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Volume 05 : Number 096

Friday, July 28 2000

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 07:50:20 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Niddah 31a

In discussing this topic elsewhere I noted a couple of things that I'd like to
share with the chervrah here.

About the siman itself:
Note that the Maharshah on Sotah 11b, addresses the need for Par'oh's to find
a sign that would identify which babies are boys. After all, if you wait a
short while until the birth is complete, you know anyway. He relates this
to abortion. It would seem that according to the Maharshah, termination of a
pregnancy at full term, even moments before delivery, is abortion, not murder.

This also indicates that the position being discussed is right before labor.
If it were the position during birth, the head would already be delivered
before a midwife would know which way the baby faced. I think that's
full shefichas damim already.

I said "also" because the pain mentioned in Mes Niddah is that of the baby
turning around -- which indicates it does turn around before birth. Also, in
Sotah, Par'oh has to tell this sign to the midwives (as pointed out here
earlier) which would indicate it's something they wouldn't necessarily have
noticed on their own.

On "nishtanah hatevah":
1- R' Avraham ben haRambam says that it refers to changes in scientific
   theory, not the underlying reality. IOW, "nishtanah hatevah" means that
   Chazal taught what was considered scientific in their days, but they
   were wrong.

2- The ba'alei Tosafos and the Rosh seem to only use nishtanah hatevah in
   cases where the change can be explained in terms of changing circumstances:
   e.g. where it can be attributed to better human health due to better
   knowledge of medicine, or better care and breeding of animals. I haven't
   finished going through every reference on my Bar Ilan CD, but I'm pretty
   far along.

3- Of course the third position is that of the Seifer haB'ris. Again, we are
   in a period where the rov is maximalist, so we tend toward the assumption
   that nature itself actually changed. But there is no indication this
   actually was the rov from the Chazal through the early Acharonim.

4- R' Avigdor Miller, in discussing medicine in the Gemara, takes a position
   which is both 1 and 3. A doctor doesn't heal, Hashem heals. The point of
   the doctor is to insure that the healing doesn't require a neis nigleh
   (which most of us would not merit). Therefore, if a doctor contemporary to
   the gemara performed something that then-science believed to be correct,
   it would actually be as likely to work as if a doctor today would do the
   best of his art. In both cases, the neis is effectively hidden.

   IOW, changes in scientific theory cause changes in nature -- at least
   for medicine.

   This would explain a mystery scientists have with skeletons that show signs
   of a labotomy (called "trepaning"). First, it's incredible that people
   as far back as Mitzrayim (not to mention its appearance in the Gemara
   when the Romans didn't know that the brain was related to thinking) knew
   it would work, but nowadays the patient would have died of shock. There
   was no anesthesia used! At least, the Gemara doesn't mention any, and
   it does spell out the whole procedure.

   OTOH, we do know the life expectancy is growing. So the world certainly
   is acting as though we are closer to some underlying truth. Or, perhaps
   the length of lifespan is just another nishtanah hateva.

   Add to this R' Eliyahu E Dessler's shitah that all of nature is merely
   miracles that follow the usual rules, and we could perhaps generalize RAM's
   position to all of nature. The point of natural law is to hide Hashem's
   "Hand". Which means that it's more important that events follow what
   people think the law is than some abstract but unknown rule. 


Micha Berger                 When you come to a place of darkness,
micha@aishdas.org            you do not chase out the darkness with a broom.
http://www.aishdas.org       You light a candle.
(973) 916-0287                  - R' Yekusiel Halbserstam of Klausenberg zt"l

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Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 10:04:12 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: The Holocaust: Divine Retribution?

On Thu, Jul 27, 2000 at 07:03:14PM -0700, Harry Maryles wrote:
: I agree that an event that is biderech hateva happens for the same reasons
: and through the same mechanism as neis, if you mean by that, G-d's creative
: capacity.

Remember that it seems the Rambam does not. According to the Rambam, Hashem
created teva which itself causes those events that are biderech hateva.
Before people cry "shutfus", compare this to HKBH creating humans, and then
allows us to act as we choose. Here though, it's not a human following
personal choice but rules that Hashem allows to stand between Him and
the beri'ah.

