Avodah Mailing List

Volume 25: Number 38

Fri, 25 Jan 2008

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: "Simon Montagu" <simon.montagu@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 06:14:58 +0200
Re: [Avodah] assisted suicide

On Jan 25, 2008 12:22 AM, Liron Kopinsky <liron.kopinsky@gmail.com> wrote:
> Speaking of Shimshon - an interesting question that was asked to me
> recently:
> Who are the 4 people in Tanach who committed suicide to correspond to the 4
> mitot Beit Din?

Sekila - Shimshon
Sereifa - Zimri
Hereg - Shaul
Henek - Ahitophel

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Message: 2
From: Gershon Seif <gershonseif@yahoo.com>
Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2008 22:31:13 -0800 (PST)
[Avodah] physician assisted suicide

My wife submitted this brief bulletin today and since I brought up the subject here, I figured you'd be interested in reading this.
From the Desk of Mrs. Sheba Seif
 On Wednesday, I had the privilege of providing oral and written testimony during a Senate Committee hearing against a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide. This bill has been introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature for 16 years, but it was the first public hearing on the issue in 10 years. The hearing was filled with emotional testimony from approximately 30 witnesses, the majority of whom spoke out against the measure. Representatives from the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, Wisconsin Right To Life, Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the Juneau County District Attorney's office, doctors, nurses, professors, ministers, people with disabilities, caretakers of people with disabilities, and voluntary workers, were among those opposing this legislation. Special thanks to Mike Dean, Esq., Rabbi A.D. Motzen, Rabbi Pinchus Avruch, Julaine Appling of Wisconsin Family Council and Susan Armacost of Wisconsin Right to Life for all their
 After hearing more than four hours of testimony, Committee Chairman Carpenter, announced that the bill would remain in Committee and would not be voted on at this point. 
 Initiatives legalizing physician-assisted suicide are popping up in other states as well -- for example, in Washington and Arizona. We are keeping close watch on these proposals and will register our opposition, if and when the need arises.
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Message: 3
From: "Michael Makovi" <mikewinddale@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 13:41:09 +0200
Re: [Avodah] Cave or desert island

> R' Michael Makovi writes:
> >> But the purpose of the Torah is to perfect the society! As Rabbi Aryeh
> Carmel puts it in Masterplan, the aim of the Torah is not the
> perfected individual, but rather the perfected society.
> Any individual by himself can be righteous. And it's not because it's
> easy. Rather, there's nothing to do! True, I haven't stolen or lied or
> injured, but I couldn't if I wanted to! There's a saying, something
> like "When there's nothing to steal, the thief regards his virtue as
> real". So it isn't merely that the achievement was easily won. Rather,
> there's no achievement at all whatsoever! <<

> It may be true that the ultimate goal is to perfect society, but if the
> choice is living in a corrupt society and trying to influence them, or
> becoming a hermit/going to live in a cave for fear of them influencing you,
> the Rambam in 6th Perek of Hilchos Deos is very clear on which option to
> choose...

Very true. If you live in Sodom, leave ASAP. But this is not
l'hatchila. The ideal is that you live in a society and participate in
it. Rambam elsewhere says that a man who cuts himself off from the
community, even if he still does mitzvot, has no Olam haBa.

In other words: were one to go off and be a tzadik by himself, even if
he's more of a tzadik than he would be in the community, he has no
olam haba. Period.

To leave the community is only a last-resort when the society is so
sinful that you're going to go down with it. This is not the ordinary
situation, and it is not the desired outcome. Assuming a normal,
decent society, you are not to leave.

Mikha'el Makovi

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Message: 4
From: Mordechai Goldstein <write800@yahoo.com>
Date: Thu, 24 Jan 2008 15:39:16 -0800 (PST)
[Avodah] Pesel Micah/Shoftim/Yam Suf

>He was the same Mikhah as Pesel Mikhah in Shofetim.

>So, it's not a "new thing", but rather a new instance of an old thing.
>But I never heard of an actual pesel crossing the Yam Suf.

>Tir'u baTov!


I found two citations below, but for some reason I thought I saw it in Rashi
in the parsha itself.


In both the first and the second Beis-Hamikdash, the prediction that they would be destroyed was made long before the Churban actually took place. The people may have refused to read the writing on the wall, but it was there for all to see. G-d's decision to destroy the first Beis-Hamikdash was made when King Menasheh (one of the worst kings in Jewish history) placed an image in the Heichal, not long after his ascent to the throne in 3240 (almost a hundred years before the Churban actually took place). According to the Seider ha'Doros, this image was none other than Pesel Michah, which had already been around when Yisrael crossed the Yam-Suf, and had lasted right until now.

