Volume 10 Number 49
                       Produced: Mon Dec  6 19:02:08 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Rabbinic Authority (2)
         [Marc Shapiro, Ezra L Tepper]
Rabbinic Authority and High Schools
         [Yosef Bechhofer]
Understanding the Holocaust
         [Eric Lowell Davis]
Women, Golden Calf, and Rosh Chodesh
         [Lawton Cooper]
         [David Charlap]


From: Marc Shapiro <mshapiro@...>
Date: Thu, 2 Dec 93 10:32:23 -0500
Subject: Re: Rabbinic Authority

In a recent issue S. Karlinsky makes a number of valuable comments re.
Daat Torah. It would seem that Daat Torah is quickly becoming an
essential matter of dispute between right wing and centrist Orthodoxy
(the other areas of dispute being the role of women, secular studies,
attitude to non-religious groupings, Israel, and halakhic development).
Jonathan Sacks, in his recent book, One People? also has some intersting
things to say about Daat Torah and in doing so shows why the ideology is
very pernicious. Daat Torah undemines the authority of other Orthodox
approaches. It claims that theirs is only one truth. It removes any
decision making power from the baal ha-batim, or zayin tove ha-ir.
Jewish society has historically always been controlled by members of the
community. The rabbis role was only involved with religious matters, not
communal and political issues. Through Daat Torah one speaks in an ex
cathedra manner. Throughout history there have been differences between
Orthodox groups in matters of philosophy and Daat Torah seeks to declare
all opposing views invalid. "The invocation of daat Torah in the sense
of a uniquely and universally correct solution to questions that admit
of none is untraditional and destructive of other values that are
unquestionably central to Torah."
							Marc Shapiro

From: Ezra L Tepper <RRTEPPER@...>
Date: Sun, 05 Dec 93 18:28:06 +0200
Subject: Rabbinic Authority

L. Joseph Bachman (v10#30) discusses the fascinating story from the
Baltimore Sun describing a rabbi's advice to a translator who came
across the FBI's tracking the telephone conversations of one of his

The rabbi told him to warn the fellow under FBI suspicion and the
translator did so and got himself into considerable legal trouble.

However, the translator was convicted for taking "a document from work
to prove to these men that the FBI was investigating them and he was
charged with . . . taking government property without permission."

I am quite sure that the rabbi never advised him to steal government
property, which he did on his own initiative. A discrete verbal warning
to the people under surveillance would have fulfilled the halachic
requirement. The translator was thus not all that bright and probably
put himself behind bars.

Regarding Rabbinic authority when requesting a psak halachah, I heard
the following from my rebbi. The point here is that a Jew should be
capable of reaching a level where every one of his actions is in
accordance with the halachic prescriptions. If he doesn't have
sufficient knowledge, he may sin if he acts in violation of the halacha.
In order to ensure that he will act properly in cases in which he is in
doubt, he refers the problem to higher authority.

Now here is the interesting point. When one asks a rabbi for the
decision and get's an answer, the rabbi (who is not infallible) may be
right or wrong.  However, after 120 years when the Jew who asked the
question comes up to heaven and is asked why he did the wrong thing, he
answers that he was just following what his rabbi said. He therefore is
not culpable for the sin.

I suppose when during WW II after failing to flee the Nazi invasion the
martyred man came up to heaven and was asked why he let himself be
exposed to the life-threatening situation, he replied that my rabbi told
us that everything would be OK and that we he should stay. He then would
then be absolved of all sin regarding his actions. If he made the
decision on his own, the outcome of divine judgement might have been
different. (I do not relate to the tradition that any Jew killed by a
non-Jew because of his religion automatically inherits the world to

Asking the rabbi in this view is basically an insurance policy for the
world to come. However, on the statistical level, the chances of a well
learned rabbi coming out with the correct answer would be more probable
than someone who was not as well learned, and (of even greater
relevance) the layman might be emotionally biased and unable to make an
objective decision for himself.

