Avodah Mailing List

Volume 12 : Number 041

Thursday, November 6 2003

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 04 Nov 2003 21:40:58 -0500
From: Zev Sero <zsero@free-market.net>

I don't know if this has been covered yet, but my zeide, R Zalman z"l,
told me that he believed that when the chumash says the flood covered
the entire earth, it means the *inhabited* part of the earth, which, at
that time, was basically the Fertile Crescent. That's why the teva came
to rest on the mountains of Ararat, not on the Himalayas. And that's why
the debris washed down to Bavel and not somewhere else. And that's why
the flood mostly bypassed Eretz Yisrael - most of EY was not inhabited.

If this is so, then there can be bristlecone pines and huon pines that
are older than the flood, and even ones that are older than creation
(just as Adam was 20 years older than creation).

Zev Sero                    Security and liberty are like beer and TV.
zsero@free-market.net       They go well together, but are completely
                             different concepts.		- James Lileks

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Date: Wed, 05 Nov 2003 13:12:10 -0500
From: Yisrael Dubitsky <Yidubitsky@JTSA.EDU>
question on leshon ha-Rambam

Its probably very simple, but can anyone suggest why Rambam uses a
different lashon when speaking of incestuous relations with one's
mother or wife of father than when he speaks of such relations with
the other relatives. Specifically, in his hakdamah to MT, as well as
to Sefer Kedushah, as well as to Hil Isure Bi'ah [I assume these are
three repetitions of the Rambam himself, as opposed to copyists/printers]
when enumerating the mitsvot he is to discuss he writes "she-lo *lavo al*
ha-em...al eshet av" but concerning the others it is "she-lo li-ve`ol..."
Also, only concerning bestiality or MZ the lashon is "she-lo li-shekav..."
Again, is there a reason? Is this already a distinction of the gemara
[it's *not* of the humash]?

Thanks in advance

Yisrael Dubitsky

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Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2003 21:02:14 EST
From: KAVYASHAR@aol.com
Re: Book Search.... Ssedah LaDarekh

From: "JosephMosseri" <joseph.mosseri@verizon.net>
> I'm looking for a book. It is called Tzeidah LaDerekh by Menahem Ben
> Aharon Ben Zerah.
> It was printed in Perera (Ferrara) in 5314 (1554). It's somewhere between
> 212 and 297 pages.

Wow. It has been along time since anyone has mentioned the Sefer Tzedah
LaDerekh of the 14th century. Not many know of this unique work and
its audience of courtiers, diplomats and nobles. It was published in
Warsaw in the late 1800's and reprinted in Jerusalem in 5748 by some
anonymous publisher.

While the edition that I have does not have a specific collection of
"of scientific and medical explanations for the missvot" it is clear that
he introduced medical and scientific information in his explanations as
many did in his day.

His work is quite typical of the multiple disciplined thinkers of the
14th century.

J. Rubenstein

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Date: Thu, 06 Nov 2003 00:32:42 +0200
From: Dov Bloom <dovb@netvision.net.il>
(VeCharot Imo - Printer's errror (was Re: Question on Hallel)

>another candidate:
>German congregations do NOT stop before v'charos EXCEPT at a Bris Millah,
>that way the passuk remains in tact w/o any interruption

>Standard Easternn European Nusach Ashekneaz and Nusach Sefard does stop
>and start at v'charos even w/o a Bris.

He HaNotenet -- 
The Standard Easternn European Nusach Ashekneaz is based I believe on a
"Printer's Error", that is an error caused by printers.

The Ashkenaz minhag was to say on the Shacharit of a Brit, out loud and
responsively (chazzan and Kahal) parts of psukim starting from "VeCharot
imo HaBrit" because of its connection to the Brit. The printers therefore
broke up the pasuk and inserted something like "on the day of a brit
the chazzzan begins...". Once the pasuk was broken up for the printers
note, it is easy to understand the the next printer put the note on
a new line....Voila, Now the paragraph section VaYevarech David ends
(physically in the Siddur) with Neeman Lefanecha, so of course the Chazan
finishes up the paragraph.

