Avodah Mailing List
Volume 07 : Number 077
Monday, July 23 2001
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Sun, 22 Jul 2001 23:51:47 EDT
Subject: Reqeuest for Sources
Goy Shashavas - the issur of a Gentile Observing Shabbos, where is it in Shas?
You may email me off-list if you choose
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Date: Sun, 22 Jul 2001 14:29:01 EDT
Subject: Quick Lesson By Example From Rabbi Zvi Hirsch
It was said that if Rabbi Zvi Hirsch of Chortkow [a small Jewish town
in the Ukraine] blessed someone, HASHEM [G-d] fulfilled that blessing.
He once was asked for an explanation of why HASHEM always fulfilled his
[Rabbi Zvi Hirsch's] blessings.
"It's really very simple, and it's certainly no miracle," replied
Rabbi Zvi Hirsch. "All my life I have made sure never to say anything
unecessary and to always speak the absolute truth. After all my efforts
to always tell the truth, would HASHEM make me a liar by not granting
one of my blessings?"
SOURCE: WORDS OF WISDOM WORDS OF WIT,
by Shmuel Himelstein, page 140, First Edition 1993,
Mesorah Publications, New York, ISBN 0-89906-923-1
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Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2001 09:09:40 -0400
From: Micha Berger <email@example.com>
Subject: Fwd: SICHOT61 -37: The Philosophy of the Laws of Vows and Oaths
You know me... Can't resist posting an article on ta'amei hamitzah.
Sicha of HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein shlit"a
Adapted by Yitzchak Barth
Translated by David Silverberg
Yeshivat Har Etzion Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash
The Philosophy of the Laws of Vows and Oaths
During this past "zeman" we have learned Masekhet Shevuot, focusing
particularly on the chapter dealing with "hafla'a," the laws of vows
and oaths. In approaching the philosophy of this area of Halakha, it
must be emphasized that we cannot dissociate our discussion from the
halakhic details we have studied. This means that, first and foremost,
we must consider the philosophy of hafla'a with the aid of the halakhot
we examined in the regular shiurim.
Moreover, the desirability of hafla'a itself constitutes a halakhic
issue. For example, the Shulchan Arukh rules at the beginning of Hilkhot
Nedarim, "Do not accustom yourself to nedarim [vows]; whoever takes
a neder -- even if he fulfills it -- is called evil and is called a
sinner." Clearly, this ruling flows from the Mechaber's ideological
outlook on nedarim and on the world of hafla'a in general.
In addressing hafla'a from a conceptual standpoint, one must distinguish
between the results of hafla'a and the act of hafla'a. For example,
Chazal express differing attitudes towards the institution of "nezirut"
(the nazirite vow). While Rabbi Elazar Ha-kapar refers to the nazir
as a sinner, Rabbi Eliezer calls him holy (Ta'anit 11a). Tosafot (Bava
Kama 91b) even claim that a nazir is simultaneously both sacred and a
sinner. In other contexts, too, Chazal refer to voluntary abstention from
worldly pleasures as being sinful; for example, according to Shemuel,
"Whoever observes a fast is called a sinner." It seems clear that the
difference of opinion regarding the nazir reflects a broad ideological
dispute regarding the place of abstinence and self-denial in avodat
Hashem (the service of G-d). If so, then this debate relates to the
RESULTS of the vow of nezirut, and we cannot derive any conclusions as
to the desirability of the specific PROCESS of hafla'a. We will limit our
discussion here to the halakhic attitude towards the process of hafla'a,
and will not address the positive and negative features of nezirut,
fasting and the like.
In his presentation of the laws in Mishneh Torah, the Rambam divides
Sefer Hafla'a into four categories: "shevuot," "nedarim," "nezirut"
and "arakhin ve -- charamin." As the Rambam himself establishes at the
beginning of Hilkhot Nezirut, nezirut does not comprise an independent
type of hafla'a, but is rather included under the general category of
nedarim. Likewise, arakhin ve-charamin are instances of "nidrei hekdesh"
(to be explained), not a separate category (see Rambam, Hilkhot Arakhin
Ve-charamin 1:1). We may thus divide the world of hafla'a into two main
categories: nedarim and shevuot. Nedarim themselves come in two forms:
"nidrei gavo'a" (also known as "nidrei hekdesh," pledges of sacrifices or
donations to the Temple) and "nidrei issur" (self-imposed prohibitions),
with "nidrei tzedaka" (pledges to charity) and "nidrei ta'anit" (promises
to fast) situated somewhere in between.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NEDARIM AND SHEVUOT
The Gemara presents one explicit and well-known distinction between
nedarim and shevuot: a neder forbids the object to the individual, while
a shevua forbids the individual from deriving benefit from the object
(Nedarim 2b). In other words, a neder devolves on the object ("This loaf
is forbidden like a sacrifice"), while a shevua devolves on the person
("I will not eat this loaf").