Ezra L. Tepper


From: <YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Mon, 6 Dec 93 05:54:25 -0500
Subject: Rabbinic Authority and High Schools

        I would like to pick up on a sub-point which Arnold lustiger
raised in his posting on the ongoing Rabbinical Authority debate.
Arnold mentioned that "Gadolship" is a meritocracy. This is certainly
true, however, there is another coin to contemporary Orthodoxy. Like it
or not, and I suspect some do and some do not, Judaism is now, in the
absence of a Sanhedrin and or effective Chief Rabbinate, a democratic,
marketplace based religion, i.e., the market place determines trends.
The fact that there are fewer schools today offering higher quality
secular studies is an indicator that in the market, i.e., the potential
student and parent pool, there is less value placed on such pursuits.
The same is true about the much praised or maligned, again, depending on
your perspective, move to the Right. The ideas that the Right offered
the market appealed to the masses, and the body of the public moved.
Thus, thirty years ago, when demand was high for secular studies, etc.,
yeshivos catered to this demand. Now that the demand has slackened, the
response has slackened as well. That, of course leaves an individual
parent in the lurch, but that of course is the nature of democracies
which follow the trend of the majority. A similar trend in a diffirent
direction may be identified in the Modern Orthodox camp.  Whereas some
thirty years ago there was a far more idealistic Religious Zionist
element in the Modern community, it is common knowledge that society has
found little actual appeal in that ideology other than the Tefilla for
the State in recent years.

        I am trying here not to take sides and certainly not to judge
but to rather observe: In non-halachic issues the free exchange of ideas
has allowed society to develop on its own in the direction of the most
publicized, persuasive, and aggresive trends.


From: <ericd@...> (Eric Lowell Davis)
Date: Mon, 6 Dec 93 05:54:29 -0500
Subject: Re: Understanding the Holocaust

>Andy Jacobs says:

>So I will conclude by stating my personal belief that
>the more one suffers in this world, but "deserved" better, the more one
>will be rewarded in another world.  Because I am taught that the reward
>in that other world will be greater than in this world, I can find
>comfort in thinking that those who died in the Holocaust are receiving a
>greater reward than they would otherwise have received.  This way of
>looking at the Holocaust makes it appear that G-d was actually rewarding
>those who followed in his ways.  This hardly makes G-d appear to be

A long time ago I read a story written by Issac Ben Singer.  Unfortunately
I can't remember the name of the story or the main character, but I will
try to briefly summerize it:  The story takes place in Heaven.  A great
celebration is taking place: "Schlomo" has arrived.  Who is he, ask the
great Rabbi's, that Schlomo should be given a welcome ten times grander
than their arrival?  The angels answer that Schlomo, from the time he was
born until the time he died, suffered.  And he never said a word.  He was
silent when he was kicked by Christian boys, he was silent when he was
thrown out of his home by his wife.  He was silent when his employer beat
him, etc.  He is worthy of the greatest welcome, the angels say.  When the
cheers finally die down, Schlomo is told he can have anything he wants. 
What does the great martyr ask for?  What great aspirations has his life of
silent suffering brought him to?  "Well, for breakfast, I would a piece of
toast with jelly on it, please." he says.  The angels look down in shame.  


From: <Lawton_Cooper@...> (Lawton Cooper)
Date: Thu, 2 Dec 93 22:27:45 -0500
Subject: Women, Golden Calf, and Rosh Chodesh

M.D. Jaeger (in MJ Vol. 10 #11) mentions the Midrash that women were
rewarded with the holiday of Rosh Chodesh (i.e., exempt from certain
skilled work every Rosh Chodesh) for having refused to participate in
the sin of the Golden Calf, and wonders how the reward fit the deed.  I
recall hearing this precise question, which is an important one,
addressed on a tape by Rabbi Yissochar Frand, Shlita.  I don't recall
his sources, but he mentions that elsewhere it is mentioned that women
were rewarded with Rosh Chodesh for their exemplary contributions of
materials for the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the
desert.  Perhaps the most noteworthy of the latter contributions were
the mirrors that were used to cover the Kiyor (laver for ritual hand and
foot washing by the Priests) (see Exodus, Ch.38, verse 8 and Rashi's
comment there), that Rashi says were the women's personal vanity mirrors
used during the Egyptian enslavement to arouse their exhausted husbands
and become pregnant, as HaShem wished them to.  Rashi notes that Moshe
wanted to refuse these mirrors at first, since they were used to arouse
sexual desire, making them inappropriate for a holy purpose, but HaShem
told him that these mirrors were the most beloved to Him of all the
contributions made, and that Moshe should accept them, which he did.

