Avodah Mailing List

Volume 16 : Number 102

Wednesday, January 25 2006

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 08:56:55 EST
From: Mlevinmd@aol.com
Re: Emunah, Perakim and the Mabul

[Written in reply to Lisa Liel. -mi]

First I greatly appreciate the work you have done and continue to do.

> We know very little, for instance, about the Avot. Even if we were
> to include all of the midrashic material, we still have a few dozen
> vignettes covering all of their lives. The historical Avraham Avinu
> is all but unknown to us. The Torah gives us only the bits that were
> necessary to teach us what Hashem wanted. If we knew all the details
> of Avraham Avinu's life, we might see someone very different overall.
> But that is a far cry from saying that the details of his life that the
> Torah does tell us didn't actually happen. Or didn't happen as described.

The justification for saying this (and it is not my personal view at
all) is what the Rambam wrote in the introduction to the Morah. He says
there that there are certain truths which the Torah deliberately hides
in a Moshol because they are not suitable for average people. See also
the Moreh I,17. Once you say that, the obfuscation is deliberate and it
no longer impacts on our Emuna to claim that certain things in Genesis
are a moshol.

I do want to point out that we do not find any RIshon of stature, to my
knowledge, ( I exclude Aristoteleans such as R. S. ibn Tibbon and others)
who wrote that anything after the Maaseh Breishis is a moshol.

The Rashbo's comments about those who claim that Avraham and Sara were
chomer and tsurah and the 12 Shevatim represent 12 segments of the
Zodiac are well known. Extreme allegorizations seems to have been
rejected long ago and we need to find other answers for the problems
of archeological evidence.

M. Levin

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Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 06:43:00 -0800 (PST)
From: Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>
Re: Emunah, Perakim and the Mabul

Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org> wrote:
> On Sun, Jan 22, 2006 at 08:46:50AM -0800, Harry Maryles wrote:
>: It remains very perplexing in my eyes and deserves something better than
>: an answer of "Fun Ah Kashe Shtarb'd Min Nisht".

> Yes it does. That doesn't mean we're capable of more.

That is not what it means. The Gemarah sometimes ends off a dispute with
the word "Kasha" instead of Teiku, without answering it. This doesn't
mean that it can't be answered. It's just that the Gemarah didn't bother
for some reason. Same thing here. I submit that there are answers and
the questions are troubling enough to some to make it worthwhile seeking

The Mabul problems have not been reconciled one way ot the other for
me. And as I said, I am not really equipped to deal with the science
side of it. In fact I am probably not that equipped on the Mesorah
side either. I believe that there is a reconciliation that would utilize
Occam's Razor... meaning that we need apply the least amount of alteration
to either side in order to come up with a satisfactory reconciliation
between the two disciplines: Science and Emunah.

I would love to hear experts in both disciplines explain their positions
in light if each others Taanos. Or better, if there are experts in the
scientific artifacts that seem to contradict the Torah narrative and yet
still believe in a literal interpretation of the Mabul, I would like to
hear them explain it.


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Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 10:07:05 -0500
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
RE: Emunah, Perakim and the Mabul

> However, when using a story to illustrate a point one can use history
> of myth. When the mesorah gives every indication that a particular story
> is history, it's making a non-*essential* but still very real point.

> All you've shown is that denying the mabul isn't kefirah. Not that it
> isn't whittling mesorah down to fit science.

There are several issues here.
One question, of course, is what do you mean by saying that "the mesora
gives evrey indication that a particular story is history". That is a
matter of personal interpretation, and is not clear.

Eg, as in a prior debate, prior to the rambam, I think that every source
I am aware of would have viewed the beginning of parshat vayera as a
historical event, with three angels appearing to avraham. (can you find
anything to the contrary?)

Comes the rambam, based on the science of his time, on the problem of
angels being corporeal beings, (again, I am not aware of any what you
would call "internal torah source") - and states that every time a story
describes an angel as appearing, we know that that this is occuring
in a prophetic state - even if everything else suggests that the story
is occuring in real life. We know that the ramban objected vigorously
to this. However, RA Lichtenstein cited this example as permitting the
use of allegorization of the mabul.

