Avodah Mailing List
Volume 17 : Number 068
Monday, June 12 2006
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Sun, 11 Jun 2006 15:02:04 -0400
From: Steg Belsky <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: nevuah in Hebrew
On Jun 9, 2006, at 18:23:07 EDT, RTK wrote:
> Segue to related subject, what language did Avraham speak before coming
> to Canaan? Did he speak the same language Lavan and the rest of the
> mishpacha spoke? Was that language Hebrew? If not, then in what
> language did Hashem address him when He said, "Lech lecha"? And how
> and when did Avraham switch languages? No but Avram must have spoken
> Hebrew or a closely-related language because his name and Sarai's
> name are clearly Semitic. Hnm, Lavan, Rachel and Leah are also all
> Semitic names -- but what about Lot? What language is that, and what
> does the name mean? Terach, Bilhah, Zilpah -- are these Hebrew words?
> What do they mean?
> -Toby Katz
It depends which _Ur_ you believe is Ur Kasdim -- Southern [Sumerian]
Ur, or Northern Ur, or "Urfa" as it's known today, near the
I find the Northern Ur more likely, considering that Hharan is actually
on the way between it and Kena`an, as opposed to Southern Ur, which would
involve a larger loop than necessary up through the Fertile Crescent to
get to Hharan.
Remember, Avram's family was aiming to head towards Kena`an when they
left Ur Kasdim; they only ended up stopping in Hharan, where Terahh died.
Avram, Sarai and Lot then finished the journey themselves, in response
to God's "leikh lekha".
In Northern Ur they may have spoken Aramaic (like in Hharan), or Hurrian
(a non-Semitic language), or both. Their names would seem to indicate
a Semitic-speaking environment.
I've heard one theory that _Terahh_ is related to _yareiahh_, and is a
sign that he was a Moon-worshipper, possibly in conflict with the people
of *Ur* Kasdim, who may have worshipped the Sun.
The Avot probably started speaking Hebrew/Canaanite upon settling in
Caveat lector: this is a mixture of Archeology, personal musings,
and interpretations that may be peshat or derash, whose complete
justifications I can't remember.
-Stephen (Steg) Belsky
"You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that
you touch perfect speed. And that isn't flying a thousand
miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light.
Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn't have
limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there."
~ _jonathan livingston seagull_ by richard bach
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Date: Sun, 11 Jun 2006 15:02:45 -0400
From: "Aryeh Englander" <email@example.com>
Subject: shanim mekuta'os
The gemara in Megillah says that two of the kings of Babylonia and Persia
had shanim mekuta'os. But the gemara in Rosh Hashanah says that we count
the last year of one king as the first of the next, unless the first king
died before Nissan (or Tishrei for goyishe kings) and the next took over
after Nissan/Tishrei. So why didn't almost all of the kings have shanim
mekuta'os - unless every king other than those two died in the end of
the year and the next king took over at the beginning of the next year?
Aryeh L. Englander
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Date: Sun, 11 Jun 2006 15:10:40 -0400
From: "Stuart Feldhamer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Avodah V17 #67
From: "Eli Turkel" <email@example.com>
> Does anyone know the origin of the connection between Pinchas and Eliyahu?
> whether physical, gilgul or simply similar in spirit.
> This is assumed in a number of medrashim though others assume that Eliyahu
> is not a Cohen.
See Ralbag on Melachim Aleph, Perek 17, Pasuk 1.
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Date: Sun, 11 Jun 2006 13:31:53 -0700 (PDT)
From: Mark Levin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> If Orpah and Ruth converted *after* their husbands died, then I don't
> understand why Ruth and Boaz would be considered as relatives. And if
> they converted *before*, then I don't understand why Naomi would urge
> them to remain behind.
