Avodah Mailing List

Volume 36: Number 51

Wed, 25 Apr 2018

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: H Lampel
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2018 10:37:22 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Translation of Makkos / Binfol oyivcha al

Revisiting an issue that comes up repeatedly--do classical sources 
support the approach that we should feel sorrow for / not rejoice over, 
the suffering of our persecuting enemies.

Yeshayahu (15:5) declares, ?My heart cries out? over the destruction of 
Israel?s wicked enemy, Moab.

TargumYonason (and Radak and Metsudos) take this as the prophet quoting 
the enemy.

But Rashi takes it as the prophet expressing his own heart?s thoughts, 
and he writes, ?The prophets of Israel are unlike the prophets of the 
umos ha-olom. Bilaam sought to uproot Israel for no reason. But the 
prophets of Israel [who had good cause to wish for their persecutors? 
destruction, nevertheless] mourn over the punishments coming upon the 
nations (miss-o-ninnim al pur-annos ha-ba-ah al ha-umos).??

(Artscroll cites both explanations, but adds a commentary by ''Sod 
Yesharim (I could not find it on HebrewBooks.org) who, like Rashi, takes 
the prophet to be referring to his own grief, but contra Rashi declares, 
''The prophet had no cause to grieve over the downfall of the wicked 
nation of Moab, or of other unworthy nations. However, every nation had 
its own type of impurity that tempted the righteous and was a challenge 
that they had to overcome. When they did so successfully, they grew in 
stature. Now, with the demise of Moab, that particular challenge 
disappeared, and with it the potential for growth.)

Also, I did have occasion to directly ask Rav Dovid Feinstein what he 
meant in the Kol Dodi Hagadah by ''shofchim l'eebud ha-makos and we 
don't drink them.'' Did he mean we pour out the wine out of sympathy for 
the Egyptians' suffering the makkos (as I had translated it), or did he 
mean that after taking the drops of wine out of the cups, we throw them 
(the drops of wine representing the makkos) out as waste, rather than 
drinking them (as R. Zev Sero insisted). And how that relates to the 
issue of ''al tismach.''

Sorry, but he did not commit to either way, comfortable with both 
approaches towards rejoicing over the downfall of Israel's enemies.

Nevertheless, by my request, the next printing of the Kol Dodi Haggadah 
should have the translation changed to R. Zev's.

Zvi Lampel
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Message: 2
From: Sholom Simon
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2018 11:32:13 -0400
[Avodah] R'YBS-Feminist/Talit Story

> And the Frimers' article (Winter 1998, a half-year before) is at (pg 41
> [37th of the PDF]) http://bit.ly/2FfK715

Let me ask the obvious question here.  According to the story, the Rav
concluded:  "It was obvious, therefore, that what generated her sense of
'religious high' was not an enhanced kiyum hamitzvah, but something else"
and therefore was "an inappropriate use of the mitzvah".

Does _anybody_ here get a "religious high" from doing a new mitzvah?
Perhaps a bar mitzvah boy the first time his tefillin "counts", or, perhaps
the first time one dons a tallis at shul after marriage, or the first time
one does birchas hachama?

(As a baal teshuva, I have had a plethora of opportunities to do a mitzvah
for the first time, and sometimes I get a spiritual high.  And it's quite
possible that I didn't do all of them correctly the first time, and that
sometimes I wasn't even yotzie b'deived.  No, I don't check my tzitzis
every time I put on my tallis).

Now, suppose you got that "high" but later found out that the mitzvah was
done incorrectly.  Does that mean the "high" one felt was perforce

The more obvious question: doesn't one sometimes get a high because he is
*thinking* that he is being mekayum a mitzvah?  Is believing that one is
doing ratzon HaShem, or believing that one is getting closer to Hashem, an
inappropriate thought?

-- Sholom
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Message: 3
From: Prof. Levine
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2018 16:03:11 -0400
[Avodah] Judging The Credibility Of The Sages

At 10:26 AM 4/25/2018, Jay F. Shachter wrote:

Let me begin with Daas Torah.

Some years ago Rav Zelig Epstein, ZT"L was describing how the Mir 
Yeshiva left Vilna and got to Japan.  He pointed out that almost all 
of the yeshivas were at this time located in Vilna and that almost 
all of the hanhalla of the yeshivas were opposed to leaving 
Vilna,  because they feared that the Russians would arrest the 
yeshiva boys for trying to leave the "Communist paradise."  However, 
several yeshivas boys were strongly in favor of leaving.

The following is from my article 

Rabbi Aryeh Leib Malin And The Mir Yeshiva Glimpses Into American 
Jewish History Part 154 The Jewish Press, February  2, 2018.

"Rabbi Malin [a top Mir student] felt it was a matter of life and 
death that the Mir Yeshiva students leave Vilna. He is reported to 
have said, "I will get a gun and shoot anybody who tries to stop us 
from leaving!" (This was verified for me by Reb Zalman Alpert, who 
served as a librarian at Yeshiva University for many years and told 
me he heard it from two former Mir Yeshiva students.) "

When one of the boys heard that the yeshiva students went against 
what the hanhalla said, he asked, "But what about Daas Torah?"  Reb 
Zelig replied (and I do not know if he was serious or kidding), "This 
was before Daas Torah was invented."

I was told that Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz,  who was against the yeshiva 
leaving,  later apologized to Reb Leib with tears in his eyes.