The second problem is that you view that science is something that is
inherently extrinsic to the mesora - and therefore view the conflict
as between internal (mesora) and external (science). The problem is
that the mesora itself recognizes that the truths of science, which are
a product of the human reason given to us by hashem - has a religious
status, and that the mesora and science should not be in conflict (and
this is not merely the rambam, but also the Kuzari) - although there
may be debate over the validity of some of the conclusions of science,
we view that the mesora itself gives legitimacy to the claims of science
(as in the Kuzari - halila la'kel that we should be forced to believe
anything against the sechel)

The question, of course, is when science and the mesora seem to conflict.
As the mesora tells us (and you seem to agree) that the historical truth
is not something that is important to it, and it gives us the mechanism
of reconciliation - even if prior readings of the mesora did not see the
conflict and therefore did not see any need to reconcile - we reconcile.
The problem arises when conflicts occur over issues that the mesora does
view as important.
- and then the mesora tells us which parts

>:                                          It is not a "god of the gaps"
>: - because "god of the gaps" means that there are theologically important
>: issues that aren't answered by the mesora, and only some leftovers -
>: but one that insists that phrasing it as "god of the gaps" radically
>: misconstrues what the mesora and torah are all about...

> Thor was a "god of the gaps". Lightining wasn't understood, and it was
> powerful and scarey. So, they proposed a god to explain it, and thus
> safety comes from keeping him happy and understanding it boils down to
> reading his myth and moods. Once they felt they understood lightening
> scientifically, they could do away with Thor.

> It the same attitude as "There is nothing left to do but pray". Aren't we
> supposed to pray WHILE there are still other things left to do? Doesn't
> our belief in a scientific resolution coexist with our belief in a
> theistic one?

To use your example - even within the mesora, thunder and lightning were
viewed by many as direct manifestations of hashem's gvura, and there
are aggadta describing the meaning. For many of us today, thunder and
lightning are manifestations of physical phenomena - not fundamentally
different than other weather events (and probably better understood
than many other weather events) - but our theistic resolution is that
hashem's gvura is manifested precisely through these physical phenomena.
Is that understanding and relationship to thunder and lightning different
than most ba'ale mesora five hundred years ago? Is that problematic?

Also See the discussion within the ramban (hardly a rationalist)about
how Greek physical science understanding of the rainbow affects our
understanding of the brit made with noah.

The real issue is what is fundamental to the mesora. It isn't that
there is nothing left to do but pray - but the mesora is so multivalued
about issues of history and science - and has an internal history of
not viewing those issues as paramount, and being willing to modify its
views about those in response to chalenges - that it tells us what is
truly fundamental to it.
Remember, the rambam, in trying to define halacha lemoshe misinai,
concludes that it's defining characteristic is that it is not the subject
of dispute. True fundamental mesora is also not the subject of dispute
- and what is commonly accepted today as quasi normative hashkafa is
something that historically was very disputed - leading its authority
in question.

Our theistic belief is there - but true theistic belief is that the
details of the history and science is irrelevant to hashem's being and
our avoda.

> The idea that the mesorah includes beliefs, even as non-essentials,
> which are simply stopgaps until science gives us a "real answer" is a
> "god of the gaps" approach to religion.

take another example. Books considered within the mesora have a fairly
detailed understanding of disease, based both on theology and Greek
Is the scientific answer a better answer than the answer of 300 years
ago? yes. If your kid is sick with a fever, do you now go to the rav
or a doctor? (the issue is not whether you also go to the rav - but
which is primary?)

Now, does it eliminate hashem from the picture -depends on your view, and
for many it might, but the rambam teaches us that hashem works through
natural law - and that therefore science is a theistic answer. Perhaps
not as simple, and perhaps not as emotionally satisfying as the older
picture - but still a theistic picture.

The issue is whether texts of the mesora contain both things which
are essentials, and others which are not. This is at the heart of the
debate over the status of midrashic and aggadic statements - because
the position of rav hai gaon is, quite simply, that many statements of
canonical texts are not canonical - and this has very strong implications.
Essential beliefs of the mesora are not stopgaps. However, many beliefs
held strongly by many are not necessarily essential - and science
therefore has a role (recognized by strands in the mesora itself) in
those beliefs.
Today, that is considered by some to be kfira- and it does have its
dangers. However, ignoring science is also dangerous...

