Avodah Mailing List

Volume 32: Number 29

Thu, 20 Feb 2014

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Micha Berger <mi...@aishdas.org>
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 11:36:11 -0500
[Avodah] Obligatory Conscription

You can guess from the source of this translated teshuvah what the
conclusion is going to be. But I don't know if all of the chevrah has
seen the line of reasoning spelled out.


Shabbat B'Shabbato
Translated by Moshe Goldberg
Machon Zomet

Responsa For Our Times
Obligatory Conscription / Rabbi Re'eim Hacohen
Rosh Yeshiva and Chief Rabbi, Otniel 

Question: Recently there have been calls by public figures to abolish
the military draft and to transform the IDF into a professional army of
hired soldiers, as a way of avoiding a social rift in our society. Is
there any halachic basis for such an idea?


The Army: Volunteer, a Mitzva, or an Obligation

 From the days when our state was established until today, the Israel
Defense Forces have acted exactly as the name implies. The IDF is
responsible for defending the country and its citizens, and for fighting
back against those who attack us and try to destroy us. Any war that the
IDF fights is clearly defined as a "War of Mitzva" -- a commandment by
G-d. Therefore, the first thing we must do is to clarify if every Jew
is personally obligated to participate in this War of Mitzva.

In the portion of Ki Teitzei, the Torah gives a list of soldiers who are
sent home and are not expected to fight in a war. The Sifri derives from
the opening phrase, "If you go out to war" [Devarim 20:1], that this is
a case of a "Voluntary War" (since everybody must participate in a War
of Mitzva, without exception). In the Mishna, after the laws of those
who are sent home from war, it is written:

"What case is this? It is a Voluntary War -- but in a War of Mitzva
everybody must go out, even a groom from his room and a bride from her
wedding canopy. Rabbi Yehuda said, What case is this? It is a War of
Mitzva, but in an Obligatory War everybody must go out, even a groom
from his room and a bride from her wedding canopy." [Sotta 5:7].

The Babylonian Talmud explains that Rabbi Yehuda disagrees with the
other sages and feels that only in an Obligatory War everybody must
participate but not in a War of Mitzva, when a person who is performing
another mitzva is allowed to continue what he is doing and is not required
to go to war. Rava defines the different types of war:

"The War of Yehoshua to conquer the land is an Obligatory War according
to all opinions. The war of the House of David to expand the boundaries,
is a Voluntary War according to all opinions. The disagreement is about
a war to reduce the number of idol worshippers so that they will not
attack. One calls this a mitzva and the other one calls it voluntary."
[Sotta 44b].

The Rambam defines the difference between a mitzva and an obligation:

"There are mitzvot which a man must pursue until he can fulfill them,
such as tefillin, succah, lulav, and shofar. And these are called an
obligation, because a person must always make an effort to observe them.
And there are mitzvot which are not obligatory but are similar to a
voluntary act, such as mezuzah and fencing in a roof. In this case, a
person is not required to live in a house in order to obligate himself
to perform the mitzva. If he wants to live all his life in a tent or
on a boat he is allowed to do so, and he is not obligated to build a
house so that he will be able to put a fence around the roof." [Hilchot
Berachot 11:2].

Rabbi Yochanan (in the Yerushalmi, also quoted in the Babylonian Talmud),
explains that Rabbi Yehuda and the other rabbis do not disagree, they
simply used different terminology to describe the same phenomenon. But
according to Rav Chisda, there is a definite disagreement. According to
the sages Yehoshua's war of conquest was an obligation and David's war
of expansion was a mitzva, while Rabbi Yehuda feels that a war where the
enemy attacks us is an obligatory war, while when we attack the enemy
it is a voluntary war. This means that Rabbi Yehuda does not feel there
is an obligation to participate in a preventive war.

However, this seems to be quite problematic. If we do not preemptively
attack an enemy our lives will almost definitely be in danger. Why isn't
there an obligation to do a preemptive strike? As is written in Or Zarua
with respect to desecrating Shabbat when Gentiles are placing a siege
on Yisrael, "Even if they have not yet come but we hear that they want
to come -- Shabbat should be desecrated."

Defense and Attack

In both the Babylonian and Yerushalmi Talmud, it seems clear that if
an enemy is poised ready to attack and there is therefore a direct
security risk, any war will have the status of an obligation. Rabbi
Yehuda only referred to a case where we initiated the war against an
enemy and control the battle. A preventive war is a mitzva in any case,
according to the Or Zarua, but the law that everybody must go to battle,
as in a case where we have been attacked, is not in effect.

The halachic basis for this case is discussed by the Chazon Ish:

"It would seem that the law that even a groom leaves his room in a War of
Mitzva does not involve a case where the people are needed for victory in
a war -- since it is obvious that in the case of a mortal danger and in
order to rescue the nation everybody is required to participate. However,
even in a case where only a specific number of people are needed... a
groom can be taken from his room, since in a War of Mitzva nobody is
allowed to leave the battle and return home." [Chazon Ish, Eiruvin,
Likutim 114].

The Rambam rules in Hilchot Melachim (85) that helping to save Yisrael
from an attacker who rises up against them is a War of Mitzva. As such,
the king has the right to force the people to join him in fighting. This
is because the laws of returning home from battle are relevant for a
Voluntary War, but in a War of Mitzva everybody must come. In addition,
the Rambam rules, "If Gentiles put a siege on cities of Yisrael... Every
Jew who is capable has a mitzva to go out and help his brothers, who are
under siege, and to save them from the Gentiles on Shabbat..." [Hilchot
Shabbat 2:23].

