Volume 13 Number 31
                       Produced: Tue May 24 22:49:00 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Kabbolas Ol Malchus Shamayim
         [Yosef Bechhofer]
Retrospective prayer
         [Bernard Katz]
         [Leonard Oppenheimer]


From: <YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Sun, 22 May 1994 17:41:22 -0400
Subject: Kabbolas Ol Malchus Shamayim

In a recent posting (I do not recall the issue number off hand),  Fred Dwek
          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 "kavanah."

          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"...
          Quite the contrary!

This is certainly a novel line of reasoning. I have learnt Meseches
Sukka many times, and I have never come across such a rationale for the
halacha of "Mitzta'er" (one who has anguish, i.e.  "if there are too
many flies, if it is too hot, if it is raining, etc") as which Fred
quotes, i.e. Mitzvos require Kavanna. It is indeed quite clear that even
those that are of the opinion that Mitzvos do not require Kavanna allow
a Mitzta'er to eat outside a Sukka, and because of a completely
different reason, because "Teishvu k'ein Taduru" - your sitting in a
Sukka is no different than your dwelling in your house, i.e., whatever
discomfort would make you leave a certain room in your house allows you
to leave a Sukka. (BTW, the Halacha on this point is a matter of
contention, and many Poskim are of the opinion that indeed Mitzvos Einan
(DO NOT) Tzrichos (require) Kavanna.)

Indeed, the Gemara in Sukka and in Berachos, when discussing the halacha
that a groom is exempt from Sukka because one who is involved in one
Mitzvah need not involve himself in another ("Osek b'Mitzvah Patur Min
haMitzvah") entertains the notion that even one whose boat sunk or one
who is in aveilus r"l should be exempt from Shema and Sukka because he
is "tarud", i.e., too distracted to have proper Kavanna, and the Gemara
forthwith rejects this position because, says the Gemara, such a person,
no matter how unfortunate and distracting his circumstances MUST WORK ON

Concerning the halacha Fred quotes on the topic of Tefilin, I have never
heard such a halacha before, and would appreciate chapter and verse
verification thereof.

The other premise Fred quotes, that "Kabbolas Ol Malchus Shamayim" does
not apply when a mitzvah would require discomfort is difficult for me to
understand.  Surely Fred was not referring to negative prohibitions, as
it is certainly uncomfortable to keep Shabbos, Kashrus, Shatnez, Lashon
HaRa, etc., yet we must tough it out anyway.  Even positive commandments
are very uncomfortable, take for example the mitzvah of Teshuva or the
mitzvah of Ahavas Re'im, or even the Rabbinic mitzvah of Tefilla. Are we
exempt from these mitzvos if we find them uncomfortable? Indeed, even
such relatively "minor" mitzvos as "Achilas Matza" and "Arba Kosos" are
discussed in the following context in the Poskim: Is one who is allergic
to grain or wine required to consume those respective substances in the
context of that mitzvah - and, based on the ma'aseh in the Talmud
Yerushalmi of the Amora who was sick after Seder night till Shavuos,
many Poskim are of the opinion that one is required nonetheless
(assuming, of course, no Piku'ach Nefesh is involved).

Yet besides the practical aspersions one may cite here, what about:
"V'Ahavta es Hashem Elokecha b'Chol Levavecha u'b'Chol Nafshecha
u'b'Chol Me'odecha?" Doesn't giving your life (Nafshecha) or your money
(Me'odecha - all your money not to transgress a negative prohibition and
a fifth of your money for a positive commandment) imply even to the
point of discomfort? Indeed, in his "Emunos v'De'os" R. Sa'adya Gaon
wrote that "Chukim" are mitzvos given in order to discipline us
("Mitzvos Shim'iyos") - even though it would be far more comfortable
from a human perspective to avoid these mitzvos.

Of course, in the spiritual perspective ALL mitzvos are pleasant and
comfortable, for our ultimate benefit, but in the short term they can
sure be tough!