:                                                                I believe what
: you are in effect saying is that in the practical terms applicable to Mankind,
: REED defines Teva as predictability. This may be true.

I would say more than that. I don't think anyone argues that the pragmatic,
functional, definition of teva is predictable. REED is saying that it's
the entire difference, not just the functional one.

:                                                                   Teva is
: that which can be perceived by the five senses, directly or indirectly, or
: can be proven imperically, through the use of the scientific method, or can
: be deduced logically. Neis is not necessarily subject to any of the above.
: It is more likely subjectively experienced.

If I may itemize your words, you're defining teva saying that it is something:
1- perceived by the 5 senses; and 2- through the use of scientific method; or
3- something deducable logically from 1 or 2.

The bit about indirectly is included in #3. Similarly I left your "empirical",
as the word refers to something we can sense and test with the scientific
method -- it's the sum of 1 and 2.

It's also possible that you meant deduce logically from first principles,
but you didn't give me a list of first principles to deduce it from. For
example, would a proof that Hashem exists imply that He is part of teva? Some
logical proofs have to be excluded as being metaphysics, not physics. So
for now, I'm limiting deduction to conclusions reached from things
already known to be part of teva.

Boiled down in this way, your definition ends up identical to mine. Scientific
method implies that it is repeatable in an experiment -- IOW that one can
*predict* when it will occur. Item #1 alone is also true of nissim -- people
witnessed k'rias Yam Suf.

: OTOH, as I have said, I beleive that Neis is actually a part of Teva (which
: seems to contradict my whole thesis). But that is not the same as defining
: it is a predictability vs an unpredictability. It is only our subjective
: perception of the Neis and our inability to understand the natural basis of
: a Neis that makes it seem to violate the laws of nature. But definitionally
: it is a "beryah bifnei atzmah"

Nature is that which has a natural basis. This seems circular, but it does
add something that wasn't in your earlier definition (the one I murdered and
autopsied) -- the notion of a "basis". So let us add: 4- natural events have
natural causes.

You therefore say that even nissim are natural (I'm intentionally avoiding
the word "teva", so as to save "teva" for non-nissim) because they have
natural causes.

I still don't see the beryah.

Perhaps a similar case from the ba'alei machshavah would help explain what
I mean by "beryah".

The ba'alei Kabbalah and those who spend time discussing atzilus hold that
there exists some ideal horse out there that real horses are expressions
of. This is called Idealism, and is normally attributed to Plato. However,
the Kuzari attributes Platonism and Aristotilianism to ideas learned from
b'nei Sheim. This Ideal Horse is a beryah, albeit not a physical one.

The Rambam, who tells you that he's getting this idea from Aristotilean
Realism, holds that the word "horse" just describes the features that all
horses have in common, and that no non-horses do. This is a point the makes in
discussing human beings who are somewhat people WRT hashgachah p'ratis. "Ben
Adam" is only a description of a set of things that share some features --
to varying extents. (I wonder about this -- what about bechirah? Does the
Rambam also hold that someone can somewhat have bechirah as opposed to
yes-or-no? What would it mean?)

In our case, the Rambam isn't claiming that teva is an Ideal, since he
still doesn't hold of Ideals. However, he does say that teva is an
beryah (here's that word again!) which is responsible for those events
which are biderech hateva. I was asserting based on REED that derech
hateva is merely a descriptive term that describes some events and not
others and therefore there is no beryah that all these events are related
to. Teva is a property, not a cause.

Saying that things that have this property cause other things that have
this property (i.e. #4) is different than saying the property itself
is a separate beryah that is doing the causing.

:> Hashem wants us to have such rules because otherwise we'd have as little
:> bechirah as mal'achim (as per the Ohr Samei'ach) -- all choices would
:> be obvious. Just as He wants us to walk bayabashah bisoch hayam.

: I agree but this does not contradict what I said.

I didn't intend it to. Since it appeared I wasn't clear, I was just
recapping my entire position -- not just the parts on which we disagree.


