Volume 10 Number 37
                       Produced: Wed Dec  1  5:39:16 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Martyrdom vs. _Living_ by Halacha
         [Frank Silbermann]
Rabbi's advice during the Holocaust
         [David Ben-Chaim]
Rabbinic Authority
         [Norman Miller]
Rabbinic authority, free will, et al.
         [Freda Birnbaum]
Rabbinic Infallibility
         [Marc Shapiro]
         [Eli Turkel]


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 93 11:39:56 -0500
Subject: Martyrdom vs. _Living_ by Halacha

>> Though we are commanded to give up our lives rather than engage in
>> public idolatry, we may take a lenient view of the Marranos, as Rashi
>> did not consider Christianity to be idolatry.  Considering that we are
>> commanded to _live_ by Halacha, I long wondered why it is considered
>> commendable to choose martyrdom over conversion to Christianity.
>> Eventually, I arrived at an understanding which makes sense to me.
>> ...

In Vol10 #17 David Charlap

> Jews have been martyring themselves for God for much longer than that.
> Many many great rabbis chose death over conversion when Babylon and Rome
> occupied Judea.  Many were executed in horrible ways - flaying and
> burning, among others.

The Halacha is clearer in those cases (unless someone wishes to argue
that the religions of Babylon and Rome were anything but idolatry).
I was considering a situation in which the Halacha was not so explicit.

> As to why one should choose martyrdom in the first place, I can make a
> speculation.  Torah and mitzvot are food for your soul.  Just as your
> body can not live without food, your soul can not live without Torah.
> To abandon Judaism is tantamount to suicide in the world to come.  It is
> better to give up this (temporary) life in order to not destroy your
> future (permenant) life in Gan Eden.  The middle-ages argument,
> while interesting, is not the reason.

Your argument may well be the correct theological perspective.
However, to say that another consideration is not _the_ reason
presupposes that there is only one reason.  I am not convinced of this.

Frank Silbermann	<fs@...>
Tulane University	New Orleans, Louisiana  USA


From: David Ben-Chaim <DAVIDBC@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 1993 11:03:16 +0200 (EET)
Subject: Rabbi's advice during the Holocaust

   I'm giving a free translation from "Parparaot Latorah" by Menachem Beker,
on Parashat Vayishlach:

                         The Chafetz Chaim's vision

When Hitler, the enemy of the Jews, came to power in Germany (1933) one
of the heads of the Yeshivot in Raden asked the Chafetz Chaim what the
future of our berthern the Jews would be seeing as the Germans intended
to wipe out Judaism.

This deplorable act will never occur! answered the Chafetz Chaim in a
shaking voice. Many enemies have arisen to totally wipe us out but never
have they been able to achive their aim in all the lands of the
Diaspora. As it is hinted to by the words in last week's parasha "and
the remaining camp will survive" (refering to Yaakov's action in
dividing up his camp before meeting with Esau.  D.B.-C.)

The person who asked the question understood from the Chafetz Chaim's
answer that a great danger was hanging over the Jews of Europe, and
asked futher: Our Rabbi, in which land will the "remaining camp

The Chafetz Chaim meditated for a few moments with closed eyes and then
said: That is pointed out exactly in the Haftarah to Parasha Vayishlach
"And Har Tzion will be the remanent...the house of Yaakov will be a
fire, the house of Yosef will be a flame, and the house of Esau will be
stubble and straw which will be burned and destroyed; and there will be
no remaining piece of the house of Esau..."  (Sefer Ovadiyah 1;17-18).

