Volume 11 Number 80
                       Produced: Sun Feb 13 20:35:54 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Gentiles at Shul
         [Michael Rosenberg]
Halakha - Forbidding the Permitted
         [Aleeza Esther Berger]
Rambam and Agadatas (2)
         [Yosef Bechhofer, Saul Tawil]
Tircha D'tzibburah
         [Janice Gelb]


From: <Michael.Rosenberg@...> (Michael Rosenberg)
Date: Sun, 13 Feb 94 13:54:10 PST
Subject: Gentiles at Shul

I have been noticing what I take to be an unusual phenomenon at our shul
for about two years. I attend a small Orthodox shul in Portland, Oregon.
We have no rabbi and have never had one in the 85 years this shul has
been in existence (still in the same location).  For reasons unknown, we
have begun to attract a significant following among a number of non-Jews
who attend our Shabbat morning services on a regular basis.  My
assumption is that they are either B'nei Noach or think or feel they
have some connection with Am Yisrael (either through family or through
identification).  The reason that I am vague on what their motivations
are is that we feel that we have a responsibility of hachnasat orchim
(hospitality) whatever their religion and it may make them feel
unwelcome to ask alot of questions.  They always stay for kiddush
apparently because the dvar torah which follows is especially
interesting to them.  They wear kippot, some wear tallitot, and they
follow along in the Art Scroll Siddur and in the Chumashim.  In a
relatively small Jewish community such as ours, where a shabbat minyan
of 20 men is a good crowd, the presence of 10 or twelve non-Jews is
significant.  One family that began like this has now undergone Orthodox
conversion and has bought a home near the shul.  The others don't really
seem motivated to change religions, nor have we ever tried to encourage
anyone to do this.

I'm interested if there are any halachot that we should be made aware of
in handling this situation and if other shuls have experienced anything
like this.  What does it mean that all of a sudden _non-Jews_ want to
come closer to Yiddishkeit while non-affiliated and assimilated Jews
stay away?

Michael Rosenberg
uucp: uunet!m2xenix!puddle!31.9!Michael.Rosenberg
Internet: <Michael.Rosenberg@...>


From: Aleeza Esther Berger <aeb21@...>
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 1994 23:31:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Halakha - Forbidding the Permitted

>From: Aryeh Frimer <F66235@...>
>Subject: Misrepresentation of Halakha as Safeguard

>    As some of you know, I am "still" working on an article regarding
>Women's services and have come across an intersting question in which I
>would like some input and thought. Nagid (let's say) that a Rabbi or
>group of Rabbis is convinced that a particular innovative practice (for
>argument's sake Women's Services) is per se' Halakhically permitted.
>However, they are equally convinced that it is fraught with danger for
>Klal Yisrael; i.e., it's bad public policy for whatever reason. Are they
>allowed to rule that it is "Halakhically" forbidden - perhaps even give
>very weak halakhic arguments to sort of "cover up" -  for the sole
>reason that by doing so their prohibition will carry greater weight?
>Clearly a Rabbi has the right to prohibit something for his community on
>the grounds that he thinks it is "bad for the Jews" - and his community/
>congregants who have accepted him as their halakhic authority are
>obligated to follow him. But here we are talking about misrepresenting
>Halakha by forbidding the permitted - for the purpose of Migdar Milta
>(prevention of future halakhic problems).  Do the ends justify the
>means.    Sources appreciated.

Are you counting on people not finding out?  Why don't you just tell them
the truth - it's ok halakhically but you aren't permitting it in your 
bailiwick because you think it will cause problems in the future.  
People don't appreciate being treated like children.  When people put their 
trust in you for halakhic opinions they deserve to be treated honestly in
return.  If you don't treat them honestly, you may rapidly lose their trust.

With respect to your specific example, something like this may have
already occurred.  A number of years ago, Rabbi Hershel Schachter of
Yeshiva University wrote prohibiting women's prayer groups.  Very
recently, Menahem Elon, Chief Justice of Israel's Supreme Court issued
an opinion on the premissibility of women carrying a Sefer Torah at the
Western Wall.  In the course of this opinion he argues in favor of
women's prayer groups in general and specifically questions Rabbi
Schachter's halakhic reasoning.  Elon says that on this issue, Rabbi
Schachter deviates from his usual method of halakhic process.  (Elon is
an expert on halakhic process.)

