Volume 16 Number 61
                       Produced: Fri Nov 18  8:34:18 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Birth Announcement - Mazal Tov!
         [Daniel P. Faigin]
God is a Bayesian - II
         [Mechy Frankel]
Israeli agricultural practices question
         [Michael Broyde]
Israeli army
         [Eli Turkel]
Mesorah (Historical Tradition) and the Flood
         [Stan Tenen]
More on Vegetarianism...
         [Zvi Weiss]


From: <faigin@...> (Daniel P. Faigin)
Date: Thu, 17 Nov 1994 23:14:17 -0800
Subject: Birth Announcement - Mazal Tov!

I'd like to announce the birth of my first daughter, Erin Shoshana
Faigin, at 5:24PM today (11/17/94). 9lbs 7.5oz. 19".

Both mother and daughter are resting well.



From: Mechy Frankel <frankel@...>
Date: Tue, 15 Nov 1994 14:48:20 EST
Subject: God is a Bayesian - II

I had not intended to start a new thread, and still hope I haven't, but
Meylekh Visnawath questions my conclusion from chazaka that God must be
a Bayesian and suggests that perhaps He is a classical statistician
after all. I had naively thought that the paucity of data points would
sensibly deter members of the majority frequentist persuasion from such
excursions to regions of doubtful methodological applicability but alas,
like Democrats grown overconfident by a too long unchallenged sway, they
continue to overreach themselves. Besides I hate to walk away from a
good argument. But I digress. Back to Meylekh's substantive points.

1.  Considering the problem of a shor mooad, Meylekh's suggestion that
perhaps in this instance He was working from the sample mean doesn't
work since that would in fact leave us with a shor tam, not a (3-gore)
shor mooad at all.  In any event, three points is a rather poor base
from which to talk of means, variances, and such like. Most of the
useful frequentist theorems work well only for large n.

2.  It is also not true that with only three points God would need to
know the prior distribution pretty well (though of course He would. It
seems faintly sacriligious to attribute to God an uninformed prior.) to
form a sharp posterior conclusion. The trick is in the likelihood
function. It is clear to me that when considering shors, as we all often
do, God meant us to steer clear of those otherwise popular binomials and
stick to more rapidly convergent likelihood functions. bideedee hava
oovda, and I can testify that things will shapen up pretty smartly even
with sparse data if the likelihood is carefully chosen.

3. The question of choice of priors is important. Non-withstanding my
above claim that I can whip even relatively uniform priors into
reasonable posterior shape early on, there is no a priori reason why the
priors should not be reasonably "informed'.  After all, He has lots of
information at His disposal, and who are we to questions His Judgement
(-al distribution assignments).  Indeed, choice of priors may in some
cases lead bayesians to radically different conclusions than
frequentists. c.f. Lindley paradox.

4. Finally, in contradistinction to unconvincing frequentist contortions
to demonstrate relevance to these onesy-twosy data bases, I'd like to
emphasize the fundamental naturalness of the Bayesisn paradigm to such
issues as chazaka and sparse data sets. The bayesian assumes we start
off with some initial model, or picture of the world. This shor is a
tam, that physics model is true, etc. Our initial model, or judgement,
may be based on accumulated wisdom/data to date, or even on no data at
all. By investing additional effort (perform an experiment, pay a spy,
etc.) we may acquire new data, reducing our uncertainty, and allowing us
to refine our initial judgement.  The quantitative Bayesian methodology
then instructs us us precisely how, and to what degree to modify our
original hypothesis as data is serially accumulated - even at low rates.
This of course is how we all really do it. We observe the shor take an
additional pot shot or two and begin to suspect that we have a four
footed ax murderer on our hands. This revision of of judgement and
incremental fine tuning as incremental information is acquired thus
precisely mimics the real world serial accumulation of experience and
formation of updated judgements.

So, while I make no attempt to deny that frequentists have made many
glorious contributions to civilization, such as the central limit
theorem and political pollsters, my faith that God is a Bayesian remains

Mechy Frankel			W: (703) 325-1277
<frankel@...>			H: (301) 593-3949


From: Michael Broyde <RELMB@...>
Date: Thu, 17 Nov 94 21:15:16 EST
Subject: Israeli agricultural practices question

I was wondering if there was anyone who was knowledgable in Israeli
agricultural practices who would be willing to correspond withe me about
various harvesting practices on farms in Israel.  Particularly, I would
like to find out whether fruits and vegitables which are exported to
America are shipped less than ripe, and if so, how much less than ripe.
(This relates to a teruma and maser issue, and my understanding of the
facts was recently challenged and I wish to get additional opinions.)
This is a "halacha lemase" issue, and help is appreciated. 