Micha Berger                 When you come to a place of darkness,
micha@aishdas.org            you do not chase out the darkness with a broom.
http://www.aishdas.org       You light a candle.
(973) 916-0287                  - R' Yekusiel Halbserstam of Klausenberg zt"l

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Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 09:34:18 EDT
From: DFinchPC@aol.com
Re: Niddah 31a

In a message dated 7/28/00 7:07:07 AM US Central Standard Time, 
micha@aishdas.org writes:
> Add to this R' Eliyahu E Dessler's shitah that all of nature is merely
> miracles that follow the usual rules, and we could perhaps generalize RAM's
> position to all of nature. The point of natural law is to hide Hashem's
> "Hand". Which means that it's more important that events follow what people
> think the law is than some abstract but unknown rule.

I entirely agree. But couldn't a Jewish scientist say that the point of science
is to attempt to *describe* HaShem's hand, i.e., to describe the exquisite
order that underlies the mirage of chance and chaos in the universe? After all,
there's only one real difference between atheistic science and frum science,
and that's the unprovable assumption of an Original Cause.

David Finch

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Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 11:29:46 -0400
From: "Feldman, Mark" <MFeldman@CM-P.COM>
RE: hashgacha pratis /schar miztva b'hai alma leika

From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
. . . .
> When we had that discussion, R' Sholom Carmy said that he was finishing up
> an article on the Rambam and Hashgachah. Anyone (including RSC) know if it
> came out?

He wrote an article in the Torah U'Maddah Journal vol 8 entitled (as I
recall) "Tell them I've had a Good Life." He also wrote an article in an
Orthodox Forum book (published by Jason Aronson Press and reviewed recently in
Tradition), which he edited, entitled "Jewish Perspectives on the Experience
of Suffering." I haven't read the book article; does anyone know how it
compares to the journal article?

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Rabbi Carmy found on the
Jason Aronson website: http://www.aronson.com/cgi-bin/detail.cgi?b=741&c=J
(look on the left hand tool bar).

"That God knows and is concerned with each one of us is a fundamental
Jewish teaching. That God, from moment to moment, manifests His concern by
intervening in the natural order is not. Some rare individuals are deemed
worthy of intimate, individual divine providence at each and every moment.
This essential tension is played out throughout Jewish thought, in Rambam
and Ramban, in R. Kook, R. Soloveitchik and R. Yosef Bloch. Prophets and
psalmists knew that God both reveals and conceals Himself. The experience
of God's aloofness and chastisement, terrifying as it may be, the feeling of
abandonment and despair-these are as much a part of the religion of reality
as our experience of His closeness and love. It is the complex consciousness
of both kinds of experience that distinguishes confrontation with God from
comforting but ultimately empty gestures. "

[Moderator's note: one paragraph was bounced to Areivim because it was
off-topic. -mi]

> A non-frum co worker who read the discussion from the archive asked me the
> following: But isn't HKBH CHOOSING to leave one to teva? IOW, isn't the
> lack of hashgach p'ratis itself a form of hashgachah p'ratis, in that H' is
> allowing nature to take its course?

Rabbi Carmy made a similar argument in the TUM article.

My own view is that while it is hashgacha p'ratis in one way, in other ways
it's not: In the case of normal hashgacha pratis, Hashem might make sure that
even the details of the situation create the situation most appropriate for
the nisayon of the individual (as Micha put it: one gets in this world is
the situation necessary to maximize his growth in temimus and deveikius).
In the case of being left to teva, that probably doesn't happen.

Kol tuv,
Moshe Feldman

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Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 11:31:56 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: hashgacha pratis /schar miztva b'hai alma leika

The tochachah seems to contradict both sides. The pasuk says "vehalachti
immachem bachamas keri" (Vayikra 26:28). On the one hand, "keri" implies
a lack of complete hashgachah p'ratis -- except of the kind my co worker
wondered about lishitas haRambam. OTOH, "vehalachti" isn't an abandonment
to teva, or that teva is a beryah that a person could be abandoned to.


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Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 11:45:54 -0700 (PDT)
From: Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>
Re: The Holocaust: Divine Retribution?

Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org> wrote:
> According to the Rambam, Hashem created teva which itself causes those events
> that are biderech hateva.

Although SOMEWHAT Aristotalian in the sense of G-d being the unmoved mover,
that is how I understand creation, which, BTW is why evolution seems like
such a viable possibility as a mechanism of creation.

