Avodah Mailing List

Volume 21: Number 10

Tue, 21 Nov 2006

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006 21:25:34 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Ma'aseh eretz Mitzrayim

Micha Berger wrote:
> How is this defined? Rashi speaks of people marrying each other, but
> how does one define marriage without invoking the concepts of eirusin
> and niru'in? Are we talking about common law, just living together
> monogamously?

No, we're talking about marriage.  Elsewhere the gemara talks about
"writing a ketuba".  Of course goyim don't have a kosher ketuba with
the same provisions as ours do, but they have marriage ceremonies
and certificates, and they attach great value to these, and take
care to distinguish them from de facto relationships.  Just look at
all the ink that is being spilled nowadays over same-sex marriage in
the USA, and all the emotion that is poured out over it, on both
sides; why do you think they care?  Why is it that while a majority
of USAns support civil unions giving same-sex couples the same rights
as married mixed-sex ones, i.e. marriage in all but name, a vast
majority oppose marriage by name?  And why do the radical gay
activists insist that civil union is not enough, and they must davka
have it called marriage?  Obviously "shma milta hi".  And IMHO it's
precisely that "shma milta" that Chazal included under the rubric of
"maaseh eretz mitzrayim".

> What's the ma'aseh aveirah of KMEM aside from that of actual MZ or
> nashim hamesolelot?

I don't think actual MZ *is* included in "maaseh eretz mitzrayim".
It's not a parody or imitation of a normal relationship between
husband and wife, it doesn't pretend to be anything but what it is.
It's an avera, but it isn't this avera.

Zev Sero               Something has gone seriously awry with this Court's
zev@sero.name          interpretation of the Constitution.
                       	                          - Clarence Thomas

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Message: 2
From: saul mashbaum <smash52@netvision.net.il>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006 23:15:48 +0200
Re: [Avodah] Noach and Lashon T'horah

RISober wrote:

>It is not assur to  become tamei, and some important mitzvot (like pru urvu and caring for and
>burying the dead) require one to become tamei.

To this we may add the process of the para adumah; in order to effect this tahara, the Kohen himself had to become tamei.

I think that the haskafic implications of the fact that the Kohen had to defile himself in a minor way in order to effect a major purification of many people is obvious.

Saul Mashbaum

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Message: 3
From: "Cantor Wolberg" <cantorwolberg@cox.net>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006 21:55:36 -0500
[Avodah] Teachers learn from students

Daniel Eidensohn wrote:
"I simply don't understand what happened and what we are supposed to 
learn from this."

If I had to sum up in one sentence what we are supposed to learn from it:
It would be "Two wrongs don't make a right."
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Message: 4
From: saul mashbaum <smash52@netvision.net.il>
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2006 00:12:04 +0200
[Avodah] Distinguishing Peshat from Derash

RYHenkin quotes from his book "Equality Lost," chapter three on the subject of peshat and derash.

The subject of midrashic literature and its relationship to the biblical text is extensively treated in "Learning to Read Midrash" by listmember Simi Peters [Urim Publications, 2004]. Of particular interest is her discussion of this topic on pp 13-15, where she distinguishes between parshanut (interpretation) and darshanut (homiletics). Chapter 8 "Understanding the Narrative Expansion" particularly pp 99-103 examines the kind of textual difficulties midrashic narratives (harchavot sippur) help to resolve. In a section titled "Interpreation, Not Extension" she notes that many midrashim "could be ... accurately understood as Hazal's commentary on the Tanach"; the interpretion the biblical text authors of the midrash is in many ways similar to that of the classic biblical commentators.

IMO, this work is literally a must read for anyone interested in this subject.

