Volume 15 Number 73
                       Produced: Sun Oct 16  9:47:09 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Changes in Halacha
         [Zvi Weiss]
Gedolim, Torah and Secular Knowledge
         [Abraham Socher]
Halacha/mitzvos, rights or obligations
         [Aryeh Blaut]
         [Meylekh Viswanath]
Ona'ah Answers, Part 1
         [Seth Weissman]


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Tue, 11 Oct 1994 08:35:55 -0400
Subject: Changes in Halacha

Re David Charlap's comments:

The Talmud explicitly states that the Sotah Waters were halted PRIOR to
the Destruction of the Temple because the people were so promiscuous AND
the Torah states that the Sotah Waters only "work" when the husband is
"blameless"... As the men were also "swingers", the Sotah Waters did not
"operate"... For that reason, they were "abolished"...  this seems to be
a clear case where -- due to social changes -- the effective halachic
procedure was changed.  Similarly, in the case of Capital punishment,
the Sanhedrin deliberately "disabled" itself PRIOR to the Destruction of
the Beit Hamikdash because of the proliferation of Murderers (which they
were unable to control).  the Talmud is very clear that this was done
because of the social situation so that it is correct to say that --
effectively -- capital punishment was "abolished" as the Sanhedrin
deliberately removed from itself the power to administer such punishment
(by "exiling itself" out of the Lishkat Hagazit...).



From: Abraham Socher <apsocher@...>
Date: Mon, 10 Oct 1994 15:36:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Gedolim, Torah and Secular Knowledge

 In his recent reply to my friend Marc Shapiro's latest Modern Orthodox
manifesto Binyomin Segal argues that in the case of each of the Gedolim
Marc discusses (and apparently any other he might chose to in the
future) that said Gadol's Torah knowledge *preceded* his secular,
philosophical knowledge or his political concerns.  He sums this up
pithily in the assertion that:

	"Rambam was Rambam before he read Aristotle"

And similarly for R. Hirsch and German Bildung, Kook and Zionism etc.

One of the problems with this approach is that it happens to be false.

Maimonides' first work, Millot ha-Higgayon, probably written when he was
16, is a philosophical treatise.  It evidences a thoroughgoing
engagement with Aristotlean Philosophy.  Similarly, in point of
biographical fact, Hirsch felt the challenges of German culture *before*
he had achieved anything like Gadlut.

Now, I suspect that factual arguments of this sort will not do much to
persuade Binyomin, because what he is *really* arguing for is a sort of
conceptual priority for Torah over secular knowledge in authentic Jewish
thought.  But even if we construe his argument this way, it seems to me
too simplistic.  What remains compelling about Rambam is the dialectical
interplay between Torah and Philosophy.

It is true that some Gedolim have approached cultural or philospphical
problems as essentially problems of engineering to which they apply
tools of Talmudic analysis etc. but this is emphatically not the case
with Rambam, nor is it an adequate way of understanding Hirsch or Kook.

These are deep issues which always merit thinking about, and IMHO Marc
is also too simplistic in his analysis, but it won't do to try to refute
accounts such as his by simply asserting that it MUST BE otherwise.  The
mischaracterization of historical fact is just one unfortunate symptom
of this attitude.


From: Aryeh Blaut <ny000592@...>
Date: Mon, 10 Oct 94 22:36:22 -0800
Subject: Halacha/mitzvos, rights or obligations

>I have 2 questions:
>   (1) Are women permitted to dance with a SEFER TORAH?
>   (2) Are they also allowed to wear Tefillin?
>       Is this something new because of "the NEW women's movement"
>                 or do they have rights?
>    FEMALE READERS ONLY: I am not out to cause you problems.

I'll let those who know the Halacha (Jewish Law) answer the actual
questions.  In truth, my wife is the one who has researched the topic.
I'll try to ask her for sources and post at a later time.

My comment is on the third question: In terms of Halacha/mitzvos
(mitzvot), there is no such thing as "rights".  We have obligations.