"Heroes Coming to the Rescue with the Help of G-d"

In modern times, the routine task of the army is to prevent terrorist
acts and to be prepared for a future war against the Arab countries,
which want to destroy the State of Israel. Thus, the point of joining
the army is to be ready for a war, which is definitely a War of Mitzva,
with the purpose of saving Yisrael from an enemy. It is therefore very
clear that the law that "everybody is conscripted" applies to all the
people. Any proposal whose purpose is to cancel the obligation that
"everybody is conscripted" and to transform the IDF from "the people's
army" into a "hired professional army" is contrary to the instructions
of the Torah. For such a proposal, the curse of Devorah the Prophetess is
relevant: "Curse Meroz... Let its inhabitants be cursed because they did
not come to the aid of G-d, to help G-d and His heroes" [Shoftim 5:23].

Devorah implies that coming to the aid of the people is the same as
coming to the aid of G-d, since the wars of Yisrael are a War of Mitzva.
We will end with the words of Moshe to two and a half tribes, "Will your
brothers go to war while you remain here?" [Devarim 32:6].

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Message: 2
From: sholom <sho...@aishdas.org>
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 11:16:08 -0500
[Avodah] 30 Adar I


>> If someone dies on 30 of Adar I when is the yahrzeit in an
ordinary year.
> A similar question applies to born on 30 Adar I and
when is the bar mitzvah

FWIW, there is a short discussion on the bar
mitzvah issue by R Willig at

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Message: 3
From: David Riceman <drice...@optimum.net>
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 09:04:09 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Why does Moshe use logical arguments when


<<Where I think the Rambam breaks from the rishonim whose thought more 
of us follow (the Kuzari, Rashi, Ramban, Ran, the Ikarim, etc...) on 
this is that the Rambam in the first cheileq of the Moreh says that 
G-d-as-perceived is a Role Model. The idea of actually relating to G-d 
on a personal level doesn't fit the Moreh or Yesodei haTorah. (Except, 
perhaps, as a crutch for the spiritually/intellectually limited.)>>

I gather from reading some of his writings that RYBS (a) followed the 
Rambam pretty closely in the foundations of theology and (b) was in 
favor of "actually relating to G-d on a personal level".  Would you 
comment on how he fits in your dichotomy?

On the other extreme RHV in Nefesh HaHayyim (a) followed the Ari pretty 
closely and (b) seems far removed from "actually relating to G-d on a 
personal level".  How does he fit your dichotomy?

David Riceman

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Message: 4
From: David Riceman <drice...@optimum.net>
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 09:15:08 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Time for the Deceased (was: Why does Moshe use,


<<Yesodei haTorah 2:3 says that the mal'achim are creations which have 
form, even though they do not have matter. This is consistent with my 
description of radio waves and kedusha waves in my previous post. YT 2:8 
stresses that even the highest of the mal'achim are unable to fully 
comprehend their Creator, because after all, they are mere creations. In 
other words, just because something isn't physical, that does NOT mean 
it is outside of time.>>

I don't follow this deduction.  For the Rambam creation need not be in 
time (after all, he holds that time itself is a creation).  Could he not 
be referring to logical priority rather than temporal priority?

<<My if/then above presumes a basic point, namely that Hashem's 
awareness of past and future in experiential, not informational.>>

There's a third option.  God's awareness of past and future could be 
based on a knowledge of paradigms (admittedly this is closely related to 
two medieval disputes: do universals exist and does God know 
particulars).  I strongly recommend Wolfson's essay "Extradeical and 
Intradeical Interpretations of Platonic Ideas".

<<I did notice that Rambam made many unsupported statements (for 
example, about the nature of mal'achim, referenced above) and I always 
presumed that it was what he learned from his rebbeim, who got it from 
theirs, who in turn got this Revealed Truth from Moshe Rabeinu or some 
other navi.>>

See the introduction to the Shmonah Perakim (the unnamed source seems to 
have been Al Farabi).

David Riceman

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Message: 5
From: "Kenneth Miller" <kennethgmil...@juno.com>
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 14:10:15 GMT
Re: [Avodah] RHS on daas torah on non-halachic issues

from R' Eli turkel:

> RHS has a recent talk in Bet Shemesh on Daas Torah on non-halachic
> issues   It is about a 1 hour shiur followed by questions
> http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/807758/Rabbi_H
> ershel_Schachter/Da-as_Torah_-_What_Are_Its_Halachic_Parameters_In_Non
> _Halachic_Issues
> ...
> 2) The posek can answer only if he knows all the facts. Just having
> the boy in the shiur is not enough and certainly to know everything
> about the woman
> Similarly a posek cant decide about rallies against Soviet Union
> without consulting experts
> RYBS spent an hour talking with a professor ecpert in Soviet
> affairs before backing SSSJ with rallies.

Is it really possible for any human to know all the facts? If being the
boy's teacher is not enough familiarity to tell him who to marry, then how
can ONE hour with ONE expert be enough to decide on Soviet Jewry rallies?

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach spent years learning about electricity before
paskening on it. In contrast, I'd love to know how many homosexuals spoke
with Rav Moshe Feinstein before he wrote about them in Igros Moshe O"C

> 3) One should ask only a posek with experience on answering
> questions. The Steipler and Rav Schach were not poskim.

How does RHS define "posek"? Suppose someone asks a question to the
Steipler or to Rav Shach, and they answer it in a clear manner with no
disclaimers. Doesn't the psak on the issue implicitly include a psak that
they are qualified to pasken on the issue?

Akiva Miller
Do THIS before eating carbs &#40;every time&#41;
1 EASY tip to increase fat-burning, lower blood sugar & decrease fat storage

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Message: 6
From: Micha Berger <mi...@aishdas.org>
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 14:36:40 -0500
Re: [Avodah] 30 Adar I

On Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 10:28:09PM +0200, elazar teitz wrote:
: Therein, he cites two opinions about the bar-mitzva...

