Avodah Mailing List

Volume 38: Number 93

Mon, 09 Nov 2020

< Previous Next >
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Zev Sero
Date: Fri, 6 Nov 2020 09:45:11 -0500
Re: [Avodah] The Tahom

The "Tehom" is a body of water that is assumed to lie deep under the 
earth. Before the second day it covered the surface.  David drilled down 
to it and the flow of water was so strong that it caused a flood.  Also 
hot springs are assumed to come from it. (So was the water David dealt 
with hot? It's not stated.)

Zev Sero            Wishing everyone a *healthy* and happy 5781
z...@sero.name       "May this year and its curses end
                      May a new year and its blessings begin"

Go to top.

Message: 2
From: Micha Berger
Date: Fri, 6 Nov 2020 13:58:57 -0500
Re: [Avodah] The Delet Hakodesh and Lot

On Thu, Nov 05, 2020 at 08:35:26PM +0100, Arie Folger via Avodah wrote:
> I forgot who it was, but famous enlightenment thinkers struggled with the
> question of whether one is morally obligated to family more than to
> strangers, and the argument was made that ideally justice and virtue should
> be so blind that it doesn't matter if one is close or not...

As I'll quote below, this is famously a centerpiece of R Shimon's in
the haqdamah to Shaarei Yosher. So, I've looked at the topic while
researching for Widen Your Tent. I ended up deciding not to include
any comparison to other traditions.

The Stoics had a view called oikeiosis, from the word oikos, home or
household. Here is how Hierocles describes it (1st cent BCE, quoted in
Stobaeus 4.671-673):
    Each one of us is as it were entirely encompassed by many circles,
    some smaller, others larger, the latter enclosing the former on
    the basis of their different and unequal dispositions relative to
    each other. The first and closest circle is the one which a person
    has drawn as though around a center, his own mind. This circle
    encloses the body and anything taken for the sake of the body. For
    it is virtually the smallest circle, and almost touches the center
    itself. Next, the second one further removed from the center but
    enclosing the first circle; this contains parents, siblings, wife,
    and children. The third one has in it uncles and aunts, grandparents,
    nephews, nieces, and cousins. The next circle includes the other
    relatives, and this is followed by the circle of local residents, then
    the circle of fellow tribesmen, next that of fellow citizens, and then
    in the same way the circle of people from neighboring towns, and then
    the circle of fellow-countrymen. The outermost and largest circle,
    which encompasses all the rest, is that of the whole human race. Once
    these have all been surveyed, it is the task of a well-tempered man,
    in his proper treatment of each group, to draw the circles together
    somehow towards the center, and to keep zealously transferring those
    from the enclosing circles into the enclosed ones. It is incumbent
    on us to respect people from the third circle as if they were those
    from the second, and again to respect our other relatives as if they
    were those from the third circle. ...

Over in China, Meng Tzi (hamechunah "Mencius" in Latin):
    That which people are capable of without learning is their genuine
    capability. That which they know without pondering is their genuine
    knowledge. Among babes in arms there are none that do not know to love
    their parents. When they grow older, there are none that do not know
    to revere their elder brothers. Treating one's parents as parents is
    benevolence. Revering one's elders is righteousness. There is nothing
    else to do but extend these to the world.

I stumbled into the latter when seeing an article in "aeon" by Eric
Schwitzgebel titled "How Mengzi came up with something better than the
Golden Rule"

Two points he made that spoke to me:
    Maybe we can model Golden Rule/others' shoes thinking like this:

    1. If I were in the situation of person x, I would want to be treated
       according to principle p.
    2. Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
    3. Thus, I will treat person x according to principle p.

    And maybe we can model Mengzian extension like this:

    1. I care about person y and want to treat that person according to
       principle p.
    2. Person x, though perhaps more distant, is relevantly similar.
    3. Thus, I will treat person x according to principle p.

