Volume 12 Number 95
                       Produced: Sun May  1 23:51:43 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Jeremy Nussbaum]
         [Robert A. Book]
Majority in Israel, Ashkenazic or Sephardic
         [Lon Eisenberg]
meat? why?
         [Ari Kurtz]
So many books, so little time...
         [Freda Birnbaum]


From: <jeremy@...> (Jeremy Nussbaum)
Date: Tue, 12 Apr 1994 10:25:30 -0400
Subject: Re: Interpretation

> From: Yitzchok Adlerstein <ny000594@...>
> Interpretive license in our tradition does not mean a free-for-all!  
> That's why I cast my vote with Mechel Fine who wrote
> > I believe there are certain things that if CHAZAL didnot say them, 
> > we have no right to say them especially when itdenigrates or belittles
> > the avos or sh'votim.
> I believe that two very different issues are being confused here.  It is
> certainly true that there is no one [non-Halachic] interpretation of a
> text which must be assumed to be correct.  There is no psak [firm
> halachic decision] as to whether the first line of Chumash should be
> translated, "In the beginning Hashem created the Heavens and earth," as
> Ramban does, or whether it should be rendered, "In the beginning of
> G-d's creation..." as Rashi gives it.  This does not mean that EVERY
> interpretation is valid or acceptable.  There are "70 faces" to Torah -
> not an infinfite number!  There may not be a tradition about an absolute
> pshat for every word of the Torah.  But there are traditions about how
> interpretation as a whole should be conducted; which themes were
> important to the Author; what the general message of a given passage
> was.

I disagree with the interpretation of 70 faces here.  There are 70 nations
in the world, traditionally.  That does not mean some nations are part
of the world and some aren't.  That is simply saying there are many
nations, and 70 is the canonical "the whole world of."  Similarly, the
70 faces of the Torah is an expression of how the Torah encompasses all
of life and every viewpoint.  There is a situation and a context in which
every viewpoint and opinion is in accord with the Torah.  If there
is an tradition about how interpretation of the Torah should be conducted,
well, it too is subject to interpretation.

> While a Divine Author may have deliberately allowed and encouraged
> mutltiple readings of His poetry [see Netziv in his introduction to
> Chumash that Torah calls itself "shirah," and it is the function of
> poetry to be read on multiple planes], He DID have certain truths that
> He wished to convey.  We may interpret many of the narratives in
> Chumash.  However, to argue, for example, that events never occured,
> that all the narratives were just allegories, is completely foreign to
> our tradition.

Well, if you want to exclude them.  It is neither a popular nor common
opinion, but that does not make necessarily make it "completely foreign."
The leaders at any time take on a responsibility for the propagation of
the Torah, and may see fit to expound it in one way and argue against
a different interpretation.  That does not necessarily mean the
interpretation is invalid, and may mean that the interpretation does
not serve the Jewish people and the Torah in the current generation
and circumstances.

>       One of the reasons given in the Rashba's cherem against premature
> immersion into specualtive philosophy was the extreme to which people
> had taken it.  The signators decried the fact that people were claiming
> that the Avos never lived; that Avraham and Sarah were allegories for
> "form" and "substance."  (Many will realize that the early Church
> addressed the problem of the Torah's legal demands by allegorizing them
> as well.)  Were these "legitimate" forms of interpretation?  Is there a
> halacha someplace that says "Thou shalt not overly allegorize?  Or did
> Gedolei Yisroel always possess a set of limits within which
> interpretation could take place, shaped by the overall mastery of Torah
> principles by the commentator?

Gedolei Yisroel arise without getting a gedolei yisrael manual and have
their own opinions on what constitutes proper interpretation.  They do
not necessarily agree on this.  You are free, of course, to call anyone
who disagrees with a particular interpretation (or agrees with some
interpretation) an apikorus and a heretic.  It may be that in the (then)
current intellectual and social climate that such outlooks did not
further the cause of Torah and the Jews.  It may be at some other
time they did or will.