There exists another, essential difference between these two types of
hafla'a, related to the focus of the process involved. At first glance,
nedarim and "shevuot bitui" (shevuot of self-imposed restrictions)
appear identical: in both cases, the individual takes upon himself a
self-formulated prohibition. In truth, however, a fundamental difference
exists between these two types of hafla'a. Whereas the weight of a
neder centers around the resulting halakhic status ("chalot") of the
given item as forbidden, the shevua focuses not on the result but rather
on the process. This essential distinction yields several significant
differences, which we will now discuss.
The first difference relates to many aspects of shevuot that have no
place in the system of nedarim. For example, whereas one who utters
a nonsensical shevua violates the prohibition of "shevuat shav" (an
oath in vain), most Rishonim maintain that no parallel prohibition of a
"neder shav" exists. One who utters a neder that cannot possibly take
effect has violated no prohibition; it is of no significance that the
declaration was for naught.
Furthermore, a "shevua le-she'avar," an oath regarding past events,
has no parallel in the world of nedarim. This becomes clear in light
of the distinction we established: since the neder focuses on the
resulting halakhic status rather than the process, a neder regarding
past events has no meaning; there is no object on which a status can
take effect. A shevua, by contrast, can apply even without the rendering
of a halakhic status on a given object, since it focuses on the verbal
process itself. One who swears about past events is thus held accountable
for his words.
Regarding a shevua pertaining to the future, where the individual
takes on a given restriction, the situation becomes a bit more
complicated. According to most Rishonim, breaking a vow violates "Lo
yachel devaro" ("He shall not break his word" -- Bemidbar 30:3), the
same prohibition violated when one disregards a neder. In their view,
one may compare this type of shevua to a neder. The Rambam, by contrast,
claims that one violating such a shevua has transgressed the prohibition
of uttering a false oath; by not abiding by his commitment, he has
rendered his shevua retroactively false, as if he had sworn falsely
about past events (Hilkhot Shevuot 1:3). According to the Rambam, then,
the focus of even this type of shevua -- accepting upon oneself certain
restrictions or obligations -- lies in the process of hafla'a, rather
than in the status it effects.
This basic distinction between nedarim and shevuot manifests itself as
well in the particular attention given to the verbal declaration itself
when uttering a shevua. First, some Rishonim posit that a neder, unlike
a shevua, can take effect even without a verbal declaration. Similarly,
many Rishonim maintain that a shevua takes effect only when uttered
together with G-d's Name, a requirement found nowhere in the context of
nedarim. These differences flow naturally from the basic distinction
we have discussed. The process of the shevua, i.e. the speech itself,
assumes a far greater role than does that of a neder. The demands relevant
to the process of a shevua are therefore more rigorous.
This distinction manifests itself further in the view of Reish Lakish
(Yerushalmi Nedarim 11:1), who negates the possibility of "hatara"
-- annulment by a scholar or beit din (rabbinical court) -- for a
shevua. The Ran (Nedarim 22b) understands this law as being of rabbinic
origin; he believes that according to Torah law, a shevua could indeed
be annulled. However, if we choose to view Reish Lakish's ruling as
reflecting a fundamental distinction between nedarim and shevuot, then we
find yet another expression of the unique character of shevuot. As the
institution of shevuot focuses on the utterance itself rather than the
status it effects, it cannot be revoked. Regarding nedarim, by contrast,
the halakhic effect, which depends on the intention of the one taking
the vow, plays a far more dominant role. A scholar can therefore annul
a neder by identifying a flaw in the individual's original intent,
even after he has articulated the neder.
We may consider a fourth difference between nedarim and shevuot in
light of the Gemara (Yoma 85b) that categorizes shevuot among the
"severe" prohibitions, while nedarim belong to the group of "lenient"
prohibitio Likewise, the Gemara (Shevuot 39a) establishes that "The entire
world trembled at the moment when the Almighty said at Sinai, 'Lo tisa'
[the commandment forbidding false oaths]," and that "the world mourned"
in response to the severity of this transgression. Similarly, Halakha
draws a close association between shevuot and the concept of "kelala,"
curse. On the level of syntax, the word "ala," which literally means
"curse," denotes a shevua (Shevuot 36a), and according to one view a
shevua requires the inclusion of this term to take effect (Yerushalmi
These characteristics of shevuot demonstrate a strong connection between
this phenomenon and realms beyond the rational world. The fact that a
person's speech is to be accompanied by a sense of awe and trembling, and
the fact that it affects the entire world, reveals mystical or magical
qualities and ramifications beyond the world familiar to us. We find an
additional expression of the unique nature of a shevua, as opposed to
that of a neder, in the fact that the Almighty Himself takes shevuot. A
shevua lends a unique stature even to the word of G-d, all of whose
words are true and just: "A decree with a shevua associated with it is
never revoked" (Rosh Ha-shana 18a).