Rabbi Michael Broyde 
voice: 404 727-7546 fax: 404 727-6820


From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Mon, 14 Nov 94 08:44:11 +0200
Subject: Israeli army

     Shaul Wallach writes:

>> A Haredi spokesman told me once that if the army were run according to
>> halacha, then there would be no objection to serving whenever halacha
>> should require it.

    I read this statement a few minutes after I heard on the radio that 3
soldiers in reserves were killed by terrorists near Gaza. Let me make it
very clear: when Shaul talks about serving when halacha requires it this means
that the charedim will sit in the comfort of their homes while someone takes
all the risks. As my second son has just started Hesder yeshiva I resent this
enormously. Both my sons have received a fine Torah education in their
respective hesder yeshivas while at the same time serving in the army.
Everyone should realize that while the son (or husband) is in the army then
the mothers (wives) do not really sleep well for several years especially
when someone is in Gaza or Lebanon. I find it horrible that one cannot even
be grateful to those that have given their lives to save the land of Israel.
Shaul knows very well what will happen to Bnei Brak if the Hamas take over.

    Further his quotes from Rav Kook are very selective. Rav Kook talks
in many places of the great work that the secular Jews are doing for the
land of Israel and that this proves that they have a true jewish spark
within them. Also his quote of Rav Kook on exemption of yeshiva students
from the army is very misleading. In Rav Kook's time (over 60 years ago)
a tiny percentage of the population were interested in attending yeshivas.
In the US there was an exemption (when there was a draft) for clergy members.
I would be more than happy to give exemptions from the army to those that
are aiming to become the future rabbis (whether in shuls, education etc.)
of Israel. I strongly object when every charedi is entitled to an
exemption from the army whether he attends yeshiva or not, whether he is
serious or not. Virtually no yeshiva has tests to determine how much the
students know. The vaad hayeshivot does not inform the army when students
stop showing up.

    I know of students in yeshiva/kollel who get up at 4am and learn all
day until late at night. However, one can also go to shuls at 10am in some
neighborhoods and get a minyan of young boys. I find it hard to accept that
every one of thousands of charedi boys are serious students and future
rabbis. It is much nicer to stay at home than go the army, get up at 5am
and risk ones life. Then one complains about how evil the army is.

    As I have stated before serving in the Israeli army presents many
halachic difficulties. These arise from deciding when one is allowed to
do work on shabbat before of security to deciding what food to eat because
other soldiers have mixed up the dishes. However, one should not use
these as excuses not to do ones share. I don't recall any recent attempts
to form charedi units that would not have women officers and would have
greater control over their religious lives when in the army. Even the
number of charedim that become chaplains in the army is minimal.



From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Mon, 14 Nov 1994 11:22:33 -0800
Subject: Re: Mesorah (Historical Tradition) and the Flood

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer posted some comments in m-j 16 No.51 that I 
would like to comment on.

"Our entire religion is based on the Tradition - and the accuracy that
our Fathers and Mothers have vouchsafed for it - in an unbroken chain
back to Sinai."

I certainly cannot disagree with that.  However my understanding is that
"the Tradition" includes more than the Pshat translation of Torah.  Our
Tradition includes 4-levels of meaning in Torah and an extensive
literature of kabbalah and meditation.  Our Tradition includes the means
by which we can regain insights that have been lost, how we can
understand what we are taught, how we can live a Torah life in the
modern world, etc.  When there are valid tools that are not in our
tradition, our tradition gives us the tools to by which we can make
these tools.  (- A little like the "tongs that held the tongs" among the
10-things created on the eve of the first Shabbos, in Pirke Avot.)

Our tradition demands that we train our minds and make good use of them
in order to gain knowledge, understanding and wisdom, etc. which we are
intended to apply to our journey in the world and to our studies of

I do not think that Marc is proposing - and I do not mean to propose - a
factual reinterpretation of Tanach.  There is no reinterpretation when
the original interpretation comes with the stricture that for the text
to be properly and fully understood (as well as a human can) it is
necessary to consider all 4-levels of meaning.  If ONLY the Pshat level
were to be considered THE translation, that would be reinterpretation in
the extreme - wouldn't it?  Am I making sense here or am I missing
something basic?

If it is true that "....the secular world has mounted an unceasing 
attack on our timeless truths and Toras Emes, ...." doesn't it make 
sense for us to answer that attack effectively?  What purpose does it 
serve for us to continue to represent Torah to ourselves and to the 
world as if it is nothing more than stories which most (non-observant) 
people no longer believe - especially if Torah is actually much more 
than stories - and most especially when our Tradition insists that Torah 
is much more than stories?  

