Avodah Mailing List

Volume 06 : Number 117

Wednesday, January 31 2001

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 00:20:04 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@bezeqint.net>
Re: The mechabeir's rule by majority

> In either case, I'm sure there was discussion of whether and why Shu"t
> Min haShemayim has halachic weight. Can anyone comment?

There is an extensive discussion in Rav Reuven Margolis introduction to the
sefer. Also the Shem HaGedolim has an extensive discussion of the issue
under the topic Rabbeinu Yaakov HaChasid

Daniel Eidensohn

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Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 06:16:01 +1100
From: "SBA" <sba@blaze.net.au>
mibnos Putiel

From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@juno.com>
> The posuk describes Elisheva bas Aminadav achos Nachshon, to teach you to
> investigate the kallah's brother. The very next posuk appears to negate
> this, as Elazar took mibnos Putiel,  which according to one meaning is
> mibnos Yisro shepitem agalos la'avodah zara.  Comments?

So? Yisro was her father not brother?


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Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 09:08:33 +0200
From: "S. Goldstein" <goldstin@netvision.net.il>

The Chofetz Chaim was not really Rosh Yeshiva in Radin.  Rather he was the
menahel, paid the bills, hired rebbeim and spoke to bachurim once-a-week
when they were interested.  The most prominent RY was the GRaNaT.

In the Mossad HaRav Kook version of Shut Min HaShamayim their is a long
quote from Chida from Shem haGdolim concerning why the author is not chayiv
misa ldaas haRambam as a false prophet.

Shlomo Goldstein

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Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 08:47:37 -0600
From: "Yosef Gavriel and Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Re: Har Habayit

I regret that I cannot bring myself to continue the conversation on
Har ha'Bayis and the ancillary topics that Dr. Shinnar raised at this
time. I feel, strongly, that common ground for productive discourse is
sorely lacking. Perhaps on some future issue, at some future time, some
positive modicum may yet be achieved, as it has been numerous times in
the past. But not now.

ygb@aishdas.org      http://www.aishdas.org/rygb

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Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 09:57:02 -0500
From: Gil.Student@citicorp.com
Re: The mechabeir's rule by majority

> In either case, I'm sure there was discussion of whether and why Shu"t 
> Min haShemayim has halachic weight. Can anyone comment?
Rashi in Sukkah 42a sv veyisdum says that nevi'im instituted halachah based on 
nevu'ah.  Tosafos in Bechoros 58a sv mipi also quotes Rashi as saying this.  
Whatever Rashi's explanation is, it can also explain the Shu"t Min haShamayim.

Gil Student

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Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 15:29:38 -0000
From: "Seth Mandel" <sethm37@hotmail.com>
Vowels, consonants, and what we accomplish

[Both RGB and RSM transliterated the words as (e.g.) "yishalal",
"v'yishaddor", etc... In ASCII-izing this post I found this confusing,
as it looks like the "sh" is transliterating a shin, not a saf-hei pair.
I therefore took the liberty of inserting hyphens to render them
"yis-halal" and "v'yis-haddor", etc.... I ask mechilah if the change
urks the authors, but I found it useful and therefore assume others
would as well. -mi]

R. Gil Student asked me:
> In kaddish, which is correct -- "yis-halol" with a qomotz or "yis-halal"
> with a patakh? I've been told that the latter is correct in Aramaic
> grammar, of which I know almost nothing.

I sent R. Gil a brief response, but then thought about some things I
should add that might be of interest to others. I originally intended to
send this to Mesorah, but some of the things, I think, bear upon Avodah,
and so I thought to post it here.

The yesod upon which the response to R. Gil's question rests is that
"long" vowels (t'nu'a g'dola) in Aramaic function quite differently than
"long" vowels in Hebrew. In Hebrew, many short vowels and long vowels
alternate, based on their position in the sentence (e.g. atto becoming
otto at the end of a sentence: "melekh godol otto"). For instance,
a pasah will become a qomats in pausal form. A holam becomes a qomatz
qoton when the word has no trop, but is connected to the following by a
maqqaf (eg. Kol). Similarly a tsere becomes a segol (eg. et). Jews have
long-since grown accustomed to this from the TeNaKh and the siddur.

