Avodah Mailing List

Volume 41: Number 8

Wed, 25 Jan 2023

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Arie Folger
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2023 00:16:38 +0100
Re: [Avodah] An Escape Hatch

RAM asked regarding makat barad:
> This struck me as unusual. What makes this makkah different, that
> such a warning -- more than just a warning, he gave advice! -- was
> given? If Hashem had chosen to do so, the hail could have come even
> indoors where the roof would be of no help. It almost seems like a
> humanitarian gesture, as if Hashem were signalling that He's not
> *totally* anti-Egypt; but if so, then why only for this one makkah?
> Does anyone talk about this aspect of this particular makkah?

Yes, the Maharal. Presciently formulating a variant of Kant's Categorical
Imperative, Maharal posits that Barad would have been recognized as a makah
even if all Egyptians followed the advice for the G"d fearing, hayare et
devar haShem.

For makat dever, however, which also only killed livestock outdoors, had
everyone followed any such advice, the makah would not have been apparent,
hence the Egyptians were not forewarned about that makah.
Mit freundlichen Gr??en,
Yours sincerely,

Arie Folger
Visit my blog at http://rabbifolger.net/

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Message: 2
From: Michael Poppers
Date: Mon, 23 Jan 2023 21:37:40 -0500
[Avodah] An Escape Hatch

RAM writes:
In pasuk 9:19, Moshe is told to warn the Egyptians that the hail would
affect only what is outdoors; they must bring everything indoors where it
will be protected.

This struck me as unusual. What makes this makkah different, that such a
warning -- more than just a warning, he gave advice! -- was given? If
Hashem had chosen to do so, the hail could have come even indoors where the
roof would be of no help. It almost seems like a humanitarian gesture, as
if Hashem were signalling that He's not *totally* anti-Egypt; but if
so, then why only for this one makkah?

Does anyone talk about this aspect of this particular makkah?
R'Akiva, I'm sorry you could not be with your usual *minyan* this past
Shabbos morning, else you might have heard me try to answer that very
question based on P'Vaeira thoughts from RYReisman.  Since you posted it,
here's the text of those thoughts
as someone recorded them late last week....

*The Uniqueness of the Makka of Barad.  *

The Parsha ends with Makkas Barad. As you know, not all 10 Makkos are in
one Parsha and the 7th Makka Makkas Barad is the last Makka that is in this
week?s Parsha. Makkas Barad is unique in many ways. One way that it is
unique is that the Mitzrim had an opportunity to escape. All other Maakos
would happen to them wherever they were. Here, Moshe Rabbeinu tells the
Mitzrim B?feirush in 9:19 (????????, ?????? ????? ???-????????, ?????
????-?????? ????, ??????????). He tells them that if you go into the house
you will be saved. (????-??????? ???????????? ??????-???????? ?????????,
????? ??????? ??????????--??????? ??????? ????????, ???????). So here we
have a unique Makka, we have a Makka in which the Mitzrim are told ahead of
time that this is something from which you can be saved. So it seems to be
something of a lighter Makka in the fact that they could be saved.

A second unique thing about Barad that it doesn?t say by any other Makka is
that the Makka of Barad begins in 9:14 with the warning (???? ?????????
???????, ????? ??????? ???-????-?????????? ???-???????). Hashem says I am
sending you all My punishments. All My punishments? Is Barad all My
punishments? It is very hard to understand. Rashi tries to answer the
question in a way that is difficult as all of the Sifsei Chachamim and the
others say and what does it mean that Barad is (???-????-??????????)? It is
very hard to understand.

A third thing that is unique about Barad. Here Pharoh says as is found in
9:27 (???????? ????????). He says (??????, ??????????, ??????? ????????,
???????????). What is going on here? Such a unique Makka, so many things
that are unique about Barad, and of course when we say it we say (?????"??
????"?? ???????"?), we just throw it into the mix, but we must be missing
something that is unique about Barad.

