Avodah Mailing List

Volume 25: Number 312

Wed, 03 Sep 2008

< Previous Next >
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Cantor Wolberg <cantorwolberg@cox.net>
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2008 06:38:17 -0400
[Avodah] Shofar During Elul

There's an interesting halacha that one does not blow the Shofar  
during Elul if he did not daven with a minyan. (S'U Tzitz Eliezer  


The reason we hear the shofar during Elul is to wake us up to  
rectifying the wrongs we have done towards others and living a  
righteous life.
It's easy to be a tzaddik when we're davening alone or when we're  
learning by ourselves.
However, the biggest challenge is to live a righteous life in the  
context of a minyan and showing ahavas chinam to the minyan and not to  
one or two others.

The wake up call therefore makes sense in the context of a minyan, and  
hopefully by the time the yomim noraim arrive, we'll connect the echo of
the Elul shofar sounds to the majestic sounds of the Yomim Noraim.

Kol tuv.


-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avod

Go to top.

Message: 2
From: "Chana Luntz" <Chana@kolsassoon.org.uk>
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2008 12:49:35 +0100
Re: [Avodah] Geirut

RMB writes:

> The big problem not yet addressed is if KOM means joining the Jewish
> people, how does one explain Bekhoros 30b and the need to accept every
> single mitzvah? (Quoted verbatum by the SA.)

But Bekhoros 30b is not quoted verbatim by the SA.  That is the point.  I
agree with you that Bekhoros 30b has some specific language about the need
to accept every single mitzvah.  What is puzzling therefore is in fact why
is it not quoted verbatim by the SA if it is the halacha.

What *is* quoted in the SA is the requirement that it be made known to him
the mitzvoth "lkablam" before three judges.  Now one could try and argue
that this is weaker than the language of Tosphos, as the SA says only that
the requirement is that they be "made known to him" so that he can accept
them "l'kablam", whereas the language of Tosphos is that you need three
judges l'kabeles hamitzvos (see Yevamos 45b s'v  "mi lo tavla") - but given
that he then goes on to states that while the other requirements of mila and
tevila, if they are not before three judges, it is not meakeves,  "chutz
mekabeles mitzvos she makeves if ano b'yom, u'beshlosha" that would seem to
make it clear that he requires mekabeles, and not just that the prospective
convert be informed.  Also, the Rema clarifies that the position that the
Shulchan Aruch is taking is based on Tosphos and the Rosh, so it seems fair
to import the full weight of their position.

On the other hand, it is also Tosphos and those following him who understand
the whole story of Hillel and the convert who only converted on condition he
could be kohel gadol as giving leeway to the beis din "l'fi ra'os enei beis
din" - where we are dealing with a case where a mitzvah was rejected.  That
would fully explain why Bechoros is *not* quoted by the Shulchan Aruch - he
doesn't hold like it, as he is following those opinions who do not hold like

The Shulchan Aruch then goes on to say (regarding the requirement of having
three judges) that according to the Rif and the Rambam even bideved you need
three judges for mila and tevila - ie an absence of mila and tevila is

There are two possibilities in relation to this:

a) According to the Shulchan Aruch the Rif and the Rambam agree with Tosphos
and the Rosh that an absence of kabalas mitzvos in front of three judges is
me'akeves and just add mila and tevila; or

b) they hold that mila and tevila is me'akeves in front of three judges
because they do not require kabalas mitzvos at all in front of the judges,
and something has, as per the gemora, to be meakeves if not in front of
three judges.

However a) is the more difficult.  There is some discussion including in the
Beis Yosef about the extent to which one can learn needing three judges
regarding mila from tevila.  If there was any suggest that the Rambam and
the Rif learnt kabalas mitzvos from tevila and or mila, that would certainly
have been discussed. (and in fact as I mentioned, the Aruch Hashulchan has a
problem with the SA learning mila from tevila, because that is not what was
stated, how much more so kabalas mitzvos).

The most straightforward way of learning this is surely b), there is a
maklokus rishonim as to whether kabalas mitzvos is a requirement, and the
Shulchan Aruch followed Tosphos and the Rosh.

But secondly, even if you follow Tosphos and the Rosh - they do *not* state
that KOM means acceptance of every single mitzvah.  On the other hand, they
do not state that it doesn't.  The only evidence we have is a) their
treatment of this story regarding Hillel and b) the fact that the Shulchan
Aruch does not bring Bekhoros 30b.  It is however not an unreasonable
inference that it doesn't, given the sources.

Getting back to the Rambam, Rav Henkin has pointed out to me a Bach (Yoreh
Deah 268, s. v. vechal inyanav, end) explained the Rambam's opinion as being
that a conversion is valid even if "no kabalat mitzvot took place at all."
(the language is "kol ikar").  