Sanhedrin 103b

(c) (R. Yochanan): "V'Avar ba'Yam Tzarah" - Michah took (Gra - had a spiritual defect which would later cause him to make) an idol through the Yam Suf (Alternatively - he took a plate with Hash-m's name (which Moshe had used to raise Yosef's coffin from the bottom of the Nile) which he would later use to make the Egel.)

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Message: 5
From: "kennethgmiller@juno.com" <kennethgmiller@juno.com>
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 01:44:21 GMT
Re: [Avodah] Diberah Torah

(ATTENTION MODERATORS! Please make sure to read this post before giving it the okay. I'll accept your judgement.)

R' Daniel Eidensohn wrote:
> ... Over time words and phrases acquire new connotations.
> For example Prof. Jacob Katz has an article of how the
> expression "[...]" was given halachic significance when
> it is not used that way by Chazal. I am not sure that
> there is a prohibition of using phrases differently than
> Chazal.

I think the objection being raised is that, yes, when one gives new meaning to old phrases, it could quite possibly be a violation of halacha. Specifically, geneivas daas. It assigns a Chazalic authority to something which Chazal never said or intended. The audience is thus misled into thinking that the statement has a greater authority and importance than it really does have.

On the other hand, (and may Hashem and the moderators forgive me for my cynicism) we're talking about a religion which allows a person to deliberately lie and say "Rav Ploni said so!" simply because the audience are fans of Rav Ploni, and would be less impressed if we used the name of the rav who *really* made that statement.

So maybe RDE is correct, that there is no issur involved.

Akiva Miller
Click here to find the low cost way to send and receive faxes by email!

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Message: 6
From: "Michael Makovi" <mikewinddale@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 14:23:18 +0200
Re: [Avodah] Cave or desert island

>> Any individual by himself can be righteous. And it's not because it's
>> easy. Rather, there's nothing to do! True, I haven't stolen or lied or
>> injured, but I couldn't if I wanted to! There's a saying, something
>> like "When there's nothing to steal, the thief regards his virtue as
>> real". So it isn't merely that the achievement was easily won. Rather,
>> there's no achievement at all whatsoever!

> I disagree with this sentiment for the above reason. There ius more to
> personal perfection than not sinning.

Of course. This is my point. There is more to being a tzadik than
simply not sinning. Being a tzadik means:
1) Not sinning WHEN you have the opportunity. In seclusion, you have
no opportunity, and no influence from your yetzer hara.
2) Doing chesed. In seclusion, you have only bein adam l'makom.

This is why the Torah wants us to live in society. Because the Torah
does not want to create the ideal sinless individual, but rather the
sinless and mitzvah-full society. As I said (with the double >):

> Weaving togather another point of RMM's from the paragraph before that
> one and the sentence after it:
>> But the purpose of the Torah is to perfect the society! As Rabbi Aryeh
>> Carmel puts it in Masterplan, the aim of the Torah is not the
>> perfected individual, but rather the perfected society.
>> ...
>> Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits touches on this, in several places...

> This thread started with RRW championing REB's version of this idea,
> and my objection to the notion that a perfected society is the sole
> goal of beris Sinai, the only thing added beyond the beris with Noach.
> My argument was that if this were true, there would be no value to
> doing mitzvos specific to Jews when cut off from all other Jews.
> Perhaps even when cut off to the point of not having contact with 10
> Jewish adults. (Of either gender; qiddush Hashem doesn't require the
> minyan be men so we see a quantum of Jewish community isn't
> necessarily gender specific).

The Sifra says this on the Tochacha (I think) - when you go into
galut, keep doing mitzvot, AS A REMINDER. Our doing mitzvot in chutz
la'aretz is only a reminder so that we remember how to keep them in
haAretz. It is davka in haAretz where we will be a mamlechet kohanim
v'goy kodash, and thus an ohr lagoyim.

As Rabbi Berkovits puts it, it takes a nation to influence a nation.
Despite Rav Hirsch's words to the contrary, the gentiles will not be
disposed to looking to Jewish aliens in their midst for guidance; for
one, we are weak and unattractive in galut, and two, we don't have an
army, government, or economy, and so they will say, "It's all nice and
good that you are righteous, but you don't know what it's like. We
have to run an entire country, and sometimes it takes moral
compromise. All you need to do is live your own little personal life".

