Volume 15 Number 15
                       Produced: Wed Aug 31  0:35:43 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

G-d's intervention and skepticism
         ["Yitzchok Adlerstein"]
Judaism, Racism and Vegetarianism
         [Marc Shapiro]
Teaching tactics; humor
         ["Freda B. Birnbaum"]


From: "Yitzchok Adlerstein" <ny000594@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 94 15:35:10 -0800
Subject: G-d's intervention and skepticism

It is difficult to add anything of substance to Dr. Turkel's forceful 
and cogent treatment of the need for any committed Jew to go beyond 
scientific notions of "proof," certainly on the level of one's own 
avodah and relationship with Hashem.

I will just add that a model of the choices was proposed almost a
thousand years ago, by Rabbenu Bachya ibn Paquda in Chovos HaLevavos.
Towards the beginning of Sha'ar HaBitachon, he opines that there two
ways in which a person can lead his/her life; two axiologies with which
to grasp the world.  On the one hand, you can be governed by whatever it
is that you believe governs things: mechanical causality, complete
randomness, your mother-in-law, the IRS - or any mixture of these.  The
person who believes that these are reasonable explanations for the
phenomena we observe IS IN FACT LEFT AT THE MERCY of these very real

Bitachon provides another option.  The person who believes that all the 
above factors are real, but are only tools created by Hashem Himself, 
lives a different life.  When a person believes that Hashem reserves the 
right and ability to constantly and quietly intervene behind the scenes 
(which, IMHO is what petitionery tefillah is all about) - then G-d is 
only too happy to oblige!  When a person believes that Hashem intervenes 
only at rare moments, then he puts a lid on G-d's immediate involvement 
with his life.  If he believes that G-d is incessantly at his side, 
supervising every detail in his life - then G-d in fact becomes that 
constant Companion and Guide.  His presence is there for the asking.  If 
you don't believe it's there, then it isn't!

Beyond other legitimate concerns about naivete and people believing what 
they want to believe, this approach helps explain why the Chassidishe 
world has so many more "miraculous" stories to report than the rest of 
us.  When you really believe in the intervention of Hashem, and long for 
it and expect it, then it will come more often!

I am not sure how anyone overcomes his/her skepticism about the 
immediate cause of any given phenomenon.  But we must know that the Hand 
of G-d in the pedestrian affairs of man is a principle of our faith, and 
is a reality every bit as important as that which we describe using 
Scientific Method.  


From: Marc Shapiro <mshapiro@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 1994 20:57:42 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Judaism, Racism and Vegetarianism

