Avodah Mailing List
Volume 07 : Number 086
Sunday, August 12 2001
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 15:36:50 -0400
From: Micha Berger <email@example.com>
Subject: Moshe's Speech and the Mesilat Yesharim
Another on-topic email from my in-box.
YESHIVAT HAR ETZION ISRAEL KOSCHITZKY VIRTUAL BEIT MIDRASH (VBM)
"What Does Hashem Your G-d Require of You..." --
Moshe's Speech and the Mesilat Yesharim
By Rav Uriel Eitam
THE WHOLENESS OF DIVINE SERVICE
Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto), in the introduction to his Mesilat
Yesharim, awards a prominent place to the following verses:
"And now, Israel, what does Hashem your G-d require of you, but to
fear Hashem your G-d, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and
to serve Hashem your G-d with all your heart and all your soul, to
keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes, which I command
you this day for your good?" (Devarim 10:12-13)
Ramchal explains that Moshe here captures the essence of all the elements
of avoda (Divine service):
"And it is a great wisdom that Moshe... teaches us when he says, 'And
now, Israel, what does Hashem your G-d require of you...' Included
here are all the elements that comprise the complete service desired
Ramchal already used this verse to describe the complete form of avoda
in a sharp letter he sent to his teacher, after the rabbinic court in
Frankfurt forbade him (in the year 1735) to continue teaching Kabbala:
"The German Jews are whole and numerous, thank G-d -- in Frankfurt
alone there are some three hundred Torah scholars studying in yeshivot
-- and they are talented enough to understand Torah deeply. But
behold, they waste their days in pointless casuistry, and there
is no spirit of piety in them. If only that were all! If in all of
Germany where I traveled and in all of Holland where I live there are
G-d-fearing people who seek to know how to fear and love G-d and how
to behave piously before their Creator, they can surely be counted
by a child. In Italy, your honor surely knows better than I, there
is no one at this time who knows how to seek G-d; rather chaos and
darkness rule the city, and there is no understanding even of the
words, 'What does Hashem your G-d require of you but to fear...'"
(Letters of Ramchal, p. 304)
Upon examination of this verse it would appear that an additional
fundamental principle from Mesilat Yesharim is concealed in Moshe's
words. Throughout his book, Ramchal deals with Divine service itself,
but at the beginning (chapter 1) he addresses not only the question of
what a person's OBLIGATION is in the world, but also the question of
what his GOAL should be. The answer to this latter question depends on
the purpose for which man was created. Ramchal explains that:
"Man was created solely to take pleasure in G-d and to enjoy the
glory of His Shekhina, for this is the true pleasure and the greatest
enjoyment of any that could exist. And the place of this enjoyment
is truly in the World to Come."
This idea is hinted at in the above verse, which not only defines one's
obligation but also expresses one's ultimate goal. The instruction,
"And now, Israel, what does Hashem your G-d require of you," ends with
the words "for your good." Ramchal defines this "good" in accordance
with the teaching of Chazal (Kiddushin 39b) that refers to the World to
Come as "the world that is entirely good." (Further on, Ramchal negates
the possibility that this "good" is to be found in the present world.)
MOSHE'S WORDS AND THE BERAITA OF R. PINCHAS BEN YAIR
Despite the great importance of Moshe's words, the structure that Ramchal
follows in his book reflects not our verse but rather a beraita of
Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair. At the end of his introduction Ramchal explains
"And behold, all of these (principles mentioned by Moshe) are
principles that require much explanation, and I have found that our
Sages of blessed memory included these elements in a different order,
more detailed and organized according to the gradual steps required
for their proper acquisition... And behold, it was in accordance with
this beraita that I decided to compose this work in order to teach
myself and to remind others of the conditions for perfect service
and its various levels."
What makes the beraita preferable, in Ramchal's eyes, to Moshe's
formulation? The beraita is more detailed, and -- more importantly --
it is structured with a view to the attainment of perfection in one's
avoda. In other words, Moshe defines the components of proper service,
while R. Pinchas ben Yair describes the path leading to that service
and facilitating its attainment. And since the book is structured as a
gradual path to perfection, it is appropriately named "Mesilat Yesharim"
(the path of the upright).
