Avodah Mailing List

Volume 13 : Number 063

Tuesday, August 10 2004

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2004 14:14:14 -0700 (PDT)
From: Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>
Re: Evolution and Creationism

<hlampel@thejnet.com> wrote:
> Hashem created the universe
> in full form, and yes, with light-waves from stars already on their way
> to earth...

You can believe this if you want to. But how do you know you weren't
created five minutes ago with a full set of memories? Why would God
create a situation that would include seeing light waves that appear to
have traveled million light years before reaching our eyes?

> We Creationists have a mesorah from HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and therefore
> we look with skeptisicm at claims that contradict it. What compelling
> cause is there that makes evolutionists discount creation
> out-of-hand

You can believe whatever you want. Mesorah is fine as a starter but
is not enough and doesn't make that belief true. Christians, Muslims,
and Buddhists have a Mesorah too.

Belief must factor in factual data (otherwise known as Metzius). To
deny that data is to put blinders on and deny reality. There is nothing
incompatible about observing scientific data and reconciling it with
Torah. To deny scientific data is to put one's head in the sand and
deny one's own intelligence.


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Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2004 01:03:27 +0300
From: Akiva Atwood <akiva@atwood.co.il>
RE: Evolution and Creationism

> Really? Are there many "questions" other than those that exist simply
> because the questioners refuse to accept the principle (which was not
> first invented to "answer" evoutionists) that Hashem created the universe
> in full form, and yes, with light-waves from stars already on their way
> to earth?

One major objection: it isn't scientific.

Putting it bluntly -- "God" has no place in a scientific theory.

> We Creationists have a mesorah from HaKadosh Baruch Hu,

Where? The Torah is NOT a scientific textbook.

> we look with skeptisicm at claims that contradict it. What compelling
> cause is there that makes evolutionists discount creation out-of-hand?

The total lack of evidence?

Science and Religion are two DIFFERENT systems -- it's a mistake to use one
to explore and explain the domain of the other.

(AIU Gould's last book discusses this idea)

"If you want to build a ship, then don't drum up men to gather wood, give
orders, and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and
endless sea." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2004 18:49:23 -0400
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
RE: Evolution

> We Creationists have a mesorah from HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and therefore
> we look with skeptisicm at claims that contradict it. What compelling
> cause is there that makes evolutionists discount creation out-of-hand?

Ultimately, the reason that we believe that we have a mesora from hakadosh
baruch hu is because on some level, we believe that some evidence
derived from our reason and senses does not deceive us - which is why
we evolutionists do discount creationism in the form here propagated.
Credo quia absurdum est is a credo, but not a Jewish credo.

The real debate really isn't about evolution versus creationism - no
serious scientist doubts that, using standard scientific criteria, the
basic tenet of evolution has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt (the
debate, which exists, is about different models and details - and this
debate has been distorted by the creationists - and regardless of one's
perspective, intellectual honesty is needed) - nor about acceptance or
rejection of the mesora - but rather about our understanding about what
the mesora teaches us about hashem and his relationship to the world. From
a purely logical standpoint, the creation of a world fully formed,
made to appear much older than it is is something that can not be
disproven - nor can it be disproven that we were created yesterday -
but either statment implies something about the nature of hashem that
we find objectionable. There is nothing logically contradictory about
someone playing a cosmic joke on us - but it violates our understandin!
g of hashem, derived from the mesora, to think of him in this light

this is related to the debate between rambam and other rishonim whether
multiplying miracles testifies to hashem's power or actually denigrates
him - a fundamental difference in understanding in the role the mesora
recognizes for evidence derived by our reason and senses.

