Avodah Mailing List

Volume 39: Number 37

Tue, 20 Apr 2021

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Akiva Miller
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2021 05:59:14 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Are We Trying to Grow?

From R' Micha Berger:

> We seem to be conflating growth with other things.
> When a rabbi sermonizes about current events, does it foster
> growth?
> What if he explains the parashah, but not in terms relevant
> to how to live life?
> Or if he gives a nice homily, which leaves people nodding
> and feeling inspired, but not actually moved to do something
> differently an hour later?
> Then there is what RYGB identified as The Pinocchio Problem:

The Chofetz Chaim is quoted as saying that it is worthwhile to learn
Hilchos Lashon Hara even if the only result will be... Honestly, I don't
remember whether the end is "an extra 'tsk...'" or "an extra pang of guilt"
or probably something else. And other mussar greats have said similar

The point is that RMB is correct, but only in the vast majority of cases.
99.9% of the time, 99.9% of the people will carry on their lives unchanged
from previously. But here and there, tiny improvements WILL occur. It is
very important to avoid getting discouraged by the *apparent* lack of

We have read stories of people who heard a remark from someone, but it took
decades for that remark to grow on them, until they finally decided to
change their lives. I know of such things that happened to me myself.

When I was younger, I thought that the blessing of a long life was the
opportunity to accumulate more [pick one or fill in your own: family,
Torah, mitzvos, toys, whatever]. But in recent years, I am coming to
understand the changes that I've made to myself, and I'm appreciating the
opportunity to make those changes. It is a very slow process. Fighting a
lifetime of inertia, it's unreasonable to expect the progress to be
anything other than in tiny steps. And the true bracha of a long life is
the accumulation of those tiny improvements.

RMB closed his post with several concrete suggestions, all of which I
endorse. The critical factor is to keep expectations low and slow, and not
get depressed by any *apparent* lack of success.

Akiva Miller
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Message: 2
From: Prof. L. Levine
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 2021 23:31:20 +0000
[Avodah] Rav A Lopiansky and Rav Elya Brudny on Segulos R'

Please see the video at


This is how we should deal with Segulos!

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Message: 3
From: Ari Kahn
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2021 15:49:02 +0300
[Avodah] re coffee on Shabbat

I completely agree with R? Micha
here is a shiur which goes through the sugya, and arrives at conclusions
regarding coffee. I am not convinced that all of the Rabbanim who dealt
with the question were necessarily familiar with the various modes and
gadgets used to make coffee.


Ari Kahn

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Message: 4
From: David Riceman
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2021 10:35:57 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Are We Trying to Grow?

I want to set up a framework to comment on this.  The Rambam in H. Deos
(1:4-5) distinguishes between a Tzaddik, who cleaves to the middle path,
and a Hasid, who deviates slightly from the middle path.  Now why does the
Hasid do this? The Rambam (in the 8 Perakim following Al Farabi following
Aristotle) cites the example of a person whose personality is naturally
deficient (due, I suspect they thought, to an imbalance of humors) and does
something frequently to balance the effect of his deficiency.  So, for
example, he might give a small donation to charity daily rather than a
large one monthly.  But he could equally well have mentioned, not a natural
defect, but a defect due to environment, which can also require

Synagogues (and takkanot hakahal and local minhagim) often respond to those
shared environmental factors which keep us off the middle path in a more or
less uniform direction.  I think the problem you?re all addressing is what
to do when the deviations aren?t so uniform.

What happened to the members of the shul who RYL?s rabbi drove away? Was
there a more suitable shul close by or was it the only one in town? Surely
how we evaluate his behavior depends a lot on that.

Similarly RMB suggestion that a shul require strong commitments in its membership agreements.  Are there options available for people who won?t commit?

Whereas the Rambam?s paradigm calls for individuals to deviate from the
mean when appropriate, your suggestions seem to call for setting up a
smaller kehilla for each environmental stress.	Of course that itself is an
old mahlokes, though I suspect it will become newly relevant in an era of
socially distanced, zoom enhanced Jewish practice.

Three more comments:
  RYGB?s Pinnochio story: I myself say "slah lanu avinu ki hatanu" thrice a
  day in Shmonah esrei.  How is that different? Maybe Hazal and their
  congregants danced the same dance as that modern Rabbi and his
  congregants, and maybe it?s not that different from the small charitable
  donations every day.

  The title:  I?ve been troubled recently that the word ?teshuvah? tacitly
  implies that removal of defects trumps development of capacity.  Are
  there canonical Jewish sources using ?growth? as a metaphor?

  RYL?s shul:  People offer substantial resources of time and money to
  build the physical and social embodiments of institutions.  What happens
  to them if their efforts are repurposed in a way that drives them away?
  Will the next generation of donors be as willing to offer resources?