    ... Mengzian extension is more psychologically plausible as a model of
    moral development. People do, naturally, have concern and compassion
    for others around them. Explicit exhortations aren't needed to produce
    this natural concern and compassion, and these natural reactions are
    likely to be the main seed from which mature moral cognition
    grows. Our moral reactions to vivid, nearby cases become the bases
    for more general principles and policies. If you need to reason
    or analogise your way into concern even for close family members,
    you're already in deep moral trouble.

Now, on to R Shimon:
    The entire "ani" of a coarse and lowly person is restricted only
    to his substance and body. Above him is someone who feels that his
    "ani" is a synthesis of body and soul. And above him is someone who
    can include in his "ani" all of his household and family. Someone
    who walks according to the way of the Torah, his "ani" includes the
    whole Jewish People, since in truth every Jewish person is only like
    a limb of the body of the nation of Israel. In this [progression]
    there are more levels for a fully developed person, who can ingrain
    in his soul the feeling that the entire world is his 'ani,' and
    he himself is only one small limb of all of Creation. Then, his
    self-love helps him love the entire Jewish People and all of Creation.

    In my opinion, this idea is hinted at in Hillel's words, as he
    used to say, "Im ein ani li, mi li? Ukeshe'ani le'atzmi, mah ani?"
    It is fitting for each person to strive to be concerned for himself.

(Earlier Rav Shimon discussed Rabbi Aqiva, two people in the desert and
one owns enough water to just save one, `and chayekha qodmin.)

    But with this, he must also strive to understand that "Ukeshe'ani
    le'avemi, mah ani?" -- that if he constricts his "ani" to a narrow
    domain, limited to what the eye can see [is him], then his "ani" --
    what is it? Vanity and ignorable.

    If his feelings are broader and include [all of] Creation, that he
    is a great person and also like a small limb in this great body,
    then he is lofty and of great worth. In a great machine, even the
    smallest screw is important if it even serves the smallest role in
    the machine. For the whole is made of parts, and no more than the
    sum of its parts.

To Rav Shimon, this is how we resolve the centrality of chessed in avodas
Hashem with the fact that Hashem created within us a healthy dose of
self-interest. Chessed, ahavas Yisrael and ahavas haberios don't come
from selflessness, but by reflecting on self interest.

To which I would add (but didn't, because it only occured to me after
Widen was published) that this approach to chessed makes empathy and
compassion easier. After all, if my approach to chessed is through
bitul, and bowing out of their way, the other's pain is their pain,
and I am committing myself to help them as an outsider who (at least
in this situation) has lower priority. The relevant emotions would be
mercy or pity. But, if I act because I am aware of and thinking about
our interconnectedness, then I am sharing in their pain, and I am acting
from compassion and empathy.

And, thinking about the definition of "rechem", I would presume rachamim
is more like "compassion" or "empathy" than "mercy".

Okay, I'm going to stop here. There is much more I could say. In fact,
one might think I could write a book about it...


(PS / ad: A discount on Widen Your Tent is available to Avodah members.)

Micha Berger                 The purely righteous do not complain about evil,
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   but add justice, don't complain about heresy,
Author: Widen Your Tent      but add faith, don't complain about ignorance,
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF    but add wisdom.     - R AY Kook, Arpelei Tohar

Go to top.

Message: 3
From: Micha Berger
Date: Fri, 6 Nov 2020 14:20:50 -0500
Re: [Avodah] The Delet Hakodesh and Lot

On Fri, Nov 06, 2020 at 09:39:40AM -0500, Zev Sero via Avodah wrote:
> There is no indication that the girls (or for that matter the men) were to
> be killed, or harmed in any way other than by being used as an object of
> giluy arayos.

"... other than that, Mrs Lincoln, what did you think of the play?"

> And whatever modern attitudes are, the Torah

> (1) Does not regard rape as a crime in itself -- it regards it merely as a
> combination of giluy arayos and an ordinary assault to be dealt with just
> like any other, assessing the five categories of damages as appropriate;

And ordinary assault is still assault. It's harm.