Meir Shinnar

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Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2004 08:41:32 +0200
From: S Goldstein <goldstin@netvision.net.il>

>Actually, it's interesting to note the differing responses of Rambam
>vs. Rav Svei, shlita and, libadel mei'chaim l'chaim, Rav Pam zt"l. The
>former was greatly saddened by people who learn this way[fantastic
>medrashim as pshat], while the latter were merely amused!

i think you missed pshat. they laughed at the vivid portrayal of the
impossibility of accepting this medrash as literal. they were not
responding to those who DO learn this medrash as pshat. maybe an
apology is in order.

shlomo goldstein

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Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2004 01:37:26 -0400
From: "mpress" <mpress@ix.netcom.com>
Re: scientists and religion

R. Eli Turkel wrote
> I find this post very deceiving. While there are scientists who are anti
> religious I have heard enough high level scientists who do indeed believe
> in G-d and many more who leave the question open. The extremists quoted
> above are certain not the typical scientist

R. Eli is not quite right. Polls of scientists tend to show that there
is no "typical scientist" but that life scientists tend to deny God's
role in creation or his very existence whereas physical scientists are
more likely to believe in a God who creates.


M. Press, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology and Chair, Touro College
mpress@ix.netcom.com or melechp@touro.edu

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Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2004 02:21:20 EDT
From: T613K@aol.com
Re: Evolution and Creationism

In  Avodah V13 #62 dated 8/9/04  Zvi Lampel <hlampel@thejnet.com> writes:
>> There are lots of questions with evolution that still need to be 
> resolved, [--RNS]

> Really? Are there many "questions" other than those that exist simply
> because the questioners refuse to accept the principle (which was not
> first invented to "answer" evolutionists) that Hashem created the universe
> in full form, and yes, with light-waves from stars already on their way
> to earth?

The age of the universe is a separate question from evolution and the
origin of species. Like you, I am a creationist, but probably not as
literal a creationist as you are. The Torah states unequivocally that
the world was CREATED, but it is far less clear about how long ago this
happened or how long the process took.

It is possible, as you say, that the universe was created in its full
form and only LOOKS old--that it was created with light waves from
distant stars already half-way here. But I don't find this satisfying,
because a world that only looks old, and a world that really IS old--to
me this seems a distinction without a difference.

If I was born a few minutes ago with all my documents, photographs and
memories--or if, in contrast, all these documents, photos and memories
represent events that actually occurred--seem to be two equivalent
scenarios which cannot be meaningfully distinguished.

But if it IS possible to distinguish the two, then there would seem to be
an element of Divine deception involved. I never really went to college,
G-d just created me with a diploma on the wall? There never were any
dinosaurs, He just created the world with dinosaur bones? I don't buy it.
He might create a world that lends itself to different interpretations--a
world that a man exercising bechira could see as created or not-created.
But He would not create a world with deliberate deception, with artifacts
placed in it JUST to mislead us.

[Email #2. -mi]

In Avodah V13 #62 dated 8/9/04  eli turkel <turkel@post.tau.ac.il> writes:
>>  You can bang on their doors begging for
>> acceptance, but the Asimovs, the Goulds and the Sagans do not and will not
>> recognize you as a member of their august fraternity. Like anti-Semites
>> who can't tell the difference between old cultured Jewish money and
>> tattered refugees from the shtetel, scientists do not distinguish between
>> intellectual, sophisticated religious believers and primitive, ignorant
>> religious believers.>  [--TK]

> I find this post very deceiving. While there are scientists who are anti
> religious I have heard enough high level scientists who do indeed believe
> in G-d and many more who leave the question open. The extremists quoted
> above are certain not the typical scientist.

To quote myself, in the part of my original posting [in Avodah V13 #61]
that you seem to have overlooked:

>>...."science" and "scientist" are also words with multiple meanings,
often confused. They too, come in O and R definitions. The scientist-O
does all kinds of observations and experiments and writes up his results
in learned journals. The scientist-R has a certain belief system and
engages in speculation dressed up as fact. Science-R is the belief that
THERE IS NO GOD. That is its only Ani Maamin, alpha and omega of its
learning and its morality.

>>Asimov, Gould and Sagan are all exemplars of this kind of scientist,
one who borrows the prestige earned by the intellect and hard work of
science-O to buttress his faith in science-R. <<

I don't know whether you would call Asimov, Gould and Sagan "extremists"
but they are all extremely anti-religious and all very well-respected
in the scientific community. Were, I should say. By now I think they
are all in a place where they already know the truth.

You say you know many "high level scientists who do indeed believe in
G-d." Scientists who believe in G-d are fairly common, actually. But in
their fields of expertise they dare not mention their religious beliefs,
or they can never get tenure and never be published in respected journals.