There is a lot of room in halakha between "mutar" (permitted) and "asur"
(prohibited).  An apropos example which comes to mind is women wearing
tefillin.  In all of halakhic history, only one authority calls this
"asur" (the Gr"a).  A few achronim say that women should be discouraged
from doing it, without much halakhic basis if any; their reasons are
similar to the kind it sounds like you are considering.  That's very
different than "asur", and perhaps it is in that realm that your
suggestion belongs, rather than in the realm of "asur".  "Asur" is very
serious business.  (I heard an analysis of the question of women wearing
tefillin in a talk given this week by Rabbi Saul Berman).

I also suspect that what you think is "bad for the Jews", other Jews,
rabbis included, think is good for the Jews' spiritual health.  On the
other hand, lay people being deceived by their rabbis, is, in my
opinion, very bad for the Jews.

Aliza Berger


From: <YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 94 05:52:07 -0500
Subject: Rambam and Agadatas

In MJ 11:71, an MJer comments on the  following  previous  posting  to Mail

>In a note, Avi commented that this is similar to the Rambam's >approach.  Not
exactly. The Rambam accepts all Agadatas to be true, >but allegorical and
possessed of a deeper, more profound meaning than >face value would indicate,
their true meaning concealed so that those >not on a level suitable for
understanding should not understand. . .

Concerning this posting, this MJ'er says:

     I have looked up the RAMBAM in perek hachelek and this is not  at
     all  what the RAMBAM says, in fact he says just the opposite.

And launches a long quote (with profuse capitolization for emphasis) in which
the Rambam says precisely what the original posting  maintained, yet attempts
to fend off criticism by stating:

     I think that the RAMBAM  that  I  have  quoted  speaks  well  for
     itself.   I  know that their will  still  be  readers  who  say."

And ends off with a challenge:

     Is there something that many in the Jewish world are  afraid   of
     if  we  say that an aggadah is not true?  Why does this  seem  to
     test peoples  faith   such  that  they  bend  over  backwards  to
     rationalize them as truths.  Indeed   RAMBAM  says  that  such  b
     behavior makes us small in the eyes of the  nations  rather  than
     making us tall and smart in their eyes (See above)

As the author of the original posting, I wish to state: a) I looked up the
Rambam in Perek Chelek in  the  English  edition  I have at home (Rosner), and
it is consistent  with  what  I  originally said.  b) What I said is explicit 
in  the  Rambam's  Introduction  to  Seder Zeraim. I do not have at home an
English  edition  (I  believe  it  is translated by Lampel), but the Hebrew is
in any standard  Vilna  Shas, end of Mesechta Berachos, page 55a in the  order 
of  pagination  that starts from the  Rosh  in  the  back  of  the  Gemara, 
first  column, paragraph beginning with the words: "Achar  ken",  24th  line 
in  the paragraph, right after the "two dots", continuing till  the  two  dots
three lines before the end of the column (where he begins to  give  an example
of the immense wisdom hidden in Agadata). The Rambam  stresses there several
times that if  one  doesn't  understand  an  Agadata  of chazal, he should
realize it is a shortcoming in him, and nowhere does he entertain the
possibility that Agadatas are not  true.  (BTW,  this Rambam is very well
known, and quoted in almost all the  introductions to the "Ein Yaakov".) c) I
myself stated that there are those who say one does not  have  to accept all 
Agadatas  of  Chazal.  (The  expression  "not  true",  is, however, too strong.
One can not brand as "not true"  that  which  one does  not  necessarily 
understand).  I   attributed   this,   perhaps mistakenly, because I could not
find it in his Introduction to the Ein Yaakov (i.e., his essay on Agadatas that
is printed at  the  beginning of the Ein Yaakov), to R. Avraham ben HaRambam.
This opinion, however, may also be  found  in  any  standard  Vilna  Shas,  end
of  Mesechta Berachos, page 45b in the order of pagination  that  starts  from 
the Rosh in the back of the Gemara, in R. Shmuel HaNagid's Introduction to the
Talmud, in the last paragraph in the center block of text  on  the page,
beginning "VeHagada". (See, however, Michtav Me'Eliyahu  vol.  4 p. 353, who
interprets R. Shmuel HaNagid's words in a similar vein  to the Rambam.) I do
not  understand  why  this  MJer  dropped  the  last line of my original
posting where I cited this approach, and then goes on to accuse me of being
        BTW, in my sefer, Bigdei Shesh on Bava Basra, I have several simanim
in which I attempt to demonstrate how one takes difficult Aggadic passages,
such as those at the beginning of Perek HaMocher es HaSefina, and understand
them on a profounder level.

