Avodah Mailing List

Volume 03 : Number 105

Tuesday, June 29 1999

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 1999 11:07:52 -0400
From: "MARK FELDMAN" <mfeldman@CM-P.COM>
re: What is a "Rabbi"?

I don't have any sources in front of me (always a dangerous exercise!) but 
it's my impression that the source for the issue of s'micha is "talmid al 
yoreh ad she'yikabel reshut m'rabbo."  This can be understood either as (1) 
a din based on kavod ha'rav--it detracts from the teacher's kavod if his 
student paskens in his area or (2) a halacha dealing with a student's 
ability to pasken (essentially, a provision for licensing of rabbis).  From 
my recollection of studying the sugyah, the first interpretation is more 
consonant with the context of the gemara (as I recall, a former chavruta of 
mine who is now an important talmid chacham believed this; I will check 
with him before publicizing his name).  According to the first 
interpretation, there would be no prohibition for a person to pasken if he 
has no rebbe or his rebbe has passed away.

Interestingly, there are many stories of gedolim in Europe who were largely 
self-taught and would receive a quick s'micha from a gadol based on a very 
short "farher" (test).  Query: why should this be considered "reshut 
m'rabbo"--is this *his* rebbe?  It seems that this interpretation 
translates the above phrase to mean "any rabbi who has s'micha," which is 
similar to the s'micha ish m'pi ish (mentioned in the beginning of Pirkei 
Avot) that was discontinued during Tannaitic times (I believe as a result 
of the Hadrianic persecutions).  What is the basis for this?

Also, is anyone who has smicha qualified to give smicha?  As a practical 
matter, only great talmidei chachamim give smicha (I hope!), but is there 
any reason for this limitation (other than a practical issue--a rabbi won't 
get a rabbinic position if he has a "no-name" smicha)?

The case of the Chofetz Chaim (as reported by Akiva Miller) is quite 
interesting: What if a person is clearly "hi'gi'a l'hora'a" but never 
received s'micha?  And, what if the person is a member of a small group 
which has been ostracized by the rest of religious Jewry (chas v'shalom, 
imagine this about Lubavitch 100 years from now), the former rebbe has died 
and no rabbi from mainstream Orthodoxy is willing to give him s'micha.  
Would the person be permitted to pasken for the rest of his group?

Kol tuv,

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Date: Tue, 29 Jun 1999 11:59:04 -0400 (EDT)
From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@columbia.edu>
sheep mentality, etc.

Jonathan Baker summarized nicely Tamar El-Or's book.  (Thanks for the
offer of the loan; I was able to borrow it from someone a while back!)
Thanks for the observations.  Interestingly, in a very recent issue Akiva
Miller raised a similar question which reminds us that this problem isn't
always limited to women:

> When I was in yeshiva in the 70's, I asked my Gemara teacher -- who
> everyone in the yeshiva referred to as Rabbi Ploni -- a serious
> personal shaila. He gave me the answer which I did not expect, did not
> want, and was unable to follow. I treated his response as The Word Of
> G-d, and suffered severe guilt feelings for long afterward, and even
> today I feel bad about the incident. It turns out that this teacher
> did not have semicha of any kind. The question: Was he wrong for
> pretending to be a rabbi, or was I wrong for not double-checking his
> credentials?

Seems to me there has to be some room to ask around enough to determine
who will be an appropriate posek for you!  Isn't there some exaggeration
of the importance of obedience for its own sake in sticking to the posek
you happened to ask first, even if this person turns out to be clearly
unsuitable for you?  Can one ever change poskim?  (Analogy: one uses a
doctor or dentist, and determines that the person is no longer suitable,
for whatever reason, to one's situation.  One changes...)

p.s.:  Can we be a little more careful, as this is an unmoderated list,
about including an entire digest in a reply?

Freda Birnbaum, fbb6@columbia.edu
"Call on God, but row away from the rocks"

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Date: Tue, 29 Jun 99 11:51:34 EDT

Last I checked, Agudath Israel (the organization, not the hashkafa) doesn't
have a website and was advised against having one at this current time.

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Date: Tue, 29 Jun 1999 11:51:13 -0400
From: "Michael Poppers" <MPoppers@kayescholer.com>
Re: AMiller's "What is a 'Rabbi'?" post

> Two more listmembers who approached me in shul over
Shabbos had similar "Yes but" responses. <
In essence, I see the use of "Rabbi" nowadays as a title, signifying
nothing more about the bearer's actual ho'ra'ah ability than "Professor"
indicates the individual's ability to actually teach or "MCSE" indicates
the individual's ability to deal with real-life WindowsNT issues.  The
certification process generally known as s'micha is a prerequisite to being
a posaik, but it doesn't mean the individual can (or even wants to) issue

> And what can "heter horaah" mean, if not "certified fit to pasken"? It
seems clear to me that until a person gets this "heter horaah" (or
"semicha", as it is popularly called) then he is considered by the
halacha to be not-yet-qualified to pasken.

