Avodah Mailing List

Volume 03 : Number 198

Wednesday, September 1 1999

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 17:03:53 -0400 (EDT)
From: micha@aishdas.org (Micha Berger)
Re: Historical Perspectives

In v3n194, Akiva Miller writes:
: Notice also, that the stories which NOT omitted! And others as well:
: Moshe at the rock, Miriam's lashon hara, etc etc. RYGB points out that
: these stories are whitewashed to a certain degree, but they are not
: categorically omitted either!

I disagree with the claim of whitewashing. By the time the aggadita is done
with the story, we find out the portrayal in Tanach makes the person appear
even WORSE than reality. "Kol ha'omeir David chata..." Or all the times we
only learn of positive motivations (e.g. Rachel and the t'rafim) in the


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287     MMG"H for  1-Sep-99: Revi'i, Nitzavim-Vayeilech
micha@aishdas.org                                    A"H 
http://www.aishdas.org                               Pisachim 31b
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.    Melachim-I 15

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Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 14:13:25 -0700 (PDT)
From: Moshe Feldman <moshe_feldman@yahoo.com>
Re: Toward a Definition of Psak (was: of Chumra)

--- "Carl M. Sherer" <csherer@netvision.net.il> wrote:
> It's the cases that aren't so clear cut
> because the facts don't necessarily match, or the cases that are 
> disputed in the Shulchan Aruch or in the Achronim (I say 
> Achronim, because the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama are 
> generally looked upon as the last of the Rishonim) that I have to 
> take to a Rav to ask. And I can't pasken those cases for myself, 
> because I am a nogea badavar; I will generally have a clear
> interest in how the halacha should come out. 
> The posek 
> also brings an unbiased view to the problem, so that even if the 
> person asking is more learned, and even if he knows all the 
> sources, he should not pasken halacha for himself except in a 
> case that is clearly paskened in the Shulchan Aruch. 

Is it true that a rav must ask a different rav a she'elah with regard
to something that is not clearly paskened in the Shulchan Arukh? 
Even if he paskens for his ba'alei batim on this issue all the time? 
Somehow, this doesn't ring true.

True, there is an issue of noge'a badavar.  But that is an issue that
applies to all aspects of life, such as whether to give more
tzedakah, spend time helping someone, etc.  See Rav Dessler's essay
in Michtav Me'eliyahu dealing with the negiot people have and the
extra help we need from Hashem to overcome the negiot.  Ultimately,
we have to make our decisions and realize that we will be judged by
Hashem for our actions.

The issue of noge'a badavar as a halachic concept (barring a person
from ruling) AFAIK deals with monetary disputes between two
individuals (or perhaps other bain adam la'chaveiro issues).  There a
person cannot say, "trust me; I have to answer to Hashem for my
actions" because someone else will lose out.

BTW, I notice that both Carl & Akiva understand "aseh lecha rav" as a
requirement to find a rav for psak.  This isn't necessarily the pshat
in the Mishnayot in Pirkei Avot (1:6 and 1:16).  I searched the
phrase in my computer CD ROM (sorry, Russell wasn't available) and
found 4 parallel cites in Avot D'rabbi Natan.  In nusach aleph perek
8, the mishnah states: "How does one make for oneself a Rav?  This
teaches that one should make his Rav permanent and learn from him
mikra, mishnah, midrash, halachot, va'agadot... Rav Meir says: One
who learns Torah from one Rav, to whom is he similar?  To one who had
one field and planted part of it wheat and part of it barley, part of
it olives and part of it trees, and that person finds himself full of
good and blessings.  But when he learns from two or three [rabbis],
he is similar to one who has many fields, one he planted wheat, one
barley, one olives, and one trees, and that person ends up scattered
among the lands without good and blessings."  Also in Avot D'rabbi
Natan nusach bet perek 18 it states: "Nitai of Arbel says: Make for
yourself a Rav for wisdom (chochmah) and acquire for yourself a
friend (chaver) for mishnah."  Both of these sources imply that 'aseh
lecha rav' means that one should make for oneself a teacher of Torah
(not necessarily a posek).