Although our verse does not provide the basis for the structure of
the book, it does represent the goal of the book and of the path that
it describes, and therefore it is useful as an important key for an
understanding of the book as well as its structure. Hence we must
ask ourselves how the five components of Divine service mentioned by
Moshe are addressed in the beraita of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair. Do the
steps along the path represent stages in the process of acquisition,
such that only at the END does one attain perfection in one's service of
Hashem with all its components, or are the components of perfect service
themselves broken down in the beraita into an order for their acquisition?
Let us examine Ramchal's explanation of the components of avoda as
expressed by Moshe: fear of G-d, walking in His ways, love, purity of
heart, and observance of all the mitzvot, and compare them with Ramchal's
definition of the various middot (traits) of the beraita.
FEAR: Moshe Rabbeinu is referring to "fear of G-d's loftiness... leading
one to be ashamed before G-d's greatness in every movement he makes." This
obviously corresponds to the eighth midda (quality) listed the beraita
-- fear of sin: "He should be fearful and constantly concerned for his
actions lest the tiniest hint of sin be mixed up in them, or lest they
involve anything great or small that is not in keeping with the greatness
of G-d's honor and the loftiness of His name" (chapter 24).
WALKING IN HIS WAYS: This is not categorized as an independent midda in
Mesilat Yesharim, and appears primarily as a component of the middot of
dignity and piety.
LOVE: Ramchal explains that Moshe is referring to love "to the point
where one's soul is aroused to bring satisfaction to Him." This is the
basic definition of the sixth midda -- that of chassidut (piety), as
addressed in chapter 18: "The root of chassidut is, as Chazal taught,
'Happy is the man whose toil is in the Torah and who brings satisfaction
to his Creator.'"
WHOLEHEARTEDNESS (referred to elsewhere in the introduction alternatively
as 'purity of the heart' or 'how our thoughts are purified'): "That one's
service of G-d should be performed with purity of intention." This is the
fifth midda in the beraita -- that of purity, defined at the beginning
of chapter 16 as "correction of the heart and of one's thoughts."
OBSERVANCE OF ALL THE MITZVOT: "In all their detail and with all their
necessary conditions." Observance of positive and negative mitzvot is
based on the middot of caution and industriousness, but the midda that
brings one to observe the mitzvot in all their details and with all their
necessary conditions is the third one -- that of dignity. The structure
of the observance of mitzvot based on these three middot, with which
Mesilat Yesharim opens, is defined by Ramchal in chapter 12: "Behold,
once the obligation of dignity and the need for it have been identified
in man, once he has already attained caution and industriousness in his
involvement in the way to their attainment and has distanced himself
from all that will detract from them, he now has nothing that will block
his attainment of dignity other than (the need) to know the details of
the mitzvot, in order that he will be able to exercise caution in all
INVERSION OF THE ORDER: The parallel presented by Ramchal between the
verseand the beraita is fascinating, but it raises a question as to
the order of the stages mentioned. Why does Moshe conclude his words
with the most basic requirement -- that of observance of the mitzvot,
with which he should seemingly have started? (Indeed, R. Pinchas ben
Yair begins with this midda.) Moreover, it would seem that the entire
order of the stages is inverted (except for "walking in His ways," which,
as stated, is not awarded a separate chapter in Mesilat Yesharim). Moshe
mentions fear before love, which is defined as bringing satisfaction to
the Creator, and love precedes wholeheartedness. However, in R. Pinchas
ben Yair's formulation, purity of heart precedes piety (which is defined
as bringing satisfaction to the Creator), and piety precedes fear. It
would seem that this inversion of the order in general, and in particular
the fact that Moshe mentions the obligation of observing the mitzvot
only at the end, casts a question mark over the entire comparison --
and certainly over the fundamental structure of Mesilat Yesharim as
being based on the connection between the verse and the beraita.