Don't wait for the next tragedy to happen, make Aliyah now !!!!

|    David Ben-Chaim                      |
|    The Technion, Haifa, Israel 32000.   |
|    Tel: 972-4-292503 or 292502          |
|    email: <davidbc@...>    |


From: Norman Miller <nmiller@...>
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 93 13:38:54 -0500
Subject: Re: Rabbinic Authority

Hayim Hendeles writes:

	Thus, I claim the Rabbi's who advised their followers to remain
	behind - for whatever reason - their psak to remain behind was
	Daas Torah.  Perhaps their psak was based on erroneous data. But
	for those on the spiritual level, if the Hashgacha only provided
	the Rabbi with enough information to give a psak to remain
	behind, then this is what the Hashgacha has ordained. Perhaps
	the Rabbi made the decision based on faulty data, but the
	decision still reflects G-d's will. Thus, whether we like the
	consequences or not, whether we perceive the decision as being
	the best one or not - is irrelevant. The psak Halacha still
	reflects G-d's will.

And if another rov had said: "get out as fast as you can" (as,
apparently, a few rabbonim did), that too would presumably be a psak
Halacha and would also reflect God's will.  Amazing.

Even more amazing is how close the Hendeles doctrine is to that of the
Catholics.  I don't remember ever reading that our rabbonim are anointed
or appointed or that ordinary Jews should regard them as God's vicars.
I hope I've misunderstood.

Norman Miller


From: Freda Birnbaum <FBBIRNBA@...>
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 93 19:54 EDT
Subject: Rabbinic authority, free will, et al.

In V10N30, Jonathan Goldstein somewhat takes issue with my statements

> I must also conclude that if the person used his own judgment in a NON-
> HALAKHIC matter, limiting his following of Torah sages to TORAH matters,
> not to practical ones where the Torah sage may have no better knowledge
> of the matter than he ...

> It has not been demonstrated ... that one is obligated to consult halachic
> authorities on non-halachic matters.

with the comment:

>I have yet to meet anyone subscribing to Halacha who would suggest that
>there are decisions to be made that do not fall within the authority of

Since Eitan Fiorino has already eloquently stated in the same issue the
position which I for the most part hold on this subject, let me just
note that while I do believe that everything that we do in the world has
something to do with it being the world that God created, and therefore
is to be taken quite seriously, I do not believe that the purview of
halacha, in the sense that I need to ask a shaila before I do anything
at all about anything, extends to such decisions as to whether I should
wear the green shirt or the blue shirt today, or whether I should take
up computer programming or plumbing as a means of earning a living.
Halacha would inform our general outlook on such things (differences in
different careers' impact on our ability to remain ethical, to spend
time with family and community, to make a reasonable living, etc.).  It
is true there are segments of the community which do have a tendency to
consult rabbis on such things but I believe that is a preference and not
a requirement.

And the concept of "daas Torah" is a fairly recent one, somewhat less
than a century old, if I am not mistaken.

Hayim Hendeles quotes R. Yaakov Kaminetzky to the effect that

>For those who have more
>bitachon in G-d, then they can get away with doing less work on their
>part; and those who have less bitachon must do more on their own.

It seems to me that this approach is seriously downplaying the importance
of humans taking responsibility for their actions and their lives, and of
execising their free will, and of "having dominion over it".

Hayim says:

>Thus, I claim the Rabbi's who advised their followers to remain behind -
>for whatever reason - their psak to remain behind was Daas Torah.
>Perhaps their psak was based on erroneous data. But for those on the
>spiritual level, if the Hashgacha only provided the Rabbi with enough
>information to give a psak to remain behind, then this is what the
>Hashgacha has ordained. Perhaps the Rabbi made the decision based on
>faulty data, but the decision still reflects G-d's will. Thus, whether
>we like the consequences or not, whether we perceive the decision as
>being the best one or not - is irrelevant. The psak Halacha still
>reflects G-d's will.

To me, this reflects a frightening passivity in the face of events. Is
EVERYTHING that happens God's will?  If so, then we end up with the
impossible statement that "the Nazis were doing God's will".  I thought
"doing God's will" referred to stuff like putting on tefillin and giving
tzedaka and refraining from theft and murder and such.  Whatever
happened to FREE WILL?