The non-yekkes lost or never had the minhag of responsive reading here
on a brit-day. So - that is the non Yekke-Easternn European Nusach , but
without the whole raison d'etre for the "error" of breaking up a pasuk.

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Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2003 15:41:05 +0200
From: Eli Turkel <turkel@post.tau.ac.il>
nusach Ari

"There were many Siddurim written by Ba'alei Kabbala and there was even
more than one Siddur called Siddur HaAri Z'L. What the Ba'al Hatanya did
was make a siddur that was Nusach HaAri utilizing kisvei HaAri as the
source. The Ba'al Hatanya also made it simple for the layman hence he
even omitted the kavanos HaAri (Sha'ar Ha'Kolel in the hakdamha siman 7
and 6:9). The best source of information on this subject is sefer Sha'ar
Ha'Kolel. There were also some fascinating articles written in the last
few Pardas Chabad concerning the Ba'al Hatanya's Siddur."

There have been several similar comments by others on Nusach Ari. None
of them answer the question of the Nusach of the Beracha of Barech Alenu
in the Amidah. Nusach Ari of Chabad follows Askenaz Minhag of saying
Barecj Alenu all year round. However, the seforim from the Ari school
seem to follow the Sefardi minhag od saying Barchenu and Barech Alenu
in different seasons.

Prof. Eli Turkel,  turkel@post.tau.ac.il on 06/11/2003
Department of Mathematics, Tel Aviv University

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Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2003 08:37:58 -0500 (EST)
From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
Islam, Xianity, and Us

There are rishonim who class "A-llah" differently than other such
names. It is cognate to the Hebrew "Elo-ah" (which many of you might
mispronounce "E-loha"). It is therefore akin to one of the 7 sheimos
in a way that 'God' isn't.

I find it noteworthy in this little comparative religion thread that
Moslems only use one sheim, and it's middas hadin. Christians, OTOH,
use only one untranslated sheim (when they use any), and it's middas
harachamim. Without an awareness of the connotations of either name,
each fits their two-dimensional perspective of the man-G-d

The notion that there is a dialectic rather than a simplistic reality
was lost on our descendent religions.


Micha Berger             A cheerful disposition is an inestimable treasure.
micha@aishdas.org        It preserves health, promotes convalescence,
http://www.aishdas.org   and helps us cope with adversity.
Fax: (413) 403-9905         - R' SR Hirsch, "From the Wisdom of Mishlei"

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Date: Wed, November 5, 2003 11:02 pm
From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@juno.com>
Re: Islam, Xianity, and Us

[Also bounced. -mi]

From: "Micha Berger" <micha@aishdas.org>
<<I find it noteworthy in this little comparative religion thread that
Moslems only use one sheim, and it's middas hadin. Christians, OTOH,
use only one untranslated sheim (when they use any), and it's middas
harachamim. Without an awareness of the connotations of either name,
each fits their two-dimensional perspective of the man-G-d relationship.>>

Interesting also that Moslems come from Yishmael, the pesoles of middas
harachamim, and Christians from Esav, the pesoles of middas hadin.


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Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2003 16:39:16 -0600 (CST)
From: gil@aishdas.org
Re: Congregational Dignity and Human Dignity

R' Daniel Sperber's main thesis in his recent article "Congregational
Dignity and Human Dignity: Women and Public Torah Reading" (The Edah
Journal 3:2, Elul 5763) is that the necessities of kevod ha-briyot should
override the tannaitic prohibition against calling women to the Torah
because of kevod ha-tzibur. He strengthened his argument by declaring
kevod ha-tzibur to be only doubtful in this case because according to
some rishonim it should no longer apply to calling women to the Torah. R'
Sperber, unfortunately, does not clearly define the kevod ha-briyot
problem that seems to be of paramount contemporary concern but assumes
that it is equivalent of the talmudic example of ripping off someone's
clothes (that are made of sha'atnez) or a modern example of stopping women
whose established custom was to sew together the panels of a Torah scroll.
This lack of a clear definition is a serious lacking in the article.