> Before people cry "shutfus", compare this to HKBH creating humans, and then
> allows us to act as we choose. Here though, it's not a human following
> personal choice but rules that Hashem allows to stand between Him and
> the beri'ah.


> I would say more than that. I don't think anyone argues that the pragmatic,
> functional, definition of teva is predictable. REED is saying that it's
> the entire difference, not just the functional one.

To this I still am unconvinced. However, the definition of Teva which i gave
(below) was an off the cuff definition and if I understand your critique
correctly, you are saying that some of my definition was implied by other
parts of my definition. As for the "deductive reasoning" part of my definition
I was merely trying to say that given a set of observable data based on the
laws of nature as we have come to understand them certain "facts aboutr the
nature of the universe can be deduced. This is somewhat akin to the thought
experiments that Einstien did and thus deduced his theories of relativity.

> For example, would a proof that Hashem exists imply that
> He is part of teva?

I do not think it is possible to prove the existence of G-d. G-d is a belief
which is a greater reality than a fact. Facts are just data, relating to
a corporeality of which G-d is not. Belief in G-d is the important factor
which motivates action.

> Some logical proofs have to be excluded as being metaphysics, not physics.
> So for now, I'm limiting deduction to conclusions reached from things
> already known to be part of teva.

Logic alone without factual data is not enough to prove anything that is
why Einstein's theroies of relativity are only theories. As data becomes
available to prove various predictions based on those theories, portions of the
theories become fact. Otherwise, no matter how logical they remain theories.
Logic can be used to advance falsehoods as well. Can anyone prove that only
one G-d exists? Belief in ONE G-d is also a belief.

> You therefore say that even nissim are natural (I'm intentionally avoiding
> the word "teva", so as to save "teva" for non-nissim) because they have
> natural causes.

> I still don't see the beryah.

It is a beryah in the experiential sense not in the actual sense.

I'm not sure that there is that much disagreement here.


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Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 14:27:39 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: psychiatry

On Fri, Jul 28, 2000 at 10:00:44PM +0300, Eli Turkel wrote to Areivim:
: I think we need to distinguish between a greater evil inclination
: and a psychiatric problem.

Is there necessarily a difference?

:                            The more serious questions arise
: when a schizophrenic does a sin. How much free will does he have?

The same as you and I. The challenges are different, but the ability to
face those challenges is not.

: The gemara's definition of shoteh differs from psychiatry.

I would instead say that "shoteh" has no equivalent term in psychiatric
jargon. What you did is assume that there is an equivalent term, and
then complain that the aren't equivalent.

: Without being an expert an schizophrenic may not walk in cemetries,
: may be knowledgable about money etc. and so not be a shoteh
: but is still not in control of his/her emotions.

A shoteh is someone who can't be expected to know right from wrong, not
just any psychotic or schizophrenic person. A bar da'as knows the value
of things: the egoz vs. the k'lipah.

And the din of shoteh is pretty similar to that of tinok shenishbah. One
doesn't assess right from wrong properly because of nature, the other because
of nurture -- and each are judged kilapai shimaya in accordance with
their respective handicaps.


Micha Berger                 When you come to a place of darkness,
micha@aishdas.org            you do not chase out the darkness with a broom.
http://www.aishdas.org       You light a candle.
(973) 916-0287                  - R' Yekusiel Halbserstam of Klausenberg zt"l

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Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 15:26:33 -0400
From: "Daniel A. Schiffman" <das54@columbia.edu>
Article About Volozhin

[Listowner's note: This submission bounced due to length. That gives me
an opportunity to discuss the results of my survey about reposting material
from around the internet. We had a pretty solid consensus.

[The general consensus is that more people want a summary and a URL. In
the case of email from other lists: if you think the list isn't likely
to be heavily subscribed to amongst Areivim members, then send the email.
But please reformat it to minimize size! If you think many of us would
have access to it, just send a summary.

[In this case, RDAS wasn't forewarned, so I'm compacting the post and
by removing HUGE margins and sending it through.]

This article about Volozhin was published in Ha'aretz.  Of course, there
are some overgeneralizations about  different drachim in Talmud Torah.