In Aramaic, on the other hand, as in most other Semitic languages,
long vowels are qualitatively different than short vowels. Qomatz and
pasah are two completely different vowels, and never substitute for each
other based on stress, sentence location, etc., no more than qomatz and
hiriq alternate.

This is well known, and apparent even to anyone who has read only the
Aramaic sections of Daniel and Ezra (e.g. 'azal with etnahta, Dan. 2:17,
samta, with qomatz in both syllables, Dan. 3:10).

This has created problems for Jews who know Hebrew well, but treat Aramaic
as sort of a dialect of Hebrew. They tend to try to pronounce/vocalize
Aramaic as if it were Hebrew. In pausal situations, they change the
pasah to a qomatz, and they try to make Aramaic grammar conform to
Hebrew. One of the prime examples of this is the z'miro for shabbos "Koh
Ribbon." Instead of "ovad g'vurtakh" (the deeds of Your greatness),
many/most siddurim has "g'vurtekh," which cannot refer to HQB'H in
Aramaic. Instead of "heivas bara" (the beast of the field, a direct quote
from Dan. 4:9, like much of the z'mira), siddurim have "heivas b'ra"
(the beast of the son, and I'm not going to touch that with a 10-foot
pole). Instead of "l'maqd'shokh tuv," siddurim have "l'miqdoshekh"
(maqdash is the form that appears hundreds of times in the targumim;
miq -- is the Hebrew form.)

Targum Onqelos has been messed up so much that it is scarcely recognizable
as Aramaic in some places (and you don't have to believe me: just look
for yourself how many different forms the standard printed editions
have for a common word like "ya'bed" (he will do)). (The Mosad H'R Kook
edition of Torat Hayyim has solved that problem by using the Teimani
nusah of the Targum, first printed in the Taj in the 40's. This does
not mean the Teimanim are always necessarily right, but they were the
only community that has preserved the taqqono of Hazal of a m'turg'mon
for q'rias haTorah, so they had a continuing tradition of how to read it.)

Qaddish and Y'qum Purqan escaped relatively unscathed, perhaps precisely
because there was a continuing tradition in shuls how they were said. It
is hard to find a gross mistake in the Aramaic of either, with the
exception of "kol man d'osqin b'Orayso" in both Qaddish d'Rabbonan and
Y'qum Purqan.

Even that is probably just a conflation of two different versions: "kol
man d'oseq.." and "kol d'osqin," both of which are attested. ("m'zona
r'vihei" is similarly to be explained as a conflation.) Hoever, that
did not stop printers, grammarians and others from making small little
"corrections" to make the texts conform to their idea of correctness. Just
as the printers and grammarians "corrected" morid hageshem (the form
attested in old Ashkenaz) to morid hagashem, and Rebbi/Ribbi to Rabbi,
they made a relatively innocuous correction of pasah to qomatz in
"v'yis-haddor" and "v'yis-hallol." Both of these are impossible forms
in Aramaic, since the future of a verb takes a short vowel there,
and qomatz, as explained above, is a long vowel. (They do not stand up
to well in Hebrew, either, since neither can be construed as a pausal
form: even if people saying qaddish do commonly pause there, it is not a
pause in the clause.) If these are Aramaic, they have to be "yis-haddar"
and "yis-hallal." If they are Hebrew, they presumably would be the same,
because standard forms for hispa'el in l'shon Hazal has a pasah. (Forms of
these verbs with a tsere [with the exception of yitgaddel and yitqaddesh,
which have a different background] are non-Hebrew and non-Aramaic, but
rather are formations changed because of qabbalistic secrets regarding
the different vowels.)

