Avodah Mailing List

Volume 08 : Number 103

Wednesday, January 30 2002

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2002 22:31:13 -0500
From: "Gil Student" <gil_student@hotmail.com>
Re: Chalav Yisrael

RSBA wrote:
>Let me quote from my first contribution to this discussion:
> >>> "Also in the outset let me make clear that I have no problem with frummer
>yidden who follow minhag avosom verabosom in consuming cholov non-yisroel.
>The problem begins by those whose families WERE makpid and have decided to
>ditch this mesorah. Often for these this is the beginning of the slide."<<<

Why can't immigrants follow one of the few clear minhagei hamakom?  I think 
all will agree that until relatively recently, everyone in America but 
yechidei segulah drank stam chalav.

Gil Student

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Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 17:05:47 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Oruch Hashulchan & Cholov Akum

On Fri, Jan 25, 2002 at 02:25:23PM +1100, SBA wrote:
: As I already posted, cholov akum is cholov akum - even when it is 100%
: cows milk...

But you have yet to prove this assertion. Stating it presumes your
conclusion -- which, as you note, is the topic of a valid machloqes.

One would wonder why RMF coined the term ChC if he considered such milk
to be CA. It would seem to me that he was asking whether ChC was CA or
[ke-] CY.


Micha Berger                     Life is complex.
micha@aishdas.org                    Decisions are complex.
http://www.aishdas.org                   The Torah is complex.
Fax: (413) 403-9905                                    - R' Binyamin Hecht

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Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 17:01:43 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Chalav hacompanies

On Mon, Jan 28, 2002 at 12:12:18AM +1100, SBA wrote:
: (I have had an off list discussion with a chaver who has meanwhile stayed
: out of the public eye). And that is, that CA consumers worldwide
:  [as in the US], always use the excuse "RMF's hetter!".

As written numerous times in this thread, RMF didn't invent this heter.
He just produced the most accessible variant.

For that matter, "minhag America", where the norm was to use ChC, was
backed by gedolim like R' Hutner (as RSK noted), RYBS (as too many people
redundantly noted), etc...


Micha Berger                     Life is complex.
micha@aishdas.org                    Decisions are complex.
http://www.aishdas.org                   The Torah is complex.
Fax: (413) 403-9905                                    - R' Binyamin Hecht

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Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2002 18:32:36 -0500
From: MPoppers@kayescholer.com
Re: halakhik methodology

In Avodah V8 #101, AFolger replied:
> Nu, does Breuer's send around the MA set at seuda 3?

IIRC, the BT sugya re MA differentiates between "mitzva" and "chiyuv" --
time for me to review details before explaining something incorrectly,
but IMHO (when I learned the various sugyos) there was room between the
two categories for Tos'fos to implicitely use in defending the widespread
custom not to wash MA. As for your question, I can't speak for what
other KAJ members do or don't do nor for whether current practices by
some display a lack of "minhag avosaihem b'yodaihem," but I can tell
you that my family did not wash MA and that I've defended said custom
to all who are missing the forest for the melach-s'domis tree.

All the best from
Michael Poppers * Elizabeth, NJ

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Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2002 19:44:14 EST
From: DFinchPC@aol.com
Re: Tum'a from Tombs

> The proposed solution of wrapping oneself in a large bag on the plane
> would encounter both problems discussed. One needs a "utensil" which is
> not mekabel tum'a (a large plastic or nylon bag would do) and it must be
> sealed; the easiest method would probably be to seal it with duct tape. Of
> course, we are not interested in producing another corpse on the plane. We
> may, however, propose an ironically simple solution. Paradoxically,
> only the opening must be sealed; there can be multiple holes in other
> places of the "utensil." Thus, one can simply cut holes in different
> places in the bag.

The fuselage of a commercial jet does not consist merely of an aluminum skin 
and frame containing cloth-covered seats, straps, and buttons for summoning 
the flight attendant. Sheets of high-impact plastic and synthetic carpet-like 
material cover virtually all surfaces, for insulation and upkeep purposes. 
Windows and doors are sealed shut during flight. Why aren't these barriers 
the equivalent of the giant Baggie into which a kohen must insert himself to 
protect against tum'a? If the Baggie can shield the kohen from tum'a, why 
can't the polystyrene structures that surround him?

Perhaps Rashi knew what he was talking about after all.

