Avodah Mailing List

Volume 36: Number 48

Mon, 23 Apr 2018

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Akiva Miller
Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2018 07:12:36 -0400
[Avodah] Metzora and Zav

Tumas meis and sheretz, for example, are supernatural phenomena. If
someone has been in contact with tumah, and is infected with that
tumah, there is no physical evidence of this infection. We are aware
of the tumah if and only if we know about the events that took place,
and the status of the things in those events.

Both tzaraas and zav are examples of a different sort of tumah. They
have physical symptoms that are easily visible to the untrained eye
(although not everyone is qualified to evaluate those symptoms), so
much so that they can be easily confused with medical illnesses. But
they are spiritual illnesses, not medical ones. And in fact, Torah
Sheb'al Peh is chock full of spiritual reasons why a person would
become a metzora - Lashon Hara being the most famous of these,
miserliness and others being mentioned less frequently.

My question is this: Are there any suggestions why a person would
become a zav? If a person finds that he is a zav, does this indicate
some specific aveira or midah that he needs to work on? Or is it just
another case of, "Oy, look what happened to me; I need to improve
myself in general."

(Please note: This post is NOT an attempt to categorize all the many
kinds of tumah. The first two paragraphs are designed only to show a
similarity between tzaraas and zav, and then to highlight a

Akiva Miller

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Message: 2
From: Toby Katz
Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2018 03:02:03 -0400
Re: [Avodah] R. Yhonason Eybeschutz on Secular Subjects

Re: R. Yhonason Eybeschutz on Secular Subjects
On Tue, 10 Apr 2018 RYL quoted R? Yonasan Eybeshutz:

--quote-- For all the sciences are condiments and are necessary for our
Torah, such as the science of mathematics, which is the science of
measurements and includes the science of numbers, geometry, and algebra and
is very essential for the measurements required in connection with the
Eglah Arufah and the cities of the Levites and the cities of refuge as well
as the Sabbath boundaries of our cities. The science of weights [i.e.,
mechanics] is necessary for the judiciary, to scrutinize in detail whether
scales are used honestly or fraudulently. The science of vision [optics] is
necessary for the Sanhedrin to clarify the deceits perpetrated by
idolatrous priests; furthermore, the need for this science is great in
connection with examining witnesses, who claim they stood at a distance and
saw the scene, to determine whether the arc of vision extends so far
straight or bent. The science of astronomy is a science of the Jews, the
secret of leap years to know the paths of the const
 s and to sanctify the new moon. The science of nature which includes the
 science of medicine in general is very important for distinguishing the
 blood of the Niddah whether it is pure or impure and how much more is it
 necessary when one strikes his fellow man in order to ascertain whether
 the blow was mortal, and if he died whether he died because of it, and for
 what disease one may desecrate the Sabbath. Regarding botany, how great is
 the power of the Sages in connection with kilayim [mixed crops]! Here too
 we may mention zoology, to know which animals may be hybridized; and
 chemistry, which is important in connection with the metals used in the
 tabernacle, etc.
?end quote--

Despite this, it is not necessary for every individual, or even for every
member of the Sanhedrin, to personally study math, geometry, algebra,
physics, optics, astronomy, medicine, botany, zoology and chemistry.? It is
not necessary for all these subjects to be part of the standard yeshiva
high school curriculum.? It is only necessary that there be in the world
mathematicians, zoologists, chemists, doctors, astronomers and so on.? It
is not even necessary that they be Jewish.? It is only necessary that their
expertise be accessible when needed.? It is not uncommon that poskim confer
with physicians, for example, when they need certain medical information in
order to posken shailos in specific situations.? The poskim don?t first
have to go to medical school.?
Yes, all the sciences are necessary for Torah. ?It is necessary that they
exist in the world. ?It is not necessary that any given yeshiva student
take away time from learning Torah in order to pursue other studies.
I would add that we live in an amazing age where there are female
physicists, physicians, astronomers, zoologists and botanists. ?How
fortunate this is, since women do not have the same obligation to learn
Torah day and night that men have! ?There is less need than ever for men to
take time away from Torah study in order to pursue other studies.
If Gemara is the main course while other studies ("tekufos vegimatrios")
are just "parperaos lachochma," I say let the gentlemen eat meat and
potatoes, while the ladies enjoy dessert.
--Toby Katz
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Message: 3
From: Toby Katz
Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2018 03:55:19 -0400
Re: [Avodah] The Vilna Gaon and Secular Studies