What does all this language gobbledigook have to do with Avodah? As
follows: the reason that grammarians took license to change the Aramaic
forms was because they look so much like Hebrew. The same 7.5 vowels as
in Hebrew, the same 22 consonants as in Hebrew are in Aramaic. But looks
can be deceiving, because the functions they fill and their place in the
structure differs. This is a moshol to us people down in the physical
world. We can do actions that look very similar, but in the world of
Torah they are very different. Two people may be chewing identical pieces
of meat. One is fulfilling the mitzva of 'oneg shabbos. One is violating
eating n'vela. One is fulfilling eating qodshim qallim. One is violating
eating qodshim qallim outside Yerushalayim. One is fulfilling eating
qodshei qodoshim in the 'Azoro. One is violating eating qodshim b'tum'a.

The same ma'aseh, but the halos can be completely different. The same
vowels and consonants, but what you are accomplishing is different things.

Now lest I be misunderstood, as I have frequently been (even when I
think what I write is clear :-)), I am not saying that everyone must
change the way they pronounce these words. What HQB'H really wants is
for people to mean what they say and have kavvono when they are saying
it (as the Rambam says, HQB'H does not want trained parrots reciting
the words as fast as they can). If a person knows what he is saying
and is sincere about it and mispronounces every word, his prayers
are nevertheless worth more than someone who recites his prayers by
rote with scrupulous pronunciation. Nevertheless, it is proper before
coming before the King of Kings to make sure that you speak properly,
and speaking properly in this regard means speaking as close as we can
get to what Anshei K'nesses haG'dola set for us.

And this is all according to Halokho. Qabbolo has even more stringent
rules, working with mystical significance of vowels and consonants.

Seth Mandel

Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com

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Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 12:15:46 -0800
From: Eric Simon <erics@radix.net>
Translating the Chumash (daf yomi related)

> Alternatively, there could have been a concern that Jews would use the
> Targum Shiv'im to learn Greek. That would not apply to the 12 stones
> because the Jews did not stay there.

>Why would that be a concern? The Gemara says later on that the cherem 
>was against learning "chochmas yevanis" and not the Greek language.

IIUC, don't we also learn (in Megilla around daf 8 or 9) that a sefer torah
in Greek is not pasul?

-- Eric

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Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 19:11:57 -0000
From: "Seth Mandel" <sethm37@hotmail.com>
Re: cows standing during hazoras haShatz :)

R' S. Goldstein:
> From your quote it seems RYBS did NOT find it an integral part of
> chazaras hashatz!

> I don't know where you find that in what I wrote: I said only that
> RYBS considered standing me'iqqar haddin.

> Earlier it was posted that RYBS said he can walk around, for birkas
> kohanim, if he wants because it is his chumrah; he can therefore, keep
> it or not as he pleases.

This was not RYBS's position. The person who quoted it may have heard
him joking about it, as he often did about the things he did that
others did not understand. He discussed this issue in Boston. He said
that Hazal saw fit to put dukhaning in the middle of hazoras haShatz,
for reasons that we can only guess at. But dukhaning requires moving,
since the kohanim have to go up to the dukhan. When the kohanim go up to
the dukhan, other people can move so that they will not be standing behind
them; this is all part of the taqqono of dukhaning. Otherwise, he held,
there is no heter. Someone else asked about p'siha. The answer is there
is no other way for someone to open the aron without moving. Similarly,
the gabbai is allowed to ask the rov something important during hazoras
haShatz, even though talking is forbidden: there is no other way, and
the necessity overrides a qiyyum of the Rambam's shitta.

> If many Jews stand with feet apart, they are probably correct.

> Maybe not, if they are just following what they believe to be "the
> yeshivishe minhag." Do you not agree that many Jews sit and talk during
> the hazoro

> What happened to limud zchus to understand and uphold a minhag?

I wrote in my previous posts that from all the research that I have done,
this was not an old minhag, but a very modern thing among b'nei torah.
Please, you go ask as I have done, and everyone answered the same way,
that in the old Ashkenaz shuls (in Europe as well as America!) everyone
used to sit, although not everyone talked. See the PM who implies it is
standard in his day. Second of all, a limud zchus is only for a minhag
which has problems associated with it. What is the problem for standing
and listening? (I am still waiting, however, for a limmud zkhus on the
people who stand engrossed in a g'moro.)