David Finch 

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Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 16:57:40 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: "New Route for Kohanim? Heard Nothing About It"

On Thu, Jan 24, 2002 at 07:13:36PM +0000, Gershon Dubin wrote:
: I also wonder why he davka wanted a minyan on Shabbos-the shul he
: "shanghaied" my son from was NEXT DOOR.

Perhaps the aveil could find no other way of preserving the inyan
of not moving a sefer Torah to a location for fewer than three uses?


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Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2002 21:02:43 -0500
From: "Michael Frankel" <michaeljfrankel@hotmail.com>
RYK and the hebrew months

RGD writes: <<I thought the chevra would be interested in a beautiful
piece by Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky on last week's parasha...concerning lashon
Arami: Rav Yaakov begins by questioning why the names of the months which
we currently use, were instituted to substitute for the previous system
of numbered months beginning with Nissan...>>

oif a d'roshoh fragt mir nisht qashos, so i forebear comment on
assumptions of early palestinian language usage and instead admire the use
which he makes of it. however, i do have a more general interest question
to pose -- and that is to the common assumption that the babylonian month
names displaced an original hebrew system which used numbers. In fact
it is clear that hebrew names originally existed for the months -- we
still know four of those month names since they are recorded in tanach --
ho'eisonim, bul, oviv (ok, aviv), and ziv. So a more interesting question
is what happened to the rest? one possibility which occurs to me is that
these are really not individual month names but t'qufoh (3-month interval)
names and perhaps the individual months were always numbered? perhaps
(ancient) comparative semitics might offer some insight, e.g. does aviv
or ziv show up in somebody elses' language?. Anybody know anything?

Mechy Frankel                       W: (703) 588-7424
michaeljfrankel@hotmail.com         H: (301) 593-3949

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Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 17:14:44 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Piece by Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky

On Sun, Jan 27, 2002 at 08:08:37PM -0500, Gershon Dubin wrote:
: His explanation is that at the time of the binyan Bayis Sheni they
: knew that it would not stand forever...

This would also explain why Bayis Sheini doesn't match Yechezkel's
floor plan.

OTOH, while the physical bayis was not forever, one could argue from
the Rambam that they were building a binyan adei ad because kidshah
le'asid lavo.

Chanukah was pretty much timed for the date told to Zecharia for the final
chanukas habayis (bb"a!). I seem to recall the argument (was it here?)
that they thought it was atchalta dige'ulasa.


Micha Berger                     Life is complex.
micha@aishdas.org                    Decisions are complex.
http://www.aishdas.org                   The Torah is complex.
Fax: (413) 403-9905                                    - R' Binyamin Hecht

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Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 07:26:21 +0200
From: "Carl and Adina Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il>
Re: Din Torah

On 28 Jan 2002 at 10:34, MPoppers@kayescholer.com wrote:
> The check was also
> marked "pay only to payee;" it's not supposed to be endorseable. < But
> the check's payee isn't S, even if R intended it to be S.

That's true. Reuvain's claim is that someone named Yosefa Shimon must 
have found the check and cashed it. 

[Email #2. -mi]

On 27 Jan 2002 at 23:24, Rena Freedenberg wrote:
> The sender [in my humble non-legal opinion] should be required to
> write another check and then can or must try to find out [maybe
> through bank records? Filing a complaint with police?] who did indeed
> cash the check and try to go after this person for the money.

It was actually suggested to Reuvain that he should investigate with
the bank. So far he has refused to do so.

> I am not positive that the doar should have any responsibility during
> its shlichut other than normal precautionary procedures against theft.

There has been a rash of check thefts in Yerushalayim mail lately.
But if I were representing the doar, I would argue that I warned you
that I am not taking achrayus unless you sent it registered - which
Reuvain did not do.

> If mail is stolen in any case, I am not sure that this can be used as
> a reason to refuse payment to the still zocheh party.

That's what I would think also. 

> The insurance agent can't be at fault for something he/she never
> received, unless it can be proven that he/she did receive the mail and
> was negligent in keeping it from theft.

Actually, I'm afraid that the insurance agent could be mechuyav a shvuas
he'ses under today's rules. No?

-- Carl

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Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 06:15:20 -0500
From: MPoppers@kayescholer.com
Re: Din Torah

CSherer replied:
> Reuvain's claim is that someone named Yosefa Shimon must have found
> the check and cashed it.