I haven't posted something in awhile (although I am still a faithful 
reader) but since a few people have asked me to send in things I have 
told them privately I shall do so.
	I read with interest the discussion about racism in the Orthodox 
community, and of course it is no surprise. See also the letter at the 
end of the last Tradition. For this baal teshuvah the racism was a 
surprise since he assumed that observance of kashrut, shaatnez and all 
the other rituals ensure that people will treat one another with dignity. 
Of course, those who have been Orthodox for awhile know the fallacy of 
this, and often the more Orthodox in ritual one is the less respect he has 
for others (R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg often made this point in his private 
letters in which he also assigned some blame to Jews for inspiring 
anti-Semitism through their hatred of Gentiles. He also commented 
sarcastically that a certain Reform rabbi was a hillul ha-shem because he 
showed that one could be a decent fellow without observing Torah and 
mitzvot, while so many of those who do observe the rituals have no 
  Those who are not as Orthodox as others are often viewed as less than
Jewish, to be treated as low-lives (simply examine the way Satmar and
fellow travellers write about religious Zionists and Rav Kook"yemach
shemo"and then draw the kal ve chomer.) This is completely
understandable since they do not believe that contemporary sabbath
violators are tinok shenishba (see the book Yelamed Daat by Y. Holzer
which has haskamot from gedolim. The author argues that the concept of
tinok shenishba does not apply to contemporary non-=religious Jews but
that they are no different than akum. Since we all know how one is to
treat an akum, is it any surprise that many of these people have total
contempt and sometimes even hatred for the non-religious. From their
perspective it is a religious obligation If asked they will deny it, so
to discover their true view one must read their literature. Similarly,
there are a great deal of statements against women even in contemporary
rabbinic literature, but one must know how to find them, since Orthodox
apologists deny that they exist..
	To return to racism, the fact is that many (most?) New Yorkers
are racist, and it is thus not surprising that many (most?) NY Orthodox
Jews are racist. Try to point out to a modern Orthodox Jew or a Hasid
who makes a racist comment that Jews are meant to be a beacon, that the
words of the prophets are meant to inspire love of humanity etc. and he
will more often than not think you are crazy. In fact, it is much more
likely that the modern Orthodox Jew will respond positively since he has
been exposed to modern modes of thinking in which racism is on the
outs. There is nothing internal to Orthodoxy which would cause people to
give up racism. This probably explains why it is so rampant in Hasidic
communities in NY.
	During the turbulent 60's it was not the Orthodox Jews who were
in the forefront of civil rights struggles but the more liberal Jews.
Rabbis Aaron Soloveitchik and Lichtenstein who made public statements in
the 60's were viewed as strange by the right wing community and the
gedolim, either because the latter were apathetic (an invalid excuse) or
because they felt that Jews as a minority were in no position to place
their own position in jeopardy (an understandable, but to my mind not
compelling excuse and one used in South Africa for many years by the
Jewish community)
	How to defeat racism? Torah is obviously not the answer since so
many Jews who spend their whole lives immersed in Torah are racists.
Believe it or not, it is only exposure to hated secular society which
can do this since the Torah being taught today is not being taught in
the Hirchian sense of having an effect upon the world. Can one even
imagine a rosh yeshivah being a member of Amnesty International (as was
Dayan Grunfeld) or some other group which is trying to have an impact on
the world and bring the insights of Torah to bear on society at large.
Orthodox Jews today are so inner directed that racism does not appear to
violate their consciences. Ask people why they abandoned their racism
and they won't tell you they learned more Torah, but that they attended
a liberal college etc. I think it is obvious that the communities which
remain isolated from liberal civilization will continue on their racist
paths (racist in the true sense, not in the PC version which cries
racism because people cross the street rather than pass a group of young
blacks, which is obviously only common sense in a city in which the
overwhelming no. of violent crimes are carried out by young
blacks. Similarly, it is understandable for people to fear lower class
blacks moving into a neighborhood. History has taught us what this leads
to. However, to oppose blacks moving into an upper or middle class
neighborhood, when these blacks have the same interest in keeping the
neighborhood property values high, the streets safe etc, is racism pure
and simple)
	While I noted above that I think the reason for racism in the
Orthodox community is sociological, it is also possible that there is
some theological basis. Theological basis you say. Why that is
impossible, Jews believe all people are created equal. We are not the
Dutch Reformed Church. Oh if only it were so. There are Orthodox Jews
who are just as racist as Khalid Muhammad and Farrakhan. I am not
referring to the occasional racist joke, or even sociologically inspire
racism (I once heard R. Goren make a racist joke before a room full of
people. The response was laughter. I am sure this was only a slip of the
tongue since in the intro. to his Meshiv Milhamah he writes about the
value of all human beings with much sensitivity. I am well aware of the
reports that he expressed racist sentiments when there was first talk of
bringing the Ethiopians to Israel, but once again I am dan le-khaf
zekhut. It is perhaps a little difficult for Ashkenazi Jews to get used
to black Jews.  And if anyone wants to accuse Goren of racism, for which
the evidence is slim, there is no question that Golda Meir, Abba Eban,
Yosef Burg and others expressed similar sentiments. As I said above,
perhaps it takes awhile for Ashkenazi Jews to get used to the idea. In
any event, until the minutes of the Israeli cabinet meetings are
published (if ever) we will never know if racism was the reason for the
slow response to the Ethiopians or rather a desire to ensure a good
relationship with the Lion of Judah (who loved his Falashas) and
Mengistu (who couldn't care less about them but refused immigration to
	In 1992 a book was published by a leading member of the Satmar
community entitled Artzot Ha-Hayyim. On page 52 he explains, and quotes
other rabbis, that the reason Abraham Lincoln was killed was because he
freed the blacks. This is also the reason why Kennedy was killed, i. e.
because he was good to the blacks. He continues by saying that this will
be the fate of any who adopt a progressive attitude towards blacks,
because they are meant to be enslaved. His source for this is Ham's
curse (I have tried to find out if this comment has a Jewish source but
so far have not been successful. Does anyone know its origin.)
	Can anyone imagine anything more abominable. My spies tell me
that this type of thinking is common in Satmar and other Hasidic
communities. Some years ago I myself heard a talk by someone from Boro
Park in which he also said that the Torah teaches that Blacks are to be
ruled by whites. The fact that this person is a jerk is irrelevant. He
obviously didn't make this stuff up but heard it from his teachers.
Ashamnu mikol am.
	Continuing my rambling -- and I apologize to those who prefer to
read coherent presentations -- I now would like to say something on the
issue of vegetarianism which has been raised once again, in particular
by Richard Schwartz, author of the well known book Vegetarianism and
Judaism. From my reading I know of no source which speaks of kindness to
animals as an acceptable reason for Jewish vegetarianism. The Torah has
permitted us to eat animals, there is nothing wrong with killing
them. Those rabbis who have advocated vegetarianism (which excludes
R. Kook who was not a vegetarian -- his vision is messianic)) focus on
the fact that humans can be improved by avoiding meat. It is a
man-centered focus, not an animal centered focus. It is also an elitist
view, not meant to be put into practice by the masses.
	I also cannot avoid saying something about Rabbi Bleich's
article on vegetarianism which appears in CHP vol. 3. Unfortuanately
this does not live up to the high standard we normally get from Rabbi
Bleich. His harsh opposition to vegetarianism means that we do not get a
balanced treatment. Thus for example, he quotes the Lubavitcher rebbe's
opposition to vegetarianism on kabbalistic grounds -- as reported by
R. Shear Yashuv Cohen -- but he doesn't tell us about R. Cohen's
important response to the rebbe.  (R. Cohen's father was the sainted
Nazir, who was a vegetarian and abstained from leather clothing.)
	Rabbi Bleich's article originally appeared in Tradition and it
is apprent that someone called his attention to the information
contained in note 12 (p. 245) regarding Hitler's abstention from
meat. Why he bothered to include this note is beyond me since it has no
relevance to the article. Since Rabbi Bleich spends his time learning
and writing important Torah articles I am sure that someone called his
attention to both the psychobabble of Eirkson as well as the other
sources cited in this note.  Bleich writes: "Reports of Hilter's alleged
vegetarianism are contradicted by a number of other sources." When I
first read this I was shocked since Hitler's vegetarianism is a well
known fact, and I believe Hitler even discusses it in his Table Talk. I
knew it was impossible that Toland or especially Speer could say
otherwise.  Unfortunately Rabbi Bleich relied on his correspondent that
the sources he quoted actually say that Hitler enjoyed meat. However,
all the sources quoted refer to early in Hitler's life, and one of the
sources actually explains the circumstances of Hitler becoming a
vegetarian! Thus Hitler's vegetarianism is not "alleged" and certainly
these sources say nothing about this. This whole footnote should
therefore be omitted in any future edition of Rabbi Bleich's book.
			Marc Shapiro


