Avodah Mailing List

Volume 08 : Number 037

Thursday, November 1 2001

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 11:56:28 -0800
From: "Eli Turkel" <Eli.Turkel@colorado.edu>
Talmud and science

In our discussion of academic vs yeshiva approaches I would like to
change the question from philosophic to practical. Shlomo Sternberg
brings many examples. For simplicity I shall focus on one famous case
as a typical example. This concerns the 8th month old fetus and shabbat.

Assume we have a couple where the husband has been out of town for a while
returns for one night and then dies. Hence, we know for sure the day of
conception. 8 months later the mother gives birth. According to the gemara
the baby is muktzeh and one cannot violate shabbat to help the baby since
the baby can't live. According to modern science there is no problem.

A modern posek either explicitly or implicitly has to deal with the
following possibilities:
1. The gemara was right and modern medicine is wrong. Hence, we cannot
violate shabbat to save the baby (seems to be the position of Minchat

2. The gemara was wrong and we rely on modern medicine and override
shabbat (seems to be the position of several geonim and R. Avraham son
of Rambam).

3. Assume that both are right but the biology has changed since the days
of chazal (seems to be the prevelant position of modern day poskim).

I would break down #3 into two subpossibilities.

3a. The physical truth is that these changes took place
3b. This is a legalistic approach to avoid deciding between #1 and #2.

I have spoken with this with Dr. Avraham Steinberg (author of the
encylopedia on halacha and refuah) and he believes that CI held 3a. When
I pressed him as a medical doctor he admitted it was hard to accept this.

I strongly claim that position 3a is not realistic.
First, to the best of my knowledge the Mishna Brura was the first one
to allow chillul shabbat in the 8th month. Thus, this biological change
took place in the last 100-200 years.
Did this change occur overnight or gradually, only in Jews or in all
women? Furthermore, it is clear from the gemara that 7 month and 9
month fetuses are distinct types of babies. Thus, if a woman is due
after 7 months it would, according to the gemara, be medically wrong
to artificially prolong the pregnancy to the 8th month. According to
modern medicine ther are no such 2 types of fetuses and the longer the
fetus is in the mother the better the chances of survival.
Hence, the difference netween the gemara and modern medicine is a basic
difference and not a technical one. It is hard to believe that this
basic difference evolved in women over 100 years or even 2,000 years.

Possibility 3b is logically possible but seems to me to be just
avoiding the issue.
Thus, IMHO the choice is between #1 and #2.

I stress that this is a decision a posek needs to make in real life
(admittedly the circumstances are far fetched as in the ordinary case the
posek would not believe the doctor that the birth was in the 8th month).
It does no good to quote haskafa that chazal as a group can't make errors
since many known cases exist.

A further point of Shlomo Sternberg was that a major problem is that
almost no major posek knows anything about modern science and medicine. In
particular the theory of science and how it works. The arguments some
rabbis give to disprove science just proves how little that know about
the difference between ancient and modern medicine, which is not to say
that it is infallible but to know when it relies on fact and when on
theory and pasken accordingly.

kol tuv,
Eli turkel

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Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 12:08:02 -0800
From: "Eli Turkel" <Eli.Turkel@colorado.edu>
science and chazal

> Another illustration - if Chazal tell us in a Halachic constrtruct that
> we should treat fish and meat as dangerous, we do. But we are not bound
> to believe that this is scientific fact.

This works because the length of time of the second bet hamikdash is
not halacha lemaaseh. In the case of fish and meat it is easy to be
machmir and consider it as a segula.
The hard questions are when the conflict invloves major issues and even
life and death. Do we let the person die based on a gemara that seems
to be against modern science?

Eli Turkel

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Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 21:16:52 +0200
From: Akiva Atwood <atwood@netvision.net.il>
RE: Tefilla for Nochachim During a Chupa

 From my Breslov T.C.:

The tefilah is based on Likutey Moharan I, Lesson #32.

It's a short lesson, but pretty heavy on the kabbalah. Just dance *l'shem
shemayim* and the *tikkunim* will happen.


