Volume 15 Number 24
                       Produced: Tue Sep 13 12:24:16 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Divrei Hisororos
         [David Steinberg]
Fossils, correction
         [Barry Freundel]
Ham/Canaan the curse
         [Danny Skaist]
         [Robert A. Book]
Racism, letter to Tradition on
         [Shalom Carmy]


From: David Steinberg <dave@...>
Date: Sat, 3 Sep 1994 19:08:27 +0100
Subject: Divrei Hisororos

I had the opportunity to hear Rav Pam Shlita- the Rosh Yeshiva of Torah
Vodaas - speak last week about Teshuva (Repentance).  I will attempt to
summarize (any errors are my own)

Rav Pam began by reminiscing about the Lithuania of his youth and the
experience during Selichos Week.  He then posed the question "Why are
people complacent before the Yomim Noraim (Days of Awe)"

Maybe it is because they believe they can rely on Chazaka (assume that
the status quo will remain in effect).  Rav Pam cited the machlokes
(dispute) whether man is judged daily or hourly and explained that there
are two levels of judgement.  On a daily/hourly level one is judged but
one can rely on chazaka -- unless something major changed they will keep
their current status vis-a-vis health, income etc.  However that chazaka
is inoperative on Yom Kippur.  On Yom Kippur we are judged from scratch.
Therefore there is no chazaka.  During the rest of the year on a
daily/hourly basis we are judged to see whether the judgement should
remain in place - you can rely on Chazaka but on Yom Kippur the
judgement is rendered and there is no Chazaka to fall back on.

Maybe we rely on the statement of Chazal that one should consider
oneself a Benoni, someone who is neither a Tzaddik nor a Rasha, but in
the middle.  If so we could rely on a second Chazal which teaches us
that during judgement if one is exactly 50-50 then Hashem's Chesed
(grace) will result in a favorable verdict.

Rav Pam said there is a note from the Chofetz Chaim relating to this.
he said that he did not know if it described an actual event or was
allegorical.  The Chofets Chaim one night in his sleep found himself
being judged by the Bais Din Shel Maalah (Heavenly Tribunal).  First the
defense got up and listed his (the Chofetz Chaim's) accomplishments, his
Torah and good deeds.  Then came the prosecuting angel listing all his
sins. They judged and found the positive and negative equal (For the
CHofetz Chaim !!!)  Then the defending angel said that Hashems chesed
should tilt the scale positive.  At which a voice rang out 'Is he alive
or dead - If he's still alive let him do Teshuva!

Rav Pam said if one is alive you can't just hope that Hashem's chesed
will be adequate; you must do mitzvos and do teshuva to ensure the right

Ksiva V'Chasima Tova

Dave Steinberg


From: <Dialectic@...> (Barry Freundel)
Date: Fri, 9 Sep 1994 15:53:16 -0400
Subject: Re: Fossils, correction

In m.j vol. 30 I wrote that the Rebbe had said that fossils had been put on
earth to confuse. Josh Rosenbloom corrects me that the Rebbe says we do not
know why G-d chose the method he did for creation
I stand corrected and apologize for any misunderstanding


From: DANNY%<ILNCRD@...> (Danny Skaist)
Date: Thu, 8 Sep 1994 03:29:47 -0400
Subject: Ham/Canaan the curse

Marc Shapiro's post and Julius Lester's many sources utterly confused
me.  So I went to looking.

>                           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

Iben Ezra on the Verse (Gen 9:24) "Cursed be Canaan.." says (not a
direct quote) that those who say that Cush (blacks) is a slave because
of the curse of Canaan are WRONG, they have forgotten that the first
king of the world (Nimrod) was from Cush.

There also seems to be a bit of confusion about who was cursed and who
was punished.

Iben Ezra also interprets in the verse (Gen 9:24) ".. b'no hakatan" [his
youngest son] (the perpetrator) as being Canaan and not Ham, since
grandsons are also called sons and Canaan was Ham's youngest son.