David Riceman

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Message: 5
From: Prof. L. Levine
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2021 16:08:36 +0000

Please see

EITZ CHAYIM HALACHAGRAM ? CUSTOMS OF MOURNING DURING SEFIRA<https://images.shulcloud.com/191/uploads/Halachagrams/ECDP-Halachagram----Sefira-Laws.pdf>
Period ? I t is cus tom ar y to obs er ve som e ex pr es sions of mour ni
ng dur ing a 33- day sefira period. The primary basis for this custom is to
serve as a sign of mourning for the thousands of Rabbi Akiva?s students who
died during this time period.

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Message: 6
From: Prof. L. Levine
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2021 16:52:36 +0000
[Avodah] More on Practices of Mourning During Sefira

The web site


Sefirat HaOmer: Practices of Mourning During Sefira - vbm haretzion<https://www.etzion.org.il/en/sefirat-haomer-practices-mourning-during-sefira>
Translated by David Silverberg. The Source of the Customs. The Gemara in
Yevamot (62b) tells that Rabbi Akiva had twelve thousand pairs of students
from Gevat to Antipras.
contains a great deal of information about mourning practices during sefira.

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Message: 7
From: Micha Berger
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2021 18:02:41 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Right to Privacy

On Tue, Apr 13, 2021 at 03:03:25AM +0000, Rich, Joel via Avodah wrote:
>                                                           Trachtenberg
> added that the Admorim get vaccinated in a separate room in order to
> protect their privacy.
> Me- How do we evaluate anyone's right to privacy vs. their impact others?

How do we decide when a rav gets personal time with his family, or spends
more of his evening giving another shiur?

"We" don't. We, as people who want their Torah, make the request, but
the rav decides how to balance his need to teach with the personal life
necessary to maintain some sanity.

Similarly here... Why would we think it's Trachtenberg's decision to make?
"Excuse me, Rav Shemu'el, can I take a picture to share with any of your
talmidim who may be reluctant to get vaccinated? Or is this something you
feel you need to do privately?" Seems simple and obvious enough to me.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 Today is the 23rd day, which is
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   3 weeks and 2 days in/toward the omer.
Author: Widen Your Tent      Gevurah sheb'Netzach: How does my domination
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF                          stifle others?

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Message: 8
From: Micha Berger
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2021 17:58:22 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Judges 18:30

On Fri, Apr 09, 2021 at 01:16:39PM +0000, Jay F. Shachter via Avodah wrote:
> The uncited reference is to the Midrash on Judges 18:30.  The question
> reminds me of another question.  There are Midrashim on Genesis 23:2
> and on Genesis 24:1 that Avraham had a daughter.  This woman would
> have been a half-sister to Yitzxaq.  A ben-Noax is allowed to marry
> his half-sister from his father.  Why, then, did Avraham send his
> unnamed servant all the way back to Mesopotamia, to bring back, for
> his son, a woman who was the child of idolaters?  Plus, how would they
> even talk to each other?  The woman would not be able to speak the
> language of the Hebrew-speaking Canaanites which was no doubt
> Yitzhaq's native language.  Wouldn't it have been so much better in so
> many ways for Yitzxaq to marry his half-sister?

Except that the midrashic Yitzchaq keeps all 613 mitzvos. Yaaqov's
"out", whatever it was, wouldn't apply. Especially if the limitation is
that they keep halakhah as it will be given in Sinai only when in EY,
as Yitzchaq never leaves EY.

Also, they lived for a while among Benei Cheis... Marriage between
siblings, even half-siblings, was a capital offense in Hittite law.
(According to a treaty between Suppiluliuma I and Chukkana, his
brother-in-law and vassal, as-of 14th cent BCE or so.)

But what I was wondering was, why did you assume that Kenaani language
was more comprehensible to Yitzchaq than the Aramaic of his own clan?
There was less cross-pollenation with the language of the Ivri that early
on, but more, Yitzchaq likely was intentionally taught the language of
Avraham's past.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 Today is the 23rd day, which is
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   3 weeks and 2 days in/toward the omer.
Author: Widen Your Tent      Gevurah sheb'Netzach: How does my domination
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF                          stifle others?

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Message: 9
From: Micha Berger
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2021 18:12:23 -0400
Re: [Avodah] Tefillos and Segulos

On Thu, Apr 15, 2021 at 04:51:22PM -0400, Zev Sero via Avodah wrote:
> The simple answer is we don't know, and our speculation about the reason can
> only be *based on* our opinion on "metaphysical engineering".  We also don't
> know what kishuf is; we don't even know *what* is forbidden, let alone why.

But we do know it's a subset of metaphysical engineering. It may not be
a sufficient condition to put one in the same territory as lechishah,
kishuf and such issurim, but it's a necessary confition. And just from
that alone, the entire notion of working metaphysically must be different
than working scientifically.

(There is also the logistic problem that the line between physics and
metaphysics was not well-defined back before science replaced Natural
Philosophy. So it's hard to read Chazal's words, given how much gray
area they had in their version of the question.)

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 Today is the 23rd day, which is
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   3 weeks and 2 days in/toward the omer.
Author: Widen Your Tent      Gevurah sheb'Netzach: How does my domination
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF                          stifle others?


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