I have asked questions similar to these at various times over the years,
and at some point I always ask: What then is the status of the Mishna
Brurah? <
I see a tremendous difference between asking one's posaik for a p'sak and
reading p'sak from a saifer (be it Igros Moshe [t'shuvos written to
particular people at a particular time], Sh'miras Shabbos K'hilchosoh
[opinions of the posaik, which may have been issued generally or
specifically], etc.); in essence, the discussion re MB is moot to me unless
the reader considered Rav Kagan z'tz'l' his posaik (which I'm not sure
would even be possible unless the posaik and the reader were both alive at
some point: can you choose a posaik posthumously?).

Just my tuppence, as always.  I look forward to hearing from y'all!

Michael Poppers * Elizabeth, NJ

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Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 12:07:43 -0400
From: "Noah Witty" <nwitty@ix.netcom.com>
Sheep & anesthesiology consent on shabbos

I at first (because I did not read carefully) thought that this woman is
batty. She needs an operation; it's pikuach nefesh; do it. The end. If that
had been the case, her teachers and rabbis would according to some
interpretations (not that of Bais Yosef) would be culpable for her death
and/or her pain.

But now, I see that the *doctors* wanted the signature.  That is NOT pikuach
nefesh; that is administrative, insurance liability, covering onesself.
Especialy in Israel one must imagine that there is a procedure for obtaining
witnesses to the grant of verbal consent by the patient in the place of a
signed consent.  Thus, the lady's reticence was entirely in place.

Now, do you place a phone call on shabbos to find out if you can be mechalel
shabbos in this fashion?  As most  of this list's readership is aware, many
hold that phone is only derabbanan on shabbos. Then there is the closing the
circuit = boneh theory. (This is as good a time as any to note that when you
last speak to a doctor on shabbos by phone and have decided to go to
hospital, there may be no heter to hang up the phone.  Sort of depends on if
the phone may be needed again by someone not there now.)

I am willy-nilly reminded of the shaila of the lechem mishneh (?) on Rambam
as to ha-im mutar latzil benafsho echad she-ba lechallel shabbat.

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Date: Tue, 29 Jun 1999 12:17:03 -0400
From: "Michael Poppers" <MPoppers@kayescholer.com>
Re: Mamzer

> The following comes from the ISRAWORLD list.  Anybody have a
suggestion how to make the concept of mamzer palatable? <
Sounds like you would have to first "make palatable" concepts like the
Torah and its Author -- if the writer cannot accept the corpus of laws
which is based on Deut. 23:3, much less 23:2-7 or all the p'sukim which
deal with sexual relations, I don't see much point in specifically
discussing mamzairus.

Michael Poppers * Elizabeth, NJ

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Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 12:27:55 -0400
From: "Noah Witty" <nwitty@ix.netcom.com>
Re: AMiller's "What is a 'Rabbi'?" post

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Poppers +ADw-MPoppers+AEA-kayescholer.com+AD4-
To: Kenneth G Miller +ADw-kennethgmiller+AEA-juno.com+AD4-
Cc: EDTeitz+AEA-aol.com +ADw-EDTeitz+AEA-aol.com+AD4AOw- Joelirich+AEA-aol.com
+ADw-Joelirich+AEA-aol.com+AD4AOw- APechman+AEA-mwellp.com +ADw-APechman+AEA-mwellp.com+AD4AOw-
06NZJ+AEA-sprintmail.com +ADw-06NZJ+AEA-sprintmail.com+AD4AOw- nwitty+AEA-ix.netcom.com
+ADw-nwitty+AEA-ix.netcom.com+AD4AOw- clarke+AEA-HUGHESHUBBARD.COM +ADw-clarke+AEA-HUGHESHUBBARD.COM+AD4AOw-
Avodah+AEA-AishDas.org +ADw-Avodah+AEA-AishDas.org+AD4-
Date: Tuesday, June 29, 1999 11:52 AM
Subject: Re: AMiller's +ACI-What is a 'Rabbi'?+ACI- post

Prof. Poppers wrote: +ACI-  . . . .in essence, the discussion re MB is moot to
me unless
+AD4-the reader considered Rav Kagan z'tz'l' his posaik (which I'm not sure
+AD4-would even be possible unless the posaik and the reader were both alive at
+AD4-some point: can you choose a posaik posthumously?).
+AD4-Just my tuppence, as always.  I look forward to hearing from y'all+ACE-
+AD4-Michael Poppers +ACo- Elizabeth, NJ
I knnow of some who do, but I must imagine that doing so would be binding
not because of hilchos hora-ah but mita'am neder. Even then, that should
only be if the particular case recurs.--NW

Is this another list?????+ACE-

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Date: Tue, 29 Jun 1999 12:30:00 -0400
From: "Clark, Eli" <clarke@HUGHESHUBBARD.COM>
Agudath Israel web site

salomon ouaknine asks about the Web site of Agudath Israel of America

To the best of my knowledge, they do not have a web site.  I was told
that the Moetzes Gedolei haTorah are opposed to the idea.  I assume
their opposition is rooted in their negative attitude toward the

Kol tuv,

Eli Clark 

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Date: Tue, 29 Jun 1999 17:45:58 +0200
From: OUAKNINE Salomon <salomon.ouaknine@etam.fr>
RE: Avodah V3 #103

Thank you for the answer about the Agudath.

I know that Agudath edits The Jewish Observer.

Does it exist its web site ??

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