Volume 17 Number 22
                       Produced: Tue Dec 13 23:35:11 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Army, Boards, Sherut Leumi, and Da'as Torah
         ["Yaakov Menken"]
Scientific Truths
         [Jonathan Katz]
Sheirut L'Eumi
         [Zvi Weiss]
Sherus Li'oome - absolutely my last (trust me) reply to Y. Menken.
         [Mechy Frankel]
Talmud and Science
         [Joshua W. Burton]


From: "Yaakov Menken" <ny000548@...>
Date: Mon, 05 Dec 94 14:12:30 -0500
Subject: Army, Boards, Sherut Leumi, and Da'as Torah

>>From: Mechy Frankel <frankel@...>
>First a note on language. I think the association of "stifling" with
>"daas torah" is un-necessarily provocative and a self-evident oxymoron
>if care isn't taken with the punctuation, and I assume it was this
>juxtaposition which served as a red flag to the bull as it were and put
>Yaacov's adrenalin into such overdrive. 

Yes, the association of "stifling" with "daas torah" is provocative, but
insinuating that a response was generated by adrenalin rather than 
intellect isn't exactly the path to more moderate discussion.  I'm glad 
that Mechy deigned to respond to my arguments themselves, but wish that 
his judgement of my hormonal balance had not led him to ignore the issue 
central them all.

My focus was not on the argumentation used 30 years ago to justify 
this-or-that position, which might indeed be a "stale re-hash" in 
Mechy's terminology.  Nor was it my intent to "attack" the marbitzei 
torah and talmidei chachamim who rushed in where the "Daas Torah"-niks 
feared to tread.  Rather, the question is whether our 20/20 hindsight 
permits an evaluation that Mechy might find most uncomfortable, and 
which might indeed have led those Rabbis to regret having opposed the 
"who's who" of American and Israeli Roshei Yeshiva (with the noteable 
exception of the Rosh Yeshivas RIETS*) who promoted the ban on Board 
participation (and similarly, service in Sherut Leumi).  Shall we insist 
that proper respect for those Rabbis precludes an honest attempt to 
learn from history?  

[* Some have noted that Rabbi Eliezer Silver did not sign the ban, and say
that this was because he didn't want to join in "YU-bashing."  However, 
I have heard that HaRav J.B. Soloveitchik himself never gave explicit 
_permission_ for participation on O-C-R boards.  If true, this would 
call into question the very claim that there _were_ great talmidei 
chachamim who actively opposed the ban, and not merely that such were in  
the minority.  I would be grateful for a source quotation on this.]

Concerning the New York Board of Rabbis:
I was in Silver Spring myself this weekend, and noticed a relevant 
article in the Washington Jewish Week.  Although not overly familiar 
with the composition of the various Boards, I don't think the one headed 
by Rabbi Haskel Lookstein was the NY BoR.  Rather, this latter group 
consisted of a representative (one each) of both the Rabbis and the lay 
constituency of the "three major Jewish movements" - the RCA and the 
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations taking the two Orthodox seats.  
As all voting was by consensus (i.e. each individual had veto power),
this presumably gave the Orthodox the ability to preserve and defend our 
great and holy Tradition.

What transpired, however, was anything but a glorification of Orthodoxy. 
The Orthodox sat with those opposed to tradition for quite long enough 
to give the latter any legitimization that they might have craved.  
However, should not the organization remain standing because of the 
valuable work it is doing as a "united group representing all Jewry?"  
Apparently not.  This institution is now going to close its doors because 
of "a lack of interest in maintaining it."  Along with this comes a 
barrage of accusations from the non-Orthodox, asserting that the Orthodox 
groups used their veto power frequently and in a divisive fashion.  
Rather, the non-Orthodox leaders have expressed an interest in forming a 
new group without Orthodox representation... but with Reconstructionists 
filling out the total of six members.