So what does this story have to do with the Golden Calf or Rosh Chodesh?
Rabbi Frand brings sources to demonstrate that in all cases (using
mirrors to procreate under harsh conditions in Egypt, refusing to
contribute gold for the Golden Calf, and the women's contributions to
the Mishkan) the women demonstrated Emunah (faith in HaShem) in the face
of discouraging circumstances (and where many men were despairing of
hope; the Mishkan was possibly a let-down because it represented a
concentration of the Shechinah (Divine Presence) in one place rather
than having It fill the entire camp (as was the case prior to the Golden
Calf)).  Rosh Chodesh represents the continual Divine renewal of the
Jewish People after each period of decline, and thus renews our Emunah.
Hence it is a fitting reward for the Emunah demonstrated by the Jewish

I think that this well illustrates how our faith views its women, and
shows great psychological insight.  Pardon my "reverse sexism," but as a
man I can be excused!


From: <dic5340@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Thu, 2 Dec 93 17:56:01 -0500
Subject: Re: Yaakov

Najman Kahana <NAJMAN%<HADASSAH@...> writes:
>><zisblatt@...> (Sam Zisblatt) writes:

I thought I wrote these statements.  I guess something in the
list software glitched...

>>Furthermore, Esav was a hunter and a fighter.  A person completely
>>devoid of any spirituality.  He was not worthy of the birthright.  The
>>"true" heir to Yitzchak was Yaakov, even though he was technically born
>>after his twin.
>This is more dangerous!!
>1- There was no lie.
>2- Although he didn't lie, the <whatever-it-was> was justified.
>3- The lie he didn't make was justified by his evaluation of the situation.

I don't see how you can base the second two statements on the first one.
Since there was no lie, it is not necessary to justify anything.  Since
when does the truth need to be justified by one's evaluation of a
situation?  I don't think anyone's evaluation of the situation makes a
difference, and nothing needs to be justified, since there was no lying

>Conclusion:  When an individual decides that someone else is not worthy of
>receiving something (which he covets), then said individual may make up any
>story and perform any deceitful acts to obtain his desire.

That is not what I meant.  The Avot are not just any old people they all
had Ruach Ha-Kodesh, and knew the truth of the situation.  Nobody would
ever think that Esav was worthy of the birthright.  As a matter of fact,
it was Rivka who put him up to it - seeing that Yaakov was blind to his
elder son's cruelty.

Yitachak wanted to give Yaakov a spiritual blessing and Esav a material
one, believeing that the elder son would take care of the younger.
Rivka knew (from Ruach Ha-Kodesh) that this would not be the case, so
she arranged this deception.

FInally, approaching the problem from a different angle, my rabbi
explained to me that the nature of Yitzchak's blessing was one "without
bounds."  Such blessings can never be given directly to a person, but it
always takes a circuitous route.  In other words, some change in the way
things are expected to go is always required for such blessings to go to
the proper person.

This is no exception - the blessing would not have worked if Yitzchak
simply gave it to Yaakov - he had to try and give it to someone else and
have it end up going to him through some other means.  (I don't fully
understand this, either, but it was the "higher" explanation that he
gave in addition to the more mundane explanations).

This, by the way, is the reason that rabbis throughout the ages have
held that it is permissible to engage in some deception when arranging a
marriage - because marriage is an unbounded blessing, and it will not be
such without some "twist" in the normal way things work.


End of Volume 10 Issue 49