We find no answer to this puzzle in Mesilat Yesharim, but recently a
solution came to light. Ramchal, as is known, wrote an earlier version of
Mesilat Yesharim, presented in the form of a dialogue between a cchasid
(pious person) and a chakham (scholar). This version was published in
1994 by Rabbis Yosef Avivi and Avraham Shoshana (Ofek Institute). The
first part of the book reveals a significant difference between the two
versions, and in several instances the earlier version elaborates at
greater length than the latter. In his explanation here for mentioning
the verse before the beraita, Ramchal explains the inversion of the
order of stages regarding the beraita:
"Moshe Rabbeinu, in teaching us to know in truth what our obligation
is and what is appropriate for us, said: 'And now, Israel, what does
Hashem your G-d require of you but...' The principle of observance of
all the mitzvot, including all the specific laws and injunctions with
which you are involved, is only one of the elements mentioned in this
verse. There are four other elements mentioned here, and they are:
fear of G-d, walking in His ways, love, and service of the heart...
"Close examination reveals that all the mitzvot that involve action
comprise one category, while the mitzvot of the heart and the mind
comprise a different category. Hence the Torah divides them and
mentions the mitzvot of the heart prior to the mitzvot pertaining
to the limbs, for this is a proper reflection of their greater
importance... Thus, aside from knowledge of the mitzvot for the
purpose of fulfilling them, there are four other elements that
accompany their performance and complement it such that it may be
acceptable before the Holy One. But you, by your words, have involved
yourself only in the first requirement (performance of the mitzvot)
while neglecting the other four."
Thus Ramchal teaches that Moshe arranges the elements of avoda according
to their importance, while the beraita arranges them according to the
gradual progression required for their acquisition. For this reason
the order is inverted: the greater the importance of a certain stage
(and the earlier its consequent appearance in Moshe's formulation),
the more significant the preparation required for its attainment --
causing it to appear nearer the end of the beraita.
DEVELOPMENT OF EACH ELEMENT OF AVODA
Until now we have seen how each of the elements of avoda mentioned in the
verse finds its parallel in a certain stage in the process of attainment
presented in the beraita. The truth is, however, that this principle fails
to reflect the relationship in its entirety. A more thorough study reveals
that the middot mentioned by Moshe themselves develop in the course of
the various stages of the beraita. Just as "observance of the mitzvot"
develops in the course of three middot -- caution, industriousness and
dignity -- so other middot likewise appear in a number of stages.
We find this principle clearly enunciated in Ramchal's discussion of
"fear of G-d" in the dialogue between the chasid and the chakham:
"Fear -- that is, that a person should be in awe of the loftiness
of the Holy One, like someone who stands before a great king. And
behold, the ultimate degree of this fear of G-d is that a person
should feel this awe constantly, at all times, with every action
that he performs and with every word or thought... However, it is
difficult for a person to reach this ultimate level, for his material
nature prevents him... but there are progressive stages, and to the
extent that one constantly strives to approach this great degree,
he is to be praised."
Indeed, the midda of "fear of G-d" appears in Mesilat Yesharim in the
stages of caution, chassidut (piety) and fear of sin. Similarly, purity
of motive, for example, is found both in the discussion of purity and
in the explanation of the elements of chassidut.
THE UNIQUENESS OF MESILAT YESHARIM
We have noted above the fact that no independent stage or chapter in
Mesilat Yesharim is devoted to the element of "walking in His ways"
mentioned by Moshe. This is one of many thought-provoking aspects of
the book. Not only is the general principle of walking in G-d's ways not
addressed individually, but even the specific middot are mentioned only
rarely. Only "the attainment of modesty" has a chapter devoted to it,
and in his treatment of the middot within the chapter on dignity Ramchal
addresses only pride, anger, jealousy and the coveting of honor and money
(all of which are interrelated and thus do not collectively reflect a wide
range of middot). Many middot pertaining to interpersonal relationships
that are discussed in other well-known ethical works (Ma'alot ha-Middot,
Orchot Tzadikim, Netivot Olam) do not appear in Mesilat Yesharim, and
the list of Ramchal's chapter headings is blatantly different from theirs.