Are you looking for sources which will prove that R must reasonably ensure
that his payment reaches S['s domain] rather than merely ensure that his
payment leaves his domain?

-- Michael Poppers via RIM pager

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Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 14:57:06 +0200
From: "Carl M. Sherer" <cmsherer@ssgslaw.co.il>
Din Torah - Missing Facts

I guess that now that all of you have had time to chew it over, I should
probably fill in the missing facts.

I assume that you all figured out that I am Shimon (the Nizak). Reuvain
(the Mazik) was not a private car, as I implied in my initial post,
but a beer truck whose door swung open and damaged my car. I'm not sure
it matters that the mazik was a beer truck, because the Mazik (both the
driver and the company) have admitted liability (by purporting to send
a check) and that appears to me to be an instance of hoda'as ba'al din
k'meah eidim dami.

When I called my insurance agent (who is fruhm - supporting a husband in
Kollel and several children, some of whom are in Kollel or married to
Kollel men) and reported the accident, she said that she would handle
it for me. She called the Mazik (the company) and they agreed that I
should have the car repaired and that they would cover the costs. We
sent them a copy of the invoice from the mechanic/body shop, and after
several weeks when we did not receive a check, they sent us a copy of
the check that they purportedly issued.

The check had been issued to "Shira Carl" (ironically, there is a Carl
family in Beit Shemesh whom several people on this list may know) and
addressed "Shira Carl, xx Ploni Almoni Street, Givat Shaul." I don't live
in Givat Shaul (the agent does and maintains her office from her home),
and without the agent's name somewhere on the envelope, there was no way
the post office would know where to deliver the check. The agent and I
figure that one of three things happened:

1. The check was sent back to the Mazik, who is trying to take advantage
of the situation.

2. The check was stolen and cashed (the copy of the check that we received
only included the front side of the check, which gives no indication
of whether or not it had been cashed), in which case, either the bank
erred in allowing the check to be endorsed/cashed or

3. The bank should have collected some identification from "Shira Carl"
that can be verified.

I suppose it's possible that the Mazik never sent the check, but we
think that unlikely.

The way I see the situation, I appointed a Shaliach l'Kabala (the
insurance agent) and the Mazik appointed a Shaliach l'Holacha (the post
office). If the check was sent unregistered (as appears likely), that is
a pgam in the appointment of the Shaliach l'Holacha, and in a best case
scenario (for him) the Mazik may be able to recover from the bank, but
has to pay me again. I suppose it's also possible (halachically anyway)
that the Mazik could recover from the Post Office).

If the insurance agent got the check, then the Mazik would be patur, and
I would be able to recover from the insurance agent, but the insurance
agent is an aishes chaver, and I have been doing business with her long
enough (since two weeks after we made aliya in 1991) to know that I will
believe her when she goes to the Beis Din and testifies that she never
got the check. (BTW - this is not the first time this has happened to
us. The last time someone said, "don't claim I'll pay," it was a private
person and it took us over a year to collect).

If anyone has supporting arguments one way or the other, please let me
know (and in the interests of maintaining what IMHO has been some fairly
good give and take, please post it to the list).

Thanks for your help and tizku l'mitzvos.

-- Carl


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.

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Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 11:18:39 -0500
From: "Howard Schild" <hgschild@hotmail.com>
Sources for Matan Torah

"Everybody" says that all Jewish Souls (Jews-to-be) were at Sinai with those 
then alive (Midrash Tanchuma, many mefarshim in Nitzavim..where else? where 
but what is
1. The source for Souls of Future Gerim being there?
2. the source for Souls of future Mshumdim (Heretics that convert out) not 
being there?

I have seen several comments for #1 and fewer for #2 but no indication of 
the origins...Most were in secondary and tertiary texts..one book said the 
Chofetz Chaim said so and I saw inside Rambam's Igeres Teiman but the Mossad 
Harav Kook Rambam L'AM (p.130) said it did not know the source for this 
How Universal are these latter statements?


MSN Photos is the easiest way to share and print your photos: 

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Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2002 18:08:42 EST
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Re: inyan of 'Machlokes lishem shmayim' no longer exists?

In a message dated 1/29/02 12:18:12pm EST, Phyllostac@aol.com writes:
> > According to the Noda BYehudah and others, the concept of a machlokes leshem 
> > shmayim died with Hillel and Shammai. While this may be difficult to apply at 
> > times, one cannot sacricie midas haemes on the all so PC platform of shalom. 