I am not prepared to comment on the article's man argument but I am on
a number of smaller points that arise throughout the article.

R' Sperber writes, "From a historical point of view, therefore, it may
be said that at an undefined ancient time, women could go up to the
Torah and read from it, and perhaps even did so" (p. 3). This is a view
proposed by historian Ismar Elbogen but was rejected by Shmuel Safrai. He
wrote, "We should not conclude from here, as one scholar suggested, that
there was a time when women were called [to the Torah] and afterwards
the Sages established that she should not because of honor. It is not
impossible that before us is only an halachic-analytic codification
that a woman may not be counted among the seven called to the Torah"
(Safrai, Eretz Yisrael ve-Chachameha, p. 101).

On page 4, R' Sperber notes examples in which kevod ha-tzibur is set
aside. What is important to recognize is that, at least to most rishonim,
kevod ha-tzibur is not set aside but overridden. A careful reading of
the medieval literature will yield that according to almost all rishonim
kevod ha-tzibur is overridden by specific circumstances and not merely
set aside by public decision. This distinction may not be important for R'
Sperber's thesis but it is for others' claims.

An example that R' Sperber brings for his argument is the ruling that
even according to those who hold that nidot may not enter a shul, on
the high holidays they may do so to prevent their inevitable sadness
(pp. 6-7). However, this entire example is irrelevant because it only
demonstrates that a custom can be overridden by pain and sadness, not
necessarily a prohibition. This is seen even more clearly in the quote
from the Levush in note 15: "[H]ow much more should that be done here,
where we are dealing with something that is otherwise fully permitted,
and only by custom do they act stringently."

The same applies to the example brought on page 8, as R' Sperber himself
writes, "His remarks imply that if something permissible and acceptable
from a halakhic point of view..." The example is one of something that
is technically permitted but prohibited because of custom. Similarly,
the issue in note 17 about bringing a Torah scroll into the room of a
woman giving birth.

On page 11, R' Sperber writes something puzzling in note 17: "It seems as
well that the concern about appearing to emulate non-Orthodox movements
does not arise as long as there are normative halakhic sources that
may be relied on." R' Sperber was kind of enough to clarify this for
me in private correspondence as follows: "If there exists a divergent
view in early sources -- Rishonim or dominant Aharonim, then one is not
emulating non-Orthodox movements but following an early precedent from
normative halachists." From where he derives this position is unclear;
the only text he cites as support is R' Joel Wolowelsky's Women, Jewish
Law and Modernity which is hardly sufficient halachic precedent even
if the cite proved the point, which in this case it does not. However,
this position contradicts explicit rulings of R' Yechiel Ya'akov Weinberg
and other modern poskim (as I explain at length in a forthcoming article
on the subject).

On pages 11-12, R' Sperber repeats the claim he made in earlier articles
that halacha is frozen thanks to the negative efforts of the Chatam Sofer
and Chazon Ish. What he continues to neglect is that both the Chatam Sofer
and the Chazon Ish were conservative on some issues and radical on others;
they did not freeze halacha but rather reacted differently regarding
different issues. We need go no farther than R' Sperber's footnote 28
on page 12 for proof of this. In that note, which is attached to the
same paragraph in which the Chazon Ish is criticized as being overly
conservative, R' Sperber references Chazon Ish's famous view that no
one today can be punished for being a heretic. This is only one of many
courageous and ground-breaking rulings that the Chazon Ish issued (another
example is regarding metropolitan eiruvin, and there are many more).

In that same footnote, R' Sperber writes that Tosafot (Kiddushin 41a)
"adjusted the halakhah to promote the welfare of Jewish women." Readers
of Avodah know full well that this description is inadequate, both of the
general approach that can be found in Tosafot and in this specific case.
What the ba'alei ha-tosafot did was offer halachic rationales for their
contemporary practice, not actively tinker with halacha. They were not
changing but explaining.