> Why do you treat aveiros as minhagim?

You're the one applying judgmental categories to it. Minhag means custom.
It was customary in shuls for everyone to sit, and even to talk. The PM
decries it, as may we all, but it was customary. You seem to define minhag
as only something that someone can find a justification for. That's not
what the word means.

> Why does the "yeshiva" posul the minhag?

Again I ask where I said that. I will repeat: I NEVER SAID that minhogim
of yeshivas are posul, nor did I EVER imply it. If someone said that to
me, I would say has v'sholom. If you can show me where I did, I guess
I will have to go to Chicago and start chasing the feathers.

I called it a yeshivishe minhag because that is what it is: a common
custom among those who have learned in yeshivas. That's what the words
mean. I also pointed out that some minhogim of yeshivas are just common
custom, like white shirts and black hats, and others are done because the
b'nei Torah feel they accomplishing something therebye. I questioned what
they were accomplishing, other than a heikhe timtza to aid in listening.

> By dukhaning, the g'moro says that the kohanim are 'oqer raglayim
> during R'tze. It seems a very strange lashon to use, unless they were
> standing with their feet together.

> In hilchos Shabbas mleches hotzaah there also is "'oqer raglaiv" does
> that mean feet were together, otherwise patur? In hilchos kinyan meshichah
> of a cow there also is "'oqer raglaiv", were the cow's feet together?

I brought this as support, not as a proof. I still think it works as
support. As you point out, 'oqer raglayim does not mean feet together. But
it does mean standing still (certainly in shabbos, where for walking
around there would be no 'aqiro); for anyone walking around or, I think,
even sitting, no one would use that lashon. So why are people standing
stock still during hazoras haShatz? If just to listen, they can sit;
where do Hazal imply that standing is imporant for listening? To me, it
seems they are standing stock still for the argument I advanced before:
because they are supposed to be standing as if they are davening. Facing
mizrah, feet together, in proper clothing. Just like the she'einu baqi.
But if you don't like this support, then remove it. My description of
how the Rambam holds for what people should do during hazoras haShatz,
and the theory I advanced to support it, will still remain standing
(presumably with feet together?).

Best wishes,
Seth Mandel

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Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 22:10:10 +0200
From: "D. and E-H. Bannett" <dbnet@barak-online.net>

RYGB wrote
> So, bottom line, there is only one set of elevators in the world right now
> that is approved by the Machon?

There are probably hundreds of elevators approved by the Makhon.
The hotels are not included among them. Most of the elevators approved
in Israel are in apartment houses, and institutions like senior citizen
homes. In the past most hi-rise buildings with high-speed, "elegant"
elevators were in office buildings that are not used on Shabbat. I use the
elegant word "elegant" for elevators with complicated computer control,
accurate and continuous weighing of passengers. continuous electronic
measurement of speed and distance travelled etc., etc. In other words
plenty of problems for me to solve.

Lately, as the chareidi sector is also starting to build higher because of
the high cost of land, the Shabbat "elegant" elevator market is starting
to awaken.

Because the Israeli elevator companies do not like non-standard
systems they dislike meeting the Makhon's requirements. They try, quite
successfully, to convince customers not to request Makhon approval.

Overseas where, for various reasons, Jews prefer to live in tall
buildings, there are a dozen approved super-elegant elevators in buildings
from thirty to fifty floors high in Panama. And three in Brazil. Right
now, there are a number of elevators in the process of being approved
in France and Belgium. There is even one in NJ.

Why the Makhon doesn't take action to bring the story before the religious
public in Israel is something you'll have to ask them. To me, the Makhon
is one overworked gaon and a bunch of kalikes around him. They also have
no money and with left-wing governments have not received backing that
would enable them to pay their salaries and for utilities, let alone
improve things. (BTW, I do not get payment for any of my work for them.)

> How long are those filaments in the fluorescent vs. the length of the
> filament in the incandescent?

Don't have the faintest idea. 