Now I agree that all the references in the Rambam that you bring are
somewhat puzzling, but it would seem important that you are aware that
stating that the Rambam requires KOM requires you to be cholek on the Bach.

The Bach would also seem to be supporting interpretation b) of the Shulchan
Aruch that I brought above.

> Tir'u baTov!
> -Micha



Go to top.

Message: 3
From: T613K@aol.com
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2008 10:41:50 EDT
Re: [Avodah] Geirut

From: "Meir Shinnar" _chidekel@gmail.com_ (mailto:chidekel@gmail.com) 

>>If the  gerut was therefore not chal because we now know that the gerut
was  insincere, at that point shlomo and shimshon could no longer keep
their wives  - even if the marriage from safek was originally
acceptable - there was no  longer a safek.

Why could they keep them? because once converted, even  though
dishonestly (nigla sodan), - meachar shetaval hare ze yisrael  -  and
therefore kiyem shimshon ushlomo neshehen - not nas'u neshem -   but
kiyem - not merely that the original marriage was not a problem,  but
they could stay married <<


We actually do not know whether their conversions  were sincere or not, at 
the time of their conversions, but we must assume that  they were.  They DID 
live a frum life for a long time -- kept Shabbos,  kashrus, taharas hamishpacha 
-- which is prima facie evidence that their  conversions were valid.  /Later/ 
backsliding does not retroactively  invalidate a conversion.

--Toby  Katz

**************It's only a deal if it's where you want to go. Find your travel 
deal here.      
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avod

Go to top.

Message: 4
From: "kennethgmiller@juno.com" <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2008 13:04:07 GMT
Re: [Avodah] Proto-Semitic?

R' Ira Tick wrote:
> Any desire to uphold a literal understanding of the Flood
> and the Dispersion, must answer how it is that Hebrew as
> spoken in even in ancient times seems descended from other
> languages and bears resemblance to languages spoken in
> those parts of the world ...

I have no problem with this, especially since you were careful to use the
word "seems", which suggests that you're willing to reconsider your
position if new evidence appears.

> those parts of the world with the oldest human remains -
> in Africa, not the Levant.

This is a separate point, and I suggest everyone keep their mind open to
the possibility that not all the evidence is yet in. Wikipedia's article
"List of human evolution fossils", for example, does not show any
discoveries prior to 1848. Who knows what will be found in the next hundred
or two hundred years?

Akiva Miller

Click here to find Medical Transcription Training programs.

Go to top.

Message: 5
From: "kennethgmiller@juno.com" <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2008 13:56:33 GMT
Re: [Avodah] Torah Only - Hora'as Sha'a

R' Yitzchok Levine wrote:
> From page 209 of Rav Breuer - His Life and Legacy
> A perusal of his writings makes it abundantly clear that
> R. Hirsch held that Torah im Derech Eretz was never
> intended as a temporary measure introduced because of a
> specific problem during a specific historical period and
> in a specific geographic area.

It seems to me that the point of this thread is to determine and show what Rav Hirsch's true intentions were.

I would like to suggest that it is fruitless and pointless to attempt any
such thing, not merely in the case of Rav Hirsch, but for *any* gadol. I
suggest that even if we have easy access to what a particular person wrote
and said, that is a far cry from knowing what he *thought*.

There are several things which contribue to this problem:

a) The principle "halacha v'ayn morin keyn" is directed specifically at the
leaders, and tells them that in certain situations it is proper to pasken
differently than the actual halacha. To my understanding, this is usually
for public policy reasons; there are overarching issues at stake, and for
the sake of the larger issue, the smaller issue has to be fudged a bit. But
this effort will be for naught unless the leader insists with all his might
that this is indeed the proper path. Ideally, the followers should have no
way of figuring out that the leaders would have preferred a different path,
and chose this one only because of circumstances.

b) Another halacha tells us that a leader - in order to make a strong
impression upon his followers - may deliberately choose to quote something
in the name of a well-known and well-respected person, even though it was
actually said by someone less well-known or less respected. This will have
the good effect of inspiring the followers, but runs the risk of having
people get confused about who said what.

c) It is very common for people to change their views over time. Even a
person who does not change his views might be more emphatic on one occasion
and less emphatic on another occasion. Even one who is always emphatic
might accidentally say or write something which might be interpreted to be
the opposite of what he really meant. And in the case at hand, which
actually quotes from a book about Rav Breuer, not Rav Hirsch, it is all too
easy to be the unwitting victim of the author's selective quotes which
highlight one side over the other.

