Avodah Mailing List
Volume 05 : Number 112
Thursday, August 31 2000
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2000 17:24:47 +0200
From: "Akiva Atwood" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Feelings...nothing more than feelings...
> The point of all of this? HaShem created mysteries in the universe. Some
> of the mysteries are mysterious because we're stuck using words.
Zen, for one, does away with the words. Would you claim that their
experience is a "higher" or more truthful one than any of the prophetic
visions reported in Nach?
> That's the problem. Most linguists would agree that words don't
> merely describe or convey thought, they *create* thought.
Are you claiming that most linguists now accept the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
in it's deterministic form? That claim doesn't fit with recent discussons
I've read about the S-W hypothesis.
Akiva Atwood, POB 27515
Jerusalem, Israel 91274
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Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2000 11:50:35 -- 0400
From: "Feldman, Mark" <MFeldman@CM-P.COM>
Subject: RE: From "Shaarei Tshuvah"
From: Yaakov Feldman
> When afflictions strike
> The first question that arises under such circumstances is, "Why me?".
> RY advises that we're to realize that it was our sins that brought on
> afflictions, and to use the moment to return to G-d (¶2).
> Expanding on the idea of afflictions, RY suggests that we also realize
> that G-d only chastises us (i.e., afflicts us) to either forgive us or move
> us to tshuvah (¶3).
How does this square with "schar mitzvah b'hai alma leika" and Carl Sherer's
"When my son relapsed two and a half years ago, Adina and I had a lengthy
session on the phone with a prominent Rav here in Yerushalayim. One of
the things I asked him was whether R"L Baruch Yosef's illness could be
an oinesh for something I had done in my younger days. After all, when
a child is sick R"L, it's not because of something the child did but
because of something the parents did. His immediate response was "schar
va'onesh b'hai alma leka." He said I shouldn't even think that way."
In addition, Rabbeinu Yona's view regarding onesh depends the different
philosophies regarding hashgacha pratis, which Micha & I have discussed.
Micha & I agree that Rambam would not necessarily say that every negative
natural result is automatically an onesh (no more than a positive natural
result being schar) in the case of someone who is left to the results of
teva, though it would indicate that the person is not close to Hashem
(since he has been left to teva). However, such a person could derive
from the fact that he has been left to teva that he should do tshuva so
that he will be subject to more hashgacha pratis.
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Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2000 16:24:18 GMT
From: "" <email@example.com>
Subject: Language and thought
There has been a very interesting discussion going on between Micha and
David Finch about how language affects our approach/relationship with
HQBH. Just a linguist's two cents: the idea that language shapes our
thoughts or, even more, determines our thoughts is known as the Whorfian
hypothesis after its originator.) Semyon Vygotsky was the one who said
that without language there is no thought. But psycholinguists have been
doing research on the Whorfian hypothesis ever since Whorf developed it
(on the basis of some Amerindian languages that do not have categories
like European nouns and verbs). The research is very interesting and
thought-provoking, including things like testing how people classify
colors if the language that they speak has only one word for blue
(English), or two (Russian), or one word that includes both yellow and
green (Hebrew). The last results I saw cast doubt on the truth of the
hypothesis. People apparently can think outside of the categories language
imposes for the sake of comprehendability. Perhaps a more significant
impediment to our ahava and yir'a of HQBH is the fact that we are used to
thinking in our terms which are suitable for this world. The statements
of the Rambam in Yesodei HaTorah indicate that even though it is hard,
the more the person trains himself to think about the sublime, the better
he will be able to draw close to Him and understand His glory.
