Avodah Mailing List

Volume 06 : Number 149

Tuesday, March 6 2001

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 16:26:22 +0100
From: Eli Turkel <Eli.Turkel@kvab.be>

> Agav -- in the discussion of rabbeinu's tam shittoh -- to which I may add
> my two rubles at another time -- a poster referred to the location of
> rabbeinu tam in northern france and the assumption that the 72 minute
> shittoh referred to that place....

If one accepts Sternberg's opinion then RT did not realize the differences
between France and EY.

> When I was a kid, we used to just eyeball the sky and decide that three
> medium stars were visible to decide when to end shabbos (a "geonic" shittoh
> to be sure)....

It is clear to me that this is exactly what was done by Chazal who did
not have access to all these tables. I have heard stories about RSZA
who looked at the sky and said that shabbat was over.

Eli Turkel

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Date: Mon, 5 Mar 2001 23:10:33 +0200
From: "S. Goldstein" <goldstin@netvision.net.il>

R' Noach:. I recall hearing that there are those who _always_ daven
mincha before plag, even if it means davening b'yichidus, holding that
that is necessary in order to sometimes daven maariv before shkia.

SA 233:1

2. Are there any shitos that the time after plag hamincha has the
halachic status of night?
Yes.  Tos #1 in Shas
That one can be yotse krias shema shel arvis
?Yes ibid

What about for melacha after plag hamincha on Shabbos? No way!  Even Rabbi
Yehuda never said this!!!
We certainly don't posken that way but are there any shitos that Shabbos
ends after plag?
No I believe that the halacha is that b'shas hadchak one can make
havdoloh _w/out a ner_ after plag on Shabbos.
Yes. But this is because havdala is simply an aspect of tfillas maariv,
even though the Day has not yet ended

3. What about for Yomim Tovim? Are there any shitos that permit maariv
and kiddush after plag hamincha on erev Yom Tov?
Yes Tos in a few places. Pesach is an exception because we want the 4
cups in a time suitable for korban Pesach.

Shlomo Goldstein

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Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 01:53:06 +0200
From: "Carl and Adina Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il>

> my computer for him to use to see if he wished to buy the program. Well, the
> program is nowhere near as accurate as the trained human eye and I would never
> trust a mezuza or tefillin checked only by computer. The programs are a tool
> [sort of like getting a second opinion], but cannot replace the trained human
> eye for accuracy.

I have been told that with respect to a sefer Torah they only check 
negios and letters that are chaser and cannot check things like 
spelling or text. 

-- Carl

Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for our son,
Baruch Yosef ben Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.  
Thank you very much.


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Date: Sun, 11 Nov 1956 21:44:43 +0000
From: David Riceman <driceman@worldnet.att.net>
yodea,daath,yadua: the final footnote (DV)

Wolfson, in "Religious Philosophy, A Group of Essays", p. 30,
attributes this explicitly to Aristotle, and adds that "even Plotinus
... argues ... quite evidently on the basis of that Aristotelian
teaching"[i.e. Plotinus agrees, but does not say this explicitly].
  Incidentally, R.M. Cordovero, in Pardes Rimmonim 4:9, rejects this
doctrine, though he concedes that it is accepted by some kabbalists.

David Riceman

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Date: Mon, 5 Mar 2001 22:59:18 +0200
From: "S. Goldstein" <goldstin@netvision.net.il>
Yerushalmi and Haman

R' Micha wrote
> :gemara explains that the "ben" is ideological ancestry.

For clarity's sake, the Gem. is NOT discussing Haman's credentials as
Amalek. The idea "ben" simply means that Haman was also a murderer.

R' Micha:
> My problem pinning down what the gemara is trying to say is that if you
> take this shitah to its logical conclusion than there are no Mitzrim,
> 7 Amim, Amon, Mo'av or Amaleik for their respective halachos to be
> applied to. Ein yuchsin -- so how can Mitzri status be inherited?

The Korban HaEda notes this difficulty and adopts a Bavli that deals
with this issue.

Shlomo Goldstein

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Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2001 14:02:30 -0600
From: "Yosef Gavriel and Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Toras Purim

This year's focus:

Bamidbar 34:4 (first mention of Adar in the Torah); note five locations 
corresponding to NARANCH"Y.

