Volume 13 Number 72
                       Produced: Tue Jun 21  8:13:23 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Yitzchok Adlerstein]
Living Wills and Organ Transplants
         [Aryeh Blaut]
Talmudic Scholars and Scientific Concepts
         [Sam Juni]


From: Yitzchok Adlerstein <ny000594@...>
Date: Tue, 07 Jun 94 23:19:06 -0800
Subject: Gedolim

Jeff Woolf writes:

> I also recommend Mendel Piekarz' book on Polish Hassidism between
>the Wars which raises the obvious objection to Daas Torah from the
>almost unanimous prophecy by the Gedolim that nothing would happen
>to the Jews of Europe so that going to America or Israel was

IMHO, the objection is neither obvious, nor even historically correct.
First, the theoretical.

The basic premise, I believe, is fseriously flawed.  To argue that we
should reject the leadership of Gedolei Torah, chas v'shalom, because
they supposedly failed to alert us to the coming Holocaust is like
arguing that people should stop seeing physicians because surgeons
sometimes lose patients on the table.  What is the alternative?  Witch
doctors and snake oil?

I think much of the confusion derives from the attitude of those who
reject prevalent forms of the concept of Daas Torah.  Often, they
mistakenly believe that the concept implies obedience to a voice of
absolute certitude and authority.  Those of us who believe that the
concept of Daas Torah has been around since Sinai believe that gedolei
Torah are vouchsafed a deeper perception of things through the Torah
they have learned.  We do not claim that it is a magic wand, or a secret
passageway to the truth, or a Jewish analogue to papal infallibility.
We also do not see it is a scepter of absolute authority to strip the
reluctant of their autonomy.  We simply feel that rather than evaluate
all the evidence ourselves (which of course means consulting with
experts in their respective fields), we gain enormous and profound
insight by having gedolei Torah participate in that same evaluation.  We
look not for the voice of absolute authority, not for statements ex
cathedra, but for the keen vision born of a mind steeped in the wisdom
of Torah.  We believe that failing to consult with gedolei Torah means
omitting expert witnesses from the list of the most important
contributors to the evaluation process.  We believe that there is a
Torah perspective to all issues of life, bar none, (Augustine could
differentiate between the City of G-d and the City of Man.  We Jews know
of no such distinction.  There is a Torah position on everything of
import.)  and that those to whom the mesorah [tradition] is entrusted to
in every generation are in the best position to offer the Torah point of
view.  So why did the gedolim no save us from the Holocaust?  Firstly,
because there never is any guarantee that they have all the answers.
Only that they have more important answers for us than others.
Secondly, and more importantly, because Hashem Himself likely didn't
want them to.

We've been there before.  When Vespasian offered one request to R'
Yochanan ben Zakai, he asked that Yavneh and its sages be saved.  He
could have asked for Yerushalayim and the Temple.  His colleagues later
concluded that he indeed SHOULD have asked for more.  So did they
conclude that heretofore it doesn't pay to consult with Torah
leadership?  Not exactly.  They simply concluded with the line from
Yeshaya 42 "He [Hashem] turns the wise to error."  Note well - <not>
that the wise err, which of course they sometimes do.  Rather, Hashem
Himself will cause our leaders to stumble, if this is consistent with
His plan.  Hashem wanted the destruction of Yerushalayim, so the Torah
leader had to make the mistake.  Failure to forestall disaster was not,
and never will be, a reason not to dip into the greatest font of
knowledge we have: minds shaped by decades of immersion in Torah.

Now for the historical.  Various gedolim did urge both individuals and
communities to leave Europe and settle in Israel.  Aguda was active in
the '30's to secure more entrance certificates to Israel from the Jewish
Agency, which balked at allowing too many of the "old" type Jews into
the modern Israel, and deliberately allocated a much smaller fraction of
coveted certificates to religious Jews than their actual proportion
among the Jewish population.  Before 1940, mass emigration from Europe
was not really an issue.  No county, including Mandate Palestine, wanted
large numbers of Jews.  Had leaders instructed their flocks to go
elsewhere, there was largely nowhere to go.  Some did urge individuals
to leave; some urged them to stay, not necessarily guaranteeing their
safety, but asking them whether it was worthwhile subjecting oneself to
spiritual risk in non-religious America in order to avoid mere physical

In the confusing times after 1940, I'm not sure anyone can reconstruct
what went on in people's minds.  I know of only one case in which a
prominent Rebbe told people to stay, assuring them of physical safety,
just two weeks before the arrival of the Nazis.

Obviously, he was wrong.  But his voice was hardly a unanimous one.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein
Yeshiva of LA


From: Aryeh Blaut <ny000592@...>
Date: Wed, 8 Jun 1994 02:45:11 -0400
Subject: Re:  Living Wills and Organ Transplants

Maidi Katz writes:
>I'd like to hear about the halakhic issues involved in living
>wills and organ transplants, generally.  Also- what are the
>differences between a halakhic living will and a "regular" one and
>how significant are they?

In writing this response, I am holding a copy of The Halachic Living
Will (supplied by Agudath Israel of America; 84 William Street; New
York, New York 10038 (212) 797-9000) and a Civil Living Will (I have a
copy because my father, he should live and be well, at one time had

The way that I understand them:

Civil or "regular" Living Will:

1. States a desire by the signer that it is desired that his/her life
not be artificially prolonged under the circumstances set forth in the

A. If 2 doctors state that the person has an incurable injury, disease
or illness (all certified to be terminal) & application of
lfe-sustaining procedures would serve only to artifically prolong the
moment of death and the doctor fels that death is going to happen with
or without the procedures, no procedures should be done, rather a
natural death should be allowed to take place.

