Avodah Mailing List

Volume 03 : Number 140

Wednesday, July 28 1999

< Previous Next >
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 03:41:54 -0400 (EDT)
From: Joshua Cypess <cypess@ymail.yu.edu>
Mezuzah books

Hi all,

Does anyone know any good books (or articles) out there about the mitzvah
of Mezuzah that would be good for the under-educated?  

E.g. If Rav Aryeh Kaplan zt'l has any work on the subject, or scholars of
similar depth/breadth/respect for the reader.


Josh Cypess

Go to top.

Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 08:54:47 EDT
From: C1A1Brown@aol.com
Re: T"T as intellectual experience

>>>I recently posted WRT learning, that I wonder how much of the attraction to
learning -- and the excitement it generates -- is religious, and how much is
inherent in intellectual persuits.  IOW, if our culture would have us delving
into Tensor Calculus would we get the same emotional response?

See the comments of MaHaRaL at the end of ch. 7 of Nesiv HaTorah who makes 
this point and learns that is pshat in the gemera that the churban was caused 
bec. no birchas haTorah was recited - Torah was an intellectual experience, 
not a religious one.

I would just be very careful of confusing the emotional experience of 
learning with the religious one.  You have to appreciate learning as the dvar 
Hashem (religious) ; you do not necessarily have to enjoy it (emotional).

Go to top.

Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 08:16:58 -0400 (EDT)
From: micha@aishdas.org (Micha Berger)
Re: Har Habayis, etc.

A simple "proof" to the Rambam's shitah:

What do Chazal (and quoted by Rashi) say about Yaakov's aveilus for Yoseif?
Shich'chah is granted only when the person is actually dead.

Would Tish'a B'av have survived this long if Yerushalaim bizman hazeh were
chol, waiting for resurrection?


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 28-Jul-99: Revi'i, Eikev
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H O"Ch 345:14-20
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 14a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Melachim-I 10

Go to top.

Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 08:06:24 -0400 (EDT)
From: micha@aishdas.org (Micha Berger)
J4J on Lycos

Users of www.lycos.com might be interested to note that any search on Lycos that
includes the word "Jewish" as a search criterion will come up with a banner ad
for j4j.

Do with this information what you will.


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 28-Jul-99: Revi'i, Eikev
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H O"Ch 345:14-20
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 14a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Melachim-I 10

Go to top.

Date: Wed, 28 Jul 99 09:27:43 -0500
From: meir_shinnar@smtplink.mssm.edu

I have refrained from further comments on avoda on the allegory issue, and have
responded to Rav Zvi Weiss's questions off line.  However, as Rav Bechhofer has
twice made reference to those questions, with the assumption  of shtika
kehoda'a, let me answer.
Rav Weiss makes three points.

1) Lack of support in the rishonim.    Just as electricity is not discussed
explicitly in the rishonim, but we use the principles enunciated by them to
understand its halachic status, so too, we use the principles enunciated by the
rishonim to understand hashkafa in the light of modern science.
It seems  that the flood posed no major problems  until quite recently, and in
that sense there is no reason for any one to have dealt with it, as there are no 
tshuvot of rishonim dealing with electric timers.

However, the allegorical understanding does base itself on the rambam's
approach, even though I would concede that the Rambam never discusses the flood
as allegory, and may even have believed in the pshat of the mabul.

This reading of the Rambam, which seems clear is the reading of Rav (Avraham
Itzhak) Kook as well, is that the allegorical (or at least non pshat) 
interpretation of tanach is to be used whenever there seems to be a major
contradiction with what reason dictates, and there would be no major conflict
with major ideological principles.  This seems clear in the Rambam's discussion
of ma'aseh breshit.  The major problem in the Rambam is quite clear not the
literal understanding of the psukim in breshit.  Rather, the understanding of
creation has a major effect on our understanding of God's interaction with the
world.   Reinterpreting the flood leads to no such conflict.

Again, it is implicit in the Rambam;s discussion of pi haaton.  It was claimed
that nevua is different, but I see the distinctions made as dahuk.   Because of
rational considerations, Rambam says that the psukim do not mean what they
cloarly say, in spite of ein mikra yotze mide pshuto  (If I would say that the
flood happened in a prophetic dream of Noah, (with all the enhanced reality that 
the discussion on avoda emphasized that prophetic dreams have), would that have
been different?  After all, the flood ends with a nevua to Noah about the lack
of future floods....

That is why Rav (AI) Kook can accept an allegorical interpretation of Gan Eden,
even though the Rambam does not himself, and base it on the Rambam. The
particular psukim and episodes the rambam interpretes allegorically are taken as
a binyan av of how to deal with conflicts with reason.  After all, we are not
really concerned about whether the events actually happened.