It would seem that what is unique about Barad was that there was something
of a mind game here. Something like a psychological attack. HKB?H said (?????
??????? ???-????-?????????? ???-???????), it doesn?t say by any Makka that
the Makka is (???-???????) to your heart, to your emotion. Hashem says,
here this Makka is different. This Makka is something that emotionally you
are going to have to connect to. Why so? Every other Makka there was
nothing you could do, you couldn?t do anything about it. The Dam was going
to happen, the Tzefardai?a was going to happen, you were stuck. There was
nothing to think about, there were no options. Here, for the very first
time, the Mitzrim had options. Moshe Rabbeinu said if you want, recognize
that HKB?H has the ability to bring Barad and get into your homes, bring
your animals into your homes. You have a way out.

This was very unique. This is (???-????-??????????) the whole message of
all of the Makkos is (???-???????), take it to heart. Here Moshe Rabbeinu
says look at yourselves in the mirror, look at what you are going through.
Recognize the Emes of what is around you, and indeed this time Pharoh said (
????????), he at least temporarily had some regrets. So what is unique
about the Makka of Barad is the (???-???????), a very unique Makka. It is a
Makka where they would be challenged to take to heart the message of all of
the Makkos. So here is an explanation of something about the Barad and this
by itself is good as an explanation of the Parsha.
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Message: 3
From: Saul Mashbaum
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2023 09:55:08 +0200
[Avodah] The plague of hail

Akiva Miller posted about the plague of hail, noting that it was
exceptional in that unlike most plagues that affected all Egyptians, this
plague could be avoided by some by bringing things indoors.

This does not seem to me to be a strong argument. The effects of the plague
could be minimized to some extent, but apparently, every Egyptian was
affected by it. The very fact that no Egyptian could go outdoors is a
severe consequence of the plague. Furthermore, some plagues, like dever and
arbeh, presumably didn't directly affect some parts of the population,
those who had no animals or fields, but were considered plagues on Egypt as
a whole. Another point is that a major element of the plague of hail was
psychological; the phenomenon itself, of hail and fire, combined with very
frightening noises, was apparently extremely distressing and disturbing,
and indeed could be considered to have affected all Egyptians.
I have something to add in regard to saving animals by bringing them
indoors. There is a midrash that points out a certain irony. Indeed, some
servants of Paro did save horses by bringing them indoors, and had Paro
relented at that point they would have been completely saved, but these
very horses were subsequently used to attack the Jews after they left
Egypt, and perished in Yam Suf.

Saul Mashbaum
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Message: 4
From: Micha Berger
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2023 14:49:56 -0500
Re: [Avodah] The plague of hail

On Tue, Jan 24, 2023 at 09:55:08AM +0200, Saul Mashbaum via Avodah wrote:
> This does not seem to me to be a strong argument. The effects of the plague
> could be minimized to some extent, but apparently, every Egyptian was
> affected by it. The very fact that no Egyptian could go outdoors is a
> severe consequence of the plague...

A number of meforshim in your standard Miqra'os Gedolos (e.g. Rashbam
9:32, 10:5; Daas Zeqeinim 11:4; Ibn Ezra 9:6, etc...) make a point that
between Barad and Arbeh, there were no crops left. The rigid plants were
smashed by barad, and the soft ones, including all grains, were eaten
by arbeh.

So yes, every Egyptian home was effected by Barad.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 With the "Echad" of the Shema, the Jew crowns
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   G-d as King of the entire cosmos and all four
Author: Widen Your Tent      corners of the world, but sometimes he forgets
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF    to include himself.     - Rav Yisrael Salanter

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Message: 5
From: Jay F. Shachter
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2023 13:57:58 -0600 (CST)
[Avodah] Leviticus 11:43 and 20:25

Deuteronomy 2:19 records that when our ancestors were poised to conquer
the land of Israel, they were commanded not to take any `Ammonite
land on the east of the Jordan river. They did, however, in a war of
self-defense, take Emorite land on the east of the Jordan river; and
within the Emorite land that they took, was territory that had formerly
belonged to `Ammon (see Judges 11:13), and that the Emorites had taken
from them. Although it was forbidden to take that territory when it
was in `Ammonite possession, once the Emorites had taken it from the
`Ammonites, it was permitted to take it from the Emorites.