Here are variousw sources and a discussion on this topic:
The story of Ruth chronicles its heroine's transformation from a Moabite
maiden to the mother of Israelite monarchy. When did Ruth accept the
religion of Israel? It is clear that as she arrives to Bethlehem,
she is fully keeping the laws and customs of Israel. She gleans in the
fields, participates in Levirite marriage, and expresses herself in the
language of Israelite religious sensibilities and concepts. It is clear
then that Ruth became a Jewess before her arrival to Bethlehem, but was
it all teh way back before her marriage to Machlon or only on the road
to Bethlehem? It is tempting to assume that Ruth converted before her
marriage. This would explain her attachment to Naomi, her suitability
for Levirite marriage to Boaz, her eagerness to leave Moab for Judea,
and it would rescue Machlon, Kilyon ("two great leaders of Israel",
Rambam Kings 5:9), and Naomi from the opprobrium of participating, or
condoning, an intermarriage. It is hard to imagine that faithful Naomi,
on whose lips the name of Hashem dwelt, would form a relationship so
genuinely close and affectionale with "the daughter of a foreign god". To
say that Intermarriage was not favorably viewed by the prophets and
judges of Israel is an understatment(See Malachi 2:11, Deuteronomy
7:3-4, Ezra 10). Intermarriage is a basic betrayal of innermost
religious values for it is a very basic commitment to share love,
life and innermost personal sanctum with someone who thinks, hopes,
longs, believes and dreams with a different sensibility -- hence the
appellation "daughter of a foreign god (Malachi ibid)". Accordingly,
it cannot be that Machlon, who we already established was a worthy man,
intermarried. "R. Pedas asked the son of R. Yosi, man of Soko, "Since
Ruth converted (from the beginning) why did they not give her a new
(Jewish) name? He said to him: " I received a tradition that that she
had another name. When she married Machlon... they called her Ruth for
she converted when she married Machlon and not afterwards. He responded,
"But it says '...where you lean (your head), so I will lean, where you go,
I go, your people is my people and your G-d is my G-d!' (implying that the
conversion took place only at that point)...(Zohar Ruth 79a)." According
to this view, Ruth converted before marraige. Almost the entire consensus
of rabbinic commentary is, however, to the contrary. From the Aramaic
Targum to Ruth to Talmud, which derives laws of conversion from the
conversation between Ruth and Naomi (Yevomos 47b), it is assumed
that Ruth committed to Judaism on the way to Bethlehem. Machlon and
Kilyon married Moabites. " Machlon and Kilyon were culpable of being
destroyed by G-d because they took wives of another faith (Bava Bathra
91b)". Even if they were Moabites and did not convert, how could Naomi
propose that her daughters-in-law "return to your people and your god
(Ruth 1:15)". It is, however, less of a problem than suggesting that
Naomi advised her Jewish daughters-in-law to go worship idols. How we
resolve this difficulty has implication for other similar passages, the
marriages of Smason and Solomon for example. Fortunately, these at first
glance disparate interpetations and their Scriptural antecedents can be
agreeably reconciled. R. Moshe Shternbuch in his Moadim V'Zmanim 4, 316
suggests that Ruth converted conditionally before marriage and that the
conversion took effect retroactively when she opted to abandon Moab and
to go to Judea. The involved halachic discussion is beyond our purview;
however, Jewish Law knows two types of conditional conversions. The
first one is conversion of a minor by a parent; upon reaching the
age of majority the child can choose to finalize the conversion or to
withdraw from it. The other one is a conversion that may have been for
ulterior motives, wealth, security, or marriage but could also possibly
be sincere. Such conversions are discouraged; however, if performed by
an unscrupulous or ignorant rabbinic court, they are held in probation
until the circumstances change and there is no longer an ulterior gain. If
the convert continues to hold on faithfully, the conversion is valid from
the beginning; if he or she abandons it, it is prima facie invalid. Thus,
Ruth's premarital conversion was conditional for she may have converted
solely for purposes of marriage. When she left her native land and
followed Naomi to a life of hardship and loneliness, she demonstrated
the purity and sincerity of her original commitment. Although conversion
takes effect with a ritual (circumcision and immersion before a court of
three rabbis for men or immersion for women) its actual fulfillment is in
the heart. Jewish Law knows of many such rituals. Mourning for example is
effected with tearing one's clothing or sitting on the ground but it is
fulfilled through emotion that these acts engender. The commandment to
rejoice on a Festival is fulfilled by eating and drinking with company
at a holiday meal but its fulfillment is the feeling of joy that the
meal and the company generate. Similarly, conversion involves a ritual
but it primarily takes place in the heart. The convert may be sure of
the purity of her intent,or she may be deluding herself. When money,
marraige or status is involved, the future will tell. One of my teachers
drew this parallel on the occasion of my ordination. He sat with me and
explained that the document of ordination, the passing of examinations,
even the countless hours spent in study and preparation is not what makes
a rabbi. "Ordination is like conversion. It requires a ritual but it is
affected within. It can take many years until the original motivation
becomes apparent and declares itself. May you be fortunate that your old
age justify your young age (Sukka 53a)". Ruth completed and validated
her original conversion with the decision to accompany Naomi to Bethlehem.
However, her journey had started ten years earlier. They arrive at harvest
time, in the spring, at the time of renewal and it is then that the new
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Date: Sun, 11 Jun 2006 20:44:24 +0200
From: "Eli Turkel" <email@example.com>
Subject: year of the destruction
> But I've heard that most traditional sources would date the destruction of
> the 1st BH to 423 bce and the destruction of the second BH to 68 ce. Why?