:      Time did not permit me to peruse the yahrzeit question as thoroughly,
: but, while there are two opinions, the consensus seems to be 30 Shvat....

A consequence of the Megein Avraham I cited on Feb 4
<http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol32/v32n019.shtml#10> is that the two
questions are unrelated. The MA explains the Rama's shitah as
saying that a boy born in Adar I would celebrate his bar mitzvah
in Adar II. This is because many dinim -- bechoros, besulim (before
3 years), chalutas bayis ir hachomah, rental, bar mitzvah, etc... --
revolve around the duration in shanos temimos, not aniversary. So, the
boy in question was one year old on Adar -- 13 mo, but one year!
Similarly he turns 12 years old in Adar, and his thirteenth year is
also a 13 monther, runing from Adar to Adar II.

Yarzeit, however, does not mark the duration in years, it marks

There we might argue that neither anniversary is more real, much the
way we put Purim in Adar II to be near Pesach, not because one is
more truly the anniverary of the neis.

Or that the anniversary is Rosh Chodesh rather than the matching
calendar date, as REMT reports is the consensus.


Micha Berger             "'When Adar enters, we increase our joy'
mi...@aishdas.org         'Joy is nothing but Torah.'
http://www.aishdas.org    'And whoever does more, he is praiseworthy.'"
Fax: (270) 514-1507                     - Rav Dovid Lifshitz zt"l

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Message: 7
From: Micha Berger <mi...@aishdas.org>
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 14:42:52 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Time for the Deceased (was: Why does Moshe use

On a related subject, former (early) member R' Chaim Brown (CCed) blogged

Quoted below in full.

Tir'u baTov!

Divrei Chaim
Divrei Torah & assorted musings on life.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

can there be kapparah after death?

The Mishna in Meg (25a) lists parshiyos that are read without any targum
(in the days of Chazal the targum was read to the tzibur along with the
parsha). Chazal took the attitude that if you know enough to understand
the parsha without targum, then you won't be confused by what you are
hearing; if not, there are ideas that may lead you astray, so better to
remain in ignorance. The Mishna says that the parsha of "eigel harishon"
is read with targum; the parsha of "eigel hasheni" is not. Rashi explains
that "eigel harishon" is the entire section that describes the events
of the eigel up until the pasuk of "va'ashlichayhu ba'eish vayeitzei
ha'eigel hazeh." "Eigel hasheni" is Aharon's description of what happened
and what he had done, including that pasuk of "va'ashlichayhu..." Rashi
explains that the pasuk's words can be misinterpreted as implying that
the eigel had some real magical power; therefore, we don't translate.

The gemara asks why the Mishna needs to tell us that we read the first
parsha of eigel harishon with the targum - why would we think not?
Answers the gemara: the whole episode is an embarrassment to Klal Yisrael,
and therefore, one might have thought it better to pass over it with
no further explanation or embellishment. Kah mashma lan that precisely
because it is embarrassing it is read, as those involved want to suffer
that bit of embarrassment so that they can get a kapparah.

The Meshech Chochma makes the clever point that our not extending the
same reasoning to the parsha of eigel hasheni, to Aharon's explanation
of what he had done, proves that Aharon was granted a complete kapparah
without needing the added embarrassment.

Be that as it may, I want to focus on a little comment of R' Ya'akov
Emden. The Yavet"z writes that we see from this gemara that even the
dead are capable of achieving kapparah. Those who worshipped the eigel
are no longer with us, but still, apparently they suffer embarrassment at
having their misdeeds recounted and through that can achieve forgiveness.
(The Rama similarly writes that the reason we say yizkor on Yom Kippur
is because it is a day of kapprah for the dead as well as the living.)

Is this really a proof? My son's rebbe in another context has said over a
mashal from the Sh"lah: someone being prosecuted for a crime cannot say in
his/her defense that the culprit was a bunch of other molecules, but since
then their body has produced new skin, new blood cells, etc. and they
are now a different person. The meforshim ask how the oath administered
in Parshas Nitzavim as part of the bris between Hashem and Klal Yisrael
is binding on future generations - those generations haven't been born
yet and haven't given their consent? The answer is that when we speak
of Klal Yisrael, those future generations are like new blood cells,
new skin cells, etc. - the identity of Klal Yisrael remains constant,
even if the parts undergo change. Here too, the way I understood the
gemara is that the kapparah for the cheit ha'eigel is not something being
given to the dor ha'midbar, who are long gone, but is being given to us,
something we need, because we carry on their identity.

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Message: 8
From: Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer <r...@aishdas.org>
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 13:56:39 -0500
Re: [Avodah] RHS on daas torah on non-halachic issues

Perhaps if your shadchan is R' Chaim Ozer Grodzhenski you need not ask 


On 02/19/2014 12:49 AM, Harry Maryles wrote:
> Interestingly - IIRC RHS's mentor RYBS did not ask anyone whether he 
> should marry his wife.
> HM
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Message: 9
From: David Riceman <drice...@optimum.net>
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 09:31:09 -0500
Re: [Avodah] RHS on daas torah on non-halachic issues

> His basic point is that everything should be asked of a posek 
> including who[m] to marry.

Wow! When I was a kid we thought the difference between Hassidim and
Misnagdim was that we thought rabbis were specialists in halacha and
they thought rebbes knew everything about everything. One of RYBS's
methodologies seems to have been the pervasive halachization of everything
from minhag to hashkafa. I guess the logical conclusion is that the
culture of my youth is soon to disappear.