But I did not write this post simply to complain and show flaws.

Points A and B are well-known halachic principles. (I think there might also be other similar ones.) What is the point that they are teaching us?

In the ideal world which we aspire to, Hashem Tzevakos has a well-organized
group of people who are working hard to know His will, and to fulfill it.
The chain of command, and obedience to that chain of command, are very
important principles. That's what leads to the many halachos of what to do
in the event that the Sanhedrin is mistaken. Without going into those
details (which we've discussed here many many times), suffice it to say
that in most cases, it is more important to do what you're told, and not so
important to do what is actually the theoretically correct thing.

This brings me back to the original question: What did Rav Hirsch SAY, and
what did he really MEAN. If one wants to try to figure out his intentions,
because he feels this to be an interesting pursuit, or because he wants to
defend Rav Hirsch's memory against those who have misunderstood him, then I
say, "Great! Go ahead! Have a good time!"

But if the reason one wants to understand Rav Hirsch better, is in order to
figure out what he would say to us today, then I say: Why do you care?
That's not how the system works. Yiftach b'doro k'Shmuel b'doro. Ask
today's leaders. Rav Hirsch is not here with us, and is unable to tell you
what to do. I'm NOT saying to ignore Rav Hirsch's sayings and writings;
they certainly rank up there with the Chofetz Chaim and the Gra, with
Hillel and Shammai, to be learned and used in helping to understand what
Hashem wants of us.

Maybe deep down Rav Hirsch meant TIDE to be a temporary measure, and maybe
he truly meant it to be for all times and places. Does it really matter?
All that really matters is whether you, or I, or someone else, should use
it as a guiding principle in his life. And that depends on a lot more than
what Rav Hirsch really meant in his heart of hearts.

Akiva Miller

Find your Catholic Soul Mate today. Click Now!

Go to top.

Message: 6
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Date: Tue, 02 Sep 2008 16:26:53 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Torah Only - Hora'as Sha'a

kennethgmiller@juno.com wrote:

> a) The principle "halacha v'ayn morin keyn" is directed specifically
> at the leaders, and tells them that in certain situations it is proper
> to pasken differently than the actual halacha. To my understanding,
> this is usually for public policy reasons; there are overarching
> issues at stake, and for the sake of the larger issue, the smaller
> issue has to be fudged a bit. But this effort will be for naught
> unless the leader insists with all his might that this is indeed
> the proper path. Ideally, the followers should have no way of figuring
> out that the leaders would have preferred a different path, and chose
> this one only because of circumstances.

I don't think this is at all right.  "Halacha ve'ein morin kein" does not
mean "umorin lehipuch".  It just means one leaves this halacha out of the
shiurim and the public sermons, and when someone asks one remains silent;
it's not a heter to positively pasken something that one doesn't believe
is true.

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

Go to top.

Message: 7
From: "Ira Tick" <itick1986@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2008 16:23:18 -0500
[Avodah] Belief or Denial of G-d

- Show quoted text -
On Tue, Sep 2, 2008 at 6:06 AM, Cantor Wolberg <cantorwolberg@cox.net>wrote:
- Hide quoted text -

> Your answer is right on and excellent.
> So now my question to you is:
> Are these people you mentioned (and many others
> whom we have known) going to be punished by God
> for not having had the belief?

Thank you for your response to my post.

I would venture to guess that it is beyond the capacity of human knowledge
to know what happens to anyone in this life or the next directly or solely
because of their actions, attitudes, or beliefs.  But a general idea is
present in Judaic literature:  G-d rewards those who fulfill his
commandments, punishes those who violate them, rewards even the smallest of
noble and compassionate deeds by any human being, and punishes or warns of
the futility of even the smallest indiscretion or discompassion.  If belief
in G-d somehow relates to any form of hatred of the innocent, or
selfishness/self-aggrandizement, or any level of distance, distraction,
indifference, or aggression towards the human spirit or the ideals of love
and reverence of others, then belief in G-d is not only a G-d-given
commandment (for which we might excuse those unaware of a Commander of
commandments) but also an integral part of the nobility and righteousness of
the human soul.  Perhaps some form of "punishment" in the form of suffering
or shame in this world or the next is necessary on the part of such
disfigured souls to right them once again in alignment with attitudes that
allow them to benefit from a more complete attachment to G-d and His

Now, it is more than possible that even the most militant atheists have a
fully ethical conscience and live their lives with love and reverence for
others, all without reference to G-d.  Such a person might vicariously find
themselves well acquainted with G-d and all He represents in the next world,
or they may be shocked to know that they have much further to go to commune
with Him.  I don't suspect that anyone knows for sure...

