Volume 17 Number 31
                       Produced: Sun Dec 18 10:38:41 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Creation, Eden, and Flood as Vision
         [Avi Rabinowitz]
Daas Torah (2)
         [Binyomin Segal, Heather Luntz]
The very first syag
         [Jeremy Nussbaum]


From: Avi Rabinowitz <avirab@...>
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 1994 11:01:28 +0200 (IST)
Subject: Re: Creation, Eden, and Flood as Vision

 Rambam writes that ALL times Torah says God spoke to a prophet, angel
appeared, it is a vision, including all the parts of the story.Ramban in
Vayera objects strenuously, but all his objections are answerable. The
discussions in mail-J reflect this difference of approach. 
 Rambam also mentions Adam and Noah as prophets, but does not refer
specifically to them when giving examples of prophetic visions. 
 I recently came across the discussion here in mail-J, and was interested
as I myself have written on the subject, as part of a book I hope to
publish.  It is interesting in this way to obtain a preview of the flak I
will get. The events in Eden represent a challenge by God of humanity, and
this type of challenge is of the quintessential type best posed in the
mental realm, as part of a vision. (Manoach and his wife had a joint
vision, as perhaps did Avraham and Sarah, and if there was an actual Adam
and Chava, so did they.) After the flood Noah does not mourn loss of all
humanity, relatives, friends etc. In the psukim as opposed to midrash
noone is described as knocking on his door to get in as the flood waters
rise, noone comments on the strange sight of all animals entering the ark
etc. Surreal to be sure.  I think it is interesting to explore this type
of approach, but mistake to present it as 'the correct approach' or to
justify it because it may or may not solve some alleged problem with
science. To some frum people it is entirely acceptable to some the
opposite. Rambam and Ramban would probably have differed even had they
conversed about it for years together. Vive la difference, diversity is


From: <bsegal@...> (Binyomin Segal)
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 1994 20:33:53 -0600
Subject: Daas Torah

Moshe Koppel writes about some additional examples of what is being called
"stifling daas Torah". These examples for the most part continue to support
my point - daas Torah is a halachik psak. So,

> A quasi-haredi
>high school was prevented from opening in Yerushalayim because it
>intended to offer bagrut (high school diploma),

Besides the obvious point that they were not really prevented from opening
- I don't think Hebrew U has the blessing of the gedolim and it does fine
in Jerusalem, I would point out that whether or not to devote class time to
structured secular learning is fery much a halachik issue. The tradition in
Yerushalayim - long before the State - forbids any secular learning and
many schools were prevented from opening. Rav Hirsch - the great proponent
of secular learning was asked for an aprobation to open such a school in
yerushalayim. He refused. 

>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')

There are halachos that limit learning apikorsus. The question of how to
apply da ma shetashiv is a real halachik question that is quite complex -
but the issues are halachik.

The same is true for the other examples that Moshe wrote - at least the
ones Im familiar with. We sometimes resent certain halachos - or feel
uncomfortable with certain interpretations or applications of those
halachos - but that doesn't mean we should dissallow others to follow that

>the real stifling is
>the every-day lot of any inquisitive, creative yeshiva bochur.

Like for example? Is he stifled by not being allowed a Playboy? Or even a
Newsweek?  Newsweek was assur in my yeshiva -and though I walked in
thinking that was weird - I walked out appreciating just how much of
American society is pornographic. Pornography is certainly a halachic

There's plenty of room for creativity and inquisitiveness in yeshiva - sure
you have to learn the rules by which to play - but that means developing
the self-discipline to be a true scholar.

>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.

Examples please of non-halachik stifling dark shadow daas Torah???!!!

>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 my experience Roshei Yeshiva are rarely ivory tower. They often speak
with baal habatim to raise funds, etc. Not to mention their alumni who keep
in touch and continue to ask them shaylos. And though some might find
idealism stifling, I think many of us find it uplifting.


From: Heather Luntz <luntz@...>
Date: Sun, 18 Dec 1994 22:39:49 +1100 (EST)
Subject: Daas Torah

Binyomin Segal writes:
> The other two, a ban on mixed rabbinic organizations & drafting women
> are good examples. In my opinion they're good examples because they
> demonstrate my principle. Daas Torah is used to identify halachik issues
> that we might miss.

and then

> In conclusion, I think these examples prove my original contention. Daas
> Torah - generally speaking - is the ability of those well-versed in
> Torah to identify halachik issues that we don't see. As such all the
> rules of psak apply. Of course it's intrusive. (And I dont think thats
> bad) That we (myself included) look at these examples and dont see the
> halachik issues merely proves that we need daas torah to point them
> out. Do we want to learn to identify them ourselves - then let us all go
> and study diligently.

I think this post helps elucidate one of the fundamental problems i have 
with this whole daas torah debate - that different people seem to use 
different definitions of what is meant by daas torah - and then, not 
infrequently in the discussion, the one meaning slides into the other.