Saul Mashbaum

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Message: 5
From: "Mike Wiesenberg" <torahmike@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006 21:06:59 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Lo tasur

 Too literal. The very next paragraph he says
  "And one who is over this aseh, and does not listen to the

R' JR:
>>The Sefer Hachinuch (495) extends the mitzvah from Sanhedrin to "to
>>listen and act in all times to the command of the judge; that is the
>>greatest wise man....."
>>Question: Was there ever a post-sanhedrin period where this position
>>would have a nafka-mina (i.e. 1 universally recognized authority)? Or am
>>I being too literal in my understanding?
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Message: 6
From: "Zvi Lampel" <hlampel@thejnet.com>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006 21:48:22 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Prophets are infallible?

Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn  Fri, 03 Nov 2006, wrote:

"Sefer Haikarrim 3:17 says that prophets other than Moshe are fallible
i.e. they can misunderstand what they are seeing.

"Does anyone else state that prophets are fallible?

I replied:
"...[W]hen true prophets report a prophecy, the Sefer Ikarrim 3:17 cited 
succinctly begins "sheh-kall divrei ha-neveim amati'im b'li safek,"--all the 
words of the prophets are true without question "

"The Sefer Ikarrim says--as does the Torah--that the prophets other than Moses 
perceived and related Hashem's thoughts through imagery and riddles. Thus, they 
perceived "seeing" Hashem which, as an impossibility, is an erroneous sight. 
Nevertheless, he says, they were fully aware that the image they saw was not 
literally true, being only true for the message intended. They did not 
misunderstand what they saw, any more than one misunderstands a model of an 
atom when he knows it's only a model of an atom'85.

RDE responded:
"I disagree with your reading of the Sefer Haikarrim. He is saying that
the words of the prophets are true in some sense - but not necessarily
absolutely true. He is clearly saying that Yeshaya had misunderstood
what he saw and that he lamented his error.

New ZL:
But he also says in what sense the prophets misunderstood., and the sense is as 
I stated. Again: They sometimes saw things that were false in their literal 
sense, and in this sense "misunderstood," but were also perfectly aware that 
what they saw was meant in a non-literal sense. What they lamented was the fact 
that unlike Moshe Rabbeynu, they were not on the level to be priveleged to 
perceive the prophecy in a non-metaphorical representation. This is clear from 
the words of the Sefer HaIkarrim:

"Yeshaya said ... ?Oy li that my eyes saw the King Hashem Tsevakos and /I know/ 
that this is the work of the imaginative faculty, because it is without 
question impossible to attribute any form to Him, Yisborach.?" The Sefer 
Ikarrim is therefore clear that the prophet is /aware/ that the "literal" image 
is false, and that the real message is solely in the nimshal to which that 
imagery alludes (as RDE himself wrote: "He [Yeshaya] himself said that his 
perception of Gd was in fact a mistake because of the involvement of his 
imagination"). The Sefer Ikarrim clearly holds that the imagery the prophet 
perceives is true in its message, although untrue in its "literal" sense.*

Is this all you meant when you originally stated, "Sefer Haikarrim 3:17 says 
that prophets other than Moshe are fallible i.e. they can misunderstand what 
they are seeing"?

I.e., did you only mean to say that the prophet is "fallible" because he 
perceives things in imagery--although he understands perfectly well that the 
imagery is not meant for its literal sense, but for the alluded nimshal? If so, 
then the answer to your question -- "Does anyone else state that prophets are 
fallible?"--is an obvious "Yes." (Although personally I would not use the 
word "fallible"--which means mistaken or deceived--to describe someone who 
understands that a mashal is a mashal.)

Or perhaps you take it that the prophet only realizes the impossibility of the 
literal meaning of his vision after he awakens from it? Maybe; but sof kall 
sof, he?s not deceived once he awakens, and certainly not while he is relating 
his vision to the people.

In fact, according to your usage, the prophets other than Moses not only "/can/ 
misunderstand what they are seeing and are therefore "fallible," but by 
definition /all/ of them "misunderstand what they are seeing" and 
are "fallible." For the Torah itself makes clear, and the Sefer Ikarrim and the 
Rambam and all others who treat the subject emphasize, that by definition every 
prophet other than Moshe perceived (at least some) prophecies in imagery that 
is not literally true.