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Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 23:06:03 +0200
From: "D. and E-H. Bannett" <dbnet@barak-online.net>
Re: nikud

R' Gershon Dubin wrote <<the tzeireh in Yisrael is under the aleph,
leaving the name of Hashem intact, while for Yishmael it's under the ayin,
with no nikkud on the aleph. The Shem is therefore incomplete. Comments?

If the comment requested is one of d'rash one has to also realize that
the words are primarily names of persons. The d'rash must satisfy also
names like Yechezkel and Daniyel both with tzeireh and silent alef. And
how about Yizra'el which, in addition to the silent alef, also has a
segol instead of tzeireh

A simple reason for the different in nikkud is that the first part,
Yishma' of the compound name Yishma'el is a complete word ending in
a consonant ('ayin) and as such the final letter is pronounced even
though it has no nikkud. When the el is added as a suffix, the 'ayin is
in the middle of the word and a letter without nikkud inside a word is
not pronounced. For it to be pronounced, the 'ayin must have nikkud so
the tzeireh is put under it and the following alef becomes silent instead.

In Yisra-El, all the letters of Yisra have nikkud. The Torah tells us
that YisraEl comes from"ki sarita 'im E'... vatukhal. Accepting the
Rashbam that the shoresh of sarita is saroh (like 'asita from 'asoh)
the final letter of the shoresh is missing. The other letters all have
nikkud and there is no problem created by adding the El as a suffix. So
the tzeireh is in the alef as in dozens of such words from Meheitavel and
Mahalalel in Breishit to Yeruel, Chazael and Yehalelel in Divrei Hayamim.

For more on this I refer all to R' Seth.


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Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 17:33:52 -0500
From: MPoppers@kayescholer.com
Re: Nikud

In Avodah V8 #36, RSMandel wrote:
> Hazal often went out of their way not to be m'naqqed the element in
> the name referring to God as if it were divine....the second one (yod-he)
> being labelled as qodesh and having a mappiq

IIRC, isn't yud-haih l'Halacha (i.e. in YD) _not_ considered a shaim
which may not be erased?

All the best from
Michael Poppers * Elizabeth, NJ

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Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 16:50:02 EST
From: Phyllostac@aol.com
being mispalleil using the wrong name for a person (was re haRav Schach shlit"a)

From:  stugold@juno.com - Stuart Goldstein
> How many (e.g.) Moshe ben Sarahs might there be in the world, and how many 
> might be sick and have a MiSheberach said for them at the same time ? Surely 
> the great mailroom in Shomayim knows how to sort and deliver...
> No authentic Tefilah goes unanswered.

Yeish lichaleik - When there are a number of people or cholim with the
same name, and one gives the shared name without further distinguishing
detail, even though perhaps the tefillah was insufficiently addressed, it
was not wrongly addressed / misaddressed. However when one is mispalleil
for an (Rav in this case) Eliezer instead of an Elozor, the tefillah
was addressed wrongly / misaddressed - not just insufficiently.

Another thought came to mind here - would 'machshova tova HKB"H mitzarfoh
limaaseh' have application here WRT the zchus of the tefillah reaching the
popular account (perhaps in addition to the mispalleil getting credit)
when the tefillah was misaddressed bipeh (perhaps if the misaddressing
was only bileiv, there would be less of / no problem).


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Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 23:55:13 +0200
From: "Rabbi Y.H.Henkin" <henkin@012.net.il>
R. Y. E. Henkin z'l

>Knowing that this nusach has been used dor-doros is enough
>for me to stick to it.
>After all, something done for 10 generations or so (at least
> - and it may have been even longer than that), is by all
>accounts a true and established mesores ovos which should not
>be thrown out in the garbage. ...

The writer assumes that the current birkat habanot, which has no clear
textual source, concerning which it is not known when, where and by
whom it was introduced, and which itself "threw out in the garbage"
the apparently long-preceding practice of blessing girls, too, with
"..k'Efraim v'k'Menasheh" which is of Biblical origin, is a minhag
vatikin to which applies "ve'al titosh torat imecha."

>(I assume that RH's illustrious grandfather also used the
>nusach of klall yisroel.)