Note "Chatzar-Adar", and the siginificance of "chatzar" in Megillas Esther. 
Also note gematriya of  Chatzar and its half (Kahal) - important Sidduro 
shel Shabbos on Kahal and Hamtokas ha'Dinim.

V'yesh l'ha'arich.
Yish'me'u Chachomim v'yosifu lekach.

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

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Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 13:16:13 -0500
From: Gil.Student@citicorp.com
Re: RTam and Astronomical Tables-Not

> R' Marc Angel, in his "The Rhythms of Jewish Living: A Sephardic Approach" 
> suggests that a major part of k'vasikin (aside from "zerizim makdimin")
> is being in tune with rhythm of teva. Much like the Torah's linking of
> the regalim to the agricultural year. This distances you from that, 
> because you are davening based on a clock and a chart, not the sun.
I'm not so sure.  I think that being keenly aware of the sun's motions - alos, 
haneitz, and shekiah - is still being in tune with the rhythm of teva.  In the 
days when I was a fairly regular kevasikin davener, I worked with a Gentile who 
was very spiritual and very outdoorsy (not to mention being a classicist).  He 
once asked me about the daily sun's movements and I spouted out the times.  He 
commented how wonderful it must be to be so in touch with nature.  That was the 
first time that I realized that I was, in fact, in touch with nature.

Gil Student

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Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 20:19:01 +0200
From: "Akiva Atwood" <atwood@netvision.net.il>

>> my computer for him to use to see if he wished to buy the program. Well,
>> the program is nowhere near as accurate as the trained human eye and
>> I would never trust a mezuza or tefillin checked only by computer. The
>> programs are a tool [sort of like getting a second opinion], but cannot
>> replace the trained human eye for accuracy.

Depends on the program -- the Vaad Mishmeret Stam's program is MUCH more
accurate that the trained eye -- but they don't sell it.

There are several cheap programs for sale -- their quality is, like you
said, poor.

> I have been told that with respect to a sefer Torah they only check
> negios and letters that are chaser and cannot check things like
> spelling or text.

In order to check chaser you have to know how the word is spelled.

The vaad program *can* check tzurot HaOt, but (at least several years ago
when I was writing) due to the psak of several Gedolim was only used for
Maaleh/Chaser and negios.

A few years ago there was a general psak that shuls were not allowed to add
aliyot on shabbos (beyond the usual 7) unless the sefer being read had been
checked by the Vaad's computer.


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Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 14:56:43 -0500
From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@juno.com>
How Far Are We Obligated to Use Technology for Precision in Halacha?

> The programs are a tool [sort of like getting a second opinion], 
> but cannot replace the trained human eye for accuracy.

Based upon my (limited) experience with the program and (somewhat greater)
with human checking, I would agree that each has its place. However,
between the the computer only vs. the human only, I'd go with the
computer in a flash. Absolutely no contest in 99% of potential errors.
Not to mention those that the human has no way of detecting, such as
mezuzos which had been (fraudulently) fixed.


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Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 14:04:05 EST
From: Yzkd@aol.com
Re: yodea,daath,yadua: the final footnote (DV)

In a message dated 3/6/01 1:02:50pm EST, driceman@worldnet.att.net writes:
> Wolfson, in "Religious Philosophy, A Group of Essays", p. 30,
> attributes this explicitly to Aristotle, and adds that "even Plotinus
> ... argues ... quite evidently on the basis of that Aristotelian
> teaching"[i.e. Plotinus agrees, but does not say this explicitly].
>   Incidentally, R.M. Cordovero, in Pardes Rimmonim 4:9, rejects this
> doctrine, though he concedes that it is accepted by some kabbalists.

See the Hao'roh in the 2nd Perek of Tanya.

Kol Tuv, 
Yitzchok Zirkind

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Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 15:01:51 -0500
From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@juno.com>
Purim seudah on Friday

From: "Carl and Adina Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il>> 
> Isn't there something about being oker the Shulchan when Shabbos starts,
> making Kiddush and resuming the meal?

Heard last Friday that a certain rebbe used to do that when he had a
smaller olam; can't get away with it any more. (Must be true, I heard
it in the mikve <g>)

Try it with your wife <g>! I got a strange stare from mine on the topic.


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Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 16:03:00 -0500
From: "Feldman, Mark" <MFeldman@CM-P.COM>

From: Akiva Atwood [mailto:atwood@netvision.net.il]
> A few years ago there was a general psak that shuls were not 
> allowed to add
> aliyot on shabbos (beyond the usual 7) unless the sefer being 
> read had been
> checked by the Vaad's computer.