There is much confision between how to count the years from creation
and whether it refers to the year of that Tisha Ba av or the following
Both R. Wein and the artscroll History of the Jewish people by R. Goldwurm
conclude that 70 ce is the correct year
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Date: Sun, 11 Jun 2006 20:36:21 -0400
From: "S & R Coffer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: RE: Tzimtzum KePeshuto
On June 8, 2006, David Riceman wrote:
>>> 1. In the beginning of H. Yesodei HaTorah the Rambam describes God as
>>> necessarily existing, while everything else exists only contingently.
>>> For example, if Hizkiyahu had become Mashiah God would still be the same,
>>> but where would the subscribers of Avodah be?
>> I think RDR is confusing the concept of Ein Od Milvado, discussed
>> in halachos 1-4 and the concept of Ani Hashem Lo Shanisi discussed
>> at length in halachos 8-11.
> RSC is making a subtle error here. According to Aristotle the world is
> necessarily existent, and, of course, the world is subject to change. God
> is necessarily existent and is simple (i.e., unchangeable). According to
> the Rambam God is the only necessary existent, and He is simple. RSC argues
> that, nonetheless, the Rambam accepts Aristotle's position that necessity is
> independent of simplicity. I, however, don't think this could be the case.
> After all, if God is simple and necessary and these two properties are
> distinct, then He has two properties and is not simple.
RDR is conflating three musagim here which I will attempt to unravel.
1) Ontological superiority - expressed in the pasuk Hashem Elokim Emes.
Also, this musag is part of Achdus Hashem (sometimes referred to as
Yichudo) - which comes from the pasuk ein od milvado and is announced
by us twice a day in the first pasuk of krias shema.
2) Yichudo - refers to the quality of essential oneness in Hashem - i.e.
his qualities are not differentiated but part of one whole.
3) Static nature - expressed in the pasuk Ani Hashem lo shanisi.
RDR claims that I improperly argue that the Rambam accepts Aristotle's
position that necessity (#1) is independent of simplicity (#2) but this
is not due to my personal reading of the Rambam. AFAIC, it's obvious. In
1:1-4 the Rambam says nothing about simplicity. He speaks only about
independence and concludes with the pasuk Hashem Elokim Emes. Many
halachos later, he delineates the idea of simplicity (2:9-10) and
concludes with his famous "He is the knower, He is the known and He
is the Knowledge". He brings no pesukim to back his conclusions there
and claims that this idea of simplicity is impossible to comprehend and
almost impossible even to express. OTOH, when it comes to independence,
he makes no such claim and in fact, 1:2-3 makes it clear that the Rambam
felt that the doctrine of independence is clearly understandable.
However, RDR does have a good kasha. He asks, "After all, if God is
simple and necessary and these two properties are distinct, then He has
two properties and is not simple."
The "simple" way to answer this is precisely like the Rambam
himself did which is to say that although the various qualities
of Hashem are expressed in differentiated form, this is due to our
own limitations. Otherwise, RDR may as well ask on any quality of
Hashem such as love or anger etc. According to RDR, we shouldn't
be discussing *any* independent qualities of Hashem because they are
included in His simplicity. The teretz is, yes, this is true but *we*
discuss these qualities in differentiated form because we have no other
way of relating to them. Hence, when the Rambam discusses the quality
of Hashem's independence he relegates it to one portion of the Yad,
whereas a discussion of His simplicity is discussed in another, His
wisdom in another etc.
Unfortunately, this teretz doesn't seem to be so "simple" because
the Maharal (second Hakdama to Gevuros Hashem) 'goes to town' on this
Rambam of "He is the Knower etc." and categorically rejects the Rambam's
conclusions regarding the simplicity of Hashem. The baal haTanya tries
to make shalom between the Maharal and the Rambam in Tanya perek Beis
in the footnote and at length in Likutei Torah parshas Vayikra vi'ein
kan makom l'ha'arich.
>> Shinuy, or lack thereof, is predicated
>> on possessing a guf or lack thereof as Rambam explains.
> This is false. The human soul and (l'havdil) the tax laws are examples of
> bodiless things which are subject to change.
Once again RDR seems to be ignoring an offena Rambam. The Rambam states
explicitly that lack of shinui is taluy primarily in lack of a guf 1:11.
However, once again, RDR has a good kasha. And once again, the Rambam
asks and answers it. Basically, the Rambam says that all spiritual
bodiless entities are subject to change and differentiation despite
their non-corporeality because of their causal connection (as an effect)
to the entity above them. Hashem has no connection to any cause above
Him as He is the primary cause (ilas ha'ilos - Elokei haElokim) and thus
does not change etc. See 2:5.