It would seem that this reflects a more fundamental principle. Mesilat
Yesharim is unique among the mussar works. In essence, it is not a
book of middot, but rather a book of avodat Hashem. Its intention is
not to discuss the derekh-eretz that precedes Torah -- the molding of
one's moral character as a basis for his being worthy to receive Torah,
but rather to address the matters of the heart that follow Torah. It
focuses not on the world of middot that we learn from the Patriarchs,
but rather on the soul of mitzvot that we learn from Moshe.
The edifice of one's avodat Hashem thus is comprised of three tiers:
1. the derekh-eretz that precedes Torah, and which we learn mainly from
2. the mitzvot of the limbs, found from Sefer Shemot onwards;
3. the mitzvot of the heart, which is awarded a prominent place is
Moshe's introduction to the mitzvot of Sefer Devarim, with which our
Ramchal applies himself principally to this third tier, and for this
reason he does not elaborate on the middot of derekh-eretz. Nevertheless,
derekh-eretz -- which clearly precedes the mitzvot of the limbs --
must unquestionably precede the duties of the heart, and therefore it
is mentioned by Moshe and echoed by Ramchal in his introduction.
[Question for further study: Even though Ramchal does not focus on
interpersonal character traits, why does he nevertheless devote attention
to pride, anger, jealousy, and the craving for honor and money? Why
does the beraita devote a specific stage of development to the quality
(Translated by Kaeren Fish)
Go to top.
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 15:34:15 EDT
Subject: Re: hilchot waiting-in-line
In a message dated 8/10/01 1:42:34pm EDT, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
> Despite any differences in what they hold one MAY do, they would probably
> all agree that one SHOULD give up one's place in line to a Rosh Yeshiva
> etc... whose time is presumably "worth more" if he could get to the Yeshiva
> a few minues earlier. IIRC, Teshuvot V'Hanhagot (I will BL"N look up the
> Siman over Shabbat) from Rav Sternbuch says one should do this, unless it
> appears as if the Rosh Yeshiva could have sent another member of the family
> but chose to go himself to take advantage .....
How does this reconcile with the gemora's re: not using or appearing to be
using your learning for personal gain?
KT&SS&may we hear besorot tovot meartzenu
PS One can accomplish a lot of learning while waiting on lines so I'm not
sure bitul torah could be used as a reason.
Go to top.
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 16:28:52 -0400 (EDT)
From: Eli Turkel <email@example.com>
Subject: shelled eggs
>My difficulty is that these aren't the greatest medical threats in the
>world. Using current methods, it's hard to show statistical correlation.
>If Chazal had advanced medical knowledge and used it to create these
>issurim, where's the ban on fats? We know they were aware of the problem,
>they mention the health issues of the kohein gadol's high red-meat diet
>(and walking on cold marble floors).
To continue Micha's argument ask any doctor to compare the risk of
exposed garlic to the risk of smoking!
In other places the Talmud recommends foods that are on the verge of
being rotten as being healthy. How about eating foods in pairs?
Go to top.
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 16:23:02 -0400 (EDT)
From: Eli Turkel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: sheitels and yishuv EY
We have had quotes that ROY brings over 100 opinions against sheitels.
In a similar vein SBA brings all the opinions from SR against settling
in Israel (except for special individuals) in the present day.
Though I am not qualified to disagree with either one the facts remain
that with all this bekius these are shitas yachid. The vast majority
of Ashkenazi poskim allow and used sheitels. Even places like Belz that
do wear a hat on top of a sheitel do not (as far as I know) claim that
other groups who do not will burn in hell for wearinga sheitel.
Similarly RMF in his teshuva on aliyah did not hint at anything like
the opinion of SR. Certainly all the gedolim who encouraged aliyah did
noy agree with this approach including the present day Agudah not to
speak about gedolim like Rav Kook and those presently affiliated with
Merkaz haRav. As I previously pointed out even the Steipler who seems to
agree with the SR states that it no longer applies after the establishment
of the state.
