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Volume 31: Number 199

Sun, 08 Dec 2013

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Zev Sero <z...@sero.name>
Date: Fri, 06 Dec 2013 12:19:04 -0500
Re: [Avodah] suicide by cop

David Riceman <drice...@optimum.net> wrote:

> a case in mid fourteenth century Spain of a Jew who had converted to
> Christianity.  It was claimed by the Inquisition (and supported by
> testimony induced by torture) that a group of local Jews told him
> that the only way to achieve absolution was to go to the authorities,
> tell them that he had reverted to Judaism, and be burned at the stake.

Note carefully that (if the narrator is to be taken at his word) the Jew
was *not* told to volunteer to be burned.  He was told that he had to recant
his chilul haShem before the same audience that had witnessed it, regardless
of the consequences.  His death that would probably result would not be a
penance for his sin, which would be wiped out by the recantation itself,
but rather the kiddush haShem that he was required to accept in the first place.
Indeed, it could be seen as a reward for his bravery; our tradition is that
dying al kiddush haShem is something to be hoped for, though not deliberately
sought out.

Zev Sero               A citizen may not be required to offer a 'good and
z...@sero.name          substantial reason' why he should be permitted to
                        exercise his rights. The right's existence is all
                        the reason he needs.
                            - Judge Benson E. Legg, Woollard v. Sheridan

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Message: 2
From: Chesky Salomon <chesky.salo...@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 6 Dec 2013 15:49:26 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Yosef, a despot or a brilliant strategist and

On Thu, Dec 5, 2013 at 6:37 PM, Rabbi Meir G. Rabi <meir...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Was this the action of a despot or the greatest programme in education? For
> what better teaches than the experience of poverty and vulnerability?

But here's what it looks like from the outside:

"I call to mind Genesis, chapter xlvii. We have all thoughtfully -- or
unthoughtfully -- read the pathetic story of the years of plenty and
the years of famine in Egypt, and how Joseph, with that opportunity,
made a corner in broken hearts, and the crusts of the poor, and human
liberty -- a corner whereby he took a nation's money all away, to the
last penny; took a nation's livestock all away, to the last hoof; took
a nation's land away, to the last acre; then took the nation itself,
buying it for bread, man by man, woman by woman, child by child, till
all were slaves; a corner which took everything, left nothing; a
corner so stupendous that, by comparison with it, the most gigantic
corners in subsequent history are but baby things, for it dealt in
hundreds of millions of bushels, and its profits were reckonable by
hundreds of millions of dollars, and it was a disaster so crushing
that its effects have not wholly disappeared from Egypt to-day, more
than three thousand years after the event.

"Is it presumable that the eye of Egypt was upon Joseph the foreign
Jew all this time? I think it likely. Was it friendly? We must doubt
it. Was Joseph establishing a character for his race which would
survive long in Egypt? and in time would his name come to be
familiarly used to express that character -- like Shylock's? It is
hardly to be doubted."

(From Mark Twain's essay Concerning The Jews.)

I sometimes wonder whether this is the explanation for Shemos 1:8:
"Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph."


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Message: 3
From: David Riceman <drice...@optimum.net>
Date: Sat, 07 Dec 2013 18:28:50 -0500
Re: [Avodah] suicide by cop


<<If we presume that the conversion would be public knowledge, it would 
seem that it is chillul HaShem in the strictest technical sense, for 
which one is chayiv misa>>

No.  The punishment for hillul haShem b'meizid is malkus.  See SHM Lav 
#63, and, in the context of conversion to Christianity, see Tshuvos 
HaRashba 7:411.

<<I can see how dying in a manner that is middah kneged middah and a 
clear kiddush HaShem would be seen as the best way to obtain kaparah>>

I don't know how to refute a vision, but I don't understand how suicide, 
even via grama, is a kiddush hashem, nor do I know how you evaluated all 
other possibilities in order to conclude that this is "best".  Perhaps 
you can explain your opinion in more detail.