I humbly suggest that Ham was punished for copulating in the ark and
that any punishment attributed to Ham has nothing to do with what
happened to Noah afterwards.  Canaan was cursed, and even if he was
black, not all blacks are included in the curse.



From: Robert A. Book <rbook@...>
Date: Sat, 3 Sep 1994 17:26:46 -0400
Subject: Re: Racism

I am new to this discussion, so please forgive me if I repeat what has
already been said.  (I have been away from MJ for about 4 months,
during which time I got a M.A., got married, moved to another state,
and will soon start a Ph.D. program in a different field.  I hope this
constituted a valid excuse for my absence from MJ.  :-)

Frank Silbermann <fs@...> writes:

> Still, after debating with followers of the late Rv. Meir Kahana,
> I realize that one cannot refute an argument based in Torah
> except via a better argument based in Torah.  Therefore,
> I think it is imperative that we seek out solid _Torah-based_
> arguments against anti-black racism.

This should not be at all difficult.  There are many Torah laws
prohibiting baseless hatred and commanding love of one's fellow human
beings, without regard to who those human beings are.  And, while there
are specific mitvot to love one's fellow Jew, there are also specific
mitzvot to treat non-Jews ("strangers") just as well, since we were
"strangers" in Egypt.

<bsegal@...> (Binyomin Segal) writes:
> Allow me to play devil's advocate a bit.
> Now what I'm _not_ saying. I'm not suggesting that racism or racial
> slurs are _good_ or should be done. Online we have had two cogent
> reasons for that:
> 1. Rabbi Bekhoffer points out that its bad kiruv. And we are _all_ doing
> kiruv all the time.
> 2. Robert Klapper suggests that "it not only defiles the speaker but
> denigrates others". This seems to me to be correct (though not
> neccessarily halachik)

Racial slurs are definitely halachically prohibited, since they
constitute Loshon Hara ("evil speech").  Both disparaging an entire
community, and speaking Loshon Hara about a group, are prohibited.  No
mention is made of any distinction between and Jewish or non-Jewish
community or group in this context.

See "Guard Your Tongue" by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, p. 122-123.  This book
has the haskamot of Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Mordechi Gifter.

--Robert Book


From: Shalom Carmy <carmy@...>
Date: Sun, 4 Sep 1994 01:35:53 -0400
Subject: Racism, letter to Tradition on

R. Ahron Soloveichik has said that an Orthodox Jew cannot be a racist
because of the Torah he has learned, but only because of the Torah he
has not *yet* learned.  My friend Marc Shapiro disagrees. If an Orthodox
Jew is *not* a racist, it's probably because that Jew has breathed some
liberal air courtesy of the much maligned secular culture.

In one respect I agree with Marc.  We possess no intellectual kryptonite
against Jewish racism. The obnoxious can always find a way to remain
obnoxious, barricaded behind a wall of sullen, quibbling legalism.

Marc refers to a letter printed in the last issue of TRADITION (28:2,
Winter 1994).  The writer, a ger tsedek, begins by describing a fellow
guest at a seder he attended:

     He wore a black hat, and reading out loud the annotations from a
     Lubavitch Haggada, this gentleman would quote every few minutes
     from the Lubavitcher rebbe--"shlita," he carefully added each time.
     In between, he made "schwartze" jokes.

     Each joke was a little more witless than the one before, with the
     progression culminating in this: "So I'm walking down the street
     the other day," the man announced shortly after the afikoman had
     been found under a couch. "And there's this schwartze passed out on
     a pile of garbage." A pause here for comic effect. "And I said to
     myself `What a waste. Someone's thrown out a perfectly good
     schwartze!" He then looked around the table triumphantly, as if
     expecting applause.

Would this kind of individual let anything so earthbound as a maamar
Hazal come between him and his fun? Imagine that the Rebbe zt"l himself
were to materialize before his face and order him to cut it out. He
would no doubt subside for the balance of the evening, but sooner or
later he'd rationalize, and regain his composure.

