Avodah Mailing List

Volume 33: Number 86

Tue, 02 Jun 2015

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Zev Sero
Date: Sat, 30 May 2015 23:04:07 -0400
Re: [Avodah] : Another Chumera ends up Involving a Kula

On 05/30/2015 07:03 PM, Chana Luntz via Avodah wrote:
> RZS's assumption is that, so long as everybody agrees that a form of blowing
> is kosher bidieved, then areivus works,

Not just b'deiavad; my understanding is that all of these shitos are kosher
lechatchilah, they're just not the way we do them lemaaseh.  Let's say they're
not mitzva min hamuvchar.    Or "de`avad kemar `avad, ud`avad kemar `avad
but we do kemar".

> But in the case that RZS has outlined, where the people hearing
> only the minority shitos form of shofar blowing would surely want the
> majority position shofar blowing if they could get it,

We're talking about people who have no particular desire to hear shofar
at all, or they'd have done so.  They didn't bother going to shul on Rosh
Hashana, so they're probably not even aware that there are different
shitos in how to blow shofar, let alone have a preferred shitah.  Anything
that is motzi them in the mitzvah is an improvement over what they would
do otherwise, and is a benefit for them.   And we're talking about potential
blowers who currently don't go out and do this, they don't spend their
precious Rosh Hashana hours bringing this zechus to fellow Jews who did not
come themselves to hear shofar.   So what I'm proposing is a win-win.  They
get to hear the obscure shitos they want to hear, and the people they're
blowing for get the basic mitzvah as the Torah commanded it.

Zev Sero               I have a right to stand on my own defence, if you
z...@sero.name          intend to commit felony...if a robber meets me in
                        the street and commands me to surrender my purse,
                        I have a right to kill him without asking questions
                                               -- John Adams

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Message: 2
From: H Lampel
Date: Sat, 30 May 2015 23:22:53 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Rav Elchanan Wasserman & Why People Sin

I wrote:
>   But as is occasionally the case,
> R. MB disagrees with me, even when I attempt to defend him

I should have put a smiley after that sentence, or maybe even explicated 
that it was meant as a humorous observation of irony. It meant to imply  
that RMB is interested in emmess and does not make it a personal issue.

Zvi Lampel

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Message: 3
From: Marty Bluke
Date: Sun, 31 May 2015 11:08:07 +0300
Re: [Avodah] MB vs AH

R' Eli Turkel wrote:
"Indeed in Europe before WWII the MB was not the "final" arbiter of
halacha. Much changed when CI wrote in a letter that the MB has the halacha
of a sanhedrin and one can't disagree with its conclusions."

I believe it happened even a little later then that. RHS who grew up in the
1950s stated many times in shiur that when he learned halacha in the 1950s
no one learned Mishna Berura, people either learned Chayei Adam or they
learned Shulchan Aruch with Magen Avraham and the Taz. If you look at the
European gedolim who came to America like R' Moshe, R' Ruderman, etc. even
after WWII they almost never quoted the Mishna Berura.

From what I understand R' Aharon Kotler was very influential in America in
promoting learning Mishna Berura.
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Message: 4
From: Marty Bluke
Date: Sun, 31 May 2015 10:59:58 +0300
Re: [Avodah] More on Who Wrote the Mishna Brura

RHS has said many times in his shiurim that the MB was not written alone by
the Chofetz Chaim and that is why there are sometimes contradictions.
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Message: 5
From: Prof. Levine
Date: Sun, 31 May 2015 13:20:38 -0400
[Avodah] Texualism and the Mishnah Berurah by R. Micha Berger

 From http://www.aishdas.org/asp/texualism-and-the-mishnah-berurah

The author  [of the Mishnah Brurah,  the Chofetz 
Chaim] is clear: the purpose of the book was not 
to provide his own ruling, but to survey the 
later posqim who have added complexity to the 
field so that someone looking to reach a decision 
knows who wrote on the matter.

