Volume 17 Number 11
                       Produced: Tue Dec  6 22:56:30 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chanukah - War or Oil
         [Eli Turkel]
Daas Torah
         [Moshe Koppel]
Qamatz (last words) v17n6
         [Mark Steiner]
Regarding Allegory in Gan Eden
         [M. Shamah]
The "Misnagdishe Rambam"
         [Yosef Orenstein]


From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Tue, 6 Dec 94 12:31:30 +0200
Subject: Chanukah - War or Oil

      In my last post I neglected to give my sources. The Maharal on
Shabbat (21a) and also in Ner Mitzvah points out that there is no such
concept as thanking G-d for a miracle. In the Temple the flame on the
alter appeared as a lion and was not put out by the rain, when the
people prostrated themselves there was room for everyone although they
were crowded while standing etc.  We have no record that special prayers
were offered to thank G-d for these miracles.  We are required to thank
G-d when we are saved and we then recite Birkhat haGomel. Hallel is
recited on Chanukkah because the Jewish people were saved (both
physically and spiritually) and not because of any miracles.  Similarly
we recite al hanissim over the military victory. Also when a community
is saved there is a custom to celebrate a "local Purim" for descendants
of those saved. There is no need to celebrate if one sees a miracle that
does not involve the safety of people.  The Maharal explains that the
purpose of the miracle of the oil was to demonstrate that this was
indeed a victory of the pure against the impure of the few against the
many and was not merely the strength of the Macabean army (see also
Meshech Hochmah on Shemot 12:15).
      Megillat Taanit lists many military victories that were celebrated
by days of feast. Chanukah is included in this list together with the
other miltiary victories. After the destruction of the Temple only
Chanukkah was retained because only Chanuukah had a miracle to prove
that it was an authentic victory. How long the Hasmonean dynasty lasted
is irrelevant.  Rishonim disagree whether the establishment of the
Hasmonean dynasty was good or not. This is all irrelevant to thanking
G-d to saving us in the fight against the Syrian-Greeks. The original
establishment of Chanukkah is clearly for the military victory and the
saving of Jews. In other rabbinic sources the reason for the eight
candles is given that the Macabees entered the Temple with eight spears
and lit lights on top of these spears. With this answer there is clearly
no reference to a miracle.  The Gemara's objective was to study the
halachot of lighting candles not why was Hallel and al Hanisim
established.  The Gemara understood that the basic concept of Chanukkah
was established because of the war. The Gemara was just asking why was
the celebration done through lights rather than reading a megillah or
some other procedure. Thus Rashi explains that the Gemara is questioning
which miracle was the cause of lighting the candles not why was
Chanukkah established.
      This also answers the question of why was there a need for any
miracle with the oil since the Halachah is that one may do the work in
the Bet Hamikdash when the Cohen is "tamei" if the majority of the
people are "tamei" (Pnei Yehoshua Shabbat 21b). The answer of the
Maharal answers this question also. In fact there was no need for God to
create a miracle so that the Menorah would be in use. The purpose of the
miracle was so that the people would understand that God was behind the
military victory.



From: <koppel@...> (Moshe Koppel)
Date: Mon, 5 Dec 1994 18:49:50 +0200
Subject: Daas Torah

Several enthusiastic proponents of 'daas torah' on mail.jewish have
argued that the phrase 'stifling daas torah' is something of an
oxymoron. It was argued that daas torah is never directly imposed and
that moreover several alleged cases of daas torah were in fact piskei
halakha and hence presumably immune from the perjorative 'stifling'.

Perhaps some more persuasive examples might clarify the issue. All of
the following are recent cases of imposed daas torah: A quasi-haredi
high school was prevented from opening in Yerushalayim because it
intended to offer bagrut (high school diploma), a program for training
Rabbanim to serve in exotic locales was threatened with cherem because
Nechama Leibovich lectured there, a prominent women's seminary was put
in cherem because it offered a course for advanced students which dealt
with Bible criticism (for the purpose of 'da ma shetashiv'), the
Steinsaltz edition of shas was put in cherem, a principal in Flatbush
was told by a rov in Bnei Beraq that his elementary school students must
learn Chumash in Yiddish even though virtually none of them understood a
word. These examples are the high-profile cases; the real stifling is
the every-day lot of any inquisitive, creative yeshiva bochur.

Apparently, some of the aforementioned proponents of daas torah have had
the luxury of taking for granted the benefits of an education which
encouraged free inquiry, have freely chosen to affiliate themselves with
the yeshiva velt, and have found fulfillment there. More power to them.
Perhaps they should consider, though, that others, for whom the spirit
of free inquiry could not be taken for granted precisely because of the
dark shadow cast over their early intellectual-religious development by
daas torah, might find that daas torah stifling.