The concept of a mystical dimension of speech or oaths is familiar to us
from classical thought, including Greek mythology. However, as our world
continues to undergo a process of secularization, these expressions
progressively diminish. The Jewish perspective stands somewhere in
between the ancient belief in the magical powers of words and the modern,
rational approach that ridicules oaths and curses. Halakha recognizes
a metaphysical, supernatural power to speech, but on condition that
it originates from a rational source. This attitude expresses itself
in the halakha of "ha-adam bi-shvu'a" (Shevuot 26a), which, according
to most Rishonim, relates to the very definition of a shevua. This rule
establishes that words expelled from the mouth without any serious thought
or intent behind them do not assume the status of a shevua. Only if the
individual's mind stands behind the declaration, as opposed to slips
of the tongue or any statement based on misinformation, can the words
yield the effect of a shevua, which, as we have seen, has ramifications
beyond the rational as well.
In this sense, Halakha stands diametrically opposed to Greek
drama. Mythology afforded magical powers to the words themselves, even
statements and curses uttered erroneously or unintentionally. In Greek
myth, one who swore mistakenly will find himself fleeing throughout
his entire life from the supreme powers he activated. Judaism does not
lend the same weight to the word unto itself, but certainly stands at
a distance from the rationalistic approach, which denies the existence
of any mystical elements in the universe.
"IN HIS NAME YOU SHALL SWEAR"
Twice, in Parashat Vaetchanan and in Parashat Eikev, the Torah commands,
"In His Name you shall swear." The Rishonim debate the meaning of this
imperative. The Rambam includes this command in his list of the 613
mitzvot (asei 7) and explains, "Through this there will be greatness,
glory and exaltation." Man glorifies G-d by swearing in His Name. In
explaining this mitzva, the Rambam mentions two cases in which a mitzva
to utter a shevua applies: one who must take an oath in beit din,
and one who seeks further encouragement to fulfill a given mitzva and
thus takes an oath to that effect. In reference to the second case,
the Rambam cites the verse, "I took an oath -- and will fulfill it --
to observe Your righteous laws" (Tehillim 119:106). The Rambam does
not clarify whether this verse indicates that the mitzva of swearing
in G-d's Name includes this type of shevua, or whether it merely allows
one to take such an oath, though it involves no obligation. Either way,
the Rambam clearly maintains that a shevua in the context of beit din
constitutes the fulfillment of a mitzva.
The Gemara (Shevuot 47b) cites the following beraita:
"'The oath of G-d shall be upon both of them' -- this teaches us that
shevua falls on them both."
Rashi (39b) explains,
"They both [the one who swore and the litigant who called upon him
to swear] are punished as a result [if the litigant swears falsely],
since he [the one who brought him to court] wasn't careful to entrust
his money with a trustworthy individual, thus resulting in a desecrating
of G-d's Name."
Rabbeinu Chananel (47b) explains differently:
"It is impossible that neither is lying; either the claimant claims that
which is not owed to him and imposes an oath [upon the defendant] for
naught, and therefore the shevua falls upon the one who imposes the oath
for naught, or the one who swears denies the claim and swears falsely."
According to Rabbeinu Chananel, then, one who forces another to swear
needlessly, even if he is truthful, violates the prohibition of "chillul
Hashem," desecration of G-d's Name. Quite clearly, then, he does not
view an oath in court as the fulfillment of a mitzva, a view he shares
with the Ramban (Devarim 6:13).
Commenting on the verse, "You must revere Hashem your G-d: only Him shall
you worship, to Him shall you hold fast, and by His Name shall you swear"
(Devarim 10:20), Rashi cites the following midrash: "You must revere
Hashem your G-d, worship Him and hold fast to Him; after you attain all
these qualities, then you shall swear by His Name." We may understand
this midrash as allowing only righteous individuals to take a shevua,
since others will likely violate the prohibition of uttering a false
shevua. However, it also seems likely that the midrash here feels that
swearing in G-d's Name is no small matter; not everyone has the right to
"play" with the divine Name. There are people today who view "ahava"
(love of G-d) as the dominant quality in avodat Hashem, and thus
reserve the right to let the seven Names of G-d roll freely off their
tongue. Clearly, this midrash maintains that excessive use of G-d's
Name expresses disrespect; the command, "You must revere Hashem your
G-d," means the internalization of this sense of reverence and awe,
and discourages those who seek to use the Name of G-d.