Which brings us, so it seems, to January 6, 2023, when someone ("OP",
the original poster) posted an article to this mailing list, which he
titled "Subjectivity-from the OU", and which appeared in v41n3. ...

On January 9, 2023, a second poster ("SP") responded to the OP's
article, ...

It was permissible for our ancestors to take Emorite land, even though it
was forbidden for them to take the same land when it belonged to `Ammon.

Alternately, it is also possible that the SP knew that the OP had
cross-posted his article, in violation of the rules of this mailing list,
and that the SP responded to the OP's posting anyway. In that case,
one could argue that it is like the rebuilding of Jericho: rebuilding
Jericho was forbidden by royal decree (Joshua 6:26), but once someone
started to rebuild Jericho in violation of the royal decree, it was
permitted for other people to continue the rebuilding. Similarly, even
if it was forbidden for the SP to respond to the OP's article, that the
OP posted here in violation of this mailing list's rules, now that the SP
has done so, it is permitted for me to continue the discussion. No other
comparison between the posting of long articles on this mailing list,
and the rebuilding of cities in Eretz Yisrael, is expressed or implied.

This is what the SP wrote:

> ... Had the Torah said "Don't do disgusting things", then we could
> and probably would say that the issur is on things that are
> objectively disgusting, and it's irrelevant whether they disgust
> you. (And since "objectively disgusting" is a contradiction in
> terms, we would resolve it as things that disgust most people in
> your culture, and then we would discuss how one determines that, and
> what do we mean by "your culture", and we'd get lost in the woods
> and never come out, just as in many other halachos.)

> But the Torah doesn't say that.  It says "don't disgust
> *yourselves*.  Thus it seems to me that the Torah explicitly says
> that your own subjective sensibility is the standard.  If it
> disgusts you, don't force yourself to do it, e.g. on a dare, or
> because you're hungry and there's nothing else, or because everyone
> else is doing it and you don't want to stand out.  But if it doesn't
> disgust you, then the fact that it disgusts everyone else around you
> is irrelevant.  Thus we find the gemara saying that "nefesh hayafa",
> which counterintuitively seems to [be?] the *in*sensitive soul, may
> do things that a person of normal sensitivity may not.

This sounds plausible.  But it is, empirically, untrue.

Before we discuss the reasons why it is untrue, we should try to
understand the words of the verse (actually we don't know what verse
the SP had in mind -- it could have been Leviticus 11:43, which
contains the words "al tshaqqtzu eth nafshotheykhem", or it could have
been Leviticus 20:25, which contains the words "vlo thshaqqtzu eth
nafshotheykhem" -- but it doesn't matter, the two phrases are
identical except for the form of the negative, and the form of the
negative does not figure in the analysis that follows).  We know from,
e.g., Leviticus 11:11, or Leviticus 11:13, that the verb lshaqqetz,
which in Hebrew is an active verb, is best translated into English as
a passive verb: "to be disgusted by".  Leviticus 11:13 does not
command us to disgust non-kosher birds; it commands us to be disgusted
by them (some English translators use the word "abhor", because they
want to translate an active Hebrew verb into an active English verb,
but "abhor" is not the best translation).

When people are experiencing mental or emotional states, it is
actually quite common for different languages to disagree about
whether the people are doing something, actively, or whether something
is being done to them, passively.  Thus, in English one says, "I miss
you", but in French one says, "tu me manques".  On the other hand, in
English one says, "last night, I had a dream", whereas in French one
says, "cette nuit [or, if it is after 12pm, la nuit derni?re], j'ai
fait un r?ve".  People who speak English believe that a dream is
something that happens to you, something of which you are a passive
recipient.  People who speak French believe that a dream is something
that you create, something that you fashion, actively.

In Hebrew, emotional states are almost always expressed using active
verbs, although that is not always the case when describing mental
states.  Thus, in English, you express the mental state of not knowing
where an object is, by giving an active verb to yourself: "I lost the
key to my house" -- in English, when you lose something, it's your
fault.  In Hebrew, the object whose whereabouts you do not know, gets
the active verb: "avad liy hammafteax" -- in Hebrew, when you don't
know where an object is, it's the object's fault.  This tends to be
the exception, though.

