%
bona-fide Jews with the 613. The point is that all of mankind will
serve Hashem and such, and it doesn't have to be taken too literally.
In fact, I'd say that since mankind was originally given the Noachide
laws only, and these were to be sufficient without the the other 613
minus 7, I'd say that the non-Noachide commandments are extra add-ons
to intensify and magnify and assist in our being ambassadors of the
ikkar Noachide ones. So if all mankind one day has the Torah, it
doesn't mean they'll have all 613, because they don't need the 613 in
order to keep the ikkar of the Torah, which is the 7.

For example, if we say that all Americans will one day be patriotic
and loyal, it doesn't mean they'll all be government employees.
Likewise, saying the gentiles will have the Torah one day doesn't mean
they'll be Jews.)

> The *purpose*:  "so that the whole world will be filled with the knowledge
> of Hashem."  He chose us to keep the Torah and to teach G-dliness to the
> whole world.

Bidiyuk. He didn't choose us for the sake of us. He chose us for the
sake of the rest of the world. Again, I cite Rav Hirsch to Shemot
19:5-6 - if Rav Hirsch didn't already say it, people would probably
brand me a heretic for saying it (at least in the yeshiva where I
currently am, which has a lot of Maharal-type thought saturating it).

But there is an additional factor: When we chose Hashem, why didn't we
remain Noachides? After all, our choosing Hashem didn't reduce the
liability for the rest of the nations (save a midrash that I've never
heard anyone follow, that the Noachide laws are no longer incumbent on
the nations). And we ourselves were already obligated to choose Hashem
even without Sinai and all that. So why did our choosing Hashem make
us special?

Answer: Hashem made us His pecular tool, His am segula, to use to
redeem the rest of the world. Our purpose is not to serve Hashem
ourselves, but rather to act as His ambassadors to bring everyone else
to join us in serving Him.

Mikha'el Makovi

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Message: 9
From: Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>
Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2008 16:50:51 -0800 (PST)
Re: [Avodah] God's Answer was "NO"

Richard Wolberg <cantorwolberg@cox.net> wrote:
    First of all, I would NEVER tell anyone who prayed for a loved one that God's answer was "No."  That would be cruel and pointless. But to follow your logic, how is it any less cruel to tell a parent that God just didn't answer the prayer. The same problem still exists. God does what He wills, not what we will. At times, He answers our requests and at times He doesn't for only reasons He alone knows. To say His answer was "No" is just as good as saying He didn't answer them, period. We're really talking semantics and avoiding the much larger theological puzzle. The ultimate answer is that we have no answer and IMHO, the more people come up with different reasons, is grasping at unknowable straws. The only time a theory assumes ultimate authority is when it can be proven. That's where faith comes in.
  The problem I have is not with the Hashkafoc aspect of what you said. The problem I have with it is as a rejoinder to one who says God didn't answer their paryers. People who say 'God didn't answer their prayers' means that God did not give them the answer they were praying for. To then point that out ia Hashkafic point is insensitive to the seriousness of the moment. No Maamin would deny the Hashkafic statement that the answer was a no. 
  I have heard people who are in sorrow sat their prayers weren't answered. They may even put it in the form of a question. Does the response have to be, Well but God DID answer your question, He said No! I think it highly insensitve. That is no time for a lesson in Hashkafa.

Want Emes and Emunah in your life? 

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Message: 10
From: Richard Wolberg <cantorwolberg@cox.net>
Date: Sun, 27 Jan 2008 21:18:48 -0500

(The following is a great vort and also a great reason for Avodah:)

We human beings spend a lot of time in each other's company. Because  
we are intelligent communicators, in effect this means we spend a lot  
of time talking to each other (or emailing each other). But we often  
do not have much to talk (or write) about. Not many can begin to  
discuss deep personal issues that reach to the depth of one's soul  
with a relative stranger. First of all, revelation makes one  
vulnerable, and even more importantly, not too many people are  
particularly interested in gazing deeply into the soul of relative  

Consequently, much light conversation concerns politics, sports or the  
weather, or tends to center around job conditions and co-workers. This  
may be boring but allows civilized contact to continue. When it is not  
boring it often borders on lashon hora. Almost inevitably, casual  
acquaintances begin playing human geography. They discuss bosses, co- 
workers, teachers or fellow students, and the discussion often  
descends to lashon hora.

We Jews share this need for human contact with the rest of humanity.  
But God gave us a better solution to solve the problem of casual  
conversation. Having had the benefit of a basic Torah education, we  
are quite familiar with the basic Talmudic tractates which focus on  
Mishpatim. The traditional wisdom of the ages (and Sages) has assured  
that it is this area of the Torah that we focus on during the basic  
education period.

Theoretically, in a properly arranged Jewish world, instead of  
discussing sports or the weather, or playing Jewish geography, we Jews  
would debate concepts in Mishpatim. Instead of having to conduct  
boring conversations, we would be in the enviable position of being  
able to engage in heated discussions about deep ideas affecting the  
human character with relative strangers (and email contacts). Instead  
of gossip, the air would be filled with the sounds of heated debate  
over basic human issues. If we are fortunate enough, perhaps someday,  
most Jews will be in a position to resurrect that much-ridiculed  
stereotype of the Talmudic scholar.


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