> The posek can answer only if he knows all the facts. Just having the
> bot [sic] in the shiur is not enough and certainly to know everything
> about the woman Similarly a posek cant decide about rallies against
> Soviet Union without consulting experts RYBS spent an hour talking with
> a professor ecpert in Soviet affairs before backing SSSJ with rallies.

Ma'aseh listor? How could he have known "all the facts" after an hour's 

> RYBS explains that rabbis in the holocaust made wrong decisions 
> because it was a time of hester panim and no one knew the facts.

Did they know they didn't know the facts? How did they pasken?

One of my rebbeim was in the Lodz ghetto during the war.  He said they 
had smuggled shailos to Rabbi Abramowitz in London, and the answers just 
made no sense in the context of life in the ghetto, so they just ignored 

> One should ask only a posek with experience on answering questions.

Did he do followup? Experience is useful only when it has feedback 
coupled in.  How does one evaluate the feedback? Would any Rabbis in the 
group care to comment?

David Riceman

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Message: 10
From: saul newman <newman...@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 09:56:26 -0800
[Avodah] mar'ot hatzov'ot

a blogger queries--- [in re the above topic]

*Here's Ibn Ezra's translation/reading*:
They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from mirrors belonging to
the throngs that thronged at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

As he says: The mirrors belonged to pious women who renounced vanity and
gave up their mirrors and spent their time crowded around the tent of
meeting eager to learn God's will. Their mirrors are valuable because they
represent their owner's renouncement of the physical for the sake of the

*Here's Rashi's translation/reading:*
They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors that
produced the crowds that crowded at the entrance..." (Rashi vocalizes ?????
as a verb)

What Rashi has in mind is a famous Midrash about mirrors in which the women
of Israel took it upon themselves to seduce their worn-out, enslaved
husbands thereby guaranteeing the survival of the Jewish people. In the
Midrash the women don't use the mirrors to make themselves beautiful but to
flirt with their husbands and increase desire. These are the mirrors that
"produced the crowds" that now gather in their myriads outside the Tent of
Meeting. The mirrors are valuable because they represent the ideal and
proper use of sensuality and desire.

Now about their methodology: What came first the reading/translation or the
idea? Are Rashi and Ibn Ezra BASING their views of sensuality on what each
considers the best reading/translation of the verse, or did each of them
approach the verse with a pre-existing idea, and idea they justified by
construing a translation/reading that lent the idea support?
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Message: 11
From: Micha Berger <mi...@aishdas.org>
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 16:02:56 -0500
Re: [Avodah] RHS on daas torah on non-halachic issues

RHS is not speaking of the accuracy of a rav on non-Torah quwestions.
Rather, he speaks of
- going to one's own rav (don't ask a rav who disagrees with you about
  Yom haAtzma'ut about eiruv -- all of halakhah is connected)
- who is of course fallible but you should have a working assumption isn't
- to consult with him about the halachic implications of life's decisions.

RHS holds there is no reshus, and therefore every decision touches on
halachic issues. Whether getting married or whom to vote for.

But (as he says at 69:30 or so) that doesn't mean that even if the
rebbe muvhaq knows the kallah he can say yes or no. It's a discussion,
a consultation, an airing of the issues so that the halachic implications
do not get ignored or misconstrued.

But sometimes it's like a rav hearing from a doctor and the pesaq on
whether or not to pull the plug is yes or no. No one says it's a medical
question, why are you going to the rabbi.

And if the rav doesn't know all the facts (eg never even met the kallah)
he should refrain from voicing an opinion. "We do not believe in daas
Torah like an oracle."

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             A pious Jew is not one who worries about his fellow
mi...@aishdas.org        man's soul and his own stomach; a pious Jew worries
http://www.aishdas.org   about his own soul and his fellow man's stomach.
Fax: (270) 514-1507                       - Rav Yisrael Salanter

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Message: 12
From: Da...@madmax.dreamhost.com, "Riceman <driceman"@optimum.net
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 18:42:34 -0500
Re: [Avodah] RHS on daas torah on non-halachic issues

RET (citing RHS):
> Whom to vote for is a shaila

> However the posek should be one "on the same wavelength" as the 
> questioneer. Obviously a MO Jew should not ask a Meah Shearim rav a 
> daas torah question and vice-versa

How is one to determine whether to be MO or MS without knowing of whom 
to ask the shailah? Surely that's included in the "everything" one 
must ask a posek.

What do political parties look like in RHS's ideal world? Does each 
party maintain a rabbi who paskens that everyone has to vote for them? 
Does each rabbi maintain his personal party?

Is RHS endangering the non-profit status of the shuls of these poskim?

David Riceman

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Message: 13
From: "Kenneth Miller" <kennethgmil...@juno.com>
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2014 03:54:36 GMT
Re: [Avodah] RHS on daas torah on non-halachic issues

R' Eli Turkel wrote:

> RHS has a recent talk in Bet Shemesh on Daas Torah on non-halachic
> issues It is about a 1 hour shiur followed by questions
> http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/807758/Rabbi_H
> ershel_Schachter/Da-as_Torah_-_What_Are_Its_Halachic_Parameters_In_Non
> _Halachic_Issues
> 1) His basic point is that everything should be asked of a posek
> including who to marry.
> Whom to vote for is a shaila

Yes, he did say that those are real questions, and that Torah does have a
say on how one should act in those areas. But he also spoke at length about
the practical difficulty in coming up with a proper psak to such shailos.