"BETTER THAT YOU DO NOT TAKE VOWS"
The problems we mentioned regarding the use of G-d's Name do not arise, of
course, when dealing with nedarim. The act of taking a neder constitutes a
legal declaration that generates a prohibition; the problem lies only in
the failure to fulfill the obligation created by the neder. Therefore,
if we find any ambivalence towards taking upon oneself nedarim, it
must rest upon a different foundation from that which we saw regarding
shevuot. The Gemara (Nedarim 9a) cites a dispute as to the meaning of
the verse, "Better that you do not take vows ['lo tidor' -- referring
to nedarim] than that you take vows and do not uphold them." According
to Rabbi Meir, refraining from nedarim altogether is the best option,
whereas Rabbi Yehuda sees taking nedarim and observing them as the
optimum approach. Clearly, whatever opposition exists to engaging in
nedarim involves the concern that one may violate his vow.
Beyond this issue, the Yerushalmi (Nedarim 9:1) raises another problem
with nedarim: "What the Torah forbade is not enough for you, that you seek
to forbid upon yourself other things?!" We may understand this problem
mentioned by the Yerushalmi in three ways, which represent three types
of problems posed by nedarim.
First, the additional prohibitions and obligations may infringe upon
one's commitment to, and ability to adhere properly to, that which the
Torah commanded. One may, of course, assess the issue from the opposite
perspective: one who regularly takes upon himself nedarim accustoms
himself to discipline and obedience, thus strengthening his character
and reinforcing his sense of obligation to the Torah's commandments. In
any event, the concern of negligence resulting from the strain on energy
and focus certainly exists.
However, this issue may not have been the primary concern of the
Yerushalmi. A famous Gemara (Nedarim 22a) alludes to a secproblem
potentially posed by nedarim:
"One who takes a neder is considered as having built a 'bama' [a private
altar for offering sacrifices, generally forbidden by Halakha]; one
who fulfills [a neder] is considered as having offered a sacrifice upon
The commentary on the Gemara attributed to Rashi explains "bama" in this
context as referring to pagan worship. The Ran, however, understands
"bama" as a forbidden site for sacrificing to G-d. Just as one who builds
a "bama" thinks that he does something praiseworthy, while in reality
he commits a sin, so does one who takes a neder see virtue in taking
upon himself additional prohibitions, but he is actually considered a
sinner. The Shita Mekubetzet explains that just as the construction of the
bama itself involves no prohibition, as Halakha forbids only the actual
sacrifices brought upon it, so does the individual taking a neder not
violate any prohibition unless he fails to fulfill his vow. The Gemara,
however, clearly implies otherwise, as it considers even the fulfillment
of the vow as something negative. Logically, too, it would seem that
even the very building of a "bama" is improper: an alternate site for
offering sacrificing undermines the unique stature of the Temple.
We may offer an additional explanation of this comparison between nedarim
and bamot. The Torah forbade bamot for two reasons. The relevant section
in Parashat Acharei Mot implies that offering sacrifices out in the fields
represents, or takes a step towards, idolatry. In Parashat Re'eh, however,
the Torah emphasizes a different reason: sacrificing in sites other than
the places specifically chosen by the Almighty infringes upon the Temple's
singularity and undermines the significance of G-d's selection. Similarly,
one who introduces additional prohibitions beyond those presented by
the Torah lends equal status to the Torah's commandments and to his own,
thereby infringing upon the singular nature of the Torah's laws.
It would seem that the central problem posed by hafla'a is the third
issue: the equation between man and his Creator. By its very nature,
hafla'a belongs to the realm of the permitted, those areas to which
the mitzvot and prohibitions of the Torah do not relate. By creating
prohibitions and establishing laws in these areas, the individual appoints
himself as a legislator alongside the Almighty; the element of rebellion
involved is clear.
As a relevant anecdote, I would like to relate a "derasha" I heard
from Professor Moshe Greenberg on the verse, "When you grow restive,
you will remove his yoke from upon your shoulders" (from Yitzchak's
blessing to Esav, in Bereishit 27:40). The word, "tarid" ("you grow
restive") may also be read as "taryad," or the number 614. Meaning,
when one reaches 614, by adding onto the 613 mitzvot of the Torah, then
he has effectively broken the yoke of Torah from his shoulders. The
Torah established areas of permissible behavior where one may conduct
himself according to the norms and standards that he wishes to set for
himself. When an individual anchors those norms with a religious anchor,
he brings about a situation where he and the Almighty together determine
the operative system of law, a distorted and negative situation.