> Where does the Noda biYehudah say that, who else says that and where?
> Please elaborate on the reasoning behind any such positions....

I vaguely remember hearing in grad school that "eilu v'eilu" ened wtih
BS and BH but I do not recall the rationale for that.

I have always assumed that with the churban of the Sanhedrin that this
changed things.

Regards and Kol Tuv,

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Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 17:41:17 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: inyan of 'Machlokes lishem shmayim' no longer exists?

On Tue, Jan 29, 2002 at 06:08:42PM -0500, RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com wrote:
: I vaguely remember hearing in grad school that "eilu v'eilu" ened wtih
: BS and BH but I do not recall the rationale for that.
: I have always assumed that with the churban of the Sanhedrin that this
: changed things.

As did I... but in the opposite direction. It was Sanhedrin's exile
from Lishqas haGazis that made the mchloqesei BS and BH so difficult to
resolve. And thus the whole fear of "two Toros". Parts of the halachic
process that were never before needed came into play.

According to Tosafos, at least, (see my summary of Encyc Talmidit "Bas
Qol" at <http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol02/v02n087.shtml#02>) the bas
qol was only to goad them to apply the halachah of rov. I am therefore
suggesting that they needed that push because it was the first time it
was being applied to a group other than a fully functioning Sanhedrin.


Micha Berger                     Life is complex.
micha@aishdas.org                    Decisions are complex.
http://www.aishdas.org                   The Torah is complex.
Fax: (413) 403-9905                                    - R' Binyamin Hecht

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Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 22:03:36 +0200
From: "Carl M. Sherer" <cmsherer@ssgslaw.co.il>
Re: RYK and the hebrew months

On 29 Jan 2002 at 21:02, Michael Frankel wrote:
> In fact it is clear that hebrew names originally existed for
> the months -- we still know four of those month names since they are
> recorded in tanach -- ho'eisonim, bul, oviv (ok, aviv), and ziv. So a
> more interesting question is what happened to the rest? ...

Why would argue that those are names of tkufos and not of months when
pashut pshat in the psukim (at least of the two I remember) are very
clearly months ("yerach ha'eisanim" in the Haftorah for one of the days
of Succos, and "chodesh ziv" in the Haftorah of Parshas Truma - both in
Melachim Alef).

-- Carl

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Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 13:41:47 EST
From: DFinchPC@aol.com
Re: Evidence

> My gut feeling is to say that Reuven's evidence is pasul and that the
> din would be in favor of Shimon, but I really don't know anything about
> the halachic rules of evidence. And perhaps that's the crux of the
> whole issue.

The question of "evidence" in Jewish law is fascinating, largely because
strictly speaking there is no Jewish law of evidence. There are laws
relating to the requisite number of witnesses who must be called to
testify (e.g., Makkos), the circumstances in which witnesses will not
be allowed to testify (because of blood relations, self-interest, nasty
personal habits like gambling, etc.), the type and nature of conditions
and undertakings that will support a contract, etc. All of these laws
have an evidentiary side to them -- but they are not laws of evidence,
at least not in the modern technical sense of the term.

In most cases, questions of evidence are subsumed in the notion of
personal testimony: If I am a witness, and I say a check is a forgery,
the Beis Din can believe me, subject to certain presumptions. Documents
were used to attest to certain transactions, but were not given
the sort of independent weight implied by the modern notion of
admissibility. (Similarly, Jewish law did not embrace the Common Law
notion that certain instruments must be treated as independent sources
of evidence and "speak for themselves." Instruments speak through the
testimony of their creators.)

I've combed through several books looking for something more about Jewish
concept of "evidence," but have found nothing. Am I missing something?

David Finch

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Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 13:24:27 EST
From: Zeliglaw@aol.com
Fwd: SICHOT62 -17: Parashat Yitro

R Amital on compartmentalization of ethics.
Steve Brizel

                   YESHIVAT HAR ETZION

                     PARASHAT YITRO

                Religiosity and Morality
                Summarized by Dov Karoll

The fifth of the Ten Commandments is honoring parents (20:12).
The Maharal in Tiferet Yisrael, chapter 41 (which deals specifically
with this mitzva), quotes the famous gemara in Kiddushin (31a) on this
subject. This gemara recounts the story of Dama ben Netina, a gentile
whose scrupulousness in honoring his parents led God to reward him with
a para aduma (red heifer), which he sold to the Sages for a large sum.