Any individual can be a tzadik. For example, I've never robbed in my
life. But does anyone look at me and say, "Wow! Mikha'el Makovi's
never robbed!". But what if the entire country of Israel didn't have a
single robber? Imagine what the world would say! Individually, a
tzadik can fade into the background. But as a collective, the whole is
more than the sum of its individuals.

Now, regarding the ideal society being the only thing added onto Torah
from brit Noach: I never said this. Brit noach requires a just society
too - the seventh law is to institute courts of justice. Now, you'll
say, that just makes it worse! Before you thought that the Torah is
merely Noachide + just society, but now I say that Noachide itself has
just society as a requirement! Indeed. What is the purpose of the
Torah? Is it to create a small nation that worships Hashem while the
rest of the world does whatever? Absolutely not. The purpose of Am
Yisrael is to do kiddush hashem, to proclaim Hashem to the world.
Examine Aleinu:

Aleinu l'shabeach ladon hakol...shelo asanu ke'goyei ha'aratzot, vlo
samnu k'mishpachot adama

Hashem made us different, distinct. Atah bachartanu, mikol ha'amin.
Ahavtah otanu v'ratzita banu, b'romamtanu mikol hal'shonot.
V'kidashtanu b'mitzvotecha, v'karavtenu malkenu la'avodatecha.
V'shimcha gadol aleinu karata.

But why? Why did He choose us? Why did He love us? Why did He sanctify
us with His mitzvot and proclaim His name on us?

AL KEN n'kaveh...AL KEN. The reason He chose us, the ENTIRE reason,
the entire reason for the entire first paragraph of Aleinu, is for us
to bring the whole world to worship Him. So there really isn't
anything special about our relationship with Hashem. It is simply the
relationship which all men are supposed to have, and will have, once
we accomplish our task. See Rav Hirsch to Shemot 19:5-6. In fact, this
theme constantly repeats through the entirety of Rav Hirsch.

> : But the ikkar Torah is in a community.  Bedi'avad of course one does
> : what he can on a desert island
> Why would he even have a bedi'eved duty? After all, it's a community's
> duty, and his actions have no impact on Jewish community.

As Sifra says, in galut, keep mitzvot as a reminder. Not because they
have any intrinsic value. Were it not for the reminder aspect, then a
Jew in galut could just be a Noachide. (I don't see the difference
between galut of the the nation and galut of the individual, as far as
the individual goes. If an individual ought not have to keep mitzvot
when he is in galut with the nation, then so too when he by himself is
in galut.)

> You didn't give me motivation to make that distinction. After all,
> according to your position, any mitzvah beyond the 66 included in the
> 7 mitzvos benei Noach only gain their relevancy from the community.
> Even bein adam laMaqom ones only exist to sanctify that community. No?

I'd agree with this, as above. A Jew in galut logically ought to
become a Noachide.

> I would instead follow the Ramchal, that mitzvos exist to perfect the
> self, as he understands the tanna's mashal of "prepare on erev Shabbos
> so that you can feast on Shabbos".

So why create a nation? This brings us right back to our starting
point. If one understands Ramchal this way, we have an enormous

> Why then do Jews have more mitzvos. "Ratzah HQBH lezakos es
> Yisrael..." Peirush haRambam -- because it gives us more opportunities
> to have that moment of epiphany (koneh olamo besha'ah achas) by which
> we get olam haba.

And we serve for olam haba? Perhaps according to a philosophical
standpoint influenced by the Greek-Philosophical preoccupation with
the soul, but this is not true Judaism. Judaism never said that the
way to righteousness is through philosophical contemplation nor
through intellectual perfection - see Rav Hirsch's attack on Rambam in
his 19 Letters, following the Chasid Yaavetz.

(To be fair, I'll acknowledge that you yourself said,
> I might not share the Rambam's love of phrasing the goal in terms of
> yediah, as per a conversation we had back in vol 2, about the Rambam
> thereby concluding that mentally retarded people have smaller souls.)

Likewise, we don't serve for Olam Haba. See Rav Hirsch towards the end
of Bereshit perek tet. There, Rav Hirsch says that Judaism exists for
this world, and that is why the Torah doesn't speak of olam haba -
because it's really not very important. In fact, I'd say that Olam
haBa is almost meaningless, because after all, we're just going to be
resurrected and live on the physical world again. Hashem created the
world because He desired a dwelling in the lower realms - can we
imagine for even a moment then that He'll destroy that lower realm
someday? No! Rather, the Messianic Era will come, and we'll be
resurrected, and thus we'll live in the Messianic Era for eternity -
see Rabbi Berkovits at the end of the last chapter (or maybe the
second-to-last chapter) of G-d Man and History.

