Volume 14 Number 3
                       Produced: Thu Jul  7 22:07:27 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chumrot vs. Torah
         [Fred Dweck]
Diminished Knowledge
         [Danny Skaist]
Waterloo and the 165
         [Eliyahu Juni]


From: Fred Dweck <71214.3575@...>
Date: 17 Jun 94 19:35:13 EDT
Subject: Re: Chumrot vs. Torah

I have been reading, with great interest, the thread on chumrot and the
widely varying opinions on it. I have chosen to stay out of it, until
now, even though I have some very strong feelings on the subject.
However, after seeing the latest contributions, especially that of Danny
Skaist, I've decided to put my two cents in. (I'm sure to some, that's
all it will be worth.)

Danny writes in response to Esther Posen:

<<< (Esther wrote) stated that I accept the premise that many people who
keep chumrot do so out of yirat shomayim (fear of g-d) and ahavat hashem
(love of g-d).  I continue to be amazed that this is a controversial

<<<(Danny's reply) Without a doubt this is a very controversial premise.
Keeping chumrot because of "yirat shomayim (fear of g-d) and ahavat
hashem (love of g-d)", implies that by doing *exactly* what hashem
commanded us to do, it is somehow lacking in "yirat shomayim and ahavat

I agree with Danny's statement. However, I would take it a step farther.
What it implies to me is that Hashem (Chas veshalom) didn't have the
ability to tell us what He *really* wanted, or was, maybe afraid to. So
we decide to second guess Him and add chumrot, deciding that we know
BETTER than He does what He would want from us. To me, EVERY chumrah,
>as opposed to "seyag" (a fence) suggests that the mahmir knows better
>than Hashem.  I think that there is no greater arrogance in the world.

<<<<Fullfilling "obligations" as obligations shows complete
subordination to the word and the will of G-d, and recognizes that G-d
makes the rules that we live by, not us. Otherwise known as "yirat
shomayim and ahavat hashem".  Chumrot on the other hand lets us join in
with G-d in deciding how we live and lets *us* decide what will please
G-d more.  "Contributing" to G-d that which G-d has not ordained is a
very dangerous business.  Do you think that you can really "do
something" for G-d ?>>>

Here I would add that the Torah specifically prohibits any additions to
the laws, as quoted below.

Devarim 4:1-2:
1. Now therefore give heed, O Israel, to the statutes and to the
judgments, which I teach you, to do them, ***that you may live,*** (my
emphasis) and go in and possess the land which the Lord G-d of your
fathers gives you:

2. You shall *not add to the word which I command you*, neither shall
you diminish nothing from it, that you may keep the commandments of the
Lord your G-d which I command you:

I think that this is very clear, and needs no further interpretation.
More so, since we have the rule "Safeq deorayta lehumrah" (a doubt about
a Torah law is taken to the stricter side) we have a special obligation
NOT to add ANYTHING unless we are SURE that Hashem wants it that way.
Otherwise, we find ourselves *transgressing a Torah law*, to add
chumrot!! I am very aware that many posqim do not agree with the way I
have interpreted this. However, I think it is very self serving to
>ignore, or rationalize away *this* law,in order to justify chumrot.

<<<Chumrot also seem to reject the hallachic process, by bringing up
minority opinions that have been rejected by hallacha in the past.
(Fruit Juice cannot cause hametz, period, psak hallacha. How can it be
brought up today as a possibility without rejecting the entire system of
hallacha ?) Many other examples deleted.>>>

I couldn't have said it better. However, I would add, how do we justify
this, in light of the above "Bal tosif" (do not add)????

I would like to add one more thought to all of this, aimed at all who
feel that they must keep minhagim (customs), and uncalled for chumrot,
in complete disregard to Torah requirements. In Malachi 3:7 & 22 we find
the following two pesukim:

7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my
ordinances, and have not kept them; Return to me, and I will return to
you, says the Lord of hosts; ***But you said, How shall we return:?***

22 Remember the Torah of Moses my servant, which I commanded him in
Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments:

The prophet asks, for us, the question; "But how shall we return?" He
then proceeds to answer it in pasuk 22. What the prophet is saying is:
"Hashem said; I commanded the Torah, its laws and judgments, for ALL
ISRAEL." I did not give a separate Torah to Reuven, and a separate Torah
to Shimon. I gave one Torah to ALL OF ISRAEL. If you want to know how to
come back to me, then, REMEMBER THAT TORAH.