Yes, the CC (or his son or other students who 
worked with him) often gave his own opinion, 
including our ?ba?al nefesh yachmir?, but it is 
unclear to me he intended that opinion to be a 
pragmatic ruling rather than a theoretical 
statement. This would explain why the Mishnah 
Berurah?s rulings diverge from accepted practice 
so much more often than the Arukh haShulchan (a 
contemporary work from the same region). Halakhah 
lemaaseh, pragmatic rulings, need to take such 
precedent and continuity into account; discussions of textual theory do not.

As further evidence that the Mishnah Berurah was 
not intended to be a practical law guide, we have 
a lot of testimony that shows that its own author 
often followed the common Lithuanian practice 
over his own ?ruling?. Despite the origin of 
wearing one?s tzitzis strings out being in the 
MB, the CC did not. His qiddush cup doesn?t hold 
as much wine as the MB would require. (It is 
still in the hands of the Zaks family and has 
been checked repeatedly.) He advocated for 
building city eiruvin for carrying on Shabbos 
despite BH 364 ?ve?achar?. The Chafeitz Chaim did 
not say ?Berikh Shemeih? when taking out the 

I am suggesting that the CC?s textualist and 
formal stance in the MB is simply because the MB 
was a book for studying texts. And he did not 
intend to deemphasize mimetic tradition (the flow 
of practice transmitted culturally).

This shift happened when the Chazon Ish in Israel 
and a number of American rashei yeshiva (such as 
R? Aharon Kotler) promoted the idea of using the 
Mishnah Berurah as a poseiq acharon.

See the above URL for more.  YL

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Message: 6
From: Eli Turkel
Date: Tue, 2 Jun 2015 10:25:05 +0300
[Avodah] Rav Elchanan Wasserman & Why People Sin

<<REW says that he really doesn't believe, but he had to work against
the natural state of seeing a world that shows obvious signs of a Designer.
Someone can truly and honestly convince himself, or be convinced by
others (including upbringing) that a poem really could emerge by
someone spilling ink. But that's not what people would conclude if we
lacked a strong desire to conclude that way -- the "shochad" of freedom
if ein din ve'ein Dayan.>>

I have a book "The Goldilocks Enigma" by Paul Davies (cosmolgist) on why is
the universe just right for life. Most of the book is to show how unlikely
it is that the universe has exactly the right properties for existence.
The second part is a discussion as to why this happened. He goes through
all the theories including the watchmaker etc. One possibility is a
"creator" . He adnits that it is logically consistent but finds iy highly
unlikely. His own preference is for the multi-verse.

The idea is not whether you agree with him or not. Rather here is an
intelligent human who has thought deeply about these problems and does not
see any obvious signs of a designer. I would venture that that is the
opinion of most physicists and certainly biologists.
What you consider obvious he considers very unlikely. Again we come to the
point that REW claims that anyone who really thinks about the problem and
comes up with a different answer than he does simply has an ulterior motive.

Eli Turkel
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Message: 7
From: Micha Berger
Date: Tue, 2 Jun 2015 06:08:30 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Rav Elchanan Wasserman & Why People Sin

On Tue, Jun 02, 2015 at 10:25:05AM +0300, Eli Turkel via Avodah wrote:
: The idea is not whether you agree with him or not. Rather here is an
: intelligent human who has thought deeply about these problems and does not
: see any obvious signs of a designer. I would venture that that is the
: opinion of most physicists and certainly biologists.

REW would say that he found it obvious that the world was created,
something deep inside (to add my own 2c: of which he is likely unaware)
didn't want to live in a world with a Creator, so he thought deeply
about these problems until he could find an alternative.

(For what it's worth, I think most physicists believe in G-d.)

As you put it:
: What you consider obvious he considers very unlikely. Again we come to the
: point that REW claims that anyone who really thinks about the problem and
: comes up with a different answer than he does simply has an ulterior motive.

But that doesn't make the person any less convinced.

For that matter, the believer also likely has an unlterior motive. (I
said that, I doubt REW would. I am just saying it wouldn't rob him of
his point.) REW is asserting that before you even get to bias, the
obvious position is ours. Their atheism is the one that takes work,
because it's explaining away the obvious.

