Volume 16 Number 98
                       Produced: Wed Nov 30 23:39:57 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

"Stifling" Daas Torah
         ["Yaakov Menken"]
A common misconception
         [Hayim Hendeles]
Da'as torah
         [Joel Goldberg]
Daas Torah
         [Eli Turkel]
Flood and Mesorah
         [Yosef Bechhofer]
         [Ari Shapiro]


From: "Yaakov Menken" <ny000548@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 94 14:35:48 -0500
Subject: "Stifling" Daas Torah

I am glad that Mechy Frankel provided examples of how Daas Torah can be 
"stifling" - because each one of them is a clear demonstration of Rebbe 
Akiva's statement that "just as a bird cannot fly without wings, Israel 
cannot operate without its Sages."  (Actually, the third example I know 
nothing about, so I can only speak about the first two.)

Each individual remains free to ignore the advice of the Chachamim if 
they wish.  One can hardly say that these sages were "stifling" people 
when they stated that certain behaviors were dangerous to Torah and Torah 
observance (and therefore forbidden to Torah Jews) - especially when we 
can see with 20/20 hindsight how right they were.

>a) the "ban" promulgated on involvement or membership in inter-communal
>organizations with "mixed" rabbinical representation (NY Board of Rabbis

The problem is not "inter-communal" but "rabbinical."  Sitting on a 
joint board states that Orthodox and Reform Rabbis are equals, and 
colleagues.  The reason provided was indeed not in Halachic sources - 
rather, it was very simple: the Reform and Conservative movements 
sought and continue to seek "recognition" from Orthodoxy as other 
"legitimate forms" of Judaism, and it is primarily that which they wanted 
to get (and _received_) out of participation on "joint boards."  
Obviously, Orthodoxy cannot accept a "movement" that seeks to deny that 
the Torah was given on Sinai, but yet the non-Orthodox look for this 
every day.  Witness the way they fawned over Norman Lamm when he 
"recognized" non-Torah Judaism as "valid."

When Lamm was assaulted (in the Jewish Observer) for having said such a 
thing, he claimed that "valid" comes from the Latin root meaning strong.
In other words, he just recognizes that they are "strong" - not that 
they are valid in any Orthodox sense.  The writer in the JO immediately 
questioned whether Lamm recognizes Buddhists and evangelicals as 
similarly "valid" forms of religious expression, and whether it was this 
definition that inspired Alexander Schindler (Reform) to sing his praises.

Orthodoxy could have taken a firm stand, insisting that without a 
commitment to Torah, it is meaningless to talk about _religious_ issues 
- after all, it's not the same religion.  Instead, those who ignored the 
ban merely helped muddle the waters.  It amazes me that those who claim 
to follow the principles of Rav Shimshon Refoel Hirsch do not follow his
insistence on creating a clear divider between those who uphold Torah
and those who would ignore it.

>b) the promulgated issur on women serving in the Israeli army, - or even
>doing sherus li'oome.

Well, you can send your daughter where you wish (or allow her to choose, 
for that matter).  But be aware that Rav Ovadiah Yosef said that one 
cannot refer "l'hai betulta" on the Kesuba of a girl who went to the Army.

The problem with Sherut Leumi is that a girl cannot abandon her post the 
first time a man makes a pass at her.  With all the debate over sexual 
harrassment in _this_ country, you would be amazed at what Israelis 
consider "normal" behavior.  Can one expect that a pretty, innocent girl 
with an older, "experienced" superior will be so easily able to escape 
his advances?  It's hard for me to fathom the naivete of a person who, 
in the 1990's, questions whether it was appropriate to forbid religious
girls to do this kind of service.  If you want to call preserving 
religious mores "stifling" religious girls, that's your prerogative.

Immediately before I became frum, I met two religious girls who were 
on a break from their "Sherut Leumi" - on a beach in Teveria.  I can 
assure you that it wasn't their religiosity that was on display.