I am responding, however, only because of the improper reference made
to my sainted grandfather z"l. I, too, presume he used the current
version. So did I, before I thought of a better one. No one who knew
anything about him, however, would suggest that he would automatically
reject an alternative. Read his Eidut LeYisrael and see that he criticized
widespread practices, and had no hesitation in suggesting changes when
he thought this was warranted.

I'll give one example that I saw and talked to him about, but I do not
know if it is written anywhere: on Yom Kippur in Musaf he would instruct
the shaliach tzibur to delete the piyut "Eilah Ezkarah" about the aseret
harugei malchut, the reason being that it (the fable about the shoes,
and that all ten were killed at the same time) is historically false. In
its place he substituted "Arzei Halevanon" from kinot.

This, even though "Eilah Ezkarah" has "been used dor-doros."

        	Yehuda Herzl Henkin

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Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 15:47:08 -0800
From: "Eli Turkel" <Eli.Turkel@colorado.edu>
disagreeing with rishonim

> On 30 Oct 01, at 12:59, Eli Turkel wrote:
>>> 1. There's a difference between a Rishon arguing these issues with
>>> his contemporaries and we spiritual and intellectual pygmies (by
>>> comparison!) deciding on our own to adopt the view that the Rishonim
>>> rejected....
>> Arguing with a rishon is not the same as arguing against a psak of the
>> sanhedrin. Gra argued against rishonim without being a zaken mamre.

> It goes without saying that we are not on the level of the Gra. But I
> would understand "Yiftach b'doro k'Shmuel b'doro" as meaning that only
> the "Gedolim" of each generation have the right to argue on the previous
> generations. So while the Gra had that right, you (AFAIK) and I don't.

The problem with that is that there is no objective way to distinguish
between the Gra and ourselves. The Gra did not get a popular vote to enable
to do what he did. He just went ahead and did it and others accepted it.
If we tried it no one else would accept it.

BTW I once read that the Gra objected to the Shaagas Aryeh arguing with
rishonim. Why he felt he could do it and not the Shaagas Aryeh i have no

> I would broaden that beyond the SA and commentaries. AIUI, Ashkenazi
> psak is generally based on 2 out of 3 from among the Rosh, the Rif and
> the Rambam.

I assume you mean Sefardi psak. Rama relied mainly on Rosh and Tosafot and
less on rambam and Rif.

>>                                                 If I think shedim
>> don't exist does that mean I disagree the consensus since Gra argued
>> vehemntly against the philosopher Rambam?

> Is the existence of sheidim an ikar in emuna? So long as you don't
> employ that psak l'maaseh (e.g. not be choshesh for sheidim in a case
> of hearing someone say to write a get for his wife without seeing him -
> the only case I can think of today where sheidim would have an impact
> l'maaseh) I'm not sure that what you think about sheidim matters.

No shedim is not an ikkar. I was discussing the broader question whether
haskafa follows the same line of psak as halacha. I dont believe so.

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Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 18:00:35 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: disagreeing with rishonim

On Wed, Oct 31, 2001 at 03:47:08PM -0800, Eli Turkel wrote:
: No shedim is not an ikkar. I was discussing the broader question whether
: haskafa follows the same line of psak as halacha. I dont believe so.

The position I was arguing (and I believe a number of others were as well)
is that the iqarim are a halachic issue, and therefore the laws of pesaq

Other hashqafic questions (such as sheidim) do not affect halachah,
and therefore on those issues they do not.


Micha Berger                 "The most prevalent illness of our generation is
micha@aishdas.org            excessive anxiety....  Emunah decreases anxiety:
http://www.aishdas.org       'The Almighty is my source of salvation;  I will
Fax: (413) 403-9905          trust and not be afraid.'" (Isa 12) -Shalhevesya

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Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 15:48:59 -0800
From: "Eli Turkel" <Eli.Turkel@colorado.edu>
minchah after shekia

I have seen psakim of both ROY and RSZA allowing mincha up to 12 minutes
after shekia.