Aryeh Blaut


From: Meylekh Viswanath <PVISWANA@...>
Date: Mon, 10 Oct 1994 14:12:54 EST5EDT
Subject: Re: Ona'ah

 David Neustadter <david@...> writes:

> The way I understand it, Ona'ah and interest are two very different
> concepts.  Ona'ah deals with the current value of an object, which
> might be different to different people.  Interest deals with the
> present vs. the future value of objects or money.
> The reason Ona'ah is allowed as long as all information is out on the
> table, is that it's perfectly reasonable for an object to have different
> values to different people.  In interest, on the other hand, one is
> saying that because of their current situation, an object is worth more
> to them now than it will be next week.  This is not necessarily
> reasonable, considering that no one knows what will happen next week.  I
> believe that this is what the halacha against charging interest is
> designed to protect us from.

I don't think this reasoning is correct.  We impute values to future cash 
flows all the time.  For example, suppose I own a business.  I wish to 
sell a 25% interest in the business.  If Seth wants to buy it, he has to 
figure out the value to him today of the cash flows that he will derive by 
having a 25% share in the future profits of my business.  So does 
Shimon if he is thinking of buying in.  If Shimon values the future cash 
flows more than Seth, I will sell it Shimon, not to Seth. 

More generally, traders in the market (New York Stock Exchange, or
American Stock Exchange, or the Chicago Options Exchange, or the Chicago
Board of Trade) value future cash flows all the time.  In case you have
some problem with these transactions because of asmakhta, refer to the
more concrete example above.

Meylekh Viswanath, Rutgers University
Graduate School of Management, 92 New St, Newark NJ 07102
Tel: (201) 648-5899  Fax: (201) 648-1233  email: <pviswana@...>


From: <SWeissman_at_BC-Faculty@...> (Seth Weissman)
Date: Mon, 10 Oct 94 12:21:45 EDT
Subject: Re: Ona'ah Answers, Part 1

First, I apologize if my responses seem tardy.  There seems to be some
perpetual bottleneck on the Barnard College end of the internet system.
The last few digests (including the ones containing the responses to my
questions) just came to me on October 10, several days after my friends
reported seeing them.

Since I have seen several responses to my questions, I have decided to
post each of my responses seperately.  I want to begin by thanking
everyone who took the time to answer my questions.  In this posting, I
wish to address the points raised by Meylekh Viswanath.

Meylekh Viswanath writes (regarding my comments about how non-jews are
treated differently from jews):

"there is no requirement that the jew not enlighten the non-jew.  he/she
could do so, and then conduct the Pareto improving transaction."

First, he is correct that the most commonly used term is Pareto
improving and not Pareto efficient.  I chose to use the second term
(which more appropriately applies to the entire market, as in is it
efficient or not) to stress than by completing a pareto improving
transaction, the market becomes more efficient and closer to Pareto
efficiency, by blocking such transactions, as the law may, we prevent
the entire economy/society from approaching efficiency.  My humble
apologies if my incorrect and imprecise terminology caused any

Second, while what he says is true, there are different types of
efficiency.  Specifically, two types are relevent here:

1: ex ante efficiency: This refers to the efficient thing to do before
(ante) the transaction occurs.  For example, by announcing: "the penalty
for murder is death," we may (some of you argue that we won't, but
that's a side point) deter people from committing murder.  So, ex ante,
before the trial and murder is committed, it is efficient to pass a
death sentence on murderers to prevent the crime from occuring.  While
you may argue that if the threat is sufficient, it will never have to be
imposed, that is precisely the point.  It is efficient to pass such a
law if it will deter murder.

2: ex post efficiency: After the murder takes place, does it pay to kill
the offender?  Since this won't bring back the victom, some have argued
that this is inefficient.  Some of you may favor the death penalty; this
is not an argument for or against it, but merely the illustration of a
concept.  Ex post, it may be efficient to say that the victom is already
dead, let's not shed any more blood.