Surely though, some people's hatred of religion and the religious is itself
a major character flaw, becasue they cannot find it in their hearts to
respect the meaning that religion has for billions of people.  I think its
possible but very unlikely, that they really feel deep down in their hearts
that the average religious person is just as guilty as those in Nazi Germany
who got a rise out of listenting to Hitler or Goebbels at Nuremberg, no
matter how much blood has been spilled in the name of religion in the past
or present.

On a personal note, I have drifted many times in my life from a concrete,
straightforward view of religion or Judaism, and I have had to ask myself
constantly about the acceptablility of my attitudes and beliefs in the eyes
of G-d and my own conscience.  Nevertheless, though I have at times been
angrier at G-d than I have ever been with my friends and relatives, I have
never ceased loving G-d in my heart as a companion like no other, who in
every breath of life reminds me that He loves me very much and wants me to
succeed in whatever life and world that there is.  To not have experienced
that kind of relationship--that kind of love and attachment to
someone--strikes me as great enough deficit of life and meaning to warrant
the name "punishment," all by itself.  Perhaps much of what we call
punishment is more the necessary consequences of this life than a meted

Why then does G-d "punish" us by placing us in a life where our victory over
our own misfortune or misdirection is unassured?  I certainly do not know
(no direct answers seem totally sufficient), you'll have to ask G-d Himself
when you get the chance, but I guess I have faith that even grave misfortune
and misdeed have their place in a compassionate plan for the world.  As long
as life has so much to offer for so many of us--and we seem smart enough to
enjoy as much of it as we can--then I will remain with this faith.


-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avod

Go to top.

Message: 8
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2008 17:34:03 -0400
Re: [Avodah] birchas hachama

On Fri, Aug 29, 2008 at 12:08:17PM -0700, Eli Turkel wrote:
: Similarly five digit accuracy can be reasonable for small periods of time.
: Over the years and centuries the accumulated error is large. Thus the
: starting date for saying tal umatar is noticeably off.
: Similarly as we have discussed the dates for Pesach are occasionally
: getting very late because of error accumulation

Again, given that we say the very same berakhah on lightning, I don't
know why you assume astronomy is the defining feature. Lightning's brief
and startling flash reminds us of day 1 and the "or zarua' latzadiq"
the or ganuz. The rough approximation of getting the sun back to where
it was on a Wed is enough to remember yom revi'i.

But perhaps Abayei did assume there would be a Sanhedrin updating his
pesaq by now.

Tir'u baTov!

Go to top.

Message: 9
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2008 17:41:42 -0400
Re: [Avodah] rov and karov

On Fri, Aug 29, 2008 at 12:16:10PM -0700, Eli Turkel wrote:
: Having a Brisker background I am looking for something more than
: "most likely". For example it is clear that having a safek sefeka
: does not necessarily give you better odds than a single safek.
: It depends on the individual probabilities. There have been attempts
: (see Prof. Koppel) to show that 2 safeks is intrinsically different than
: one safek and not because it is more likely

See Shaarei Yosher -- "safeiq deOraisa lechumrah" is itself a din
derabbanan, and thus the 2nd safeiq is an example of "safeiq derabbanan

But I could explain this in perceptual terms as well. It's not a matter
of math and probability. It's a matter of the person thinking about the
state of the object in terms of two doubts or in terms of one.

I suggested this alternative to RMK's formulation a number of times,
eg at http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol04/v04n361.shtml#13 . See
http://www.aishdas.org/book/bookA.pdf for a discussion at length. (Too
long for a post; not long enough for clarity.)

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             "The worst thing that can happen to a
micha@aishdas.org        person is to remain asleep and untamed."
http://www.aishdas.org          - Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv, Alter of Kelm
Fax: (270) 514-1507

Go to top.

Message: 10
From: "Ira Tick" <itick1986@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 2008 17:58:43 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Proto-Semitic?

On Tue, Sep 2, 2008 at 8:04 AM, kennethgmiller@juno.com <
kennethgmiller@juno.com> wrote:

> I have no problem with this, especially since you were careful to use the
> word "seems", which suggests that you're willing to reconsider your position
> if new evidence appears.
> > those parts of the world with the oldest human remains -
> > in Africa, not the Levant.
> This is a separate point, and I suggest everyone keep their mind open to
> the possibility that not all the evidence is yet in. Wikipedia's article
> "List of human evolution fossils", for example, does not show any
> discoveries prior to 1848. Who knows what will be found in the next hundred
> or two hundred years?
> Akiva Miller

R Akiva ( i love typing that! ),

It's interesting that you mention lack of fossil discoveries *before *a
certain date in history... I'm not sure how that's relevant, except to show
that with time and tech, more fossils can be found.  I for one like to think
in terms of patterns, and if the pattern of discovery continues, we will
simply find more evidence that modern human populations dispersed (no pun
intended) from sub-Saharan Africa.  Perhaps the descendants of Shem, if he
walked the earth much as you or I do, had a common language very similar to
Hebrew, and they dispersed more recently throughout the Levant from the
Black Sea, where we know a catastrophic flood destroyed thousands of square
miles of coastal civilization around 5000 years ago.  I've never studied
what language group was supposedly spoken by those peoples around the Black
Sea at that time, but maybe someone else has...