Clearly, this issue we have just addressed does not arise in the case
of a shevua regarding past events, as such an oath does not involve
the introduction of new laws. It does, however, apply to a shevua
for the future, where one takes upon himself a given obligation or
restriction. Nevertheless, the Rambam rules that "Although one may have a
shevua annulled... it is worthwhile to exercise care in this regard, and
we avail ourselves for annulment only for a matter involving a mitzva or
some dire need" (Hilkhot Shevuot 12:12). The Ra'avad there points out that
this applies only to shevuot; however, the annulment of nedarim involves
a mitzva. At first glance, it would seem that shevuot (even those that
introduce new laws) pose less of a problem than do nedarim, since unlike
nedarim, shevuot do not generate a new reality; they do not bring about
a status upon an object, but merely obligate the individual. In truth,
however, this is not the case, since the problem of equating man with
his Creator exists to the same degree in both cases. The problem with
annulling shevuot must therefore involve other issues.
As we have seen, the theological status of nedarim is a most delicate
one. Specifically for this reason, motivation takes on critical
importance: to what extent does the individual take upon himself new
obligations in order to enhance his avodat Hashem, or does this perhaps
symbolize, from his perspective, a rebellion against the Torah and He
who transmitted it? Indeed, the Rambam reaches this very conclusion,
as he formulates his dialectical approach at the end of Hilkhot Nedarim
(13:23 -- 24):
"One who takes nedarim in order to stabilize his conduct and correct his
ways -- this is proper and praiseworthy... Regarding these and similar
nedarim, our Sages said, 'Nedarim are the fence around abstinence.' But
although they are considered the service [of G-d], a person should not
indulge in, or accustom himself to, nedarim that add prohibitions. He
should rather abstain from those things from which it is worthwhile to
abstain without a neder."
In the world of Chassidut, many thinkers addressed the issue of how to
relate to hafla'a, and generally espoused a more positive outlook than
even that of the Rambam. The Breslav work "Likutei Halakhot" (Nedarim
2:2) emphasizes the greatness of nedarim in that it enables one to turn
anything in the world into Torah:
"A person can forbid upon himself anything in the world and turn anything
in the world into Torah, meaning, that it will involve a mitzva and a
sin, through a neder or shevua... G-d thereby revealed to us that there
is Torah and service [of G-d] latent within everything in the world,
for they all receive vitality from Torah."
The author of this work takes a generally favorable stance towards
nedarim, raising only one problem, namely, the concern that the individual
may violate his word. The Sefat Emet (Matot 5647) claims that all nedarim
already exist, hidden and concealed within the Torah, and G-d wishes for
the sages of Yisrael to take nedarim and thus bring these prohibitions
As opposed to the Likutei Halakhot, the Sefat Emet stresses the
effect of a neder on Torah and mitzvot, rather than on the world at
large. The approach of the Sefat Emet may serve as a balance between
the Likutei Halakhot, which sees nedarim in an entirely positive light,
and those approaches that view them as categorically negative. Through
the institution of hafla'a, the Torah allows the individual to express
his values and wishes. However, one must remember that even if he
can add onto the prohibitions of the Torah, he and the Master of the
world do not share equal standing. Nedarim are a remarkable tool that
the Almighty provided for us. When we use them inappropriately, in an
attempt to equate ourselves with the Giver of the Torah with the intent
of rebellion, then the neder becomes disgraceful; but when they are used
properly, with sincere intentions and appropriate dosage, then the neder
is proper and praiseworthy.
(This sicha was delivered at the end of "zeman kayitz," 5760 .)
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Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2001 11:52:26 -0400
From: "Yitzchok Willroth" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Reqeuest for Sources
> Goy Shashavas - the issur of a Gentile Observing Shabbos, where is it in
Without looking (Disclaimer!) - Sanhedrin 58b
[Same answer, without disclaimer, from R' Joel Rich. -mi]
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Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2001 19:11:06 EDT
Subject: Re: SICHOT61 -37: The Philosophy of the Laws of Vows and Oaths
In a message dated 7/23/01 9:43:58am EDT, email@example.com [quotes a
summary of a sichar from R' Aharon Lichtenstein]:
> In this sense, Halakha stands diametrically opposed to Greek
> drama. Mythology afforded magical powers to the words themselves, even
> statements and curses uttered erroneously or unintentionally. In Greek
> myth, one who swore mistakenly will find himself fleeing throughout
> his entire life from the supreme powers he activated. Judaism does not
> lend the same weight to the word unto itself, but certainly stands at
> a distance from the rationalistic approach, which denies the existence
> of any mystical elements in the universe.