Freda Birnbaum, <fbbirnbaum@...>
"Call on God, but row away from the rocks"


From: Marc Shapiro <mshapiro@...>
Date: Mon, 29 Nov 93 15:19:41 -0500
Subject: Re: Rabbinic Infallibility

It seems that all of the people advocating rabbinic infallibility have
never heard of Masekhet Horayot. Simply look at the first couple of
mishnayot there and you will see that even the great Bet Din can err and
if you know of this error you must not obey them.
						Marc Shapiro


From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 93 16:19:09 +0200
Subject: Revisionism

     Meir Laker request examples of censorship and/or revisionism.  A
classic case is the commentary of Rabbi Lipshutz (Tifferet Israel) on
the Mishna. In the course of his commentary to Kedushin 4:14 he quotes a
story about Moses that he finds interesting. Many contemporaries
objected strongly to this story and claimed that it was a nonJewish
story. When Mossad harav Kook (under Rav Maimon first minister of
religion - Mizrachi) reprinted the commentary this part of the
commentary was deleted. It has since reappeared in other editions. (For
more details see the article by Shnayer Leiman in Tradition Vol24#4
p91-98, 1989).

     Another famous case is the translation of the book Moadim Uzemanin
(of Zevin) by Artscroll. In the English translation all references to
the State of Israel have disappeared. As previously mentioned the
Artscroll book "My Uncle the Netziv" was withdrawn because it mentioned
too many facts about the Netziv and the yeshiva in Voloshin that are not
politically correct.  The revision of the speech of the belzer rebbe has
already been mentioned.

     I do not agree with Marc Shapiro about Rav Hutner and Rav Kook.  I
do not feel that it is appropriate to remove haskamot (approbations)
that appear in a book because over time one no longer identifies with
the philosophy of that person. Rav Hutner has a perfect right to
disagree with Rav Kook but not to make him a nonentity. Especially since
he was a "talmid" of Rav Kook in earlier years. In general the picture
of Rav Kook has become distorted over the years. It is clear that the
great rabbis of his generation held Rav Kook in great personal esteem
even when they disagreed with his opinions. Rav Sonnenfeld always made
clear that his objections were halakhic and not personal. The Ridvaz was
one of the great opponents of the "heter mechirah". In one of his
letters to Rav Kook (from the US to Israel) he strongly states that he
considers Rav Kook a friend and that his objections are halakhic. He
continues to state that he plans on moving to Israel but will go to
Safed instead of Jerusalem because of the controversy of the heter
mechirah which has become a political argument instead of a halakhic

     Similarly, I find many aspects of the book "Triumph of Survival" by
Rabbi Berel Wein very disturbing. As one example Rav J.B. Soloveitchik
is mentioned only once in the book. That he opposed the decision of the
Agudah not to have any relations with Conservative and Reform Jewry. Rav
Soloveitchik approved discussions on nontheological subjects. No where
else in the book is it hinted who this Rav soloveitchik is. In his
discussion on YU he mentions as the key rabbis Rav Lipshutz and Rav
Gorelik. While I have great respect for these rabbis Rav Soloveitchik
still was clearly the rosh yeshiva. Furthermore, after world war II
there were many great rabbis who taught in YU and are not mentioned. In
general Rabbi Wein quotes facts very selectively. I spoke with one
respected historian about the book and he said that the book does serve
as a counterweight to other historical books about American Jewry. In
most other books orthodox Jews and leaders are not mentioned at all or
else are mentioned in a derogatory sense.  In most "lists" of great
American Jewish leaders the only orthodox rabbi who makes the list is
Rabbi Jung (who is not mentioned in Rabbi Wein's book).

     I have heard other stories of censorship especially with regard to
the commentary of Rashbam on the beginning of Beresehit but I haven't
seen this in print. If any readers live in Kew Garden Hills and know
Shanyer Leiman I would greatly appreciate getting from him other


End of Volume 10 Issue 37