Volume 10 Number 67
                       Produced: Thu Dec 16 12:23:55 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Jack A. Abramoff]
More on Shabbat and Saving Lives
         [Alan Zaitchik]


From: Jack A. Abramoff <71544.2433@...>
Date: 14 Dec 93 16:46:58 EST
Subject: Chanukah

Mr. Andy Goldfinger queries the giving of gifts during Chanukah and
whether this should cause concern because the the link with xmas.  I heard
from Rabbi Daniel Lapin something which might be a source of comfort in
this regard.   While the giving of gifts to adults might very well be
considered an emulation of xmas, the giving of gifts to children has a
better basis within Yiddishkeit (Judaism).  There is a time honored
tradition called Chanukah Gelt, which involves giving money -- such as
coins -- to children.  Since children usually do not understand the
significance of money, it has become the practice to provide them with
toys and the like in its place.  The tradition of giving Chanukah Gelt
finds its roots in one of the central themes of Chanukah itself, which is
money, wealth and commerce.  

The name "Chanukah" contains several words and themes.  One of these is
"Chinuch" (education).  It is the job of parents to educate their children
about the holiday and its motives (as in the plural for motif).  One of
these themes is commerce, which happens to relate to another word
contained within the word "Chanukah", and that is "chain" (as in the
gutteral for hain, not that which one connects to a pocket watch).  Chain
is probably best translated into the English word which probably found
its source in chain: that word is "gain".  Chain is that which Yaacov
(Jacob) brought to the city of Shechem in the Torah, when the Torah
states: Vayichan Yaacov es ha'ir (and Yaacov brought chain to the city).
 Chazal (the Rabbis) have brought down to us that Vayichan (that Yaacov
dealt with chain) means that Yaacov brought the city a currency (coinage)
and financial markets.

Commerce and money are integrally related to Chanukah.  We see in many of
the halachos of Chanukah a preoccupation with money.  Of course, there is
the tradition of giving Chanukah Gelt (which is interesting if only
because not only are we not directed to deal with money during any other
holiday, but we are proscribed from doing so during most).  Another
halacho during Chanukah concerns the times during which we are permitted
to light the menorah.  Usually time periods are given in the Gemorah and
Shulchan Aruch in delineations related to the hour, the watch or the
setting of the sun.  With Chanukah, we are told that the time to light the
menorah is concluded at the time that the shops close (commerce).  Another
halacho of Chanukah concerns the use of the lights of the menorah.
 We are told that we cannot use them for anything except to look at them. 
One would assume that this would suffice but the halacho goes further to
bring an example of the kind of thing we are not allowed to use them for. 
One would assume that the Gemorah would tell us not to use them to read or
to learn, or perhaps to light the room for general use.  No.  We are told
not to use the lights _to count money_!  

Yet further, we are told that it is preferable to light with "shemen
zayit" which is olive oil.  But the word shemen also means "wealth"
throughout Tanach and Chazal.  One need only to ask an Arab the connection
between shemen (oil) and wealth.  Finally, we are told to light the
menorah on the left side of the door, opposite the mezuzah.  The posuk
(passage) in Mishlei (Proverbs) which captures the relationship being
created is "orech yamim b'yeminah" (the length of days on the right, but
on the left is wealth and prestige.  Rashi informs us that this posuk
tells us that the length of days on the right refers to the mezuzah and
the wealth and prestige refers to the Chanukah menorah, which is on the
left hand side of the door (as one looks in).

There are many more examples of the relationship between wealth, commerce
and Chanukah.  One of the important reasons for this relationship is that
Chanukah celebrates the victory of light over dark and, thus relates back
to our liberation (light) from Egypt (dark).  The exodus from Egypt is
seen in Chazal as the blueprint for the ultimate redemption.  We learn in
B'reishis (Genesis) that the redemption from Egypt would involve the Jews
leaving with rechush gadol (great wealth) as will the ultimate redemption.