From: "Freda B. Birnbaum" <FBBIRNBAUM@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Aug 1994 23:15:15 -0400
Subject: Teaching tactics; humor

Joshua W. Burton writes:

>Subject: Stupid signatures
>I let some real Purim Torah slip through in a recent posting, since my
>random signature gadget doesn't know that Elul is not the time to be
>throwing jokes around in my name.  I've reprogrammed it so it won't
>happen again, and would like to publicly ask forgiveness of anyone who
>found the Tractate Bubba Ma'aseh foolishness out of line.  May we all
>be signed and sealed for a good year....

I confess that I LIKED it... and would like to know where you get
the stuff to put in your random signature gadget!

>But Rabbi Schlomo Yitzhak (the Schlitz) rules that if the
>seatbelt is buckled, one is WEARING the car, which on Shabat         
>is permissible. [Mesehta Bubba Ma'aseh] 

There's a certain logic to this... just a bit of harmless
playfulness, really.

I actually had more difficulty with your post itself, but there are
other tests-and-measurements folks here to argue about it.

>If even one student out of the ninety gets 0% or 100%, then my test has
>failed to fairly evaluate that student---I'll never know how much worse
>or better than my test she really is.  To be safe, I always aim to have
>fewer than five students get over 75%, and fewer than five get under

This means that very few students can ever get a decent grade, no matter
how hard they work.  And unfortunately, no matter how much we may like
to talk about learning for its own sake, grades are the coin of the

The post (not yours) in a subsequent m-j about the physics teacher
really made my blood boil:

>From: Aryeh Blaut <ny000592@...>
>Subject: Re: Fair Testing{
>>I had one professor in college who opened each semester by stating
>>that 50% of the class will receive a failing grade.  How does such an
>>attitude help anyone?
>I had a physics teacher in _High School_ (public) who told us at the
>beginning of school, that over 50% of the class would fail.  He then
>proceeded to load on an unreasonalbe amount of work - both in class and
> for homework.  After 50% or more of the class dropped out of the class, 
>he informed the 10 of us who remained that all of the work we had done 
>thus far, would not count.  He only gave us this amount to seperate 
>those who really wanted to be there from those who didn't.  He also 
>stated that he wanted a class with no more than 10 students in it.
>                          9;"x
>I think that the story speaks for itself.

In a PUBLIC high school!  This elitist (*&^%$# had no business there in
the first place.  That was an underhanded trick to keep his class size
small.  I remember plenty of conscientious hard-working but non-genius
students in high school who were entitled to better than that, not this
kind of arrogant nonsense from someone who only wanted to teach the
cream of the crop.  The guy was stealing from them.  What were they
supposed to do after they dropped the class, take something else and
catch up?

>                          9;"x

I give up:  what's this one?!

Freda Birnbaum, <fbbirnbaum@...>
"Call on God, but row away from the rocks"


End of Volume 15 Issue 15