Why is it that no one has remarked on how the State of Israel "stifles" 
people by forcing them to serve in the Army, or how the US "stifles" us 
by forcing us to pay taxes?  Just as the leaders of the country are 
called upon to tell us what is necessary for preservation of the nation, 
so too the leaders of the Torah community should be _expected_ to tell 
us what is necessary for the preservation of Torah.  

Yaakov Menken


From: Hayim Hendeles <hayim@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 94 09:41:48 -0800
Subject: A common misconception

	>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 ... 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

With all due respect to the poster, while I have also heard the same
analogy countless times, Maimonodies (Intro. to the Mishna) states that
anyone saying such a thing is guilty of ridiculing the Sages of Israel,
and will ultimately have to give an accounting before G-d for making
such a statement.

In fact, says the Rambam, on matters in which there was a Kabala
(tradition) there never was any arguments. The arguments only began when
the students were no longer able to learn from their teachers
sufficiently (either due to the deteriorating political siutations, the
persecutions, etc.), and did not receive a tradition from their
teachers.  Thus, they were forced to use logical arguments to derive
certain laws/principles. Different students then used different logical
arguments to reach opposite conclusions.

Hayim Hendeles


From: <goldberg@...> (Joel Goldberg)
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 1994 13:40:30 +0200 (WET)
Subject: Da'as torah

<bsegal@...> (Binyomin Segal) wrote
> 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)?
> 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.

   It seems to me that in this case, what is being described is what is
  usually meant by halachic psak (decision) and not what is what we are
  calling "daas Torah." (ie. making choices where neither alternative
  violates halacha. I invite better definitons.)

   Interestingly, when another MJ'er and I did a brief glance through the
 Bar-Ilan Tshuva project for the phrase "Da'as Torah," we saw that it was
 being used in the sense of "and this is what the halacha is." Now, that may
 not be so surprising when what we were looking at was after all Halachic 
 responsa, but it does suggest that when some say the concept of Da'as Torah
 has existed for a long time, one should ask "which Da'as torah?"

From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 94 12:28:25 +0200
Subject: Daas Torah

    Binyomin Segal writes

>> when was the last time a gadol knocked on your door and told you 
>> what you HAD to do? are you upset because others ask for guidance 
>> from people they respect?

    One minor point. Gedolim don't come to my door but they do issue 
proclamations through the media. The more substantive question is
the second one. Agreeing with Binyomin let me quote from  an article
of Rabbi Friedman in Tradition (quoted later again in a letter to the
editor by Rabbi Aharon Feldman).

    "It is nevertheless, desirable ... [to] seriously consider the views
of rabbis in wordly matters, when these views are the product of deep
reflection upon public issues and conflicts. In my opinion, this may
serve as a barrier against the danger of being guided by material
self-interests ..."

    If Daas Torah stopped with this it would be great. What bothers me
is the steps that come after this. First the position of the Agudah is
that indeed you have to listen to the gedolim. Second, gedolim are
defined by those on the moetzet gedolei haTorah - Torah council (since
there are now several in Israel that is more problematic).

    What is most insidious is the converse of these ideas. Agudah
assumes that there are certain issues which are "known" and not subject
to debate, e.g.  attitude towards zionism. Since gedolim don't err
therefore any zionist rabbi ipso facto is not a gadol. Hence, there is
no need to show respect to Rabbi Kook, Rav Soloveitchik or the chief
rabinate in Israel. On the contrary many yeshiva students show their
respect to Daas Torah by calling Rav Soloveitchik "JB" to demonstrate
their lack of respect.  Similarly in Israel today those who disagree
with the policies of Shas feel obligated to say that Rav Ovadiah Yosef
is not a "real" gadol, otherwise his opinions might carry some weight
(moreover, he doesn't speak yiddish and so was never a member of the
moetzet gedolei haTorah).



From: <sbechhof@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 1994 00:01:57 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: Flood and Mesorah

I will be brief, since I feel we have descended to rehashing the old. I
am still waiting, however, for an answer to pt. # 5 below, especially in
light of a disturbing posting yesterday on MJ.