We also know that satmar and the Edah haCharedit have yeshivot in israel
and I dont believe they have an entrance requirement limited to only the
Bottom line halacha is determined not by the one who quotes the most shitot
but by the one who wins acceptance by the klal.
Go to top.
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 16:43:19 -0400 (EDT)
From: Eli Turkel <email@example.com>
Subject: waiting in line
>The following is a brief snippet from a Project Genesis translation of R.
>Tzvi Shpitz's weekly Choshen Mishpat column.
>This is in contrast to the article on Shema Yisrael by R. Yitzchok
>Silberstein and R. Tzvi Yabrov.
I find it hard to believe that these two sources disagree. There are
gemaras they clearly give priorities when a choice is given. For example
when one can save only one individual. In this case clearly one is not
stealing if one follows the Mishna. The first answer assumes that we
are in a situation in which this does not apply and then one is stealing.
As an example that I heard from R. Zilberstein. If one has one own
private practice then the doctor should follow the priorities in the
Gemara including taking a Talmid Chacham first independent of the queue.
However, if the doctor is in a public insitution as a hospital or else
under someone else's supervision he is then prohibited to advance a
Talmid Chacham to the head of the head and if he did so would violate
Geneva and posisbly other prohibitions. In a hospital all citizens are
equal and so it is prohibited for an individual doctor to push people
ahead unless there exists a medical reason.
In particular he stressed that the israeli custom of protekzia is strictly
forbidden by any piblic servant.
Go to top.
Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2001 13:53:21 +0300
From: "Carl M. Sherer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: hilchot waiting-in-line
On 9 Aug 2001, at 10:26, Gil Student wrote:
> The following is a brief snippet from a Project Genesis translation of R.
> Tzvi Shpitz's weekly Choshen Mishpat column.
> Is it Halachically permitted to cut ahead of others waiting on line?
> A. It is definitely forbidden! It is an Issur D'Oraysah (a Torah prohibition
> - [as opposed to an Issur D'Rabbanan, a Rabbinic prohibition]) to go ahead
> of others waiting on line. Someone who does so, transgresses the prohibition
> of theft, and is obligated to reimburse the people behind him for the time
> that he stole from them, unless they unanimously agree to forgive him.
This is essentially R. Shpitz's tshuva from his sefer in 1:84. I
thought of quoting it (and actually brought it to work on Thursday to
type it in), but then I thought yesh l'chaleik. R. Shpitz is talking
about someone who comes in and just cuts into the line. R.
Silberstein is talking about someone who comes, says "I'm here,"
asks the person in front of him to save his space and then leaves
to return when it's almost his turn. While I'm not sure that R. Shpitz
would recognize the chiluk (and I'm even less sure that it matters
l'maaseh), nevertheless the chiluk seems to be there.
Carl M. Sherer, Adv. Silber, Schottenfels, Gerber & Sherer
Telephone 972-2-625-7751 Fax 972-2-625-0461 eFax (US) 1-253-423-1459
Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for my son,
Baruch Yosef ben Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.
Thank you very much.
Go to top.
Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2001 20:38:21 -0400
From: "Gil Student" <email@example.com>
Subject: Belief or Proof?
The following is an e-mail I sent out with identifying information Xed out.
I thought it might be of interest to the chevra.
Dear Rabbi X,
I would like to compliment you on a well-designed and eye-pleasing website.
You have clearly spent a lot of time in filling it with content designed to
bring Jews closer to Yiddishkeit.
I recently came across an article on your website titled XXXXX and I was a
bit taken aback by your strong stance. In this essay, you argue that
"faith" is a Christian concept and that Judaism requires arriving at the
knowledge of God's existence through proof. Only fools deny this and you
choose not to be "politically correct" but to expose this foolishness for
what it is. To demonstrate your point, you quote from many rishonim,
including Rav Hai Gaon, Rav Saadia Gaon, R. Bachya Ibn Pakuda, Rambam,
Ramban, and R. Yehudah HaLevi (also, Malbim, although I'm not sure why he
fits into that list).