Was the reasoning that unchecked sifrei torah had a chashash of psul, so we
shouldn't make any extra brachos than we need to?


[A similar line from R' Carl Sherer:
What's the connection? Increased likelihood of Bracha l'Batala?

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Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 23:41:11 +0200
From: "Akiva Atwood" <atwood@netvision.net.il>

>> A few years ago there was a general psak that shuls were not allowed to add
>> aliyot on shabbos (beyond the usual 7) unless the sefer being read had been
>> checked by the Vaad's computer.

> What's the connection? Increased likelihood of Bracha l'Batala?

Exactly. The rate of posul seforim is fairly high, and while we assume a
sefer to be kosher once it has been checked by two people, the fact is that
it's fairly easy to posul a sefer if you look hard enough.


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Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 23:43:59 +0200
From: "Akiva Atwood" <atwood@netvision.net.il>
RE: How Far Are We Obligated to Use Technology for Precision in Halacha?

> Based upon my (limited) experience with the program and (somewhat greater)
> with human checking, I would agree that each has its place. However,
> between the the computer only vs. the human only, I'd go with the
> computer in a flash. Absolutely no contest in 99% of potential errors.

So would I (assuming the Vaad's program).

> Not to mention those that the human has no way of detecting, such as
> mezuzos which had been (fraudulently) fixed.

I don't know how a computer could check this -- this is an area where you
must rely on the sofer's yiras shamayim.


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Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 16:46:51 -0500
From: Gil.Student@citicorp.com
Tinok Shenishbah

On Thu, 15 Feb 2001, Akiva Atwood wrote on Areivim:
>> It is fact that B--- is a secular humanist.  He is a classic tinok
>> sh'nishba.

> In this day of *massive* kiruv work, where *everyone* (at least here in
> E.Y.) has been exposed to Torah at one time or another, can we call *anyone*
> a "classic tinok sh'nishba"?

> IOW, how much ignorance of Torah is required before someone qualifies as a
> Tinok sh'nishba.

I've been meaning to respond to this. I think I have enough material
for a decent article on this, so I won't give you all my information
and spill the beans. However, I think this issue is a machlokes rishonim.

An extensive and important teshuvah is that of the Radbaz #796 regarding
Karaites. Not surprisingly, it was removed from its place in the standard
editions, but can be found at the end of chelek bais.

He quotes an earlier teshuvah by a R. Shimshon who forbade marrying a
Karaite woman, a teshuvah that disputed this pesak, and then proceeds
to disagree with the disputer and uphold R. Shimshon's pesak. There are
many issues discussed in this long teshuvah, but an important one is
whether the Karaites in their day, who were raised as Karaites, can be
considered tinokos shenishbu. The Radbaz said no and based himself on a
careful reading of the Rambam in hilchos mamrim 3:3. There are, however,
other ways to read that Rambam.

I would say that in the rishonim there are three opinions. One is that
all Karaites, except for those who leave Judaism for Karaism, are tinokos
shenishbu. The second is that those who have been rebuked and told what
Judaism really teaches are not tinokos shenishbu but all others are.
The third is that all those who are aware that there is such a thing as
Judaism, rabbis, etc. are not tinokos shenishbu. There are some big-name
rishonim who hold by either the second or third shitah.

Gil Student

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Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 16:40:47 -0500
From: "Feldman, Mark" <MFeldman@CM-P.COM>
RE: singing psukim

From: David Riceman [mailto:driceman@worldnet.att.net]
> I had a chance to look at R. Feinstein's responsum today (Igroth Moshe
> Y.D. II #142).  He understands the Rashi on Sanhedrin 101a as I do,
> though he concedes that the gemara (in the absence of Rashi) could be
> understood as R. Feldman understands it.

I looked it up.  There is a diyuk to be made from Rashi, but it is not
muchrach.  I think that my proof from the gemara's lashon is stronger.

Kol tuv,

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Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 16:44:07 -0500
From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@juno.com>

I received this response from the web-site owner:

"I believe the halachic basis is quite simple and stright-forward. I
have the right to allow you to use my item based on the conditions that
I stipulate.

Should you agree to those conditions then I allow you to use the item,
should you not agree to those conditions and one oviously does not when
one puts in false or fictitious information then one has no right to
use the item.

