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Volume 10 : Number 057

Thursday, November 14 2002

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2002 22:57:00 -0500
From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@juno.com>
Re: Name of Eisav's Third Wife

On Wed, 13 Nov 2002 01:51:44 +0200 "Carl and Adina Sherer"
<sherer@actcom.co.il> writes:
> On 12 Nov 2002 at 7:46, Gershon Dubin wrote:
>> Minchas Shai trumps.
> On what basis?

The accepted authority for ba'alei keriah, certainly of those you cited.
Reb Seth?


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Date: Wed, 13 Nov 2002 17:31:00 +1100
From: "SBA" <sba@iprimus.com.au>
Re: Mrs. Yehudis Eisav

From: "Seth Mandel" <sm@aishdas.org>
>> Just as the Basya does not come from Bisya bas Par'o, ....

> Mi onoychi to argue with our Reb Seth...but let me try...

> Re Basya/Bisyo - I have heard some say that Basya [and Basheh]
> was originally a Bas-Sheva... but let me post another part of
> my article on Jewish names..

> V'zeh leshoni...


Girls named Basyah are generally assumed to be named
after the daughter of Paroy who saved Moshe Rabbenu
from the Nile.
Her name is mentioned once in Nach –Divrei Hayomim I 4:18.
However there she is called Bisya.

So how did Bisya become Basya?

My guess...
The Yalkut Shimoni on that Posuk in DH cites a Midrash:
Hashem said to the daughter of Paroy:
 "Moshe was not your son -- but you called him your son,
therefore you, though not my daughter -- I will call you my daughter".
Ad kaan.

Thus it follows that Bisya became Basya - ie Bas Kah.

> Y'hudis does not come from Esav's froi.
> Rather, Y'hudis was a popular name among both Gentiles and Jews from
> earliest times in Ashk'naz.  ....
> The name goes back to the hero of the book of Judith, who was admired by
> both Christians and Jews because of the steadfastness of her faith.
> Nor was she named after Esav's froi; Y'hudi was viewed as the feminine
> version of Y'hudah, both of which from Biblical times referred to a Jew.

The fact is that Rashi - Vayishlach 36:2 - writes re Oholivomo:
"...Hee Yehudis, vehu (Eisov) kino shemoh Yehudis loymar sh'hee
 koferes b"AZ - k'dei lehatos es oviv..."

Rashi is obviously referring to the Gemoro -
'kol hakofer bAZ nikro Yehudi'.

So it seems that even in those days - well before the birth of Yehuda -
it was known that Yehuda/Yehudis is a name/title given to anyone who is
koyfer b'Avodah Zoroh...

>From: "Gil Student" <gil@aishdas.org>
>SBA wrote:
>>Someone questioned the 'kashrus' of the name Yehudis -
>>seeing that the original Yehudis was a Mrs Eisov! (Toldos 26:34).

> See Tosafos in Yoma 38b and Kesuvos 104b sv shnei that if there was a tzadik
> who had the same name as a rasha one can give that name to a child - "keivan
> de'echad hayah tzadik maskinan bishmeih".
> Here, too, since there was a tzadeikes named Yehudis we can give that name
> to children.

Bishloma, after Yehudis the 2nd - you are correct... But why was SHE
given that name - if we don't name after reshoim?

Eloh Mai?

Mrs Oholivomo Eisov (or should that be Mrs Isaacson or Mrs Itzkowitz?) and
her husband tried to fool Yitzchok by giving her a frum, kano'isheh,
anti-AZ name, which obviously was popular with the Chareidm of the day...
(Otherwise, how was Eisov trying to fool his father with that name..?)


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Date: Wed, 13 Nov 2002 08:15:48 +0200
From: "Carl and Adina Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il>
Re: zeikher/zekher and yitgadal/yitgadeil

On 13 Nov 2002 at 1:12, D & E-H Bannett wrote:
> For those interested, much more detail can be found in the archives
> under subjects kaddish, yitgadal, yisgadal, diyyukim, diyukim,  etc.