After all, there is no a priori, obvious-as-a-postulate version of
the Anthropic Principle or other such atheistic explanations of the
universe's design. No equivalent to REW's not attributing a poem to
spilled ink or R' Aqiva's insisting that a garment or bread testify
to their makers.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             Friendship is like stone. A stone has no value,
mi...@aishdas.org        but by rubbing one stone against another,
http://www.aishdas.org   sparks of fire emerge. 
Fax: (270) 514-1507                  - Rav Mordechai of Lechovitz

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Message: 8
From: Micha Berger
Date: Tue, 2 Jun 2015 11:40:26 -0400
Re: [Avodah] [Areivim] women making a zimun

Bringing this thread to where this belongs.

On Tue, Jun 02, 2015 at 08:56:59AM -0400, Sholom Simon via Areivim wrote:

:> There was no family or community prior to the 20th century in
:> which girls  or women bentshed with a zimun.

: I always wondered about that vis-a-vis the following:

: The SA"HaRav (written by somebody who was certainly not a feminist)
: at 199:6 writes that three women who are eating together (provided
: there are less than 10 men) are permitted to break away and make
: their own zimmun.  (l'chelek l'zimun l'atzman).
: What I've always wondered about was: is he writing entirely
: theoretically, or was there a practice among some which led him to
: clarify this issue?

: Thoughts?

: -- Sholom

The SA haRav <http:
says that they must participate when 3 men make a zimun. If there are
three women, no minyan of men, and want to separate off to make their
own zimun, hareshus beyadam.

Then he takes on the case of three women who are eating without men,
again "hareshus beyadam" to make a zimun. (Similarly avadim, but not a
mix of women and avadim because we we assume avadim are capable of

Given that the part about avadim couldn't have been a practice in the
Baal haTanya's day, I wouldn't assume his mention of zimun for women
makes any such implication.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             Weeds are flowers too
mi...@aishdas.org        once you get to know them.
http://www.aishdas.org          - Eeyore ("Winnie-the-Pooh" by AA Milne)
Fax: (270) 514-1507

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Message: 9
From: Micha Berger
Date: Tue, 2 Jun 2015 11:49:24 -0400
[Avodah] Modah Ani

On Tue, Jun 02, 2015 at 12:14:11PM +0000, Kenneth Miller via Areivim wrote:
: R' Micha Berger wrote:
:> ... When I told them that traditionally we held that they're
:> probably yotz'ot with saying Modah Ani once a day, ...

: I noticed your very deliberate spelling here, and I can't help but
: wonder: Was there any family or community prior to the late 20th century
: in which girls or women said "modAh ani"?

Talmidei haGra.

The Siddur haGra also mentions "shelo asani nakhriah" (the Gra had
"nakhri" for men) and "shelo asani shifcha".

Speaking of new minhagim: Modeh Ani is likely the youngest prayer in
most siddurim, even younger than Lekha Dodi. It exists to compensate
moving "Elokai Neshamah" out of that spot. (Asher Yatzar doesn't open
"barukh" because it's a berakhah hasemukhah lechaverta with haMapil
-- one before sleep one after. When we moved it, many (including the
Gra), made it semuchah to Asher Yazar -- thanking the Creator for
both body and soul.)

Which is why I find it unwarranted to treat its matbeia as unchangable
even in the face of simply reconjugating.

But in any case, I'm in favor of most changes that give one pause to
think about what they're saying or doing.

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: 10
From: Micha Berger
Date: Tue, 2 Jun 2015 12:16:33 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Rav Elchanan Wasserman & Why People Sin

On Fri, May 29, 2015 at 05:04:31PM -0400, H Lampel via Avodah wrote:
:> There is here an actually a reference to a formal proof. The Rambam 
:> recaps a point made in 2:19-20.
: In 2:19-20 Rambam makes no reference to each component or entity in 
: nature providing a benefit for another, and certainly does not use that 
: there as a proof for Creation ex nihilo...

2:20 marks the end of an Argument from Design, which is what I was
referring to. As it opens: "According to Aristotle, none of the products
of Nature are due to chance. His proof is this: That which is due to
chance does not reappear constantly nor frequently, but all products of
Nature reappear either constantly or at least frequently..."

This is a formal argument, unlike R' Aqiva's or REW's own appeal
to the obviousness of a design and thus Designer.

