Volume 25: Number 373
Mon, 03 Nov 2008
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2008 18:29:48 +0200
From: "Michael Makovi"
Subject: Re: [Avodah] Some thoughts on Shemonah Perakim
The beginning of R' Micha's post is a valuable one. I think the point of what
he is saying is that while halakhah gives us the tools to effect ourselves,
we ourselves must use the tools properly. Thus, Ramban says we can be moral
wretches even with the Torah's permission. I think derech eretz kadma
latorah means that even though the Torah tells us what is good and proper,
we need to already have the desire to follow G-d's will and have the basic
ethical sense in our conscience. In real life too, a hammer is helpful only
if one uses it properly, and a VCR manual is useful only if one actually
learns it with the intent of doing what the manufacturer says. Disingenuity
will never cease to corrupt.
But two statements of R' Micha I am too ignorant to understand, and I wish
for him to elaborate: (direct quotes)
1) "This goes to the core of my objection with this tendency among some in
"Academic O" (as RYGB calls the subtype of MO) circles to consider halakhah
a law with little or no motivational basis."
2) "This notion that it's primarily to be viewed as contract law is new,
whether in its AO or "Rambamist" forms. Although the Rambam himself dedicates
half of the Moreh cheileq 3 to an opposing viewpoint, it's clearly the stance
of people like R' Chait."
Also, the following of R' Micha, I request clarification, please:
>To my mind, it's not an issue of the value of virtue but whether a given
> halakhah is an expression of a vitue, or a tool for instilling it. In
>boh cases, though, it's not obedience as an end in itself.
>And therefore, I [R' Micha Berger] disagree with [the following which Mikha'el Makovi said]:
>>So while Rambam says virtue
>> is greater than obedience, I'd say the opposite, BUT, I'd say that
>> virtue is still a value, and hopefully, in the end, the moral virtue
>> will catch up to one's deed...
>Both the Rambam and your depiction of REB's position are about mitzvos
>as a means to instill virtue more than expression. I see no debate.
>And if I did, given what I wrote above about the lack of classical support
> for a notion of halakhah-as-obedience, I would not rest comfortably with
>it. Also, as we saw from the overweight rabbi, pragmatically it raises
>more questions than it answers.
I do not understand your position.
REB is not speaking of mitzvot instilling virtue; he is saying that halakhah
is concerned with the practical temporal effects of our deeds, because he
sees the purpose of halakhah as effecting a practical temporal sociological
tikkun olam, in the same way which I have attributed to Rav Hirsch.
Rambam, although I do not claim to fully understand the precise nuances of
his position (given the mind-boggling amount of literature on his philosophy,
I think we that anyone who does make this claim, we may sentence him to
a mental institution), he seems to be saying that halakhah's purpose is
to affect our own personal moral and rational virtues, whether indirectly
(hukim) or directly (mishpatim).
Thus, for REB, the halakhah would most certainly be davka expressing a value,
and more, be attempting to give this value practical worldly effect. (A
caveat: sometimes halakhah is itself behind the Torah's own internal ethos. If
so, then halakhah must itself be updated. But in the end, halakhah still
enshrines the ethic and seeks to give it practical effect.)
From: "Chana Luntz"
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2008 12:15:52 -0000
Subject: Re: [Avodah] childbirth as a time of sakana
Catching up on old Avodah posts which I have not had a chance to respond to,
I see that RDE has posted the following from Igros Moshe:
> Igros Moshe (Y.D. 2:74): Concerning inducing premature childbirth.
> In my humber opinion it is prohibited to induce premature childbirth
> because childbirth in its natural time in the natural way is not
> considered a danger at all. Since G-d created the world to be fruitful
> and multiply, there is no question that he created it that it should be
> for beracha and not for danger. Furthermore He commanded the obligation
> to have children. It is not logical that there would be a command to
> place one's self in danger in order to fulfil the mitzva of having
> children. Especially since women don't even have a mitzva to have
> children that we would say that the Torah is giving them the option of
> placing themselves in danger in order to have children.. We must
> conclude that there is absolutely no danger in childbirth at all. That
> mean that G-d promised that there would never be danger in childbirth.
> This that it happens that women die during childbirth is only because
> they were liable to punishment as is stated in Shabbos (31). "There are
> three sins for which women die during childbirth". According to this
> reasoning it is only when childbirth is in its natural time that there
> is a promise that there is no inherent danger. The punishment that is
> the result of the sin of the Tree of Knowledge is only to have birth
> pains and not death chas v'shalom! However when they want to induce
> premature labor there is no guarantee of safety. Consequently the woman
> is placed in danger by inducing premature labor because without G-d
> promise there is danger. Therefore it is prohibited to induce premature
> labor except when there is danger to wait as we have mentioned.
Do you not think that he either resiles from this in Igeros Moshe Orech
Chaim Chelek Daled siman 105:6 or perhaps realises that the way this is
written leads itself to significant misunderstanding?