While I sympathize with your point and recognize that this was the view of
many rishonim, I think that you greatly overstated your case. There is
legitimate basis within rishonim for the view that faith is sufficient [in
exclusion of proof, not of fulfilment of mitzvos]. If I am correct, and
there are rishonim who state this opinion, then it is wrong to call those
who follow these rishonim "fools." As the Rambam said in four separate
places, we cannot be machria in an hashkafic issue based on halachic rules.
Even if the majority of rishonim, or even tannaim, believe one thing, we
cannot simply follow the halachic rule and follow rov. While it might be
wise to follow the view of the majority of wise sages, it is not obligatory.
1. To start, in your essay you quote the introduction to Chovos HaLevavos by
R. Bachya ben Yosef Ibn Pakuda. You rightly note that he says that it is an
obligation for anyone intellectually capable to prove our tradition (p. 9 in
the Feldheim/Kaffih edition). However, he is also clear that those who are
not intellectually capable, I would argue the vast majority of Jews, are not
obligated to prove it and can be satisfied with tradition and faith. Even
Rabbeinu Bachya, one of the earliest and most important rationalist
philosophers, only requires the intellectual elite to go beyond faith.
2. A similar but crucially more moderate view is offered by the anonymous
Sefer HaChinuch. On the first mitzvah of parshas Yisro, the mitzvah to
believe in God, the Chinuch writes "And if he merits rising in wisdom, and
his heart will understand and his eyes will see proofs that this faith in
which he believed is true, clear, and necessary then he will fulfill this
mitzvah in an extra fashion (mitzvah min hamuvchar)." According to the
Chinuch, proving faith is only a mitzvah min hamuvchar. It is not an
3. However, rationalist philosophers are not the only source of our
tradition. In your essay, you quote R. Yehudah HaLevi in his Kuzari as
advocating that tradition must be proven. In this I believe you are
mistaken. Indeed, a theme throughout the Kuzari is that faith is greater
than proven belief. Consider the end of 2:26 (p. 68 in the Even Shmuel
edition): "I say, 'It is God's Torah and whoever accepts it simply, without
questioning and investigation, is greater than the investigator and critic.
However, whoever has deviated from this high level to investigate, it is
good that he search for reasons for these things...'"
In 4:27 (p. 189), R. HaLevi explains that once Avraham Avinu was taught the
truth he abandoned all of his philosophizing and scientific investigations.
Once one has been taught the truth, it is unnecessary to search for it. See
also 5:1-2 (p. 195) where R. HaLevi makes it unequivocably clear that faith
is greater than proven knowledge.
The Kuzari alone is sufficient to justify those who prefer simple faith over
proven knowledge. R. Yehudah HaLevi, the anti-philosophy philosopher, is
certainly one on whom people can rely for their hashkafos. It is no
surprise that his Kuzari is so popular in contemporary Yeshiva circles and
that it has been translated into English a number of times, even by
4. In addition to the Kuzari, the Rivash writes in his famous
anti-philosophy teshuvah (45), "They [the Greek philosophers] also wrote in
their books that perfect knowledge is attainable only through investigation,
not through tradition. But we have received the truth that our Torah, which
came to us at Sinai from the mouth of God, through the intermediation of the
master of [all] the prophets, is perfect. It is superior to everything and
all their investigations are null and void compared to it."
To the Rivash, philosophical investigation is unnecessary when we have a
tradition. The investigations are null and void compared to tradition.
5. R. Chaim Yair Bachrach writes in his Chavos Yair (214), "faith is good
and obligatory and investigation is an abomination (toevah)." The context
of that statement demonstrates its relevance to our discussion. See below
for his understanding of the Rambam.