Another example deals with the child screaming for candy in the fancy
resteraunt or theatre.  Ex post, after the tantrum (but before next
weeks outing to a lecture by a respected Rabbi or politician [OK, its an
oxymoron; indulge me]), you want the silence the child during the show.
Ex ante (before the next transaction at the lecture) this encourages the
child to throw another tantrum for candy.  So, ex post efficiency
concerns would be addressed by indulging the first tantrum and suffering
another, while those concerned with ex ante efficiency would suffer the
tantrum in the theatre demonstrating to the child that it is an
ineffectual strategy (as all of you parents have already guessed, I have
not been blessed with children yet).

These examples demonstrate the problem: ex ante and ex post efficiency
are mutually exclusive.  Imposing one precludes achieving the other.
Failure to impose the legislated death penalty on the murderer because
it is ex post inefficient to do so encourages a repitition of the
problem.  Criminals and potential criminals will come to view the law as
a joke and not be deterred from killing.  The parent who indulges the
child's demand for candy but adds: "don't try this again, because it
won't work" encouranges the child to try again.  That is ex ante
inefficient.  Similarly, effectuating the ex ante efficient death
penalty to prevent murders from occuring, or denying the child the candy
is ex post inefficient, but ex ante, prevents murders and tantrums.

Another terminology for this exclusivity is "non-credible threats" and
"credible threats."  An ex ante efficient but ex post inefficient threat
is not credible, while threats that are ex post efficient are credible.

This is related to "The Prisoner's Dilemna."  This game theory example
illustrates a situation where mutually beneficial transactions do not
occur because of the lack of credible threats to enforce them.  The
problems of coordination result in the market's failure to acheive an
efficient outcome.  That is what happens in ona'ah.

So, while the law does not preclude the non-jew from being honest and
revealing his/her information to the non-jew, the law does not encourage
this to occur.  Since the jew is legally permitted to hold his/her
information private, and since this could be profitable to the jew, the
jew has an incentive to not enlighten the non-jew.  This can block
transactions from occuring, leaving both the jew and the non jew worse
off.  In other words, while it is ex ante efficent for the jew to keep
his information private, ex post, both parties are worse off.

I maintain that one function of the law is to regulate markets and to
attempt to adjust the incentives of the markets' players in an attempt
to achieve efficiency.  We see this is done in criminal law with fines
for theft.  That this concern is addressed in civil law can be seen from
the ketubah.  Without a ketubah, marital relations are prohibited.  This
protects women from a variation of "slam, bam, thank you ma'am" and
preserves the sanctity of marriage.

My question, then, is the following:

Why doesn't the halachah attempt to adjust the player's incentives
(specifically the jew's) in order to achieve an ex post efficient
solution that benefits the jew as well as the non-jew?

Addressing the second question (comparing interest and ona'ah), Meylekh

"This [my explanation that interest is prohibited to prevent one from
profiting from unequal bargaining power] assumes that there is no
competion for providing liquidity.  Why is this assumption reasonable?"

That is true, but historically Israel was an agricultural nation with
little commerce.  Most of the people were very poor, and there were no
banks to pool the financial assets of individuals to make them availible
in the form of loans.  The very few people with money to lend did face
little or no competition for providing liquidity.  There may have been
one wealthy familty per town, or a few in an entire region.  This
simplification captures the essential structure of the economy in Israel
throughout bayit rishom and shanyi.

Furthermore, with the regional recession that followed the destruction
of bayit shayni, followed be the recession after the fall of Betar and
the defeat of Bar Kochba (both events being contemporary to the
Tannayim), it is not unreasonable to assume a lack of competition for
liquidity in that period.

Finally, the context in which the extra is received matters.  Meylekh

"If it's in the context of a loan, it's not permitted.  Otherwise it is.
For example, if Miriam wanted to give Shimon a gift (unrelated to a
loan), she may."

I've always thought that giving a token of appreciation to one who lent
me money is not permitted.  (I don't recall the source for that offhand,
and I wanted to reply to the posting no more than fashionably late, so
please forgive my lack of a source.)  Am I incorrect?

Repectfully, Seth


End of Volume 15 Issue 73