Even in a case of "ZEH NeHene V'Zeh Lo NeHene", if I specifically ask you
to leave my property you have no right to remain. NO monetary obligation
is owed yet you have no right to remain on my property"


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Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 18:15:13 EST
From: Zeliglaw@aol.com
Fwd: RAV -11a: Torah and Humility Part 1

another part of this series
                   Steve Brizel

		     LECTURE #11: Torah and Humility Part 1
	     based on a lecture by Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt"l

[As a prelude to our discussion of catharsis of the intellect and of
the religious experience, and as a continuation of our discussion of
catharsis of the emotions, I am distributing a summary of an address by
the Rav. This lecture was originally delivered in 1971, on the fourth
Yahrzeit of Rebbetzin Tonya Soloveitchik zt"l. It has been adapted by Rav
Ezra Bick. A shorter adaptation of this lecture appears in Shiurei Harav.]


We, the harbingers of Torah Judaism to the non-Torah Jewish community,
are under strict scrutiny from a moral point of view. Precisely because
we place the study of Torah at the center of our existence, the topic of
humility is very relevant, as the explosion of knowledge in the modern
world can and does result in human arrogance.

The WORD plays a unique role in the world-outlook of the Torah. Through
the word, the boundless cosmos was created. Through the word, God revealed
Himself to man in his role as a spiritual being and charged him with a
singular task and assignment. God spoke to Avraham and then to Moshe,
and urged them to establish a covenantal community, and later addressed
Himself to that community and exhorted it to achieve the exalted heights
of a "kingdom of priests and a holy people." First, order was imposed on
the cosmos - this word is the source of truth, unalterability, identical
with natural law. This was the order of Bereishit. When directed to man,
the word imposes another order, not that of necessity and causality,
but that of freedom and human dignity. When addressed to covenantal man,
the word is the fountainhead of kedusha, sanctity. In short, the word
creates three orders: necessity, the cosmic order; freedom, the human
order; and kedusha, the covenantal order.

That the fountainhead of kedusha is the word of God is expressed in
Halakha through the distinction between objects that are "gufan kadosh"
(intrinsic, inherent and substantive holiness) and "tashmishei kedusha"
(peripheral, incidental holiness, defined by the relationship with a
sacred object). [A Torah scroll is gufan kadosh; the Torah covering is
tashmishei kedusha.] The holiness of something which is gufan kadosh is
an integral part of the object, whereas for tashmishei kedusha it is an
external part of its relation, not part and parcel of its existence. The
gemara states that the tefillin straps, no matter how indispensable they
are, are only tashmishei kedusha; however the battim, the boxes in which
the sacred texts are placed, are gufan kadosh. The reason is because "Shin
shel tefillin halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai" (the letter "shin" embossed on
the box is a law given to Moshe at Sinai). We see that the criterion of
gufan kadosh is the presence of the word. The geometric configuration is
somehow the source of kedusha. What this means is that the source of all
kedusha is the Torah, the word of God. Wherever a letter appears, the
Torah appears, and we find inherent sanctity. Where there is no letter,
there is no intrinsic sanctity.

We have a written Torah and an oral Torah. The written Torah has
its kedusha crystallized in the tangible, physical written word.
What about the oral Torah? There the word is not objectified in a
scriptical form. God, in His infinite wisdom, wanted the word to be
interwoven in an abstract thought system, and not in a sign system alone,
as in the written Torah. Can Torah she-be'al peh, the oral Torah, pass
on kedusha? How does the unwritten word hallow, in the sense that Torah
she-bikhtav sanctifies tefillin, mezuza, the Torah parchment, etc.? It
would be folly to conclude that Torah she-be'al peh is inferior in this
respect. The answer is that the oral Torah operates in a more subtle
manner, transmitting sanctity through study and its relation to the mind
of the student. Apparently, Torah study, aside from being an intellectual,
educational endeavor, enlightening the student and providing him with the
information needed to observe the law, is a redemptive cathartic process -
it sanctifies the personality. It purges the mind of unworthy desires and
irreverent thoughts, uncouth emotions and vulgar drives. The parchment of
talmud Torah is the human mind, the human heart and personality. Indeed,
a new dimension is added to human experience through the study of Torah:

We have now discovered a new understanding of the term "writing"
- it means not only the physical performance of drawing letters,
but also the process of soul-arousal and heart-sensitizing. A scribe
writes the Torah on parchment; the rebbe, the great teacher, writes the
Torah she-be'al peh on the living mind, on the sensitive human heart.
The old halakhic equation that every Jew is a sefer Torah (scroll) is,
in this light, fully understandable. The living Jew is a sefer Torah of
the Torah she-be'al peh.