I am saying that 3:15, when it mentions in passing the bit that

:: And know that one of the strongest proofs for Creation ex nihilo, //for 
:: //one who ismodeh al ha-ememmes// ...
:: is his confirming the fact that every one of all natural entities
:: serves a specific purpose, with each one benefiting still another;
:: and that this fact is a proof for the purposeful intent of an
:: [I]ntender....

This is reference to people being willing to accept a proven point,
and not accepting something as true because of a justification
system other than proof.

RZL, continued:
: He explicitly describes this /modeh al ha-emmess/ statement /as a 
: tangential interruption/: After that statement, he says, "I will now 
: return to the subject of this chapter, viz., the ultimate cause [i.e. 
: the purpose behind the universe being as it is--ZL]."

: My point was that we nevertheless see that the Rambam recognizes that 
: there is another approach to verifying truth, namely that which follows 
: the non-formal mindset of those who are /modeh al ha-emmess/...

Agreed it's tangential, which is why I doubt that if the Rambam did want
to say something that signficant, this would be its only mention.

But I don't think it makes the point you're making because the Rambam
already made design the topic of a formal proof. So the current mention
of design in this aside is talking about a proof, not another verification

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 Life is complex.
mi...@aishdas.org                Decisions are complex.
http://www.aishdas.org               The Torah is complex.
Fax: (270) 514-1507                                - R' Binyamin Hecht

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Message: 11
From: Ben Waxman
Date: Tue, 02 Jun 2015 22:24:55 +0200
Re: [Avodah] More on Who Wrote the Mishna Brura

That a text written such a short time ago could have questions about it 
authorship really nails down how hard it is to have definitive knowledge 
of the past.


On 5/31/2015 9:59 AM, Marty Bluke via Avodah wrote:
> RHS has said many times in his shiurim that the MB was not written 
> alone by the Chofetz Chaim and that is why there are sometimes 
> contradictions.

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Message: 12
From: Micha Berger
Date: Tue, 2 Jun 2015 16:27:00 -0400
[Avodah] Fwd: Torat Chaim VeAhavat Chesed

R/Dr Alan Brill recently carried this essay by comparatively new chaver,
R' Ysoscher Katz.

I am sharing here the essay in full (see <http://j.mp/1Q4upd4> or
for R/D AB's biographical introduction) for two reeasons -- or one
two-part reason:
1- I think this post could start a nice discussion of the fundamentals
of each of our hashkafos; and
2- Comments are blocked on the post, so it's not like I am stealing a
conversation that ought to happen there.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             If you won't be better tomorrow
mi...@aishdas.org        than you were today,
http://www.aishdas.org   then what need do you have for tomorrow?
Fax: (270) 514-1507              - Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

   Torat Chaim Ve'Ahavat Chesed
   Ysoscher Katz

   I was raised in the chassidic community of Satmar. I should make it
   clear from the outset: I am modern but not Orthodox. Do not get me
   wrong, I am observant and my practice is orthodox but that is not who
   I am. In other words, I am orthodox-my practice is halakhic and my
   belief orthodox-but Orthodoxy is not me. It is not an integral part of
   my identity. My orthodoxy is merely a means towards a religious end.
   Keeping halakha and accepting orthodox faith-claims provides me
   with the infrastructure which allows my soul to strive and pursue
   perfection. Orthodoxy enables me to be who I really am: a Modern
   Chassidish Jew.

   As I mentioned, my identity is comprised of two parts, Modern and
   Chassidish. I inherited these identity markers from my parents, the
   modernity from my mother and the chassidut from my father. Here,
   I mean real Chassidic, and not Neo-Chassidic. How my chassidic,
   homemaking and sheitel-wearing mom made me modern is a conversation
   for another time. At the moment I wish to focus on my dad.

   My father is the most non-chassidish Chassid. He does not study
   "chassidus," nor does he want to "understand" it. The few times I
   tried to explain to him Moshe Idel's distinction between theosophy and
   theurgy, his eyes glazed over. Chassidut is what he does, not what
   he learns. From his perspective, Torah is for learning, chassidut
   for practicing.