On page 14, R' Sperber writes, "[T]here are accepted women decisors in
the area of niddah." To my knowledge, those associated with the Yoatzot
program adamantly insist, for better or for worse, that the Yoatzot
are advisors and not decisors. This, it is claimed, is an important
distinction and not merely a matter of semantics. I tend to agree.

As I wrote at the beginning, none of this addresses R' Sperber's main
thesis. All of the above address small, sometimes minor, points and
should not be taken as a refutation of R' Sperber's article.

Gil Student

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Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2003 09:43:13 +0200
From: "Shoshana L. Boublil" <toramada@bezeqint.net>
Re: Rabbis, Rebbetzins and Halakhic Advisors (Agunot)

> Micha is correct that legabei Agunos we have a tradition to be meikel.
> But I am disappointed that O poskim have been unable to nail a solid
> solution using the above models. That is because there is a real
> need to solve this problem. Forgive my political incorrectness <smile>
> but I don't see a coresponding need to give women aliyos. Aderrabbo,
> as Minhag/Massorah devotee, I would say iit's not broke so don't fix it.

One of the basic, and unfortunate, problems associated with the question
of Agunot is the question of definition.

With regard to true Agunot, i.e. the husband is MIA, lost at sea or
generally lost somewhere on the globe, B"H there are very few existing
cases nowadays. Ron Arad's wife is an example of this category.

When it comes to finding solutions for women under this heading, Halacha
does indeed have a tradition of being meikel, and solutions don't exist
in a general sense, but case-by-case decisors do their best.

The 2nd category are Mesoravei/Mesoravot Get. This category includes
both men and women. The statistics for the Israeli Batei Din, where a
Mesorav/Mesorevet Get is defined as a case where there was a Psak Din
for Chiyuv or Kefiyat Get and the Get is stuck, show that the number of
men and women in this category are equal!

This, therefore does not include cases that are stuck in Beit Din for over
5 years (sometimes even for more than a dozen years) b/c the Dayan won't
pasken Kefiyat Get (even when the couple have been living at the 2 ends of
the country for 15 years). There is nothing to do in these cases but wish
the relevant Dayanim a long and happy life -- and enjoyable retirement.

Back to the Mesoravot Get. Here there is a public misconception at
work many times. While there are indeed cases of abuse of the system
etc., many many cases are the result of acrimony and monetary issues.
People forget that going down the divorce road inolves human beings with
feelings that are not always logical or even sensible. In response to
the situation of monetary issues delaying the Get, it is becoming more
and more prevalent for Batei Din (there is a psak by Rav Feinstein that
joins this category) to pasken Chiyuv/Kefiyat Get with the proviso that
the couple will work out the monetary issues post-Get.

With the increase in availability of means and, more importantly,
the increase in the use of Charamot DeRabeinu Tam and the state laws
(in Israel) that can include incarceration and other sanctions -- there
has been a decrease in the number of new Mesoravot Get.

Another type of psika, mainly by the more senior Dayanim is to pasken
that it's sufficient for a (lower) Beit Din to pasken that "the Beit Din
recommends a Get" -- and if the husband doesn't grant the Get he is Over
Al Divrei Chachamim and can be sanctioned.

To summarize, as there is no ONE reason for a woman/man to become
"Aguna" (Mesorevet Get)there is no single solution to this problem.
It can only be resolved case-by-case, with the aid of lawyers who are
YeRei'ei Shamayim and Dayanim who are not afraid to pasken.

Shoshana L. Boublil

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Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2003 02:16:06 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Mabul as historical event.

On Sun, Nov 02, 2003 at 12:56:35PM +0200, Akiva Atwood wrote:
: The flood spoken about here took place several thousand years before
: the biblical flood.

Nor did it include the entire inhabited world.