The Rabbis of previous generation often did not hesitate to disagree
vehemently and to attempt to exercise their authority.  That does not
make one "right" and the other wrong.  When one believes that his
way is correct and effective, one has an obligation to try to spread it.
The arguments for a particular outlook or interpretation may or may
not convince people.  That doesn't make them right or wrong.  In fact,
ultimately, we cannot determine which interpretation is "the truth."
"Lo Bashamayim Hi," it is not in heaven and even in halacha we cannot
go back and ask our Creator what we should do.  He has required us
to discuss it among ourselves and reach a conclusion.

>  The actual issue of how to treat the Avos and Imahos, how high a
> pedastal to place them on, is beyond the scope of this posting.  In
> short, I believe there to be a clear mesorah through all strata of
> rabbinical literature to treat the avos as paragons of virtue, as
> exemplars of avodah and sterling midos of the highest order whose
> spiritual productivity was so potent that the effects of their lives
> still spill over to us today.  The interested reader is referred to my
> article (popular, not scholarly) in the Spring '90 issue of the O-U's
> Jewish Action.  Reprints upon request.

I agree that there is a trend in rabbinic literature to portray all
the major characters and even some of the minor character as paragons
of virtue.  I simply want to add that there are other trends as well.
Tanach itself certainly does not take pains to portray all of the Avos
and righteous kings as totally saintly and without shortcomings.

IMHO, it is in the portrayal of the human side of our heroes that some
of the greatest inspiration can be found.  For if our forefathers
could do great things even though they had their problems and issues,
we too can aspire to bringing G-d's kingdom into the world, even
with our shortcomings and problems.  IMHO, the Avos/Imahos and other heroes
of our history were great not because they abstained from any imaginable
sin, but because they helped to create and sustain the nation of Israel
and the Torah, and they did so in a way which still inspires us today.

Jeremy Nussbaum (<jeremy@...>)


From: <rbook@...> (Robert A. Book)
Date: Tue, 5 Apr 1994 19:03:27 -0400
Subject: Re: Kitniyot

Someone wrote:
> >>...people were using grains that are not of the five (like corn and
> >>rice) to bake cakes and pasries and stuff.  This was destroying the
> >>spirit of Pesach, since the people were eating what is basically the
> >>same things they always ate, but with slightly different
> >>ingredients.  So the ban on Kitniot. 

<segs@...> (Susan Slusky) then wrote:
> >I think we're back in trouble then ... I can now buy, certified
> >pesadike by the O-U ... They're all made with matzo cake meal, which
> >is finer than matzo meal. ... Seems like the same problem all over
> >again. 

David Charlap now writes:
> Most of the passover cakes I've seen are made with potato flour, not
> matzo meal.  And these things are so much unlike normal cake that I
> don't think anyone would consider them "normal" food.
> And even if this isn't the case, I think if any rabbis tried banning
> potato, they would all find themselves without wives, really fast!
> :-)

This may be, but in there case there could well be a very clear
distinction between banning "potatoes" as such, versus banning
"bread-like and cake-like products made with potato flour in place or
wheat flour."

If this is really the reason for the ban on kitniyot, then perhaps
those who prohibit kitniyot proper (rice, corn) but not kitniyot
derivatives (corn oil, corn syrup, etc.) are correct.

I have seen not only O-U certified cake mixes with "matzah cake meal"
and potato flour, but I also something called "matzah rolls" which
look and taste much like bread rolls, but are made with matzah cake
meal instead of flour.

If the purpose of banning kitniyot is to preserve the "spirit of
Pesach," then shouldn't the ban be on bread-like products regardless
of ingredients, rather than some (but not all) ingredients that could
conceiveably be used to make bread-like products?

--Robert Book    <rbook@...>
  Rice University


From: eisenbrg%<milcse@...> (Lon Eisenberg)
Date: Wed, 13 Apr 94 11:09:07 IDT
Subject: Majority in Israel, Ashkenazic or Sephardic

I sent the following to Fred E. Dweck in response to his statement that most
of the Jews in Israel are Sephardic:

I think the majority of Jews in Israel today are Ashkenazic (although I
can't be sure), since the arrival of a few hundred thousand Russians.
Also, I don't think "one is absolved of doing a mitzvah if it is very
uncomfortable."  There are specific guidelines as to when one is
"patur", not a catch-all "it's too uncomfortable".

