Volume 13 Number 96
                       Produced: Wed Jul  6 17:33:54 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

More Ideology and Pronunciation
         [Eliyahu Juni]
Torah and World Knowledge
         [Eliyahu Zukierman]


From: <ao107@...> (Eliyahu Juni)
Date: Tue, 21 Jun 1994 07:46:15 -0400
Subject: More Ideology and Pronunciation

A few issues back, Fred Dweck wrote:
>In response to Eliyahu Juni's response to my posting.
[. . .]
>1) I was talking about halacha, and not mihagim, chumrot, etc. I
>understand, very well, that no one knows it all. My point was, in
>effect, that the poster of a halacha should know and acknowledge his
>limitations (and that includes rabbis) and should not say something like
>"the halacha is..." unless he is sure that it applies to all. I would
>rather see something like "so & so writes...." or "so & so said..."
>Unfortunately, it seems that when someone reads or hears a halacha, 
>they think that that is the only pesak. When something is a minhag, or
>chumra, then it should be stated as such. In any case I totally agree
>with Eliyahu's suggestions, that we should ALL be responsible in
>clearing up any mistakes and/or misunderstandings, and request that
>posters provide as much of this knowledge as they have, (and possibly
>to add this request to the note which is sent to new list members,).

The thrust of my argument was that despite the appropriateness of such a 
request, we should not have any expectations in this area.

>On the subject of pronunciation and transliteration, Eliyahu writes:
[. . .]
>I feel that the main purpose of language is for communication. It does
>not matter to me how a language or pronunciation began. If it fits the
>needs of those who are communicating, then so much the better. In
>we have a principle of "Ma`alim Bakodesh" (we raise things up to
>holiness). I think that this is a perfect example of raising something
>up,(which may have been done by anti-Torah Zionists for anti-Torah
>purposes), to being used for Torah purposes.  It is the same thing as
>taking a church and making it into a shul. If this were not so, then
>what will we do with the Dome of the Rock, when we take it back.  Will
>we say that we can't use it for the Beit Hamikdash because it was used
>for unholy purposes? If Israeli pronunciation is the most universally
>understood pronunciation, then by all means, let's use it for kedusha!!
>I would like to make it very clear that I am NOT advocating that anyone
>switch their pronunciation when doing tephila, etc., (although there
>may be some good arguments in favor) only when the audience is mixed 
>and we are discussing things that we would like *everyone* to 

I agree (who wouldn't?) that the purpose of language is communication, 
and for this reason every person tries to speak/write as clearly as 
possible.  But any prescribed standard transliteration will hinder, not 
enhance, communication.

Sephardic pronunciation is not an invention of the anti-religious which 
we can or should consecrate; it is much older than the movements in 
question.  It lost no k'dusha by their standardization (chas v'sholom) 
and would gain no k'dusha by our following their lead.  It is not 
Sephardic pronunciation which is question (chas v'sholom,) but its 

As for the relevance of how a standardization came about, I disagree.  I 
reiterate:  whether or not we subscribe to the view that we must take 
the exact opposite course from those who wish to undermine our goals, we 
should not take part in their actions simply because they are doing 

The idea that we can raise something up to holiness applies when a) 
there is nothing unholy in it, and b) our using it for holiness makes it 
holy;.  Utensils used in the worship Avodah Zara may not be used in the 
Beis HaMikdosh to serve HaShem, and non-holy objects which I use for 
personal ends gain no holiness.  (I believe the term `Ma'alin BaKodesh' 
refers to another idea entirely.)  Here, in contrast, the action in 
question began as an attack on Judaism, and there is nothing holy in our 
following it.  One might argue that it is convenient and is thereby a 
facilitator of Torah, but the same convenience can be attained by an 
individual using Sephardic pronunciation as a matter of course.  
*Standardizing* it began as anti-religious, and remains so; our 
following this anti-religious lead would not raise it up, but bring us 

><<<Because of the Israeli standardization of Sephardi pronunciation,
>most Ashkenazim have at least heard it here and there, but not everyone
>can pick up a form of speech from infrequent clips.  Even those who
>know enough of it to understand it may not know enough to convert their
>own Hebrew into Sephardic pronunciation (the differences between kamatz 
>katan and gadol are especially confusing.)  Add to this limited 
>familiarity the vagaries of transliteration, even within a specific 
>pattern of pronunciation, and the difficulties which you describe with 
>Ashkenazi pronunciation appear in the reverse case too.  For example, I
>am sometimes confused by some of those who use Sephardi pronunciation
>on this list and transliterate both the letter heh and the letter ches
>(het) as 'h;' often the context will demonstrate which is meant, but
>when it doesn't, I too can find reading a post to be a laborious 

>My point precisely! Therefore, it would be a good idea to standardize
>the transliteration, so that ANYONE using any pronunciation can
>understand it. It would be the same as reading Torah, or Talmud, etc. 
>It does not matter what pronunciation one uses, we can ALL read it! Of
>course this assumes a knowledge of how things are spelled in Hebrew. 