See Rav Hirsch in his letter on aggadah (the link was posted
recently), where he says he's never really thought about olam haba or
techiyat hameitim or any of that, because it's not important. In
Pirkei Avot, there's the one mishna that talks about doing mitzvot and
being judged and all that, and being resurrected. Rav Hirsch writes an
entire page on the first half of the Mishna, but on the second half
(concerning afterlife), he writes one or two measly sentences, merely
parroting what the Mishna already said.

> However, the notion that more mitzvos means more tools or
> opportunities to accomplish one's tafqid stands.
> More opportunities is only good if you take one. More wasted
> opportunities is reason for culpability. Jews play for higher stakes.

Tov, we want to mitzvot. Lo plige. But why? Because we want to
proclaim Hashem's name in the world. NOT for our own selves. And
what's the best way to proclaim His name? As Rabbi Berkovits puts it,
the actualization of the deed, in history, requires a community; an
individual cannot do it.

> That's in addition to being part of a national covenant. As I wrote
> shortly before RMM joined, there were at least two berisim in Sinai.
> Not only is a Jew a component of a holy Kelal Yisrael, but Kelal
> Yisrael is composed of holy Jews. We need both.

There's an interesting article on www.azure.co.il, by a rabbi at Bar
Ilan. He shows that the covenant section of Shemot has striking
similarities to a Hittite suzerainty treaty. The nafka mina, he says,
is that the brit was not made with the nation as a collective, as it
was with each individual unto himself.

This is certainly important. This rav says, that otherwise, we would
think that the entire nation is one before Hashem, and so the king can
serve Hashem in the Temple (as was done by other Near Eastern nations)
while everyone else does his thing; after all, if the nation is one,
then one man can represent the entire nation. In contrast to
Babylonia, where only the priest had religious duties, in Israel,
everyone is a priest.

Nevertheless, it seems obvious that the collective is important too.
The revelation at Sinai was directed to each individual as an
individual, but it was each individual as part of a nation. We are
reminded by Moshe in Devarim that the entire NATION saw the
revelation. Moshe asks, what other NATION has been taken by Hashem to
be His? Etc.

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Message: 7
From: Zev Sero <zev@sero.name>
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 07:32:45 -0500
Re: [Avodah] What would a Torah government look like

Eli Turkel wrote:
> To my mind one of the greatest challenges to a Torah government would
> be modern day commerce
> A simple example  one makes an electronic reservation by computer for
> a hotel room or
> plane flight and holds it with a credit card. When one arrives they
> refuse to honor their commitment.
> Upon screaming they answer that according to halacha a promise to do
> some action is not
> enforcable and no kinyan was done. Even if one paid in advance money
> is not a kinyan.

1. Minhag hatagarim.
2. They can make a kinyan with the credit card company, or with the
reservations company.

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: 8
From: "Michael Makovi" <mikewinddale@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 14:48:06 +0200
[Avodah] What would a Torah government look like?

From Areivim:

>After all, much of halachah bein adam l'chaveiro is some idealistic
>(in that it reflects an ideal, and is not always pragmatic), and, as
>has often been noted, does not necessarily lend itself as a complete
>solution to modern problems of enforcement. What would happen if the
>government could not prosecute a murder who chases his victim into an
>empty cave and emerges with a bloody knife?
>The power granted to a melech to add addition legal powers serve to
 >fill in the gaps, but we can ask, if in the absence of a melech +
>sanhedrin, if we wouldn't be better off remaining under the authority
>of a moral and just secular government who is allowed to create these
>laws on their own without a formal halachic process.
>* iff from comp sci; "if and only if"
>Mike Miller

Your points are quite valid.

But chas v'shalom that we should have to remain under a secular
government in order to ensure a proper society! Can one truly imagine
that ratzon haTorah is that we remain under an explicitly non-Torah
government? Can one imagine that the Torah does not have provision for
just this case? As Ben Bag Bag says, everything is in it.

Besides, according to the opinion that a king is optional (minority
though it may be, it is still a valid opinion, and had to account for
all the situations and details for it to be even considered), there
could be a complete Torah-government without a king. How then would we
take care of the man with the bloody knife?

There are at least two answers I know of
1) Put him in a prison-cell with barley-bread till he bursts
2) Punish in ways that are not strictly warranted (i.e.
extrajudicial), but enforced so as to prevent criminals from ignoring
the Torah.