On a different note, a lot of the discussion of Boneh being a verb or a
noun is also caused by the fact that we are used to languages that have
regular tenses. It is clear that Hebrew and other related languages had a
form, like kosev, which has aspects of both a noun and a verb depending on
how it is used, and so English speakers are left scrambling to define it
in their terms. (Hebrew is not alone in this. Not only the other Semitic
languages, but even languages like Russian, much closer to English,
classifies verbal forms as perfective or imperfective, and that determines
whether it has a present form.) The point for Hebrew is that we, English
or Yiddish speakers, are looking for a present tense of a verb, whereas
the Hebrew or Arabic speaker would be more likely to use what we call
the "osid" in many cases (and regularly for the "habitual" present),
and a noun in others. This also has relevance to the discussion about
mehayye hammesim: mehayye with a segol or a tsere. I can cite sources on
either side, and I will leave the philosophical discussions to others
who put more store than I in alternating forms. But the bottom line
again is that the Hebrew hove can have either, depending on whether the
speaker is treating it as a noun (in semikhut) or a verb (with a direct
object). Either is possible, and there are lots of examples either way
in Hebrew, and the difference is a nuance that I have found very hard
to explain to people not used to those shades of meaning.
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Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 00:57:18 +0300
From: D & E-H Bannett <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Ash/Sef tefilla forms
R' mi- wrote:
: Seph tends to use mishnaic Hebrew for tephillah, whereas we Ash'im
: tend to use more biblical forms. For example: Ash- licha, torasecha;
: Seph- lach, torasach. If this machlokes is as old as our gemara.....
I think you will find that much of the switch from endings -lakh to
-lekha and from -in to -im were made in the late 18th goyishe century
by R' Zalman Hakohen Hanau and/or R' Yitzhak Satanov (ba'al Vaye'tar
Yitzhak) at a time when there was an attempt to "purify" the language of
tefilla by making it more Biblical. Also changed: ha-sh'lucha instead
of she-nishtalkha accepted by RV"H in the Roedelheimer tefilla and then
changed back by Seligmann Baer in Avodat Yisrael.
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Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2000 18:16:20 -0400
From: "Feldman, Mark" <MFeldman@CM-P.COM>
Subject: RE: From Shaarei Tshuvah
I had written:
> In addition, Rabbeinu Yona's view regarding onesh depends the
> different philosophies regarding hashgacha pratis, which
> Micha & I have discussed. Micha & I agree that Rambam would
> not necessarily say that every negative natural result is
> automatically an onesh (no more than a positive natural
> result being schar) in the case of someone who is left to the
> results of teva, though it would indicate that the person is
> not close to Hashem (since he has been left to teva).
> However, such a person could derive from the fact that he has
> been left to teva that he should do tshuva so that he will be
> subject to more hashgacha pratis.
I was asked:
> As to "schar va'onesh b'hai alma leka"-- how does that square with
> Rambam's statement at the beginning of Hilchos Ta'anis that we're never to
> think that tsoros (lo aleynu) happen b'mikra?
> So if they don't happen b'mikreh, and they don't come about as either
> schar or onesh-- what's left?
(Rabbi) Dr. David Berger, in his article about RambaN's view of hashgacha
pratis (which he claimed was very close to that of the Rambam) distinguished
between hashgacha of the individual and hashgacha over the Jewish people.
The Jewish people is generally subject to hashgacha pratis (much of the
Torah talks about what happens if the Jewish *people* will or will not
observe the Torah) while individuals often are not.
Rambam in Hilchos Ta'aniyos is talking about a tzibbur fasting for tzaros
that befall it.
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Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2000 19:31:48 EDT
Subject: Re: Language and thought
In a message dated 8/30/2000 10:05:24 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
> The statements of the Rambam in Yesodei HaTorah indicate that even
> though it is hard, the more the person trains himself to think about the
> sublime, the better he will be able to draw close to Him and understand
> His glory.
The "two cents" thrown into our discussion by a real linguist is actually
worth a million bucks!
I don't pretend to understand the various theories on how words shape
thought and vice versa. But there's this: The word "blue" might not
really describe the distinct concept of the color blue, but one cannot
expect to explain blue -- either the word or the concept -- to a blind
man. In this sense our reliance on language leaves all of us blind to
HaShem's ultimate reality. By the practice of Torah we can draw closer
to it, but we'll never understand it if we have to rely on anyone's
"explanations," even the Rambam's.