Speaking of diyukim.... the 17-year old is leyning this Shabbos and
called the other night to ask me what to do about Yisa(s)char. I told
him to ask his Rosh Yeshiva how he wants it read :-) He asked what I
do, and I told him that when I was growing up, RYBS insisted that his
ba'alei kriya repeat each pasuk that has the name twice; once reading
it Yisachar and once reading it Yisaschar, but that everyone else just
read it Yisachar. My son mentioned that someone told him about the
minhag of reading it Yisaschar the first time, and Yisachar every other
time, a minhag of which I have heard, but for which I do not recall a
source. Anyone?

-- Carl

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

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Date: Wed, 13 Nov 2002 11:19:48 +0200
From: dbnet@zahav.net.il
slight correction

I hurry to make a slight correction before somebody has a chance to
catch the error.

In yesterday's posting, I stated that, in the mesorah or old manuscripts
or any printed chumash, there is no basis for the reading of zekher
with a segol. This is correct. However, there is a source. The printed
editions of the Radak's Mikhlol state that zekher has six dots but some
say five dots. RV"H found that, in the manuscript copy of Mikhhlol
in his possession, the statement was reversed making the five dots the
majority view and the six dots the minority.

As this weeek is parashat ki tetzei, I think that, when I wrote of
zeikher, my mind was on the name Yissakhar where, again, the version
accepted by the mesorah, all manuscripts, and all printed editions,
is that all occurrences are read in the same manner. Only in the 17th
goyishe century did a wild, completely impossible, aberration appear. It
was laughed at, or objected to, by all "in the know" and was fairly
dormant until the last 40 - 50 years when it started to spread in the
Litvishe yeshiva world.

What is most amazing is that this word is one of the few in the Torah
on which the ba'alei hamesorah had a machloket.

Ben Asher,ben Naftali, Moshe Mocha, and Hai Gaon had three different
ideas on the proper nikkud and two different ideas on the correct
pronunciation. But none of these differences is in any way similar to
the modern aberration of Yissas'khar.

In all the chilufin listed by ba'alei mesorah there are none, and
cannot be one, where there is a drastic change in the pronunciation.
Even when the ancients were not makpid on spelling, the oral mesorah was
very strong. The chilufin are about whether or not there is a meteg or
where the meteg is placed, or whether a sh'va is na' or nach, or a word
mileil or milra, or trop. The new-founded form Yissas'khar sounds so
different from the correct reading, or from either of the two opinions
of the mesorah on correct reading, that it is unbelievable that it could
exist. Certainly, one believing in Torah miSinai should not accept a
reading that is contradicted by every ancient source from the days in
T'veria until the 17th or 18th century.

A now that I may have started a mehuma I will will run to join Rn Toby
Katz and the Mayor of T'veria in the bomb. shelter.


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Date: Wed, 13 Nov 2002 13:23:45 GMT
From: Eli Turkel <turkel@math.tau.ac.il>

> I would much appreciate if R' Turkel could please cite examples of 
> Spanish Rishonim generally rejecting (as opposed to disagreeing with 
> specific instances of his commentary) of Rashi's Torah and/or Nach 
> commentaries on the ground of his allegedly deficient knowledge of 

> Rashi was surprisingly knowledgeable and up to date (especially 
> given the limitations on communication of his era)

I think you answered your own question. Given the circumstances Rashi
did a great job. However, some Spanish commentaries did not consider the
circumstances and simply felt that Rashi's dilduk was not up to their
level and was not pshat and so put him down.

I am basically going to summarize A. Gossman in Chachmei Tzarfat
haRishonim - so any comments are to him and not me -

1. Rashi's commentary on Talmud is without peer and was accepted by
everyone. There are partial commentaries by R. Hai Gaon, R. Chananel and
Rabbenu Gershom and others from Mainz. However, nothing else compares in
scale and clarity and so Rashi superceded everyone to the extent that
many of the earlier commentaries become lost or almost so. All future
commentaries were based on Rashi rather than instead.

