Volume 11 Number 15
                       Produced: Fri Jan  7 12:18:07 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Censorship (2)
         [Andy Jacobs, Michael Lipkin]
Rabbinic authority
         [Mitch Berger]
         [Robert J. Tanenbaum]
Torah vs. liberal humanism
         [Frank Silbermann]


From: dca/G=Andy/S=Jacobs/O=CCGATE/OU1=<DCAALPTS@...> (Andy Jacobs)
Date: 28 Dec 93 10:09:34 GMT
Subject: Re: Censorship

> If you believe that it is the duty of a Jew to study, to learn, to enrich
> our minds and souls in order to come closer to hashem, then the idea of
> censorship should be distasteful to you.

I agree with your statement, and I further believe that trying to hide
something from someone implies that the information is significant.
However, the discussion so far has been about censoring what our
CHILDREN see.  I believe there has been a misunderstanding in what we
mean by "children."  For example, I agree with your statement that we
must choose to be observant.  However, I don't think most 5 year-olds
will choose their actions based on the beauty of a religion I do expect
a Bar/Bat Mitzvah to see some beauty in their religion, and possibly
know something about others.  Basically, I believe that your statements
were in response to "children" as in Bar/Bat Mitzvah age, where the
conversation started as "children" as younger.

I would like to respond to  one other statement you made:

> Isn't, excepting history and inbred racial intolerance, the whole reason
> jews have been persecuted for so long, that there was the holocaust, that
> there is daily bloodshed in our homeland, isn't the primary reason a lack
> of understanding and a will to live in peace with those who are different
> than us?

One of the reasons used by the Germans during the Holocaust was exactly
the opposite of what you stated.  The Germans were afraid that the Jews
were integrating TOO MUCH into society, and that they would not be
distinguishable in the future.  There was a movement in Germany, much
like that of the Reform movement in the US (if not the same) where Jews
were trying to fit in, and were abandoning their "Jewish" ways,
clothing, etc., etc.  This is not to say that the Germans didn't ALSO
use the argument that you stated, nor to say that there have never been
progroms for the reasons you stated.  But it must be stated that not all
bloodshed has been caused by our failure to tolerate other cultures.

 - Andy

From: <msl@...> (Michael Lipkin)
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 93 14:39:37 -0500
Subject: Censorship

In MJ 10:94 Meylekh Viswanath writes:

>Uri Meth and Avi Laster responded to a recent posting of mine...

First, I must clear something up.  Avi Laster allowed me to make that
post through his I.D.  Though I signed my name at the bottom, Avi's did
appear in the header.  I apologize for any confusion, especially to Avi.
I made reference to my children in that post and I just want to let everyone
know that Avi is single and available! 

> It is unfortunate that I chose to make my remarks in the context of
> Najman Kahana's account of his unwitting rental of a Pinocchio video
> with christian content.  I did not mean to suggest that we should all go
> out and rent the Pinocchio video or read from the new testament to our
> children instead of a bedtime story.

I think Meylekh and I agree more than disagree, as what he describes above
is the necessary type of censorship I was referring to.

> However, I am not sure of the relevance of another of his statements:
>> I'm sure there are those people out there who could provide you with
>> Halachic precedent showing the undesirability of Jewish people indulging
>> in secular cultural activities and information.
> First of all, one should not confuse indulging in secular cultural
> activities on the one hand, and secular information, on the other.
> Second, I'm sure that even if there is halakhic precedent showing the
> undesirability of Jews acquiring secular information, there's halakhic
> precedent showing the converse as well.

The relevance is that Meylekh asked in his original post:

>How could it be desirable to keep children ignorant of these things?

If one follows a Shita that holds that indulging in secular activities
and/or seeking secular information is Halachically inappropriate (see
the many discussions in MJ regarding Rav Shach's position) then that's
how it could be desirable.  Of course I know this a multifaceted issue.
Just reading this forum over the past few weeks makes that quite clear!