   His aversion is not limited to the study of academic mysticism. He also
   stays away from traditional kabbalistic or chassidic texts. He never
   studied the Zohar nor did he ever read any of the Arizal's writings.
   Not only would he not read them, he also would not touch them. He
   is so intimidated by their sacredness; he fears that his touch would
   contaminate them. Yet, despite never having formally studied chassidic
   texts, he still is the quintessential chasid. Chassidut is his essence,
   part of his religious DNA, but it is a chassidut that is behavioral,
   not intellectual. Chassidut is how he lives his life. It is the
   prism through which he encounters the world and the ethos by which
   he lives by.

   He adores his wife, loves his children, cherishes his community and
   reveres and respects his neighbors and fellow human beings, Jew and
   non-Jew alike. While this practice is not special, many people love
   their family and surroundings, its flavor is unique. It is Chassidic
   love, deriving its passion from the Chassidic teachings he has absorbed
   throughout his life. These teachings have filled his being with a deep
   religiosity, which, in turn, infuses his actions and emotions with
   a deep and robust spirituality. His love of humanity is, therefore,
   a love that is sensualized by its spiritualized valance.

   Chassidut does not just spiritualize my father's interpersonal
   relationships, it also enhances his religious practices, particularly
   the yearly calendar. Chassidut allows him to infuse the annual cycle
   with a sensuous spirituality.

   Satmar is a Hungarian/Romanian Chassidut (The broad strokes difference
   between Hungarian Chassidut and the Polish and Russian versions is
   that the latter were intellectually inclined while the former was not.
   Hungarian Chassidut was predominantly behavioral. This is, of course,
   a generalization; the nuances are far more complex but outside the
   parameters of this presentation.)

   Hungarian Chassidim are nourished by an elaborate "sacred calendar."
   They have more days of note than the conventional Jewish calendar,
   and their holidays tend to be richer than your typical modern Jews'
   chag experience. A Satmar Chasid's year is thus replete with days of
   deep joy and periods of intense reflection. While the Jewish calendar
   has several biblical holidays and two Rabbinic ones, the Chasid's
   calendar records additional dates of importance.

   Every winter, the Hungarian Chasid has six to eight weeks of
   "shovavim," a period that usually falls sometime between Chanukah and
   Purim, which is dedicated to repentance and introspection, largely
   focusing on sexual impropriety; the days of awe continue through the
   end of Chanukah, the potential for repentance lasts for them for two
   more months; Purim celebrations begin three days earlier than usual;
   and (a modicum of) Pesach extends all the way to Shavuot (based on
   Nachmanides' notion that the interim weeks between Pesach and Shavuot
   are somewhat akin to a chol ha'moed of Pesach). Combined these add
   up to a significant number of additional days of awe and periods
   of celebration.

   Qualitatively, chassidic holidays are different as well. Although
   many things distinguish a chassidic chag, there is one distinction
   that is particularly noticeable to the keen observer: chassidic
   religious celebrations are comprised of a dissonant blend of joy
   and contemplation.

   Here are some examples:

   Shabbat in Satmar is an incredibly meaningful day, bookended by
   powerful contradictory modes. Friday night is a time of joy, where the
   spiritually and mystically rich Lecha Dodi chant inspires celebration
   of the metaphysical significance of the day.

   While this spirit carries through most of the Shabbat, towards the end
   of the Shabbat the Satmar Chasid shifts gears, switching modes from
   the celebratory to the reflective. This transition occurs in a much
   starker manner than it does in most other communities. A Satmar Shabbat
   never ends at "shekiah." Sehudah shlishit is always a two hour affair,
   spent singing and listening to the Rebbe's dvar torah. Speaking in
   highly evocative tones, he expounds on the weekly reading, spending
   close to an hour challenging and rebuking his followers.

   Growing up, this is exactly what Shabbat looked like for me. My
   dad's Shabbat was intense and complex. While the day began upbeat,
   it gradually shifted into the contemplative.

   But, my father's Shabbat, like his chassidut, is adamantly
   experiential, text and study play a minor role in the development of
   his religious persona.