>: WRT to yetziat mitzraim, that is more problematic, because part of avoday
>: hashem is directly related to zechirat yetziat mitzraim.

> And the avos? Are they too fair game? Or is there a difference
> between before and after "Arami oveid avi"? I find this game
> surreal. (Acknowledged that that's an otherwise content-free statement
> of my own emotional makeup.)

No, it is a reflection of your education.

In one of the sichot of rav ZY Kook, he holds essentially that prior to
lech lecha is (and from the wording I can't tell which) either prehistory
and parahistory - not something over which we have detailed information.
The avot are such a fundamental part of the context of the halacha that
they become more problematic to allegorize.

Note that the rambam does allegorize many events, and some meforshim even
understand him to say that such a foundational event as the akeda, because
a mal'ach is mentioned, must therefore be occuring in a prophetic dream.
That is something that is emotionally difficult for me to accept.
However, the question is that because this is wrong or because of
my limitations. The rambam describes beliefs that are not necessarily
correct, but are necessary for the masses to believe in. We all have
different thresholds where we would find it difficult to accept - but the
fact that I (or you) find it difficult does not mean that it is wrong...

>: 2. One of the question is the nature of what ultimately true
>: faith entails - is it better to believe in a system that claims to
>: comprehensively explain everything, or to believe purely in avodat
>: hashem without all the explanations. One believes more, the other
>: believes more purely...

> But neither is the option before us. The question isn't on life without
> explanations, but life with conflicting explanations.

The issue is the range of explanations offered by the mesora. In one
extreme, it offers a comprehensive explanation of the entire universe -
and our avoda plays an important role in the universe. In the other
extreme, it offers an understanding primarily of hashem's relationship
to us and the universe - but not of the universe itself(not something
so small, but still less) - and our avoda has therefore a different role.

Meir Shinnar

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Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 12:13:11 +0100
From: Minden <phminden@arcor.de>
Re: Brochas over spices

R"n Chana Luntz wrote:
> For example, certain Sephardim (the Gibraltarians spring to mind)

Same with Yemenites.

> have, after making kiddush but before making hamotzei on shabbas,  
> various food items (olives and others out on the table) just so they can  
> enable them to make more brochas...


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Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 23:32:05 +0200
From: Moshe Feldman <moshe.feldman@gmail.com>
Re: Everyone on the Same Level

I wrote:
> <<Perhaps only a major
> rav could adopt such a chumra, as people might not feel slighted by his
> not eating. A regular ba'al ha'bayis, even one who is a tzaddik nistar,
> might be ill-advised to adopt such a chumra, as (1) this would impact
> on de'orasos of bein adam l'chaveiro....>>

(dealing with chumros in general) pointed me to Shu"t Mabit 3:68
(my loose translation): "I have heard that there are... those who do
not eat from our food and use different dishes and make themselves
holy by refraining from eating what is permitted to sages greater than
themselves, and do not wish to be present at se'udos mitzvah of even their
close relatives... and this is a chilul ha'Torah to the nations of the
world because they think of the Torah as being two ("shtei toros")....
Al ti'hiyu chasidim harbei--it is enough for you what the Torah has
forbidden. It is sufficient to be careful with regard to the [issurim]
which the majority of careful Jews are careful about, not to create
new chumros.... These chumros have led to strife in seudos mitzvah
and between man and wife...."

To be fair, the Mabit was talking about specific chumros which he believed
had no basis, yet the language is instructive.

Kol tuv,

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Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 17:00:12 -0500
From: Yitzchok Levine <llevine@stevens.edu>
Re: Everyone on the Same Level

At 04:32 PM 01/25/2006, Moshe Feldman wrote:
>(dealing with chumros in general) pointed me to Shu"t Mabit 3:68 (my
>loose translation): "I have heard that there are... those who do
>not eat from our food and use different dishes and make themselves
>holy by refraining from eating what is permitted to sages greater than
>themselves, and do not wish to be present at se'udos mitzvah of even
>their close relatives... and this is a chilul ha'Torah to the
>nations of the world ...