It does sound a bit like "al tiftach pen l'satan"
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Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2001 13:40:03 -0400
From: Gershon Dubin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From Zvi Akiva Fleischer's Sedra Selections
> 2) Rabbeinu Bachyei on the words "al oyvecho v'al sonecho" (Dvorim 30:7)
> quotes the M.R. that "oyvecho" refers to Yishmo'eil, while "sonecho"
> refers to Eisov. He says that the term "oyeiv" is used for Yishmo'eil
> because it connotes hatred of the severest form, and is inherent in the
> word itself, containing the same letters as the anguished painful cry
> "avoy," while the term "sinoh" connotes a lesser form of hatred, which is
> tempered by a bit of mercy. Yishmo'eil has the characteristic of severe
> hatred as he is the son of Hogor, while Eisov has some mercy because he
> is the son of Rivkoh. He adds that this is the reason the medrash says
> that it is better to be under the hand of Eisov than under the hand of
> Yishmo'eil. This also explains why Hashem says that He will administer
> punishment even to the fourth generation "l'sonoy," (Shmos 20:5),
> indicating that a "soneh" will exist to even four generations, while
> "V'oyvei Hashem kikor korim kolu ve'oshon kolu," (T'hilim 37:20), an
> "oyeiv" will be totally annihilated. He explains that the reason the
> Torah mentions the "oyeiv" before the "soneh" is because the verse goes
> on to say "asher r'dofucho," and historically the bnei Yisroel were
> mostly under the boot of Eisov. Perhaps there is a simple reason for the
> order. Since the verse begins "V'nosan Hashem Elokecho es kol ho'olose
> ho'ei'leh," that Hashem will place all the curses upon our enemies, it is
> logical to say that this will be done not only to the more severe
> enemies, but even to the lesser enemies. See more on the concept that
> Yishmo'eil is the bnei Yisroel's arch foe in Eitz Hadaas Tov from Rabbi
> Chaim Vi'tal on T'hilim #124. His words are literally present day
Can someone with the sefer mentioned (Eitz Hadaas Tov) fill us in?
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Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2001 15:56:24 EDT
Subject: Rav Schwab on Tefila
From: Gershon Dubin <email@example.com>
> Rav Schwab explains the phrase "male'ah ha'aretz kinyanecha" as follows:
> A kinyan is a way of demonstrating ownership in something. Kinyan
> chazaka for karka comes immediately to mind, but hagba'ah, meshicha,
> etc. are also ways of showing that something belongs to you. ...
I have been slowly going through this newest sefer from Rav Schwab z"l and it
is very good.
Does anyone know when the Hebrew version (called 'Iyun Tefillah' I believe)
will be coming out? Will it be published by Artscroll?
Also, iY"H we will see a biography of R. Schwab as well someday (I assume the
latter will be by his son R. (hachoveir?) Moshe Leib Schwab who put together
'Rav Schwab on Prayer' and published by Artscroll).
It seems that Rav Schwab follows the derech of Rav Hirsch in observing and
learning from nature / natural occurrences, as seen in the airplane travel
and Rav Yeruchem stories above. I noticed and enjoyed similar things in the
piece on 'asher yatzar' when he cited Rav Yeruchem (whose son R. Simcha
Zissel's levaya was yesterday I believe) that one should send a (joyous
presumably) telegram to their parents after each 'elimination of waste' from
Also, his peirush on the brocho of 'roka ho'aretz al hamoyim' - when he
discusses how experiencing earthquakes made him appreciate terra firma and
the connection to the brocho (followed by the citing of the gemara re even
sailors not being fully at ease at sea, when not on terra firma).
All in all, it is another great contribution from a great man....
Go to top.
Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2001 13:34:29 -0400
From: "'firstname.lastname@example.org'" <email@example.com>
Subject: FW: Rashbaz on salaries for rabbanim
Moshe Feldman wrote:
> Couldn't one argue that (1) this is a preference ("hat-tov veha'yashar")
> rather than actual halacha, or (2) the same reasoning that applied in those
> times to rabbanim should apply today (the "dor yasom" after WWII) to regular
> kollel yungeleit since "she-nitma`atu benei aliya"?
(1) Yes, Moshe, definitely. I think I wrote that the end of teshuva #148
(which the quote is taken from) are comments that go beyond halakha.
More like mussar. Nevertheless, much of the Rashbaz's long series of
teshuvot on the issue are devoted to proving (halakhically) that the
tzibbur has financial obligations to the Torah scholars who actively
serve it in public positions. Such proofs would be much less relevant
for the "talmidim".
(2) This, of course, is an open question related to current public
policy and hashkafah, and goes way beyond "pshat" in the Rashbaz.
My main objective was to try to set the Rashbaz's position correctly
(not so much to debate the kollel question). And I'm glad I did, because
this whole discussion has forced me to learn the topic better.
(In any case, one of course could argue this, and many have.