By this point you're all thinking: if only this zhlob had been
sensitized by a secular education, our friend the ger tsedek would have
been spared the schwartze jokes. But hark the letter's conclusion:

     The man at our seder with the Lubavitch Haggada was not, by the
     way, a Lubavitcher. He is a successful Manhattan lawyer, a man who,
     it was made known at one point, wears only Hermes ties. He lives on
     the Upper West Side.

In other words, you should excuse the expression, he's a Yuppie.

What is the difference between this Yuppie (person of Yup?) and people
like R. Kook, or R.  Yaakov Kaminetzky or my teacher the Rav zt"l, who
believed in the dignity of all human beings and are known to have
behaved accordingly? Well, the latter had mastered a few more Rambans,
while the former is presumably more discerning, and definitely more
machmir, about the great zekhut of wearing Hermes ties, and avoiding
contamination through contact with inferior breeds of neckwear.  But
it's not the quantity of Torah that makes for character; the real
question is what you do with it. As the Kotzker reputedly said: It's not
how much Torah you've gone through; it's how much Torah has gone through

The gentleman in question, and his numerous semblables, are less in need
of a "magic bullet," an irrefutable makor, than they are in need of
serious self-examination: Who do you think you are?  Are you so
worthless as an individual that only demeaning other human beings and
boasting about your fancy ties can make you tolerable to yourself? Is
the idea of thanking G-d for redeeming you from slavery so tedious that
you can only relieve it by pretending to be a tasteless comedian? Do you
believe in G-d? Do you have the slightest idea of what it means that
you--forget about the schwartzes for a minute, if you can-- that you, Mr
Bigshot Lawyer, are created in His image? What is your conception of

The man who has asked himself these questions ought to learn what he can
from every source. "Who is wise? He who learns from all people," and
that includes non-Jews.  But, I may ask in perplexity, what are we to
learn?  Didn't much "progressive" thought earlier in the century embrace
racial theory and eugenics?  Does late 20th century liberalism really
encourage *respect* towards Afro-Americans, or does it amount to a
patronizing, genteel condescension towards groups the white liberal
continues to regard as inferior?  (Doesn't open contempt for blacks feed
on the suspicion that, beneath oh-so-nice okey- dokey veneer, the
liberals agree with the bigots, but are too stuck up and uptight to
admit it?)

Two brief conclusions from the above:

(1) Self-examination (Heshbon haNefesh) and individual responsibility
are important. We cannot expect either halakhic formula or scientific
data to exempt us from the task of existing passionately as individuals,
confronting our destinies before G-d in Torah, tefilla and teshuva. What
the Rav zt"l wrote about a certain realm of moral choice is even more
true about the cultivation of inwardness: "The Halacha is concerned with
this dilemma and tries to help man in such critical moments. The
Halacha, of course, did not discover the synthesis, since the latter
does not exist." ("Majesty and Humility")

(2) Willy nilly we learn from ideas outside the Torah.  That can help us
to gain valuable insights we would not otherwise have attained. It can
also be corrupting.  The whole business is too important to leave to
chance.  That is why a liberal arts education within a framework of
Torah is so important.  I will not venture a definition of racism. It is
obvious that the Torah does not regard all human beings and groups as
equal in status. It is just as obvious that all human beings share their
descent from Adam who was created in the image of G-d.

An individual who gives lip service to the idea of being in G-d's image,
and then proceeds to treat that fact as unimportant in defining his
attitude towards others, is religiously tone-deaf.  He may dabble in
Lubavitch Haggadas, he may even be adept at dribbling behind his back,
intellectually speaking, while going one on one with a Ketzot and
Netivot. But, to the extent that his Seder, or his Yom Kippur, is that
of the individual described in the Tradition letter, we would have to
say that his soul truly resonates to a very different rhythm.

B'birkat Ktiva va-Hatima Tova,

Shalom Carmy


End of Volume 15 Issue 24