I have been told by a Rov whom I consider to be knowledgeable about
kashrus not to eat in any place that is under the supervision of a
certain rabbi in Brooklyn. This Rov will not allow anything under this
supervision into his shul.

Several months ago a relative made a simcha in a hall that is under the
supervision of the rabbi whom I was told not to rely on. I did not eat
at the simcha. Are you implying by the above that I should have?

I do not consider my not eating at this affair a "chumra" at all. If
one has reason to suspect that the kashrus of place is questionable (at
least to some), is one required to nonetheless to eat there? Now the
relatives who made the simcha at this place feel that the supervision
is reliable. That is certainly their decision to make. But don't I also
have a right to abide by my standards?

Yitzchok Levine  

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Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006 00:54:37 +0200
From: Moshe Feldman <moshe.feldman@gmail.com>
Re: Everyone on the Same Level

On 1/26/06, Yitzchok Levine <llevine@stevens.edu> wrote:
> I have been told by a Rov whom I consider to be knowledgeable about kashrus
> not to eat in any place that is under the supervision of a certain rabbi in
> Brooklyn. This Rov will not allow anything under this supervision into his
> shul.

> Several months ago a relative made a simcha in a hall that is under the
> supervision of the rabbi whom I was told not to rely on. I did not eat at
> the simcha. Are you implying by the above that I should have?

No. In that case, you have specific information that a real problem
(which is not a chumra) exists. That is different from the situation
where you do not know of a specific problem and are faced with the
issue of whether to eat the food of someone whom you know to be a yirei
shamayim and medakdek b'mitzvos. You might ask, "but can I be 100%
sure that he is as careful as I am?" The answer is: you can't be sure,
but he has a chezkas kashrus and min ha'torah you are 100% permitted to
rely upon people who have a chezkas kashrus.

Even when you rely upon yourself, you can never be 100% sure that you
have not eaten tarfus. However, that is not the standard which the
Torah requires of us. The Torah says that it's perfectly okay to rely
on chazkos, eid echad ne'eman b'isurin, etc.

Kol tuv,

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Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 18:04:24 -0500
From: Yitzchok Levine <llevine@stevens.edu>
Are all Hashgochos to be Considered on the Same Level?

It seems to me that an underlying assumption in all of the back and forth
about eating at other people's homes or at all caterers or whatever is
based on the following assumption. Namely, all supervisions are equally
reliable. If this were indeed the case, then there really is no reason
not to eat at the homes of others or at any catering hall, assuming
that people are careful to use products requiring supervision that are
under supervision.

However, that fact of the matter is that this is not the case. I can
only speak for the US and about what I know goes on in the greater
NY area. Many Chareidim feel more comfortable relying on a Heimishe
hashgocho than on a national supervision. They clearly feel that the
Heimishe supervision is superior. Presumably, if they are consistent,
then they would not eat in the home of someone who uses only nationally
supervised products.

Even the national supervisions have somewhat different standards. The
article at http://www.oukosher.org/index.php/articles/single_print/5553
makes this clear, at least when it comes to bagged salads. Is one
supposed to rely on all national supervisions given that they do have
different standards? (I am not implying that the standards are not valid.)
There are even some national supervisions that are considered by many
to be "weak."

When it comes to the private hashgochos on catering halls in Brooklyn,
it is a real mish mash. Some people are content to rely on some rebbe that
they may know nothing about. Others are not. Are the standards of all of
these private hashgochos the same? Are they using the same products? Are
they using the same shechita? I know for a fact that they are not.

Thus, it is very possible that in the home of a Yorei Shomayim or at
an affair that he will make that one person may find products being
used that one would not personally use in his home. One person may use
"Chassidishe shechita, Glatt meat" that another does not use. Is a person
required to "abandon" his standards and eat in such a home or place?

Does one have the right to "investigate" the home or a relative of
friend? I think not! Therefore what alternative is there for someone
who is "particular" about kashrus, but to not eat, at least in catering
halls that he feels have supervision that is not up to his standards?

