Volume 16 Number 96
                       Produced: Wed Nov 30  0:01:42 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Da'as Torah
         [Warren Burstein]
Daas Torah
         [Binyomin Segal]
Past generations
         [David Charlap]
R Wein's Daas Torah: A Correction and Reply to B. Segal
         [Mechy Frankel]
Slavery, et al and Western Values
         [David Phillips]
Views on Daas Torah
         [Stan Tenen]


From: <warren@...> (Warren Burstein)
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 1994 11:15:10 GMT
Subject: Re: Da'as Torah

As there exist readers of this list who don't speak Yiddish, I think
it is just as approriate to translate Yiddish as Hebrew.  What is
"drey redn"?

 |warren@         an Anglo-Saxon." -- Stuart Schoffman
/ nysernet.org

From: <bsegal@...> (Binyomin Segal)
Date: Sat, 26 Nov 1994 18:52:22 -0600
Subject: Daas Torah

Frank Silbermann asks:

>Does Das Torah forbid me from obtaining this sort of help from Gedolim?
>If I ask a Gadol what brand of automobile he prefers, and he says, "I
>like Chryslers -- they're dealers give the best service" then I am
>halachicly obligated to buy a Chrysler (even if I do my own repairs)?
>Or is the assumption that any question put to a Gadol will be Halachic,
>because their time is too valuable to waste dealing with nonHalachic

I think the assumption in an example like this would indeed be that it's
advice - non-binding. However we have to open to the possibility that its
based on binding halachic information (eg to buy from toyota pays for
crimes against jews - this is btw not true as far as i know) or non-binding
torah information (eg itshows hakaras hatov to buy american). also the
rabbi has the right to withhold his reasoning - though he must make it
clear that he feels its binding.



From: <david@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 94 11:13:18 EST
Subject: Past generations

Stan Tenen <meru1@...> writes
>If it is true that "It is a great misconception that we in this day and
>age are on a comparable level with our Great Sages, the Geonim,
>Rishonim, and Acharonim and that we are therefore entitled to our
>opinions on Halacha, Hashkafa, and Torah interpretation just as they
>are" then why is this so?  Have our genes deteriorated?  Is there less
>access to the works of our sages?  Are we less honest or less diligent
>than our predecessors?

I don't think the idea is that they are more capable of understanding
than us (although I've heard that said as well.)  Rather, they were
closer to the Revelation of the Torah.

I'm sure everybody here has played "Telephone" as a child at one point
or another.  For those who haven't, here's a summary:  A group of
people (10 or more works well) sit in a circle.  One person whispers
something into the ear of the person next to him.  He whispers that
message into the ear of the person next to him, and so on.  The
message goes around the circle and gets back to the person who started
it who announces the original message and the message he got.  In most
cases, the message will not get all the way around the circle without
some form of change.

Anyway, the Oral Torah is similar.  Imagine now, not ten people in a
circle, but generations of people.  And not a simple message, but the
entirity of the Oral Torah.  Changes are going to creep in.  This is
why the mishna and gemara were originally written - due to the
distance from the original message and external problems, the Oral
Torah was being changed (accidentally, of course).  So everything they
knew at the time, including the differing opinions, was written down
so no futher degredation in the message would occur.  Of course, it
didn't quite work out that easilly, or we'd have no need for
commentaries today.

Anyway, this is the reason today's people don't want to attempt to
introduce anything truly new to the world of Torah.  Tradition teaches
that Moses and his students were given ALL of the knowledge behind the
Torah.  So, if anything new we disocver is really a part of it, it
must have been given then - and is either lost or a part of some book
we haven't heard of.  The first option is a scary but distinct
possibility.  The second option is the case in many areas, especially
in the mystical aspects of the Torah - the Kabbala texts were kept
secret until very recently.  There may be other secret texts we don't
know about.

-- David


From: Mechy Frankel <frankel@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 1994 17:56:38 EST
Subject: R Wein's Daas Torah: A Correction and Reply to B. Segal

1.  First a correction. It was brought to my attention that the correct
reference for L. Kaplan's daas torah article should be the volume on
rabbinic authority published by the Orthodox Forum (a group convened by
R. Lamm) rather than my inadvertent citation of the Orthodox Roundtable
(apparently an RCA appendage).