(The word "mafteax" provides us with an occasion to make another
interesting comparison.  In Hebrew, the word means: a utensil that
opens.  In German, the word is Schl?ssel, which means: a utensil that
closes.  Apparently the main purpose of a key is different, in the
mind of a Hebrew-speaking person, than in the mind of a German-speaking
person.  But I digress.)

The language of love gives us the clearest illustrations of this
distinction.  In Biblical Hebrew, and in Rabbinic Hebrew, up to but
not including the present day, love is a transitive verb, requiring a
subject and a direct object.  Even though the poet wrote, "ma ta`iru
uma t`or'ru eth ha'ahava `ad shettexpatz", love is, in Hebrew, a thing
that people do.  In the languages of the goyim, the option exists to
speak of love the same way, as a thing that people do, but the option
also exists to speak of love as a thing that happens to people, an
overpowering force that throws them into each other's arms, at the
exchange of a glance; that tosses them about helplessly, di qua, di
l?, di gi?, di s? li mena.  A person speaking English can say, "I
loved Ophelia"; but he can also say "I was in love with Ophelia", a
sentence in which there is no active verb.  Modern Israeli Hebrew has
developed neologisms that allow people who think of love the way the
goyim do, to communicate: In Israel today, people can say "aniy m'uhav
bah" or "aniy m'uheveth bo", newly-created passive forms that express
what was, until recently, a foreign mode of thought (I learned this
from watching the first episode of the third season of "Shtisel").

The way we speak of love has profound moral implications.  The way we
speak of all our feelings has profound moral implications; love is
just the strongest of our feelings, stronger than death.  The Torah
commands us to have certain feelings (e.g., Exodus 20:14, Leviticus
19:17, Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 6:5), which implies that we are
responsible for our feelings.  People are responsible for things that
they do; people are not responsible for things that happen to them.
The Torah thus teaches us that our feelings are things that we do, not
things that happen to us.  And the only way we can truly understand
that, is to use active verbs when we speak of them.  There is a reason
why the Torah was given in Hebrew.  When we speak the languages of the
goyim, we perforce think like them, and that makes it more difficult
for us to keep the Torah.

In Hebrew, when a person feels disgust, the person who feels disgust
is described with a transitive verb, the object of which is the object
of the person's disgust.  In English, the thing provoking the disgust
gets the transitive verb; the person feeling the disgust is a passive
object: "that thing disgusts me", or "I am disgusted by that thing".
The SP translated "al t'shaqqtzu eth nafshotheykhem" as "don't disgust
yourselves".  This is not incorrect, but only because, in this case,
the subject and the object of the verb are the same, and "don't
disgust yourselves" means the same thing, or almost the same thing, as
"don't be disgusted by yourselves".

Let us now return from this long but necessary digression, to discuss
the SP's assertion:

> ... the Torah explicitly says that your own subjective sensibility
> is the standard.

This sounds plausible, but it is empirically untrue.  I do not deny
that there are some tshuvoth out there that forbid people to violate
their subjective sensibilities.  There are actually very few tshuvoth
that say that, but that is not surprising, because people rarely ask a
poseq whether they are allowed to voluntarily do things that disgust
them.  What is empirically untrue is the SP's implication that
subjective sensibility is the only standard.  If that were true, our
posqim could not say that X is forbidden -- objectively forbidden,
forbidden to everyone, regardless of his or her subjective sensibility
-- pursuant to the verse in Leviticus, for various values of X.  But
that is exactly what our posqim do.  See, for example, Orax Xayyim
240:4, where the Shulxan `Arukh pasqns that X is forbidden, for a
certain value of X, through the operation of, inter alia, the verse in
Leviticus (which it misquotes, or, if you prefer, paraphrases).  I
would think that Exodus 3:2 is a better source for this prohibition,
but the Shulxan `Arukh does not source it from there, the Shulxan
`Arukh sources it from the verse in Leviticus (despite the fact that
the derivation of this prohibition from the verse in Leviticus is not
found anywhere in the Talmud, or, in fact, anywhere else).  Another
example is Orax Xayyim 3:17 (where the derivation from Leviticus is
explicit in Makkoth 16b).