Obviously, there is so much material here that it is hard to convey in a
posting, but the point is that we have a responsibility to educate our
children about Chanukah and Chanukah Gelt, like the various objects at
the Passover seder, prompt children to question.  Replacing the money
with gifts should not cause consternation, but, perhaps, should be
accompanied by gelt as well.  

Anyone interested in a more thorough treatment of this fascinating
subject should send away for the tape of Rabbi Lapin's brilliant shiur on
this subject.  I am not sure of his E-Mail address, but will post it as
soon as I have it.  In the mean time, I think you can receive this tape
by sending a note (and a tax deductible contribution!) to Rabbi Lapin at
Toward Tradition, Post Office Box 58, Mercer Island, Washington 98040.

Happy Chanukah

Jack Abramoff


From: Alan Zaitchik <ZAITCHIK@...>
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 93 14:39:14 -0500
Subject: More on Shabbat and Saving Lives

It has taken me some time to prepare a reponse to the criticisms leveled
at me (vol 10 #36) by Aryeh Frimer and Isaac Balbin, and I ask the
reader's indulgence since this might be a bit long (but hopefully not

I had expressed moral uneasiness with the rationale of "mishum eivah" as
the only reason one can violate a Rabbinic stricture of Shabbat to save
a non-Jew.

Aryeh Frimer argued that at one level the same problem of Hillul Shabbat
applies to saving a Jewish life as well:
>Yoma (85a and b) with the commentaries [makes it]... emminently clear that
>a priori one should not be able to violate the Sabbath for a Jew. After
>all one who violates the sabbath gets the death penalty - hence, shabbat
>is more important than any human life! The bottom line why we permit
>violating the sabbath for a Jew is that it "pays off in the long run".
>Or to use the Talmuds terminology "hallel alav Shabbat ahat kedei
>she-yishmor Shabbatot Harbeh" (Yomah 85b line 13) - better to violate
>one Sabbath so that he will be able to observe many Sabbaths. This
>argument works only for one who keeps or can potentially keep the
>Sabbath, i.e., Jews. Without such an argument the sabbath would take
>precedence over all Human life.

In fact a closer reading of Yoma 85b does *NOT* endorse the concept
that one is allowed to violate the Shabbat to save Jewish life only
because this will lead to greater Shmirat Shabbat in the future. True,
this rationale is the opinion of R. Shimon Ben Menassya, but note that
there are a total of 7 different answers to the question "Why is it
permissable to violate the Shabbat to save a Jewish life?" and that 
the final word is had by Rava who confirms that the opinion of Shmuel
is the only reasoning which cannot be refuted. Shmuel's reasoning is indeed
the one we are all familar with: "va'hai bahem vlo sheyamut bahem"--
"that he should live by them-- and not die by them". This is the accepted
reason why saving Jewish life is "docheh kol haTorah koolah" (except
for the sins of idolatry, murder, and some illicit sexual relations).
(See Sanhedrin 74a and Avodah Zara 27b, 54a for some contexts in which
this reasoning is used.) So the story in Yoma 85a,b and its ensuing
opinions is not the operative principle in Shas. (Yes, the logic of
R. Shimon Ben Menassya is echoed in Shabbat 151b by R. Shimon Ben 
Gamliel, but the style of the remark ("for a live day old baby, one may
violate the Shabbat (to save him), whereas for a dead David King of Israel 
one may not violate the Shabbat" ( presumably to attend to his corpse)
as well as its context (a series of Aggadic statements) makes it likely
that the remark is not made to announce a new halachic point and its
legal basis, but is rather homiletic in nature.

Now the truth about saving non-Jewish life is this. The starting point is
that one is NEVER allowed to save an idolator's life, on a weekday or
on Shabbat. Here is where "eivah" comes in-- the idolators will make a
pogrom if they get wind of this. So we are allowed after all to save them 
mishum eivah. However, on Shabbat we try telling them that we don't violate
the Shabbat even to save Jewish life except because this will lead to
shmirat shabbat down the road. This is not the real reason, of course,
but it is an EXCUSE we try so as to avoid doing what we do not want to 
do even on a weekday, viz. save an idolator.