2. Binyomin Segal (Vol 16 #84) has seriously misread my posting on
R. Wein's article. Briefly I suggested that R. Wein consistently
misrepresented or distorted Kaplan's daas torah piece and ultimately
failed to refute any of its substantive contentions, with some of the
distortions.e.g. the R. Wein version of the Belzer episode, bordering on
the disgusting. But he shouldn't confuse me with Kaplan. Though in
general accord, as I mentioned in passing, I don't, in fact, agree with
everything in the kaplan article myself. (What I didn't mention
previously is that I believe its major deficiency is an over-focus on
the most extreme formulations of daas torah, such as R. Weinberger's
claims of quasi-infallibility make for easy pot shots).

3. Binyomin also poses a number of inquiries, some of which deserve a
response.  He asks whether I'm "upset because others ask for guidance
from people thay respect" ?. Well, no. I'm a live and let live kind of
guy. He wonders "what good it is asking for insight if you plan not to
listen to them - as they are too busy learning torah to "get it"? I
can't answer that one since I am unable to intelligently parse the
complete sentence. He suggests that "lots of us may yell the rabbis are
secluded...and how can they choose fundamentalist ....fascist
republicans over the liberal loving democrats...this example shows they
understand THE ISSUE.." I'm not sure what to make of that. Perhaps he is
aware of some daas torah edict , or even some general rabbinical
consensus that we should all vote Republican. Or perhaps, like modern
daas torah usage itself, the circle of those whose votes count, or whose
consensus we must ascertain, is is a limited one and Democrat voting
rabbonim may be ignored? It would certainly be a useful filter to tell
the black hats (oops) from the white hats.

4. Finally, and more substantively, Binyomin requests examples of
alleged "stifling daas torah".  A few (I think all of these were cited
in kaplan) would include:

a) the "ban" promulgated on involvement or membership in inter-communal
organizations with "mixed" rabbinical representation (NY Board of Rabbis
case.  note - Kaplan cites a source which claims that R. Eliezer Silver
z"l, the only practicing community rav on the Aguda council, was also
the only one to refuse to sign the ban, viewing it as part of a YU
bashing agenda, even going so far as to give R. Aharon Kotler z"l a hard
time about it)

b) the promulgated issur on women serving in the Israeli army, -or even
doing sherus li'oome. (I don't know if this is equivalent to having a
gadol come knock at your door and stifle you, the example which Binyomin
requested, but i suspect it comes close at least for those who live in
Israel. It certainly affects almost everybody.)

c) R. Chaim Ozer's famous letter (and ultimately successful campaign)
which declared the plan of the Hildesheimer rabbinical seminary in
Berlin to move to Eretz Yisrael in the 30s to be something which is
injurious to torah and must be opposed by all jews. As kaplan points
out, this campaign is noteworthy for the fact that neither Berlin and
its educational institutions, nor jerusalem were, properly, part of
R. Chaim Ozer's European communal responsibilities. It was rather, and
only, in his broader guise as the embodiment of daas torah that such
decrees could be issued. i suspect that this might also qualify for

Noteworthy in these cases, especially so for the army sherus li'oomi
case which is so relevent to so many even today, is the general absence
of citation of halachic source materials in the formulation of these
daas torah decrees.

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


From: <davidp@...> (David Phillips)
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 94 18:49:32 EST
Subject: Slavery, et al and Western Values

I am still very much perplexed by the talk of the Torah's morals and the
hardline position that those morals cannot change; that if we see things
like slavery as bad, that we're allowing Western values to color our
judgement.  Implicit in this position is that to do so is wrong as
observant Jews; in other words, if the Torah permits slavery we should
rigidly maintain the opinion that slavery is good (and banning slavery is
bad).  (Reminder to all:  This thread started with a discussion of racist
talk/beliefs by Torah observant Jews and whether it was right or wrong.)

Previous attempts (by me and others) to bring examples where Torah values
were modified by subsequent Torah scholars have been (mostly) shot down.  I
won't give up.  (Previous examples cited were the soldiers taking female
concubines during wartime, the banning of intercourse as a method of
affecting kiddushin (marriage), etc.)

Yaakov married two sisters, and yet the Torah (subsequently) bans it.

I think that the fact that the Torah mentions so many times as the
punishment for certain sins is death by "beth din" (earthly courts) and
more importantly "v'chal ha'am yishm'u v'yira'u v'lo yezidun ode" (and the
whole nation will hear and see [that capital punishment was meted out] and
they will not sin again), shows that the Torah believed that capital
punishment was a good idea, a deterent to further crimes, and that the
carrying out of such verdicts should be public.  Yet, in the time of the
g'mara a beth din (court) that killed one person in 70 years was called a
murderous (or bloody) court.  Did Torah values change?  On the face it
certainly seems so.  (See the numbers killed in the desert for various sins
- by Moshe's orders.)