Please note: All references above to the Rambam are to be found in
Hilchos Yesodei haTorah.
>>> One possible view of Tsimtsum is that it
>>> represents the abandonment of other possible ways the world could work -
>>> - at the level of laws of nature and laws of hashgaha, not at the level
>>> of historical phenomena.
>> Sounds like the Multi-verse of Quantum Physics. I don't buy it. Tzimtzum
>> applies even to the reality we occupy and have occupied throughout
> You have confused tzimtzum with reisha d'lo ithyada. See the peirush on
> Klah Pith'hei Hochma #86, cited in my previous post.
Hmm... and I thought RDR was 'merely' a Maimonidean.
In order to respond to RDR, I must get into some pure Kabala. I will
use terms without necessarily explaining them because of the public
nature of this forum but if anyone wishes clarification privately,
I will bl'n capitulate.
Reisha Dilo Isyada (RDI) is the Partzuf Atik which is nislabesh in the
Arich Anpin (AA) of Atzilus (A) where the Mem-Hey (MH - Shoresh haTikkun -
Dukra) is nizdaveg with the Beis-Nun (BN - Shoresh haKilkulim - Nukva)
but the essence of this zivug is entirely hidden from us regardless
of its hishpashtus into the Partzufim thus allowing for bechira and
simultaneously being the source of unknown elements of the hashgacha
such as tzadik v'ra lo etc.
However, Atik is comprised of Malchus of Adam Kadmon (AK), IOW, the
lowest level of AK, and as such, should really have no shiachus to AA of
A because MH and BN do not even exist in AK but because it (Malchus of
AK) is charged with the hanhaga of the AA of A it must be nislabesh in
it in order to adopt the qualities of the zivug of MH and BN. Otherwise,
and here's the important part, it would not have these qualities at all
because in AK, *there is no zivug of MH and BN.* MH and BN only applies
on lower levels to allow Kilkul and Tikkun thus facilitating the Avodas
haAdam and this is why it is ne'elam b'shorsho in Atik. That he'elem is
accomplished via the reality that MH and BN are indistinguishable in Atik;
they are one entity.
OTOH, Tzimtzum as a process of he'elem is far more profound because it
applies to *all* of Havaya, even the kutzo shel yud. IOW, the process
of Tzimtzum applies uniformly to all of creation, even to the highest
level of AK. Before the Or Elyon haPashut was mitzumtzam to allow for
a makom panuy and an avir chalal, even AK did not exist (see Eitz Chaim
in the beginning). Thus, the conversation we have been having regarding
Tzimtzum has absolutely nothing to do with RDI which is only a prat in
the AA of A (and any other Partzufim it is subsequently nispashet in)
post Tzimtzum. I can't see how RDR feels, based on the lishonos I have
been using, that I have conflated Tzimtzum with RDI.
>> The purpose of creation was to facilitate the exercise of free will so as
>> such I agree with RDR that the *purpose* of tzimtzum is to facilitate
>> free will but the *process* of tzimtzum cannot be described as RDR
>> suggests because tzimtzum applies to all forms of creation; even the
>> higher worlds where free will does not exist.
> But the entire machloketh of tzimtzum kipshuto or not is whether it's only
> from human perspective or from the divine perspective as well. This version
> represents the tzad tzimtzum eino kipshuto. IOW we are unable even to
> conceive of a mechanism by which God practices hashgaha without losing
> something of our consciousness of God qua God.
The above paragraph is breathtaking. I have never heard Tzimtzum lav
Kipshuto expressed so well in English. Yet, this has nothing to do with
my above paragraph. I'm sure RDR would agree that free-will exists. If
it does, this allows for human beings to ignore the philosophical
implications introduced into their consciousness by their awareness of
hashgacha and ignore, and even deny chs'v the presence of a creator. This
is the ultimate purpose of Tzimtzum regardless of whether it is kipshuto
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Date: Mon, 12 Jun 2006 08:35:56 -0400
From: Moshe Shulman <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Tzimtzum KePeshuto
At 05:58 AM 6/11/2006, S & R Coffer wrote:
>On June 9, 2006, Moshe Shulman wrote:
>> Again it will try not to be too open here...
>response to him bl'n. One of my issues is that he quotes many seforim
>without supplying mareh mikomos thus making it exceedingly difficult to
>respond. I have responded below to whatever I was able to without the
? The seforim I quoted should not have been a problem as they have
discussions about this issue. It may be that you are not familiar with
them, in which case I am not sure what value looking into the sefer
>> The Gra was very controversial because
>> he openly disagreed with the Ari in a number of issues.