To explain number two: If you can execute someone who violates the
d'rabanan of riding an animal on Shabbat, surely there is a way to
execute someone who didn't technically fulfill the requirements for a

(Of course, if either of these solutions works, then it begs the
question, what good are the judicial laws? If we can ignore the
requirement for two witnesses with non-circumstancial-evidence and
with warning, etc. etc., either by using a dungeon and barley bread or
extrajudicial punishment, then what are these laws for? I am not an
expert, and perhaps one of these does not apply here, and/or perhaps
there is a third solution. But in any case, it is absolutely
positively unthinkable for their not to be provision in the Torah for
this. It simply cannot be.)

As an aside, I was just studying Sforno on Avot, and he interprets
making a sayag to the Torah not as making gezerot and takkanot, but
rather as enforcing punishments not provided for in the technical law
(number two above). The reason is still the same as making a gezera or
takkana, viz. to protect the integrity of the Torah from those who
would scoff at it, etc. His basis is the Gemara elsewhere on making a
sayag, where it says this.

Mikha'el Makovi

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Message: 9
From: "Michael Makovi" <mikewinddale@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 14:59:54 +0200
Re: [Avodah] What would a Torah government look like

> BTW in the article of HS there is a fundamental disagreement between
> Haym Soloveitchik and his
> critic R. Buchwold. HS believes that it the job of a posek or RY to be
> inventive to solve contemporary
> choshem mihspat problems and not just issur veheter. The basic thrust
> of the article is the
> inventiveness of Raavad to do exactly that. R. Buchwold looks at it as
> almost a reform jew
> chabging halacha due to changed circumstances. HS argues that there is
> a basic difference
> between Orach Chaim and Yoreh Deah where that approach is discouraged
> and Choshen Mishpat
> where it is necessary if halacha is to be relevant to modern commerce.
> --
> Eli Turkel

A sad time for Am Yisrael when we have to argue about whether halacha
should be revised for the modern state. The question shouldn't even

Rabbi Berkovits writes that this was the entire purpose of Torah
She'be'al'pe - new situations and advances would be brought into the
fold of Torah by whatever means possible (obviously, if there's no
way, there's no way).

Rabbi Berkovits writes with much discomfort, the fact that this has
not occurred in the modern state. He says that some still believe, for
example, that we can hand the entire economy over to gentiles on

Changing halacha due to changed circumstances is davka what chiddushim
and advances in Torah She'be'al'pe are about. If not, then what? The
Reform sought to change halacha to agree with the new circumstance,
abrogating halacha when they couldn't. The Orthodox way  is to adapt
the halacha to encompass and master the new circumstance. With Reform,
foreign value systems are used to change halacha. With Orthodox, Torah
values are used to change halacha to make a ruling on the new
circumstance. It is not really an issue of *changing* halacha, as it
is, rather, having halacha make a ruling on a subject it has never
ruled before. Applying halacha to checks is not changing halacha, but
rather extending it to a new situation.

See David Hazony's introduction to Rabbi Berkovits's Essential Essays
on Judaism.

Mikha'el Makovi

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Message: 10
From: "Michael Makovi" <mikewinddale@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 15:07:35 +0200
Re: [Avodah] assisted suicide

> Perhaps King Shaul's fear was not the pain of dying at their hands
> (i.e. he killed himself to avoid the torture), but rather the
> desecration of his body and the chillul hashem of it being davka the
> king (i.e. he killed himself to avoid not the pain itself, but the
> humiliation after his death)?
> Mikha'el Makovi

Indeed, Rabbi Akiva refused to hasten his death and avoid the pain of
being burnt alive. Apparently pain is not enough?

Whereas on Masada and during the Crusades and pogroms, Jews committed
suicide rather than be faced with conversion and such, because dying
at their hands en masse would be chillul hashem. Likewise when they'll
desecrate your body.

But when you're being killed as an individual (eg. burning, without
desecration of the body, i.e. keep it hanging for a while), or of a
disease, there's no chillul hashem or whatnot to justify suicide.

Mikha'el Makovi

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Message: 11
From: Ben Waxman <ben1456@smile.net.il>
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 15:07:12 +0200
Re: [Avodah] tora state

>From: Saul.Z.Newman@kp.org
>from a RW rabbi on the OU website, has his own idea of a 'tora state'
>I believe that the time has come to establish a political party whose=20
>platform is unashamedly for a Torah state.=======
>5- Shabbat will be the law of the land. There will be no desecration 
>of the shabbat in the public areas, including non Jews. Kashrut will
>strictly observed as will the limits of modesty - tzniut.

Does a having a Torah state demand that a non-Jew can not smoke or 
drive or have a barbecue in public?



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