In a message dated 4/9/2018 RYL wrote:
? >> ?There was no bigger masmid than the Vilna Gaon who slept only 4
half hours in 24 and spent essentially all of the rest of his time studying
Torah. Yet he found it important to master many secular subjects. The
following are selections from



 R. Abraham Simcha of Amtchislav (d. 1864):

 I heard from my uncle R. Hayyim of Volozhin that the Gaon of Vilna told his son R.
 Abraham that he craved for translations of secular wisdom into Hebrew, including a
 translation of the Greek or Latin Josephus, ?through which he could fathom the plain
 sense of various rabbinic passages in the Talmud and Midrash?.

 By the time the Gaon of Vilna was twelve years old, he mastered the seven branches of
 secular wisdom .... First he turned to mathematics ... then astronomy?.

 R. Israel of Shklov (d. 1839):

 ?. It took place when the Gaon of Vilna celebrated the completion of his
 commentary on Song of Songs. . . . He raised his eyes toward heaven and
 with great devotion began blessing and thanking God for endowing him with
 the ability to comprehend the light of the entire Torah. ?.He indicated
 that he had mastered all the branches of secular wisdom, including
 algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and music. ?.
--end quote--

 To me it seems that the only conclusion one can draw from this is that the study of secular studies is crucial for the learning of Torah.

To me it seems that a few other conclusions can be drawn:
[1] If you are a genius with an IQ of 180 and you only need four hours of
sleep a night, you can master kol haTorah kulah AND also learn all other
branches of knowledge in your spare time.
[2] If you can master the ?seven branches of secular wisdom? before your
bar mitzvah, that?s fabulous!? Because after your bar mitzvah you have to
be mindful of ?vehagisa bo yomam velayla.???But before your bar mitzvah,
you can play ball, roller-skate, and memorize the encyclopedia to your
heart?s content.
[3] Funny you should quote R? Chaim of Volozhin.? The famous Yeshiva of
Volozhin did not include any of these seven branches of wisdom in its
curriculum.? Anyone happen to remember why and when the Yeshiva of Volozhin
closed its doors?
Let me add a passage written by Rabbi Dr. David Berger (who, BTW, was my Jewish history professor for four wonderful semesters in Brooklyn College):
Although various Geonim were favorably inclined toward the study of
philosophy, it is clear that the curriculum of the advanced yeshivot was
devoted to the study of Torah alone?.The private nature of philosophical
instruction in the society at large [early medieval intellectual Islamic
society] made it perfectly natural for Jews to follow the same course; more
important, the curriculum of these venerable institutions [the yeshivot]
went back to pre-Islamic days, and any effort to introduce? a curricular
revolution into their hallowed halls would surely have elicited vigorous
--end quote?
[Above is from R? Berger?s essay ?Judaism and General Culture in Medieval
Times,? in the book *Judaism?s Encounter with Other Cultures* edited by
Jacob J. Schachter.]
Please note these words:? ?the private nature of philosophical
instruction.?? The Vilna Gaon studied secular subjects on his own, as many
yeshiva students have done over the years.
Elsewhere RYL has indicated his desire that the NY govt require chassidishe schools to provide a good secular education to their students.
You don?t have to impose your preferences on others, or get the government involved to force changes in school curricula.
I sent my own kids to normal Orthodox schools where they got a reasonably
decent secular education.? That was my preference.? I never would have sent
them to chassidishe schools.? But I would never lobby the government to
remove from chassidishe parents the option of giving their children the
education they prefer.??
--Toby Katz
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Message: 4
From: Rich, Joel
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2018 08:06:16 +0000
Re: [Avodah] The Vilna Gaon and Secular Studies

To me it seems that a few other conclusions can be drawn:[1] If you are a
genius with an IQ of 180 and you only need four hours of sleep a night, you
can master kol haTorah kulah AND also learn all other branches of knowledge
in your spare time.
IIUC, the Gaon?s theory of limud torah was that there was no such thing as
spare time (any time one does not have to be doing something else must be
spent learning) Thus assumedly he felt time spent on secular studies was
required. Unless one posits that he had a need for ?recreation? which was
study of secular studies or that he really only studied them when Torah
learning of any sort was forbidden.
Joel Rich
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