Volume 17 Number 5
                       Produced: Fri Dec  2 14:54:17 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Zvi Weiss]
Converts to Judaism, part II
         [Jonathan Katz]
         [Shaul Wallach]
Mechitza in Beis Hamikdash (?)
         [Yossi Halberstadt]


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Fri, 2 Dec 1994 10:14:08 -0500
Subject: Army

In regards to the latest posting defending the current Chareidi
practices regarding the Israel Army:

1. Shaul attempts to compare the situation of Yeshivot closing down in
  England (due to no students) to the threat of R. Shach to shut down
  Yeshivot if boys go into the Army.  In general, I think that it should
  be clear that there is a distinct difference between Yeshivot closing
  down due to lack of resources and closing down as a political protest.
  In effect, the statement -- as reported by Shaul -- is nothing more
  than EXTORTION (do as I say -- or else.)  and I fail to see how that
  can be compared to the situation that R. Kook's letter was trying to
2. Rav Kook was writing to the Chief Rabbi in regard to a policy by the
  British Government.  To compare the situation in the British Army (of
  those years) to the situation in the IDF is -- to me -- extremely offensive
  and -- if that is truly a widespread attitude --
  represents a very strong LEGIT.  grounds for intense resentment of the
  Chareidim.  The very fact that when the Isreali papers reported that
  frum people had a problem -- that it was addressed (as Shaul, himself,
  admits) points out that this was a PEOPLE problem and not a problem
  derived from an inherently anti-religious institution.  I would like
  to remind everyone that the IDF tries pretty hard to insure some level
  of kashrut -- despite the large number of non-frum people in service;
  that the IDF tries to have a decent system of both chaplains and
  "Ketzinei Dat" to work with and address the needs of Jews who are
  often distant from anything Jewish.  The equating of IDF with the Brtish Army
  appears to convey such a profound antipathy toward the State that it is no
  wonder that the Secular population despises the Chareidim.  I do not 
  exonerate the Secularists -- but "it takes 2 to tango".
  Further, while it is tempting to do, attempting to "blame" everything on the
  fact that the "Am Ha'aretz" hates the scholar -- in effect -- absolves
  the Chareidi from doing anything to correct the situaiton.  To me that
  seems to be an abandonment of caring for other Jews and I feel that I must
  question how anyone can integrate the notion that problems are simply based
  upon the hatred of the Am Ha'aretz with the committment of Ahavat Yisrael
  that the Torah mandates.
3. Shaul states that he does not care what tho motivation of those who
  study in Yeshivot actually is.  But that is the whole point here.  The
  gemara speaks of Talmidei Chachamim being exempt.  The gemara does not
  state that anyone who feels like studying -- for any reason -- is to
  be exempted.  The Rambam refers to "Mi She'n'sao Lib" -- one whose
  heart lifts him to dedicate himself to the study of Torah -- SUCH a
  person is "exempt" from the "cares" of this world.  Further, this
  represents a tremendous Chilul of Kavod Hatorah -- that one should be
  "sitting and learning" just to avoid Military Service.  Is such person
  truly sitting and learning "full time"?  Is such a person truly
  applying themselves?  Of course, if one studies Torah even "shelo
  lishma" it is most praisworthy -- but is THAT a basis for an
  exemption?  And, can anyone imagine the resentment toward a person who
  may very well be nothing more than a draft dodger?  I stated at the
  beginning that I do not believe that ANYONE is opposed to exemption
  for those who are truly drawn to Torah. to exempt those whose heart
  and soul is a living embodiment of limud; but all I ask is:
  that we be truly honest.  If someone is NOT truly serious about his
  learning; if his learning is nothing more than an excuse to avoid
  the rigors and trials of military life, then should such a person be exempt?
4. The notion that frum people should not serve in today's army because it is
  not composed of righteous people seems nothing more than a copout.  It 
  guarantees that the situaiotn will NEVER get better (as anyone who could make
  a positive impact should stay out because it is not composed of people making
  positive impacts).  Outside of the fact that Hesder "teams" serve together
  and ARE able to learn and be shomer Mitzvot, the simple fact of the matter
  is that the only way many of these non-religious soldiers will EVER be ex-
  posed to religious people in any sort of positive fashion is in the army.
  While the situaiton may be difficult, when one talks to people who have
  served and been able to be m'kadesh shem shamayim by such service (as well as
  fulfill a truly exalted level of Ahavat Yisrael), another perspective starts 
  to emerge.  It is for this reason that I have been so [repeatedly] insistent
  that the Chareidi viewpoint should integrate the POSITIVE experiences of frum
  people who HAVE served.
  By taking the "easy way out" and defining the army in such a way that NO
  frum people should serve there and then blaming the subsequent resentment
  upon the Secular group, all we really end up with is a situation of ever more
  internal strife and hatred.
  The Netziv (at the beginning of Ha'Azinu and elsewhere) points out that
  during the era of the second Beit Mikdash, there was a lot of Limud Torah and
  Sh'mirat Hamitzvot.  However, at the same time there was a lot of hatred that
  was "justified" by asserting that the target of the hatred was a terrible
  person and "deserved" such hatred.  That the target was a real Rasha and that
  it was -- perhaps -- even a mitzva to kill such a person.  Such behaviour
  could not be tolerated by hashem and led to the Churban.  It is scary to me
  to look and see that it appears that a very similar attitude is beginning to
5. The 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva and the students of the Bavli Yeshivot
  have nothing to do with this matter.  I am not trying to discourage Limud
  Hatorah.  There is but one issue that I have struggled with: do such people
  truly deserve a blanket exemption -- esp. when the Hesder is available.
  To paraphrase Shaul, when 2/3 of Israeli youth get next to nothing of any 
  Jewish education, then we cannot simply abandon them and draw in the wagon
  trains; we have to use EVERY opportunity to reach out to such people and
  the Army presents such a chance.
6. In "My Uncle, The Netziv", the author makes clear that the reason the
  Yeshiva in Volozhin was shut down was because the government wanted to 
  introduce changes that would have affected the LIMUDEI KODESH.  The intro-
  duction of LIMITED secular subjects, per se, WAS accepted by the Netziv.  
7. To summarize, I do NOT support government attempts to limit the deferment
  for B'nei Yeshivot.  However, *we* must be honest with ourselves.  If there
  are boys whose characteristics are not suited for "sitting and learning all
  day", let us recognize that "up front" and address it in a manner that will
  be a kiddush hashem.  If such boys are better suited for hesder, then let
  them go into hesder PROUDLY.  Let their presence in the IDF be a Kiddush
  Hashem and an expression of unqualified Ahavat Yisrael.