The problem that comes from this analysis is that since Yeshaya realized
he had erred - why did he record the erroneous understanding in his
sefer? If he was required to record all his prophecy why didn't he
clearly state that it could not have been an accurate report? The Sefer
HaIkarrim notes that [Yevamos 49b] "...when Yeshaya was sentenced to death
for stating that he had seen Gd he had not defended himself. But that he
could have stated that even those in Moshe's time had made this error
and it had been recorded in the Torah [Shemos 24:10]." But why was an
erroneous description recorded in the Torah without any indication
that it was an error?

Because it was not erroneous, just imagery which was obviously meant to be 
taken unliterally. The Sefer Ikarrim (op. cit.) explains that in the case of 
Yeshaya?s prophecy, he did not bother explaining this to the wicked Achav, 
because Achavr"s accusation was only a pretext to rid himself of the 
criticizing prophet. In other words, Yeshaya understood that Achav was only 
feigning ignorance of the common prophetic phenomenon, already used in the 
Torah itself, of anthropomorphistic imagery of G-d in vision and description.

Your question can be posed regarding all the numerous anthropomorphisms in the 
Torah. And actually, in those cases the question is even stronger, because the 
Torah is the prophecy of Moshe Rabbeynu, who himself did not see his prophecies 
in imagery--so why does Moshe Rabbeynu instruct us to tell our children that 
Hashem took us out of Egypt with "a mighty hand," and that the tablets were 
written by "the finger of G-d"? (And one might further ask, why did he 
attribute emotions to Hashem, and pray, "Do not be angry with Your people"?)

The first thing to establish is that Moshe Rabbeynu expected us, and correctly 
so, to realize that such references are not meant literally. And the prophets 
were no less aware of that when they perceived corporeal imagery, and the 
people to whom they spoke were no less aware of that when they heard such 
imagery from the prophets' lips. Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim 1:46 writes: "...our 
Sages were far from the belief in the corporeality of God, and they did not 
think anyone is capable of misunderstanding it, or entertaining any doubt about 
it. This is why they employ in the Talmud and the Midrashim phrases similar to 
those contained in the prophecies, without any circumlocution. They knew that 
there could be no doubt about their metaphorical character, or any danger 
whatever of their being misunderstood; and that all such expressions would be 
understood as being figurative, employed to communicate to the intellect the 
notion of His existence.

Why Hashem dictated to Moshe metaphorical language to express His "nature" 
and "actions" deserves study. (There has been discussion on Avodah regarding 
the Rambamr"s shita about this.) As I have come to understand it, it is because 
our psyches can only truly intimately relate to Hashem in this way. (After all, 
we are no greater than the prophets.) Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, on "VaYiss-
atsave ell leebo" (Bereishis 6:6), echoing another passage in the Moreh 
Nevuchim (ibid.) (although with much disdain towards any philosophical 
involvement at all with such issues--ticularly when teaching children) 
expressed it as follows:**

"Regarding this and similar anthropomorphic expressions of G-d, we would like 
to make a general comment. For so long people have philosophized all around 
these expressions to remove the danger of the slightest thought of any 
materiality or corporeality of G-d, that at the end one runs very nearly into 
the danger of losing all idea of the personality of G-d. Had that been the 
purpose of the Torah, those kinds of expressions could easily have been 
avoided. But this last danger is greater than the first.

* "And the words of a prophet who is at a lower level than he is, will come 
veiled (sr"sumim) and in riddles andables, and not crystal-clear (mr"vur"arim). 
And in /this/ they will not be true (amatir"im) in their /literal/ meaning 
(/kepshutan/), /but [are true] only in respect to the concept alluded to by 
them (aval kr"fi ha-inyan ha-nirmaz ba-hen bilvad)./ And their /literal/ 
meaning would convey a different idea from the idea really meant by them (/u-
kefi peshutan/ yuvan may-hen inyan zulass ha-inyan ha-mekuvan bahem).