(much of this is a summary from a book by Gross that I have not read)
2. Rashi's commentary on Chumash is more controversial. First there are
many other competitors eg Ibn Ezra, R.Kara and others. Second Rashi is
not straight pshat but instead is mainly a compliation of medrashim. Much
of Rashi's greatness in Chumas is his choice of medrashim rather than
his originality.

In Ashkenaz Rashi's perush became universally accepted within a short
time. In Spain it took much longer. Essentially the kabbalists and
conservatives accepted it especially after Ramban while the rationalists
were much less happy,

Ibn Ezra in "Safah Berurah" writes that he (Rashi) thinks he is writing
according to Pshat but there is no pshat even 1 in a 1000. In his
own commentary Ibn Ezra essentially ignores Rashi even though he knew
Rashi's commentary he didn't give it much credit. This was followed by
later followers of Ibn Ezra and Rambam.

In an anoymous sefer "alilot devarim" from 14th century Spain He again
complains that little in Rashi is pshat but merely a collection of
medrashim and as a result most Jews don't no pshat in the Torah and this
leads to blindness and confusion of the soul

Furthermore, because of the popularity of Rashi it is not clear how much
of what we have is original Rashi. The earliest manuscripts we have are
about 150 years after Rashi. Later rabbis added many of their own comments
in the margin which was included by copyists in Rashi. Furthermore, Rashi
himself asked students (R. Shemayaia) to add things to his copy and so
the work was never "finished" in any modern sense but Rashi continually
made changes and copyists used many different versions.

It is still debated whu Rashi chose some medrashim and not others.
For example on Shemot 1-8 Rashi brings down the Machloket whether there
was a new Paroh or he made himself like new by ignoring the past. However,
the pasuk already said that the whole generation has passed away and
Joseph was in charge for 80 years (110-30). Hence, it is clear that
the pshat is there was a new king. What did Rashi wish to state when he
brought the other possibility?

Rashi knew of the grammar experts Menachem and Dunash but not later ones
who were contemperous with Rashi. He quotes Menachem by name about 170
times of which 60 are in Tehillim and Dunash about 20 times. However,
many feel that many of these especially in Tehillim are later additions
to Rashi

 Eli Turkel, turkel@math.tau.ac.il on 11/13/2002

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Date: Wed, 13 Nov 2002 22:53:03 -0500 (EST)
From: "Jonathan Baker" <jjbaker@panix.com>
Star Wars

From: R Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer <rygb@aishdas.org>
> > And just a little later he states (IIRC) that if Aristotle's logic
> > was impeccable in this matter, and an eternal world would have been
> > a logical conclusion, he would have reinterpreted those psuqim and
> > adjoining maamarei 'Hazal, too. You just brought a good raayah against
> > RYGB's position.
> Rabbi Folger is mistaken... It is worthwhile to pursue the text inside.

OK, out of curiosity, I looked.  It does seem to support RAF's position.
I quote from the end of the chapter (Friedlaender):

Owing to the absence of all proof, we reject the theory of the Eternity
of the Universe; and it si for this very reason that the  noblest minds
spent and will spend their days in research.  For if the Creation had
been demonstrated by proof, even if only according to the Platonic hypo-
thesis, all arguments of the philosophers against us would be of no avail. 
If, on the other hand, Aristotle had a proof for his theory, the whole
teaching of Scripture would be rejected, and we should be forced to
other opinions.  I have thus shown that all depends on this quesiton. 
Note it.

I don't see that either Ibn Tibbon or Pines substatiantially disagree
with this, e.g. "v'chen ilu hit'amet lahem mofet al da'at aristo tipol
hatorah bichalalh v'ya'ateq ha'inyan l'deiot acheirot..."

Rambam only says that in the absence of a proof of the eternity of the
universe, there is no need to interpret those psuqim metaphorically.
But if there were such a proof, then he would be forced to do so and
give up on the foundations of Judaism as they are.  It's not because
of the strength of the mesorah, it's because of the weakness of the 

   - jon baker    jjbaker@panix.com     <http://www.panix.com/~jjbaker> -

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Date: Thu, 14 Nov 2002 14:48:50 +0200
From: "Daniel Eidensohn" <yadmoshe@012.net.il>

I don't see where there is disagreement between myself and
Dr. Shapiro. The simple point is that not a single source in Chazal
rejecting the validity of astrology has been cited nor is there any
evidence Rambam derived his position from Chazal. [The first part of this
post just shows how my posting are in agreement with Dr. Shapiro. Skip
to the 2nd half for new material.]