   Kegavna (a section from the Zohar which Chassidim recite during Friday
   night prayers), is one of the most powerful kabbalistic liturgical
   texts. Utilizing the connection between Shabbat and the number seven,
   a prominent kabbalistic trope, it succinctly articulates the mystical
   value of Shabbat. It emphasizes that Shabbat is a day of heightened
   divine intimacy and advanced mystical union. I have begged my dad on
   many occasions to read this Zohar text with me. He refused each time.
   Sacred mystical texts are for the elite. The lay receive their
   nourishment residually, from the spiritualized environment created
   by those qualified to access those recondite sources.

   While he will not study Kegavna, he does recite it every Friday night
   as part of the Kabbalat Shabbat service. Notwithstanding that he does
   not fully grasp its meaning, he reads it with the pathos and passion
   it deserves. Kegavna's power for him is metaphysical, not intellectual.

   Purim provides another example of the intensity of Hungarian chassidic
   practice. Many Jews celebrate Purim, but not the chassidic Purim. The
   chassidic Purim is unique in its richness and multiplicity. Communally,
   preparations for the holiday start early. More than a week before
   Purim, one can already detect the arrival of the holiday, both, in
   the discourse of the scholars and activities of the laity. The learned
   discourse focuses on the legal and spiritual aspects of the chag, while
   the public sphere is filled with people making arrangements for every
   aspect of the day. When Purim finally arrives, it takes on a distinct
   theological flavor. Appropriating the Zoharic notion that Purim is
   analogous to Yom Kippur (Yom Kippurim), Satmar Chassidim created a
   unique Purim blend that is both frivolous and somber. This day of
   festivity is overlaid with practices of repentance and reflection.

   While I am nourished by my dad's behavioral Chassidut, personally it
   is not enough. Behavioral Chassidut gladdens my heart but does not
   stimulate my mind nor sufficiently satisfy my soul. I personally seek a
   religiosity which nourishes both pillars of my being, the mind and the
   heart. My personal journey is, therefore, informed by a combination
   of my father's passion and the academic's sophistication. Chassidus
   resonates with both of them, sometimes simultaneously, when the
   intellectual engagement and behavioral spiritual encounter complement
   one another, and sometimes separately, when I religiously shift back
   and forth between the intellectual and the experiential.

   Ultimately, the attraction to Chassidut is the fact that it can operate
   in different modes at different times, in the process offering up a
   variety of mechanisms to help spiritualize my life.

   It is precisely this multifacetedness which convinces me that Chassidut
   is the proper theology for us moderns. Its theology is perfectly
   situated to offer meaning and spirituality to the contemporary modern
   seeker. I feel strongly that it is our only hope. Chassidut today is
   not a luxury, it is a necessity. If the Torah-u'Madda project is to
   succeed Chassidut needs to become an integral part of its curriculum.

   Chassidut is of course a vast discipline, teaching all of it would be
   a daunting task. For the moment there are three aspects of chassidic
   theology that stand out as particularly suited for the world we live
   in today.

   1) Truth. We live in a post-modern world where objective truth is
   rejected and absolute claims are frowned upon. I would go as far as to
   say that rationalism (in the general and colloquial sense) as a source
   for Emunah is bankrupt, it increasingly speaks to fewer people. It,
   therefore, behooves us to come up with alternative models. Chassidut
   could very well be that alternative model.

   Facts and empirical truth is not Chassidut's primary currency. While
   it does a priori accept the biblical theological faith statements, its
   goal is not to argue or prove the scientific veracity of the Bible's
   claims. Truth is not of primary concern for these thinkers. Chassidic
   theology has two main features. It is a-rational and a-historical. It
   is apathetic about Jewish historicity as a proactive theological
   stance. The Torah for Chassidim is there to teach us how to live life
   and serve God, the narrative qua narrative (the origin story) is mere
   background music. The narration parts of the Torah are, therefore,
   not of much theological significance to them, they are a-historical

   However, during those rare occasions when they do pay attention to the
   biblical "stories," their orientation is a-rational. They absolutely
   "believe" those stories, but their belief is internal: it is true
   because it happened in the Torah. That is where these events transpire
   and that is where these stories matter. Asking about their historicity
   is, as far as they are concerned, foolish and missing the point.