The idea of the infallibility of  religious leaders is, IMO, a result 
of the Chassidization of Yahadus.  I do not believe that this was 
prevalent in the non-Chassidic world prior to WW II.

Regarding asking and following what a rov tells you, I am convinced 
that when they ask in the World to Come "Why did you do this or 
that?" and someone replies, "I  asked a Rov and he told  me to do 
this."  the response  will be,  "You were given free will and 
expected to exercise it."  Certainly one needs to ask a rov difficult 
halachic questions,  but need one ask about most things in daily 
life?  A friend of mine who is a therapist told me that some of his 
patients are afraid to do almost anything on their own.  How sad.

Even the Avos were not perfect and RSRH points this out. See his 
 From Jacob and Esau (Collected Writings VII)  where he points out 
that Yitzchok and Rivka made errors in educating Eisav. See also his 
commentary on what Avraham did when he said that Sarah was his 
sister. He follows the RAMBAN who says Avraham made a "big" mistake 
when he did this.

Sadly there are some who do believe that whatever scientific 
assertions Chazal made must be valid.  Rabbi Moshe Meiselman is one 
such person.  His book Torah, Chazal and Science takes 
this  position. It is hard for me to understand how a nephew of RYBS 
can hold  this view.

Regarding believing things that are not true, see my article 
Mind Is Made Up. Do Not Confuse Me With The Facts!"   The Jewish 
Press, August 25, 2004 pages 7 & 77.


>It is always dangerous to believe things that are not true.
>Not knowing something is an intellectual failing.  Not knowing what
>you are talking about is a moral failing.  Making up an answer when
>you do not know the answer is a moral failing.  Knowing when our sages
>have displayed this moral failing makes you more able to see the same
>moral failing in yourself.  It leads to self-awareness, and self-
>At the same time, and this is not a contradiction, knowing both the
>moral and the intellectual failings of our sages protects you from the
>dangerous and deadly doctrine of das Torah.  You will rely on
>yourself, in areas where you should rely on yourself.  In the 1930s,
>the majority of gdolim in Europe were opposed to leaving Europe, and
>advised Jews not to leave Europe.  The docrine of das Torah directly
>caused the death of millions of Jews (this is hyperbole).
>Members of this mailing list have, in the past, written on this
>mailing list that our gdolim do not have perfect knowledge, but still
>we must do what they say, because on whom else can we rely, if not on
>our gdolim?  The answer is that you must rely on yourself.  Even in
>matters of halakha you must rely on yourself, if you know the halakha,
>even if all the gdolim are against you; it is the first Mishna in
>Harayyoth.  Of course, you must have the intellectual honesty to admit
>when they know the halakha better than you do.  Qal Vaxomer you must
>rely on yourself when deciding whether to buy stock in General Motors.
>If nothing else, ending the pernicious doctrine of das Torah will
>increase variety in our behavior, and we want that, in matters where
>the halakha does not demand uniformity of behavior, for the same
>reason that we want genetic diversity in our crops.
>That our sages can be wrong, and wrong about imporant things, we know
>already from 1 Samuel 16:6.  But it helps if you can see it yourself,
>and it helps to the extent that you can see for yourself, how often,
>and how much, our sages have been wrong.  Otherwise you will take
>literally midrashim that attribute 1 Samuel 16:6 to 1 Samuel 9:19 and
>you will think that any time our sages are wrong it is an event that
>requires supernatural explanation.
>Moreover, knowing how often and how much our sages have been wrong,
>and thus reducing the perceived distance between you and them, makes
>you more likely to understand, and to believe, that you can be like
>them.  Every reader of this mailing list is able to be a Moshe, a
>Xuldah, a Hillel.  Their intellectual achievements may be beyond your
>abilities but their moral achievements are not.  Knowing that it is
>a possibility will lead to your striving to make it a reality.  Some
>of you will succeed.  Some of you will surpass them.
>You will not do this if you think that our sages were of a different
>species than you, if you think that Moshe was 6 meters tall, that
>every Tanna had the ability to resurrect the dead, that a Talmid
>Xakham of sufficient stature can look into the Torah and derive all
>scientific truths from it, they could have found in the Torah a
>vaccine for smallpox but they chose not to because plagues bring us
>closer to God.  People with these characteristics are a different
>species from you.  You will not strive to be like them, because you
>will know that you do not have it in you to be like them.  You are
>different, you are lesser, you are inherently flawed, all you can do
>is admire them, and obey them, but you cannot equal them, or surpass
>There are reasons for a secular education (which was the original
>topic of the thread that led to the current posting), other than
>bringing us to a correct judgement of the credibility of our sages,
>that have not been mentioned on this mailing list.  Secular education
>inculcates the empirical mode of thought, which is indispensible for
>all innovation and all progress, even progress in Torah knowledge, and
>progress in Torah knowledge is possible at least according to some
>people, Samson Raphael Hirsch believed that he knew the reason for the
>Parah Adumah.  Without the empirical mode of thought, no well-grounded
>innovations, no innovations based on reality, will ever occur.  There
>is a member of this mailing list who is very intelligent, perhaps he
>is the most intelligent member of this mailing list.  But he will
>never create anything useful with his mind, because he believes that
>he has a religious obligation to believe in dibbuks.
>                 Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter
>                 6424 N Whipple St
>                 Chicago IL  60645-4111
>                         (1-773)7613784   landline
>                         (1-410)9964737   GoogleVoice
>                         j...@m5.chicago.il.us

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