After all, in this later teshuva, after referring to the teshuva you quote
above he adds "hayinu d'metzad hametziut ika b'leida sakana" and "sheb'etzem
m'tzad hateva yesh b'zeh gum inyan sakana k'dita sham beshabbat daf 32
uked'ita gum betanchuma" which I confess seems to me to be acknowledging that
something is absent from the earlier teshuva, if not incontradiction of it.
This is despite the later qualifier "aval hu hvtacha shelo yiye bzeh l'olam
And whether or not one wishes to say that in this later teshuva RMF is in
fact drawing back from what he appears to state so boldly in the earlier
teshuva, I think it very hard to take the earlier teshuva on face value.
After all, it is completely accepted in the sources that a yoledet hi k'chola
sheyesh bo sakana (as stated explicitly in Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim siman
329 si'if 1) with the consequence that, as stated in the following words
of the Shulchan Aruch "umechalelin aleha b'shabbat l'kol mashetztricha".
And the gemora in shabbat 128b clearly regards the fact that we are mechallel
shabbas for such a woman as a p'shita.
But if the literal meaning of the words written above by Rav Moshe
were correct, then it is most definitely not such a pshita. After all,
it would seem, if one understand the words written by Rav Moshe in their
most straightforward way, then only those women who have committed the
three sins referred to in the mishna are in danger of their lives, and why
on earth would we assume, and what gives us the right to assume, that our
wives and mothers fall into that category? We don't seem to make the same
assumption about men crossing bridges or the like (that being the analogous
situation for men brought in Shabbat 32a comparable to the Mishna on 31b
that Rav Moshe is referring to). It would seem extremely odd if we were to
predicate our behaviour vis a vis shabbas on the assumption that the person
we are being mechallel shabbas for is a rasha. And if one were to take
the words quoted above completely literally ie "childbirth in its natural
time in the natural way is not considered a danger at all" then how can one
provide any justification whatsoever for being mechalel shabbas in relation
to such childbirth?
And yet it is a ma'aseh b'chol yom (or should I say, b'chol shabbas) that
we are mechallel shabbas for the sake of a woman in childbirth.
Now I agree that Rav Moshe here is tackling one of the fundamental questions
I have had for a long time, which is, how is it that women are allowed to
let themselves get pregnant, given that they know that by so doing they will
be placing themselves in a matzav of a chola sheyesh bo sakana, and without
even an obligation to do so (or at most a rabbinic obligation)? And likewise
how can a man get a woman pregnant, knowing he will be putting her into such
a matzav, mitzvah or no mitzvah? Does not pikuach nefesh override?
And maybe at least his second teshuva on the subject could be take to be
suggesting that it is appropriate, at least in this instance and contrary
to our usual injunction not to rely upon miracles, to have faith/trust in
Hashem to override what Rav Moshe does there appear to acknowledge is the
metziut/teva (and note of course were this not so, and the original passage
was to be taken literally, we would expect to see no maternal deaths amongst
non Jews, because they are not commanded in chala, nida and neiros, so cannot
be punished for a failure to perform them). However, even such faith can
at most be only taken so far, because I doubt anybody, including Rav Moshe,
would condone a husband taking the view that since his wife was clearly a
tzadekes (or at least makpid in chala, nida and neiros), he was not going
to be machalel shabbas on her account and take her to hospital.
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2008 14:12:58 -0500
Subject: Re: [Avodah] Hypocrisy in halakhah
Thank you for passing on my words to the list. On the distinction between
justice for Bnei Noach and in the batei dinim of Yisrael, there is an Or
Sameach -- where unfortunately is not on the tip of my tongue but it may be
Hichot Rotzeach -- that compares the Noachide courts to the courts of the
melech which I also see as having the purpose of protecting society rather
than punishing the evil individual.
In regard to the issue of the distinction in treatment of bnei Noach and
bnei brit, I just wanted to mention my approach. I postulate that there
is a distinction between what we may term objective morality or ethics
and what we may term social mores. For example, in any society there is a
distinction between how we treat people within the group and how we treat
people outside the group. This distinction would surface in the distinction
between how we treat citizens and non-citizens. This type of approach may
be helpful in understanding any distinctions between treatment of Jews and
treatment of non-Jews. For example, the charging of interest would thus not
seem to be an inherent immoral act but rather it is the Torah's desire that
within the social dynamics of Klal Yisrael the Torah wishes the dynamics of
interpersonal behaviour to not include the paying of interest and thus be
a society built upon such a dynamic. As you raise the topic, I just wanted
to put in my two cents. I hope it is helpful.
Date: Mon, 3 Nov 2008 15:21:43 -0800
From: "Liron Kopinsky"
Subject: [Avodah] Mitzvat Talmud Torah
I am currently learning the 8th Perek of Yuma (PehDaled amud Alef) where
there is a sugyah which deals with a cure that a non-jewish (female) doctor
prescribed to be taken on shabbat. A few amoraim have different opinions
about what that cure is (yeast water, olive oil and salt, yeast itself,
olive oil, and salt etc.).
The question raised is "Is there a kiyum of mitzvat talmud torah by learning
the sections of Gemarrah that have cures that don't apply today?" The sugyah
as a whole (whether you can take medicines on shabbat etc.) obviously is,
but is there for studying the refuot themselves?