Eli Turkel

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Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 18:14:40 -0500
From: "Feldman, Mark" <MFeldman@CM-P.COM>
Giving aliyos to those who are intermarried

Almost three years ago on Avodah, RYGB wrote
<<...kind of similar to why we attempt not to give people who are
intermarried etc. aliyos even if they are ma'aminim - so as not to give
kavod to people who are not role-models. I believe R' Moshe has a teshuva
on this topic>>

I didn't find this tshuvah (though I saw a tshuva in Igros Moshe OC
3:12 permitting an aliya to a mechalel shabbos who believes in Hashem).
Is there such a tshuvah (in Igros Moshe or in other achronim)?

The only tshuva I found is in Minchas Yitzchak 3:65 (which seems
partially based on the fact that intermarriage is rare and giving an
aliya encourages a pirtzas geder; I wonder whether the fact that the
intermarriage rate is so high today changes the considerations; I also
note that the same tshuvah forbids giving an aliyah to a mechalel
shabbos). Does anyone know of Orthodox shuls which give aliyos to
intermarried Jews on the grounds that otherwise they'll gravitate to
non-O shuls? Has any posek permitted it?

Kol tuv,

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Date: Thu, 1 Nov 2001 01:46:29 +0200
From: "Carl and Adina Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il>
Re: minchah after shekia

On 31 Oct 01, at 15:48, Eli Turkel wrote:
> I have seen psakim of both ROY and RSZA allowing mincha up to 12 minutes
> after shekia.

Thanks for being melamed zchus on me :-) AIUI that depends on where you
are. I assume they were talking about EY? Source? I have heard that it's
only two and a half minutes here (as opposed to New York where Rav Moshe
paskened seven).

-- Carl

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Date: Thu, 1 Nov 2001 01:50:38 +0200
From: "Carl and Adina Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il>
Re: disagreeing with rishonim

On 31 Oct 01, at 15:47, Eli Turkel wrote:
> The problem with that is that there is no objective way to distinguish
> between the Gra and ourselves. The Gra did not get a popular vote to enable
> to do what he did. He just went ahead and did it and others accepted it.
> If we tried it no one else would accept it.

I would suggest that the fact that it was accepted when the Gra did 
it, and would not be accepted if you or I did it, ought to be enough 
to distinguish between the Gra and us. 

>> I would broaden that beyond the SA and commentaries. AIUI, Ashkenazi
>> psak is generally based on 2 out of 3 from among the Rosh, the Rif and
>> the Rambam.

> I assume you mean Sefardi psak. Rama relied mainly on Rosh and Tosafot and
> less on rambam and Rif.

I thought Sefardi psak (almost) always goes like the Mechaber. 

-- Carl

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Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 20:51:01 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: disagreeing with rishonim

On Thu, Nov 01, 2001 at 01:50:38AM +0200, R' Carl Sherer responded
in his dialogue with RET:
:>> I would broaden that beyond the SA and commentaries. AIUI, Ashkenazi
:>> psak is generally based on 2 out of 3 from among the Rosh, the Rif and
:>> the Rambam.

:> I assume you mean Sefardi psak. Rama relied mainly on Rosh and Tosafot and
:> less on rambam and Rif.

: I thought Sefardi psak (almost) always goes like the Mechaber. 

In his intro to the SA, the Mechabeir tells you that he set out
to pasken by the majotity of Rosh, Rif and Rambam.

So, one could say both things about Sepharadi pesaq: it "is generally
based on 2 out of 3 from among the Rosh, the Rif and the Rambam" and
it "(almost) always goes like the Mechaber".


Micha Berger                 "The most prevalent illness of our generation is
micha@aishdas.org            excessive anxiety....  Emunah decreases anxiety:
http://www.aishdas.org       'The Almighty is my source of salvation;  I will
Fax: (413) 403-9905          trust and not be afraid.'" (Isa 12) -Shalhevesya

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Date: Thu, 1 Nov 2001 12:35:50 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Ha'Chovel

Two points about what RYGB's talmid said about Islam.

First, it is interesting that Islam uses A-llah, akin to our E-lokim,
but has nothing paralleling the Sheim Havayah of Midas haRachamim.
For example, someone named Yedidiah in Hebrew would carry a legal
name of Ezizallah (?).