David Riceman

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Message: 4
From: "Prof. Levine" <llev...@stevens.edu>
Date: Sat, 07 Dec 2013 19:43:06 -0500
[Avodah] Eating Out

At 01:54 PM 12/6/2013, R. Ben Waxman wrote:

>I agree 100% that no one should criticize someone who doesn't eat
>outside of his own home.  On the other hand, I also don't believe that
>this particular mode of behavior is one that people should be taught is
>a "goal", a "higher level", "something to emulate".

Will you extend this to other kinds 
of  behavior?  For example,  Shaul Stampfer 
writes in his article The Image of the Gaon of 
Vilna in his book Families, Rabbis, and Education regarding the Vilna Gaon

There were also some aspects of the Gaon's personality that have been
somewhat under-emphasized in biographies and that may well have had an
impact on his contemporaries in terms of limiting his influence. The most
striking of these aspects is the relationship of the Gaon with the members of
his family, and the Gaon's views on how family relationships should be. Today
few, if any, would present the Gaon's behaviour 
as a model, and indeed little is
said in contemporary literature about his family life. Rabbi Avraham, son of
the Gaon, described his father in the following way:

How devoted he was in his soul to avoid the 
company of his household and his sons
and daughters. He sought only to dwell in the 
pure fear of God ... so that he never
asked his sons and daughters about their 
livelihoods or their situations. In his life he
never wrote them a letter to ask [about] their 
health. If one of his sons came to visit
him, even though he was very happy-for he had not 
seen him for a year or two nevertheless
he would never ask them about the situation of their sons and their
wives or their livelihood, and when the son had 
rested for an hour or so, he would
urge him to ren1rn to his studies.

Rabbi Avraham went on to describe how his father would often leave Vilna to
study in isolation. On one occasion the Gaon's son, Shelomoh Zalman (then 5
years old), fell seriously ill just when his father had planned to depart for a
period of study in isolation. The Gaon did not change his plans. After a
month of intense study he remembered, in the bath house (where he could
not think about Torah), that his son had been ill and he immediately went
back to Vilna to find out how he was. Both his unwillingness to change plans
because of his son's illness and the sudden recollection and return to Vilna
were no doubt somewhat bizarre to the Jews of Vilna of his time. The members
of the Gaon's family understood this withdrawal as an expression of his
commitment to Torah study, and they emphasized that the Gaon needed
great willpower to overcome his personal desire to spend time with his
children. At the same time their pain seems 
evident and their efforts to explain
his behaviour suggest that they suspected that contemporaries might have
found it difficult to understand this type of 
behaviour, ?which certainly was not
typical of contemporary rabbis.

Similar descriptions of the Gaon's lack of involvement in family matters
are found in the introduction to the Gaon's commentary on the Zohar by his
grandson, Rabbi Ya'akov ben Avraham. Upon visiting his grandfather, Rabbi
Ya'akov noted how his grandfather did not ask him how he and his family
were, and he clearly thought this to be unusual behaviour.

Will you also say, "I also don't believe 
that  this particular mode of behavior is one 
that people should be taught is a 'goal', a 
'higher level', 'something to emulate'" about 
this behavior of the Gaon and that people should 
not emulate and praise his total commitment to 
Torah learning?  Many is the time that we hear 
about how much time this or that Gadol spent 
learning and dealing with others.  This clearly 
takes away from the time and attention that he 
could  have given to family matters.

Yitzchok Levine

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Message: 5
From: Ben Waxman <ben1...@zahav.net.il>
Date: Sun, 08 Dec 2013 04:33:22 +0200
Re: [Avodah] Eating Out

First there is a huge difference. There is a mitzva of Talmud Torah and 
that mitzva includes a severe lifestyle if one wants to achieve Keter 
Torah. There is no mitzva of "not eating out". And no, "not eating out" 
isn't part of kashrut.

Having said that, yes, I agree 100% that the Gaon's lifestyle is not for 
every budding avreich, rav, or rosh yeshiva  (my chutzpah only goes so 
far; I can't bring myself to someone above the level of rosh yeshiva how 
he should live his life).