While people are debating whether "kol ha'olam" can mean less than "all
the world", they forget it also says "Leshacheis kol-basar asher-bo ru'ach
chaim mitachas hashamayim." Even if I thought TSBK alone was relevent,
not also the tradition in how to understand a phrase, there is a clear
statement in the pasuq. Not just "all flesh" (which alone is arguably
clear enough), but "all flesh that has a living soul", and doubled with
"from under the sky". Quite clearly stated at length, lest there be
any ambiguity.

One issue I noticed was that I assume that Hashem actually told Moshe
it was history, or more probably, a set of statements that boil down to
that conclusion. RMShinnar (for example) seems to assume it was simply
a default position and the mesorah was actually silent.

As for the archeological evidence... I wish things were as simple as RHM
suggests. However, there is not only a lack of evidence of the mabul,
there is evidence of continuity. Of cultures that ran from before the
mabul well past the end of the haflagah with no discontinuities.


Micha Berger                 Time flies...
micha@aishdas.org                    ... but you're the pilot.
http://www.aishdas.org                       - R' Zelig Pliskin
Fax: (413) 403-9905      

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Date: Thu, 06 Nov 2003 08:41:16 +0200
From: Akiva Atwood <akiva@atwood.co.il>
RE: Mabul

> the entire earth, it means the *inhabited* part of the earth, which, at
> that time, was basically the Fertile Crescent.

No, it wasn't. At the time of the flood the entire surface (excluding
Antarctica) was inhabited.

> to rest on the mountains of Ararat, not on the Himalayas. And that's why
> the debris washed down to Bavel and not somewhere else. And that's why
> the flood mostly bypassed Eretz Yisrael - most of EY was not inhabited.

The Babylonian flood takes place well before the Biblical flood (dated as
around 2900 BCE in Babylonian, 2100 BCE in Biblical).


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Date: Thu, 06 Nov 2003 21:37:06 +0200
From: Zoo Torah <zoorabbi@zootorah.com>

An interesting essay from Aish HaTorah
suggesting that the Mabul was very localized:
The many comments that follow it are also very interesting.

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Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2003 02:22:07 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: yesh me-ayin

On Mon, Nov 03, 2003 at 08:36:05PM +0200, eli turkel wrote:
: The question was that if the world was created yesh me-ayin then there was
: nothing before the world...

Including the lack of a "before the world".

Stephen Hawking suggests the following model for understanding the start
of time. This is not a metaphor, he states that the same geometry is
involved, but in more dimensions. Space is like the longitude on a globe,
but time is more like the lattitude. Points earlier in time are parallel
to going further north. Once you reach the north pole, you can't head
further north. And yet there is no discontinuity; no one is going to
wonder about the absence of a more north place the way we wonder about
what's before the first moment.

: More to the point he was not sure if these destructions and re-creation
: were yesh me-yesh or yesh me-ayin...

Which is why I would think it has to be yeish miyeish.

There is also a question of logically prior without being chronologically
prior. Hashem can be the reason for something without an action of His
earlier in time than that something.


Micha Berger                 Time flies...
micha@aishdas.org                    ... but you're the pilot.
http://www.aishdas.org                       - R' Zelig Pliskin
Fax: (413) 403-9905      

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Date: Thu, 6 Nov 2003 23:38:31 +0000
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: IE and Qadmus

Much confused discussion deleted. RMF introduced the term "qadmus" which
I thought meant that the Borei preceeded the existance of everything
else, whereas I now realize he intended it to me that matter preceeded
the events of ma'aseh bereishis.

And I'm not even positive I had a consistant view of what was being said
to be qodem of what. The confusion RMFrankel noted was real.

Since we both suggest that IE's contemporaries generally (all?) held of
yeish mei'ayin, we can move on from there.

On Tue, Nov 04, 2003 at 10:55:41PM -0500, Michael Frankel wrote:
: It hardly needs pointing out that R. Gamaliel nowhere mentions yesh
: me'ayin, that is your, and others, interpretive gloss...