Having said all that, I still think that daas torah is indeed a
fundamental concept in Yiddishkeit. Just as people turn to the great
masters of their language not to learn correct grammatical usage but
rather (among other things) to learn how to use the language most
effectively, so too a Jew would once turn to his rov or rebbe not merely
to ascertain specific halakhot, but to learn Yiddishkeit. So far so

But there's a flip side.  Nobody turns to ivory-tower linguists and
their elegant theories of grammar for inspiration in how to use a
language effectively. Unfortunately, now that the weight of daas torah
has shifted decisively from community rabbanim and rebbes to roshei
yeshiva, this is exactly what we are being asked to do. 'Ivory-tower'
roshei yeshiva, who have spent their whole lives safely buffered from
the dreaded balei-batim (and their annoyingly workaday concerns) by the
equally unencumbered yungeleit who anointed them, can afford the luxury
of purist ideologies. But it should surprise nobody if the application
of such ideologies to real life tends to feel somewhat stifling.

In short, I think the problem is that organic community Yiddishkeit and
authentic daas torah are fast becoming an endangered phenomenon. They
are being replaced by a stultifying patchwork of ideology and halakhic
grammar books and starry-eyed appeals to oracles.

No doubt this too shall pass.



From: Mark Steiner <MARKSA@...>
Date: Tue,  6 Dec 94 22:42 +0200
Subject: Re: Qamatz (last words) v17n6

     Yechezkel Schatz challenged my contention that had the Baalei
Massorah meant to transmit two qematzim, with two different sound
values, they would have used two different signs.  I'll briefly respond
to his arguments, but I believe that this subject has exhausted itself,
at least for now, and am willing to let the readers decide for
themselves.  I also recommend reading modern Hebrew studies of Massorah
and pronunciation.

     Yechezkel says that the patax genuvah (this is the patax sounded
before such final letters as xet and `ayin even though printed under
them) proves that the same sign, patax, can have two different values.
I would refer readers to ancient vocalized Hebrew manuscripts.  In these
manuscripts, patax genuvah is written slightly to the right of the last
xet or `ayin.  It is in the printed texts of Hebrew that this
typographical distinction disappeared.  Hence Yechezkel has cited a
non-fact in opposition to my thesis.

     As for the mappiq/dagesh distinction, in many ancient (but not in
all) vocalized manuscripts, e.g. the Kaufmann Codex of the Mishnah,
mappiq is written *below* the final heh, not in the middle, so there is
a typographic distinction.

     As for shva, I was surprised that shva na` vs. shva nax was not
used as a proof that one symbol can have two values.  But this exception
really does prove the rule: the Baalei Massorah themselves, in their
writings, distinguish between two values of shva: silent vs. nonsilent
shva.  This is Massorah, not "dikduk."  They make no such statement
about qamatz.

     Furthermore, the fact that shva has two sound values does not
necessarily mean that this distinction makes a linguistic difference (is
"phonemic" in the language of linguistics).  The way to prove that it
does, is to show a pair of words, identically spelled, including the
vowel signs, but having different meanings, the different meanings
attributable to the two kinds of shva.  It's hard to find such a pair
(yir'u "they will see" vs. yiyr'u "they will fear" is not conclusive
since the spellings of the words are not identical).  It could very well
be that the distinction between shva na` and shva nax is completely
unpredictable by rules and unrelated to meaning in Massoretic Hebrew,
and that is precisely why the Baalei Massorah were not interested in
having two signs for, and preserving, a distinction that didn't make a
difference.  This is just a suggestion, but I happen to know that the
subject of shva is the subject of ongoing research in Hebrew linguists,
and the matter is not simple.  It may be that the only thing one could
say about shva is "pronounce shva the way your rebbe does," as
grammatical rules may be incapable of doing better.

     In fact, I would appeal to the "massorah" (that is, the tradition
handed down from one generation to another) of Hebrew.  It can't be a
coincidence that Yemenites and Litvaks (two groups of Jews who had
little or no contact with one another for a very long period of history)
pronounce qamatz the same way--aw--and in every kind of syllable.

     (The Sefardic grammarians, by contrast, who by fiat labeled any
qamatz not in a closed unstressed syllable a "long qamatz," were forced
to say that the word "kawl" in "kawl-`atzmothai tomarnaw," is pronounced
"kal" (i.e. long qamatz), simply because "kawl" here has a stress!  The
absurdity that the same word (meaning "all") should be pronounced
differently just because of an arbitrary rule, was certainly noticed by
the grammarians themselves.  For the same reason, they were forced to
say that the first qamatz in "yaw-awmad xai" (Lev. 16:10) is pronounced
differently from the second (hataf) qamatz, though nothing like this
happens to the first patax in ya`amod or the first segol in ye'esof.  To
the contrary, in each of these three cases, the shva becomes a xataf and
acquires the flavor of the preceding vowel.)