Based on that gemara, the Maharal explains that the rabbis brought an
example from a gentile to emphasize the fact that honoring parents is
something that makes sense logically. Honoring the people who brought
you into the world is something that common sense would mandate, and
hence it can be proven even from a gentile. The Maharal then explains
that as a result of his fulfillment of the rational mitzva of honoring
parents, Dama's reward came through the classic incomprehensible mitzva,
para aduma (see Rashi, Bamidbar 19:1, regarding the incomprehensibility
of this mitzva).

Through this combination of the two, one reaches the complete existence
of Judaism. Rashi (Shemot 16:25) demonstrates this by citing Chazal's
statement (Sandhedrin 40) that in Mara the Jews received Shabbat, para
aduma, and laws of justice (an example of a logical mitzva, as it is an
integral part of society).

This connection between tzedek (justice) and the mitzvot which are
incomprehensible (and therefore require a Divine command in order to
mandate their fulfillment) is also relevant to the first part of this
week's parasha, the story of Yitro's advice to Moshe. When Yitro advises
Moshe to set up a justice system instead of judging everyone himself,
Moshe is hesitant. The Ramban explains that in his response (18:15-16),
Moshe points to three separate aspects of his role as leader. The first
is that they come to him "lidrosh Elokim" - to ask Moshe to pray on
behalf of sick and solve their problems, a role comparable to that of a
Chassidic Rebbe. The second role is that he judges cases that come before
him, playing the role of the source of justice. The third function Moshe
points to is that he teaches the people the Torah - the laws, the role
of posek (legislator).

Moshe wanted to keep these roles united, to emphasize the idea that
interpersonal justice and moral action come from the same source as divine
command and religious observance. He wanted to make it perfectly clear
that to be a complete Jew, one is required not only to follow ritual law,
but also to act properly toward one's fellow man.

One of the problems in the modern religious community is that religious
observance and moral behavior do not always go hand in hand. There are
many people who scrupulously observe every other aspect of the halakhic
code, but act inappropriately toward their fellow man. While there are
many areas where the religious community leads the way, it is not always
in areas such as caring for the poor, helping people get jobs, etc. For
some reason, people see these areas as being unrelated to the requirements
of being a good Torah Jew. This is precisely the message that is being
stressed both by honoring parents and by Moshe issuing justice himself. It
is the requirement of every Jew to follow those mitzvot which one comes
to naturally, even without command, such as morally binding commandments,
as well as those which come exclusively through Divine command.

(Originally delivered Shabbat Parashat Yitro 5757.)


Copyright (c) 2001 Yeshivat Har Etzion
All Rights Reserved.

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Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2002 13:26:03 EST
From: Zeliglaw@aol.com
Fwd: SICHOT62 - Special Sicha - From Commitment to Responsibility

[Compare to another sichah of R' Amital's on the subject at
<http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol06/v06n149.shtml#19>. -mi]

R Amital on Committment and Responsibility
Steve Brizel

                   YESHIVAT HAR ETZION

            From Commitment to Responsibility
             By Harav Yehuda Amital shlit"a

The gemara (Tamid 32a) recounts that Alexander the Great asked the
Jewish Sages, "Who is wise?" They answered him, "One who foresees future
trends." Foreseeing the future does not mean prophecy. A wise person is
one who examines the present situation, analyzes it and draws conclusions
with respect to what may possibly take place in the future. Regarding the
verse, "Happy is the man who fears always" (Mishlei 28:14), Rashi (Gittin
55b) explains that such a person fears because he "takes care always to
take into account future consequences, ensuring that his actions in the
present will not cause problems in the future." This teaches us that we
should attempt to understand what the future will hold. "Happy is the man
who fears always," and there is no harm in attempting to emulate the wise.

Let us therefore analyze the changes that Western society is currently
undergoing, and through them to try to understand the trends and
directions in Israeli society.


Modern Western society revolves around three central values, all of which
relate to the individual: individual rights, individual liberty and
individual privacy. It appears at times as though these have attained
the status of absolute values, which may not be violated under any
circumstances. Their effect on society and culture is discernible in
almost every sphere, from legislation, through education, literature
and art to the prevailing everyday lifestyle.