> I understand that MJers are not all homogenous.  However, that is no
> reason why one should not present one's point of view and seek to
> convince others of it. In this case, I presumed a commitment to a
> certain breadth of knowledge and suggested that certain kinds of
> censorship went counter to it.

My point in mentioning the diversitiy of the MJ readers was that one
shouldn't presume to generalize about us (with the obvious exceptions 
of the basic guidelines of the forum).  Meylekh's implication is 
decidedly PC in it's negative connotation of censorship.  In saying

> I did not mean to suggest that we should all go out and rent the
> Pinocchio video ...

Even Meylekh implies acceptance of a kind of censorship and limiting 
of a child's "breadth of knowledge" that I don't know every MJ reader
would agree with.  

Michael S. Lipkin       Highland Park, N.J.       <msl@...>


From: <mitch@...> (Mitch Berger)
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 93 09:41:12 -0500
Subject: Rabbinic authority

I too have problems with the notion that a Rav should be consulted on
non-religious issues. (This is clouded by the problem that the demarkation
itself is a Halachic issue.) I would be scared to fight in an army that
followed Rabbanim over generals, or to be treated in a hospital where
the course of treatment is decided by a posek. (Again, with the same caveat.)

I'm not going to enter the discussion about Centrist Rabbinic leadership,
since I have no idea what Centrism is, beyond being a new label for a
subset (perhaps the leftmost subset) of modern Orthodoxy.

But I have a deeper problem with the underlying assumption behind this
discussion.  I see no source, pre-1970 or so, that there is a set of
"gedolim".  That is to say, a set of rabbanim whose authority is
different in kind, not just quantity, than any other dayan or posek.
The word means "great ones" - a major of quantity. Historically,
la'aniyas da'ati (IMHO), the term was a complement, a statement that
the Rav in question is amoung the more accepted opinionators, but still
within the general class of poskim.  I feel that the institution is
unfounded, and dangerous both sociologically and halachically.

Having a set of Gedolim means that the society is classed. The system is
slowly losing meritocratic elements. The trend is starting, e.g. in
Lakewood, to choose Roshei Yeshivah not only by merit, but also by
yichus. I see in the future fewer and fewer rabbanim being able to jump
the bridge to the upper class. We are lowering the expectiations, dreams,
and therefor, potential, of the next generation of Rabbanim.

But more importantly, is cripples the shul-rav. Today, very few poskim
have sufficient confidence in their own abilities. Instead of saying that
any posek can rule, with varying degrees of authority, we are creating two
types of poskim. The local rav, being of the lower type, is left with little.
(Is this a partial cause of the Chumrah of the Month club - Rabbanim who
just want to play safe?)

The concept of "kinei lichah Rav - make for yourself a rav" falls by the
wayside. Since there are not enough gedolim for all of us, we are left with
a person who doesn't fit in our notion of a leadership class. Second,
opinion is made by concensus - "most gedolim hold", "all of the gedolim
hold" are phrases we hear often. What happened to having _A_ rav, following
one opinion consitantly? To your understanding, is this what "yochid verabim,
halakhah kerabim - one authority vs. many, the ruling is with the many" means?

BTW, whose gedolim are they most or of? You write:

> R. Ahron would not be counted in this informal group for quite a while.

He's been in my notion of gadol for a long time. Each socio-politico-halakhic
group has its own list. I don't think many Lubavitchers, or Centrists for
that matter, would consider R. Shach a candidate. The "Yeshivah world"
might put him at the top of the list. I don't know which group of people is
larger. Do we take a formal survey?

       | Mitchel Berger, TFI Systems, 26th fl. | Voice: (212) 504-3144 |
       | Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette          |   Fax: (212) 504-4581 |
       | 140 Broadway  New York, NY 10005-1285 | Email: <mitch@...>  |

PS: I'm reminded of a joke ad I saw in YU's Purim paper:
	The New Collection of Modern Orthodox Gedolim Cards -
			Collect Both!


From: <btanenb@...> (Robert J. Tanenbaum)
Date: Mon, 27 Dec 93 09:59:07 EST
Subject: Suffering

Here's my two cents on suffering and I hope it makes sense too.