1. Rabbi Shama quotes the same Rambam I did. In the final analysis, the
Rambam feels that while certain beliefs would not be denied by Plato's
views, Aristotle's views would, ipso facto, they must be rejected.  It
is true, the Rambam entertains the theoretical possibility of
reinterpretation under certain circumstances, but never gives any
guidelines, as in his opinion, this never has happened. Who says here it
has? You don't know what guidelines the Rambam used, and who gave you
the right to make them up?

2. Rabbi Shama notes that Rav Kook liked the theory of evolution.  I
like it too.  Rabbi Shama claims that this theory requires
allegorization of Biblical verses. Rav Kook never made that claim, and I
challenge Rabbi Shama to present such verses.

3. Rabbi Shama quotes the Rishonim who regarded Shaul's vision of Shmuel
as hallucination. This too is not allegory.  It is not a "mashal." You
are interpreting the Flood as a "mashal" & to this I have objected.

4. Rabbi Shama cites scientific evidence that the Flood could not have
occured. science, by defintion, denies miracles. Krias Yam Suf could not
have occured either by scientific rules.

5. Rabbi Shama never answered why he accepts, if he does, the Exodus and
Lawgiving as literal.  Indeed, one MJ correspondent (<Apikorus@...>!)
tells us they were not necessarily historical events! Well that is
beyond Orthodoxy, and, quite frankly untenable, despite that
individual's comparison to Christian tradition.  Billions of Christians
admit to a faith religion based on personal revelation. We reject such
faith out of hand.

6. Stan Tenen and Rabbi Shalom Carmy rehash the accusation that we
"Literalists" do not look for deeper, more metaphysical and meaningful
understandings. This canard is terribly insulting not just to myself,
but to the Ramban, Or haChaim, Sefas Emes, et al (I'm cutting wide
swaths generationally and geographically here on purpose) who work
*from* the pshat more deeply down.  

Yosef Bechhofer


From: <m-as4153@...> (Ari Shapiro)
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 94 19:25:57 -0500
Subject: Opera

<I will also admit that it is less clear to me after reviewing what I
<quoted and the section after it in the Mishnah Berurah (which Ya`akov
<Menken subsequently posted) that one can blanketly hear a woman sing as
<long as it doesn't cause lewd thoughts; however, I still believe that
<that is the major issue.

R' Moshe in Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim 1,26) discusses this question.
He states that there is a  prohibition of Kol  Isha if the woman is an
erva(prohibited to him).  This is based on the Magen Avraham in       
siman 75 as well as the Pri M'gadim there.  He also points out
that nowadays every girl over the age of 12 is considered a nidda 
and the prohibition would apply, as well the fact that since non-jewish 
women are prohibited they are also considered erva and the prohibition
would apply.  What this means is that according to R' Moshe it is     
prohibited to listen to any women over the age of 12 sing except your wife.

<Until someone can offer conclusive proof to the contrary, I will
<continue to believe that the prohibition of "qol 'ishah" applies always
<during Shema` (or during times of prayer) and at other times when the
<intention (or result?)  is sexual arousal.  I certainly don't see it
<applying to female guests singing along with my family at the Shabbath
<table.  I find it hard to believe that it should apply to opera (but
<maybe there are those who find opera sexually arousing).

Rabbi Willig in his sefer Am Mordechai states that the prohibition 
CANNOT BE because of sexual arousal, if that was the case it should
be prohibited to listen to a pnuya(unmarried woman meaning a non-erva)
sing lest he become sexually aroused (which is prohibited no matter who
the woman is).  Therefore the prohibition is that you won't come to z'nus
(having sexual relations with her) and since the prohibition is not as 
stringent for a pnuya(unmarried woman)  with respect to z'nus as an erva
 they did not prohibit the singing of a pnuya.  Therefore the singing of
female guests at the Shabbos table would be prohibited.
NOTE: Nowadays every pnuya is considered a niddah and would be

Ari Shapiro


End of Volume 16 Issue 98