Rosy maidens and red apples:
Bialik's Volozhin
By B.Z. Yehoshua

The neglected premises of the Etz Haim yeshiva in Volozhin now serve as a
bakery. Here the young Haim Nachman Bialik studied before he went to Odessa
and here, on 'Yarmulka Hill,' he wrote 'To the Bird,' his first poem. This
Monday, the 21st of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, marks the 66th anniversary
of his death. B.Z. Yehoshua reports

The cinnamon scent of good confectionery wafted from the Etz Haim yeshiva
in Volozhin, where Hebrew poet Haim Nachman Bialik (1873-1934) studied. The
building has become a bakery. The baker grumbled that the building was soon
to be transferred into Jewish hands. The neglected yeshiva building was in
a decrepit state. I recalled Bialik's description in "On the Threshold of
the Study House:"

".. With no one coming back, hay rises in your tracks and on your paths grass
grows, a spider weaves trembling on your deck, on your split roof flap cawing
crows; stone after stone falls and inside fragments land, your pillars crack,
it is a miracle you stand..."

I could not help but go back to the poet's description in "The Diligent Talmud
Student" of the Etz Haim yeshiva, which was considered the mother of all the
Lithuanian yeshivas. Although he describes the atmosphere of the yeshiva more
than its physical appearance, it is impossible not to envision the yeshiva
itself and the Talmud student, who is compared to the shadow of a dead person:

"At the hour when the stars shine above / the grass whispers and the winds
tell tales / and your ears heard from afar a rustling voice / and your eyes
saw from afar light shining / in a window, and through it the figure of a
man like / the shadow of a moving corpse, running... / In the empty yeshiva,
holy silence... / A lit candle, his study stand and his Talmud tome..."

The town fairgrounds, which have known better days, stand in desuetude. We
look in vain for Jewish faces in its narrow lanes and our eyes fall upon
girls with flaxen hair. The lands of this fertile area served as a place
to raise cattle, horses and flax. These were the products that were sold in
the large markets held four times a year and at smaller, weekly markets.

Some people believe that had Bialik not come to the Etz Haim yeshiva in
Volozhin, it is doubtful that he would have developed into a national poet
and possibly he would not have drunk there from the founts of poetry that
established his place in modern Hebrew literature. His first poem, "To the
Bird," was composed on "Mount Bialik," which was named after him once he
became world famous. Before that, the "mountain," which is more of a hill,
was known as "Mount Yarmulka (Skullcap)." The long poem "The

Diligent Talmud Student" was influenced by his stay in the town.

The place was very suited to his growth and development. Here he took in
the language and style of the Mishna and the Talmud, and gave them his own
personal dimension. Of his period in Volozhin, Bialik wrote the following:
"I went to Volozhin at the age of 15, prompted by the rumors that had spread in
my hometown among the boys that in Volozhin they study, openly or in secret,
along with Gemara, seven types of wisdom and 70 languages, and that Volozhin
is but one step away from Berlin." His disappointment was great when he
arrived here. He found that at the Etz Haim yeshiva nothing was studied apart
from Gemara, and even the Russian language was not taught in a serious way,
as it was a government requirement imposed on the yeshiva and its students.

He lived in the home of a Jewish widow, like the rest of the students who
boarded in the homes of local Jews, and paid them small sums that allowed
the inhabitants to make a living. His landlady's furniture included a simple,
hard couch. Under the pillow lay his favorite books: Yehuda Halevi's "Kuzari,"
"Duties of the Heart" by Rabbenu Bahya Ben Joseph Ibn Pakuda and "Beliefs
and Opinions" by Rabbi Saadya Gaon -- which he studied at every opportunity;
these are books of a philosophical nature and were forbidden for use by
order of the heads of the yeshiva.

Bialik was not only not "diligent;" he was the diametric opposite. In
secret he read forbidden philosophical works and began to write poems.
He knew what was happening outside the walls of the study house. He saw
"rosy maidens and red apples" on Yarmulka Hill, where he sat and wrote. And
he adds, as an eyewitness: "How the heart expands and what the sight takes
in! -- The wind... filtered, soft, clear and cool, and with his soft hand
he wipes away the sweat dripping from the wrinkles of his clouded brow."