B. If the individual cannot give such directive, family & doctor(s) are
requested to honor this right to refuse medical or surgical tratement &
accept the consequences.

C. If pregnant & doctor knows, the directions will have no force or
effect during the course of the pregnancy.

D. Expires in 5 years.

The Halachic Living Will:

1.  Allows for the appointment of an agent who will follow the
directives of the will.  It allows for an alternative agent in case the
first is not available.  This appointment takes place only if the
individual cannot make his/her own health care decisions.

2.  There is a statement that all health care decisions which are made
on behalf of the individual be made in line with strict Orthodox
interpretation & tradition.  This would be in matters as the performance
or non-performance of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the initiation or
discontinuance of any particular course of medical treatment or other
form of life-support maintenance, including tube-delivered nutrition &
hydration, & method & timing of determination of death.

3. It allows for the appointment of a "health care decision-maker" who 
would be an orthodox Rabbi of the individual's choice.

4. If that Rabbi is not available, then an Orthodox Jewish institution 
or organization may be appointed.

5. If the institution/organization cannot be reached then it is up to 
the agent to find an Orthodox Rabbi whose guideance on issues of Jewish 
law and custom who s/he (the agent) in good faith believes the 
individual would respect & follow.

6.  Directions are given to the health care providers.  The doctors are 
asked to follow the directions of the agent.  It says that pending 
contact with the agent &/or Rabbi, it is desired by the individual that 
all health care providers undertake all essential emergency and/or life 
sustaining measures.

7.  The next paragraph give instructions regarding post-mortem 
decisions.  This again, says to follow Jewish Law.

8. It remains in effect indefinitely unless revoked by the individual.

Aryeh Blaut


From: Sam Juni <JUNI@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Jun 1994 13:30:50 -0400
Subject: Talmudic Scholars and Scientific Concepts

In his posting of 6/2/94, Shmuel Weidberg quotes my supposition "that
Talmudic scholars are in line with their contemporary scientists in
terms of scientific knowledge," but then goes on to infer that the
statement imples that these scholars "believed every notion believed by
the general populace." That is quite a leap downward.

Shmuel also raises the point that Talmudic scholars are by their
training the doubting skeptic types, and would not commit themselves to
any facts (scientiific or otherwise, I presume) if they do not know
the facts directly. It is on this point, that I need to take isse with
Shmuel, especially insofar as the context of my posting goes.

My main focus is not on scientific facts.  Ask any Talmudic scholar what
the atomic count for Plutonium is. His appropriate approach would be to
look up the Periodic Table.  His response would be that according to the
current knowledge base, the count is so-and-so. Of course, he would not
take credit or responsibility for the accuracy of the fact. But he would
feel comfortable using such "second hand information" to its ultimate.
(Cf., the Rambam's Chapters in Yesodei Hatorah summarizing much of his
contemporary sceintific "facts", many of which have been subsequently
shown to be erroneous.)

My main focus, instead, is on science which involves conceptual leaps.
Such leaps are instrinsically bound to contemporary scientific
weltanschauung (view of the world).  There, the issue of the possibility
that the weltanshauung is in fact incorrect is inconceivable to any
contemporary, and would be instantly labeled as absurd or "crazy" or

I will give several examples of such orientations. Any of these would
get you immediate "knee jerk" reactions of incredulity from layman and
scholar alike, if broached "before their time."  I am not intending
these to be in any order (chronological or conceptual):

      1. The flat earth vs. the round earth.  I am not sure just when
         this particular change in orientation ocurred. Whenever it did,
         it was revolutionary, not because of its geometric message, but
         because it uprooted the concept of the absoluteness of "up and
         down". The latter was ingrained in ALL contemporaries way of
         thinking. (P.S. It still is in the majority of the
         non-scientific community.)  Let me take a moment here to say
         that I cannot peg the exact date of the change in this area,
         but it is clear to me that the Talmudic references re the
         "roundness of the world" are not what one may think. (Cf,
         references to the Physics-defying Sambation River and the
         Biology-defying inhabitants of its banks; literal reading of
         the locatio of Paradise or Gan Eden).  Throughout the Talmud,
         concepts still invoke "Top" AND "Bottom", still refer to the
         "Center" of the world, (i.e., Jerusalem), still refer to the
         "edge of the world", and still have no assimilation of gravity
         as a concept.

      2. Motion inertia  as a construct.

      3. Action at a distance without a medium.

      4. Sound as mediated by oscilations of the air.

      5. Vision as emanating from the outside rather than from the
         inside of the eyes.

      6. Relativity of motion.

      7. Relativity of time.

      8. Existence of Microorganisms.

      9. Relativity of size.

     10. The Earth as not being the Geometric center of the universe.

A common denominator in all of these is a move from egocentricity. There
are also other factors in this evolution such as:

      a. a shift from the supernatural toward the empirical in
         explaining events (e.g., a dimunition of ESP as a phenomenon, a
         more rational approach to dreams and mental illness).
      b. a more systematic understanding of the body (e.g., the
         centrality of the brain replacing kidneys (for thinking) and
         the heart (for emotion)
      c. a move away from animism toward "laws of nature" to explain
         events in physics and chemistry.
      d. an elaboration of the crude 4-element theory toward atomic theory.

    All in all, I find the notion of finding evidence in straighforward
presentations of "scientific fact" by contemporary scholars of
premonitions (etc.) of future conceptual advances in thinking very

     Dr. Sam Juni                  Fax (212) 995-3474
     New York University           Tel (212) 998-5548
     400 East
     New York, N.Y.  10003


End of Volume 13 Issue 72