>The Gra had several talmidim. R' Chaim Volozhin, his most famous, was always
>congenial to the Chassidim of his generation and even worked hand in hand
>with the Chassidim on occasion. However, one of the few episodes which
>caused him to protest in an 'unmitigated' fashion is the claim R' Shulman
? This is not a chassid/misnagid issue. It is a question of which seforim
on Kabbalah are accepted or not. There are works from 'chassidim' that
are not universally accepted. (for example Chabad works after the
BTW do you say that the Gra did not hold with having two matzos for
Pesach, or are you claiming that the Ari did not say that three were
>> I mention this here because the sefer
>> Nefesh HaChaim is being quoted and I have a Kabalah from my Rebbe
>> ZT'L that there are problems with it's views.
>Again, an obviously Chassidic impression (Slonimer Chassidim relate that R'
>Avrohom's manuscript of his sefer Yesod haAvodah was replete with notations
>in the margin which read "not like R' Chaim" - R' Avrohom was the first
Are you saying that the Nefesh HaChaim was NOT written to counter the
'errors' of the chasidim? (BTW, you are probably correct about the
Yesod, as it was written to answer the questions the Nefesh HaChaim had
>Even if R' Shulman is not gravitating to the Chassidic view (which I would
>have no problem with), he does not indicate to whom he pledges allegiance to
>as far his traditions are concerned (leaving me with the only available
>option of assuming).
BTW I have only quoted from Kabbalah sources that were neither chassidic
>>>Incidentally, for a thoroughly presented view of the difference between
>>>Atzmus and non-Atzmus, and for an explanation of the enigmatic words of
>>>the Arizal in his haKdama to Eitz Chaim in which he claims that all the
>>>shemos and kinuyim are forms of Atzmus which are nispashet in the
>>>see the decidedly un-Chabad sefer Nefesh haChaim Shaar Beis Perek Beis.
>> A better one is found in the sefer Or Zerua from the Maharam Pafrish.
>A better one? What makes you say so? Again a seemingly Chassidic comment.
>Not that I have any problem with Chassidic approaches chs'v; I would just
>like to maintain an open debate focused on the issues and debated on their
>merits rather than appealing to partisanship in my arguments.
Do you know who Maharam Pafrish is? Your comment doesn't make sense.
>>>Literal contraction of the Or Ein Sof. I made this clear several times
>> I asked because it was not clear to me. I was taught to learn first
>> Shomer Emunim, so you can tell where i am coming from.
>Actually, no. The Shomer Emunim is universally recognized. In fact, after
>the ban on Kabbala imposed by the post Shabtai Zvi gedolim, one of the only
>two kabbalistic seforim that were permissible was the SE.
I am aware of that. I mentioned it because of his shitos.
>>>Serious error. In fact, this is precisely the error which causes the
>>>obfuscation of concepts like tzimtzum and which I consider karov le'kfira
>>>but I won't argue with you. Just see Nefesh haChaim Shaar Beis Perek
>>>Beis for a proper perspective on the attributes of the Boreh.
>> Not really an error. Kabbalists are just more radical in their
>> monotheism then philosophers. There is an interesting note in Tanya
>> chapter 2 relating to this.
>But you and I weren't discussing olamos higher than Atzilus as your
>aforementioned note mentions; we were discussing Atzmus versus non-Atzmus
>which has nothing to do with the note in Tanya. In fact, this is precisely
>what the baal haTanya is coming to be sholel.
Are you saying that 'atzmus' is not higher then Atzilus?
Actually the point is that the Rambam and others were talking about
what we might call atzmus, but the Tanya is saying that they err, and
are only refering to a level below that.
Moshe Shulman firstname.lastname@example.org
Judaism's Answer: http://www.judaismsanswer.com/
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Date: Mon, 12 Jun 2006 09:20:20 -0400
From: "David Riceman" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Calling A Spade A Spade: Rambam and Kollel
From Goitein "A Mediterrenean Society", vol. 5, p. 393: "It was
customary in merchants' families that one member, ususally a father or
elder brother, stayed out and the other travelled. Labrat and Judah
(like Moses and David Maimonides later) had divided the family business
between them in such a way."
Goitein had not only letters from the Rambam to his brother but also
letters from the Rambam's brother to him, so I think his opinions are
definitive in this matter.
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Date: Mon, 12 Jun 2006 15:51:57 +0200
From: Arie Folger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Calculating the Molad - a new theory
RJoe Slater wrote:
> You can make a similar calculation for
> the number of sidereal months.
But how do you observe the number of sidereal months?
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