As far as I can see there are four different definitions of daas torah 
being used:

1) the definition that Binyomin is using in the above paragraphs, namely 
that daas torah involves the identification of halachic issues that we 
just don't see - but if called upon the posek could give halachic 
sources stemming from the gemorra through rishonim and achronim, and so 
it is really not very different to poskening vis a vis kashrus or shabbas;

2) Daas Torah involves the application of a Torah weltershung (I never 
know how to spell that word) to broader situations, ie if you asked the 
posek, he would not bring halachic source material - but on the other 
hand he might bring aggadatas and other material drawn from our vast 
literature that indicate that his approach is consistent with an 
overall, unified Torah philosophy;

3) Daas Torah involves making decisions - in cases where halachically 
there is no present issur, but the posek feels concerned that a particular 
course of action might lead some/many people to fall into issur. In this 
regard they are making decisions similar to the siagum, takanot, gezarot 
that have in previous generations been instituted by the Rabbis;

4) Daas Torah involves predictions as to what will happen in the future. 
This last being akin to some sort of nevuah.  For me the classic case of 
this was brought to my attention in a shiur i happened to end up in in the 
small hours of one Shavous morning in Jerusalem (the sort of shiur that 
is not my  normal haunt). The maggid shiur told a story of a man who 
asked a gadol whether or not he should take a certain trip - the gadol 
said, no don't go now, the man went anyway, and the ship sank. The moral 
of the story - listen to gadolim. Now it is not inconceivable that there 
could have been halachic issues involved - eg the man could have just 
married a wife, but the assumption of the teller of the story was very 
much, that the gadol could "see" what would happen - that is why he was 
asked, and that is why the inevitable consequence ensued when he was not 
listened to.

Now there are possible objections to all four of these meanings:

1) the only objection to 1) could come from somebody who understands the
nature of providing piske halacha, certainly of any major import, as
necessitating t'shevas. The idea that although when an individual may
need a quick psak the posek will just give a yes or no answer - when
poskening on any matter with wide ramification, the posek is obliged to
provide reasoning and justification - if not necessarily to the
individual concerned, to the halachic world at large.  ie if the
halachic world knows about the psak, it ought to also have access to the
reasoning.  - It is not clear to me how widely this position is held,
but there certainly are schools of thought that hold this to be the
responsibility of a major posek.

2) A possible objection to this meaning is an understanding that
(possibly because of the yerida of the generations) we are on firm
ground when halachic decisions that can be directly traced to the mesora
are given, but that to extend it to other matters is dangerous. To put
the argument in its strongest form - it is better that we acknowledge
that certain things are being examined in a way that does not
necessarily arise out of Torah, than to possibly be over on baal tosif.

3) Objections to this meaning are fairly obvious, in that the instituting 
of takanot and gzerot are regarded as permissible in only limited 
circumstances today - and certainly problematic when there is no 
consensus on the gadol hador or general acceptance by the community of 
any particular gzera.

4) And of course the idea that people might be confusing the talmid 
chacham with the navi is problematic for many (including, I believe, the 
Baal HaTanya).

So it may well be that people are in favour of some of the definitions
of daas torah, and against some of the others, or against all or in
favour of all. But it might help if people could define which of the
above they think is the operative definition - and whether or not they
are comfortable with the use of the term by others to mean the other
definitions. For example, a person could easily say - I am against daas
torah, when what they mean is - I am worried about people using
definition 4) - I have no problem with definition 1) but that isn't what
the danger is. On the other hand, a person could agree totally with that
attitude to the definitions but feel that mostly what is occuring falls
under definition 1) so we don't need to worry about the few cases of
definition 4) -and so define themselves as in favour of daas torah. In
which case what is in dispute is the reality of what is occurring.  On
the other hand, maybe there is real diagreement centering on the same

Can the disputants clarify?



From: <jeremy@...> (Jeremy Nussbaum)
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 94 11:20:51 EST
Subject: The very first syag

> >From: "Yaakov Menken" <ny000548@...>
> I didn't find a corresponding Da'as Zekeinim, but Rashi says that Chava 

Teaches me to cite from memory at work :-)

> _added_ to G-d's command (and "added" is critical here).  I recall 
> hearing (Midrash?) that it was Adam's fault, actually:  Note that G-d 
> gave him the command before creating Chava, and therefore it fell to 
> Adam to transmit it.  Adam, intending to keep her from sin, told her not 
> to even touch it - but made the mistake of explaining this AS IF THAT 
> WAS G-D'S ORIGINAL COMMAND.  The snake then fooled her by shoving her 
> into the tree and saying "see, nothing happened!"  [I'm not certain what 
> punishment (if any!) was to be expected for involuntary contact with the 
> tree, but I'm sure the source discusses it.]
> Now this is not a "syag" (fence) at all, but today would be called a 
> transgression of "Bal Tosif" - not adding on to G-d's command.  The 
> lesson:  making fences around the Torah is _good_ - but claiming that 
> they are themselves Torah commandments is _bad_.

IMHO, in practice, this distinction between a syag promulgated as a syag
vs a syag promulgated as God's command (or as halakha per se) does not
seem to hold up.  Sure, the promulgator and his students know the origin
of the syag.  Then there are the next set of people who hear it and then
the next set, and soon it blends into the halakhic rubric.  After all,
who distinguishes between mixing poultry and milk from mixing meat and
milk, and both of those from cooking meat and milk.  How many people
distinguish between a shvut on Shabat (a rabbinic prohibition) and an av
melacha (a primary prohibition for which the penalty for intentional
transgression is death)?

It seems to me, rather, that the lesson is that indiscriminate fences
around the Torah is bad, and that one has to weigh advantages and
disadvantages of adding fences.  Put more "ludicrously," while
prohibiting all communication between people outside of that required
for mitzvot per se might lessen the amount of Loshon Hara and other
aveirot, the disadvangtages of such a syag are such that few have tried
to promulgate such a principle.  (Of course wrt communication between
men and women, there is the mishna in pirkei avot, but that can be food
for another thread some other time.)

Jeremy Nussbaum (<jeremy@...>)


End of Volume 17 Issue 31