From: Jonathan Katz <frisch1@...>
Date: Fri, 02 Dec 1994 13:59:48 EST
Subject: Converts to Judaism, part II

(this promises to be a rather volatile issue, so I'd like to suggest that 
people look over what they write carefully before they post it)
Along the lines of my previous question regarding converts, I thought of a
scenario which troubled me:
What do you tell a non-Jewish person who wishes to convert to Reform or
Conservative Judaism?
On the one hand, you can say that perhaps by converting they will eventually
reach the point where they will become more observant, and thus they should
be encouraged. Furthermore, even consider it from a logical point of view:
even if they were to convert to Orthodoxy, they will not be perfect, and
will commit some sins, so what real difference is there if they convert to
non-Orthodoxy and commit some sins?
Of course, looking at it from any other perspective, one's first thought
is to discourage it - it is better from a halachik standpoint to be a 
righteous gentile than to convert and then violate the Shabbat.

But this raises a more serious question: at what point do we say that 
someone is better off not converting and at what point is it better that
they convert? For instance, what of someone says they want to convert 
(Orthodox) but tells you that no way will they ever (for example) cover
their hair when married. And this is only an example; the question can
be asked for every level of observance. Where is the line drawn, or is
a line drawn at all?

Jonathan Katz
410 Memorial Drive, Room 241C
Cambridge, MA 02139


From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Fri, 02 Dec 94 12:50:12 IST
Subject: Hanuka

     Eli Turkel and Danny Skaist take issue with my statement that
Hanuka does not commemorate the military victory. In particular, Danny
suggests a reading of the Talmud (Shabbat 21b) according to which the
miracle of the oil is incidental to the miracle of the military victory.