If this doesn't speak eloquently and clearly against the many different
and divisive views, then nothing does. I realize that we will never come
to complete agreement, until the Mashiah staightens us out. However,
continually adding *more* divisive chumrot seems to go against BOTH
portions quoted.

Will modern Judaism EVER come back to the principle that Torah precedes
and superceedes ALL POSQIM, and that even the posqim are *obligated* to
follow the Torah??

As I wrote in a previous posting, which as yet has NOT been posted; THE
US* IN OBSERVANCE. How does one justify that?? I honestly believe that
Hashem is laughing (kav yachol) at us, saying; "who asked you to do all
of this?"

As my heart and mind told me, so I wrote!!

Fred E. Dweck (Los Angeles, CA) 


From: DANNY%<ILNCRD@...> (Danny Skaist)
Date: Sun, 3 Jul 1994 07:06:31 -0400
Subject: Diminished Knowledge

>Louis Rayman
>I don't believe this is the case.
>The Torah tells us of Betzalel, the architect of the mishkan, who Hashem
>had filled with "the spirit of G-d, with wisdom, understanding, and
>knowledge of all creative work; to make designs, to work with gold,
>silver, bronze, stoneworking etc. (Parshas Ki Sisa)" Betzalel was an
>expert artist, architect and engineer.  If Moshe had all this knowledge
>too, why did he need a Betzalel?

Your quote is the answer.
>had filled with "the spirit of G-d, with wisdom, understanding, and
>knowledge ....

Knowledge just isn't enough.  I *know* how to make pie crust.  I have read
"how-to" in any number of books.  However my pie crusts never come out.
It's not that I don't *know* how, it's just that I can't.  Knowledge just
don't make pie crust or menorahs.

>a picture.  At whatever level of meaning and allegory you wish, there is
>something here that Moshe did not understand, but the pashut pshat
>(simple meaning) is that he could not grasp the physical or scientific
>principals behind the design of the menorah.

Today in Jerusalem they are trying to replicate the k'lai hamikdash.  They
have yet not figured out how to make the menorah.  There just isn't enough
gold used to produce a menorah that size using the technologies available
today.  But Betzalel did have a technology available to him.  Where is it
now ?

>generations did not have such knowledge.  Does this mean that the
>knowledge was given at Har Sinai, was lost and later re-acquired?  Or
>does it mean that that knowledge was learned over the years as it was
>studied?  (This one is not a rhetorical question - what's pshat in this

I believe that it was lost and reaquired.  Even laws that were "unused" for
generations became lost.  Boaz had to assemble a Court to permit Ruth, a
moabitess (sp?) to convert, but the law restricting conversions of Moabite
men and not women was given to Moses at Sinai, but due to constant warfare
between the two peoples (? one pshat as to why it was forgotten by the
people.) it was actually put to use and therefore forgotten, by all except
the Gadol Hador, i.e. Boaz

Louis Rayman - Mercenary Programmer

danny - are there any other kind of programmers


From: <ao107@...> (Eliyahu Juni)
Date: Tue, 21 Jun 1994 07:42:14 -0400
Subject: Waterloo and the 165