The gemara (Sota 13b) states: "R. Eliezer HaGadol said: Over twelve square
miles, the area of the camp of Israel (in the desert), a heavenly voice
proclaimed: Moshe, the great scribe of Israel, has died." Although Moshe
did indeed write a sefer Torah, the word "scribe" here does not refer
to the mechanical art of writing. If it did, what would be the meaning
of the adjective "great?" How would this phrase, "the great scribe
of Israel," do justice to the greatness of Moshe Rabbeinu? Did Moshe
have a beautiful handwriting? R. Eliezer the Great was referring to a
different kind of script, to the art of writing God's living word on
the passionate vibrant human heart, and impressing God's image on the
receptive and questing human personality. Moshe was a scribe in the same
way that Sefer Yetzira calls God a scribe: "The world was created through
three things: sofer, sefer, sippur (scribe, book, and a story)." We have
arrived at the equation: writing = creation = education. The teacher is
God's collaborator in ma'aseh bereishit, in the creation of the world.

Kedusha is generated only by closeness to God. Who is holy? Whoever is
touched by the Holy One, by God's hand. But, the question arises, how
can man exist in the proximity of God? The gemara (Ketubot 111b) asks,
"Is it possible for man to cleave to the Holy Presence? Is it not a
'fire devouring fire?'" The gemara answers that we should associate with
talmidei chakhamim, with Torah scholars. How can one feel the hand of
God resting on one's shoulder, feel the breath of eternity on his face? -
through the Torah! Halakha does not favor mystical union, in which one's
identity is negated. How can one get close to God and yet preserve the
full sense of personality, of encounter? The answer is through knowledge,
the study of Torah.

How does the study of Torah unite man with God, the human being with
his Maker? How can it bring together finitude and infinity, temporal
transience and eternity? The Rambam develops the idea of "achdut ha-maskil
ve- hamuskal" (the unity of knower and known, the subject and the object
of knowledge). This is found not only in the Moreh Nevuchim, but in the
Yad Ha-chazaka as well (Hilkhot Yesodei Hatorah, and, by implication,
in Hilkhot Teshuva). The Sefer HaTanya writes about this doctrine of
the Rambam that "all the sages of the Kabbala have agreed with him." I
will not go into the philosophical explanation of this principle now,
but we may immediately draw one conclusion. If the knower and the object
known are merged into one, then two knowers whose minds are concentrated
on the same object are also united. If a=c, and b=c, then a=b. People
with common thoughts cannot long remain strangers, indifferent to each
other. Wherever there is unity of thought, purpose and commitment,
there is also personalistic unity. The Rambam (Commentary to Avot)
concludes that the highest form of friendship is the unity of knowledge -
"chaver le-dei'a." In a like manner, when man becomes completely absorbed
in God's thought, in His revWORD, then he is indeed united with God;
there is friendship between man and God. The Tanya writes, "When a man
understands with his intellect, and comprehends and digests the infinite
and inscrutable will of the Almighty, there is the most marvelous union
between God and man." The link between man and God is thought. God is
the originator of thought; man embraces it. This is the great bond
uniting man and God, finitude with infinity.

But now there is a dilemma. Knowledge, all knowledge, is essentially
esoteric; it is not equally available to all. What about the dull people,
the sluggish people, the intellectually slow; are they to be denied the
companionship of God? Religion cannot be esoteric. The experience of
God, to hear His whisper, is a basic elementary right of every human
being. Without religion there is no salvation, without faith there is
no redemption, and everyone is entitled to salvation. But if the link
between God and man is the intellectual Torah gesture, how can the
experience of God's companionship be achieved by all?