Kol tuv,
Do You Yahoo!?
Bid and sell for free at http://auctions.yahoo.com

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Date: Wed, 01 Sep 1999 17:13:46 -0400
From: "Ari Z. Zivotofsky" <azz@lsr.nei.nih.gov>
Rambam in Egypt

Over the years I have often heard that the Rambam while living in
Egypt would sign his correspondences with "ani Moshe ben Maimon ha'over
gimmel lavim bechol yom", in reference to his living in Egypt against a
biblical commandment. I also recall once reading something to the effect

that this was merely rumor and had no basis in fact and that none of his

letters found in the geniza had such a statement. Can anyone shed light
this or direct me to references?

Ari Zivotofsky

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Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 18:10:56 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Re: Toward a Definition of Psak

RAMiller asks about who is responsible for the wrong psak: The Posek or
the Oseh (I am paraphrasing). 

I have always been reasonably certain that, absent Sanhedrin (even then,
of course, there was a Meseches Hori'os), the Oseh is responsible (he will
burn in Gehinnom, to make it oversimplified, inaccurate, yet graphic). 
While the Posek may burn alongside him, that is for paskening incorrectly,
but not for the guf ha'aveira.

The problem is that this year I finally actually noticed a Rashi I have
read countless times: Devarim 1:9:

"natal es ha'onesh mikem u'nesano al ha'dayanim"

While one can kvetch out of the ra'ayah, it does give pause.


Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Cong. Bais Tefila, 3555 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL, 60659
ygb@aishdas.org, http://www.aishdas.org/baistefila

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Date: Thu, 02 Sep 1999 02:14:18 +0300
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@netmedia.net.il>
Da'as Torah & Rav Aryeh Kaplan

Micha Berger wrote:

> What do you mean by "he is da'as Torah"? I had assumed, reading the first
> paragraph, that you meant the standard shorthand of "his opinions on this
> subject are those shaped by da'as Torah". In which case, he needn't be a
> gadol in p'sak halachah or in Torah in general, "just" an authority on the
> subject at hand and immersed in the Torah weltenschaung.

Daas Torah has several meanings. The most acceptable is 1) an opinion which is
informed and based upon undisputed positions. For example when I say that doing
melacha on Shabbos is prohibited - that is Daas Torah. 2) More restricted use would
be a synthesis of opinions. Thus any tshuva involves the posek's expression of what
he considers Daas Torah. If the sources or analysis are accepted by others it
becomes *a* Daas Torah.   3) More restrictive is an opinion expressed by someone
who is recognized as a Master of Torah. Even if the expressed basis of the opinion
is not acceptable that doesn't necessarily invalidate the opinion which it would
for type 2. For example - Rav Gustman said that there were issues that he could not
accept Rav Moshe Feinstein's reasoning - nevertheless he held that the opinion was
valid because Reb Moshe said it. Similarly there are views expressed by the Mishna
Berura that Reb Moshe disagreed with but said they were valid position anyway. The
opinion is valid - *independent* of the justification because of the person who
said it or because it is the minhag. 4) The most controversial use of the term Daas
Torah  is the assertion by someone that he has *the* Daas Torah and that everyone
must accept that opinion even though they reject the reasoning and even though they
don't accept the person as their gadol or even if their gadol disagrees with him.
I was referring to definition #3. Rabbi Kaplan's assertions - if not clearly backed
up by a Chasam Sofer or Ramban etc - does not carry weight merely because he said
it. He is not in the league of Rav Moshe Feinstein or Rav Soleveitchik etc. A type
3 gadol does not need to justify what he says for it to be Daas Torah.

> There's also a black-and-white-ness about your descriptions of gadlus and
> of da'as Torah that I don't think are "justifiable" (see below).
> (And, speaking quite probably as the only person on Avodah who knew R'
> Aryeh Kaplan, I have no hesitation in saying that in inyanei machshavah he
> certainly is one of this century's greats. Although I don't expect many here
> to agree, I found his grasp of aggadic issues as personally impressive as R'
> Moshe's piskei halachah. So "we wouldn't *all* disregard" giving him the label
> "gadol".)

I'll modify my assertion: No one I know - until the previous posting and your above
statement - has ever cited Rav Kaplan as an authority who transcends his footnotes.
Even in my right wing circles - Rav Soleveitchiks opinion would be valued  - though
not necessarily agreed with - merely because he said it. Rabbi Kaplan is nowhere in
that league. The vast majority of bnei Torah would not associate the term gadol
with Rabbi Kaplan. If you have evidence to the contrary I'd like to hear it.