I think you missed my point.  *Any* imposed transliteration scheme, 
regardless of origin, will make things easier for those writers (and 
readers) who are used to it, and more difficult for those who are not.  
Leaving it up to the writer means a minimum obstacle level for all; a 
standard will remove any obstacle for those whose style is standardized, 
and place a huge obstacle before all those whose style is not.  Your 
original post included a complaint that you felt that Sepharadim were 
being excluded from this list, if not in policy, then in deed and 
attitude;  your proposal would exclude all those for whom it makes 
posting more difficult.

As for a knowledge of how things are spelled in Hebrew, it is not a 
membership requirement, nor should it be.  We don't want to exclude 
those whose knowledge of Hebrew is less than perfect, whether they're 
just getting started, have a hard time with spelling, or whose religious 
education did not include Hebrew per se (e.g. many of  those educated in 
the chareidi world.)

>Our good friend Lon Eisenberg, in the same issue of M-J as my posting,
>suggested a transliteration protocol. I suggest that we adopt it, or
>something like it. It can be printed at the head of *EVERY* M-J issue,
>to let all know; a) how to read the transliterations, and b) how to
>respond. I do not think that it would take very long for everyone to 
>get used to it, especially if they have a copy of it at the head of 
>every issue. I had never heard of it before, and in my personal 
>communications with Lon Eisenberg, it became real easy (almost second 
>nature) very quickly.

Congratulations.  I still think we should leave the door open to those 
who haven't the aptitude or the inclination to learn a new 
transliteration scheme.

<ao107@...>            Eliyahu Juni
(416) 256-2590
<ek705@...>  /  ejuni@freenet.fsu.edu


From: <EZX4975502@...> (Eliyahu Zukierman)
Date: Mon, 27 Jun 94 19:32:29 EDT
Subject: Torah and World Knowledge

In response to my posting "The Earth Was Always Round" (MJ 13:51)
Jonathan Katz raises a few points.

But before I begin formulating a response I would like to assert that
this rule of less knowledge as we are further removed from Sinai were my
own words in trying to bring out the idea of "niskatnu HaDoros" (the
generations become inferior in stature). The rest of the posting dealing
with the question if Moshe Rabbeinu knew about microorganisms and that
the earth was round are pieces from a shiur I heard many years ago from
my Rebbe, Rabbi Moshe Rosenman, shlit'a.  I discussed this issue with
him again and he provided me with the sources that are quoted below from
the Chazon Ish and the RMBN's commentary on Chumash.

Now as far as my response. First of all, about my assertion that the
farther from Sinai the scope of knowledge is less, he contends that
"this rule only applies to Torah and Halacha; it was never intended to
refer to other disciplines."

Why not?  

See Chazon Ish Emunah U'Bitachon, Perek 5, I will do my best to
paraphrase the words of the Chazon Ish, "...The earlier (generation)
says (about the later generations) we are smarter than you and the
future generations' wisdom becomes diminished". The later ones smirk and
say that the previous generations were idlers 'they had no ties with
other nations, and they did not know of the other parts of the
world'...'they fought with (primitive weapons) the sword, spears, arrows
and catapults, and we have railroads...we have invented the telegraph,
telephones and radios. We have made the whole world as one nation.  We
invented airplanes that can fly in the atmosphere...factories to
manafacture commodities that our forebearers never imagined...and new
weapons of war, bombs that can destroy tens of thousands,etc.  We do not
need to contend with the earlier generations that did not have all of
this (progress). Does the colossus compete with the midget?  Our
(modern) ingenuity...says 'go, you ancient ones, to your rest, you and
your bundles of wisdom, we are now living in a time of progressive
wisdom, enlightened youth.  ...the later generations have utilized much
intelligence to produce the needs of mankind and have enriched the earth
abundantly.  But do not mitigate because of this ...the predecessors
that put all their effort into acquiring wisdom and understanding and
did not pay attention to use their wisdom to develop new
inventions...but rather they held back from this purposely for fear that
these will fall into the wrong hands...for bloodshed.  Moreover, the
nature (of man) is to develop much and to forget much... we cannot
enumerate all that was forgotten as Shlomo HaMelech wrote (in
Koheles:1:10,11) "Sometimes there is something of which one says'look
this is new!'- it has already existed in the ages before us. There is no
recollection of the former ones; so too, of the latter ones that are yet
to be, there will be no recollection among those of a still later time."