Fred Dweck's reply:

The sephradim started off with 60+ % of the population. Most olim where
from "edot hamizrah" and Sephradim have many more children than the
Ashkenazim. I honestly don't think that a few hundred thousand Russians
would tip the scales the other way. I can't swear to it, but that's the
way I figure it. Maybe someone on the list can supply authoritative

<<<Also, I don't think "one is absolved of doing a mitzvah if it is very
uncomfortable." There are specific guidelines as to when one is "patur",
not a catch-all "it's too uncomfortable".>>>

It is true that one is absolved of doing a mitzvah if it is very
uncomfortable.  Of course there are guidelines, but they are very broad.
Ex: A person need not sit in the Succah, even on the first day, if there
are too many flies, if it is too hot, if it is raining, etc. Certainly,
if he doesn't have a sofa in the Succah he wouldn't be absolved, because
it was not comfortable enough for his personal liking. The same applies
to tefilin. If one has a wound on his arm, even though the straps will
not touch the wound, he is "patur," if it causes him discomfort. *One*
of the main reasons for this is because of those who hold that mitzvot
DO require "kavanah". One cannot have kavanah if he is very
uncomfortable, and therefore, would not be "yose" anyway. So, Shev veal
taaseh, adif." Besides, in mitzvot that require a blessing, (IE:
tephilin, Succah, etc.)  there would enter a "safek beracha lebatala."
(a blessing in vain), based on the opinion that mitzvot require

The most important point I was trying to make, however, was that Hashem
never required that we should be uncomfortable in order to show that we
have accepted "ol shamayim", as Rabbi Adlerstein wrote. Quite the

Fred E. Dweck 


From: Ari Kurtz <s1553072@...>
Date: Sun, 24 Apr 1994 11:37:20 +0300
Subject: meat? why?

In response to Susan Sterngold <ss117@...>:

>I am not real knowledgeable about halacha but wouldn't it be easier just
>to be vegetarian? In addition to not killing animals and helping the
>environment, one would not have to worry about whether the butcher is
>lying. No separate sinks or dishes for meat or dairy..just a thought..

 There is actually an ideaolgy behind eating meat since we see that this
was the correction in the worlds plan after the flood. The problem of
the people before the flood is that they didn't differentiate between man
and animal and therefore started behaving as animals which conduct brought
upon the flood. So afterwards man was allowed to eat meat that he should
realize that man and animal are not on the same spiritual level and man
has to rise above the animal. So especially today when a significant
number of people act no better than animals maybe sticking to eating meat
will educate people on the difference between man and animal.
                                   Shalom Ari Kurtz


From: Freda Birnbaum <FBBIRNBA@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Apr 1994 00:36:47 -0400
Subject: So many books, so little time...

In V12N69, re the reading list on Shemoneh Esrei, ofm (our friendly
moderator) notes: [actually that was the poster, I tend to use []'s and
try to always put a - mod. at the end. - mod.]

>(I'm gathering that the three works by Jacobson may be different volumes
>of the same work, but I haven't checked this.)

I'm pretty sure that the 3 English volumes of Jacobson are all pieces of
the Hebrew one-volume work:

>       Title                           Author/(Pub)    Times Suggestioned
>       Meditations on Prayer           Rav Jacobsen    5
>       (Hebrew: Netiv Binah)
>        The Weekday Siddur              Jacobson        2
>       The Sabbath Service             Jacobson        1

Jason Aronson is a publisher.  Is this a recent republishing of the
Elie Munk book or a new book with the same title?

>       The World of Prayer             Elie Munk       6
>       The World of Prayer             Jason Aronson   1

Freda Birnbaum, <fbbirnbaum@...>


End of Volume 12 Issue 95