Agreed that he doesn't use the phrase, but I don't see this as a gloss.
He is callenged by someone who considered ma'aseh bereishis to be an act
of formation from extant "stuff". As proof the person claims the Torah
itself described the 5 substances from which it was made. Rabban Gamliel
disagrees, and proves that the chumash doesn't consider these 5 to be
preexisting. However, the point remains that he disagrees with the Greek's
thesis. Therefore Rabban Gamliel necessarily holds of yeish mei'ayin.

: The problem is you don't want to accept those that are offered. Amongst
: rishonim who do perceive chazalic opening to qadmus are both ramban --
: see kis'vei ramban, vol 2, p694 chavel edition, who finds a platonic
: position in the pir'qei dr'lozor which you rejected...

Funny, I don't remember addressing, never mind rejecting, it. I was trying
to wait until I got ahold of the text. If I did, it was an uninformed
statement and should be ignored.

: I'm curious how you also explain away IE's sly "v'hammaskil yovin" which
: accompanied his p'shot in boroh...

Why "sly"? Many rishonim use "hamaskil yavin" or "hameivin yavin". We
don't assume the Ramban is hiding something from the apiqursus police
when he does it. I think people who want the IE to be a prefiguring of
their camp invented this perspective. The Tzafnas Panei'ach put them on
his case, and they insert things between his lines in numerous places.
(Sod sheneim asar, for example.)

When the Rambam speaks of "hameivin yavin" he is clueing you in that what
he believes to be a complete answer would be qabbalah, and therefore
outside the scope of his peirush. I would assume that IE is saying the
parallel: the explanation is outside the scope of his work, so he's
letting the informed in on the idea that there's more to be said.


Micha Berger             A cheerful disposition is an inestimable treasure.
micha@aishdas.org        It preserves health, promotes convalescence,
http://www.aishdas.org   and helps us cope with adversity.
Fax: (413) 403-9905         - R' SR Hirsch, "From the Wisdom of Mishlei"

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Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2003 21:33:54 -0600 (CST)
From: gil@aishdas.org
Re: Hashgocha protis and suicide

>I don't see any indication of disagreement.
>Both indicate that a person can kill
>himself unless G-d intervenes miraculously.

The key phrase is in parentheses in this translation but not in my Hebrew
edition of Chovos HaLevavos (Feldheim/Qafih edition, p. 142)

"you will either bring about your own death and be held responsible for
it as you would have had you killed another (even though you would have
technically died as a result of G-d's decree and will)."

Someone who commits suicide "died as a result of G-d's decree". That,
I believe, is the phrase from which R' Elchanan Wasserman makes his diyuk.

Gil Student

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Date: Thu, 06 Nov 2003 21:14:24 +0200
From: S Goldstein <goldstin@netvision.net.il>
Hashgocha protis and suicide

RGS wrote:
>R' Elchanan Wasserman posits this is a machlokes rishonim.

>Tosafos in Kesuvos 30a sv ha-kol write that one may commit suicide
>even if it has not been previously ordained - "de-ha vadai she-be-yado
>le-hamis atzmo".

>REW in Kovetz Ma'amarim, peirushei aggados on "ha-kol biydei shamayim"
>cites this tosafos and suggests that the Chovos HaLevavos disagrees.

>I assume you are referring to this: [R' Feldman translation]. I don't
>see any indication of disagreement. Both indicate that a person can kill
>himself unless G-d intervenes miraculously.

>Chovas HaLevavos( 4:4):...

ChL says one cannot kill oneself. One can try. If so ordained you
die and are punished for trying. If ordained otherwise, you live and
are punished for trying. Tos says one can surely kill oneself WITHOUT
it being previously ordained.

Ergo, a machlokes on causal reality vs previous Divine decree.