   At the same time, to the extent that the biblical narratives have
   religious and theological significance, they read those stories through
   the Rabbinic lens. So, for example, while Moshe's historicity is not
   historically relevant to them, his persona carries theological and
   ethical significance.

   The same is true for God's attributes. Chassidim are, by choice,
   apathetic about God as a scientific reality, his attributes and
   characteristics, however, are theologically highly significant to them.
   For that they did turn to the Bible, but the encounter with the Torah
   is filtered through Chazal.

   They see Chazal as essential to the understanding of the Torah. As
   believers in immanence they actually see the Sages as much more
   integral to the experience of the written Torah than the rationalists
   did. They did not think that the presence at Sinai (mamad har Sinai)
   ended at the giving of the Torah (mattan Torah). For them the Torah is
   perpetually and continuously revealed. The modern reader of chassidic
   texts would, therefore, not have to decide whether they scientifically
   accept these postulates in order to engage with them.

   Chassidut's goal is instead to describe an immanence which provides
   spiritual and emotional transcendence. Chassidut (informed, of
   course, by kabbalah) promotes a sophisticated immanence which results
   in a dramatic shift in Judaism's orientation towards God and His
   commandments. Prior to the emergence of chassidut on the historic
   scene, theology was convincing and Jewish observance was rewarding.
   Chassidut changed that. Chassidic theology offered meaning and
   kabbalistic observance provided sanctity.

   Personally, my rejection of the Maimonidean ethos and realization of
   the degree to which chassidut can speak to the modern searcher was a
   long and arduous process. It came about as a result of a deep sense
   of betrayal by Maimonides, the champion of Rationalist Judaism. I for
   many years was the object and fool of Maimonides "the seventh reason"
   as presented in his introduction to the Guide by not seeing his
   philosophic views. In that passage, Maimonides condones misleading
   the masses for their greater good, even to the point of advocating
   contradictory ideas for different audiences and then obscuring those

   Growing up in Satmar and then Brisk, I was oblivious to his
   non-halakhic writings and led to believe that he fully and literally
   believed every word he wrote in the Yad. I was exposed to his other
   writings only later and when I did I felt cheated. I was part of
   that the masses, whom he thought could not handle his unconventional
   approach to theology and tradition. As much as I have read about him,
   I personally have not managed to reconcile his two sides. I do not find
   Prof. Isidore Twersky's harmonizing approach compelling or convincing.

   Realizing what a fool I was led me on a tortuous and circuitous search.
   As the Rabbis say about Yisro, ????? ??? ?? ??????; I explored all
   the options. I finally found the answer in kabbalah and chassidut,
   they speak a language which resonates with our current reality. They
   emphasize that which contemporary Judaism needs.

   The emphasis in chassidut on meaning and sacredness, are perfectly
   suited for our community. These are exactly the things our culture
   needs more of; holiness and meaning. This emphasis in Chassidut on
   immanence also generates a move towards spiritualization.

   2) Spiritualization. As scholars have pointed out, chassidic teachings
   contain elements of spiritual psychology. They provide us with a
   language which helps us infuse our lives with meaning. One can point
   to many examples where this psychological spiritualization occurs in
   chassidut, I will mention two of them.

   Everybody sometimes has a bad hair day, when we wake up feeling less
   than optimal. Chassidut has a term to describe that mood; it calls
   it mochen de'katnus. While it technically means the same as a "bad
   hair day," the language is mystical. Mochen de'katnus describes a
   less than stellar spiritual state, a low energy level which does not
   allow us to engage in the usual religious pursuits we crave to pursue.

   Another example is Kabbalah's elaborate taxonomy of love and awe:
   Kabbalah and Chassidut talks about superior and inferior love (ahavah
   ela'e'e and ahavah tata'a) or superior and inferior awe (yirah ela'e'e
   and yira tata'a)While these terms primarily describe nuanced stages in
   our engagement with the Divine, they have traditionally been imported
   into the colloquial arena. They are used to describe varied emotional
   states which we experience in our interactions with our friends and
   loved ones.