6. You also quote the Ramban as supporting your view. However, your
citation does not prove that at all. Indeed, R. David Berger has suggested
the exact opposite. In the book "Judaism's Encounter with Other Cultures"
(R. Jacob Schachter, ed.) p. 99, R. Berger notes that the Ramban in his
Sha'ar HaGemul (Kisvei HaRamban vol. II p. 281) states that every Jew is
obligated to investigate suffering in this world and to try to understand
how God rewards and punishes. This, however, is due to the obligation of
tziduk hadin, which is a theme throughout Sha'ar HaGemul. Absent this
obligation, evidently, there is no need to investigate our beliefs. As R.
Berger wrote, "[T]he revelation of Torah is an empirical datum par
excellence; consequently, there is no more point in constructing proofs for
doctrines explicitly taught in the revelation than for the proposition that
the sun rises in the morning."
A possible challenge to R. Berger can be brought from Ha'emunah Vehabitachon
that is attributed to Ramban, ch. 19 (Kisvei HaRamban vol. II p. 413).
However, the authorship of this book is a serious question.
7. Even your understanding of Rambam, the greatest Jewish rationalist, is
not unassailable. It is well known that while the Rambam wrote in a number
of places that it is a mitzvah to "know" God, in his Sefer HaMitzvos he
wrote that it is a mitzvah to "believe" in God. R. Chaim Heller challenged
that translation as ambiguous and R. Yosef Kaffih has stated that it is
incorrect and that the only proper rendition of the Rambam's Arabic in Sefer
HaMitzvos is that it is a mitzvah to "know" God.
However, in his Al HaTeshuvah (pp. 195-201), R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik
investigates what it means to "know" God. As he points out, it is
impossible to know God. Rather, the Rambam means that we are obligated to
constantly recognize God's existence. As it says in Mishlei (3:6), "In all
your ways know Him." Cf. Rabbeinu Yonah's commentary to Mishlei, ad loc.
R. Chaim Yair Bachrach, author of Chavos Yair, has a different explanation
of the Rambam's view in one of his teshuvos. In teshuvah 210, he argues
that according to the Rambam the best and clearest faith is that which has
been philosophically proven. However, unproven faith is also sufficient.
This is, unsurprisingly, in accordance with what the Chinuch says. It is
very common for the Chinuch to follow the Rambam's view and even quote him
8. In line with the above, it is interesting to note how Radak explains
knowledge of God in his commentary to Yirmiyahu (9:23). As a rationalist,
Radak translates "haskel" as philosophically understanding God. "Yado'a
osi" does not mean the same. Rather, knowledge of God means following in
God's ways -- doing acts of chesed and tzedakah.
In summary, it is not only overkill to accuse those who disagree with your
rationalism of foolishness. It is wrong. Those who prefer faith over proof
have ample basis within Jewish sources. Indeed, they have Chabakuk (2:4) on
whom to rely.
In this time in which the Satan is mekatreig on Klal Yisrael (allegorically,
of course), it is dangerous to promote machlokes and sinas chinam. I hope
that you will change your rhetorical style of insults and accusations for a
more positive message that will bring people closer to Torah without
denigrating those within the Torah camp who disagree with your philosophy.
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Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2001 18:07:35 +0300 (IDT)
From: Eli Turkel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Does anyone have an explanation of the recent daf yomi of the tzavua that
changes every 7 years into another animal and finally into a demon?
Same for the next gemara that a person's spine changes into a snake 7
years after death except if he bent down at Modim.
MaHarsha explains the connection between the snake (symbolizing ga-avah)
and modim synmolizing humility. However, he still seems to take the
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Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2001 17:09:18 -0400
From: Rabbi Chaim Frazer <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: 4 hours; that is, one third of the day
At 10:39 AM 8/8/01 -0700, Eric Simon wrote:
>The halacha (in Rambam, Hilchos Tefilla 3:1; Sh.Ar. 89:1, etc.) is that one
>can daven shacharis "until four hours, that is, one-third of the day."
>The obvious question, to me, is: why the extra phrase? We know that
>'hours' are proportional hours, right? ...