Privacy of the individual" occupies a special place, for it is most
comprehensive and the attitude towards it borders on worship. In light
of this value, a number of rules have been established which leave their
mark on all social relationships. For example, any conversation between
two people who are not members of the same family or close friends must
be pragmatic and to- the-point, free of anything personal. Any personal
comment or question, or even a show of interest in the personal condition
or feelings of one's partner in conversation is regarded as rude, a
desecration of the holy value of privacy and a vulgar violation of his
private life. Every person is a closed world, and no one else has the
right to penetrate it. As a result, there is a growing sense of alienation
in Western society in general, and in the United States in particular.
There is "I" and there is "he," but there is almost never a "we."

The social analysis presented above was valid until September 11, 2001.
With the collapse of the Twin Towers, the barriers separating people
also came crashing down. Obviously, the atmosphere of trauma and the
invasive security checks that suddenly became part of the American
routine contributed towards this feeling in no small way. But beyond
this, the terrorist attacks seemed to bring about a fundamental change
in the American way of life. Suddenly it became permissible once again
to ask about the personal condition of other people, and the need to
talk about one's feelings became obvious. I cannot say how long this
atmosphere - the lack of alienation - that has prevailed in New York
since September 11th will last, but what is clear is that the concept
of individual privacy will not be held on as high a pedestal as it was
previously. Having seen that this value cannot stand up to a crisis,
the Americans will not continue to regard it as holy.

This development may influence the structure of Western society even more
forcefully. While the emphasis was on individual privacy and alienation
dominated human relations, society was witness to some inordinately
individualistic phenomena. While every person is fiercely guarding
his privacy, his relationships revolve around himself and he feels no
responsibility for the fate of the people and the environment around
him. After September 11th, when the walls of alienation between people
collapsed, this exaggerated individualism may have started to recede.

In addition to the change that has taken place in the perception of the
value of privacy, the collapse of the Twin Towers also dealt a mortal
blow to post- modernism. The quotation marks that post-modernism had
placed around words like "evil" and "good" were suddenly removed,
and good and evil again became absolute values. The hand of Divine
Providence may be discerned in the fact that holding the Presidency of
the United States is a man possessing basic human intuition, who makes
repeated use of absolute moral concepts, calling Bin- Laden and other
terrorists "evil." Perhaps if the President of the world's single
superpower were a Democrat instead of a Republican, he would be using
completely different terminology - "enemy" instead of "evil" - thereby
leaving open the possibility of thinking that there is no absolute
"good" or "evil." This development may also help to weaken the trend
towards individualism: when there are no absolute values and everyone
is free to mold his values in accordance with his own world-view,
then individualism reigns supreme. But when values become absolute,
then they are of necessity common to most people, and the individual
feels part of a greater society that shares his values.

A similar change to the one brought about in the United States by the
collapse of the Twin Towers has taken place in Israel in the wake of the
present Intifada. Obviously, what we have experienced is not a grandiose
one-time event that brought about immediate results. Nevertheless,
the Intifada seems, slowly but surely, to be eating away at the
individualism prevalent in our society. With the tragic multiplicity of
terror attacks and their victims, and the recognition that nowhere is
"safe," the principle of the collective "we" is strengthened at the
expense of the individualistic "I."


For the last two years I have spoken at the yeshiva's Chanuka banquet
about how today's youth are tired of hearing about "obligation." [See
the articles in Alei Etzion vol. 11.] In my opinion, however, there has
been a turnaround in the attitudes of Israeli youth during the past year,
in the wake of the security situation and the economic recession. The
escape into personal, individual "identification" does not sit well with
the atmosphere of crisis in the country, which emphasizes togetherness.

Indeed, the renewed sense of togetherness is a very positive
development. The gemara discusses the importance of participation in
communal distress:

     Our Sages taught: When Israel is in distress and one person separates
     himself, then the two ministering angels that accompany the person,
     as it were, place their hands upon his head and declare, "Let So-and-
     so here who has separated himself from the community not witness the
     future comforting of the community." Another baraita teaches: When
     the community is in distress, a person should not say, "I am going
     to my house to eat and drink, and peace be upon my soul..." Rather,
     he should feel sorrow together with the community. So we find in
     the case of Moshe Rabbeinu, who identified with the suffering of
     the nation, as it is written, "And the arms of Moshe grew heavy, and
     they took a rock and placed it under him, and he sat upon it." Did
     Moshe not have a cushion upon which to sit? [He surely did,] but this
     is what he said: "Since Israel is suffering, so I will be with them
     in suffering." And whoever shares in the suffering of the community
     will merit to see the consolation of the community. (Ta'anit 11a)

In light of recent events, and in light of the reluctance of the
youth to identify with "obligation," we need to raise the banner of
"responsibility." To a certain extent, responsibility is even more
binding than obligation, but on the other hand it is a gentler concept
that also gives one a sense of satisfaction: if a certain responsibility
is placed upon someone, it means that he is worthy of it. People tend
to identify with the tasks allotted to them, and when they fulfill their
tasks properlthey experience satisfaction from their success.

