Avodah Mailing List

Volume 37: Number 9

Mon, 04 Feb 2019

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: <mgl...@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2019 22:52:51 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Is the Superbowl Kosher?

R' MB:
But aside from halakhah, from a straight mussar point of view; shouldn't
knowing the amount of danger people are subjecting themselves to for my
entertainment shterr my ability to enjoy it?

I'm having a little trouble processing the question. From a straight mussar
point of view, there are so many other reasons not to watch the Superbowl,
even if CTE were not an issue. 


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Message: 2
From: Akiva Miller
Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2019 23:17:31 -0500
Re: [Avodah] 10 Dibrot


R' Alexander Seinfeld asked:

> The trop (cantillation) for the 10 Statements (Commandments)
> is different when chanted in the congregation than when an
> individual is chanting on his own.
> What is the meaning or reason for this? How is the public
> trop supposed to resonate with the listener differently?

I wish I could remember where I heard this, but here is what I heard:

Let's take "lo tirtzach", for example. When an individual reads it,
the trop is "mercha tipcha", one single solid straightforward command:
"Don't murder!" (or kill or however you prefer to translate it)

But when the community reads it, the trop is different, and the tipcha
is now on the first word, causing a slight pause: "Lo - tirtzach!"
This resonates (to use RAS's word) in an entirely different manner. In
this particular case, it was suggested to me, that the tzibur (more
specifically the court) is is sometimes obligated to do that which is
normally assur. "Lo! [No! Wait! wait, pause, think, decide... okay, on
this particular occasion:] Tirtzach!"

Consider the eleven words that comprise Shemos 20:13. When the
individual reads it, there's only one "sof pasuk". But for the public,
there are four. One pasuk vs four pesukim has got to resonate
differently (though I don't recall the messages right now).

Akiva Miller

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Message: 3
From: Joshua Meisner
Date: Fri, 1 Feb 2019 12:09:09 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Is the Superbowl Kosher?

On Thu, Jan 31, 2019 at 4:36 PM Micha Berger via Avodah <
avo...@lists.aishdas.org> wrote:

> The stam beraisa (AZ 18b) prohibited going to itztadinin (stadia) mipenei
> moshav leivim. R' Nasan permits, because he may be able to scream and
> save someone, or at least prevent his widow from becoming an agunah.

How are we defining moshav leitzim?  We often use the word "scoffer", but
that doesn't seem to fit here.  Rashi uses the phrase "s'chok v'leitzanus"
to explain what happens at a karkom (Rashi says siege), as well as
explaining bukyon, mukyon, lulyon, and salgaryon as being "minei leitzanim"
- but would this definition of leitzanus apply more to a football game than
to a baseball game?

Interestingly, the Bach changes the phrase "she-hein moshav leitzim" by the
stadium to "she-hein shofchei damim", which may tilt the discussion back
toward your particular concern over violent sports.

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Message: 4
From: Micha Berger
Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2019 18:07:41 -0500
[Avodah] Defrocking a Rabbi

We spoke about it in the past, RGS has an interesting new post on
the subject.


Tir'u baTov!

Torah Musings
Revoking Ordination
by R. Gil Student
Feb 4, [20]19

What do you do when a rabbi is shown to be deficient in his behavior or
incompetent in Torah matters, perhaps even adopting heretical views? We
can understand if an ordaining authority revokes his ordination, but
what if that person is deceased? Can someone revoke ordination given by
someone else?

I. One Rabbi Giveth, Another Taketh Away

Rav Meir (Maharam) Lublin, in the late 16th century, found a ruling of
Rav Yosef Ashkenazi so ill-informed and presumptuous that the former sent
a letter to the rabbis of Worms insisting they declare publicly that this
man was unworthy of the title rabbi and unfit to rule. He would have done
so himself but worried that having a famous rabbi in another city do it
would have given the man greater prestige. (Responsa Maharam Lublin,
no. 88) [1]

A century earlier, Rav Eliezer of Passau--a student of Rav Ya'akov
(Mahari) Weil who also had ordination from Rav Yisrael (Mahari)
Bruna--attempted to establish himself in Prague without permission of the
rabbi, Rav Eliyahu of Prague, or rather grossly overstepped their formal
agreement about his activities. Additionally, he ruled on difficult
matters against the advice of older rabbis, reaching conclusions that
his elders thought were mistaken. Therefore, Rav Peretz (who apparently
was a leading German rabbi) declared that Rav Eliezer could no longer be
called rabbi nor issue halakhic rulings until he proved to Mahari Bruna or
another leading scholar that he had mastered the law sufficiently to issue
rulings. (Responsa Mahari Bruna, no. 278. See also no. 282.) [2]

Something similar occurred in the Alexandersohn affair of 1834.

II. Revoking Ordination

Jonathan Alexandersohn, the rabbi of Csaba in Hungary, was accused by
some of his townspeople of improper personal conduct, incorrect halakhic
rulings, heretical views, and having arranged an improper get. This last
issue is as follows. A get must include the name (in Hebrew letters)
of the town in which it is written. Many European town names are very
difficult to spell in Hebrew. However, if the town's name is misspelled,
the get is invalid. Therefore, rabbis arrange a get in a town in which
a get has never been written only after consultation with, and consensus
among, colleagues. Alexandersohn arranged a get in Csaba, where none had
previously been performed, after asking a senior neighboring rabbi who
told him not to. This deviation from established practice and setting
of a precedent for future potentially problematic gittin was considered
severe and intentional halakhic misconduct.