There was a recent case of a science writer--I have forgotten
his name--who was fired from *Scientific American* for believing in
creation, even though he never breathed a word of it in his columns in
that magazine. The publishers felt that the entire magazine would lose
prestige and credibility if it got out that one of their columnists
was a believer. *Scientific American* is not generally considered an
"extreme" magazine.

You can also read any issue of *Discover* magazine--another well-respected
science magazine--if you want proof of the anti-religious bias in the
science establishment. Serious scientists who believe in G-d but keep
their views private are generally the ones I called "Scientists-O."
The ones who publish and edit the journals and textbooks are almost all

 -Toby Katz

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Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2004 10:05:50 +0300
From: Zoo Torah <zoorabbi@zootorah.com>
Re: evolution

I am glad to see that Rebbetzen Katz's belief in "special creation" is
not merely due to "in for a penny, in for a pound," as I had understood
from her previous posting, but rather based on a specific reason: the
multiple appearances of the phrase "Vayomer Elokim..."

However, I disagree that this phrase necessarily indicates that each
item was created ex nihilo (or from dirt) rather than evolving from
other creatures. Why should it mean that? One of these phrases refers
to the creation of the luminaries. Now, as far as I know, there is
excellent scientific knowledge regarding how these formed. Another of
these phrases refers to all aquatic creatures - including whales. If
whales are not descended from terrestrial animals, why do their bodies
show every sign of it? Another of these phrases refers to terrestrial
insects (6th day). If some of these did not evolve from flying insects
(5th day), why do they have wings that are sealed under fused wing
covers? You can probably come up with responses to these, but I think
that the simplest and most reasonable conclusion is that the pattern
of evolution is true even across these groups. I don't think that the
phrase "vayomer Elokim," which can be explained in myriads of ways,
is sufficient reason to think differently.

Having a natural explanation for the formation of the luminaries or
animal life does not rule out God's creative involvement, just like
the valid natural explanations for weather patterns, medical recoveries
and military victories do not rule out our praising Hashem for them or
considering Him to be "Deus Absconditus."

Kol tuv
Nosson Slifkin

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Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2004 02:00:31 EDT
From: T613K@aol.com
Re: "Height of People in Chumash" ties in with "Evolution"!

In Avodah V13 #62 dated 8/9/04  R' Nosson Slifkin <zoorabbi@zootorah.com> 
> The mysterious SBA writes that the idea a fifteen-foot Moshe and a
> skyscraper Og need not be discounted due to its physical impossibility,
> because:

SBA is not mysterious at all and will tell you what his initials stand
for, and anything else you want to know, if you just ask. It is true
that he is more inclined than I am to take medrashim literally, but this
is not necessarily the mark of his being (as per Rambam's quote, below)
"intellectually weak." I am not certain that everyone agrees with the
Rambam that belief in the literal truth of Medrash is the mark of the
simpleton. I am not even sure if the Rambam was actually saying that.

> <<Neither is Krias Yam Suf and the earth swallowing up Korach and his
> gang "physically possible"... What about the 10 makkos in Mitzrayim? Or
> Sarah Imeinu giving birth at 90 or Yocheved giving birth etc etc. And
> what about Moshe Rabeinu going up to heaven and staying there 40 days
> and nights [and not eating and drinking]? And the whole parsha of Mattan
> Torah? I could go on, but I am sure you get my drift. [--SBA]

All the above miracles mentioned by SBA are written in the Torah,
except for Yocheved giving birth in old age (which must be deduced
by doing some arithmetic--and I always skip the arithmetic Rashis).
They are not medrashim. They must have actually happened.

I don't think the miracles in the Torah are supposed to be understood
allegorically. I think, for instance, that the Ten Plagues, Krias Yam
Suf and Ma'amad Har Sinai all really happened.

About Og, I understand the Torah to be saying that Og was a giant,
literally--but that doesn't mean there was anything supernatural about
him, necessarily.