So now, again, we are capable of judging from a historical perspective.  
The "opposing Aguda side" stood up and boldly declared that Orthodox 
and non-Orthodox perspectives were fundamentally incompatible... and 
therefore refused to participate.  The RCA insisted that such was not 
the case, and waited 30 years for the Reform and Conservatives to give
_them_ the boot.  The embarrassment to Orthodox Judaism (can this not be 
described as a Chilul HaShem?) is so glaring that further comment, imho, 
would be superfluous.

>I found Yaacov's broad brush attack on sherus li'oome to be close to a 
>motzi shem ra on an entire class and generation of frum ... girls.

My comments were read with sufficient precision to confuse "Teveria" 
with "Tel Aviv", and a more careful reading might be appropriate before 
taking such great offense.  The implication that there are great risks 
does not imply that every individual fails to survive them.

>I will also say that Yaacov's characterization of the problem with
>sherus li'oome service - "The problem is a girl can't leave her outpost
>the first time a man makes a pass at her..." - and his description of
>beleaguered sherus li'oome girls unable to abandon their lonely outposts
>and fend off the sexual depredations of their "experienced" supervisors
>leaves me shaking my end in wonderment. ... typical Jewish Observer 

I only wish that Mechy had investigated "who is this Yaakov, anyway?" 
before writing.  He might have discovered that it is not my (non-existent)
subscription to the Jewish Observer, but my experience as a non-Orthodox 
teenager in Beer-Sheva, that is the primary contributor to my understan-
ding of the current situation in Israel.  It is readily apparent that 
_one_ of us simply fails to comprehend the mentality of modern Israeli 
society concerning sexual mores.  

This is something that affects both Sherut Leumi, and service by men in 
the Army itself.  For all of the talk about how the Army keeps Kosher, 
has chaplains, etc. etc. etc., I do not see many people giving Esther 
Posen's comments the attention that they deserve.  It is remarked by 
_secular_ Israelis (who are quite proud of this accomplishment) that one 
cannot find anywhere in the world an Army where standards that we 
Orthodox would define as "moral" are more loosely maintained, and where 
nocturnal visits between genders are greeted not merely with less 
attention but actually offered tacit encouragement.  For all my best 
efforts, I am unable to prove them wrong - and would be greatful if 
someone else would do so before again accusing me of hotza'as shem ra.  

Rabbi Aharon Rotter, author of the Sha'arei Aharon - a popular 
tripartite commentary on Torah, Onkelos and Rashi - describes this 
situation as a "danger to our continued existence here, heaven forbid, 
as the verse says 'and your camp shall be holy, and you shall not see 
within it any naked thing (ervas davar) lest you turn back.'  And the 
entire miracle of the Hasmonean victory was because it was 'the impure 
into the hands of the pure' and so too the miracle of the vessel of oil 
was because it was imprinted with the stamp of the Kohen Gadol..."  All 
of this was based, incidentally, on the Chazon Ish's original remarks on 
service by women in the Army _and_ Sherut Leumi.

There are countless other personal stories, but Mechy is right that 
individual stories do not determine a trend.  The problem (referring to 
the Sherut Leumi girls enjoying the Teveria beachfront) was not whether 
the behavior _was_ "criminal," but whether it was regarded as such.  
This, in the end, was why the Chazon Ish noted that many in _Orthodox_ 
circles would not greet his ban ("Yaharog V'Al Yavor" - better to be 
killed rather than to go, which is only used in reference to the cardinal 
sins of Idol Worship, Murder... and Sexual Immorality) with enthusiasm: 
"because we have those who make merriment over the same things that are 
to us plunder and disaster."  I would not dare assert that Mechy or 
any who agree with him take a careless attitude towards interaction 
between boys and girls - however, it is clear that he not only does not 
recognize how _low_ the current standards really are, but he also does 
not know how sheltered is a Bais Yaakov girl from the advances of 
"hormonally-burdened" young men - which non- and even modern-Orthodox 
girls learn to deal with at an early age.