     Of course, as Eli and Danny point out, we certainly do give thanks
in prayer and say Hallel over the salvation which the military victory
brought. However, I don't see Danny's point either in the language of
the Talmud or in Rashi thereon. This, when the Talmud asks "Mai Hanuka?"
(What is Hanuka?), Rashi comments, "On what miracle did they institute
it?" That is, there were, to be sure, other miracles besides the one of
the oil, but the Sages chose to fix the date of the celebration as the
one on which the miracle of the oil took place. So we can reasonably
ask why the Sages chose the date of this apparently minor miracle
instead of one of the greater miracles of the war. That is essentially
the purpose of what I wrote in the previous post on Hanuka. We might
also suggest that they preferred to chose precisely the miracle that
enabled the resumption of the Temple service because of what Shim`on
Ha-Zadiq said (Avot 1:2), "On three things the world stands: on the
Torah, and on the Service, and on acts of charity".

     In this connection we might add that, as is evident to anyone who
has looked at the history of the Hasmonean period, the military victory
did not bring peace to the country. Except for the relatively short
reign of the queen Shelomzion (Saloma), the Hasmoneans fought almost
incessantly amongst themselves until the Roman conquest.

     Purim seems to be the opposite in this respect. As Danny points
out, there were indeed many miracles in the train of events which the
Megilla describes and which led in the end to the salvation of the Jews.
But as the Megilla explicitly says, the dates which Mordechai and Esther
chose to mark the celebration were precisely those days on which the
Jews rested from their enemies after the military victory. Why? It
seems to me that in this case, unlike that of Hanuka, the military
victory actually brought peace and salvation to the Jews of that time.
It is also significant that the days were not the days of the military
action itself, but the days of rest which followed them.

     This aspect of peace which the Jewish celebrations accent is
worth careful consideration. Thus, the Rambam closes his section on
Hanuka with the halacha that if one has enough oil only for the
Shabbat lights or the Hanuka lights but not for both, the Shabbat
lights take precedence. The reason is that one uses the Shabbat
lights are meant for his use and enjoyment, to sit and eat together
with his family, while the Hanuka lights are meant only to publicize
the miracle but are forbidden for his own use. As the Rambam puts it
(Hanuka 4:14):

    If he had before him the lamp of his house and the Hanuka lamp,
    or the lamp of his house and Qiddush of the day, the lamp of his
    house comes first for the sake of the peace of his home, for the
    Name is blotted out in order to put peace between a man and his
    wife. Great is peace, for the whole Torah was given in order to
    make peace in the world, as it is written, "Its ways are ways of
    pleasantness, and all its paths are peace."

Shabbat Shalom,



From: <fx_joe@...> (Yossi Halberstadt)
Date: Fri, 02 Dec 1994 09:23:02 GMT
Subject: Mechitza in Beis Hamikdash (?)

>This statement astonished me, and has prompted me to ask for enlightenment
>regarding the origin of the mehitzah, and the establishment of the women's
>section of the synagogue.

>[I'm sure that there are those of you out there with more solid
>information, but my vague memory is that the earliest sources is a
>Gemorah somewhere about the crowds in the Beit Hamikdash during the
>three festivals, and they "stretched a cord" to prevent the men and
>women from mingling. OK so now someone can find the correct citation and
>quote in full. Mod.]

I believe that you are referring to a mishna in Succah which discusses
the Simchas Beis Hashoeva (water drawing ceremony) in the beis
hamikdosh. I don't have a mishna at hand, but I think that it is in the
fourth of fifth perek.

It says that after the end of the first day of Yom-Tov they "set up a
great institution", namely a platform around the courtyard in the beis
hamikdash, on which the women would sit. This was to prevent any
frivolty which might occur as a result of the partying.

I.e. there is no reference to any 'barrier' or 'screen', however the men and
women were seperated on different levels.

Yossi Halberstadt


End of Volume 17 Issue 5