The proof? First, note Shulkhan Arukh, Orach Haim, siman 310 se'if 2:
"One may not help the non-Jewess give birth on Shabbat-- afilu 
bedavar she'ein bo chilul shabbat-- even if this does NOT involve violating
the Shabbat". Note also that one may violate the Shabbat to prolong a
Jewish life even if we know that he or she will not live long enough
to keep another Shabbat. Note also the wording in the Mishneh Brurah
ad loc "mishum d'y'cholah L'HISHTAMET v'lomar...". Finally, note that
he also says (Biur Halacha on siman 330) that (probably) a Ger Toshav 
may be saved even if it involves an issur d'rabanan (Rabbinic
violation) since we are obligated to sustain the Ger Toshav and we
can say that the Rabbis never intended their issur or prohibition to
apply in this case. (In the case of the Ger Toshav there is no obviously
rationale of "violate one shabbat so as to increase future shmirat shabbat.)
(But see Rambam Hilchot Shabbat chapter 2 halacha 12 on this.)

What about non-Ger-Toshav non-Idolators? Yishmaelim (Moslems) fall under
"ein meyaldin" together with idolators according to the Magen
Avraham, but not Karaites "since they keep the Shabbat." Of course this
would argue strongly against all that I have said since it suggests
that the operative principle really is: does the chilul shabbat end up
contributing to greater shmirat shabbat in the long run. But, no, that
is too hasty. For if we look more carefully in the Chochmat Shlomo and
in the Machatsit Hashekel and in the Biur Halacha and elsewhere we see 
that (a) the problem with Yishmaelim is simply that there is no hetter or
permission allowing us to violate Shabbat to save them even though we do not 
have the same reason to wish their depopulation as with idolators. 
"Vachai bahem" is as inapplicable to them as the reasoning of R. Shimon
b. Menassya. Either way they lose out. Moreover, with respect to Karaites,
(b) the hetter to save karaites may apply only where there is no chilul 
shabbat d'oraita involved and only where the very fact that they DO
keep shabbat means that we are concerned about eivah if we do not save 
(The Chochmat Shlomo raises the obvious objection that unlike stam goyim 
the Karaites are not generally in any position to do us harm! But this is
NOT answered by saying that the permission to save Karaites really
has to do with applying "kdei sheyishmor shabatot harbeh"! Instead he
looks for a different answer.

Thus for these achronim there's no doubt that the rationale of increasing 
shmirat shabbat in the future is just a pretext and an excuse, not a 
genuine reason which would apply to Karaites or Jews.

What does all this come to ? It comes to this. The *REASONING* of the
halacha on this issue seems diametrically opposed to what people of good
will expect of one another in our society. I think that (almost?) every
reader of MJ must surely feel *uncomfortable* with the texts brought
above and must certainly hope (as I do too!!) that I have misunderstood
these texts. Fellow MJ'er: would you not be *embarrassed* (not just
worried about eivah!!) were a non-Jewish coworker of yours to take the
time and read all the above? I hope so! We expect Christians and Moslems
and for that matter atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, and so on, to make a
serious effort to assist Jewish co-citizens in times of crisis,
CERTAINLY when life and limb are threatened, even though we know that
people will tend to give preference to their own group of course. I
would be outraged to think that a non-Jewish doctor on call on Easter
(say) rushed from Church to attend me in the emergency ward ONLY because
he hoped thereby to avoid resentment on the part of Jewish doctors, that
otherwise he would in fact rather I die than miss even a small
("d'rabanan"?) part of the service. Such a doctor should lose his
license to practise medicine, I should think. Concern for another's
"eivah" is a limited form of prudent self-interest, and although prudent
self-interest is certainly an *extra* incentive to overcome an
individual's laziness, indifference, or selfishness, is falls woefully
short of brotherhood (excuse the gender) and human solidarity. We expect
these values to guide our relations, at least as ideal goals.