Bialik found the time to slip away from the yeshiva to spend time outdoors in
nature, to enjoy the refreshing evening breeze. He did not sit on Yarmulka
Hill to study a page of Gemara, but wrote there "To the Bird," a poem full
of innocence and emotion influenced by contemporary writers whose works he
obviously read in secret. The bird is a symbol of longings, which wanders
far and wide and brings news. The poem was printed in Hapardess, the journal
edited by Yehoshua H. Ravnitzky, who eventually became his collaborator on
"Sefer Ha'aggadah" ("The Book of Legend: Legends of the Talmud and Midrash,"
Odessa 1908-1911; in English, Schocken Books, New York, 1992). The Zionist
Zeitgeist fills the poem, for Volozhin was at the time a hothouse of Zionist
activity, which radiated its warmth onto the yeshiva and its students.

Volozhin was good to Bialik. He was popular with his fellow-students
and regarded highly by his teachers like Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin
("Hanatziv") or the great scholar Rabbi Haim Soloveichik. However, though the
course at the yeshiva was supposed to go on for six years (a year for every
order of the Mishna), he left the yeshiva after only a year and a half. He
felt stifled and thirsted for enlightenment and knowledge, which could be
found in considerable doses only in the port city of Odessa, which was open
to international influences.

Volozhin was founded, apparently in the 15th century, as the estate of Baron
Tiskvitz, who was quite friendly with Rabbi Haim of Volozhin, the owner of a
textile factory in the town. The town grew famous among the Jews by virtue
of the great yeshiva, Etz Haim, which was named after its founder Haim Bar
Yitzhak, the chief rabbi of Volozhin. He was not only a wealthy merchant,
but also very well-versed in Jewish studies and Gemara. It was only natural
that a rich man like Rabbi Haim and his father would be leaders of the small
Jewish community.

The town was part of the Vilna region. Running north to south of the village
is a small stream called the Volozhinka, which apparently gave the town
its name. Volozhin is now in Belarus. In 1766, 383 Jews resided there;
in 1847 there were 590 and in 1897 there were 2,452 Jews there. In 1921,
there were 1,434 Jews among the 2,600 inhabitants of the town. In 1931,
when it was part of Poland, there were about 5,600 Jews, most of whom earned
their living from commerce, forestry, flour milling, leather working and
the brick industry. On the eve of the Holocaust there were about 3,000 Jews,
who were brutally slaughtered by the Nazis.

The Volozhin yeshiva was considered to be the mother of the Lithuanian
yeshivas. It was founded in 1802 and until 1892, it was the largest spiritual
center for the Jews of Russia. Lithuanian-type yeshivas are known to this
day for their extremism and their methods of pilpul, hair-splitting Talmudic
argument. There is great rivalry between the Lithuanian yeshivas and the
Hasidic yeshivas, which are more programmatic and use the Gemara to teach
Jewish law and the observance of commandments.

Lithuanian study, on which Bialik was raised, is on an intellectual basis
and is not intended make the student into a rabbi who only has knowledge of
Jewish law. Usually, a pair of students studied together, and argued aloud
between themselves, asking questions and giving answers. In this way, they
developed their facility of expression and their understanding.

Additional emphasis was placed on the study of musar (morality), a method
that placed the individual at the center of the educational activity. The
Lithuanian mitnagedim saw the Hasidim, who placed the tzaddik (holy man)
between themselves and G-d, as deviants from the path of the Torah and as
having mystical tendencies that distanced the student from moral matters,
to the point of neglecting Torah study. This conflict reached the point of
mutual snitching to gentile courts. The Volozhin yeshiva was conducted quite
differently from the German yeshivas, where students learned Torah along with
derekh eretz -- that is, alongside sacred studies the students got a general
education, which was lacking both in the Lithuanian and the Hasidic yeshivas.

Rabbi Haim of Volozhin's pedagogical method was very interesting. He came
to the conclusion that it is possible to teach every individual only to the
limits of his personal understanding. It was better that he not study at all
than study in a superficial way. He also engaged in the nurturing of the
student's moral qualities. For him, a just and honest life was preferable
to the study of Torah. Distancing oneself from sin was the first step before
the study of Torah.