100 years ago (perhaps even less) the ingredients that people in a given
place used were the same. Also, there were not many of them. The shechita
was under the supervision of the local Rov, and hence reliable. Under
these conditions, one could certainly eat in the homes of others.

However, the world has changed drastically. All homes and all supervisions
are not the same. What is one who is "particular" to use only certain
supervisions, shechita, etc. supposed to do?

Yitzchok Levine 

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Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 19:40:22 -0500
From: "Shinnar, Meir" <Meir.Shinnar@rwjuh.edu>
RE: Chaqiros and Dichotomies

> But in any case, criticism based on weestern disciplines are IMHO
> quite apt. Brisker methodology were an attempt to systemitise pilpul
> (if I understood the tape of your talk in SF correctly) using the
> tools of its time and the styles that were attracting talmidim away to
> universities. The whole thing is very Hegelian or Marxian -- making it
> a search for thesis and antithesis. Fits R' Chaim Brisker's Zeitgeist.

when I studied with Rav Moshe Meiselman in a shiur at Columbia about 35
years ago, he said that he thought that Rav Chaim's approach was very
similar to the approach of Frege on the foundations of mathematics -
both occuring about the same time, although he highly doubted that either
knew of the otherm and thought that it was something in the Zeitgeist.
He said that he was thinking that one should write on those similarities -
but AFAIK nothin was ever written.

WRT to the Brisker shitta using a dichotomous approach, I remember (it
has been a while, and don't have it at work) in Zevin's Ishim veshittot,
in talking about the Rogatochover, that he said that while the Brisker
shitta was tzvei dinim, the Rogatchover found three....

Meir Shinnar

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Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006 16:00:58 +1100
From: "SBA" <sba@sba2.com>
Re: Shiras hayam

From: Gershon Seif <>
>> And how would you explain the fact that 600,000 Jews
>> [many more really], all sang the SAME tune and words??
>It HAD to be al pi nevueh or Ruach hakodesh..SBA

> You make a good point but it's not a proof.
> It's possible that the Nevuah was the words alone and it was recited
> after everyone was taught the next line of the song. And it's possible
> that the tune wasn't b'nivuah but was Moshe Rabbeinu's or someone else's
> and again was taught line by line, no?

RSBA asked on Areivim:
> And how would you explain the fact that 600,000
> Jews [many more really], all sang the SAME tune and words??
> It HAD to be al pi nevueh or Ruach hakodesh..

R' Micha Berger responded:
> Wasn't the shirah sung responsively -- Mosheh Rabbeinu followed by
> BY? If so, it's not that challenging.

From: "Zvi Lampel" <hlampel@thejnet.com>
> By the way, I've been advocating in my posts that shira could merely
> mean poetic recital without a melody...             Several pesukim
> refer to "k'lay shir" that accompanied the Levites' songs (and the songs
> of course were with melody); but still, whereas with wind instruments the
> "shir" can only be through melody, with voice the "shir" can be in the
> poetry alone, with or without a tune

I had some time to look up a few sources and maybe this will be of
some help.

The Mishna [Sotah 5:4] brings a machlokeh between R' Akiva and R'
Nechemia on how the Shiras hayam was said.
According to RN it was 'kekorin es shema', which Rashi [daf 30b] explains
"...vekach shorsoh Ruach Hakodesh al kulom vechivnu yachad es hashirah

RA's view is that it was sung responsively.

[Which BTW, shows that we all got it right - 
according to one man de'omar - or the other...]

Does shirah means poetry with or without a tune?
Ayen Sukkah 50b the machloke about 
 "...Ikkar shirah bik'el" or "Ikkar shirah bepeh.."

And what about "Hashir shehaleviyim hoyu "OMRIM"  beBHMK"?
Seems to indicate that 'shir' can be 'said' and not sung.

And did Shlomo Hamelech SING Shir Hashirim?? 


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Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 20:17:29 -0500
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Re: Pas Akkum - Kashrus

Shaya Potter <spotter@yucs.org> wrote:
> If an enzyme needs supervision, why is honey kosher?

According to many poskim, it's a gezerat hakatuv.

Zev Sero

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