The second is an email that just arrived from Gush. (below)


Based on a sicha by Harav Yehuda Amital
Adapted by Yitzchak Barth
Translated by Kaeren Fish
Yeshivat Har Etzion Office

The Faiths of Yitzchak and Yishmael

"And it came to pass after these things that G-d tested Avraham, and He
said to him: 'Avraham,' and he answered, 'Here I am.'" (Bereishit 22:1)

What was the point of G-d's testing Avraham by means of the Akeida
("binding" of Yitzchak)? Early and later commentators alike have debated
this question. The Rambam explains that the purpose of the test was to
publicize the level that monotheistic faith can attain:

"Indeed, the story of Avraham and the Akeida includes two important
aspects that are pillars of the Torah. One is that it shows us the
extent of love and fear of G-d, how far it can go... for Avraham our
father did not hurry to slaughter Yitzchak out of fear of G-d, that He
would kill him or reduce him to ruins, but rather in order to demonstrate
to people what is worthy of being done for love and fear of G-d, not in
the hope of receiving recompense and not for fear of punishment." (Moreh
Nevukhim III:24)

Indeed, following the Akeida, all the peoples of the world saw that
Avraham had been ready to slaughter Yitzchak in the name of his faith
in the Holy One. It became known in the world that it is worthy for
a person to sacrifice his life -- or even the life of his only son --
in the name of monotheistic faith. It is important to note that in the
opinion of the Rambam, Avraham himself intended in his act to demonstrate
to the world "what is worthy of being done for love and fear of G-d."

At first glance, the Rambam's explanation seems unintelligible. The Rambam
himself rules (Hilkhot Melakhim 10:2) that gentiles are not commanded in
the matter of "kiddush Hashem," and are not required to give up their
lives for their faith. This being the case, why did Avraham have to
publicize throughout the world the concept of one's readiness to die
for his faith?

In order to answer this question, we must first clarify the qualitative
difference between Avraham's faith and the faith of the pagans. The
G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov is an abstract and unattainable
G-d, Who has no image or bodily form, and Who cannot be conceived by
human thought. The gods of Canaan, in contrast, were physical idols
created by humans. The significance of the message of the Akeida lay
not only in the readiness to sacrifice one's life for one's faith --
after all, such readiness existed among the pagan nations too. Rather,
Avraham's innovation was his readiness to sacrifice his son for a G-d
Who was intangible and not accessible through the senses. Naturally,
the pagans believed that Avraham's faith lacked certainty. While they
were able to touch their gods, bow down before them and tend to them,
Avraham had never seen his G-d. In the act of the Akeida, Avraham proved
that monotheistic faith is no less certain than belief in gods of silver
and gold, and that the community of G-d's believers would be prepared
even to give up their lives at the behest of their abstract G-d.

Throughout his life, Avraham tried to publicize the belief in G-d. The
Rambam describes:

"He began to stand up and call out with a great voice to all the people,
telling them that there is one G-d of all the world, and that only
He is worthy of being served. He would travel around, calling out and
gathering people from city to city and from kingdom to kingdom." (Hilkhot
Melakhim 1:4)

In all of this endeavor, Avraham was plagued by a nagging doubt: would the
belief in an abstract G-d, Who could not be grasped by the imagination
of the masses, have the power to overcome the darker human inclinations
towards injustice, violence and destruction? In order to prove to
the entire world that faith in a single G-d was capable of overcoming
human nature, Avraham had to sacrifice his son at the command of that
same abstract G-d. It was only in this way that he could publicize the
faith in the Holy One among the nations, and show that this faith was
indeed genuine.

Did Avraham succeed in inculcating the message of the Akeida? To a large
extent, the answer to this question is positive. Christianity and Islam,
the two dominant religions of the western world, are both monotheistic,
and are thus preferable to the pagan beliefs that preceded them.

But in reality the same difference that existed thousands of years ago
between the faith of Avraham and the beliefs of the nations of Canaan,
remains today between our faith and that of the gentiles. The G-d of the
Christians, as we know, is not abstract. Christianity believes in the
"holy trinity," which makes the transcendent G-d a partner with a human
messiah. The various denominations within Christianity perceive this
arrangement in different ways, but none of them believes in a completely
abstract G-d.