Maybe the people of ancient, really ancient Bavel contained a large group of
emigres from further North?  Certainly historians claim that Semites
originated not from the Arabian Desert, but from somewhere near Syria.
Maybe they came there from the further north.  One problem with this is that
eastern Black Sea peoples are Caucasians, not Mediterraneans and many of
them are, uh, white or only slightly dark skinned...  I would guess that
Moses looked more like a Yemenite or an Arab, so what did Noah or Avraham
look like?  Hopefully, no one uses my hypotheses as an affirmation of the
"Jesus Christ Superstar" Nordic Goldylocks look for any biblical figure...

Maybe, Noah and Avraham were from orginially (antedeluvian) from Ufra in
Turkey, whose ancient people Victorian scholars identified with
Arpachshad... (Truthfully, this is when it becomes easier to simply separate
Avraham from Noah historically, leaving Noah as a mythic figure, replacing
Adam as the "Father of Mankind" in the Torah's description of the 70
original nations of humanity and how people like Shem, Ever, Nimrod, etc
distinguished themselves from all people of all nations for their good or
evil works.  From then on, it becomes easier to let Nimrod, Shem, and
Avraham play their respective roles together in the same time period, freed
from attachement to the Flood or the Dispersion.  Listen to R Jeremy
Wieder's shiur on literal and non-literal interpretation of Torah from

As for Adam until Noah, I don't know and wouldn't guess, but for me, a
literal discussion of Adam and Eve is much less pertinent for a Torah view
of history than a literal discussion of the Dispersion, which as discussed
above, happened in the time of Avraham Avinu, who I very much like to think
of as a historical figure, if you catch my drift.  (Don't think people
haven't had to defend the historicity of Avraham until modern times.  R
Berel Wein's book "Herald of Destiny" cites some ShU"T of the Rashba wherein
he castigates Jewish students of philosophy and history for, among other
things, trying to deny the existence of the Avos and claiming that only a
belief in Moshe Rabbeinu was required dogma.)

For a good introduction to modern science's theory on early human migration,
read the first chapters of Jared Diamond's excellent book "Guns, Germs, and
Steel."  You can watch the National Geographic DVD if you want instead, but
then you miss Diamond's debunking of the so-called "pathetic inaccuracy" of
Carbon-dating.  In the book, Diamond goes through all of the science and
deduction involved in dating of fossils, etc, including the different
methods of Carbon-14 dating and their discrepancies and limitations.  He
convinced me that there is no vast conspiracy on the part of scientists
regarding fossil dating, and that they have a pretty good, if rough, idea of
when humanity got to everywhere and with what basic patterns of travel out
of africa.  The major problems are Polynesia and the Americas, because some
really old fossils were found in South America, older than the Bering Strait
Ice Brigde.  (Please tell me somebody knows what I'm talking about.)  Not to
say that the Out-of-Africa hypothesis is proven, but its a start.

BTW, I just saw on Wikipedia that apparently the Muslims built a Mosque in
Ufra over the supposed site of the birthplace of Abraham!  Cool huh.  It's
also a neat coincidence that carbon-14 has a half life of 5700 years, for
those who want to think that's some kind of hint to its 20th century
discoverers... Of course, stray amounts of carbon-14 in a fossil imply that
there was a lot more carbon-14 in it hundreds of thousands of years ago.
(If you already don't like my view of natural history or my sense of humor,
it gets worse...I love the fact that my dog's name is Lucy, just like the
first major fossil discovery of *Australopithecus afarensis*, perhaps the
earliest "human ancestor" according to modern science, though the dog is
named after Lucy from *Peanuts*.  I also love the fact that the most
complete skeleton of Tyrannosaurus Rex, at the Field Museum in my very own
Chicago, is named Sue, sort of like the Johnny Cash song...then again,
Johnny Cash wrote a song about a man named "Ira" too)
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avodah-ai


Avodah mailing list

End of Avodah Digest, Vol 25, Issue 312

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 >