As most of the Jewish inhabitants of the town were engaged in commerce with
non-Jews, the test of honesty was of paramount importance in the relations
between Jew and Jew, and between Jew and gentile. The rabbi warned the Jews
of Volozhin not to compete with one another and damage their brethren's
living. It was especially important for the leaders and functionaries of the
community to be fair so that they would serve as an example to all the rest.

"The diligent Talmud scholar" studied at a yeshiva for six years. Bialik
studied here a total of one year and four months. Abba Blucher relates in
his memoirs: "One day we accompanied Bialik on the way to the station at
Molodchina. There were many of us as

Bialik was likable and popular with everyone he knew; and everyone was sure
that he was destined to bring honor to the yeshiva in the future. Near a
small hill by the roadside, the party sat down to rest. Bialik sat in the
middle and those who were accompanying him sat around him in a semi-circle and
sang songs of Zion. The carter began to hurry us. The parting scene began,
hugs and kisses. Handshakes and blessings. Hands in the air. They stood
Bialik on the cart and it suddenly began to move. Bialik fell down into the
cart. When he got up on his knees, he bid his final farewells to those who
were accompanying him, until they were out of sight. When the cart looked
like a small dot on the distant horizon, we returned to the city, full of
sadness at the separation." Bialik himself recalled the town with nostalgia,
and at every opportunity he would talk about it and reconstructed the life of
"the diligent Talmud scholar" in a number of his works.

Poet and essayist Jacob Fichman (1881-1958) related that Bialik liked to
recall his yeshiva days. "All the softness preserved in his heart for this dear
refuge of his youth is now spilling out as a melody in his heart... This is
the new edition of 'The Diligent Talmud Scholar' -- a long prose poem that,
had it been written down then by Bialik as it is, would also perhaps be as
sublime a work as 'The Diligent Talmud Scholar' in rhyme..."

In 1892, the Volozhin yeshiva was shut down by order of the Russian
government. It was enlightened Jews who had pushed for this, who saw the
yeshivas as hothouses for the creation of fanatic Jews. They wanted to
add to the curriculum general studies like in the yeshivas in Germany,
which included languages, sciences, liberal arts and more. As they saw it,
the existence of the yeshiva was preventing the appointment of rabbis who
had studied at rabbinical seminaries in Germany, and therefore the yeshiva,
along with others of its kind, was shut down.

The yeshiva was reopened, on a smaller scale, in 1899, headed by Rabbi Rafael
Shapira. The Jewish press published numerous debates on these yeshivas.
Despite the inspection and supervision at the yeshiva, it was penetrated by
influences from the outside world; in secret, musar books from the Middle
Ages that were forbidden in the Lithuanian yeshivas began to be read. There
were also clandestine influences of the Haskalah (Enlightenment) movement
and the Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) movement which spoke of immigration
to the land of Israel. The authorities' attempts to impose general studies
at an elementary school level failed and therefore the heads of the yeshiva
were expelled and it was closed down again.

Gradually the place became a site for prayer; students began to show up
there and renewed the yeshiva studies. Presumably it was at this stage
that Bialik came into town. Volozhin, which to this day consists largely of
wooden houses, was mainly a poor town and there were many disasters there,
especially fires that burnt down half the town. It is known that there was
a major fire in 1815, and again in 1880, in which part of the town near the
river was burned down. In this fire, many valuable books went up in flame,
and most of the inhabitants were left without a roof over their heads,
without any possessions or even clothing.

On June 27, 1886, 200 houses burned down and 400 families were left
homeless. In this fire, the Etz Haim yeshiva that Rabbi Haim had built in
1807 also burnt down. Most of the inhabitants had nothing to eat and many
had to live in stables and barns belonging to non-Jewish farmers.

All the inhabitants' pleas for help remained unanswered, until an appeal to
world Jewry to help rebuild the yeshiva and the town. Money poured in and
on the ruins of the yeshiva a new building went up. Baron Michael Tiskvitz
also participated in the project and contributed lumber to build the yeshiva
and the study house. In 1885, institutions for social aid were established
in the town, among them an institution for the care of abandoned orphans.
Also established was a fund that helped the modest poor who were ashamed to
beg. Impoverished sick people were given hospitalization, medicine and food.
One doctor who came from Vishniyava would get paid 13 rubles, including the
fee for the carter who brought him.