It would seem that in this regard Islam is much closer to Judaism. The
Rambam, as we know, rules in his letter to R. Ovadia the Proselyte that
Muslims are counted among "the congregation of monotheists," and thus
are not to be considered polytheists. But in fact it appears that there
is a most fundamental difference between the Jewish concept of "kiddush
Hashem," sanctification of G-d's Name, and its Muslim counterpart.

Like many of the fundamental beliefs of Islam, the concept of faith in a
"World-to-Come," a hereafter, was also borrowed from Judaism. But the
Muslim version of this principle is qualitatively different from Jewish
belief. We believe that in the World-to-Come

"there is no body or physical existence, but rather only the souls of
the righteous without any body, like the ministering angels... no eating
nor drinking, nor any of all the things that human bodies need in this
world." (Hilkhot Teshuva 8:2)

Muslims, on the other hand, believe in a physical Paradise that awaits the
righteous after their death. According to Muslim belief, the World-to-Come
provides those who reach it with all the physical pleasures that they were
unable to attain in this world. In contrast with the pure, spiritual and
elevated Paradise in which we believe, Muslims believe that after death
they will reach a place where they will be able to realize their wildest
and ugliest fantasies. In contrast to Christianity, Islam succeeded in
blocking human imagination from perceiving an image of the abstract G-d
of the universe, but gave human imagination free reign in conceiving of
the World-to-Come.

The difference between the original concept of the World-to-Come and the
Paradise that the Muslims imagine for themselves is of great significance,
and has ramifications for our attitude towards their religion in
general. It is true that Muslims believe in One G-d, but the purpose of
their service of Him is in order to reach the World-to-Come that they
believe in. Muslim "shahidim" (martyrs) who are prepared to die in the
fulfillment of their religious command do not give up their lives for the
sake of the Oneness of an abstract G-d, but rather in order to achieve
the World-to-Come. They have turned the loftiest of commandments -- that
of sanctification of G-d's Name -- into a vehicle for the realization
of their most vulgar urges. Their self- sacrifice is not for the sake
of G-d, but rather for the sake of their own physical desires.

In addition to the profanation of the concept of "kiddush Hashem,"
the belief in a physical Paradise itself causes a "chillul Hashem"
(desecration of G-d's Name). Muslim spiritual leaders support murder,
claiming that such acts publicize the name of the Great G-d. But in
fact they are encouraging their followers to sacrifice their lives in
the name of the fulfillment of their physical desires.

Various midrashim provide lengthy and detailed descriptions of the three
days preceding the Akeida, during which Avraham and Yitzchak walked
together towards Mount Moriah. For many years I searched, but among
these dozens of midrashim that attempt to describe the conversation
between the father and his son being led to slaughter, not a single one
mentions the Paradise awaiting This would seem rather strange: we would
expect to read that Avraham calmed and reassured his son by promising
that he would arrive in Paradise after his death. But nowhere is there
any mention of such an idea.

This surprising discovery indicates the polar difference between the
"mesirut nefesh" (self-sacrifice) of Avraham and Yitzchak at the time of
the Akeida, and the self-sacrifice of the sons of Yishmael today. Avraham
went to sacrifice his son solely for the sake of Hashem. He never
imagined for a moment that the Akeida might be for Yitzchak's own
benefit, as a means of reaching Paradise, and did not entertain any
illusions concerning the pleasurable experiences awaiting his son
after his slaughter. A Jew does not wish to die in order to reach the
World-to-Come, but he is prepared to give up his life for his Creator,
without any expectation of a better life in the World of Truth.

This is the fundamental difference between Jews, who have given up their
lives throughout the generations for the sake of G-d's name, following in
the footsteps of Avraham and Yitzchak, and the Muslim shahidim of today.
Although Muslims are among those whose faith is considered monotheistic
-- "the congregation of monotheists," in the words of the Rambam --
they have profaned the concept of "kiddush Hashem," thereby removing
themselves from the congregation of those who sacrifice their lives for
the sanctification of G-d's name. Only we, the children of Avraham,
Yitzchak and Ya'akov, sacrifice our lives when required to do so for
the sanctification of His great Name, and not for our own benefit.