On 12/8/2013 2:43 AM, Prof. Levine wrote:

 > Will you also say, "I also don't believe that  this particular mode 
of behavior is one that people should be taught is a 'goal', a 'higher 
level', 'something to emulate'" about this behavior of the Gaon and that 
people should not emulate and praise his total commitment to Torah 
learning?  Many is the time that we hear about how much time this or 
that Gadol spent learning and dealing with others.  This clearly takes 
away from the time and attention that he could  have given to family 
 > Yitzchok Levine

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Message: 6
From: "Eitan Levy" <eitanhal...@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, 8 Dec 2013 10:06:12 +0200
Re: [Avodah] Eating Out

This is one behavior of the Vilna Gaon which should not be emulated. There 
are plenty of other great Torah sages who also led reasonable family lives. 
Let's emulate them.
-Eitan Levy

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Message: 7
From: "Prof. Levine" <llev...@stevens.edu>
Date: Sun, 08 Dec 2013 05:30:38 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Eating Out

At 09:33 PM 12/7/2013, Ben Waxman wrote:
>First there is a huge difference. There is a mitzva of Talmud Torah 
>and that mitzva includes a severe lifestyle if one wants to achieve 
>Keter Torah. There is no mitzva of "not eating out". And no, "not 
>eating out" isn't part of kashrut.

But there is a mitzvah to be scrupulous in the observance of kashrus, 
is there not? YL

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Message: 8
From: "Prof. Levine" <llev...@stevens.edu>
Date: Sun, 08 Dec 2013 05:26:58 -0500
[Avodah] The Vilna Gaon, Part 1: How Modern Was He?

  From http://tinyurl.com/mtw599a

Eliyahu Stern, The Genius: Elijah of Vilna and the Making of Modern
Judaism (New Haven, 2013)

Eliyahu Stern has set for himself a daunting task and argues his case
with conviction. He intends to correct a widespread assumption shared
not only by the general public, but by the scholarly community as
well. According to this narrative, the Vilna Gaon (hereafter the
Gaon) should not be seen as a traditionalist defender of the past,
but actually a modern Jew and one who helped usher in the modern era
in Jewish history. In Stern's words, "I [have] come to believe that
[Jacob] Katz's and [Michael K.] Silber's notion of tradition and
traditionalism fails to explain the experience of the overwhelming
majority of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century eastern European Jews
who did not spend their days either combating the Western European
secular pursuit of science, philosophy and mathematics or holding
onto the same political and social structures of their sixteenth- and
seventeenth-century ancestors. Katz and Silber might have been right
about [R. Moses] Sofer. . . . But figures such as the Gaon of Vilna
or Hayyim of Volozhin (the Gaon's student and Sofer's contemporary),
who did not express hostility toward modernity, elude their grasp" (p. 7).

This is quite a claim, and it would be a major revision of the
historical picture if Stern could prove the point. Stern also argues
that the Gaon's notes to the sixteenth-century legal code Shulhan
Arukh were influential in Jews moving away from a "code-based
learning culture supported by the kehilah" (p. 11)

See the above URL for more. YL

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Message: 9
From: "Prof. Levine" <llev...@stevens.edu>
Date: Sun, 08 Dec 2013 06:01:55 -0500
[Avodah] A Unique Contribution of Judaism

The following if from RSRH" commentary on Bereishis  46:1

1. Yisrael set out with everything that he had 
and he came to Be?er Sheva, and he offered meal 
offerings [zevachim YL]  to the God of his father Yitzchak.

We do not find elsewhere that our patriarchs offered zevachim. Like all
the other descendants of Noach, they offered only olos.

Whereas olah expresses complete personal devotion to God, zevach is
actually a family meal that is eaten by the baalim. It consecrates the
family?s home and table as a temple and an altar. Zevachim, which are generally
called ?Shlamim? express the loftier idea that God comes into our
midst. They are offered with the joyful awareness that Elokim b'dor tzadik
(Tehillim 14:5): God is present wherever a family is faithful to God and
knows that it is upheld by Him.