> :                                         The problem with 2 is that his
> : summaries are not always supported by his footnotes.

>  You'd have to show me multiple clear examples to convince me that
> RAK published an idea that wasn't "satisfactorily justified". He was very
> willing to extrapolate, but his arguments were always very tightly supported
> by numerous different sources.

I don't have the time to go through the sources. I am relying primarily on a talmid
chachom who has checked out many of the footnotes and was not satisfied with the
correlation between them and the summaries. If you want more examples I'll try to
ask him for specifics.

Just looking at our current issue however.

page 231 12:2 "even when no formal central authority, such as the Sanhedrin,
exists, G-d provided guidelines to insure the continuance of Judaism in a unified
way of life. These guidelines provide the basis for the system of Torah law known
as halacha."
While not having read through his citation except the Aruch - they seem to focus on
the use of the word halacha as "going"- normative behavior . Which of the citations
states what he says in 12:2? Further where does it say that guidelines were
provided or what the guidelines are or when and how G-d provided them to us. An
alternative is the Kesef Mishna statement that Clall Yisroel accepted the authority
of the gemora or the Rosh who says it is simply logic that a person is bound by
decrees of the community. That  which Rabbi Kaplan assumes is the question that R'
Akiva Miller has raised.

> :                    3) these are all statements that exists on the subject -
> : but the sources do not in fact  satisfactorily justify the assertions.

> You appear to insist that if an opinion isn't taken by "a gadol" or is
> taken up by numerous people, it can be dismissed. I don't know where such
> a principle comes from. I think you're expecting a unanimity in hashkafah
> that just doesn't exist, but I could be wrong.

I am not expecting unanimity - but there needs to be some indication that an idea
is acceptable and is actually used. To include an idea in a workentitled "Handbook
of Jewish Thought" it needs to have some vitality - especially when he says "there
are a number of ideas that literally form the backbone of Judaism". A toe bone is
not a back bone.

                            Daniel Eidensohn

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Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 19:21:40 -0400
From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@juno.com>
RE: My Gadlus--Tzippy /Tzipporah--Midgets GEDOLIM

Yitzchak Tzirkin writes

>>Her name was Tziporah (not Tzippy)


>>Did you consider posting about your Gadlus

that people should be measured by the
--number of examples they cite to support their thesis
--the unifying nature of the distinctions that they explain
these examples with.

In other words a MIDGET with many sources and good
chilukim should take precedence over an ACHARON with
few sources and poor chilukim.

I try when I write a posting to cite many sources. I noticed
that Yitzchak does also (I guess that means that we are
equal in Gadlus).

There is a point in what I just said---I have noticed very
little in the MIDGET-GADOL controversy dealing with
how to objectively assess a posting/article/ responsum 
by content vs authority. I think this is an important
point and should be tackled


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Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 19:09:40 -0400
From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@juno.com>
RE: Women speaking before men

After reading David's posting, I realized I omitted one
small item 

I neglected to EXPLICITLY mention the Rashi on Nu 12:1 

>>And Miryam and Aaron spoke<<
>>RASHI: Miryam instigated the conversation.

This is based on a principle (I heard from the Rav that if

>>the subject if plural (Miryam/Aaron)
>>The predicate is singular (SPOKE is singular)

then it implies that the FIRST PERSON (Miryam) instigated
the conversation.

This point of the Rav is cited in my Tradition article, Pshat
and Derash, and also occurs on my Rashi website.

If David (or anyone else) will look at the output of my
cd rom (on my shoulders)they will not at least understand it

1) Devorah and Barak (Judges 5:1)---So Devorah 
instigated it

2) Nu 12:1---Miriam and Aaron --so Miriam instigated

3) Bnoth Zlafchad instigated there lawsuit

Again I state my principle...

---Women should speak BEFORE men if
------it is a female matter (bringing peace between
husband and wife or praising /appreciating God)

-----it is a court matter that they are directly 
involved with, with a partner.

I believe these examples speak for themselves.