On this holy day (Rosh Ha-shana), the cry therefore goes out from our
mouths to the Creator of the universe:

"Guardian of Israel, guard over the remainder of Israel, who declare
'Hear O Israel.'"

We have the right to plead and pray before our Master to have mercy on
us and guard us from those who rise up against us to murder us:

"Guardian of the singular nation, guard over the remainder of the singular
nation, who declare the Oneness of Your name -- 'Hashem our G-d, Hashem
is One.'"

(This sicha was delivered before shofar blowing on the second day of
Rosh Ha-shana 5762 [2001].)

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Date: Thu, 1 Nov 2001 12:45:58 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Ikkrim

Two divrei Torah this week were relevent to our current discussion on
the nature of ikkarim.

The first was from Machon Tzomet, a sample of Raavad I's hashkafah that
runs against most people's definition of omniscience.

The second is another sichah from R Amital. This time, on the nature of
ikkarim and how Avraham Avinu related to them (to address RRW's question).



: Shabbat-B'Shabbato
: Machon Zomet
: About and by the Commentators: The Significance of the Sacrifice of Yitzchak
: Rabbi Amnon Bazak
: Rabbi Avraham Ibn Da'ud, the Levi, is called the First Raavad (the second
: one wrote "HaEshkol," and the third one wrote the critical commentary on
: the Rambam). He lived in Spain, roughly during the years 1100-1180. His two
: most important books are: (1) "Seder HaKabala," which traces the generations
: of oral Torah until the early commentators, and (2) "HaEmunah HaRamah," an
: attempt to reconcile Jewish faith and general philosophy, which discusses
: fundamental questions about Jewish thought. The Raavad died as a martyr in
: the city of Toledo.

: Rabbi Avraham had a unique approach to the well known paradox between the
: fact that G-d knows everything and free choice. He suggests that G-d "knows"
: the two alternatives available to a person, but He does not know which one
: the person will choose. (His reasoning is that if G-d would know, this would
: be contrary to the possibility of free choice.) He explains that this is
: not a failure of G-d's knowledge but rather an example of absolute knowledge.


Sicha of HaRav Yehuda Amital shlit"a
Summarized by Betzalel Posy
Yeshivat Har Etzion

An Exalted Faith

"Va-yehi achar ha-devarim ha-eileh, ve-haElokim nisa et Avraham... And
after these things came to pass, the Lord tested Avraham; and He said to
him, 'Avraham,' and he said, 'Here I am.' And He said, 'Take your son,
your only son, whom you love, Yitzchak, and go to the land of Moriah,
and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which
I will show you.'" (Bereishit 22:1-2)

I would like to examine how the Rambam deals with the parasha of the
akeida (the binding of Yitzchak). First, the Rambam tells us that the
purpose of nisyonot (Divine tests) in the Torah is not merely to test the
recipient, but to teach others important principles in Divine service. The
Rambam, then, points out two messages that we learn from this, the test
of tests. Let us deal with the second one first, as I want to focus on
the first.

The Rambam tells us that the incident of the akeida is a proof of the
perfect clarity of prophecy. After all, if there were any doubt that the
command to Avraham was both of divine origin and absolutely clear and
unequivocal in its meaning, would not Avraham have looked for every excuse
to refrain from sacrificing his pride and joy, the son of his dreams? And
not only that, but Avraham had three days to think and contemplate whether
he was doing the right thing; he did not just impulsively sacrifice his
son. This is an important message for us, as Jews. Judaism is based on
prophecy, on G-d telling us what we are supposed to do. Any doubt in the
truth or accuracy of the revelation could destroy our whole system. For
this reason, the Torah tells us a story of how perfectly clear the
revelation of Hashem was to Avraham Avinu, and thus to all other prophets.

The Rambam says that the other message of the akeida is to show how much
one must love G-d, even to the point of sacrificing his only son. Avraham
did so not because he was afraid that G-d would kill him, but rather
because his strongest love and desire was to serve Hashem. To convey
this message, the Rambam quotes a verse: "Ki ata yada'ti ki yarei Elokim
ata..." -- "Now I know that you are G-dfearing..." (Bereishit 22:12).