> And later in the same digest, Rebbetzen Katz writes regarding the
> emergence of new species that:

> <<my feeling is--in for a penny, in for a pound. If you are already going
> to postulate a supernatural interference in the course of the universe,
> why not go all the way and postulate the there was a separate creation
> for each species or at least for every major class?>>

> While I doubt that Rebbetzen Katz believes in a skyscraper Og, the same
> basic point is being made by both these Areivimites: since Hashem can
> do miracles, then we can accept anything as being a result of miracles,
> and we need never look for alternate explanations....I must disagree.

You are correct that I do not believe in a skyscraper Og. To be specific,
I don't think every medrash has to be understood literally, especially
when different meforshim differ with each other.

Og may have been "merely" seven feet tall. Tall enough and strong enough
to be famous, not so tall as to require a miracle to survive every day.
That he was the "polit" who survived the Flood, told Avraham about Lot's
capture, and became the King of the Bashan--well, let's just say that
I don't think it is necessary to believe all that literally in order to
be an ehrlicher Yid.

When you describe my position as >>since Hashem can do miracles, then
we can accept anything as being a result of miracles, and we need never
look for alternate explanations..>> that is an oversimplification of
what I hold.

Obviously, there would never have been any scientific progress if we had
just said about every phenomenon in the world, "That's just how G-d does
it." The knowledge that science has brought into the world has greatly
deepened our awe of a Creator whose workings are so incredibly complex
and amazing. "Mah gadlu ma'asecha Hashem" takes on greater resonance,
the more science we know.

>  The beginning of
> the universe would have to be a miracle - physical coming from spiritual -
> but there's no reason why other events in the later development of the
> world would have to be miracles.

When the Torah says something happened, it happened.  

> Let's get back to these cases. A skyscraper Og would be an extraordinary,
> ongoing miracle. Rashba and Rambam (amongst many others!) consider this
> absurd. 

Then I am in good company. I agree with them that it's absurd, as I
wrote above. In this instance, it seems, you and I are in agreement.
Perhaps I should stop right here, at this rare moment of accord.

> Either Rashi believed things that his contemporaries thought
> to be absurd, or he agreed that it was metaphorical and was merely
> showing how the pshat of the passuk can be made to conform with its
> deeper explanation ....

Agreed, Rashi may quote a medrash because of something in the wording
of the passuk--without necessarily taking that medrash literally.

> And now for evolution. Rebbetzen Katz agrees that millions of new
> species have come into existence at various times over the last billion
> years or so. Either they keep on popping into existence out of thin
> air - poof! (Imagine how much money you could make if you caught it on
> video!) Or, the Creator who can design a tadpole that turns into a frog
> in its own lifetime, is also capable of designing a system whereby one
> species turns into another species. The latter sounds far more reasonable.

But He may have created major classes, which then had the potential
to evolve into new species, but not into entirely different classes of
species. You don't actually know how He created the species.

"Be'asarah ma'amaros nivra ha'olam." Not just one creation, but several.
I went looking and have to admit I couldn't find all ten (Help, anyone?).
But here are some of them:

"Vayomer Elokim, Yehi ohr." [electromagnetic radiation]

"Vayomer Elokim, yehi rakia...." [an atmosphere]

"Vayomer Elokim, yikavu hamayim...."

"Vayomer Elokim, tadsheh ha'aretz desheh...." [plants]

"Vayomer Elokim, yehi me'oros berekiyah..." [hard to understand, sun
and moon coming AFTER vegetation, but possible to speculate: maybe thick
cloud cover in early earth obscured them from view. Maybe planet earth
developed life when it was part of a different solar system, and later
wandered from its original star and got captured into solar orbit.]

"Vayomer Elokim, yishratzu hamayim."  [lower animals--invertebrates?]

"Vayomer Elokim, Totzai ha'aretz nefesh chaya."  [higher 

"Vayomer Elokim, Na'aseh adam...." [man]

He may have created just one single-celled plant, from which all other
plants evolved. Just one sheretz species, from which all others evolved,
just one animal species, from which all the other animals evolved,
just one human pair from whom all races descended. But at least for the
creatures about which it says, "Vayomer Elokim" there does seem to have
been a separate creation--ten in all, it seems, by the words of Chazal.

Belief in a "Deus Absconditus" who set the world in motion once, with a 
single creation, and then left--is not normative Judaism.