Dr. Shapiro writes
>>. Rambam clearly believed
> > that the gedolim ve-Tovim of Hazal rejected astrology. He says so almost
> > as explicitly as you can get in the Letter on Astrology (when he says
> > that those passages dealing with astrology were stated by INDIVIDUAL
> > sages who were in a error). Now one can disagree with Rambam in this and
> > see him as reading his philosophical views into Hazal, but he really
> > believed this.

My posting on the Rambam's letter
>This establishes 1) that the Rambam did not have any statement of
>chazal that he understood as rejecting astrology 2) he was well aware
>of statments in chazal supporting astrology 3) He rejected those as
>spurious or not to be taken literally 4) He knew that astrology was
>wrong entirely because it violated commonsense and not because he had
>a source in chazal 5) he must have assumed that the silent majority of
>chazal rejected astrology because only idiots accepted astrology and
>chazal were not idiots.

Dr. Shapiro wrote
> >        How can anyone disagree with this? If it is true that great Roshe
> > Yeshiva do disagree, it shows that they don't understand Rambam's
> > philosophy. (I am speaking here from a pure scholarly perspective. I am
> > however surprised that those who approach matters from a  "frum"
> > perspective can say this, because it means that the Rambam had no emunat
> > hakhamim, something they regard as very important.)

My posting on the subject:

>The rejection of the Gra and the Ran were based on 1) the fact that they
>assumed that the consistent support of astrology found in chazal was
>representative of the views of chazal and not spurious or not to be taken
>literally 2) they didn't start with the view that astrology is nonsense

Dr. Shapiro wrote:
>        I would agree with the named Rosh Yeshiva that the Rambam based
> his understanding of astrology on logic and philosophy, but he also
> believed that Chazal agreed with this. If you are saying that he DERIVED
> his opposition to astrology from Chazal, I would actually have to
> disagree with you.

Exactly my point.

Dr. Shapiro wrote:
>>He [Rambam] thought that R. Akiva etc. were also great
> > philosophers and that Aggadah held the key to Maaseh Merkavah and Maaseh
> > Bereshit.

--------------------------------New Material -------------------------------

Rema (YD 246:4)had written "It is permitted to learn on occasion other
wisdom as long as they are not heretical and that is what the CHACHOMIM
describes as strolling in pardes..." The Gra #18 comments "these are the
words of the Rambam....However neither the Rema nor the Rambam ever saw

This supports the view that the Gra viewed the Rambam as completely
misunderstanding the views of the Chachomim and the Rambam viewed Chazal as
agreeing with him that Pardes was philosophy. As stated before in the Gra
(YD 179:13) the Gra felt the Rambam's error was the result of his study of
philosophy. Again in this case there apparently is no source in Chazal to
support the Rambam and that in fact he read into Chazal views that had
started with logical and philosophy.

R' Gershon Dubin wrote:
>Not sure if this is directly relevant, but I saw in the "Making of a
>Gadol" a reference to Rav Yaakov's Emes LeYaakov where he says that the
>first few perakim of Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah are not mesora, but the
>Rambam's own chochma.

Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky in Emes L'Yaakov (p16) states that the reason why the
Rambam erred in insisting that the moon was a living entity is the fact that
the first four chapters are in fact philosophy not Torah. "We are forced to
say that that which the Rambam transmitted to us in these [4] chapters is
from his own open mind based upon his known of secular learning i.e., it is
not from the wisdom of the Torah but is simply philosophy." In other words
the Rambam was only fallible in non Torah issues. In a footnote #12 the
editor R' Neustadt says "In a private conversation R' Yaakov clarified that
he had meant to say "out of his knowledge of philosophy the Rambam learned
these views in Chazal" Similarly R' Yaakov had say that the Rambam's
statements concerning food and healthy habits were definitely taken from
Chazal since the Rambam had not said "the gaonim said". He also quoted the
Ohr Someach as agreeing with this latter statement and said therefore they
have the status of Torah and cited the Malbim (Eretz Chemda) as agreeing
with this view.