According to the Kesef Mishneh (Rav Yosef Caro) ad loc, the purpose of the
extra phrase is precisely to teach that the hours are proportional, rather
than on an absolute basis such as our contemporary American time-keeping
>Another question of mine: does the fact that the Rabbanan hold that
>shacharis is until chatzos (at that Mishna), even though it is not the
>halacha we follow, have any present halachic significance? It seems as
>though the Taz (at 89:1) might be alluding to that, but my Hebrew isn't
>good enough to fully understand him there. Can anyone help?
The time zone in which one is allowed to pray Shacharit (the morning
service) is the time zone in which the Korban Tamid shel Shacharit could
have been brought in the Beit HaMikdash. The Rabbanim say "until
Chatzot" ("mid-day"), and Rabbi Yehudah says "until the end of the fourth
(See Talmud Bavli Berakhot 26b, Talmud Yerushalmi 1:11, and Mishnah
The Rambam, following the Gemara, rules according to Rabbi Yehudah. That,
however, is for "tefillah bizmanah" ("prayer in the proper time zone").
What happens, however, if the fourth hour passes and one did not pray
Shacharit? In that case, prior to "Chatzot", one can still pray Shacharit
using the position of the Rabbanim on a de facto ("bedieved") basis, and
one receives credit for praying, though not for praying in the proper time
There is a dispute between the Kesef Mishnah and Rav Moshe Isserles as to
what "Chatzot" means in this context. The Kesef Mishnah ad loc holds that
it means "until the time of the Afternoon Korban Tamid could be brought",
which is 6 and one half proportional hours from daybreak ("Amud
HaShachar"), rather than 6 hours.
The Rama (Rav Moshe Isserles) rules that "Chatzot" means exactly until the
end of the sixth hour.
If one did not pray Shacharit until after "Chatzot", then unless one's
failure to do so was due to error or compulsion, then there is no way to
"make it up". If , on the other hand, one's error was due to error or
compulsion, then one first prays Mincha, and then prays an additional
Amidah as a compensatory prayer for having missed Shacharit.
Hope this helps.
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Date: Sat, 11 Aug 2001 23:18:31 +0200
From: "Rabbi Y.H.Henkin" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Mitzvat yishuv Eretz Yisrael and sinners
>It seems strange that if its only a few baalei aveira -- it's a no go,
> but if it's in big >numbers then it's beseder.
>Some new version of Tuma Hutra Betzibur?
From Shu"t Bnei Banim vol. 2, no. 42, p. 170 (translated):
"...Proof that in Ramban's view there is no mitzva of yishuv Eretz
Yisrael without the conquest of Eretz Yisrael, can be brought fron the
Rosh Hashana Drasha he delivered in his last years when he was in Eretz
Yisrael. In it he dwelt at length on its praises, and that it is called
haShems's nachala, and that the essence of all the mitzvot are [only]
for those dwelling in Eretz Yisrael. He concluded: 'This is what took me
out of my native country [Spain] and moved me from my normal place---I
left my home, abandoned my inheritance....'
"What is amazing is that he makes no mention of the fact that he was
obligated by the Torah to go on aliya [his own shita!]. =85Even if his
opinion was that it was only a mitzva kiyumit, he should have that the
reason he came on aliya was to perform a mitzvah kiyumit from the Torah.
But following our [above] discussion, it is clear that according to
the Ramban the mitzvah is conquest, and dwelling in Eretz Yisrael is a
part of that conquest, but simply dwelling there without any aspect of
conquest is not a mitzva from the Torah. Therefore, in his days when
his aliya had no connection at all with conquering Eretz Yisrael he
fulfilled no commandment, and therefore he gave different reasons."
This was followed by my contrast of Maharam's statement with that of the
Midrash. In our day, as opposed to the time of the Ramban and Maharam,
each additional Jew living in Eretz Yisrael strengthens the modern
conquest, and according to the Ramban therefore fulfills a mitzva from
the Torah. Nowhere do we find that one should not perform one Torah
mitzvah because he violates others, and tuma hutra betzibur has nothing
to do with it.
With Torah blessings,
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