> Rambam and many other Rishonim did not use the reasoning of "Hashem can
> do anything" to accept the numerous fantastic stories in the Gemara at
> face value. It's worth going over his words again:

> "There are those... are those who believe in their literal (or "simple")
> meaning. ...
> "And this is the group of the intellectually weak. 

There is a critical distinction between "fantastic stories" in the Gemara
and Midrash, and miracle stories in the actual written Torah. Explaining
the Mabul or Kriyas Yam Suf as allegorical stories that didn't actually
happen is kefira or very close. (I will accept that the Mabul may not
have covered the entire planet--but not that it didn't happen at all)

One should bemoan their
> foolishness; for they think that they are honoring and elevating Chazal,
> but in fact they are degrading them with the ultimate degradation, yet
> they do not realize this. 

Obviously, I don't think believing in the Torah is foolishness. The
words of Chazal are not identical with the words of the written Torah.

True, the written Torah itself cannot be taken literally in every
instance--for instance, when it speaks of "the hand of G-d," that
is obviously not meant literally. His "hand" is a figure of speech,
referring to His power. In such cases, the meaning of the figure of speech
is clear from the context. However, when the Torah says an incident took
place--it took place.

In the case of Creation, there were clearly several acts of Creation
along the way, as the world and everything in it came into being. No, not
every one of the millions of species popped into being separately--but
nor did all the species on earth result from a single act of creation,
one time, that then unfolded naturally. I am basing myself on what is
clear in the Chumash. What the Chumash leaves unclear is how long this
all took and how exactly He created all the different species. Yes,
there is room for evolution, but not in any sense that would make Asimov,
Gould or Sagan happy.

 -Toby Katz

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Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2004 10:05:50 +0300
From: Zoo Torah <zoorabbi@zootorah.com>
Re: Height of people in chumash

Rebbetzen Katz and myself are, happily, in agreement about Og. I
also fully agree that "There is a critical distinction between
"fantastic stories" in the Gemara and Midrash, and miracle stories
in the actual written Torah." (Did I write anything that indicated
differently?). Miracles in the written Torah are few and far between, they
are usually highlighted as such, and they usually *had* to be miracles,
serving a specific purpose as such. Unlike the multitude of fantastic
stories in the Midrash, which are intended to be conveying deeper ideas.

(By the way, those who allegorize the Mabul do not do so out of an
unwillingness to accept miracles, but rather out of an unwillingness to
accept miracles that, had they happened, would have left distinct results,
such as the destruction of all life, but did not do so.)

Incidentally, I found an interesting essay at
http://www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha/eng/chukath/kos.html which brings further
sources showing that the Aggadata about Og is not literal. E.g. Chiddushei
HaGeonim, who writes that "This remark is strange and far-fetched,
hard to imagine, and very discomfiting."

I'll address evolution in a separate message.

Kol tuv
Nosson Slifkin

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Date: Mon, 09 Aug 2004 17:34:02 -0400
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Rashi on chumash

>> But Rashi in chumash doesn't do agadah, unless it's necessary to the
>> simple meaning. If he says beamat ish means Og's amot, he must mean it
>> literally, and be forced to this translation by a difficulty with the
>> pshat, not by following some allegory in the gemara, that the 5-year-old
>> he's writing for hasn't learned yet.

> I know this is RMMS's position. However, who writes a notebook for anyone
> but themself as the primary reader?

"Kutres" is Rashi on the gemara, not on chumash. Perush Rashi on chumash
was not collected posthumously from notes Rashi wrote for himself,
it was written and published by Rashi himself.

> Also, would Rashi's grammatical notes make sense to a 5 yr old, or
> address questions a 5 yr old was capable of worrying about?

A 5-year-old who is a native speaker of Hebrew, and is learning dikduk
at the same time. Rashi gives the child pointers in dikduk as they come
up in the chumash (to the extent that dikduk existed in Rashi's day,
that is).

Zev Sero

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Date: Mon, 09 Aug 2004 17:48:44 -0400
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
bechira chofshit

Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com> wrote:
> But belief is not necessarily based on fact although facts may have a
> part in that belief. If God was a profvable fact, then we would have no
> Bechira Chafshis. God purposely hides himself from us in order to give
> us Bechira Chafshis.