This statement about medicine would indicate that the Rambam's son disagreed
with his father about the knowledge of Chazal and medicine. In fact there
seems to be a dispute whether the sections of chazal dealing with medicine
have the status of Torah.

However as cited before concerning astronomy the Rambam says that Chazal
could be fallible. Concerning calendar calculations Rambam says that whether
the knowledge came from Chazal or secular scholars isn't important as long
as it is correct. He makes a similar statement in Shemona Perakim. The
Rambam's son's statement and Rav Hai Gaon's statement about the fallibility
of Chazal concerning science indicate that it is not heresy to question
Chazal's knowledge of science nor is it required that scientific issues be
based upon the views of Chazal. Astrology which was viewed as a science in
those times as well as medicine could readily be assumed by the Rambam to be
subject to empirical verification and thus he did not see himself bound by
the views of Chazal. Finally the Malbim notes that the Rambam deviates in
many details from the medical views of Chazal and asserts that it was
because nature had changed. The Malbim thus acknowledges that the views of
the Rambam on these issues are not necessarily Torah even from the Rambam's
perspective. Unless you want to say that the Rambam has the status of Chazal
and his new pronouncements on medicine also have the status of Torah.

In sum. The Rambam can readily be understood in these issues as assuming
that his views were the same as Chazal and that the Ran, Gra and Hirsch
argued that Rambam's conclusions were erroneous because Rambam was reading
in or assuming philosophically correct views for Chazal that didn't exist .

In sum:There is absolutely no evidence that Chazal actually held the views
on astrology and pardes etc
that the Rambam (apparently) imputed to them and absolutely no evidence has
been presented that the Rambam had unknown sources of Chazal that he relied
on. It is also not heretical to suggest that the Rambam did not derive his
knowledge of science (including astrology) from Chazal but rather from
contemporary secular thought.

                                                            Daniel Eidensohn

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Date: Thu, 14 Nov 2002 07:49:07 +0200
From: "Ira L. Jacobson" <laser@ieee.org>
Re: zecher/zichron

>I don't know, but I can tell you that RYBS was noheg to say the pasuk
>twice (once with zeicher and once with zecher).

Yes.  He also repeated Yisakhar as Yisaskhar, but I doubt very much if he 
thought that the two pronunciations had any connection to a change in 


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Date: Thu, 14 Nov 2002 08:20:13 +0200
From: "Carl and Adina Sherer" <sherer@actcom.co.il>

On 13 Nov 2002 at 1:55, Micha Berger wrote:
> PS: I wonder about this minhag. How will the saneigor remember I'm not
> a "Mosheh"? And why do we think beis din shel ma'alah would need any
> such help?

I've also wondered about this minhag. AIUI, if you don't remember 
your name they "can't find your records." What if R"L you don't want 
the Malachim to find your records? 

-- Carl

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

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Date: Thu, 14 Nov 2002 09:24:16 +0200
From: Akiva Atwood <atwood@netvision.net.il>
RE: Astrology, Mussar

Dr. Shapiro's wrote:
> I am quote surprised at the vehemence of the assault on Mussar, 
> especially since Mussar emerged victorious and with the exception of 
> Volozhin all, yeshivot accepted it

But today's yeshiva system is *based* on volozhin, isn't it? 


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Date: Thu, 14 Nov 2002 14:36:24 +0200
From: "Daniel Eidensohn" <yadmoshe@012.net.il>

The Seridei Aish tells a story about R. Yisroel Salanter:.R' Yisroel
told his students that he had once gone to a synagogue on Yom Kippur,
where he observed one Jew stand behind the podium and pray with tears
and sobs while saying "al het" R. Yisroel was deeply impressed and drew
nearer that he may share his prayers with this man. The man, however,
pushed R. Yisroel aside, almost hurting him in the process. "We both
wept in our prayers" related R' Yisroel - "he wept over sins he had
never committed but saw listed in his prayer book, and I wept over a
pious Jew who had neglected a a major moral principle on a holy day,
and over the fact that a Jew's devotion had not served to change his
rough and uncouth nature and to improve his human feelings...."