The declaration by the Chazon Ish (and others) said that those Rabbis 
who made a different calculation had made an error - and that following 
them could lead a young girl into very dangerous straits.  Before 
condemning the Chazon Ish for having the chutzpa to make such a 
statement, it might at least be appropriate to use the 30+ years of 
historical evidence to determine if, in fact, he may have been right.


I hope that all enjoyed this (even Mechy!) - my schedule is about to 
lead me too deep into my real work for me to do much more than lurk on 
this list (well, perhaps to post a brief response...).  I hope that 
others will take up the gauntlet down the road...

Yaakov Menken


From: Jonathan Katz <frisch1@...>
Date: Mon, 05 Dec 1994 22:06:08 EST
Subject: Scientific Truths

Regarding Ralph Zwier's question about apple juice/flour vs. water/flour:
The answer, to me, is simple. That there is water in apple juice is a 
scientific fact which is not in question (nor even under discussion) by the
Rabbis when they decided that fruit juice/flour is not Chametz.
For the Rabbis, it is simply a halachic question: is juice/flour chametz
or not? Now, this question can be answered independently of whether there is
water in juice or not - the point is (in this case) irrelevant.
I see the "problem" that Mr. Zwier sees, but I think that one needs to 
often keep the physical world and the halachic world separate in one's mind.
This is the idea behind legal fiction (that is, the facts are one thing
but are taken to be halachicly irrelevant), as well as all legal definitionas
and boundaries of any sort (that is, does it really, physically make a 
difference if I walk 1999 or 2001 amot on Shabbat? No, but halachicly it

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


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Mon, 12 Dec 1994 12:29:48 -0500
Subject: Sheirut L'Eumi

While I know that many have protested the slandering of this service, as I
have personal "negiah" here, I -- too -- feel compelled to speak up.
1. When I was at the Tehilla Offices in Tel Aviv a few years ago, they were
  staffed by Sheiru Leumi girls... Very sweet young people who seemd most
  wholesome AND were *not* in some sort of sexually predatory atmosphere.
2. My nieces are "Sheiru Le'umi" veterans with one having completed 2 years
  and the second now completing her second year.  When I was last in Aretz, my
  [older] niece was discussing the issues that she had teaching concepts of
  Shabbat to students from irreligious backgrounds... THAT was the nature of
  her "terrible" Sheirut Leumi work.  I have no doubt that these 2 women were
  both m'kadshot Shem Shamayim in a profound way and I -- too -- take strong
  personal offense to the notion that the women who have served in Sheirut
  Leumi have -- somehow -- compromised themselves morally.  Further, I strongly
  believe that the poster of such comments owes all of us a public and total
  apology for being "Motzee shem ra" in a most literal fashion.
3. Since the Rabbanim are SO EAGER to not have girls serve in the Army (for 
  very proper reasons, I may add), they make it "easy" for any girl -- 
  religious or not -- to get into Sheiru Leumi.  Instead of condemning the
  program, maybe the poster should go back and re-read the discussions that
  we originally had on "judging l'kaf zechut" [In this case, my "kaf zecut"
  for the poster is simply ignorance -- he literally did not know any better.]



From: Mechy Frankel <frankel@...>
Date: Wed, 7 Dec 1994 12:03:08 EST
Subject: Sherus Li'oome - absolutely my last (trust me) reply to Y. Menken.

With one exception there is not much point in responding yet again to most of
the assertions in yaacov's most recent anti sherus li'oome letter (he was kind
enought to send me an advance info copy) since I would simply be repeating my
original posting, though I note in passing his continued methodologcal
preference for proofs of the anecdotal variety. (cf Wash Jewish Week reference
though even the anecdotal relevance is opaque). Despite yaacov's teenage
experience in Beersheva i will repeat that I think he needs a serious sherus
li'oome reality check by aidei ri'eyah ne'emanim, and perhaps E. Turkel's
letter in Tuesday's mj would be a good place for him to start. 