After a rabbinical court investigated and concluded that the
accusations against Alexandersohn were correct (although he refused to
participate in the proceedings), leading regional rabbis denounced him.
Additionally, Rav Moshe Sofer, commonly known as the Chasam Sofer,
declared--based primarily on the get issue but also on reports of
his improper behavior--that Alexandersohn may no longer use the title
"rabbi" or issue halachic rulings. The Chasam Sofer explicitly revoked
Alexanderson's rabbinic ordination. [3]

The difficulty is that the Chasam Sofer had not ordained Alexandersohn.
How could he revoke ordination that he had not given? How could Maharam
Lublin and Rav Peretz? I suggest the following possible explanation.

III. Worthy of Respect

I see two issues here, related but distinct. The first is removal of
the title "rabbi." That title is a form of respect for a Torah scholar.
The Gemara (Kiddushin 32b) says that one need not show respect for a
zaken ashmai, an ignorant elder (as per Tosafos, ad loc., sv. zaken).
Showing respect to such a person is optional. However, you are forbidden
to show respect to a Torah scholar who lacks care for the commandments
(Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 243:3; cf. Arukh Ha-Shulchan, ad loc.). If a
rabbi shows that he lacks care for the commandments, people are prohibited
from calling him by the respectful title "rabbi."

I am not aware of a specific definition for this category. It seems
to be left to the best judgment of the halakhic decisor. However,
when invoked, it effectively revokes the title "rabbi" from anyone who
listens to the halachic decisor. Perhaps the Chasam Sofer was using
this halakhah in stating that Alexandersohn should not be called rabbi.
Maybe he considered Alexandersohn's disregard for the rules of gittin
to be lack of care for the commandments.

IV. Unqualified Rabbi

Additionally, someone who is unqualified to rule on halakhic issues is
forbidden to do so (Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 242:13). When invoked,
this rule declares someone unfit to issue a halakhic ruling. It is
possible, today even likely, that someone can acquire rabbinic ordination
but still be unqualified to rule. Perhaps he was not tested thoroughly
or his capacity diminished over time. Either way, by declaring someone
currently unqualified to rule, a halakhic decisor effectively removes
this person's permission to rule. He revokes the man's ordination.

Perhaps the Chasam Sofer was also invoking this rule when revoking
Alexandersohn's ordination. The Chasam Sofer indicated that Alexandersohn
was serving as a stumbling block, presumably by arranging questionable
gittin and setting a problematic precedent that could lead to many
improper gittin in the future. By ignoring a basic rule of rabbinic
conduct--consultation on such an important communal matter--Alexandersohn
demonstrated that he was unfit to serve as a rabbi. The Chasam Sofer
removed this stumbling block by revoking his ordination, declaring him
unfit to rule.

V. Who Cares?

These episodes provide examples of revoking ordination. Even a halakhic
decisor who did not give the ordination may revoke it. However, it is
not immediately clear what effect this revocation will have. The rabbi
whose ordination was revoked will likely ignore it and claim that it was
all based on a misunderstanding or politics. Alexandersohn even published
a book in German and Hebrew defending himself against the accusations.

The communal value of the revocation of ordination is twofold.
Primarily, the Chasam Sofer gave the townspeople of Csaba license to
remove Alexandersohn from his position as rabbi and instructed them to
look elsewhere for halakhic guidance. It is no small matter to undermine
a rabbi's authority and damage his career, but sometimes extreme measures
are necessary. The Chasam Sofer, in a letter Alexandersohn published in
his book (part 58), says that he had asked Alexandersohn in person to
remove himself from the rabbinate for a year or two to return to yeshiva
to study until the controversy died down. Clearly, the Chasam Sofer
recognized the huge personal impact on Alexandersohn of this action. When
a figure of the Chasam Sofer's towering prominence declares a man unfit
to be a rabbi, people listen. Similarly, Rav Peretz offered Rav Eliezer
of Passau a way to return to the rabbinate after furthering his learning.

Additionally, the Chasam Sofer's revocation of ordination over the get
impropriety sent a loud message about the importance of care in proper
rabbinic conduct in halakhic matters. He took a stand on an issue
he felt was critical, even though it meant destroying a man's career
over it. Clearly, the Chasam Sofer felt his stance was warranted. But
his message--that this issue was very serious--could not be missed.
Revoking ordination--of course only when warranted--sends an important
message about halakhic standards of consultation and ruling.


1. I assume that this is not the same Rav Yosef Ashkenazi who
   immigrated to Israel around 1570, caused a ruckus and was put in
   cherem, which I discussed last year.
2. The above sources are quoted in Prof. Simcha Assaf, Be-Ohalei
   Ya'akov, p. 57.
3. Alexandersohn published a book in his defense titled [58]Tomekh
   Kavod (Frankfurt a.M., 1847). The Chasam Sofer`s letters appear
   in the Hebrew section, parts 21, 31, 48, 58. Two of these letters
   are also published in Responsa Chasam Sofer, Choshen Mishpat 162
   and 207. Note that [59]R. Moshe Teitelbaum, the Yismach Moshe, also
   explicitly revoked Alexandersohn's ordination, in a letter appearing
   in Tomekh Kavod, part 27.


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