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Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 15:16:25 -0500
From: "Wolpoe, Richard" <richard_wolpoe@ibi.com>
RE: Vowels, consonants, and what we accomplish

Seth Mandel
> One of the prime examples of this is the z'miro for shabbos "Koh
> Ribbon." Instead of "ovad g'vurtakh" (the deeds of Your greatness),
> many/most siddurim has "g'vurtekh,"...
>        Instead of "l'maqd'shokh tuv," siddurim have "l'miqdoshekh"...

FWIW Baer on page 204 
1) defends lmIkqdoshoch
2) uses gvurtEIch but doesn't epxlain why not guvrtOch.

Rich Wolpoe

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Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 18:57:35 EST
From: Zeliglaw@aol.com
Fwd: RAV -06: "Majesty and Humility"

Another excerpt in this wonderful series.
                  Steve Brizel

			     by Rav Ronnie Ziegler
		       LECTURE #6: "Majesty and Humility"
				  Part 2 of 2


Last week, in analyzing the introduction to "Majesty and Humility,"
we examined the concepts of imitatio Dei and dialectic. Now let us
proceed to explore how these concepts receive expression in the rest of
the essay. Along the way, we will discover some of Rav Soloveitchik's
views on the nature of man and the role of Halakha in shaping it.

    "The basic dialectic of man and his morality was beautifully captured
    in two midrashic homilies quoted by Rashi. In his comment to the
    verse, 'And God created man dust of the earth' (Bereishit 2:7),
    Rashi says: 'God gathered the dust [from which man was fashioned]
    from the entire earth - from its four corners. Another explanation:
    He took the dust [from which man was made] from that spot which was
    designated by the Almighty, at the very dawn of creation, as the
    future site of the [Temple's] altar.'" (p. 27)

On this basis, Rav Soloveitchik develops a dual typology of man; both
types are inherent in human nature. The two midrashim regarding man's
creation are thus complementary. I would first like to outline the
characteristics of cosmic man and origin-questing man, and then analyze
this description and its consequences.


Cosmic man is characterized by a sense of expansiveness, questing for
vastness in all areas of endeavor. Intellectually, his curiosity is of
universal dimensions; he believes nothing is beyond the grasp of his
mind. Experientially, he wishes to be everywhere, to leave his familiar
environs and experience the unknown. He is cosmic in his mobility and in
his ability to adapt to new settings. "In short, cosmic man is mesmerized
by the infinite numbers of opportunities with which his fantasy presents
him. He forgets the simple tragic fact that he is finite and mortal"
(p. 29).

On the other hand, man was also created from the dust of a single spot.
As origin-questing man, he is rooted in a particular place and looks not
outward toward the uncharted vastness, but rather inward to the source
of his being. No matter how far he travels, he is attached to his origin
and strives to return to it.


Both types of man search for God, even though they are not always aware
of it. Cosmic man, in his feverish haste to leave home, quests for God
within the vastness of the cosmic drama. "In times of joy and elation
... when man is drunk with life, when he feels that living is a dignified
affair, then man beholds God in infinity" (p. 32). Origin-conscious man,
in his yearning to return home, quests for God within the narrowness of
finitude, within the roots of his very being. In times of crisis and
suffering, he senses God not in His infinite vastness and distance,
but rather in His nearness and relatedness. The Rav brings a personal
example of this experience, from the time his wife lay on her deathbed:

    "...I could not pray in the hospital; somehow, I could not find
    God in the whitewashed, long corridors among the interns and the
    nurses. However, the need for prayer was great; I could not live
    without gratifying this need. The moment I returned home I would
    rush to my room, fall on my knees and pray fervently. God, in those
    moments, appeared not as the exalted, majestic King, but rather as
    a close friend, brother, father: in such moments of black despair,
    He was not far from me; He was right there in the dark room; I felt
    His warm hand, ki-veyakhol (as it were), on my shoulder, I hugged
    His knees, ki-veyachol. He was with me in the narrow confines of a
    small room, taking up no space at all." (p. 33)

In short, cosmic man experiences majestas Dei (the majesty of God),
and origin-questing man experiences humilitas Dei (the humility of God).