There is another doctrine of unity - achdut ha-ohev ve- ha-ahuv (the
unity of the lover and the beloved). To love means to share an identity,
a common destiny. Now if the lover and the beloved are united, then two
persons who are in love with a third party are also united. The love
between a husband and wife is strengthened and deepened with the birth
of a child. In fact, love in common is a stronger bond than thought in
common; the link of hearts is stronger than that of minds. On the verse,
"He shall cleave to his wife and they shall be one flesh" (Bereishit
2:24), Rashi explains that the "one flesh," the unity, is realized by
the creation of a child. The love of the couple, originally an erotic,
selfish drive, changes into a more spiritual, exalted love through a
shared creation, a common goal. Unqualified love of a child unites
the parents, brings them closer to each other. Their love becomes more
truthful, more intimate and sincere. Two people, father and mother,
are welded together into one. All their concerns and aspirations are
concentrated on a new center, which becomes the emotional bond linking
both of them; indeed, it becomes the existential focus of their lives,
about which everything revolves. Depressed by the absence of love from
her husband, Leah responds to the birth of her first child by saying,
"Now, my husband will love me." She hopes that a missing element in her
relationship will be filled by the little baby.

God loves His word, crystallized in the Torah, as though it were His
daughter. In Mishlei (the Book of Proverbs), the Torah is called the
darling child with which God plays daily. "I shall be for Him a disciple,
and I shall be an amusement every day, playing before Him all the time"
(Mishlei 8:30). Man too can embrace Torah. Mishlei (2:3) calls Torah the
mother of man - "Call understanding your mother" (Mishlei 2:3). We find
the expression "baneha shel Torah" (children of Torah), which does not
refer only to scholars. The relationship between us and Torah is that
between a child and his mother. We identify with Torah, we cherish her,
we are committed to her, like a little child who identifies with his
mother and cannot distinguish between his own identity and hers. In this
way, a bond is created between God and man: not only man who studies,
but all those who love Torah and feel awed by her.

The Bach explains that the blessing we recite in the morning, "la'asok
be-divrei Torah" (to engage in the words of the Torah), is more
embracing than "lilmod Torah" (to learn Torah). The berakha, recited by
all, including the great scholar, is not for the esoteric intellectual
experience of Torah, but rather for the exoteric love of Torah and for the
kedusha that results. The entire Jewish community is a Torah community,
and hence a holy one, including both the aristocrat of mind and spirit,
and the simple anonymous individual. "Torah tziva lanu Moshe, morasha
kehillat Yaakov." The Torah is the inheritance of the entire community
of Israel.

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Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 18:21:57 EST
From: Zeliglaw@aol.com
Fwd: SICHOT61 -20: Further Thoughts on the Search for "Connection"

Excellent Dvar Torah on individuality and conformity. Comments?
                             Steve Brizel

Harav Yehuda Amital
Translated by Kaeren Fish
Yeshivat Har Etzion

"Your Mitzva is Very Broad":
Further Thoughts on the Search for "Connection"

Last Chanuka I spoke about commitment vs. "connection" (distributed this
year on the VBM as the sicha for parashat Vayechi). I would like to expand
on what I said then.

The trend towards individualism has reached our batei midrash as well, and
has become one of the distinguishing characteristics of Religious-Zionist
youth. Books deriving from the Peshischa school of chassidut (e.g. the Izbicer
rebbe's Mei Ha-Shiloach), which deal with phenomena different from those that
characterize our times and with people quite different from today's youth,
have become popular. Recently I agreed to a request by the students of this
yeshiva, who wanted me to teach classes on the writings of R. Tzadok Ha-kohen
of Lublin. Tonight I would like to speak about one of the expressions of the
search for "hit'chabrut" (connection or identification) that I described a
year ago.

There exists today a phenomenon of youth who wish to express their unique
personality in their service of G-d. Moreover, these youth are searching
for their personal religious identity. A number of years ago, youth were
content with recognizing their COLLECTIVE religious identity -- as part of
such bodies as Bnei Akiva, the "hesder" yeshivot in general, a particular
yeshiva, etc. Today, however, they seek their special PERSONAL identity;
they are no longer satisfied with an identity defined in collective terms.

The critical question is whether they are seeking their personal identity
WITHIN the collective or without any connection to it. This fundamental
question has serious ramifications. I assume -- and hope -- that our youth
are searching for their personal identity within the collective and are not
trying to abandon it.

A year ago I proposed that the emphasis be placed on LOYALTY (ne'emanut)
rather than OBLIGATION (mechuyavut), since the latter is regarded by the
youth as problematic. The emphasis on loyalty is of great significance. One
of the reasons that youth today reject obligation is that the concept implies
obligation to something that is external to myself, while I am seeking my
own independent, personal identity. Loyalty, on the other hand, implies
obligation to myself: I am loyal today to that which I chose yesterday.