"Therefore you will find that Yechezkel, being that his prophecies occurred 
after the exile [and were therefore relatively later and therefore relatively 
inferior] would speak inables and riddles not true /in their literal meaning/ 
(bilti amatiim /kepshutan/) to such an extent that he complained to Hashem, 
l"they are saying to me "He is [just] a sayer ofables"! I.e., they knew what he 
said wereables, but they did not put in the effort to analyse their meanings. 
He felt that were he able to express himself more plainly, in prose rather than 
poetry, would be more productive in conveying Hashem's message.

"And likewise, you will find that all the prophecies of Zechariah, being that 
he lived towards the end of the prophetic era, were visions that were not 
true /according to their literal meanings/ (sheh-aynan amitos /kefi pashtan/) 
but only according to what was alluded to by them (ella kefi ha-nirmaz bahem 
bilvad) ... and therefore it is proper to interpret them in a way that they 
will agree to the words of Moshe." Proper for him, I would add, as well as for 

** I seem to recall Rav Hirsch expressing this thought more forcefully 
elsewhere, with a clause like, "and why /shouldn't/ we refer to Hashem in 
personified terms?"I would appreciate it if someone would remind me where it is.

Zvi Lampel

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Message: 7
From: "Elazar M. Teitz" <remt@juno.com>
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2006 02:54:33 GMT
Re: [Avodah] Greater sanctity of Jerusalem than other cities

RMBerger wrote:

<WRT Shushan Purim, being a suburb from which Y-m can be seen counts 
for something. Are you sure it doesn't here too? Not on the level of 
Y-m itself, but still, not the same as the rest of EY?>

     The Mishna in the first perek of Keilim lists the next level of 
k'dusha above arim hamukafos as "lifnim min hachoma," indicating that 
there is no intermediate level for the suburbs of Y-m. Furthermore, 
the din of samuch v'nireh is certainly not a function of the sanctity 
of Y-m, since it applies to all walled cities.


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Message: 8
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006 22:25:39 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Prophets are infallible?

On Thu, Nov 16, 2006 at 11:55:01AM -0500, Zvi Lampel wrote:
: First [the Ramchal] says [in Derekh Hashem 3:3] that Yirmiah clearly
: explained all his prophecies, then he says all the prophets besides
: Moshe (which of course would include Yirmiah) spoke in unclear riddles.

I would have thought he means that Moshe's nevu'ah was the message itself,
and everyone else got metaphor. However, Yirmiyahu was consistently
able to fully explain the metaphor, while for other nevi'im, part of
the message was not explainable (or perhpas just went unexplained)
by the navi.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             The trick is learning to be passionate in one's
micha@aishdas.org        ideals, but compassionate to one's peers.
Fax: (270) 514-1507      

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Message: 9
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006 22:33:23 -0500
Re: [Avodah] establishing mamzerut

On Tue, Nov 14, 2006 at 09:45:42PM +0100, Arie Folger wrote:
: RMB wrote:
:> I was under the impression that we bend over backward lehatir agunos, as
:> well as to presume kosher yichus. And thus, I am very surprised that
:> 1:1,000 understainty is sufficient le'esor.

: Correction: an error of less than 1 in a thousand is enough to allow.

Okay, that makes more sense.

:> I therefore did not assume that a form of birur that can be matir WRT
:> agunah would necessarily be use to declare someone a mamzeir, since the
:> former runs with the general trend, and the latter against it

: Once you assume that DNA is quasy faultless, it equals certainty. You no 
: longer can claim that there is a reasonable interpretation of the presence of 
: the bo'el's DNA in the child.

(Discussion of IVF etc... deleted.)

Not really applicable. You put it that lehatir agunah, being able to
raise a 1:1000 doubt is enough to permit. For most dinim, it isn't.
And for DNA use in proving another bo'el, one needs a comparable level
of certainty -- but in the opposite direction.