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Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 10:05:59 -0500
From: Micha Berger <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Boneh/Boney Yerushalaim
To step back for a moment... My apologies if stepping this far back
insults the reader, but I have to clear up some of my assumptions, and
some things I've phrased inconsistantly.
There is more than one kind of noun (sheim davar) associated with a
verb. There is the food, the eater and the notion of eating.
The idea under discussion is whether the binyan used for sheim po'el is
the same as that used for lashon hoveh. Sheim po'al doesn't enter this
If it is, is there indication that one meaning derived from the other?
RMC's statement was that some secular linguists hold that yes they use
the same binyan, because lashon hoveh evolved from sheim po'el.
Originally there was no lashon hoveh.
Of course when Sarah imeinu asked Avraham what he was doing, Avraham
had some way to phrase the answer. According to this theory, he
ustilized shem po'el. The idea is that to the avos, the
answer would be what we think of as "I am a builder right now" not,
"I am building".
Mentions of "lashon hoveh" still make sense, even though they are
anachronistic. Because the implication of both is the same in terms
of understanding the naarative.
On Tue, Aug 29, 2000 at 04:06:54PM -0400, Yzkd@aol.com wrote:
: As I see it Rashi is clear on the Difference between Hoiveh and Shem
: Davar, a Shem Davar would be Loitesh (as the Gur Aryei writes Mfurosh)
Tangent: The Rashi (Ber' 4:22) discusses why the word is choREISH
(milra). He doesn't (in the version in my chumash) discuss lotesh.
The distinction Rashi makes is between two kinds of noun: sheim po'el
and sheim po'al. His use of the word sheim is indicative of it being a
noun. Note that "lashon hoveh" as used in some of your other citations
is a "lashon".
However, as I noted, it's hard to see which is which from a Rashi
without nikud. Until we get to your next Rashi:
: this is frther found in Rashi Breishis 41:35 D"H Es Kol Oichel...
Here Rashi distinguishes between the sheim davar "Ochel" vs the sheim
po'el of oCHEIl. "Ochel" means food. "oCHEIl" means "one who
The Sifsei Chachamim tell us this is the same notion as in 4:22, so
we can return to it and "choREISH". "choREISH" is also nikud with
a tzeirei (a kamatz katan, in Rashi's parlance) and also is mil'ra
So, Rashi there could very well be saying that the pasuk is calling
him one who plowed, so the nikud should be "choREISH" not "CHOresh".
Translating "CHOresh" as "a plowed field" would seem to most parallel
"Ochel" = food.
: this is frther found in Rashi Breishis 41:35 D"H Es Kol Oichel, a Hoiveh
: has a Taam Lmatoh...
This Rashi distinguishes between hoveh and avar. Of course, we just saw
(41:35) that he considers "oCHEIl" to be a sheim po'el, i.e. the name
refering to one who eats. Which implies that the ma'aseh was in the
present, not in the past.
Similarly your other references to lashon hoveh [deleted].
: So Bnidun Didan it would seem Boneh would be a builder, Bonei would be
: one who builds, and see Breishis 4:17 "Boineh" Ir.
Whereas I would say:
BOneh = builder as a noun, which is used to imply "is building"
boNEIh = that which was built; i.e. some contruct
And, FWIW, BOneih = builder of ... (semichus for BOneh)
To add on the other wing of this piece, BOneh is also implicitely an
adjective. IOW, "haKel haGadol" is really "the G-d, the Great One",
and only implicitely "the G-d Who is great". This would explain why
adjectives get their own hei hayedi'ah -- because they were originally
(Which is why I was calling "BOneh" an adjective. Although I see now
that's a mistake.)
Micha Berger When you come to a place of darkness,
firstname.lastname@example.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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