The owner of the pharmacy was a Russian who charged very high prices. The
Jews of Volozhin collected money and tried to set up a pharmacy under Jewish
ownership, but the license they were given was for a pharmacy in a hospital
for lepers outside the town. Volozhin was one of the first towns in which a
branch of Hovevei Zion was established. Established in 1918, the "Young Zion"
branch here was among the first in Russia. Among the activists were members
of the Bunimovich, Persky and Rabinovich families. They collected money for
the workers in the land of Israel and for a Jewish school in Jaffa (before
Tel Aviv was founded). When Gershon Pollak married Esther Bunimovich in 1883,
the parents organized a contribution for the workers in the land of Israel.
When the Hebrew University was established in 1925 on Mount Scopus, the Jews
of the town held celebrations and ceremonies and collected money for it.

In 1915, during World War I, the yeshiva fled to Minsk, returning to Volozhin
in 1922. When the Etz Haim Yeshiva was shut down, the Zionists took control of
it, thereby infuriating the ultra-Orthodox Jews. In 1927-1928, a culture war
raged here. Both sides fought bitterly for the rights to the building. The war
was accompanied by blows that ended in Jews shedding Jewish blood. Volozhin
also had a theatrical life, under the direction of Abraham Berkovich.
The most famous play was "Joseph and his Brothers," and tickets were sold at
the pharmacy owned by Avraham Berkovich. The tickets were snapped up. All
the most respected people showed up for the gala performance. People wore
their best clothes. The excitement in the audience was huge.

The Jews of Volozhin were slaughtered in three Aktions during the
Holocaust. The first was with the German occupation and the other two in 1942.
The height of the horror was on May 1, 1942, when the Nazis held their
second massacre, in which most of the Jews of the town were killed. This
is also the annual memorial day for its Jews. We visited the town cemetery,
and saw the damaged tombstones and fragments of bones.

One of the last six Jews of Volozhin, whose name is Alterman, described with
ravaged eyes the last days of the town's Jews: "Here, in the middle of the
cemetery, the Jews dug a pit. The German tanks ran over them and covered
them with earth. Screams of women and children. For an hour or more the
earth shifted and heaved, because the inhabitants of Volozhin were buried
alive." In such a symbolic way, Alterman pointed to the wooden house the
chimneys of which are emitting smoke from sawdust and hot steam and said:
"This is the day of the week when the inhabitants of Volozhin customarily
bathe. They need to. Jews who came back here from the inferno and wanted
to return to their homes mysteriously met their deaths at the hands of the
inhabitants of Volozhin who wanted to obliterate its Jewish past."

Since 1840, an Etz Haim yeshiva has stood in Jerusalem, near the Mahaneh
Yehuda market; it is the daughter and heir of the Volozhin yeshiva. In 1938,
a yeshiva was named after the brilliant scholars of Volozhin; it moved to
Bnei Brak and is now called The Volozhin Yeshiva in the Land of Israel. The
yeshiva also serves as a memorial to the Jews and the yeshiva of Volozhin

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Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 16:40:57 -0400
From: "Feldman, Mark" <MFeldman@CM-P.COM>
Hashgacha and bitachon

Various sources on the issue of bitachon (including Chovos Ha'Levavos,
Michtav Me'eliyahu vol 1, Chazon Ish- Emunah u'Bitachon, Alei Shur chelek
bet, Gateway to Happiness, etc.) state that one need not worry with regard
to material needs if one has bitachon in Hashem, since Hashem will provide
your material needs based on the extent to which you merit them (provided
you do the requisite hishatadlus; but the hishtadlus, according to Chovos
HaLevovos is the not the cause of your success but merely the means by which
Hashem causes you to succeed).

Would the Rambam agree with this approach? After all, according to the Rambam,
to the extent that one is not close to Hashem one is left to the results of
nature. If so, can the average individual have bitachon in Hashem according
to the Rambam?

(And, if the answer is no, can the average individual who believes in the
Michtav Me'eliyahu's approach truly have bitachon; won't he have the nagging
doubt that maybe the Rambam is correct?)

(BTW, I have read the discussions in Avodah archives v1n9-15.)

Kol tuv,
Moshe Feldman

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