     If we are looking for two pronunciations of qamatz, I suggest
listening to the reading tradition of the chassidim/galitzyner (as my
brother, Prof. R. Steiner, has pointed out).  They pronounce the word
for "man" oodawm.  That is, a qamatz in an open syllable is pronounced
differently from that in a closed syllable (stress and therefore
"dikduk" has nothing to do with it).  This distinction is pretty
regular, and I believe that Hungarian Jews have two names for these
qematzim.  Furthermore, this distinction oo/aw appears in various parts
of Jewish Europe, such as Hungary (as I just mentioned), Germany, and
Holland.  This pronunciation, though it is non-Massoretic, must have
ancient roots, since it appears in groups of Jews who had little contact
with one another.  It is just as valid as the Sefardic pronunciation and

     Nothing in the above is meant, by the way, to disparage the study
of Biblical Hebrew.  On the contrary, I mean to encourage a study which
is certainly part of Torah, as the Rambam says in Pirkei Avoth (he gives
it an example of a "mitzwah qalah").


From: <MSHAMAH@...> (M. Shamah)
Date: Tue, 06 Dec 1994 00:04:35 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Regarding Allegory in Gan Eden

Regarding Yosef Bechhofer's recent posting discussing sources that
interpret aspects of Gan Eden allegorically, the Ralbag (1288 -
1344) interprets tree, command, serpent and punishment
allegorically.  He understands the Rambam to also interpret Hava
(Eve) allegorically, but disagrees with him.  Some excerpts from
his commentary on Genesis 3 may be relevant (my hasty translation):

     "You should know regarding the serpent that we must admit it
     is allegorical.... however, regarding Hava, there is no
     compelling cause that she must be interpreted allegorically...
     and considering that she gave birth to Cain, Abel and Seth. 
     However, it appears the Rav Hamoreh [Rambam] understood even
     Hava [in this context] allegorically, referring her to one of
     the human faculties... Some great later hakhamim erred and
     devised allegories (asu tsiyurim) regarding Cain, Abel and
     Seth and lost the intentions of the Torah.  You should know
     that it is improper to devise allegories with Torah subjects
     except in places where it is compelling to be allegory, for if
     this measure was given over [freely] to men the Torah would
     fall and we would not be able to derive from it the intended


From: <jo.or@...> (Yosef Orenstein)
Date: Mon, 05 Dec 94 23:49:48 
Subject: The "Misnagdishe Rambam"

To the following question....
> > I ... don't see how I can believe as a 'fact' that is necessarily true 
> > on logical/rational grounds alone, that God gave us the Torah on 
> > Mt. Sinai. I feel compelled to treat is as a matter of faith, 
> > which is what it is, for me. 
> > Is this point of view really rejected out of hand in Orthodoxy? Or
> > am I misunderstanding Yosef Bechhofer? 

Yosef Bechhofer responds:
> I certainly would not call it rejected "out of hand," indeed, many
> Chassidic approaches, perhaps most typified by R. Nachman of
> Breslov, the Rambam's great antagonist, stressed "Emuna Peshuta" -
> simple, pure faith, the very type of faith that the Rambam derides
> - as PRIMARY in Judaism.

> The Misnagdic scools of thought - beginning with the Rambam
> (Yesodei HaTorah 8:1-3, Letter to the Wise Men of Marseilles, and
> other places) and continuing on throughout the ages (Alter from
> Kelm, Chochmo u'Mussar v2 p76), stressed, however, that the mitzva
> of Emuna cannot be fully fulfilled except with firm rational
> grounding. 

I read with amusement Yosef Bechhofer's claiming the Rambam as a
"Misnaged" or as a source of a "Misnagdic approach" regarding "faith and

Indeed, the Rambam clearly states in the very beginning of his magnum
opus, Mishnah Torah - Hilchos Yesodai HaTorah [1:1] "The foundation of
all foundations, and pillar of all wisdom" is "Laidah" to KNOW that
there is a Moyzuy Rishone (G-d), - not simply L'ha'amin, to "believe."

And au contraire, this very "Chassidic" approach is highlighted
especially in the writings of Chabad Chassidism, which emphasizes
developing a Chochma, Binah, Da'at relationship with G-d, utilizing
one's intellectual faculties to strive to "know" as much as humanly
possible about G-d's presence.  Not simply relying on Emunah Peshuta
("simple faith".)

Yosef Orenstein


End of Volume 17 Issue 11