Saying DNA can open up a 1:1000 doubt doesn't mean it can produce a
999:1000 level of certainty. DNA test reliability could be assumed to
be anywhere in between.

IOW, by agunah we're saying that the test is accurate more often than
one in a thoudand. By mamzeirus would we have to say it isn't wrong even
one time in a thousand. Very different claims.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             Our greatest fear is not that we're inadequate,
micha@aishdas.org        Our greatest fear is that we're powerful
http://www.aishdas.org   beyond measure
Fax: (270) 514-1507                        - Anonymous

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Message: 10
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006 22:47:04 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Copyright and e-daf

On Thu, Nov 16, 2006 at 01:05:42PM -0500, R Zev Sero wrote about copyright:
: I don't see how there could possibly be "hasagat gevul" involved either.
: You're not making the copy in order to be mean to the author, and hurt
: him when you could just as easily not do so...

Hasagas gevul requires malicious intent? I thought it's assur even if
you're just doing it to find a way to support the family.

:                                        That's a perfectly rational
: reason to do something.  There is no chiyuv to lose money in order to
: be nice to people.

Of course there is. Tzedaqah. Leqet, shikhechah, pei'ah. Ma'aser. (But
not terumah -- compare the Chinukh on them, terumah is more like berakhos
than like tzedaqah.)

Why wouldn't observing hasagas gevul also require monitary loss?

: Copyright is not property, it's a monopoly granted to authors by the
: will of Congress....

This presumes the conclusion. I again invite you to see my earlier posts
of notes of a shiur by R Zev Reichman (given at the peak of the Napster
controversy) at
<http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol07/v07n058.shtml> and

There is a very old cheirem based on the applicability of hasagas

We also need to address dinah dmalchusah and hezeq.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             You will never "find" time for anything.
micha@aishdas.org        If you want time, you must make it.
http://www.aishdas.org                     - Charles Buxton
Fax: (270) 514-1507      

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Message: 11
From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@012.net.il>
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2006 20:10:34 +0200
Re: [Avodah] Teachers learn from students

Cantor Wolberg wrote:
> Daniel Eidensohn wrote:
> "I simply don't understand what happened and what we are supposed to
> learn from this."
> If I had to sum up in one sentence what we are supposed to learn from it:
> It would be "Two wrongs don't make a right."
What were the two wrongs?

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Message: 12
From: "Yisrael Medad" <yisrael.medad@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2006 08:55:05 +0200
[Avodah] Yishamel - correction

I wrote:
Verse 1 of Chapt. 34 states plainly

that should be Verse 2. sorry.

Yisrael Medad
Mobile Post Efraim 44830
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Message: 13
From: "Kohn, Shalom" <skohn@Sidley.com>
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2006 09:15:30 -0600
[Avodah] Holiness of Israel

R. MYG wrote (re: the Israel as a Jewish state):

Not so Poshut. See Rambam Bais HaBechira 6:14-16 and the Ra'avad there. It
is at least a Machlokes Rishonim, and I'd like to see a source for a clear
P'sak B'zman Hazeh.

Although I'm not sure how relevant any of this is to the question of whether Israel is a Jewish country, which seemed to be the issue under discussion, the Rambam cited by R. MYG sets forth his view that the kedusha of yerushalayim and the mikdash was by the kedusha rishona, because it was done by Hashem, and the Ra'avad disagrees.  The Rambam is clear that the kedusha done by Ezra was via chazaka and where Ezra's settlements occurred, the kedusha she-niya continues, hence the obligation for teruma and ma'aser.  If the proposition being asserted is that Hashem's giving the land to the Jews does not establish the kedusha so Israel is not a Jewish country, the argument proves way too much -- or else, we would say that Boro Park produce requires teruma and ma'aser.  Obviously, there is something special about Israel, which arose from Hashem's grant (per the first Rashi in chumash, among other things).  

The issue of kedusha rishona or kedusha she-niya is an issue that may merit separate discussion, but it seems irrelevant to the semantic debate at hand.


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