You're exagerating how different halakhah's position is than modern
attitudes. Or more accurately, how different the halakhah's position
ended up being when it was true that "darkah bekakh" and girls grew up
knowing it was likely they'd be raped at some point,


Micha Berger                 The greatest discovery of all time is that
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   a person can change their future
Author: Widen Your Tent      by merely changing their attitude.
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF                 - Oprah Winfrey

Go to top.

Message: 4
From: Brent Kaufman
Date: Fri, 6 Nov 2020 21:31:56 -0600
Re: [Avodah] The Delet Hakodesh and Lot

This doesn?t seem to address the issue with Lot. Granted that we should all
try to brring the outer rings of our Self circle into where the inner rings
are; however, that means to bring the inner rings, if not even closer to
us, then to keep them where they are.

In Lot?s case though, he is exchanging the inner and outer rings, and while
bringing the outer rings (strangers) to take the place of the inner rings
(family) , and sending the inner rings past where the outer rings where.


*- "When life gives you lemons, shut up and eat your lemons."*
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avodah-aishdas.org/attachments/20201106/842fcbc8/attachment-0001.html>

Go to top.

Message: 5
From: Micha Berger
Date: Sat, 7 Nov 2020 21:06:11 -0500
[Avodah] Whose Burial Place

Started shenayim miqra for Chayei Sarah. I think there is something going
on here that I never heard pointed out.

Avraham asks to be a gravesite as an achuzas qaver.

Benei Cheis often him a grave saying, You are a nasi Elokim amongst us,
"is mimenu es qivro lo yikhleh mimekha". Seforno points out that they
offer Avraham to bury quickly, as is appropriate, and not spend time on
buying real estate.

But I was thinking... Couldn't they be trying to assimilate Avraham
into their nation? Sure, you're a great man... Any of us would want
/your/ deceased in /his/ grave. It would be an honor for the family
to have Sarah buried among them.

But the plot would stay a Hittite burial ground, and Sarah would be
Avraham's roots in their community.

Decades ago I hear R Menachem Zupnick suggest that that Avraham acquires
the field and me'arah twice -- once from Efron, and a second time in
18-20, "... leAvraham la'achuzas qaver Mei'eis Benei Cheis. From Efron he
acquires the field as property, but then he acquires soveignty from the
Hittite nation. Note the word "achuzah" in that quoted snippet from 23:20.

But now looking at the earlier pesuqim, it seems there is a whole tension
here... Avraham opens by defining himself as a geir vetoshav, Benei Cheis
suggest making him one of them, no element of geirus. He pushes back,
establishing himself a toshav, but of an independent nation.

Gut Voch!

Micha Berger                 The thought of happiness that comes from outside
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   the person, brings him sadness. But realizing
Author: Widen Your Tent      the value of one's will and the freedom brought
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF    by uplifting its, brings great joy. - R' Kook

Go to top.

Message: 6
From: Zev Sero
Date: Sun, 8 Nov 2020 05:06:30 -0500
Re: [Avodah] Whose Burial Place

On 11/7/20 9:06 PM, Micha Berger via Avodah wrote:
> But I was thinking... Couldn't they be trying to assimilate Avraham
> into their nation? Sure, you're a great man... Any of us would want
> /your/  deceased in/his/  grave. It would be an honor for the family
> to have Sarah buried among them.
> But the plot would stay a Hittite burial ground, and Sarah would be
> Avraham's roots in their community.

See Malbim, who says the issue here was that their laws did not allow 
foreigners to buy property.  So they were willing to let him bury Sara 
on *their* property, but he could not have an "achuzas kever" of his 
own, that would belong to him and his family.  He insisted that they 
change their laws, and eventually won, but it took some time.

Zev Sero            Wishing everyone a *healthy* and happy 5781
z...@sero.name       "May this year and its curses end
                      May a new year and its blessings begin"

Go to top.

Message: 7
From: Prof. L. Levine
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 2020 14:27:22 +0000
[Avodah] Is there a mitzvah to wear tzitzis at night?