Based on them I believe it obvious that Rashi
applies only to court cases where men are also

(By the way --- in light of Michahs Darchay Noam alert---
I did not see any hostility in Davids email---but I believe
if David had checked the sources with commentaries
his questions would have been answered before he
wrote--no harm done--I will send this response to my
neice and ask her if what she said was willing--also
note that Devorah being a judge is irrelevant since
this was an act of Shirah and not of Judgement...there
is no reason that Barak wouldn't go first but she preempted
the same way Miriam did with Aaron---praising God and bringing
peace are female matters and women should preempt)


Let us now return to the th
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Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 19:34:42 -0400
From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@juno.com>
Contradictory Symbols--Answer to Michah on CHALAH/SHOFAR

Micha asks for the commanality in

>>What commonality exists between mun, lechem hapanim and korbanos that
>>trying to embody in the way we eat challah each week?

The  basic idea of Shabbos is that GOD gives us our food and WE do not
have to work 7 days a week.

THEREFORE, anything which  reminds us how GOD PROVIDES for us 
is OK. In particuar

---Mun--it explicitly says in the Mun Parshah that it shows us it 
comes from God

--Korban/Lechem hapanim---the primary emphasis here is that
our material posessions should be dedicated to God--but again
the idea is that we get our food from our God-Man relationship.

So we don't have a MIXING of CONTRADICTORY symbols but
rather a mixing of SUPPLEMENTARY symbols all of which relate
to Bitachon in God

As to Shofar my approach would be different. The Shofar symbolism
(As RSRH says in Number as Michah cited).

The only reason Sisrah is brought in is because of the word BBA (which
might mean cry or shout).

The real reason the 100 koloth is blown is so to confuse Satan.

Hope this helps
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Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 19:51:34 -0400
From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@juno.com>
Definition of Psak---Heter Hunting--A Story from The Rav

Like Joel I also read Akivas posting to the end (After all Akiva quoted

Let me give a concrete example to shed light on what is going on--then
I will try and add a new dimension to this psak discussion which I 
don't believe has been mentioned

>>The following is a true story. A friend of mine in College became a BT
>>He wanted to go home for Thanksgiving. At the time I and him were
>>the only 2 people from our college attending the Ravs shivur (later
>>about a dozen people attended). So my friend asked the Rav.
>>The Rav felt very upset but told him he could not give him a heter
>>to go home.
>>In passing, several years later, my friend told me how much it 
>>meant to him that Rav looked so anguished.
>>Anyway, my friend then went to the Bostoner Rebber, Grand
>>Rabbi Levi I Horowitz (now in Har Nof). The Rebbe gave him
>>a heter to go home and gave him various strategms (eg putting
>>silver foil on the plates when eating etc) that would allow him
>>to eat with his familiy without creating a scene.
>>Before reaching inferences from this I should mention that
>>my friend went on Aliyah, was ambushed in Chevron by 8 arabs
>>who knifed him and had severe liver damage. (He killed all
>>8 arabs and made the Israeli headlines). He however died
>>two years later leaving a widow and 6 children. The doctor
>>who operated on him is famous for having gone beserk  
>>killing innocent people in a Chevron Masque.May they both
>>rest in peace.

I can now answer Akiva, Carl, Joel and Micah.

My friend did NOT go HETER shopping. Instead he went ADVICE
shopping. A Rabbi does not just give psaks...he gives advice
also. The bostoner rebbe had more experience with BTs than the
Rav and within halachah could allow him to go home.

People ignore how much of psaks involve advice. Thus I would
encourage asking multiple Rabbis with the provisio that
---the ruling of a court Beth Din should never be overridden
---a ruling of Kosher/Traif, Niddah/not, Mamzer/Not, Agunah/Not
should not be overridden unless the 2nd Rabbi can offer a new
piece of advice/insight that the first Rabbi did not.(It would be
appropriate for the 2 Rabbis to confer...but there need not be
a violation of Kavod-just new insights).

I close with one more example---a few years ago I was on an airplane
and my Kosher meal had some punctures in the aluminum covering---
I asked several Rabbis---but not to get them to override each other
i had already abstained from the meal) but rather to get
--advice---one Rabbi says he carries bags of peanuts and avoids problems
with meals

---new insights--one Rabbi asked me if the perforations were around the
of the pan or inside (Several other questions were asked (was it all the
way thru
etc...) What emerged was that the other psaks I received were done
finding out the details of what happened.

