Avodah Mailing List

Volume 02 : Number 052

Saturday, November 14 1998

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 15:34:56 -0600 (CST)
From: Cheryl Maryles <C-Maryles@neiu.edu>
Re: your mail

On Fri, 13 Nov 1998, Eli Turkel wrote:
> You should defintely NOT emulate this! Without any discussion of whether
> Abraham was right or not this was done by G-d's decree.
> I would hate to see modern people throw out bad influences from their
> home and say that they are emulating the avot.
What should we do with these bad influences---learn from them, what are
you trying to say here because at face value it makes little sense
(although this would shed new light on the T.V. debate :)
> Similarly, it is a preversion to say we can throw out the Arabs because
> of how Joshua conquered the land.
Not because of Joshua, but becuae of the first Rashi in Chumash, the
problem is that it's impractical at this point in history, but why can't
we learn this to be an ideal (unless they live with us according to the
Halachos of ger toshav.)
Elie Ginsparg

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Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 19:09:37 +0000
From: Chana/Heather Luntz <Chana/Heather@luntz.demon.co.uk>
Critique of the Lesson from Yeshaya

I'm afraid I have been busy, and hence not able to respond on this
thread all week, although  I have wanted to.  Because the thing that has
been bothering me is not what appears to be bothering everybody else
(sigh, somebody on scj years ago insisted I always came at everthing at
a slightly different take from everybody else).

What bothers me is not the question of parshanut (in either direction),
although like R'Carmy, I confess I find a lot of modern parshanut, well
not very inspiring (but then, I personally would much rather settle down
with a gemorra or some shutim) but the rule derived from TDBER and
Yeshaya regarding the Avos.

In particular this is what worries me:

In message , Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer
<sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu> writes
>> >> I would like to note, that according to the Radak, I can add one source
>> >> FROM TANACH ITSELF! Yeshaya says (51:2): "Look to Avrohom your forefather
>> >> and  to Soroh who bore you..." The Radak there says we are to emulate the
>> >> Avos. A nice source for that "obscure Chazal" (double sic) in TDBER.


>I might have thought to emulate Avrohom's tefillos for Sdom, but perhaps
>some "modern" will come along and say that Avrohom was being "mai'tiach
>devarim klapei ma'alah," and should not be mimiced.
>I might have thought to emulate Avrohom's running to greet the three Arab
>wanderers, but someone else might come along and say that Avrohom was
>transgressing, on the third day ater a Milla, "v'nishmartem me'od
>So, how can I ever learn from the Avos? The Navi's advice, perforce, is
>predicated on the assumption that all of Avrohom's behavior is suitable
>for emulation.

What worries me is the idea that one can go out and learn from the Torah
which of the deeds of the Avos to emulate, without recourse to the whole
halachic literature.  To take two obvious examples:

a) everybody agrees that the Aikeda was a meritorious act (whether or
not it was a tikkun or not is irrelevant).  I hope nobody out there
learns from this that they are supposed to take their son and try and
shecht him.

b) (and more realistically).  The Avos all erected bamos all over and
offered korbanos.  All of us on this list (I hope) know that although
bamos were mutar at the time of the Avos, post the building of the Beis
Hamikdash, one can no longer offer korbanos on privately built bamos. It
is thus assur, today, to emulate the actions of the Avos in this

As these two examples show - we need the guidance of Chazal and the
halachic literature to know which of the ma'asei avos we are in fact
permitted to emulate and which we may not.

Thus it seems to me, before we even get into the question of positive or
negative parshanut, we need to have it clear in our minds that even if
we learn from the Avos something that is clearly praiseworthy - it may
not necessarily be appropriate for us to act accordingly.

In this regard, I am less concerned about the situation with Hagar
(anybody out there planning to throw out their concubine into the
desert, please holler) because there is no real danger that anybody will
act on the basis of the ma'aseh.  And to the extent that somebody tried
to use this example, positively or negatively (eg to throw somebody out
of a yeshiva), without reference to the wider halachic literature, I
would be very concerned.  We are not karaites and do not posken straight
from the Torah (and there are clearly other concerns, Yishmael did not
have shem Yisroel etc).

In that respect, it may well be that the multiplicity of irreconcilable
views found in parshanut, as well as the wider latitude that is given,
at least in some circles, to allow interpretations not necessarily
consonent with mamrei chazal, is a deliberate fence against literalism
and karaitism, because once you have bent your mind around half a dozen
different ways of reading the same pasuk, karaitism becomes nigh on

But be that as it may, perhaps because my natural bent is towards
halacha, rather than machshava, my concern about this discussion appears
to be slightly different to that expressed by others.


Shavuah tov


Chana/Heather Luntz

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Date: Sat, 14 Nov 1998 23:46:58 +0200 (GMT+0200)
From: Eli Turkel <turkel@math.tau.ac.il>

Subject: Dr. Berger's article

Prof. Carmy had previously refered to an article of David Berger
in a book edity by Shalom Carmy. For those without access to the
book (worth reading) I offer a short synopsis.

He notes at the beginning 3 places that Ramban crticizes Abraham
(Bereshit 12:10, 20:12, 16:6). He also notes that it was relatively
infrequent for medieval commentators to make such observations
though he does reference the Kli Yakar to 32:35. Most of the first part
is a description of Christian attacks on the avot and Jewish defenses.

In the later part of the article he discusses modern commentators
(not necessarily religious). The general consensus is to discover
places where the Torah disapproves of the behavior of the avot
(not necessarily a "sin").
The case he discusses in detail is the beracha Issac intended for
Esau and Jacob "stole". His conclusion is that Jacob misunderstood
his father. Issac never intended this blessing to be a blessing
that spiritual matters would go to Esau (see also Malbim). Hence
"this deception was pragmatically as well as morally dubious"

He the claims that Jacob was punished for this in various ways.

1.  He has to work for Lavan instead of his brother working for him
2.  He is deceived by the substitution of Leah for Rachel (2 siblings)
3.  Gis sons deceive him with Joseph's garment and the blood of a goat
4.  In his relation to Esau, Esau is the master (32:5, 33:8)
5.  When Jacob send the other brothers to Eygpt Joseph deceives them
    Joseph takes on the role of Esau.

In contrast to other comments on this list, Berger uses all these
subthemes running through Bereshit as a proof of the divine authorship
of the Torah.

I have attended a number of historical lectures by non religious
professors. They consistently state that they believe what is in the Torah
precisely because the Torah treats all its characters as real people
and not as mythological figures as in Greek tales.

Eli Turkel

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