Shlomo Goldstein

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Date: Fri, 07 Nov 2003 00:19:46 +0200
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
Re: Hashgocha protis and suicide

R' Shlomo Goldstein wrote:
>ChL says one cannot kill oneself.   One can try.  If so ordained you die and
>are punished for trying.  If ordained otherwise, you live and are punished
>for trying.  Tos says one can surely kill oneself  WITHOUT  it being
>previously ordained.

>Ergo, a machlokes on causal reality vs previous Divine decree.

Looking at the Kafach edition - I don't see where it says one can not kill
oneself. "Just as it is not in the hands of created beings their life
and death similarly it is not in their hands their livelihood and their
sustenance, clothing and other physical needs." However he then states
that despite that life and death is determined by G-d, if one places
himself in danger by drinking poison, or not eating or playing with lions
 - there is no guarantee that he won't die and one is prohibited to test
G-d. Placing one self in danger has two consequences "he will succeed
in killing himself and he will be held accountable as if he had killed
another person even though that other person's death was because of the
decree of G-d and His discretion nevertheless we have been warned by G-d
not to cause the death of another person and to the degree that we are
close to the victim the punishment is greater... so therefore if one kills
himself he is without doubt liable to severe punishment and suffering...."

By putting himself in danger e.g., jumping out of an airplane - he is
subject to the laws of nature. Thus he has the free will to create or
expose himself to danger and even though his life span was decreed by
Heaven - he will only be saved by miracle at the expense of his merit.
The Chovas Halevavos uses the expression "killing himself" twice.

Chovas HaLevavos and Tosfos(Kesubos 30a) state - as well as Chazal -
that the Heavenly decree of life span is only relevant when one is not
in a place of danger - but since one can place himself in danger he can
commit suicide. Similarly if a person is involved in a mitzvah he will
not be harmed - but that is only protection from unusual harm. If harm
is common he is subject to the danger.

Thus Kesubos (30a) is that everything is a decree from Heaven [exactly
as the Chovas Halevavos] - except for those things which a person can
guard himself from but doesn't.

Tosfos(Kesubos 30a): Everything is from Heaven except cold and heat -
However Shabbos (32a) says that a person should always avoid standing
in a dangerous place implies that a person is able to guard himself
from calamity. Similarly a person should not pass under a leaning
wall. The apparently contradictory sources can be resolved by saying that
Shabbos (32a) is describing negligence if a person doesn't act carefully
because after all a person has the ability to kill himself. Thus Kesubos
(30a) gemora is describing the case of illness which happens without
identifiable cause and thus can not be guarded against. In contrast
chilling and overheating does not come inevitably if a person wants to
guard himself...

This is also found in the Chagiga(4b): R' Yoseph cried when he read the
verse (Mishlei 13:23) It is swept away without justice. But does anyone
in fact die before their time without it being deserved because of sin?
Yes. R' Bibi Bar Abaye was frequently visited by the Angel of Death.
Once the Angel of Death said to his messenger "Go bring me Miriam the
hairdresser". By mistake the messenger brought Miriam the nursemaid.
When the Angel of Death noted that it was the wrong person, the messenger
said he would take her back. The Angel of death replied that since she
had been brought she should stay and be counted in the quota. But if it
wasn't her time to die how was it possible that she died? It was possible
because she burnt her foot while using the oven and that impaired her
mazel. R' Bibi bar Abaye asked the Angel of Death whether he was allowed
to take someone before their allotted time? He answered that the verse
(Mishlei 13:23) says It is taken away without justice. R' Bibi bar Abaye
said but it is also written (Koheles 1:4) One generation passes away and
then the next one comes. The Angel of Death replied that he holds on to
the souls until the generation is completed than he hands them to Dumah
(the angel in charge of the dead). R' Bibi bar Abaye asked what happened
to the unused years of her life? The Angel of Death replied that they
are given to a talmid chachom who ignores insults.