Then the Chazon Ish enumerates examples of ancient wisdoms that have
amazed contemporary scientists and professors.

The Chazon Ish continues; "The current disciplines are based on the
theories of earlier people...and on the basis of decreasing knowledge
('hispatchus hachochma'), the later ones have supplemented much scrutiny
(to those theories). And abundant praise is due to the first one who
opened that door, since he had no keys handed down to him from someone
before him, but just with his .. own intelligence he opened up the doors
of the gates of knowledge. Not so the later ones that entered through
(previously) opened doors...

The Chazon Ish continues with examples of expertise in the fields of
medicine and surgery and remarkable innovations that are found in
seforim and in Gemaras.

In addition to this let's think a bit. If "Histakel B'oraysa U'bara
Almah." "He looked into the Torah and created the world" It would seem
then that all natural phenomena are hidden in the Torah.  In fact the
RMBN (Nachmanides) in his preface to Berashis (Genesis) writes regarding
the wisdom of the early generations (See the Chavel edition, page 3)
"That all is written in the Torah either explicitly or in 'remez'
(hinted to)"; and further on (page 5) he writes " And Shlomo Hamelech
O"H, that H-shem gave over to him wisdom and knowledge ("HaChachmah
V'hamada") it was all known to him through the Torah" and he continues
with a description of the great wisdom of Shlomo and mentions a number
of times that "this was known from the Torah", etc. So it must be that
since nothing changed in creation (although there may have been new
stars that were born and galaxies that died since the creation of the
world, etc.) "Ain kol chodosh tachas hashemesh" ("There is nothing new
under the sun") (Koheles 1:9).

Which brings me to Jonathan's second point: "The important point to
realize is that Tosefot is explaining the Halacha according to the
knowledge which he had at that time...that does not necessarily mean
that the Rabbis in the Gemara knew that the Earth was round".  Look
again at the Gemara there on 41a; "the Chachamim say it is not
prohibited...unless its (the form of) a staff...etc. that is riding
'under' (RASHI: it is a derogatory term meaning that he is in control
over the whole world) a sphere".  Tosafot is just explaining what the
Gemara had already said.

And also on this point that the Chachamim knew the earth was round that
Jonathan asserts "that they did know is not surprising, since the Greeks
knew that centuries earlier!" I can concede to that, but I would first
give credit to the Chachamim z"l since "all of Torah was received by
Moshe Rabbeinu and he gave it over to the Yehoshua and Yehoshua
transmitted it to the Zekeinim, etc. (Avos:1:1) on which the Rabbeinu
Yonah writes "the Anshei Kneses Hagedolah (Men of the Great Assembly)...
and the Sages to their children...every generation...until all the
Chachomim gathered together ...to write the Oral Law and they wrote and
finished the Talmud, etc. And if this information is included in a
Mishna or a Gemara I would say that the information was transmitted from
Moshe Rabbeinu (and even Ezra to respond to the original query of Dr.
Sam Juni: "Do you think that Ezra or even Moshe Rabbeinu knew of
microorganisms or that the earth was round?"). The chain of Mesorah is a
straight uninterupted line from Sinai to the Sages of the Gemara (and

And on his last point that he would like to see a source that they had
telescopes; See Eruvin 43b, "Tana...We learned that Rabban Gamliel had a
'shifoferes'- RASHI explains it as "a hollow tube that when it was
elongated you cannot see from it far, but when it is shortened you can
see in the distance; the 'shefoferes' of Rabban Gamliel was fixed to the
distance of 2,000 amos (cubits), etc."  And as far as machinery , I do
not have an exact source yet but at the end of the aforementioned Chazon
Ish, he describes that Dovid HaMelech had a heavy golden crown on his
head, but it did not weigh heavily on Dovid's head because he had made a
contraption that had a magnet in it that levitated the crown over his
head (Avodah Zora 44a). And unless you masintain that when the Bais
Hamikdosh was built they used certain "sheimos" (names of G-d) to lift
the massive stones that comprised the walls of the Temple (for example
the Kosel HaMaaravi) they must have used some sort of mechanisms to
accomplish this.

Eliyahu Zukierman


End of Volume 13 Issue 96