How does it serve Torah Emes when we "d(iscredit) it with (the) faint 
praise" of "apologia" that simply does not wash?  There is no need to do 
this.  Torah is exactly what it claims to be, and I believe that it is 
our job (who else's?) to show that that is so.  We cannot show that 
Torah represents the Whole Truth when we present only a small part of 
Torah (literal translation), and then act as if, and claim, that the 
small part is all of Torah.  Only all of Torah (Written and Oral, and 
including Kabbalah) represents Hashem's Truth in the world.  I believe 
that when we examine Torah beyond the word and story level we will find 
that we do not have to apologize one whit.  I believe that as long as we 
restrict our view to what we see most easily (the garment of Torah, not 
the Soul inside), we will continue to be mystified by the great 
knowledge and attainments of our past sages, we will continue to lament 
the loss of their great learning, and Judaism, Jews, Torah and Israel 
will continue to look like troublesome anachronisms to an uncaring 
world.  This is a great unnecessary tragedy, and I believe that it is 
our responsibility to change our behavior (NOT change Torah or Halacha) 
so that we can help Torah to shine in the world - and thus, make a place 
in the world for Jews, Judaism, and Torah - as in days of old.

If not now, when? If not us, who?

Stan Tenen. 


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Thu, 17 Nov 1994 13:38:53 -0500
Subject: More on Vegetarianism...

David Phillips raised some points that require further comment.
1. He mentions (as a "controversial hashkofo") the idea that people can be
   better than what the Torah demands -- citing as an example of Lifnim Mi-
   Shurat Hadin.  I would strongly urge that the Ramban at the beginning of
   Parshat Kedoshim be analyzed.  Further, the gemara in Baba Metzia (I think
   at the end of the 3rd or 4th Perek) gives an example of an Amora being
   "ordered" to behave in an "exceptional" manner -- with a verse being cited
   to support this.  In addition, the Torah Temima in Yitro (where Moshe is
   told by Yitro to appoint judges while Moshe, himself, takes on additional
   tasks) -- as well as the Netziv on that Parsha...  All of the above seem to
   indicate that the notion of "lifnim" is not simply "above and beyond the
   call of duty"... There is a statement in the Gemara that one of the reasons
   that Jerusalem was destroyed was because they insisted upon the "strict
   Din" (literally: They caused all of their matters to "stand" upon "Din 
   Torah") and they never applied Lifnim Mishurat Hadin.  Similarly, there is
   the notion discussed in the Gemara concerning "Kofin Al Midat S'dom" -- We
   enjoin a person to do something if that person is behaving in a totally
   and unjustifiably spiteful manner (I am aware that that may not be an exact
   translation of "Midat S'dom").  Again, it appears that Lifnim Mishurat Hadin
   *is* part of Torah.  In this light, there is no longer any support for anyone
   to declare something that the Torah says is "Mutar" to be "Assur".

2. I am not sure that the proof from Kiddushin is a good one... The issue is 
   that Rav was trying to get across to people that the Marriage ceremony
   must be done in a "dignified" fashion.  The fact is that since we *do*
   have Yichud, we are -- in effect -- allowing for the [theoretical]
   consummation of the marriage -- in a non-gross manner.  It seems to me
   that what we have here is closer to the Ramban's discussion of what
   Kedoshim means -- rather than a simple declaration that waht the Torah
   permits is no longer a good idea.

3. I strongly believe that such logic does NOT apply to slavery.  I would re-
   quest that at least one major Posek be cited who holds that there is some-
   thing "wrong" with slavery -- as prescribed by the Torah.  We should be very
   careful when we look at the Torah through our "filter" of Western ideals...
   The fact is that the Torah has a requirement that one is NOT [normally] 
   allowed to free one's Eved K'na'ani... that there is a specific commandment
   of "L'olam Bahem Ta'avodu" -- You shall "work" them forever... To state
   that there is something "wrong" with the Torah's version of slavery seems
   to mean that one is implying that the Torah has a mitzvah which is morally

4. In general, I think that when "controversial" ideas are advanced, it is
   particularly important to find solid source material to delineate such

5. The only way that *I* can see that Hashem is pleased if we kill less animals
   is if we do less killing in order to be more disciplined -- e.g., reserving
   meat for special times/places.  This also may fall under the rubric of
   Kedoshim, anyway.



End of Volume 16 Issue 61