This point in the Rambam seems strange. After all, does G-d really need
us to love Him to the extent that we would kill our children? Does
G-d ever require us to do such a thing? Furthermore, the verse that
the Rambam himself quotes discusses yir'a (fear), not ahava (love),
a recurring theme in this week's parasha.

I would like to explain the Rambam based on some letters of Rav Kook
zt"l. Avraham Avinu was involved in a debate with the intellectuals of his
time. Not all those who worshipped idols were merely primitive peasants
who thought that sticks and stones ran the world. Rather, many people
intellectually supported the concept of attaching physical substance to
divinity, to make it more palatable to the common person. "Your approach,"
they told Avraham, "is fine for people like yourself who are removed from
the real world. But for a regular person to be willing to give his heart,
soul, and very life, or the life of his son, there needs to be something
he can touch, see or feel. Your pure faith is too elevated for him, me'od
na'ala. He must be able to identify with the gods, to fight their battles,
love their loves, and hate their hates. This is the only way for one to
have true relationship with a deity." The akeida shows that by a purified
faith, the innovation of Avraham, a person can have a relationship with
the Almighty -- a relationship that goes to the extreme of devotion,
and is based on the one G-d of truth and justice.

The alternate viewpoint is an attractive one. For many years, there were
Jews who tried to attach physicality to G-d, until the Rambam rooted
that out of mainstream belief. The Rambam says that all of Judaism is
a fight against avoda zara (idolatry). Many say that today, when there
is no avoda zara, emuna (faith) is irrelevant. However, I believe that
there are many types of avoda zara today, just in different forms.

The editor of Ma'ariv recently wrote a book about his travels to India
and his discussion with some Hindu priests there, who told him that
Judaism, as well as its offshoots Christianity and Islam, had failed to
create a livable system for the majority of people. When people do not
have a physical thing to base their morality on, results such as Nazism
are evident. Even in America, the capital of intellectual openness,
millions are attracted to cults and other primitive forms of belief; as
they see that those who lack some faith, even if they are the biggest
intellectuals, can be the worst people. Consider the man who spent
years killing people with letter bombs: wasn't he a professor? Thus,
the fight of Avraham Avinu is not over, and today more than ever, after
the Holocaust and the rise of technology, we must show the world that
faith in G-d is the way to achieve "tzedaka u- mishpat" (righteousness
and justice).

But it is not only the outside world whom we must show. Today, many
people try to sell Torah and mitzvot in the same way. There are mystics
and miracle workers who claim to be able to tell the future or the past
from physical objects, even if they are religious items, such as tefillin
and mezuzot. Even worse, there are those who claim to have found new
solutions to problems future and past by finding all sorts of codes and
tricks in the Torah, using computers and calculators. These novelties have
no importance; they are not mentioned by the Rishonim, nor did they need
them! The Rambam had no codes, the Ramban had none, the Vilna Gaon, nor
even the Baal Shem! What they had was faith and knowledge of Hashem and
His Torah. It may be a good way to make "ba'alei teshuva," but a ba'al
teshuva who is not for Torah and mitzvot is not a ba'al teshuva: EIN
PATENTIM! There are no shortcuts or alternative ways to reach "tzedaka
u-mishpat," nor are there shortcuts to reaching Ha-kadosh Barukh Hu,
the source of tzedaka u-mishpat, who is high and exalted. We must regain
the pure faith of Avraham, who stood against the world and taught of the
One G-d. This task falls to us, the inhabitants of the batei midrash; we
must purify the Torah of all dross and vulgarization, and show the world
and our brethren the true faith, as we recite before blowing the shofar:
"Yediyei amim ne'esafu: am Elokei AVRAHAM; ki le-Elokim maginei eretz;
ME'OD NA'ALA" -- "The great of the peoples are gathered together, the
retinue of Avraham's G-d; for the guardians of the earth belong to G-d;
He is greatly exalted" (Tehillim 47:10).

(Originally delivered Se'uda Shelishit, Shabbat Parashat Vayera 5757.)

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