I hope this approach helps

Russell Hendel; Phd ASA
Moderator Rashi Is Simple
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Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 19:44:01 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Re: an avel learning to play a musical during the 12 months of avelus

I think the Rambam somewhere, who is particularly stringent in his ban on
music the entire year, does permit it for "ba'alei mara shechora". The
case my good friend RBK gives here should be no worse.

On Wed, 1 Sep 1999, Baruch Kelman wrote:

>  Is it permitted for an avel to learn to play a musical instument while
> he is an avel? He would like to do this to release some stress.  c'siva
> v chesima tovah Baruch bjk1@pipeline.com


Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Cong. Bais Tefila, 3555 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL, 60659
ygb@aishdas.org, http://www.aishdas.org/baistefila

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Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 20:43:56 EDT
From: C1A1Brown@aol.com
Cheit as ratzon Hashem

>>>Of course cheit is ratzon Hashem. <<<

Rishonim didn;t think so - see Tos. Kesubos 30a d"h hakol, or of the Ra'aved 
in Hil Tshuvah 5:5.  See R' Elchanan at the end of Koveitz HeAros who quotes 
the dissenting view of Chovos HaLevavos. 

>>> Rationalist that I am, I took this to be because by learning from the
cheit you became a better person.<<<

R' Tzaddok's comment is on that gemera.  The simple pshat is like you say, 
which is why R' Tzaddok is so striking.  

I like David's solution; I would just add that it solves the logical problem 
(which is what you wrote), but the conclusion is still troubling from an 
ethical perspective. 

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Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 20:56:56 -0400
From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@juno.com>
RE:Midgets vs Giants

I couldn't help but notice the following point on the Midgets
vs Giants controversy.

I just had a disagreement with Rabbi Teitz (Midget vs Giant)

However in the process of reviewing my arguments I noticed
a midrash on 2R21:16

>>And Menasheh also shed much DM NKI

If DM NKI meant BLOOD OF INNOCENTS then NKI should be
plural. It almost seemed that this supported Rabbi Teitz's thesis
that DM NKI could mean INNOCENT BLOOD

But the RDQ cites a Midrash that the verse refers to the murder
of Yeshayahu.

In other words, Chazal, interpreted the phrase DM NKI as BLOOD
OF AN INNOCENT and applied the singular to Yeshayahu.

My point in citing the above is that even if I shouldn't be disagreeing
with Rabbi Teitz (midget vs Gadol) nevertheless my disagreeing with
him led me to find an explanation to a new Midrash which I had never

This could apply in general. When Midgets criticize/disagree with
Gedolim very often the PROCESS of discussion leads to new insights
in other areas AND THESE NEW INSIGHTS justify the discussion.

Russell Hendel; http://www.shamash.org/rashi/
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Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 20:52:04 -0400
From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@juno.com>
DM/DM A new Midrash proving DM NKI=Blood of an Innocent

This is a follow up on what I wrote yesterday with some new

1) Rabbi Teitz was correct that the only word where DM occurs
with ambiguous spelling (patach,kamatz) is NKI (In fact I said
that in my original posting--Im not sure why I doubted it

2) Rabbi Teitz is partially incorrect that 'The Mesorah will not
comment on differences in accent/spelling that change a
words meaning.'(He gave the example of AYN AyiN)

In fact part of the function of the Mefarshim is to alert us when
a change of accent/spelling causes a change in meaning. Off
the top of my head I can bring at least two such examples

Example 2a) The (beautiful) Rashi on Gen 29:27 (Shvua)
(NOTE: This is a verse where Rabbi Teitz, Moshe and I
would all agree that the Baal Koray has to be corrected
publicly--it is just on DAM that there is discussion).

Example 2b) Rashi on Job 34:16

I think these two examples show us that Mefarshim do alert
us when a subtle change changes meaning.

While examining the Bible I noticed several verses
	>>he shed DM NKI<
where it should read
that is "the blood of innocents".

To my mind this suggested a proof for Rabbi Teitz
that the CONCEPT of "INNOCENT BLOOD" does
exist in Tnach.

But then I found the following Midrash (Brought down
by RDK but not by Rashi) on 2R21:16

>>And Menasheh spilled much DM NKI, unitl he
>>filled Jerusalem with blood

This LOOKS like it supports Rabbi Teitz. Because
if DM NKI was translated as BLOOD OF INNOCENTS
then NKI should be plural. Thus it appears that
the proper translation is INNOCENT BLOOD.