The shiur itself was very informative, but I got even more from the
question/answer session at the end. Here are some excerpts, with the
start/end times for each:

1:09:39 - 1:10:12
> People ask me eitzas about shiduchim, I can't tell him yes or no. I
> just bring out points - keep this in mind, keep this in mind. I
> can't make the decision. I don't know him that well, I certainly
> don't know the girl at all. ... Rabanim should refrain from
> expressing positions on issues where they're not [garbled] with all
> the facts. ... If you're not looking at the chicken, you can't
> pasken the shailah. We don't believe in daas Torah like an oracle.

1:11:17 - 1:11:53
> Rav Soloveitchik said after the '67 war, you have to consult the
> generals, and after they tell you the information, then the rabanim
> have to make a decision what the halacha has to say about this. The
> generals are going to make the decisions based on their information
> and their hashkafa. But their hashkafa doesn't necessarily
> correspond to what the Torah has to say. The rabanim *have* what to
> pasken, but they can't pasken without first listening to the facts
> that the generals know. After they get their information, then the
> generals are giving their suggestion what they think is more
> important for Medinas Yisroel> But the rabanim have a *different*
> opinion what's more important for Medinas Yisroel.

1:23:54 - 1:24:53
> It would be a smart idea if they'd stop giving psakim, and they
> should give eitzos. They should bring ideas to the shoel: Keep this
> in mind, keep this in mind. How can they give a psak if they don't
> know all the details of the case? A lot of times *nobody* knows!
> The doctors don't know all the facts either. The doctors have to
> tell the rabbi all the information, and the rabbi gives a psak.
> ... He should give a recommendation. He should say: Keep this in
> mind, keep this in mind. If this comes up, so it's more important
> this than that. How can he give a psak if you're not looking at the
> facts of the case? It's not right, it's k'neged hadin, it's like an
> oracle from the ovdei avoda zara. We don't believe in oracles.

Akiva Miller
New Policy in Virginia
&#34;Loophole&#34; qualifies safe drivers for up to 50% off car insurance...

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Message: 14
From: "Chana Luntz" <Ch...@kolsassoon.org.uk>
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2014 12:42:31 -0000
[Avodah] Nature of the tana'atic machlokus regarding women

On Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 10:24:43AM +0000, I wrote:
: ie it is noteworthy that those tannaim who restricted or prevented women
: from performing mitzvos aseh shehazman grama (Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehuda)
: also had a much more limited definition of what such mitzvos were,
: excluding tephillin and tallis, while those who permitted them to
: perform mitzvos aseh shehazman grama had a more expansive definition.

And RMB replied:

>I agree it is interesting. *Maybe* this is because none of the tannaim
>would feel comfortable promoting a sevara that was too far from mai ama
>devar. Since many women were indeed doing many of the MASG, the plausible
>machloqes was only reshus vs chiyuv, not issur.

I'm afraid this is not correct.  But rather indeed the fundamental machlokus
is issur versus reshus.  

Perhaps to explicate a little further (and partly because I have been
thinking about writing this post ever since the loeg l'rash discussion) let
us set out the fundamental Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yosi machlokus (which should
correctly be described as the Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Meir versus Rabbi Yosi
and Rabbi Shimon machlokus, but for brevity I will just refer to it as Rabbi
Yehuda versus Rabbi Yosi).

The first place to start with this machlokus is a Sifra  (Vayikra perek 2)
where the pasuk says "speak to the sons of Israel and lean [on their
korbanos]" and Rabbi Yehuda there in the Sifra learns out that women may not
[ie are forbidden to] do smicha [lean] on their korbanos, and Rabbi Yosi
learns out that women may (but are not obligated) to lean (nashim somchos
reshus).  This machlokus regarding leaning is brought inter alia in Chagiga

The second place to look is in Rosh Hashana 33a, where this machlokus is
brought to explain the discrepancy between the position of the mishna (that
women may not blow shofar) and a braisa that women may.  And the explanation
given is that the mishna follows Rabbi Yehuda that women may not do smicha,
and the braisa follows the opinion of Rabbi Yosi. It is clear from this that
Rabbi Yosi allows the performance of such mitzvos in the face of a rabbinic
prohibition, as there is a prohibition on otherwise playing the shofar.
Unlike leaning on korbanos, which does not have a practical application
until the beis hamikdash is rebuilt, this machlokus has a practical
implication today, can women blow shofar on Rosh Hashana or have shofar
blown for them by somebody who has already fulfilled his obligation
(assuming no other men there who still need to fulfil their obligation)?  If
you follow Rabbi Yehuda, this cannot be done (and hence all these women's
shofar blowings are assur) and if you follow Rabbi Yosi then it can.  That
is why the majority of the rishonic discussion on this question is centred
on the shofar.

There is also a reference to the machlokus in Chullin 85a, which is mostly
of relevance because a number of the commentators comment there (it is
actually about slaughtering and covering the blood of a safek domesticated
animal safek wild animal on yom tov, and the reference is brought to Rabbi
Yosi's shita as a way of rejecting a challenge based on blowing shofar for a
tumtum, by showing that he is being consistent with his own position that
women may lean and may blow shofar).