KINDLING OF THE [SABBATH] LIGHTS....And when are men examined?-Said Resh
Lakish: When they pass over a bridge. A bridge and nothing else?-Say,
that which is similar to a bridge. Rab would not cross a bridge where
a heathen was sitting; said he, Lest judgment be visited upon him,
and I be seized together with him. Samuel would cross a bridge only
when a heathen was upon it, saying, Satan has no power over two nations
[simultaneously]. R. Jannai examined [the bridge] and then crossed over.
R. Jannai [acted] upon his views, for he said, A man should never stand
in a place of danger and say that a miracle will be wrought for him, lest
it is not. And if a miracle is wrought for him, it is deducted from his
merits. R. Hanin said, Which verse [teaches this]? I am become diminished
by reason of all the deeds of kindness and all the truth.9 R. Zera would
not go out among the palm-trees on a day of the strong south wind.

Zohar(2 196a): [[R. Simeon further said: 'I swear to you that the majority
of people do not die before their time, but only those who know not how
to take heed to themselves. For at the time when a dead body is taken
from the house to the place of burial the Angel of Death haunts the
abodes of the women

In sum: I don't see any dispute that a person can kill himself- even
though lifespan is decreed in Heaven - because he has free will and can
freely subject himself to natural danger.

             Daniel Eidensohn

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Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2003 22:48:56 -0500
From: Kenneth G Miller <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Re: Learning in the "little library"

(this is a modified version of what I posted to Areivim prior to the
thread getting bounced here)

R' Akiva Atwood asked <<< Do we differentiate between "They believe
in God" (JPost), "God-d*mn" (modern novel), and "In the beginning God
created..." (Printed tanach)? Can one read a printed tanach in the
bathroom? Does the language matter? >>>

Let's separate the question into its component parts: How much kedusha
an object needs so that it would be assur to bring it into a bathroom
 - that's a subject I don't have a clear handle on. But whether or not
I can *read* such a book, magazine, or newspaper - that seems pretty
simple to me:

Isn't it a halacha that one cannot think about Torah in the bathroom? So
wouldn't it be logical to say that any publication which will cause one
to think Torah would be assur to read in the bathroom?

For example, if the Jerusalem Post (or Time magazine, for that matter)
has an article about religious belief, are there any of us who could
read it and not begin thinking Torah? Is it possible for *any*one to
read an English Tanach and not be thinking Torah?

I want to stress that I am not touching the question of whether such
publications can be in the bathroom at all, only which sort of articles
therein one should read or avoid reading.

I also stress the subjective nature of this causal relationship. If a
person is reading a novel which has zero religious content, but one of
the characters hurts himself and exclaims, "God %&*$# !!!", and one's
reaction is to think something along the lines of "Oh my! That character
took The Name in vain!" wouldn't that constitute thinking Torah? Somewho
who anticipates such reactions should consider reading something even
more bland, but one who would not have such reactions would not have
this problem.

RAA also asked <<< Does the language matter? >>>

Again, it depends very much on the individual. If a book had zero
religious content, and was also written in one's mother tongue, there's
probably no problem. But if his mother tongue is something other than
Hebrew, and the book *is* written in Hebrew, he should consider the
possibility that a randomly chosen word will remind him of a pasuk or
somewhere else that the shoresh is used. This is particularly relevant
to dikduk geeks who are always on the lookout for unusual forms. ---
Baruch SheKivanti! See the Mishna Brurah 85:5 who writes that it is
assur to study tables of nouns and verbs of Lashon Hakodesh, since one
usually needs to think about psukim for that study to be meaningful.

I am not going to pretend that avoiding Torah thoughts in the bathroom
is a simple task. In all seriousness, many of my best chiddushim come
to me in that room. But let's not fool ourselves into thinking that it
is muttar.

My wife loves to tell the story of when she was in seminary, and one of
her BT roommates used to keep her mind busy by reciting, "Here I am, in
the bathroom, not thinking any Torah thoughts!!" The irony was not lost
on anyone, even that girl herself, because we all know that reminding
ourselves of the issur is already a violation of it.

No one said it would be easy.

Akiva Miller

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