I just spoke with a friend of my Rabbi Zechariyah Greenwald (he said I
could quote him) a talmid of Rav Wolbe since the days of Baer Yaakov. He
is speaking for himself not for Rav Wolbe.

1) "A true mussar personality doesn't yell and scream"
2) He said he never heard Rav Wolbe say that there is a principle that
a rishon will only quote what he thinks is in chazal
3) The Gra's statement should not be interpreted but should be taken as
he said it.
4) It is clear from the letter on Astrology of the Rambam that he thought
that his views on this subject were also those of Chazal.
5) There is a distinction between mesora and what Rav Wolbe causes
"hasagah'. Hasagah has an asmachta in Chazal or Torah. The nature of this
asmachta seems to be related to the gemora in Bava Basra 12 concerning
ruach hakodesh. Thus the Rambam's statements based on "hasagah" can be
viewed as having an asmachta in Torah and/or Chazal. The precise nature of
the asmachta [Rambam vs Ritva] is not clear. This involves also clarifying
the distinction between chachma and Torah . He said it also is related
to the Ramban that ultimately all chochma has its source in Torah that
was given at Sinai. Thus R' Yisroel Salanter produced a program which
appeared to be innovations when in fact they were expressions of Torah
values based upon his "hasagah'. His utilization of psychology was
only a tool for Torah and not as a source of values. This "hasagah''
can also lead to expressing ideas or principles which were not expressed
in previous generations but are nevertheless are expression of Torah.

Dr. Shapiro wrote
> >       I think it is false to say that mussar was opposed by most
> > gedolim. There were to be sure gedolim who opposed it, but if you look
> > at Polmos ha-Mussar you will find that many gedolim signed letters is
> > support of Mussar. The rav of Novordok, the Aruch ha-Shulhan even signed
> > a letter in support of these bachurim. And if there was opposition, so
> > what. Many more gedolim opposed the Brisker derech in learning than the
> > Mussar approach.

The statement that most gedolim were initally opposed was a quote from Rav
Nosson Kamenetsky.  The fact that the situation changed over time is also
universally accepted fact. Rav Weinberg simply says "Nevertheless we are
confronted with the historical fact that at the height of the controversy
great Lithuanian rabbis launched an attack against the Mussar doctrine by
issuing a denunciatory proclamation".  I haven't seen any hard evidence
concerning which per centage of gedolim were opposed at what point in
history and how that related to other disputes. Would appreciate citations
of sources. What is incontestable is that there was strong opposition by
many if not most gedolim.

My original point - which seems to have gotten lost in the screaming
was that Mussar was initially opposed by the yeshiva world and then for
**pragmatic** reasons it became accepted. It was the only defense that
worked in the Lithuanian yeshiva world. Chassidus was not considered
a valid alternative. It is critical also to keep in mind that mussar
is not Mussar. My comments were primarily concerned with the Mussar
movement not with mussar. Both involve psychological manipulation but
the Mussar movment involved much more manipulating of others by experts
[i.e., mashgichim] than mussar. [If you don't like the term manipulation
call it chinuch or operant conditioning]. Rav Nosson describes the
experimentation of baalei mussar with various techniques - not all
of which were success. This is discussed also in the Seridei Aish as
well. As posted before Rav YB Soleveitchik said that Mussar was initially
a technique to frighten people and it didn't become successful until it
switched to the positive approach.

The Seridei Aish [translation taken from R' Jung's Men of the Spirit]
wrote: "The controversy over the Mussar doctrine ended with the complete
victory of the followers of Mussar. R. Salanter's version of Mussar
became, without a single dissenting voice, part of the curricular of all
Yeshivot in Israel and the Diaspora, for all Jews agreed that it served
**as a mighty fortress** for the Torah and the Jewish spirit."