From: <bkatz@...> (Bernard Katz)
Date: Sun, 22 May 1994 11:53:14 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Retrospective prayer

I think that there may be some misunderstanding about my query
concerning retrospective prayer. My question was prompted by a mishna in
Berakhot (Chapter 9, Mishnah 3) that says that a prayer about the past
is a vain, or pointless, prayer (hatso'ek l'she'avar, harei zo tfilat
shav). In fact, we have it as a halakhah that it is improper to pray
concerning the past, and I take it that this mishnah is the basis for
the halakhah: presumably, it is improper to utter a vain, or pointless,
prayer. My question was, Why exactly is retrospective prayer vain?
Unless we have some insight into this, I don't think that we can
understand the basis of this halakhah. Moreover, though one might
antecedently think that only a madman would be inclined to offer such a
prayer, I tried to describe a situation in which it might seem perfectly
natural to do so. (At this time of year, many college students are
receiving their grades in the mail; it seems perfectly natural for such
a student to pray, before opening the envelope, that he or she has done
well.) It seems to me, as a consequence, many might find themselves
violating this halakhah without even realizing that they are doing so.

Some respondents have made reference to the question of whether it is
possible to change the past. In fact, this issue is largely irrelevant
to the question I have been pressing. Let me briefly explain why I think
this. In my view, changing the past is logically impossible and not even
G-d can do what is logically impossible. Accordingly, it makes no sense
to suppose that G-d can change the past. If I am right about this, then
we have a straightforward explanation of why a prayer to CHANGE the past
is a tfilat shav and, hence, improper: It is a tefilat shav because it is
a request for G-d to do something that it is impossible for Him to do.
Now I gather that some disagree with my view about changing the past and
think that it is somehow within G-d's power to do so (only that it would
be a miracle). No doubt this is a fascinating issue in itself, but it is
not really germane to my main question. My assumption that the past is
unalterable--whether correct or incorrect--is irrelevant to the larger
question of whether ALL retrospective prayer is tefilat shav, for one can
utter a prayer about the past that is no way a prayer to change the past.
(The student praying about the grades in the envelope need not be praying
that F's be changed to A's; rather he or she may be praying that they
have been A's all along.)

Sam Juni has raised the question of backward causation. How exactly is
this connected to the issue of retrospective prayer? Perhaps the thought
is that retrospective prayer only makes sense if backward causation is
possible. If so, I don't think it is right. In any case, retrospective
prayer no more involves backward causation than does prospective prayer
(as far as I can see). Retrospective prayer, like prospective prayer,
involves the idea that G-d is cognizant of the prayer. In the case of
retrospective prayer, we have to assume that G-d knows that we will
utter the prayer before we actually do so. But this is something that we
already believe since we hold that G-d is omniscient and knows in
advance everything that we do. In other words, since G-d foresees
everything, He will have foreseen your prayer, whether the prayer is
retrospective or prospective.

Let me try again to describe a situation in which retrospective prayer
seems to make sense and, in any case, does not involve the idea of
praying to change the past or praying for a miracle. Suppose that you
have a friend who is about to undertake a dangerous trip. Now you might
offer a PROSPECTIVE prayer on behalf of your friend, praying before he
sets out on his trip that no harm comes to him. But suppose that after
he has set out on his journey, you receive news that there has been an
accident. Hearing this news, you might pray that your friend was not
involved. This, however, would be a RETROSPECTIVE prayer, for it is a
prayer about the past.  

Consider what is involved in any prayer. Presumably, we hope that God is
cognizant of our prayer and that He will take this prayer into account
when determining the course of events. So if you pray that your friend
has a safe trip before he sets out, then you do so with the hope that
G-d will REMEMBER your prayer and take it into account when determining
what happens to your friend. On the other hand, if, hearing that there
was an accident, you pray that your friend was not involved, then you do
so with the hope that G-d will have FORESEEN your prayer and taken it into
account when determining what happens to your friend. So the two
situations seem quite parallel. 

My question is, Why is one prayer more, or less, pointless than the other?
Why is one a tfilat shav and not the other?