The concept of loyalty ensures personal stability. A person who chooses to
study at yeshiva, for example, must remain loyal to his choice, even if this
loyalty entails obligation to the norms and the framework of the yeshiva.
A search for personal identity without connection to any collective means
a search for personal identity in a vacuum. Such a quest will most likely
lead to disintegration of the personality, since there is no obligation or
loyalty to anything at all.

The Rosh Yeshiva of a well-known institution for ba'alei teshuva once
told me that the most popular book in his yeshiva was the Kitzur Shulchan
Arukh. The emptiness in the lives of these students before their turn to
religion led to a sense of instability. Everything could fall apart; nothing
was binding. That was why they eagerly grabbed a book that told them what
they were OBLIGATED to do -- only this gave them some sense of stability.

Since the founding of the yeshiva, I have spoken many times, with certain
variations, about the following statement by the Vilna Gaon in his commentary
on Mishlei:

"...Each person has his own path to tread, for people's minds are not alike,
nor are their faces alike, and no two individuals have the same nature.
When there were prophets, people would go to the prophets 'to inquire of the
Lord,' and the prophet would tell each person, through prophecy, the path
he should take, each one according to the root of his soul and according to
the nature of his body... Since the time that prophecy disappeared, there is
'ruach ha-kodesh' (Divine inspiration) in Israel, which advises each person
how to behave...

"But who can say, 'I have cleansed my heart,' that his spirit is free of
deception altogether, and that his nature desires and tends towards nothing
but the will of the Holy One, as it is written in the Zohar on parashat
Va'era? [The Zohar teaches] that someone who has no deception in his spirit
truly cleaves to the traits of the Holy One, but if (heaven forbid) he
behaves in accordance with his own spirit -- for a person's ways are pure
and righteous in his eyes -- and his heart contains a tiny root that sprouts
gall and wormwood, then his spirit contains deception, and he will fall from
heaven to earth, so far that he will not be able to rise, and he will turn
away from G-d's ways and His mitzvot, and will not know himself." (Bi'ur
Ha-Gra on Mishlei 16:4)

I usually mention this in different contexts, such as in relation to the
Rashi at the beginning of Shemot (1:1), emphasizing the importance of "name"
as opposed to "number." Rashi writes,

"Although G-d counted them (the descendants of Ya'akov) in their lifetime,
He numbers them again after their death, to show His love for them, for they
are compared to the stars which He takes out and brings back in by their
number and by their names, as it is written, '...Who takes out their hosts
by number; He calls each by its name.'"

Although all stars look identical, we know that each star is a world on its
own. The same applies to Israel: each individual is a world of his own. I
also mention this idea in relation to the concept that every Jew has a
special letter in the Torah.

Since I have always emphasized the need for individuality in the service
of G-d, when I am faced with the youth today who seek their unique personal
identity in avodat Hashem I ask myself, "Is this the youth for which I prayed?"

My response is hesitant and full of reservations. In principle, I can certainly
say that there is a positive direction here, which may be channeled. I
am not speaking of channeling from above; definitely not. I am speaking
of channeling that the youth themselves can do, and I pray that each will
indeed find his own special path and strive constantly upwards. But meanhile
I sometimes sense their impatience; and impatience that leads to short- cuts,
to the wish to achieve quick results, the desire for immediate gratification
-- here and now and right away. I believe that there is a lack of awareness
of the dangers, and it is about these dangers that I wish to speak.

Firstly, we are speaking today of youth who -- to put it carefully -- have
a problem living with obligation, and prefer to speak of "hit'chabrut,"
identification. By "identification" they mean personal, experiential
identification. Hence there is a danger of seeing experience -- even religious
experience -- as a central pillar of Judaism. I am certainly not belittling
the experiential basis in one's Divine service. I accept the comment of Rabbi
Ovadia of Bartenura on the mishna which teaches that "The reward for a mitzva
is a mitzva" (Avot 4:2), explaining that a person's pleasure in fulfilling
a mitzva is considered a mitzva in itself, and that he is rewarded both for
the mitzva which he performs and for the pleasure he takes in performing
it. Religious experience is enjoyable and heart-warming, but if the emphasis
is placed only on the emotional experience, and we forget that "the mitzvot
were not given for our enjoyment," then we are missing something fundamental.
Rashi explains the aforementioned statement thus: "The mitzvot were not given
for our pleasure, but as a yoke upon our necks." Although Rashi is speaking
of physical pleasure rather than spiritual pleasure, nevertheless the sense
of bearing the yoke of Heaven is one of the pillars of the Torah. One may
achieve an elevated level of spiritual experience through the acceptance of
the Divine yoke, but that is a long and difficult path to follow. Likewise,
that same wish for a "short-cut" may lead one to mysticism and wonder-workers
-- a phenomenon which has also spread in the religious-Zionist sector.

