Avodah Mailing List

Volume 04 : Number 001

Sunday, September 12 1999

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 12:24:09 -0400
From: richard_wolpoe@ibi.com
Who is a Gadol

Carl Scherer:>>I think that one of the requirements for being called a Gadol in 
one's lifetime is that one attain a certain age... <<

I believe we once had a thread on this...

Similar to other issues, the decisor is really consensus.  I have heard numerous
times that R. Moshe Soloveichik refer to his son R. YD as a great Talmid 
chochom,(IOW Gadol) and it is said that R AY Kook told his son ZY Kook to follow
the Rav where'er he went while in Israel (then Palestine)...

Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 10:47:52 -0700 (PDT)
From: Moshe Feldman <moshe_feldman@yahoo.com>
who is a gadol

Carl Scherer wrote:
>>I think that one of the requirements for being called a Gadol in 
one's lifetime is that one attain a certain age... <<

What about the Shach or the Arizal?


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

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Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 12:49:37 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Bakoshas Mechila

RET reminded me that it is very important (especially for me :-) ) to ask
mechila from all of our chaverim here at Avodah. Despite the ritcha
d'orysa, es vahev b'sufa! Please accept my request, and, if someone feels
that they may have slighted me, mechila is granted b'lev shalem (I have a
vested interest in that...).

KVCT or GCT depending on when you read this!


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: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 17:53:28 EDT
From: DFinchPC@aol.com
Re: Bakoshas Mechila

As a student in his Daf Yomi and his afternoon Gemara B'Ilyun shiur, I feel 
quite guilty about slighting Rabbi Bechhofer over the past year. It is most 
unbecoming of me, as the rabbi is easily one of the most brilliant men I've 
ever studied with, anywhere, on any subject, and my parents bought me a 
first-class secular education. I make the apology openly and sincerely.

David S. Finch

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Date: Mon, 13 Sep 1999 00:45:38 -0400 (EDT)
From: Shalom Carmy <carmy@ymail.yu.edu>
lower criticism

1. There are two approaches to the question of the relationship between
specific halakhot and drashot Hazal. Either the halakhot were known by
Hazal independently, and the drashot are secondary, or the drashot are
primary, so that a different drasha would change the halakha. R. Hirsch,
the Dorot haRishonim and others gravitate to the first position; Malbim,
to the second; the Netziv occupies a middle ground-- sometimes the halakha
is primary, sometimes the drasha. Serious modern scholars differ as well.
(See, for an old but still useful survey, Prof. Albeck's Mavo laMishna,
published 40 years ago.)

2. The entire discussion about whether uncertainty about the Humash text
should affect specific halakhot assumes that the halakha in question is
not the product of tradition. Furthermore, one would have to assume that
exactly how the drasha works is transparent to us, despite the long break
in the utilization of the methods of drasha (note that even the Amoraim
are already disinclined to derive a halakha through midrash ha-ketuvim; it
would seem that they were unsure of their ability to practice drashat
ha-ketuvim properly). 

In order to precipitate a crisis, however, it is not enough to insist that
we know all the above about how Hazal operated. One must also have an
alternate text. That is to say, one must truly be convinced that a version
of the Humash found in a Hebrew MS, or in one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, or
in the Samaritan Pentateuch or extrapolated from a Greek version, or
fantasized by a scholar without the benefit of anything that solid-- that
this alternate version is clearly superior to the text that Hazal had
before them.

Once having reached this stage, it is possible to start speculating about
whether the Halakha stands, despite our scientific knowledge, and, if it
does, why.

3. There is enough evidence from within our tradition (i.e. medieval
manuscripts and statements in Hazal and rishonim) to establish uncertainty
about minor details in the transmission of the text. One may also wish to
consider seriously variants based on sectarian Hebrew texts and the Greek
vorlage. But this does not add to the probability that any specific
feature of the text, which is necessary for drashat Hazal, is defective.

Matters about which real evidence exists are plentiful enough to keep us
off the streets and out of trouble. It is possible that examples exist of
textual variations, where our understanding of Hazal is transparent and
where we are convinced that they placed their trust in a corrupt text.
When such an example surfaces, it needs to be confronted. Until then,
fueling speculation on the subject of what-if contributes neither to the
fear or love of G-d nor to the cultivation of common sense, nor even to

The great Semitics scholar James Barr (whose liberal Protestantism is very
far from fundamentalism) once wrote that in almost every other area of
textual criticism (meaning other ancient literatures) the bulk of
emendation derives from real evidence rather than speculation. He wonders
why the study of the Hebrew Bible is an exception. By assuming unproven
emendations and then speculating about how they would affect Hazal, we are
squaring the amount of guesswork.

What's the point?

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