But the true way to understand these questions, which is not available
to people who speak, and therefore think in, the languages of the
goyim, is that the distinction between subjective and objective is, in
this case, a false distinction.  We control our feelings.  When the
Torah does not tell us what to feel, we may feel any way we like, and
we can then describe our feelings as subjective.  When the Torah tells
us what to feel, we must feel as the Torah commands us, and we can
then describe our feelings as objective.

This conforms better to the pshat of the verse: in Leviticus 11:43, we
are commanded not to do disgusting things, and, at the same time, we
are told what we must be disgusted by.  The verse does not end after
its 4th word (although both the OP and the SP seem to be oblivious of
that fact), but goes on for eight more words, telling us exactly under
what circumstances we would be disgusted with ourselves.  In Leviticus
20:25, we are commanded to distinguish between kosher and nonkosher
animals; we are then, ten words into the verse, told not to be
disgusted by ourselves through (the eating of) a slightly larger
category of nonkosher animals.  In both cases, the plain meaning of
the verse contradicts the SP's notion that the word t'shaqqtzu should
be understood purely subjectively.

It is certainly true that midrash halakha sometimes uses a verse in
contradiction to its actual meaning.  Some of the examples I could
give are controversial, but it is indisputable that the meaning of
"axarey rabbim l'hattoth" in Exodus 23:2 is the exact opposite, one
hundred eighty degrees opposite, to the meaning that it is given in
midrash halakha.  Another example is "lo akhaltiy v'oniy" in
Deuteronomy 26:14.  The use of '-w-n in the sense of onnenuth exists
only in Rabbinic Hebrew.  In Biblical Hebrew, '-w-n always and
exclusively means "strength" and is never used in the sense of
onnenuth (with possibly one exception, Genesis 35:18, but we have no
idea what Raxel meant when she said that, because she didn't live long
enough to tell us).  Nevertheless, whenever we have a choice, we
should strive to keep the halakhic meaning of a verse as close as
possible to its true meaning, which means that both Leviticus 11:43
and Leviticus 20:25 should be understood objectively.

               Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter

               When Martin Buber was a schoolboy, it must have been
               no fun at all playing tag with him during recess.

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Message: 6
From: Joel Rich
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2023 06:35:15 +0200
[Avodah] facile historicistic solutions

From R? A Lichtenstein on the shift in the view of baalei mesora on marital
relations: ?The allure of facile historicistic solutions in our case, of
ascription to Sufi or Scholastic influences, regarding worldliness, in
general, or sexuality, in particular ? is palpably self-evident. In dealing
with giants, however, we strive to avoid succumbing to its alluring
To be sure, post-hazal gedolim, rishonim or aharonim may be affected by the
impact of contact with a general culture to which their predecessors had
not been exposed and to whose content and direction they respond. Upon
critical evaluation of what they have encountered, they may incorporate
what they find consonant with tradition and reject what is not. In the
process, they may legitimately enlarge the bounds of their hashkafah and
introduce hitherto unperceived insights and interpretations.?

Me- That?s complex and not reproduceable ? Thoughts?

Joel Rich
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Message: 7
From: Prof. L. Levine
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2023 22:14:43 +0000
[Avodah] Rav Schwab on Wealth

The following is from Rav Schwab on Chumash.

When discussing the concept of wealth, Rav Schwab would add a
traditionally Jewish, old-world thought that he had heard from his father,
Reb Yehuda Leib Schwab zt"I: "When we pray on Rosh Chodesh for
a life of wealth and honor, what do we mean? Are
wealth and honor Torah-true values? Aren't they many times a stumbling
block to spiritual growth?" Rav Schwab's father would always explain
that  wealth means a life of no debts, and Kovod, honor, means a life
with no embarrassment or public humiliation resulting from one's
behavior. The love of money and honor often bring one to corruption.
Humble and G-d-fearing Jews pray for the kind of wealth and honor that
will enable them to live a truly upstanding Torah life, beholden to no
one except Hashem and honored by no one except Hashem. With that,
one should be totally content.

Professor Yitzchok Levine
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