If so, what sort of bechira chofshit did Dor Hamidbar have? Or anybody
else who saw open miracles?

AFAIK, bechira chofshit consists of *knowing* that G-d exists, and that
He wants us to do something, and tells us that the consequence of obeying
will be 'hachayim vehatov' and the consequences of disobeying will be
'hamavet vehara', and choosing whether to believe Him, and whether to
obey Him. That's why nobody sins without a 'ruach shtut'; a completely
rational person would believe that Hashem is telling the truth about
the consequences of sin, and would always forgo short-term pleasure to
avoid long-term harm. A completely rational person would also never
spend money on luxuries, knowing that the cost, and all the compound
interest it would have earned, will come out of her retirement fund.
And she would never eat unhealthy things, smoke, waste time, etc. Most
of us are not that rational, which is why we do all sorts of things that
we know will harm us in the long run. IMHO that's what the Torah means
by bechira, not having to made decisions based on unknowable variables,
just guessing, and calling it faith.

Zev Sero

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Date: Mon, 09 Aug 2004 18:28:44 -0400
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Re: tikun ha-olam (LONG)

eli turkel <turkel@post.tau.ac.il>
>> "On the contrary. There is a huge obligation of tikun olam in terms
>> of encouraging the moral development of goyim. But that obligation is
>> entirely on us, not on them. A goy has to worry about his own moral
>> development, and has no mitzvah to educate his neighbour. A goy can be a
>> Noach, and when the flood comes he will build his tevah and be saved. He
>> doesn't have to care about his neighbours' behaviour, or try to improve
>> them and prevent the flood. But Avraham's mission is different, it's not
>> just to perfect himself but to perfect the whole world. The nitzotzot
>> that are among the goyim must be retrieved, not by the goyim but by
>> us. Which is why 'the Jews were only exiled among the goyim in order
>> that converts be added to them'."

> According to this all those people (not just Germans) who knew what was
> happening in the death camps were perfectly justified in ignoring it.
> The story is that the future pope was pleaded with to help the Jews in
> his city and he refused (and is not up for sainthood). According to the
> above he was completely justified according to Halacha.

> So why do we object to such people?

1. Those who object do so, not because they think these goyim could have
educated the Nazis ym"sh and worried about their souls, but because they
could have saved the lives of their victims. Hiding Jews, helping them
escape, interceding with the Germans on their behalf, etc., would have
done nothing for 'tikun olam' as such; the resha'im would have remained
resha'im, and horrible crimes would have continued to be done, but some
or many lives could have been saved.

2. Who says 'we' object? It is settled halacha that a goy is not
obligated in kidush hashem, so he need not place himself in danger to
save another. Those who received the 'chasidei umot haolam' award from
Yad Vashem did risk their own safety, and they deserve credit for it;
some of them claimed that they did nothing special, that they couldn't
imagine *not* acting as they did, but al pi halacha I think they were
entitled to close their eyes and look after their own safety, and they
deserve praise (and olam haba, despite the Rambam's strict criteria)
for not doing so.

3. Even if someone could have saved people without any risk, is a goy
obligated in 'lo taamod al dam re'echa'? I don't think so. Note that
the obligation is not to save *anybody's* life, it's specifically to
save the life of 're'echa'; the mitzvah does not apply to someone who
is not re'echa. I see 'lo taamod' as part of a whole suite of mitzvot
that come under the general heading of 'veahavta lere'acha kamocha',
and I don't think the whole concept of re'a applies to a goy. Just as
a goy is allowed to charge interest, both to Jews and to fellow-goyim,
I believe he is allowed to walk past a person in trouble, Jew or goy,
and decline to help. If he chooses to help, he is going lifnim mishurat
hadin, and is to be commended for it.