There is a further reference in Eruvin 96b.  The key here is a discussion
about a mishna relating to the permissibility of bringing in tephillin on
shabbas which were in danger of being damaged or desecrated via reshus
harabbim by wearing them.  And the gemora demonstrates that there is a
machlokus in that mishna between one Tanna who holds that shabbas is a time
for tephillin, and another tanna who holds that it isn't and then looks for
the tanna who holds that shabbas is a time for tephillin.  In the course of
this discussion it brings the braisa which says that Michal bas Shaul laid
tephillin, and the wife of Yona performed aliya l'regel,  and states that
the Chachamim did not protest.  And it tries to argue that maybe that is the
tanna who holds that shabbas is the time for tephillin, meaning that
tephillin is a positive mitzvah not dependent upon time, and hence Michal
was obligated.  But it refutes that by pointing out that going on aliya
l'regel is definitely a positive mitzvah dependent upon time, so this braisa
must be the opinion of Rabbi Yosi, who holds that women may lean - ie may
perform mitzvos dependent upon time if they want to, thus explaining both
Michal and the wife of Rabbi Yonah.  (The gemora then still needs to find a
tanna who holds that tephillin is not time bound, and they bring another
braisa from which they conclude that Rabbi Yehuda (and Rabbi Meir) hold that
tephillin is obligatory on shabbas, and also that women are obligated in

There are a couple of other gemoras that impact on the question.  One is
various references to women sitting or being in a sukkah, including Queen
Helena on Sukkos 2b (who appears to have done it for the sake of her seven
sons), and another is a reference in Sukkah 42a which says that men are
permitted to pass women a lulav and she can take it and put back into the
water even on shabbas (this being still at the time when they were taking
lulav on shabbas).
But getting back to that gemora in Chagiga 16b: the  gemora there is
actually debating whether or not smicha [for men] requires leaning with full
strength or not, and the positions of Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yosi regarding
women are brought to shed light on this. The gemora then cites the following

"Rabbi Yosi says Abba Elazar told me that once we had a calf of an offering,
and we brought it to the women's courtyard and the women leant on it, not
because leaning is obligatory for women but in order to give "nachas ruach"
to the women.  And if you would think that one needs leaning with all one's
strength because of nachas ruach for the women would we [allow them to do]
work with kodshim?  Rather, derive from this that we do not need with all
one's strength - no, I can say to that we do need with all one's strength,
and they said to them float your hands [ie they told the women not to do
leaning with all their strength, even though that is what the men were
doing]  - if so, [it was not necessary to explain that] it was not because
of leaning for women.  Let him [Rabbi Abba Elazar], explain that they did
not do leaning at all.  Rav Ami said, one and another thing, one, that they
did not do leaning at all and further, it was done to give nachas ruach to
Now in terms of explaining the practicalities of the two shitos, there seem
to be the following positions:

Vis a vis Rabbi Yehuda

a) women are completely forbidden to do mitzvos aseh shehazman grama (Rashi
eg Rosh Hashana 33a, Eruvin 96b) (and while the gemoras in Sukkah are
usually brought as a challenge to Rashi's position, it is possible that he
would answer that if what she is doing is something that is being done for
another reason completely - such as sitting in the sukkah because she is
with her sons (such as in Sukkah 2b), or holding the lulav for a moment
because that is assisting her husband or son (such as Sukkah 42a), that is
OK as it cannot by any stretch be called the performance of a mitzvah).

b) women are only forbidden to do mitzvos aseh shehazman grama when there is
some (however minor) identifiable problem which could be considered to mean
there is a zilzul in mitzvos.  With sukkah and lulav, there is no such
identifiable problem (so long as the women do not make brachos), so there is
no harm.  Everything else there is some problem - such as a shvus d'rabbanan
preventing blowing of musical instruments (hence no shofar), the problem of
working with korbanos (or the appearance of working with korbanos) (hence no
smicha), guf naki (hence no tephilin) etc. (Ra'avid (on Toras Cohanim perek
2:2), Shiltei Giborim Rosh Hashana 9b, Tosphos's explanation of Rabbi Yehuda
(inter alia Eruvin 96b d'h Michal)).

Vis a vis Rabbi Yosi

a) Women can do mitzvos aseh shehazman grama even if it will violate a
rabbinic prohibition (but not a Torah prohibition) (Tosphos various places
eg Chullin 85a);

b) women can do mitzvos aseh shehazman grama even if it will violate a Torah
prohibition and not just a rabbinic prohibition (just like men can - with
men the general principle of aseh doche lo ta'aseh applies) (Ra'avid's
explanation of Rabbi Yosi (2:2 of Toras Kohanim)).

In terms of theory we seem to have at least the following positions:

Vis a vis Rabbi Yehuda

a) the reason that women cannot do mitzvos aseh shehazman grama is because,
given they were not commanded, they are exempt completely and are over on
bal tosif if they do perform such mitzvos (Rashi eg Rosh Hashana 33a) (as
mentioned above, this has been challenged by many rishonim on the basis of
the Sukkah gemoras that allow women to hold lulavim and sit in sukkos, but
presumably Rashi would argue that those cases where there is absolutely no
intent to perform a mitzvah at all, there is no bal tosif.  The more
substantial challenge comes from the definition of bal tosif, which a number
of rishonim, including Tosphos, argue could not apply to this situation, but
presumably Rashi does not agree to this definition);

b) the reason that women cannot do mitzvos aseh shehazman grama is because
since performing them has no intrinsic halachic merit, then any counter
pressure, such as guf naki or a shvus d'rabbanan or other rabbinic
prohibition makes it assur.  For the remaining mitzvos, well there is
nothing advantageous about women performing them rather than doing something
neutral like taking a walk in the park, but there is no harm either (Ra'avid
(on Toras Cohanim perek 2:2), Shiltei Giborim Rosh Hashana 9b, Tosphos's
explanation of Rabbi Yehuda (inter alia Eruvin 96b d'h Michal)). 