The Seridei Aish wrote "The Kovno years were the years of intellectual
founding of the Mussar movement...The Mussar movment, rooted in the
desire for spiritual perfection and the improvement of character,
acquired a new factor in Kovno:concern for very survival of Judaism
which was threatened by the Haskalah movement...R' Yisroel's slogan was
'Fight the Maskilim with their own weapons! Form an all Hebrew genuine
Haskalah movment and educate rabbis and teachers to spread this pure
Hebrew Haskalah among the people!'. It was aimed not at the outside
enemy threatening to destroy the Jewish youths, but rather inwards, to
fill that youth with pride and strength and to render it unsusceptible to
cultural elements alien to the spirit of the Torah [i.e., Bullet proofing
the mind]....'Rejection of the secular Haskalah alone is not enough',
argued R. Yisroel. 'It is the nature of a new cultural trend to seep in
through small crevices. Fighting it with prohibitions and excommunications
alone will not stem the tide, for the spirit of man is not to be stemmed
by mere force....The sole defense against a cultural movement breaking
in from the outside is the establishment of an opposing cultural force,
and the opening of doors to a fresh trend of thought, stemming from the
very depth of Jewish soul. Thus not a war against foreign enlightenment,
but a war for Hebrew original Haskalah, which means moral perfection,
nobility of soul and lofty ideals. Such a deep rooted Haskalah need not
fear foreign enlightenment which is but external polish and technical
proficiency, has no roots in Judaism and cannot satisfy the yearnings
of a Jewish heart".

As a consequence of Mussar being primarily a pragmatic program rather
than THE way of Avodas HaShem (contrary to the view of the Alter),
with the receding of the danger the interest and relevance of Mussar
receded until at the present time it is not relevant for most. It has
returned to its roots of being mussar a concern for the elite and those
who find learning gemora difficult. [see Mesilas Yeshorim]. As a rosh
yeshiva once told me - "the Mussar movement and the mashgichim saved
Yiddishkeit in the yeshiva world. But it was only an emergency measure
that is not needed at the present time".

                                                Daniel Eidensohn

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Date: Thu, 14 Nov 2002 10:37:36 -0500
From: "Gil Student" <gil@aishdas.org>
Re: Mussar & bulletproofing the mind

R' Daniel Eidensohn's post regarding mussar was a many pronged critique
of the movement. I think we need to break down the different issues and
discuss each individually. I therefore take the liberty of doing so,
with apologies to him if I am over-simplifying.

1. Mussar thinking is not intuitive

>The Mussar Movement goes beyond merely adding the
>obligations of commonsense. It is a way of thinking
>which is not natural or spontaneous but requires considerable
>effort and training and is therefore by definition not
>commonsense but what they view as Torah sense.

As a mathematician, I find this criticism to be lacking. A statistical
approach to the world has to be learned but it is, in my opinion,
the correct way to view occurrences. We have discussed many times,
both on Areivim and on Avodah, that many so-called miracles are really
just people intuitively misinterpreting expected statistical events. The
proper intellectual approach must be learned.

Consider also the way to think logically. For most people this is not
intuitive. That is why so much of a boy's childhood is spent learning
how to learn gemara and think analytically. That is also why so many
who are trained in learning gemara have a natural advantage in law and
mathematics, where such thinking is necessary, over those who have not
been so trained.

Logical and correct thinking is not always intuitive. It has to
be learned. The fact (or claim) that mussar thinking also has to be
learned therefore seems to me to reflect neither positively nor negatively
on mussar.

I read, by the way, the entire article on Bulletproof Thinking and did
not see its relevance. This would, however, seem like a mareh makom that
a ba'al mussar would offer (see below #3) and not a Chazon Ish-nik.

2. Mussar thinking assumes the biblical characters were flawless

>1) Mussar insists that there are new rules such as that
>our forefathers were tzadikim and evidence to the contrary
>must be reinterpreted. He notes that in the case of Egypt
>and the Midbar such a rule is clearly contrary to the many
>sources of Chazal.
>Another example of a new principle Michtav M'Eliyahu IV page
>354 claims that the statements of Chazal are the only "pshat
>mamash" in understanding Tanach.