But that is EXACTLY why the RDQ cites a Midrash
CHAZAL that MNSHEH killed YSHAYAHU---In other
words chazal interpreted

>>DM(Kamatz) NAKI = Blood of an innocent=Yeshayahu

In fact precisely because of this discussion I now understand
what was bothering ChAZAL (NKI is singular).

4) To sum it up: 

4a) Many 2 letter words used Kamatz for construct(RDK,MICHLOL)

4b) The concept of INNOCENT BLOOD does not exist in Tnach--
in fact we never have adjectives modifying blood---rather the
adjectives modify the person--so that the proper translation
of DM NKI would be blood of an innocent person

4c) The Midrash I brought down shows that Chazal also 
perceived DM(katmatz) to mean "BLOOD OF".

4d) The Rashi and example I brought down on Gen 29:27
shows that I do not disagree with Rabbi  Teitz on laining
principles...I merely disagree whether DM NKI could mean
innocent blood.

I hope this clarifies the issue...I would appreciate it if 
whomever gave my original posting to Rabbi Teitz
also give this one.

Russell Hendel; Phd ASA; 
Moderator Rashi Is Simple
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Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 15:41:17 -0500
From: david.nadoff@bfkpn.com
Eit Sheker Sofrim and Dr. Birnbaum

On Tue, 31 Aug 1999, Rabbi Bechhofer wrote:

>I do not think it is essential to tamper
>with the essay now. Nevertheless, let us invite Avodah members to visit
>the website and then give us their opinions. If a significant number agree
>that the first paragraph does harm to the message, we can alter the essay
>as it appears on the Aishdas website.

I was not advocating a rewrite of the opening to your article, although I am impressed by your willingness to consider it. My goal was somewhat different.
As someone who encourages and looks forward to further contributions by you
to our knowledge of Dr. Birnbaum's life and thought, and the popularization of
his ideas, I would like you recognize and incorporate into your thinking and
writing on the subject the important lessons in teshuva that we can learn both from Dr. Birbaum's example and his teachings.

As an exemplar of teshuva, Dr. Birnbaum is unique because, unlike famous
ba'alay teshuva such as Franz Rosensweig and Rabbi Steinsaltz, his example is
relevant not only to the contemporary (i.e., never before frum) ba'al teshuva,
but also to the traditional (i.e., frum or once-frum) ba'al teshuva.

As for his teachings, I view his program as embodying a call to Orthodox Jewry
for collective and individual teshuva because we fall so far short of what a group
possessed of Torah and an intimate relationship with Hashem can and should be. This is critically important because, as a group and individually, we are very much
prone to complacency, self-congratulation and mutual admiration (in the sense of
reciprocal chanifus) that constitute real impediments to recognition of our profound need for teshuva. Dr. Birnbaum's fresh "outsider's" perspective and
exquisite sensitivity to inauthenticity enabled him to see this clearly, and we have
yet to learn to see ourselves through the lens of his penetrating vision.

Regarding the last point, what troubles me most about the position you took in The
Jewish Observer isn't what I believe to be the factual inaccuracy as to whether Dr. Birnbaum was a ba'al teshuva, but the  distortion of the very concept of teshuva inherent
in the redefinition of "ba'al teshuva" that you adopted to justify the factual claim,
based on extreme cases like that of Rabbi Elazar ben Durdaya. Apart from my conviction
that such a definition is incorrect, I believe it is contrary to the central thrust of Dr. Birnbaum's project insofar as it implies (though I'm sure you didn't intent it) that
teshuva is something for big-time r'sho'im, not sheine yiddin like "us".

Please understand that I am not making this point to keep the debate going or have the last
word -- l'kanter, ch"v. Rather, I consider these to be d'vorim ha'omdim b'rumo shel olam
on which the utmost clarity is essential. This is especially so in your case in that you seem
to be one of a very few young talmeday chachomim publishing on such subjects and in a position, b'ezras Hashem, to have an impact on the self-perception of the Orthodox
community as a whole. If in my zeal for these issues, I have expressed myself too stridently
or in a manner that you found offensive, please accept my sincere apology and grant me

Ksiva vchasima tova David

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