My local rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Kaminetzky, once gave a Shabbos Drosha
after Cardinal John Paul O'Connor visited Yad V'Shem and commented on
the "Mystery of Suffering".

Rabbi Kamintzky spoke at length that such a notion of suffering is
definitely a Christian concept. The Jewish notion is to view suffering
as an impediment to spirituality. Jewish spirituality requires the full
physical and emotional vitality of a person. There are numerous examples
where the halacha exempts people from doing mitzvas because they are
either physically or emotionally incapacitated.

When we talk of G-d welcoming the broken heart - it means broken with
humility - not with suffering. When we talk about G-d caring for the
sick and poor - perhaps it means that G-d extends extra effort to those
who are poor and weak and therefore cannot reach out to G-d on their
own.  However, our efforts of Torah observance and Avodos HaLev (service
of the heart) require full physical and emotional vitality.  Bontshe
Shveig does not represent the Rabbinic ideal of a Tzaddik, he is stunted
and broken and without the vision necessary to reach greatness in deeds
or actions. Peretz is right to say this is surely not a spiritual ideal
-- but he has set up a "strawman argument" if he claims that Judaism
considers such self-abasement as desireable.

This is not to say that we cannot take the various "tests of life" and
grow from them. Yes we should. We should grow in stature and spiritual
strength under adversity - as Natan Sharansky did, or as various Rebbe's
did. It is our duty to take every opportunity to serve G-d. We should
attempt to not be crushed nor let our spiritual vision diminish like
Bontshe Shveig. However, we should still understand suffering as an
impediment to spirituality and to alleviate it wherever possible.

Even if we can occaisionally use it as a stepping stone -- we should
still recognize its basic nature of a stumbling block.

May our lives be full of opportunities to worship G-d in the best of
circumstances. May we always have the strength and the vision to turn
our stumbling blocks into stepping stones. May we always seek to remove
the stumbling blocks from others.

Love to all,

Ezra Bob Tanenbaum	1016 Central Ave	Highland Park, NJ 08904
home: (908)819-7533	work: (212)450-5735
email: <btanenb@...>


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 93 15:11:23 -0500
Subject: Re: Torah vs. liberal humanism

Subject: Torah vs Liberal Humanism (was Shabbat and Saving Lives)

Alan Zaitchik 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.  This has led to the question of whether
ideals of universal ethics and morality should be relevant to observant

>	The Rav ... who tried to relate extra-Torah concepts
>	to Torah perspectives and thus both broaden and deepen them,
>	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.
>	Shimshon Rafael Hirsch's commentary on ...  Mishpatim
>	(gives) 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 or problem to be discussed?
>	R. Nachman Krochmal's Moreh Nevuchei Hazman attempts 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 ...

This kind of approach is now decisively out of fashion.  Liberal
humanism became less appealing to the Modern Orthodox when sexual
egalitarianism challenged gender-specific Halachos.  The Haredim, never
overly impressed with secular ideas, were unenthusiastic when Jewish
national self-determinism was promoted as a liberation movement.
Religious Zionists, once solidly in the camp of the Labor Party and its
humanist ideology, have switched their support to a party whose motto
has long seemed to be "Who cares what the Goyim think?"  (At least until
Pres. Bush indicated that they had better care).  This may be due in
part to the increasing influence of Rabbi Meir Kahana z"l.  Realizing
that liberal humanism condemned his objectives, Rv. Kahana ridiculed the
notion that a Torah Jew should care about ethical principles which
Halacha has not made mandatory, particularly ethical principles of
secular origin.  (To be fair, opponents of Rv. Kahana have suggested
that his approach to Torah was no less influenced by secular ethical
ideas, albeit from a secular ideology which might be described as the
antithesis of liberal humanism.)

Being somewhat old-fashioned in that I still respect liberal humanism, I
sympathize with Alan's frustration and dissatisfaction.  In discussions
of Jewish political issues I often feel more comfortable among older
generations, who have been less affected by these recent trends.

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


End of Volume 11 Issue 15