From Today's OU Kosher Halacha Yomis

Q. Is there a mitzvah to wear tzitzis at night?

A. Regarding tzitzis, the Torah states, ?U?re?isem oso?, you shall see it
(Bamidbar 15:39). The Gemara (Menachos 43a) derives from this verse that a
nighttime garment is exempt from the mitzvah of tzitzis. Because the
mitzvah does not apply to nighttime garments, tzitzis is a mitzvas asei
she?ha?zman grama (a time-bound mitzvah), from which women are exempt.

The meaning of a nighttime garment is the subject of a disagreement among
Rishonim. The Rambam (Hilchos Tzitzis 3:7) writes that it refers to any
garment worn at night. According to the Rambam, the mitzvah of tzitzis
applies only during the day; any garment worn at night is exempt from the
mitzvah of tzitzis. The Rosh (Menachos ? Tzitzis 1) disagrees. He quotes
Rabbeinu Tam who maintains that a nighttime garment is intended to be worn
at night, such as pajamas. These types of garments are exempt from the
mitzvah of tzitzis, even if worn during the daytime. Conversely, a garment
that is intended to be worn during the day is obligated in tzitzis, even if
it is worn at night.

Shulchan Aruch (OC 18:1) cites both opinions and leaves the question
unresolved. Therefore, Rema writes that one only recites the beracha on
tzitzis if the garment is intended for daytime wear and is put on during
the daytime.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avodah-aishdas.org/attachments/20201109/8f756b35/attachment-0001.html>

Go to top.

Message: 8
From: Prof. L. Levine
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 2020 17:54:55 +0000
[Avodah] Rav Hirsch's Concept ot Mensch-Yiaroel

The following is from the Editors' Preface to Volume VIII of the Collected Writings of RSRH.

The universal applicability of Torah to Jewish life-throughout the
ages and under any circumstance-is an axiom of our tradition. Torah
encompasses every aspect of life, and the entirety of life is under its
domain. All of man's knowledge, endeavors and accomplishments can
be utilized for Torah and are thereby given eternal value: The timeless
supremacy of Torah in the world and the resultant intrinsic worth of all
of Creation for Torah defines what Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch called
"Torah im Derech Eretz."

All of mankind-as God's creations-are to fulfill the basic Divine
laws of humanity, the universal laws of justice, decency and morality
commonly know as the "Seven Laws of Noach." The Jew must also
fulfill these basic laws, but in their fulfillment alone he has failed
his calling as a Jew: Only by fulfilling the Torah, in addition to the
universal laws of humanity, can the Jew achieve the purpose of his
existence. He is not at stark variance with the rest of mankind; he has
additional obligations: He becomes the ideal human being (Mensch)
by faithfully abiding by the Torah (Yisroe[): Throughout his writings,
but in particular in the Horeb, Rav Hirsch characterized this ideal as
?Mensch-YisroeL" The "Mensch-Yisroel" is the Torah-true Jew who
demonstrates what Torah means to the Jew, the ultimate value of its
knowledge, its all-encompassing nature, its applicability to all times, its
promotion of the highest possible moral standards and its compatibility
with life in this world. In essence "Mensch-Yisroel" is synonymous
with "Torah im Derech Eretz."

These are the principles which are the very roots of the teachings of
Rav Hirsch, and it is with them that he boldly defended Torah Judaism
.against the onslaught of Reform and the challenge of change. And these
are the very principles which, more than a century after his passing and
after the cataclysmic upheavals in modem Jewish life, have enabled
Torah life to flourish within modern civilization in an invigorated form
far beyond the immediate confines of the original students and followers
Rav Hirsch.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.aishdas.org/pipermail/avodah-aishdas.org/attachments/20201109/19be33b3/attachment.html>


Avodah mailing list



Send Avodah mailing list submissions to

To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit

You can reach the person managing the list at

When replying, please edit your Subject line so it is more specific
than "Re: Contents of Avodah digest..."

A list of common acronyms is available at
(They are also visible in the web archive copy of each digest.)

< Previous Next >