	Bernard Katz
	University of Toronto


From: <leo@...> (Leonard Oppenheimer)
Date: Fri, 20 May 1994 19:36:21 -0400
Subject: Zionism

Eli Turkel writes:

>      Several people have commented about various groups being anti or
> a-zionist.  I am not completely sure I know what the phrase means in
> today's society. First many non-religious Jews live in Israel because
> they were born there but have no special feelings for the country, are
> they zionists? More to the point many of the haredim participate in the
> government on sorts of levels. Shas in particular is active in Israeli
> politics while Degel haTorah has held positions in the previous
> governments. I have many charedi relatives in Israel and get the strong
> impression that they consider Israel as "their" country and certainly
> feel different than a Haredi Jew in Boro Park. I don't think that many
> haredim (including Rav Schach) would really prefer to have the British
> rule Israel rather than a non-religious Jewish government. Rav Schach
> has spoken publically about returning/not-returning lands to the Arabs.
> Such a position would be meaningless if he really didn't feel attached
> to the land not just a resident but also as an owner. 

I wish that I had the time now to respond to this more fully.

The short answer is that the Haredi world does not identify with the
secular zionist goal of forming a nation like other nations in the land of

The Haredi world certainly feels a great deal of love and attachment to
Eretz Yisroel.  It recurs in their prayers and feelings, it is paramount in
their hopes and aspirations.  They feel a sense of ownership of the land
based on the Medrash brought in the first Rashi on Chumash, that the land
was given to the Jewish people by G-D.

The Haredi world, despite their "love of Zion", parts company with 
other Jews when confronted with the Zionism of Herzl, Katzenellenbogen,
Weizman, BenGurion, Greenbaum et al.  Those people sought to use the
national homeland to change the essential nature and self-definition of the 
Jewish people.  Up until that time, the Jewish people had always been
defined with the formulation of Rav Saadya Gaon "The Jewish People are a 
Nation only through their relationship with the Torah."  The Chareidi world
would not countenance a change in that definition.

The early Zionists sought to fundamentally change the nature of the Jewish
people from centered around the Torah to one centered around the Land.
Many of them actively sought to destroy any religion based notions of how
the new State was to be formed, in order to completely leave behind the
Galut mentality and form the new Jewish nation, free of all the old rituals
and superstitions; entering the modern world as a nation like all others,
with some amorphous sort of Jewish cultural baggage to be honored from a
distance.  They saw the new State not not as a place to fulfill our destiny 
as Jews living under the dictates of the Torah, but  as a place to finally
throw off the Torah.

The response of the religious world to "Zionism" broke into 3 basic camps.

The religious Zionist world, or Mizrachi, felt that although much of what
was being said by the secular Zionists was repugnant, it was best to work
"from within", and join hands with the secularists wherever possible to
bring about the new State.  This was helped by the ideology that the in the
eventual Redemption, the State  was to be built first, and then only would
it acquire a more religious character. (See Yechezkel 35)

The other 2 groups were basically united before 1948 in their total
rejection of any participation with these destroyers of Torah.  They felt
that the Zionists were one of the single worst and most dangerous movements
that had ever happened to Jewish people, in that an enormous percentage of
the Jewish People were eventually led astray from the Torah by Zionist

After 1948 these groups split basically into the world of Aguda and that of
Satmar/Neturei Karta/Eida Chareidis.

The Aguda camp recognized that the State was a fact, and that it had to be
dealt with.  They deal positively with the government, pay taxes, do Army
service after years in Yeshiva, and otherwise function as citizens in the
country.  But they are not Zionists, in the sense of any identification
with the movement.  Nor do they identify with many of the State run
religious systems, particularly in Education, Kashrut, Culture, Rabbinic
system, or other non-essential services.  They do not (except Shas) take
ministerial positions in the government, so as not to be seen as
legitimizing the larger policy choices taken by the government.  It is in 
this sense that they are sometimes identified as a-zionist.

The Satmar camp continues to totally reject any recognition of the
legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise, and of any sovereignty over Eretz
Yisroel by enemies of Torah.  They are most certainly anti-Zionist.

There is far more to be written on this subject, but I have tried to
provide a thumbnail sketch.

Lenny Oppenheimer


End of Volume 13 Issue 31