That is why Korban Shlamim, the ?peace offering? of a family life blessed
by God, is a distinctively Jewish offering. The idea of being absorbed
in God, being devoted to God, dawns also on non-Jewish minds. But
the idea that everyday life can become so thoroughly pervaded by the
spirit of God that one can eat and drink and, while doing so, behold
God (cf. Shemos 24:11); the idea that all our family rooms become
temples, our tables altars, and our young men and young women priests
and priestesses ? this spiritualization of everyday private life is a unique
contribution of Judaism.

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Message: 10
From: "Chana Luntz" <Ch...@kolsassoon.org.uk>
Date: Sun, 8 Dec 2013 13:17:37 -0000
[Avodah] Gitten and Korbanos

RZS wrote on Areivim:

>You're omitting one vital criterion.  Giving a get is compared to bringing
a korban *only* in those cases where it's already been determined that he is
obligated to give one.  It is not true in the normal case.

I thought it was worth responding on Avodah, because the parallels between
gitten and korbanos run much deeper than merely that once it has been
determined that one is obligated to bring a get or korban, force may be

Indeed there are (at least) two basic concepts found both in relation to
gitten and korban where the one is constantly referred to the other: 

a) the requirement of lishma - ie that a get must be given with the intent
for this particular woman.  A similar requirement of lishma is required vis
a vis korbanos and the parallel between the two is brought on the very first
daf of Zevachim (2b).  Ie the gemora understands right from the beginning
that the two are intimately connected.


b) the requirement for ratzon  in a get comes from the Mishna in Aruchin
(21a) which begins by quoting the requirement for the korban to be brought
"l'ratzono" (quoting the posuk of Vayikra 1:3)  and then provides the
proviso that a person can be forced.  The mishna then adds "and so is the
case with gittei nashim".  This is despite the psukim in the Torah
discussing gitten not using the term l'rtzono, nor the mishna or gemora
anywhere deriving out of these psukim that you need the rashon of the baal.
And while there may be rishonim and/or achronim that try and learn this
requirement directly out of the pasukim relating to get, it is noteworthy
that the mishna and gemora does not. This mishna is then the one that is
quoted in the various places where forcing is discussed, eg Yevamos 106a,
Kiddushin 50a, Baba Basra 48a.  That is, extraordinarily, the whole idea
that a get has to be given with the ratzon of the husband appears to be
brought in Torah SheBaal Peh as fundamentally arising out of the connection
of gitten to korbanos,  and not as an independent din.   


But of course the parallels go even deeper than this.  I cannot do justice
to such a linkage in a post like this, but here are some of the basic


1.    Marriage is paralleled to hekdesh by means of the very term we use
"kiddushin".  It is called kidushin because of the element of hekedesh in
it.  This again is brought right at the beginning of the gemora that
discusses nature of kiddushin (Kiddushin 2b see alsoTosphos there d"h
"d'assur la").  There are many other references that explore this parallel.


2.    The linkage between marriage and hekesh it taken to its fullest
conclusion in Nedarim (29a).  The gemara is discussing a situation where the
state of hekdesh of certain trees donated to the Temple automatically
dissipates after they are cut.  Seeking to refute this halakha the gemara
suggests that the state of hekdesh of these trees cannot automatically
disappear without a positive act (such as pidyon or me'ila).  To support
this position the gemara cites the case of marriage where the state of
hekdesh/kiddushin cannot merely dissolve on its own without a get.  In
response to this the gemara distinguishes between the trees which merely
have kedushas da'amim, and a woman who possesses "kedushas ha-guf".  Ie the
gemora treats completely seriously the idea that married women are in a
physical state of kedushas haguf. 


3.    Marriage is the one place that today, without a beis hamikdash, we
apply halachos of tumah and ta'harah.  The coming together of husband and
wife is the one parallel we have today to coming in a state of tahara to the
beis hamikdash.   Again, if you understand the woman to be in some fashion
in a state of kedushas ha-guf, the logic of this is clear.


4.    In contrast ,unfaithfulness in relation to marriage is not only called
tumah  (see Bamidbar 5:13 with reference to Sotah)  but it is the archetypal
form of tumah, being the source used to learn out key general principles of
hekdesh related tumah and tahara such as safek tumah b'reshus harabbim
tahor, b'reshus hayachid tameh.