The one major new exception I have to take is against the possibility that a
reader might infer from Yaacov's language that I chas vi'shalom suggested, in
Yaacov's words, "condemning the Chazon Ish for having the chutzpah to make such
a statement"  (re his opposition to sherus li'oome). I of course would not, and
did no such thing. The Chazone Eesh, sui generis and taamav eemo, reached his
position during the social/political era that he did and I not only did not
mention him at all, but indeed did not "condemn" any of the past or current era
opponents, nemookayhem emahem. However, as do talmidei chachamim, gedolim, and
poskim who have reached opposite conclusions, I reserve the right to reach very
different current judgements. It seems to me that it is precisely this sort of
attempt to de-ligitimize the opinions of those who disagree with you, to
include deligitimizing or censoring talmidei chachamim to ensure a retroactive
conformity to currently correct positions, that is too often characteristic of
a minority component of the tefilin laining community.

Though Yaacov didn't adress this point, I might as well repeat that there is a
major problem here of lack of hacaras hatove by the currently 
non-participating anti-army anti-sherus li'oomi community. 

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


From: <burton@...> (Joshua W. Burton)
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 94 08:41:47 -0500
Subject: Re: Talmud and Science

M. Shamah writes:

> Mathematics can do wonderful things but can not help us here.  The
> Talmudic passsage under discussion - in which the wise men of Israel
> said the wise men of the nations appear more correct - was not referring
> to the yearly sun-earth cycle but to the 24 hour cycle of each day.
> Decisive proof that day and night result from neither the earth rotating
> around the sun nor the sun rotating around the earth can simply be
> brought from the astronauts' observations and our space cameras.  Thus,
> both theories of that passage are disproved.

Please explain what you mean here.  Seems to me that I can believe (1) that
the sun is stationary (or perhaps moving through the galaxy at 300 km/s and
through the cosmic microwave background at 600 km/s, motions that dwarf the
earth-sun velocity) and the earth moves around it and spins, (2) that the
earth's center is stationary and the earth spins as the sun and stars move
around it yearly, (3) that the whole earth is stationary and the sun and
stars move around it daily, (4) that the satellite taking the pictures is
stationary and the sun, stars and earth move around it every 89 minutes, 

(5) that all _three_ bodies (earth, satellite, and sun) are stationary, and
that the curvature of spacetime brings light to different sides of the
earth (and appropriate views to the cameras) at different times of day, or
even (6) that the Einstein equations have a gauge symmetry implying general
coordinate invariance, and thus that (1)-(5) all predict the same dynamics
and the same observations.  Since I happen to believe (6), I can take my
pick among the first five views, as calculational convenience and mesorah
may require.

Please note that the remark of one poster (essentially, that geocentric
views require the distant stars to be moving faster than light) is incorrect.
If I want to believe for some reason in a stationary-earth coordinate
system, then the distant stars are spinning around me at just less than c
(so that Alpha Centauri goes around me every twenty-odd years, and the
Andromeda Galaxy every ten million or so), and the transverse Doppler shift
takes care of the rest, warping the light that reaches my eye so as to
simulate a yearly or daily uniform rotation of the cosmos.

With all the agonizing that has been going on in this forum about how science
(usually meaning seventeenth-century science, the sort people like to throw
in our rabbis' faces) gives new answers, I think it is appropriate to note 

that science also has the power to teach us to ask better questions.  What
look like questions on which the validity of Torah (hv"s) would stand or fall
often turn out to be mere pilpul if you ask them carefully.

   `I do not love...to be so teezed by   +------------------------------------+
forreigners about Mathematical things.'  |  Joshua W. Burton   (401)435-6370  |
--Newton, after solving Joh. Bernoulli's |        <burton@...>        |
  brachistochrone in one evening (1697). +------------------------------------+


End of Volume 17 Issue 22