From: <SLTAWIL@...> (Saul Tawil)
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 94 05:52:13 -0500
Subject: Re: Rambam and Agadatas

 HAZAK U BARUCH(sephardic phrase roughly equivilent to the ashkenaz myesher
koach)to Bobby Fogel for bringing to light  the Rambam's position on the
understanding of Aggadah. However he did not elaborate on the second group of
people whom the Rambam is also very critical. These people take the
Aggadah,assume that the authors of these aggadot believed that they were
writing truths,and ridicule the entire situation. Although not relevant to
Bobby's point an unfortunate trend has developed. Those people belonging to
Rambam's third group tend to lower themselves when in discussion/debate
with the literalists. Instead of holding their high,intellectual position,the
allegorists begin to mock and ridicule the aggadot as a means of
trying to reason with what they view as an untenable position. Rather  than
expounding the timeless messages that our Sages put forth in these parables
and developing a deeper appeciation of Torah,our time is wasted on deciding
whether or not it was possible for Moshe to have jumped  a height of thirty
amot(cubits-approximately 45 feet)and only reach the ankle of Og Melech


From: <Janice.Gelb@...> (Janice Gelb)
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 94 00:25:45 -0500
Subject: Tircha D'tzibburah

In mail.jewish Vol. 11 #74 Digest, Elie Rosenfeld writes:
> Danny Skaist writes:
> >I suspect that the reason for the halacha is that people react to "tircha
> >d'tzibburah" by coming later and later or not at all.
> I'm sure many will respond by saying that those people's reactions are not
> appropriate.  Yet, apropos of the concept of tircha d'tzibburah, I'd like
> to turn that question around.  What is the _shul's_ responsibility to address
> the tircha issue, so highlighted by those who "vote with their feet"?  How
> do we tolerate keeping the letter of the tircha law in our Torah-covering
> minhag, and yet totally ignoring it in so many other areas?
> I'd be interested if anyone has heard a defense of the current practices.
> My guess is that they have developed by basically ignoring the tircha issue,
> rather than addressing it somehow.

I agree that this is something that the shul as a whole should address,
but that does not always provide redress in this situation. Often I
suspect the problem we've been discussing isn't so much an official
shul policy (like, say, including a long optional prayer) as an
individual preference of shlichim b'tzibbur. In most congregations the
shlichim t'zibbur are volunteers so there isn't much "demanding" a shul
board can do. Also, in a lot of cases the people in question are
convinced that their way is right so they ignore the requests.

Two cases in point: I know of one congregation that had only three or
four people who were competent to be shlichim t'zibbur (due to either
voice or knowledge constraints) and even though most of them believed in
the "drawn-out chazzanut" approach, there wasn't much the congregation
could do.  Various members mentioned it to the people but they felt
that all the other members enjoyed the chazzanut so they wouldn't

In another congregation I know of, the rabbi insisted on giving musar
sermons every single Shabbat. The shul asked him several times to try
to speak on other topics occasionally because the members didn't want
to sit through an hour of being yelled at and made to feel guilty every
single week. The rabbi refused, so members voted with their feet and
left right after the Torah was returned to the aron and coming back
after the sermon. (I found out about this when I was visiting one week
and was shocked when over half the congregation walked out at this

So, my point is that certainly a shul can make individual requests but
often "voting with the feet" is the only way to really get the point
across to recalcitrant shlichim t'zibbur.

Janice Gelb                  | (415) 336-7075     
<janiceg@...>   | "A silly message but mine own" (not Sun's!) 


End of Volume 11 Issue 80