Is the problem here my contamination by humanistic ethical ideals?  In
truth is there really nothing even ethically questionable, nothing to
discuss and agonize over, about a rationale which says "if not for eivah
I would let a non-Jewish child die rather than use a telephone to call
an ambulance" (assuming that there is a shvut d'rabanan in using a
telephone; if not pick your own favorite shvut d'rabanan)?  I think that
is what Isaac Balbin is committed to when he rejects my starting point
and says:

>It depends where you start from Alan. As the Rov Z"TL was always want to
>point out, Torah and Halakha are the definition of Jewish Morality.  One
>doesn't start from a western feeling and attempt to impregnate that with
>Torah quotes as a means of establishing a palatable Western-Torah.  Of
>course, there may be *Halakhic* support for your feelings, but one needs
>to do better than quote a Pasuk here and there. We can start with the
>Rambam and work backwards and then forwards, but we can't start with
>`things bothering me.'

I don't know what "Western" means in this context. (Actually my mother
is from Texas, so maybe I should confess to some "Western" roots....
but then on the other hand my father was born in Russia so ...)  I also
don't recall quoting any psukim. I thought it would be obvious that
there is at the very least a prima facie problem with what seems to be
the basic psak in this matter, and that one SHOULD be disturbed!
Mentioning the Rav z"l seems to me to reveal the complexity of the
issue, contrary to Isaac's intention. The Rav, like all great thinkers
in our tradition who tried to relate extra-Torah concepts to Torah
perspectives and thus both broaden and deepen the latter, certainly
would not have glibly dismissed humanist commitments to the sanctity of
human life as such. He would have recognized the question at hand as a
genuine problem. Take a look at Shimshon Refael Hirsch's commentary on
the beginning of Mishpatim for an example of trying to accomodate
LIBERAL HUMANISTIC ethical ideals when they seem to conflict with the
Torah. Did he deny that there is any tension of problem to be discussed?
Or read R. Nachman Krochmal's Moreh Nevuchei Hazman for an attempt to
accomodate German Idealist philosophy and its implicit vision of human
history and moral progress within a Torah hashkafa. Or of course you can
go back to Rambam or Sa'adya or Philo of Alexandria, to name but a few,
as I am sure you are aware.  To trot out the Rav for the claim that
"Torah and Halakha are the definition of Jewish Morality" is pointless
unless you know the limits and depths of Torah, which is exactly what is
at issue. I cannot imagine any greater trivialization of what the Rav
stood for than the often-heard rejoinder (which btw I am NOT accusing
you in advance of saying) that all the above mentioned philosophers
actually thought that without studying Greek or Islamic or ... German
philosophy they would have come to exactly the same philosophical
conclusions as they did, solely on the basis of studying the Torah.
Clearly these great thinkers started with BOTH a knowledge of Jewish
tradition ("Torah" in the broad sense) AND a commitment to some
particular world view and its implicit moral universe and language
(whether NeoPlatonic, Aristotelian, German-Idealist or Neo-Kantian)...
and then tried their best to make sense of it all. I do not presume to
their deep level of understanding, but as they say, "lo alecha hamlacha
ligmor aval i atah rashai l'hibatel mimenu" (Roughly: just cause you
can't do something 100% doesn't mean your needn't give it your best

Strangely, the Rambam says in a related but different context (Hilchot
Shabbat chpt 2 halacha 3) "from this you see that the laws of the
Torah do not bring spite (nkama) into the world but rather mercy, grace,
and peace (rahamim, chesed, v'shalom)". How strange in light of halacha 12
in that same chapter!

/alan zaitchik


End of Volume 10 Issue 67