Vis a vis Rabbi Yosi

a) women can be permitted to do mitzvos aseh shehazman grama, and even
violate a rabbinic (but not a Torah) prohibition due to the concept of
nachas ruach as mentioned in Chagiga (but not because there is any intrinsic
mitzvah merit in her doing so). This is how the Shaagas Areyeh (in Shut
Shaagas Areyeh Siman 106) understands Tosphos, and certainly it does seem to
be the implication of Tosphos on Chullin 85a who learn the situation with
the story on Chagiga 16b as being that in the end the women in fact floated
their hands over the korban (ie did not perform the mitzvah at all), while
the men leant with all their strength, and then learn directly from this to
women blowing shofar, the implication being that women in performing the
blowing of shofar exactly like the men are doing no more than when not
performing the mitzvah at all by floating their hands. That is, in either
case no real mitzvah is performed, but what is happening is that women are
getting nachas ruach, and that is an important enough principle to push
aside a rabbinic prohibition, but not a Torah prohibition.  The Shaagas
Areyeh thus learns (against the Ravya and the Tur) that while women may blow
the shofar on Rosh Hashana and take a lulav, a shofar or a lulav may not be
taken through reshus harabbim for their needs as this latter violates the
carrying of something "shelo l'tzorech" on yom tov and this is prohibited

b) Women can be permitted to do mitzvos aseh shehazman grama because while
they are not commanded, and "greater is one who is commanded and does from
one that is not commanded and does" [Kiddushin 31a], from that which it says
"greater" we see that one who is not commanded also gets a reward and
therefore it is as if are in the  category of one who is commanded and they
may even bless and we do not say that since they are not commanded how can
they say "vitzivanu" since men are commanded and even they receive reward so
it is fine that they bless (Ran Rosh Hashana 9b).  Rav Moshe in Iggeros
Moshe (Orech Chaim chelek 3 siman 94) rejects the position of the Shaagas
Areyeh based on this Ran and allows the carrying of a shofar or lulav for
women through reshus harabbim, as per the Tur and the Ravya (although Rav
Moshe doesn't fully acknowledge that he and the Shaagas Areyeh are coming
from two different positions on the whole question, and that while the Ran
purports to be explaining Rabbanu Tam, that might not be what Rabbanu Tam
actually held, and even if it is, it might not be where Tosphos is coming
from, but rather perhaps Tosphos are similarly letting women bless because
of nachas ruach d'nashim which would have to be the understanding of the
Shaagas Areyehe).

As the first two are variations of the Rabbanu Tam found in Tosphos, it is
worth exploring this source a bit further, to understand the difficulties.

Working mostly off Eruvin 86b d"h "dilma" (although Rosh Hashana 33a d'h "ha
Rabbi Yehuda" is similar).

Firstly Rabbanu Tam learns from Michal bas Shaul that it is permitted for
women to perform mitzvos aseh shehazman grama and bless:  "from here Rabbi
Tam permits women to bless on each positive mitzvah dependent upon time even
though they are exempt like Michal bat Shaul since mestama that she also
blessed and even though Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehuda disagree like it says
nearby we establish it [the halacha] like Rabbi Yosi" ie despite there being
a stam mishna against Rabbi Yosi, the ma'aseh rav of Michal bas Shaul means
that this is the way we posken.

We then have established the halacha as being that one can push aside a
rabbinic prohibition if women are performing a mitzvah aseh shehazman grama
(just as Rabbi Yosi allowed violation of the shvus of not blowing shofar).

In order to allow blessing, however Tosphos/Rabbanu Tam needs to deal with
the question of "lo tisa".  If, as eg the Rambam holds, making a bracha
sheino tzricha (an unnecessary bracha) is a d'orisa prohibition, then even
Rabbi Yosi, as understood by Tosphos, could not help them.  So part of the
discussion is arguing that the reference to lo tisa on the making of a
bracha sheino tzricha in Brachos 33a is an asmachta b'alma, and hence
rabbinic - thus allowing it to be pushed aside as permitted by Rabbi Yosi.
This part is quite halachically strong as there are lots of other reasons
for saying that the prohibition on makig a bracha sheino tzricha is indeed
rabbinic.  While the other position is tenable, Rav Ovadiah has to go to
extraordinary lengths to deal with numerous problems thrown up by holding,
like the Shulchan Aruch, that lo tisa in this case is d'orisa and in general
the Ashkenazi poskim find many halachos much easier to explain by holding it
as d'rabbanan.

But providing further proof beyond merely the existence of Michal bas Shaul
and the derivation that if she laid tephillin, she surely must have blessed
proves difficult for Rabbanu Tam.  He tries to bring a proof from the
situation with a blind person, but Tosphos ends up concluding that this
proof doesn't work, because a blind person is obligated rabbinically, and
all agree that women are not obligated even rabbinically in mitzvos aseh
shehazman grama.  The Ri tries to bring a proof from women being called up
to the sefer torah and hence presumably blessing, but Rabbanu Tam himself
says that doesn't work, as in the old days only the first and last blessed,
and maybe that is referring to her being called up in the middle.

So what one is left with in Tosphos itself is a Shaagas Areyeh type
understanding that seems to hinge the matter on nachas ruach d'nashim
(although nowhere in Tosphos is this brought specifically in relation to
brachos, only to performing the underlying mitzvah itself, or even not
performing it, but performing a variation that looks like it but doesn't
actually amount to a mitzvah at all).  It thus feels a very shaky basis on
which to justify women making brachos, and those Sephardi poskim opposed
have no difficulty demonstrating these weaknesses.