5.    Just as somebody who is tameh is required to be sent out of the beis
hamikdash, when there is tumah within marriage there needs to be a sending


6.    And there are other kinds of parallels, for example two cases where
toch kedei dibur does not work relate to hekdesh and marriage..


So it is not surprising that the end of a marriage requires a kind of korban
linked concept in the form of a get.


And while I am no kabbalist my understanding is that the kabbalists go even
further with these parallels.


Of course these parallels are not exact; there are aspects of get that are
not identical to korban, and there are aspects of marriage that are not
identical to hekdesh.  But the way these concepts intertwine within the
Talmud like dna strands looping constantly about one another makes it very
hard, if you spend considerable time in the sea of the Talmud, not to see
the resonance between the one and the other.


The parallels suggest, and indeed this seems to be the thrust of the Torah
from the pshat of the psukim  relating to gitten, that the existence and
nature of a get is based on the need to preserve the extreme sanctity of
marriage.  Ie just as one needed to send out those with any level of tumah
from the beis hamikdash, so too marriage needed to be ended if it was
failing to be a sublime state of kedusha or tahara, and hence on a Torah
level divorce was relatively easy.  On the other hand by the time of Chazal,
there had been a diminishment in the generations and Chazal felt that as a
consequence there were too many gitten being given inappropriately and at
whim.  They therefore instituted the ketuba (which was never a Torah
concept) Of course this was the same Chazal who decided to prioritise
chalitza over yibum because the level of the people performing it were not
what they were and instead they were engaging in yibbum marriage for the
wrong reasons.


Under this understanding, the idea that a man would want to lock a woman "in
the beis hamikdash" ie into a state of kedusha and tahara because he did not
like her or wanted revenge on her would seem bizarre.  It is only once
people start to lose this sense both of what marriage is and what divorce is
would such a concept even cross their minds.


And this is why I believe that RMB is right that the use of something kodesh
as a spade to further battles with the other spouse is just plain wrong (and
parallel to meila).  One wonders if those who so glibly ask whether, if a
woman is being totally unjust in regard to the custody battle (and she may
well be doing so), "Why is it not legitimate to use the get as a tool?"
would so casually ask the same question regarding the use of a korban or
item of hekdesh, if that was the only tool available to the man.   It may be
permissible for the dust of the azarah to be used to reconcile husband and
wife, but to throw in the other's eyes in an attempt to win advantage in a


And then people wonder why we no longer have a beis hamikdash.   On all the
evidence we would not know how to treat it properly!


But note that gitten even b'zman hazeh play a not too dissimilar role to
that of korbanos as sometimes understood.  There are those of our meforshim
who wax eloquent regarding the nature of a korban, and the idea that a
person is supposed to see themselves as if it is they, not the korban, that
is really being (and deserves to be) burnt on the mizbeach, that the korban
is really a substitute for the person bringing it.


And in reality the get can also play a part that is not too far from this.
Because I strongly suspect that the requirement that a man give a get has in
fact saved lives.  Because anybody who works with or knows about domestic
violence cites that the most dangerous time for women who are subject to
domestic violence is when they try and leave, because men (and it is
overwhelmingly men) kill because "if I can't have her, nobody shall".  


And yet that is so often exactly the same motivation which is at the root of
get withholding.  A Jewish man does not need to kill to achieve a not too
dissimilar effect.  But yet, unlike murder, get witholding does allow time
for pressure to be brought, and for the man to transfer his incoherent hate
from the woman to the beis din or to the general world who is "persecuting"


But even if you say that this is the fundamental reason for the get system
to be structured as it is, with all the power in the hands of men, on the
basis that pikuach nefesh must need override the Torah requirement to do
justice (which would otherwise have leaned to make the divorce system much
more fairly balanced between the spouses), that clearly does not mean that
any bystanders should laud or justify or even accept somebody who is engaged
in murder by proxy and is in the process sullying that which is meant to be
kodesh.  Rather the existence of the get buys them time to attempt to
extricate the woman and places a moral obligation on those bystanders to
attempt to do so.







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