Nevertheless, I don't think the analogy to Rashbaz's position is that
strong, because he never dreamed of a society where everyone learns
full-time in yeshiva. In fact, his whole discussion precludes such
Go to top.
Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2001 21:17:54 -0400
From: Micha Berger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In "Must we be Idalists" <http://www.aishdas.org/rygb/idealism.htm>, RYGB
: A simple litmus test of the "Jewishness" of various ideas is usually
: whether these terms possess a natural, classical Hebrew translation. By
: this scale of measure, it is hard to identify "Idealism" in Yahadus. On
: the other hand, Judaism definitely subscribes to the above meaning of
: the word. Is there no word for idealism in Lashon HaKodesh? Does idealism
: appear in Yahadus under a different name?
IMHO, he immediately abandons this question for a similar -- but different
: Let us pose the question differently: Are there certain underlying,
: unifying ideals, missions and objectives that should underlie our pursuit
: of Hashem's will in this world? Or, do we just learn as much Torah as
: we possibly can and do as many mitzvos as we possibly can, confident
: that this alone is sufficient?
I see this as a shift away from the original question of whether yahadus
has a concept of "idealism" in general to whether we have identifiable
particular ideals. OTOH, a couple of his proposals, such as Dr. Birnbaum's
"aliyah" are general enough to be likely suspects.
I think I found the term, though. And it started with R' Saadia Gaon's
analysis of laughter.
There are three famous stories associated with inyana diyoma in which R'
Akiva laughs: upon hearing Romans on the attack miles away, upon seeing
foxes running in and out amongst the ruins on Har haBayis, and when he
witnessed R' Eliezer's martyrdom. And in all three cases the Chachamim
ask why, how can he cry at such an apparantly inapproriate time?
R' Saadia Gaon defines laughter as the reaction people have to a sudden
realization of an underlying truth. (It took me a while to craft that
statement, you may need to reread it once or twice.)
And so, when R' Akiva suddenly saw a truth, he laughed.
R' Saadia adds that "simchah" is the kind of happiness associated with
This forces me to rethink what I've posted on "Eizehu ashir? Hasamei'ach
bichelko." I took this to mean that "simchah" is related to contentment.
However, R' Saadia's position fits better by explaining this mishnah
with less redundancy. The ashir is happy with what he has because he
knows why he has what he does, and why he doesn't have what he doesn't.
R' Saadia Gaon continues by explaining that "yesharim" are those who see
through to this inner truth. Which is why "Or zaru'ah latzadik, ulyishrei
leiv simchah." (Although R' Saadia doesn't explain how he can make
this diyuk in light of the next pasuk, "simchu tzadikim Bashem...") And
mitzvos are the means: "Pekudei Hashem yesharim, misamchei leiv..."
So I would like to suggest "yashar" as the term for idealism. R' Saadia's
description seems to fit someone who goes straight for the fundamental
truths, ideals, without comprimising with "the needs of reality".
Interestingly, I decided to write this idea up /before/ seeing the following
from R' Joel Rich:
: In his dvrei zikaron for R'YBS, R Twersky IIRC dealt with this medrash,
: he felt the "catuv hashlishi" was "or zarua latzadik ulyishrei lev simcha"
: which IIRC (I'm out of town w/o sfarim) Rashi in taanit explains that
: being a yashar is a higher level than tzadik. R' Twersky connected this
: to the netziv on why sefer breishit is called sefer hayesharim - that the
: avot modeled this yashrut- being totally immersed in torah and defending
: the proper derech...
Which would imply that not only an idealism a Jewish value, it's a core
message on seifer Bereishis and a loftier goal than tzidkus!
All of which brings a totally new understanding of the pasuk "ki
liYitzchak (shoresh: /tz-ch-q/) yikarei licha zara".
Micha Berger The mind is a wonderful organ
email@example.com for justifying decisions
http://www.aishdas.org the heart already reached.
Fax: (413) 403-9905
Go to top.
Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2001 12:34:55 -0400
From: Micha Berger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Fwd: Sfas Emes (Zechuso Tagein Aleinu), Parshas Matos, 5632
Related to my previous post, but not necessarily enough to warrant my
combining the two.
Dr. Nathaniel Leff
The Parsha begins with Moshe telling the leaders of the Shevatim: 'Zeh
HaDavar...' (THIS is -- EXACTLY -- what HaShem has commanded...' The
SE cites Rashi, who follows the comment of the Sifri. The Sifri tells
us that when Moshe transmitted the words of HaShem, he sometimes began
with the phrase Ko Ahmar HaShem' ('Ko' means ; ' more or less like
this'). Hence, the phrase as a whole is:. This is -- approximately --
what HaShem said'. Similarly, other prophets also prefaced HaShem's
message with 'Ko...'('This is -- more or less -- what HaShem said.')