Perceiving God's majesty and kingship, cosmic man seeks to embody these
qualities as well, therefore formulating an ethic of victory. He is a
creator, a conqueror, who seeks to subjugate the forces of nature to his
own needs. Beyond this, he attempts to establish "a true and just society,
and an equitable economic order" (p. 34). Relying only on his intellect,
he develops an orderly and rational system of ethics. His enterprise
is ultimately based on the mystical doctrine that God purposely left
creation incomplete so that man could join Him as co-creator.

However, when man experiences humilitas Dei, he formulates not an ethic
of triumph but one of retreat, sacrifice and humility. He imitates
the divine act of tzimtzum, of self-contraction by which the Infinite
"makes room" for a finite world or is "contained" within the precincts of
a temple or a supplicant's small room. In a similar fashion, humble man
constrains himself and accepts his limitations (for example, by obeying
divine laws which his intellect cannot fathom [chukkim]).


Asserting his sovereignty in every realm, cosmic man formulates a morality
which is comprehensible to him and serves his needs. Historically,
most forms of philosophical ethics have been geared toward man's
social functioning, not towards his metaphysical aspirations (such
as sanctity). The human goals pursued by these systems include the
development of regulated societies and dignified gentlemen. Aristotle's
ethics is a good example of this approach.

Some theorists formulated theories of natural law which assert that just
as nature is orderly, so should man's life be. They failed to take into
account that in nature there is also chaos, ugliness, and cruelty. John
Cardinal Newman (19th century England) asserted: "I do not believe in God
because I see order in nature; I see order in nature because I believe
in God." Not everything in the world is comprehensible to man, nor is
man's intellect adequate to serve as an exclusive guide to his actions.

The morality of cosmic man must be complemented by another morality
not only because it unjustifiedly asserts the absolute hegemony of the
human intellect, but because it also does not encompass all of man's
existential situations. There must be an ethic which takes into account
human failure and helplessness. When man experiences his own humility
and vulnerability, he seeks God's nearness and support. In his total
reliance on God, humble man willingly accepts God's authority to curtail
and even defeat his own desires.

This dialectic of advance and recoil, of victory and defeat, is built
into the structure of man's existence and constitutes the essence of
halakhic living. On the one hand, God desires that man move forward
and attain mastery over his surroundings. On the other hand, from time
to time man must halt his headlong rush towards triumph and success,
and be willing to retreat, to be defeated by a higher authority. "The
movement of recoil redeems the forward-movement, and the readiness
to accept defeat purges the uncontrollable lust for victory" (p. 37).
In other words, left to itself, man's desire for victory can be merely
an expression of his egocentric interests and self-aggrandizement.
His forward-movement can be regarded as a response to divine mandate
only if he is willing to curtail it when God so demands. In this way,
not only is his retreat sanctified, but so is his advance.

The Rav expresses the idea thus:
    "Man, in Judaism, was created for both victory and defeat - he is
    both king and saint. He must know how to fight for victory and also
    how to suffer defeat." (p. 36)

It is clear why victorious man is called "king" - kingship is expressed
by ruling or conquest. But why does the Rav refer to defeated man as
"saint"? The word saint derives from the Latin root "sanctus," or sanctity
- the saint is a holy person. Why, according to the Rav, is holiness
expressed in defeat? Rav Soloveitchik does not explain this here, but
several (mutually acceptable) answers can be proposed. 1. The holy person
negates his will before Gos. 2. The holy person makes room for the will
of other people, not insisting on his own. 3. The classic understanding
of "You shall be holy," quoted by Rashi (Vayikra 19:2), is "You shall be
separated (perushim)," i.e. you should separate yourselves from sinful
desires and from situations which are likely to arouse them. The upshot
of all of these explanations is that the act of retreat is inherently
endowed with holiness; the act of advance is not in itself holy, but
can be imbued with this quality through the willingness to accept defeat.