I don't know that this is inherent in mussar. It is more how the
great mussar thinkers have taught their mussar lessons than a part of
mussar. Can mussar exist in a framework in which flaws are admitted of
the avos, for example? I think yes. Not that this is necessarily correct,
as we have discussed before on Avodah. But I don't see how either view
is inconsistent with mussar, even if the mussar greats of the past have
been on one side of the issue.

3. Mussar proponents used secular sources

>2) Some Mussar proponents used humanistic
>principles to interpret halachic obligations rather
>than work entirely in the realm of halacha. [ R Y
>Salanter utilized a sefer for improving midos which
>was based upon the techniques of Benjamin
>Franklin because it worked.]

I think most Avodah listmembers join me in saying "So what?" I don't
see this as a failing at all, even though the Chazon Ish certainly did.

4. Mussar proponents were experimental and self-flagellating

>Mussar movement generated many unnatural strategies or
>manipulations of self and others.

This is due to a combination of an influence of chasidei Ashkenaz,
with their belief in self-flagellation, and the experimental nature
of mussar. Mussar was new and therefore its leaders struggled to find
the best methods to mold personalities. Since when is creativity and
eclecticness a negative?

5. Mussar was controversial

>Mussar was strongly opposed by most[p479] gedolim (See
>Pulmos HaMussar by R' Dov Katz). However when it became
>obvious that the secular forces were attracting away the
>best and the brightest, the yeshivos starting switching over
>to Mussar programs which made students more resistant
>to assimilation.

In other words, the ba'alei mussar were right in seeing that mussar
was necessary in this new age and the other gedolim eventually came
around. Just like R' Yochanan ben Zakkai in abandoning Yerushalayim for
Yavneh, R' Yisrael Salanter saw the future needs and acted on it.

6. Mussar was originally negative and then switched to positive

>It is also important to note the words of Rav YB Soleveitchik
>that Mussar was a way of frightening people to be frum and
>it didn't get accepted until it switched to focusing on the
>positive. R' Nosson [p 571]says that this was apparently the
>result of the loss of the Alter's youngest son to socialism and

In other words, the Alter saw that the needs of youth were once again
changing and, rather than being stuck in ways that worked for old
sociological conditions but not new ones, he quickly adapted to the new
realities of this very different world. I credit the Alter's adaptivity
with saving the majority of modern Ashkenazic yiddishkeit. I should
add that it is only because of R' Yisrael Salanter (and his talmidim)'s
influence on the Alter that he could be so cognizant of the changes in
society and ready to change course.

If the Alter's change of method was due to a personal event, it is
unfortunate that it came to that. But think of how many other gedolim
faced similar circumstances and kept on using the same old inappropriate
methods. It is to the Alter's credit that he constantly re-evaluated
his ways of thinking and was able to recognize failure and learn from it.
That is what being a ba'al mussar is all about.

The original approach of Mussar, what has been called "negative", is
not necessarily a bad approach. However, it is one that for a number of
reasons rarely works in today's society.

R' Daniel Eidensohn raised a number of interesting points in his critique
of mussar. None of them, however, seem devastating to me. Aderabah, I
see the mussar leaders as creative idealists trying to adapt and better
the world.

I reviewed the Chazon Ish's Emunah uVitachon this morning and his critique
of mussar, found mostly in chapter 4, focuses on two issues. 1. Those who
learn mussar and not Torah are bound to sin. 2. Learning Torah in depth
for many years will automatically lead to perfection in midos. The first
is essentially irrelevant to true mussar, which demands ameilus baTorah.
Indeed, the main source for the Chazon Ish on this is a letter from R'
Yisrael Salanter. The second, unfortunately, does not seem to reflect
the metzius, ve-ha-devarim atikim. [See, interestingly, the Chazon Ish's
bracketed comments in 4:1 where he says that those who were raised with
bad midos should be considered tinokos shenishbu and praised for the
good deeds they do.]

Gil Student

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