By contrast, Moshe was on a higher level than all other prophets. For
this reason, he often transmitted HaShem's message using the introductory
phrase: Zeh HaDavar...' (THIS is EXACTLY what HaShem said.') The Torah
signals this higher degree of clarity by using the word 'Zeh' -- in
contra-distinction to Koh'. The latter comes across as This is -- more
or less -- what HaShem said'.
So far, so good. But now the SE asks a basic question. If the greater
degree of clarity that Zeh' implies is a virtue, why did some of Moshe's
Nevu'os (prophecies) come with Ko, which implies a lesser degree of
The SE answers: There are things in the world which cannot really be
clarified, things that we cannot really grasp. We can handle these things,
which are shrouded in darkness, only imprecisely, with similes, allusion,
parable -- that is, only approximately, only more or less'. That is,
there is a whole realm of reality for which Ko' is the best that can be
applied; Zeh' is totally useless.
(I have the impression that when the SE refers to the things that
we cannot really grasp (understand), he has in mind much more than
what the Navi says (Yeshayahu, 55,8): 'For My thoughts are not your
thoughts...' Much more seems to be involved than thoughts' ; whole
configurations of reality seem to be the issue.)
An example from another context may help to clarify the difference
between "...'My thoughts' and entire configurations'. The example comes
from our Tefila of Shacharis on Shabbos, the Piyut that begins HaKol
Yoducho'. Nusach Ashkenaz goes on to say: Ein Ke'Erkecha' -- We cannot
measure Your greatness'. By contrast, Nusach Sefarad says "Ein Aroch
Eilecha' -- We don't even have the METRIC with which we could even
conceivably measure Your greatness.")
Where is this realm that we cannot really understand? The SE tells us:
Ha'Olam HaZeh'. Note the double play on words: Olam' evokes the thought
of He'eleim -- 'hidden'. By contrast, HaZeh' implies definite clarity. You
may ask: Which is it: Hidden or is it definitely clear? The SE seems to be
saying: both! Thus, taking into account the double play on words that we
just noted, the SE is telling us that we live in a world of a ambiguity.
You may react to the foregoing material by saying that you find it
confusing. That is exactly what the SE is telling us: that the world
is a very confusing place. AND, by all indications, that is exactly how
HaShem wants it to be.
Moshe was on a level so high that he could pierce the Hester, and perceive
the world as it truly is, with the quality of Zeh'. So too were Bnai
Yisroel at the time of Matan Torah. Unfortunately, we lost it when we
made the golden calf. As the Torah says (Shemos, 33, 6): VaYisNatzlu
Bnai Yiroel Es Ed'yam...': (ArtScroll ; 'And the Children of Israel were
stripped of their jewelry...'). What 'jewelry,'? The crowns that we had
been given when we said: Na'aseh VeNishma'.
The SE makes the point all the more forceful as he reads Ed'yam' not as
their jewelry', but rather as coming from the root "Eid' -- 'witness',
or testimony'. This reading gives us the Pasuk just cited (Shemos, 33,6)
as: 'Bnai Yisroel lost the 'clarity of perception that they had been
granted at Sinai'.
But all is not lost! The SE quotes a Ma'amar of Chazal, who tell us
that the crowns of truthful insight are restored to Bnai Yisroel on
Shabbos. The Zohar explains: by observing Shabbos, we are testifying
as witnesses ('Eidim') that HaShem created the world and gives the
world its existence. Thus, by keeping the Mitzvos of Shabbos, we have
greater access to HaShem and -- penetrating the shroud of Hester --
to an accurate picture of reality.
Shabbos, then, takes on the quality of Zeh HaDavar'! This quality of
perception stands in sharp contrast to the situation on Yemos HaChol
(days in which the world may seem -- Kivyachol (so to speak) -- 'empty'
(from the root 'chalol') of HaShem's presence. During the week, the most
we can achieve is to see the world through a glass darkly'; i.e. with
the imperfect vision of Ko'.
Note how high are the SE'S standards and expectations when he tells
us what we must do to reach even the inferior level of Ko'. How can a
person achieve Ko'? By doing everything that his her every action LeShem
Shamayim ( to bring honor to HaShem), AND by doing so even though the
Truth concerning the world is hidden.
A naive observer might expect that the SE would rank Shabbos above
Yemei HaMa'aseh (the days of work) across the board. In fact, the world
is more complex. The SE remarks that Shabbos also depends on the days
of work. For, the SE tells us, to reach the level of Zeh HaDavar --
fully accurate metaphysical perception -- a person must start with Ko'
-- incomplete, and hence, unsatisfying perception.
Go to top.
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