There is another danger to which the Vilna Gaon alludes: the quest for
originality sometimes arises out of weakness, pride (the wish to be original),
or laziness (a search for the "easy way"). The Gaon also hints at the danger
that one's criterion for for judging his personalized path will consist of
nothing more than the experiential feeling of gratification.

Kabbala speaks of five levels of a person's soul: nefesh, ruach, neshama,
chaya and yechida. The last, yechida (meaning singular), represents the
deepest level, which is individuality, uniqueness. But an uncontrolled
drive for individuality is problematic. First of all, Chazal commented on
the verse, "and in order that the fear of Him be upon your faces" -- "this
refers to shame." A sense of shame is an important element in one's service
of G-d, just as it has been an important element of human culture since
the days of Adam and Chava. Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai taught his disciples,
"May it be His will that your fear of heaven be like your fear of flesh
and blood." A sense of shame can exist only in a person who does not deride
other individuals and does not denigrate the society around him. The quest
for individuality can cause a young person to scorn everything around him:
"I'll do what I want to; I don't care about anything."

Secondly, this tendency may also lead to a lack of social empathy. Thus,
for example, eastern religions, whose influence is penetrating Israel as
well, concede from the outset any hope of social improvement; values such as
justice are outside their scope of interest. A lack of social concern is the
complete opposite of the fundamentals of Judaism, which began with Avraham:
"For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him
that they should follow the way of G-d, to perform righteousness and justice"
(Bereishit 18:19).

Man is "political by nature," in the words of the Rambam (Moreh Nevukhim 2:40)
-- in other words, man is a social being. Therefore, a religious experience
that does not carry with it any social responsibility is disqualified by
definition, and actually runs contrary to human nature. Someone who wishes to
highlight his own personal path must invest the effort and seek the special
path that suits both his unique personality and leads him to contribute to
society, rather than just to himself. Chassidim speak a lot about "deveikut,"
cleaving to G-d. Chazal taught (Sifri, Ekev 49) that the true meaning of
cleaving is cleaving to G-d's WAYS, i.e. being merciful and performing kind
deeds. In other words, a person must concern himself with the good of others
and of society, just as G-d does.

I would also like to point out an ironic phenomenon to which we are witness:
there are groups of bnei Torah whose members all share this tendency towards
the personal. People in these groups seek out specifically the personal
expressions in the writings of Rav Kook, and several collections of these
sayings have already appeared. These people talk, dress and behave alike,
and have in fact become a sort of closed circle -- they are identical in
their appearance, behavior, song and dance. This is another danger that one
must avoid.

In summary, I would like to say that the quest for personal expression and
for a personal identity is a positive thing, but...

This "but" may be expressed in the words of the Midrash:

"'I pondered my ways and turned my legs back to Your testimonies' (Tehillim
119:59): King David said, Master of the Universe -- every day I think and
say, 'I am going to such-and-such place, I am going to so- and-so's house,'
but my legs bring me to synagogues and batei midrash.'"

We may ask, did David really plan every day to go somewhere other than to a
place of prayer or a place of learning? The Gerrer Rebbe, author of Chiddushei
Ha-Rim, explains that King David sought, according to the midrash, his own
special path. This midrash is not meant to negate the aspiration to finding
one's personal path, but rather to teach that the path must pass through
the beit midrash.

"For every purpose I have seen an end; Your mitzva is very broad" (Tehillim
119:96) -- the emotional, philosophical, and experiential dimension of every
mitzva is immeasurably broad. Therefore, there is room for every individual
to find his personal expression within the philosophical, emotional or
experiential sphere of the mitzvot, without deviating the slightest bit in
observance of mitzvot.

(This sicha was delivered at the yeshiva's mesibat Chanuka, 5761 [2000].)

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