It is precisely in those areas in which man most fervently desires
success that he must be willing to withdraw, to suffer defeat at his
own hands. This is true of sublime acts such as the Akeda (the binding
of Yitzchak), and of more mundane acts such as the regulation of sexual
passion by the halakhic laws of separation. Only by refraining when the
Halakha so demands is the physical relationship between man and woman
redeemed; it is purged of its "coarseness and animality" and becomes a
sacred, divinely-mandated act. [The specific examples of defeat mentioned
by the Rav here - particularly regarding sexual life and the intellectual
gesture - are more fully treated in "Catharsis." We will therefore delay
our discussion of them.]

In a very acute analysis, the Rav observes that modern society is marked
by crisis because it is unable to deal with the duality of advance
and retreat:

    "Modern man is frustrated and perplexed because he cannot take
    defeat. He is simply incapable of retreating humbly. Modern man
    boasts quite often that he has never lost a war. He forgets that
    defeat is built into the very structure of victory, that there is,
    in fact, no total victory; man is finite, so is his victory. Whatever
    is finite is imperfect; so is man's triumph." (p. 36)

This tantalizing remark anticipates a theme developed at great length in
"The Lonely Man of Faith;" in fact, to a great extent, it constitutes
the main point of that essay. [In the terms of "The Lonely Man of Faith,"
modern man develops only the Adam I side of his personality and neglects
the Adam II side.] We will explore this point further in a few weeks
when we study "The Lonely Man of Faith."


Thus, we have seen that man must integrate both majesty and humility
into his life. Is one of these primary? We could raise two theoretical
possibilities: a) defeat only serves to purify the desire for victory,
but it is the forward movement which is more important; b) the advance
is only a means for one to defeat himself, but defeat is an end in
itself (or is itself a victory). Which is the ultimate end of man
- victory or defeat? Does Judaism champion a three-part movement
(advance-retreat-advance) or a two-part one (advance-retreat)?

I believe that, true to his general approach, the Rav maintains both these
conceptions in dialectical tension. Perhaps we can state it differently:
victory and defeat are of equal value. Majesty and humility are two
basic facets of the human personality, and neither can be denied.

The essay "Majesty and Humility" has, if we note carefully, two different
endings. [I believe the phenomenon of dual endings recurs several times
in the Rav's writings, as I will point out in future shiurim.] On the
one hand, the Rav writes:

    "What happens after man makes this movement of recoil and retreats?
    God may instruct him to resume his march to victory and move
    onward in conquest and triumph. The movement of recoil redeems
    the forward-movement, and the readiness to accept defeat purges the
    uncontrollable lust for victory. Once man has listened and retreated,
    he may later be instructed to march straight to victory. "Abraham
    was told to withdraw, and to defeat himself, by giving Isaac away. He
    listened; God accepted Isaac but did not retain him. God returned him
    to Abraham: 'And thy seed shall take possession of his enemies' gate'
    (Genesis 22:17). Abraham found victory in retreat." (p. 37)

Here the Rav portrays a three-part movement, ending in victory. Note,
however, that he qualifies his statement: "God MAY instruct him to resume
his march to victory ... he MAY later be instructed to march straight
to victory." Right after ending the essay on a note of triumph, we see
a little footnote, which explains the reason for his qualification:

    "Moses was less fortunate. He withdrew; he gazed upon the land
    from afar; but his prayers were not fulfilled. He never entered
    the Promised Land which was only half a mile away. He listened,
    though his total obedience did not result in victory. God's will
    is inscrutable."

Who has the last word - Avraham or Moshe? Which is the true ending
of the essay - the text or the footnote following the last sentence?
Does the essay end on a note of victory or defeat? The answer is: both.
True, the note of ultimate victory is sounded in a major chord and the
note of defeat in only a minor chord (since the former is stressed in the
main text and the latter in a footnote). But the Rav is honest enough to
admit that there is not always a happy ending, and defeat is perhaps as
valuable to man and as pleasing to God as victory. Man must know how to
live with the tension between victory and defeat, advance and retreat,
with no assurance of how it will ultimately end.

Next week we will discuss the essay "Catharsis," which elaborates the
principle of withdrawal or self-defeat.

Go to top.


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