In v13n68, Mechy Frankel writes:
[. . .]
>discrepency between the "traditional" jewish (seder olam rabbah based)
>calendar and the rest of the world's originates in a desire by Chazal 
[. . .]
>4. Some of my kids, exposed to jewish history class at one of our (oh 
>so very correct) local high schools had one of the ArtScroll history
>volumes (probably an oxymoron in there somewhere)
;->  Second the motion.
> assigned as a text. I
>noticed that they, unsurprisingly, preferred the standard seder olam
>rabbah/talmudic chronology thus asserting matter-of-factly that the
>first Bais Mikdash was destroyed about 421 B.C.E. (instead of -586) and
>such like. I explained to my kids that this was a bit like claiming the
>American Declaration of Independance was signed by all the colonies in
>1941 or that Napolean was defeated at Waterloo about 1982 while
>everybody else in the world believes something quite different. The
>point being that such a viewpoint may be quite defensible, (after all,
>following the gemara's lichorah version and generations of chachamim 
>may be a VERY defensible position), but it is at such odds with 
>universally accepted chronology that you'd think they'd at least note 
>the difference and explain their preference, so our kids will not be 
>bblindsided late on. Oh well.

The criticism is valid, but the analogy is faulty.  History is not an 
exact science (another oxymoron? :-});  it requires using whatever 
information is available about the past to reconstruct a picture which 
can never be complete.  The historian's own biases and distance from the 
events, geographically, chronologically and culturally, will also make a 
difference.  The more and better sources an historian can get, the 
closer the historian is to the events, the more accurate the resulting 
picture will be.

Thus there is a huge difference between the battle of Waterloo (or the 
Declaration of Independence) and the ancient history of Israel.  The 
former occurred relatively recently, in societies which are still 
around, and left us with ample documentation.  The latter is part of the 
murky waters of the distant past, of societies and nations which have 
been destroyed or dispersed, which left us few records.  One of those 
records is the Talmud.  Others include Persian and Babylonian royal 

The "universally accepted" chronology quoted in the "the rest of the 
world"--really the reconstruction of an historian--may be based on sound 
evidence, or it may be an arbitrary or biased disposition against the 
Talmud or in favor of another source, but either way, because of the 
differences mentioned, it cannot be compared to the events of the last 
250 years.

Ancient history is so far removed from modern history that what might be 
considered ironclad evidence in one would be considered flawed or 
worthless evidence in another.  Case in point:  the writings of 
Josephus, whose accuracy is questioned, are accepted as authoritative 
sources, especially when there are no other sources to tell us anything 
about an event or an historical figure; I find it hard to believe that a 
similarly suspected work would be used in modern history.

Even though the historian's chronology of ancient history is not as 
sound as our knowledge that the battle of Waterloo wasn't in 1982, it 
definitely deserves mention, even where the subject is Chazal's view of 
history, kal v'chomer where the subject is history itself.

As for Artscroll, I remember being pleasantly surprised by one of their 
`history' volumes (isn't in front of me, but I think it was the one on 
the period of the 2nd Beis HaMikdosh)--it had an appendix which dealt 
with dating issues, including this discrepancy and a very clear 
explanation of the mess caused by the "missing" year 0.  If I recall, 
they used traditional dates throughout the text, and then provided a 
detailed table in the appendix showing where the differences were and 
what each date's equivalent was according to the historical chronology.

I haven't seen every `history' book Artscroll has churned out (Boruch 
ShePotrani ;->) but in this case I think you have the right criminal, 
wrong crime.

Enough history; now for some ideological food for thought:

Must we believe that the history in halachic/aggadic sources is 
accurate?  Could we not say that Chazal were focused on Torah, and did 
not make sure of the history in their works, which we picked up along 
the way?  Or alternatively, that they meant it, but made some mistakes?  
Why are the only Orthodox responses automatically assuming that Chazal 
were right or that they are deliberately misleading us?  Did Chazal 
really worry that much about people calculating the end of days, based 
on midrashim, no less?!?  Would they not have simply prohibited it with 
some strong language?  If they wanted to change history, so to speak, 
how could they possibly suppress *all* Jewish sources to the extent that 
not a shred of them has been found?  And if it were possible, how could 
they ever agree on it?

Enough questions; if anyone's interested, that should keep us busy for a 
good while.

On last note:  g'matria is a rather tenuous form of drush; I doubt 
Chazal would never apply it to history.  Even if they would, there's no 
need to add; g'matria can have no weight in deciding historical truths, 
unless we accord the specific instance of g'matria (and therefore its 
proponent) with prophetic powers or something similar.

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


End of Volume 14 Issue 3