It is at this point that the Ran steps in and provides argument (b) above.
This is the argument that is then generally quoted by the Beis Yosef in
explaining the Tur's position of allowing brochas (eg Orech Chaim Siman 17)
and is very much the basis for Rav Moshe's argument in Iggeros Moshe Orech
Chaim chelek 3 siman 94.  Rav Moshe clearly understands that there is a
"real" mitzvah occurring here, even a non commanded one, and hence just as
there is a tzorech to carry a shofar for a man, there is for a woman.    (He
does also raise the possibility, which is originally raised and dismissed by
the Shaagas Areyeh, but Rav Moshe holds that the dismissal is inappropriate,
that perhaps nachas ruach d'nashim could be considered a simcha for women,
just as much as going for a walk for a baby and playing ball for children,
and hence a tzorech on yom tov can be found even without needing to resort
to the idea that there is a real mitzvah in the performance of shofar or
lulav, but he doesn't really dwell on it, as his fundamental outlook is that
there is a real mitzvah, and real reward, and hence clearly a tzorech to
transport the shofar or lulav to enable this to happen.)

But what you do get out of this is a twofold position:

i) if a woman performs a mitzvah aseh shehazman grama, there is a real Torah
mitzvah involved with reward, just not as much as a man gets.  However that
does slightly beg the question as to how one should then relate to d'orisas.
The d'orisa prohibition of carrying on yom tov is pushed away by a tzorech,
so it is not a standard interaction.  However the implication from the Ran
etc is that this is still based on Tosphos and hence this non commanded
mitzvah is only strong enough to push aside a rabbinical commandment, and
not a torah prohibition.

ii) even if women cannot perform the mitzvah, because of some d'orisa
prohibition (such as working with kodshim), there is still the concept of
nachas ruach d'nashim which appears to be a sort of rabbinic concept (a bit
like darchei shalom) which is important enough to push aside a rabbinical
prohibition (like looking like one is working with kodshim), and allow women
to do some sort of approximation of the mitzvah.  That is, sensitivity to
women's desires to perform mitzvos, and their "spiritual feelings" when they
do even something vaguely resembling them, is rabbinically built into the
system and a valid and legitimate reason for even pushing aside rabbinic

But that is all originally rooted in Tosphos and Michal bas Shaul.  An
alternative can be found, as mentioned in the Ra'avid's explanation of Rabbi
Yosi on Toras Kohanim, but it is not clear to what extent this source was
known, as it does not appear to be widely discussed.  However it gives you
position (c) in Rabbi Yosi:

c) Women are permitted to do mitzvos aseh shehazman grama because the Torah
gave them reshus to do so - that is the way to correctly darshan Rabbi Yosi
in the Sifra, that this reshus is a Torah granted reshus, making it a form
of mitzvah kiyumus, meaning that doing such mitzvos can even push aside a
Torah prohibition (this is Ra'avid's preferred understanding of Rabbi Yosi
in Toras Kohanim 2:2 although he does bring a Tosphos like alternative)
"because this is what was given in the torah that what for a man is an
obligation for a woman is "reshus" and women are like the men for all
positive commandments dependent on time even though there is in them a
prohibition of the Torah like with techeles of tzitzis for women."  On this
basis presumably women could make brachos on mitzvos aseh shehazman grama
even if you hold, like the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch that making an
unnecessary bracha (a bracha sheaino tzricha) is a torah prohibition, and
not merely rabbinic (as Tosphos holds).  The Ra'avid does not state this
(nor does he need to, because while he explains Rabbi Yosi, he actually
poskens like Rabbi Yehuda).  However this could provide the theoretical
underpinning for the Birchei Yosef (Orech Chaim siman 654 see also Shut
Yosef Ometz Siman 82) who holds that even Sephardi women can make brachos on
mitzvos aseh shehazman grama - although again, he does not say this, relying
solely on a Shut Teshuvos Min Hashamayim siman 1 and saying that if the
Shulchan Aruch has seen the Teshuva Min Hashamayim he would surely have
poskened like that.  Nor does the Sde Chemed in Marechet hamem klal 136 who
follows the Birchei Yosef advance this argument, but merely relies on the
authority of the Birchei Yosef and the widespread nature of the minhag - and
it is not clear that they ever saw this Ra'avid.

The Ra'avid though in order to understand this way has to explain Chaggiga
16b according to Rabbi Yosi (Rabbi Yehuda he explains as simply having
forbad everything, including any floating of hands as this looks like
working with kodshim).   The Ra'avid therefore explains Rabbi Yosi by
understanding that the women that they told to merely "float their hands"
and not do a proper smicha were *not* women who were properly bringing the
korban. The latter women entered into the azarah and did exactly the same
form of leaning with all their strength on the korban as the men did.
Rather the women who were told to float their hands were women who did not
actually have a partnership in the korban, but who had a reason to think
they did - such as married women where the korban was halachically the
husband's.  In such circumstances it gave them nachas ruach to have a
connection to the korban and for this the Chachamim were prepared to take
the korban out to the ezras nashim and allow them to float their hands on
it, but not to do smicha as they really had no stake in this korban and that
would violate a d'orisa of working with korbanos.

So, at least according to Rabbi Yosi as explained by the Ra'avid, the
concept of nachas ruach  that allowed them to float their hands is solely
for women who really have no connection to the specific mitzvah of this
korban at all, but who erroneously feel that they do, and that would seem to
be enough to allow them to float their hands and get the spiritual high of
nachas ruach.  However women can in fact do real mitzvos from the Torah in
relation to mitzvos aseh from which they are exempt, and the basis on which
it can be considered to be a real Torah mitzvah is not so much in relation
to line in the gemora of gadol mitzuveh v'oseh (although that would not
necessarily contradict, because the greater schar can come due to the worry
of having to perform obligatory mitzvos as explained by Tosphos there on
Kiddushin 31a) but due to the very Sifra itself where Rabbi Yosi learns out
reshus, since the term reshus is understood to be a Torah grant of reshus, a
grant of permissibility of fulfilling the mitzvah in its fullness, thereby
allowing the torah principle of aseh doche lo ta'aseh to similarly apply to
such mitzvos.




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