Furthermore, witness the famous "machloket" between the Rambam in Yad
Hachzaka, where he says there will be karbanot in the 3rd temple, and the
Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim (Guide to the Perplexed) where, by stating
(philosophically) that the Jews in the desert were given the mitzvah of
animal sacrifices to prevent them from pagan worship (human sacrifice?),
implying that THEY required a substitution of that aspect of worship, but
we may not need that in the 3rd temple.

And one more, albeit without a halachik source:  There is an opinion that
the Jewish laws of divorce in the Torah were radically pro-woman at the
time the Torah was given.  (It was far easier in other cultures for men to
"dispose" of their wives without going through the whole "get" process.) 
Nevertheless, I believe that many of us privately admit that there is
something inherently wrong in the man having all the power and right to
terminate a marriage and a woman having (virtually) none.

These opinions may be colored by so-called Western culture, but as long as
only halachik avenues are sought to affect halachik change, I can't see the
harm done.  In none of the scenarios drawn by me or others would a radical
"Reform movement"-type change (e.g.; "pig wasn't allowed to be eaten
because it was thought to cause disease but now ham is cured so it is
okay") be the result.

--- David "Beryl" Phillips


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 1994 12:15:20 -0800
Subject: Views on Daas Torah

If I have insulted anyone I apologize for the perceived insult.  That
was not intended.  Perhaps someone can explain to me how my insistence
that we recognize that the holocaust and thousands of years of
persecution have damaged Judaism is insulting.  I thought that we all
agreed on that.  We have been the victims, and victims are the injured
party.  We have lost thousands of Torah students and many hundreds of
sages and teachers.  Did this not damage Torah Judaism?  In Bosnia
today, the opposing forces line up and shoot all of the teachers -
expressly because that is the way to insure maximum cultural damage even
if some peasants survive to work for the winner.  Has this not happened
to us also?  We are not exempt from history.  We are not superhuman and
neither were our sages.

Do we not defend Israel because of the damage that would be done to Jews 
and Judaism if we had no safe home for our teachers and students?  Does 
anyone believe that there would be no loss of Torah knowledge if, G-d 
forbid, Israel were taken from us?

Hiding our heads in the sand about the real damage done does not allow 
us to repair that damage.  Some teachings can be lost forever.  I do not 
have the references, but I have been taught that the Inquisition did 
successfully destroy parts of Talmud that we have not been able to 
recover.  Is stating this an insult to us?

Jews did not burn the library at Alexandria.  Persons of other faiths 
did that, and taught that it was okay because, they said, all the works 
beyond Scripture were irrelevant because everything was in Scripture.  
Do Jews teach this?  Do we burn libraries that contain more than Torah 
and Talmud?  No, we do not.  How is it an insult to us to state that 
others have burned our Talmud, our Torah, and the teachings of our sages 
- not to mention our people and sages personally?  How is it an insult 
to us to state that (parts of) our Torah knowledge and people have been 
forcibly taken from us?   I would really like some explanation for this 
mode of thinking.

On a more personal note:  David Levy declares: "And neither is Stan 
Tenen's research judaism."  This is an interesting comment coming from 
someone who has not seen any of my research.  It is also an interesting 
comment because of what recognized kabbalists and orthodox rebbes and 
rabbis who have reviewed this work have said about it.  (This work 
received a generally good response at the recent AOJS summer convention, 
and I have been asked to write a paper on this research for their 
journal.  Perhaps David Levy might inquire of someone who attended the 
AOJS convention about whether or not this work is kosher.  Perhaps, not 
being omniscient, he might like to examine the research _before_ he 
condemns it or its implications.)

BTW, I have been invited by Islamic scholars to review the patterns in 
the Quran.  This I have partly done.  There are letter level patterns in 
the Quran.  But to the extent that I am aware of them, they are all 
derivative of only a narrow selection of the patterns in Torah.  It is 
as if the founders of Islam understood a small part of Judaism and 
expanded it into a seeming whole.  But, as I have quoted before from 
Rabbi Kook, evil exists when the part usurps the whole.  (I am not 
saying that Islam is evil.)  Quran misrepresents it is whole when it is 
only a part.  But it is likely an accurate part.  Should I deny that 
there are letter patterns in Quran because someone might be afraid that 
this might be somehow insulting to Judaism?  If I did that, I would not 
have learned that the patterns were derivative, and I might have lived 
in fear that Quran might somehow undermine Torah.  Because I have no 
fear of that, I am free to investigate what is and is not true - even in 

Good Shabbos,


End of Volume 16 Issue 96