4. I think you're talking about the then-Pope, not a future Pope; I also
think that 'not up for sainthood' is a typo, and you meant to say 'now'.
The question of what Pius XII did, and what more he could have done,
is complicated enough that I don't have a firm opinion. I certainly
agree with his defenders that his first responsibility was to look out
for the safety of Catholics under Nazi rule, and he had to be careful
not to jeopardise them further. It's also true that he *did* condemn
the Nazis, though in careful terms, and that he *did* help Jews; the
question is how much, and whether he could reasonably have done more.
Assuming that he could have done more, should he have? By our standards,
I think he was entitled not to, but by the standards of his own Church
the answer is different. Certainly, though, when the question is not
whether he was a decent person but whether he was a saint, which isn't
something the Church is supposed to give out like candy (though you
wouldn't know it from the current papacy), it's relevant to ask not
just whether he did all he was obligated to do, but whether he went
'lifnim mishurat hadin', whether he was as holy a person as all those
Chasidei Umot Haolam who did take risks to save people.

5. German citizens had a different obligation, because the evil was
being done in their name, and to the extent that they consented to be
governed by the Nazis they shared vicariously in the responsibility for
their crimes. This is part of what is meant by 'metzuvin al hadinim',
and why the men of Shechem shared in the guilt for the crime committed
against Dinah. Not that they had an individual obligation to act, but
that as a society they had the responsibility to make sure that the
rules of civilisation are enforced, and that such things don't happen.
But again, they're not obligated in Kidush Hashem, so those who didn't
support the Nazis can't be blamed for keeping their heads down and not
endangering themselves by taking up arms.

Zev Sero

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Date: Mon, 09 Aug 2004 19:29:36 -0400
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>

"Feldhamer, Stuart" <Stuart.Feldhamer@us.cibc.com> wrote:
> The beginning of the pasuk says, "Ki rak Og melech HaBashan nishar
> mi'yeter harefaim". Then it goes on, "hinei orso..." and gives us
> the measurements. If refaim means "giants" or something similar, it
> would make sense why the Torah then gives measurements for Og's bed,
> to prove the point. However, refaim may mean something else, in which
> case the second half of the pasuk would be trying to tell us something
> else. But I can't see refaim referring to a class of people who really
> liked to have a lot of space in their beds or a lot of stuffed animals
> or something like that. There must be some connection between the two
> parts of the pasuk, right?

Let's suppose that you're right, and the second half is meant to tell
us how big he was. So he was very big indeed. Why does the Torah want
to tell us this?

Perhaps to impress us with how great a victory Moshe won over him.
Here was this giant, who seemed invincible, and with Hashem's help we
overcame him.

Now let's revisit the pasuk. If the point is to impress us by letting us
know some memorable facts about the vanquished enemy, rather than merely
documenting his size for the Guinness Book of Records, then we need
no longer couple the two halves quite so closely. Perhaps we are being
told *two* memorable facts about Og: 1) he was the last of the giants;
2) he had an enormous bed, enormous even by the standards of giants,
which can still (at the time of writing, which is less than a year after
the victory) be seen in Amman.

Which brings up the question of why the Torah says the bed can be seen,
when it was written less than a year after the event, and the audience
remembered it well. It's difficult to say that the pasuk is addressing
future generations, from the time of writing until whatever time the bed
was removed from display, because the fact is that at some point it *was*
removed from display, and if you travel to Amman today you will not see
it. I find it difficult to imagine that the pasuk is addressing *some*
future generations, but not all, so I am forced to conclude that it's
addressing Moshe's own generation. In that case, why is it written so?

1. On a very balebatish level, not all 600K men, plus their wives and
children, participated in the battle. Not all of them saw Og in person,
and certainly not all of them went to Amman and saw the bed. (How did it
get to Amman? Og's kingdom was in the north, and Amman wasn't even part
of Sichon's kingdom, and remained in Ammonite hands until David's time!)

2. Perhaps this was something for which Og was renowned even in his own
day. Perhaps he was known as Og the Giant and as Og of the Enormous Bed,
Which Is On Display In Amman.

3. Perhaps (a variant of the above) this is why the Malbim (IIRC what
someone posted here) suggests that it was his cot from when he was a baby
(and measured a 'mere' 9x4 normal amot), and so it had been a well-known
tourist attraction for many years. Perhaps the Amman museum bought it,
or it was a good-will gift from Og, or perhaps he was born in that area,
before he went north to seek his fortune. Of course, Rashi can't agree
with this, because he's already told the reader that Og survived the
flood, and it's not reasonable to suppose that his old cot did too,
and was discovered in the rubble.

Zev Sero

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