   Contemporary life does not provide us with that many opportunities
   for encountering the Divine in our daily lives. Chassidut allows us to
   bring God in. Sprinkling our conversations with mystical and Chassidic
   terminology allows us to spiritualize our daily routines and infuse
   our mundane pursuits with meaning and spiritual significance.

   Besides enriching our personal encounters, adopting a chassidic ethos
   could also enhance our communal experiences.

   3) Social Change. One of the most pressing tensions in the community
   is how to reconcile our values with our convictions; what to do
   when halakha points us in one direction and our values in another
   direction. We are tempted to follow our values but pulled to abide by
   our halakhic commitments. A proper resolution requires an emboldened
   stance towards tradition, one that allows us to cajole the tradition
   to reconcile itself with our modern sensibilities. [Using, of course,
   legitimate halakhic mechanisms developed by our predecessors when
   they were confronted with similar challenges.]

   Our values are so emboldened because they derive their power from
   Chaissdut. A chassidic life is a spiritualized life which infuses our
   values with powerful theological significance, and it allows us to
   aggressively challenge the tradition to reevaluate its assumptions
   and attempt to accommodate itself-when halakhically possible- to a
   changed modern reality.

   Chassidut is very explicit about the value of religious aggression. The
   following two quotes are often encountered in chassidic writings,
   "even a thief says a prayer before he breaks in to his victim's home"
   (quoted on the margin of Brachot 63A, from the Frankfurt manuscript),
   and "an aggressive stance towards the Divine bears results" (Sanhedrin
   105A). While the provenance of these texts is Talmudic, they take on
   significant prominence in Chassidic theology. They become the impetus
   for an aggressive theology which is informed by a religiosity that
   sees itself driven by a Divine immanence which infuses our values and
   ethical intuitions with spiritual resonance, subsequently leading to
   radical societal change.

   Such change is actually an integral part of Chassidic social history.
   When one looks at recent major changes in traditional Jewish society
   it is hard not to notice that the forerunners were often Chassidim. The
   last sixty years have seen far reaching social and political change.

   The two most dramatic changes that have happened is that Jews are now
   sovereign and women have made significant progress in their pursuit of
   religious equality. The pioneers of both these changes were driven, at
   least in part, by a chassidic ethos. R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson,
   the Rebbi of Lubavitch, was one of the first orthodox scholars to
   champion female Talmud scholarship, while R. Avraham Yitzchak Kook,
   a serious student of Chassidut, was an outspoken early proponent of
   a Zionist state.

   There is no doubt that their chassidic worldview, at least partially,
   informed their proactive stances towards these changes. Their adherence
   to a spiritualized religiosity allowed them to explore new religious
   vistas. Their unique theological outlook changed the religious and
   legal equation for them, simultaneously making their decisions more
   complex, but also more progressive. Their spiritualized worldview
   allowed them to see divinity in the ostensibly secular state or the
   seemingly illegitimate request of women for greater equality.

   Granted, this hybrid of chassidic spiritualization and robust religious
   creativity would be a 21^st century concoction, traditionally, these
   two do not go together. Chassidism, for the most part, frowns on
   change and rejects innovation. As a matter of fact, nineteenth century
   Hungarian Chassidim were vociferously opposed to any accommodations
   to modernity. Further, the contemporary thinker is not going to
   intuitively embrace spiritualized non-rational thought. It is,
   nevertheless, a match pregnant with immense potential and could go
   a long way towards reviving a dormant Modern Orthodoxy.

   Contemporary Modern Orthodoxy is struggling; a significant number
   of its adherents are abandoning yiddishkeit and many who stay
   no longer find it meaningful; inertia has set in. I suspect that
   Modern Orthodoxy's rationalist ethos is partially to blame. Current
   Modern Orthodox theology is Litvish and hyper-Maimonidean, it lacks
   a native spiritual core, and does not satisfy people's search for
   meaning. We are due for a change. Chassidus could be that change
   agent. I strongly believe that a chassidic theology combined with a
   sophisticated modern overlay could be the elixir for the dispassion and
   disinterest that ails our community. It will provide our community what
   it so desperately needs: a torat chaim ve'ahavt chesed; a Torah that
   stimulates our minds but at the same time also gladdens our neshamah.


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