Responsibility is required in many different spheres: responsibility for
the psychological and spiritual strength and immunity of the public,
responsibility towards people who need help, and responsibility to
seek and find ways in which to contribute. In the words of the Sages,
being responsible means being a guarantor: "All of Israel are guarantors
for one another." This means that Am Yisrael is a living, human entity,
in which every limb is concerned for the welfare of every other and is
responsible to do its utmost to improve the other's situation. A sense of
responsibility towards others means that a person doesn't look about for
a cushion to sit on while his companions are suffering. Moshe Rabbeinu
sat upon a rock because he felt himself a partner in the suffering of
his brethren. Likewise, we are required to feel a sense of partnership
and to assume the responsibility of doing what we can to improve society
as a whole.

Concerning a person who restricts the sphere of his concern to his
own personal well-being - even if he is concentrating on his spiritual
well-being - the gemara in Avoda Zara teaches that he is compared to
someone who has no God. It is interesting to review the context and to
note the broad scope of this statement:

     Our Sages taught: When Rabbi Elazar ben Parta and Rabbi Chanina ben
     Teradyon were caught [by the Romans], R. Elazar ben Parta said to
     Rabbi Chanina ben Teradyon: "Happy are you, for you were caught for
     only one transgression; woe is me, for I have been caught for five."
     R. Chanina answered him: "Happy are you, for you have been caught
     on five counts and you will be saved; woe is me, for I have been
     caught on one count, and I will not be saved. For you engaged in
     Torah as well as acts of kindness, while I have involved myself only
     with Torah. And, as Rav Huna taught, a person who engages only in
     Torah is compared to one who has no God..."
     Did R. Chanina then not engage in acts of kindness at all? We learn
     that Rabbi Eliezer ben Ya'akov said: "A person should not give money
     to a charitable cause unless it operates under the auspices of a
     Torah scholar like R. Chanina ben Teradyon," [thus proving that
     he engaged in charity!] ... Rather, R. Chanina engaged in acts of
     kindness, but not as much as he should have. (Avoda Zara 17b)

R. Chanina ben Teradyon died in the sanctification of God's Name when
the Romans wrapped him in a Torah scroll and burned him to death. Yet he
justified his fate on the basis of not having engaged in acts of kindness
to the extent that he should have, devoting himself mainly to Torah study
instead. He had not found the proper ratio between his devotion to Torah
and his social concern, and for this reason he judged himself to be as
"one who has no God." We must learn from this that we are obligated to
engage in "gemilut chasadim" alongside our Torah study.

In these difficult times we must emphasize the responsibility that is
placed upon each of us. Obviously, in accepting responsibility each
person can express his own individuality; but every single person has
an obligation to feel a partnership, to take responsibility, to assist,
and - with God's help - to fulfill his role in mending society as a whole.

During Chanuka, we thank God at length for the miracles that He performed
for us. It seems that our great praise of and appreciation for Divine
intervention has dulled our consciousness of the merit of the Chashmonaim
for the miracle that they helped bring about. Their readiness to raise
the banner of revolt and to go out as a small band against a great and
mighty army, to forge against the stream - this was the miracle that
the Chashmonaim wrought, of their own free choice. When we speak of
the miracles that God performs for us in our days, we must educate also
towards the performance of miracles in the spirit of the Chashmonaim:
to strengthen our resolve to act out of a sense of responsibility for
the fate of the nation as a whole, in the hope that God will be with us
and help us in all our endeavors.

(This sicha was delivered on Chanuka 5762 [2001].
Summarized by Yitzchak Barth.
Translated by Kaeren Fish.
The summary was reviewed by Harav Amital.)

Copyright (c) 2001 Yeshivat Har Etzion
All Rights Reserved.

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