Rav Bechhofer disagrees vehemently with this understanding, and requires
explicit proof of the Rambam (and other rishonim) accepting a particular
allegory.  I think that this is a misunderstanding of the Rambam's shita,  but 
further discussion of this is fruitless. However, the self understanding of
those who allegorize is that of being solidly based in the Rambam, and supported
by the reading of at least one major acharon.  

2)ein dorshin b'ma'aseh breshit  should imply that we just say we do not
understand.  ein dorshin was previously understood (I think properly) on this
group to mean that it implies that the simple understanding of the psukim is not
necessarily correct, and opens the door for nonliteral interpretations.  
Just as for the first perek of ma'ashe breshit most do not take ein dorshin to
imply that we should just say we do not understand, so too for Noah.  It does
not endorse a particular interpretation, but expands the interpretations

3)  Lastly motivation.  Two separate questions:
    a) Why can't we say that this happened and science can not yet explain this?
Two answers, one internal and one external.  

Part of the belief system of many of us (Not all - clearly not that of Rav
Dessler) is that ideally,  the torah should be
consonant with our reason (as the Kuzari says, the Torah never requires us to
believe against our reason).  This belief is fairly widespread - note the
popularity even within haredi circles of attempts to reconcile tora with 

There may be times when an intellectual dissonance between our emuna and our
understanding of reality based on reason/science is required, but it is
something that should be jarring, and  motivate us to find an answer.  

The reason that Rav Weiss perhaps does not feel this dissonance is a problem 
may be the general difference between "right" and "left" over the issue of da'as
torah versus individual autonomy.  

Lastly, I would note that the position of Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook (history begins
with lech lecha) is fairly widely known and accepted in "MO" circles (even if
its origin is not always), and adopting it is not viewed as the heretical leap
requiring detailed precise documentation from the rishonim that Rav Bechhofer
requires.  The Tradition article also  bases itself on the notion that true
history begins with the avot.

The second one is a public policy one.  While Rav Weiss's approach may work for
some, it doesn't work for many others, both people who consider themselves
solidly within the Torah camp (although clearly some  on avoda would disagree)
as well as most who do  not currently believe in tora misinai.  Chana's post
about the work of kiruv organizations in England shows that the kiruv
organizations recognize that the position that science has not yet reached the
understanding of torah is not one that increases kavod hatora (most do not view
this as showing that tora is ki hi chochmatchem uvinatchem.le'eyne hagoyim..) 
Anyone involved in kiruv knows that this is a problem.
Therefore, the publicization that tora does not require the acceptance of
positions that are viewed (even if you do not accept the characterization) as
inherently anti science and anti intellectual should be viewed as  a  kiddush
hashem, which removes a michshol from many.

    b)  What about other nissim?  The problem is not with hashem's power to make
the flood.  The problem is why hashem would do a public miracle to teach us a
lesson, then meticulously remove all traces, and present us with a reality today
that is not consonant with what is supposed to have happened.  

In Rav Bechhofer's answer to M. Feldman
>Science cannot prove something did not occur. It can only indicate what
>did occur. It may simply have not yet found the sliver of a year's flood's
>record in all the history of the world that geology contains. There are
>scientific records that do corroborate a Flood (see Lawrence Kelemen's

I detect a misunderstanding of what (to at least some of us) is the major
problem in the flood.  It is not the lack of a sliver of one year's flood
record.  It is rather the dramatic discontinuity in the local fauna, which
implies that all land mammals and birds in the entire world destroyed, except
for  one location, and the question of the current geographical diversity
(achieved in only 5000 years after the flood when nature returned to normal). 
The evidence for that should be extremely widespread.  We do have evidence of
massive destructions of species,and discontinuities in the record, just not

The hakdama of the Rambam's Moreh Nevuchim describes it as not being for
everyone, only for those who are confused by apparent contradictions. 
Similarly, allegorical interpretations may not be for everyone, only those who
are confused by apparent contradictions.  One can take the confusion as either
positively or negatively.  However,  there are far more important aspects of
avodat hashem.  

Meir Shinnar

Go to top.


[ Distributed to the Avodah mailing list, digested version.                   ]
[ To post: mail to avodah@aishdas.org                                         ]
[ For back issues: mail "get avodah-digest vXX.nYYY" to majordomo@aishdas.org ]
[ or, the archive can be found at http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/              ]
[ For general requests: mail the word "help" to majordomo@aishdas.org         ]

< Previous Next >