Volume 17 Number 74
                       Produced: Thu Jan  5 23:16:05 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Bas Mitzvoh; History, Halochoh, and Hidden Agenda
         [Mechy Frankel]
Dr. Haym Soloveitchik's article in Tradition
         [Arnold Lustiger]
Lights, Camera, Action, etc.
         [Sam S. Lightstone]
Why Bad Things Happen to Good People
         [R. Shaya Karlinsky]


From: Mechy Frankel <frankel@...>
Date: Thu, 05 Jan 1995 17:43:57 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Bas Mitzvoh; History, Halochoh, and Hidden Agenda

1. History: 

a) One poster referenced Mordechai Kaplan, founder of Reconstructionism,
as the source for the first bas-mitzvah celebration. A similar claim was
made recently in the Wash Jewish Week in a local story here which
included an interview with Kaplan's daughter who recounted in some
detail the personal circumstances of this innovation.  However, it is my
imperfect memory that the German community was celebrating these back in
Germany long before Kaplan. I should probably have first checked this
out with my esteemed and estimable mechutan Henry, a fount of knowledge
for, among many other things, all things yekkish. Anybody familiar with
this? Henry, are you out there?

b) R. Ovadia Yosef references a teshuva on this subject by R. Avraham
Mosfia (cited in "Noam", 7) which, aside from giving hearty approval to
the concept and specifically recognizing it as a seudas mitzvah (which
legal status makes a difference in reference to the degree of obligation
to attend if invited) mentions, inter alia, that such was the custom in
the towns of France. No date or source citation was supplied with this
alleged French practice, but these too, perhaps, are referencing
pre-kaplan 19th century ashkenazi practice.  Anybody know about this?

c) I apologize for repeating the information if someone has already
mentioned this, though I can't offhand recall it, the source most
usually cited for a bar mitzvah celebration (apparantly first by the
Maharshal in Yam Shel Shelomo) is Kiddushin 31b, where the story is
recounted of R. Yosef, who was blind, (and therefore not obligated in
performance of most mitzvos) and was at first highly pleased at the
contemplation of his state since he performed mitzvos anyway (even
though not obligated), but is later disappointed to learn that the
chazalic consensus was that "gadol hamitzuveh veoaseh" i.e that the
obligated mitzvah performer was on a higher plane. He originally wished
to have some public celebration (yoma tuva lerabanan) for, not clear
exactly what, but presumably his performance of mitzvos. He then states
that he would now throw a party if someone authoritative would override
this consensus and inform that he is again on the higher plane when he
perform mitzvos. The Maharshal concludes from this story (R. Yosef's
celebratory impulse at merely hearing a positive report related to
mitzvoh performance) that it is appropriate to have a public celebration
to commemorate the new obligation to actualy perform mitzvos entered
into by the bar-mitzvah boy. Of course, as all the matirim note, an
identical logic is applicable to commemorate the girl's new obligations
to perform mitvos.

2. Halochoh: 

a) In R. Yosef's article/teshuva on this subject published in Shonoh
Beshonoh (tashmag, a Heichal Shelomoh pub) he cites a string of fellow
bas mitzvoh posikim approvers, including the Ben Eash Chai (Re'ay 17),
R. Mosfia (above), Yascil Avdi (Orach Chayim, 28), and the Siriday Aish
(siman 93), and Nitivei Am (siman 225).

b) He cites R. Moshe Feinstein's negative opinion to specifically
disagree with it. In particular, he cannot understand why R. Moshe would
distinguish between the celebratory requirements of the boy and girl
based on the different levels of "hecair" or public recognition that is
associated with the entering into obligation (e.g. the boy's public
participation in minyan, etc.) He asks how could R. Moshe make such a
differentiation without any established basis, when the clear
celebratory requirement is chal with the entering into the obligation,
equal for boy and girl, and not dependent on later form of
performance. He also cites the harmful effects of appearing to
"discriminate" and the Siriday Aish's similar perspective.

3)  Hidden Agendum:

 As I recall R. Moshe's teshuvos, he seemed quite upset with boy's bar
mitzvos in general these days, given the frequent chillul shabbos and
chillul hashem associated with such affairs as practiced.  In fact, to
prevent these manifestations, he states that he would ban the boy's bar
mitzvoh if he only had the power, and doesn't only because he knows that
no one would listen to him. Given that stated position, it does not take
a rocket scientist to intuit that R. Moshe's negative perspective on the
public celebrations of a bas mitzvoh may stem from similar
concerns. Here, however, he may well consider the perceived opportunity
to nip this not yet (at the time of the teshuva) very widespread
practice in the orthodox community before it goes down the tubes, like
the bar mitzvoh excesses he would have liked to legislate out of
existence.  Thus, rather than basically disagreeing with the Rishon
Litsion's compelling legal logic, R. Moshe's opposition may stem from an
"extraneous" but, to R. Moshe's estimation, overriding consideration. An
"ais la'asos" so to speak.

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


From: <alustig@...> (Arnold Lustiger)
Date: Thu, 05 Jan 1995 15:10:32 -0500
Subject: Dr. Haym Soloveitchik's article in Tradition

The publication of any article by any Soloveitchik is a major
event. This is particularly true of a lengthy article which just came
out in Tradition called:" Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation
of Contemporary Orthodoxy". The article is a sociological analysis of
Orthodoxy in the postwar world. The bulk of the article contrasts the
transfer of religious information in the previous generations, when it
was done "mimetically" (i.e. through imitation) versus today, when the
information is transmitted through the written word. Using this basic
thesis, he explains the ascendance of Yeshivot, Da'as Torah, Artscroll,
the shift towards more stringent observance, and a host of other
sociological realities in the Orthodox world. The article is quite
objective, and gives no value judgements. I would therefore heartily
recommend it to anyone on mail.jewish.

The final section of the article just blew me away. In it he first
contrasts Yamim Noraim in the largely nonobservant synagogue in which he
grew up versus Yamim Noraim at a "famous yeshiva" in Bnai Brak.
Although prayer in the latter was "long, intense and uplifting,
certainly far more powerful than anything that [he] had previously
experienced", yet "something was missing". He then describes how in his
synagogue in Boston the congregants were largely irreligious, most
originally from Eastern Europe. "What had been instilled in these people
in their earliest childhood was that every person was judged on Yom
Kippur, and as the sun was setting, the final decision was being
rendered...these people cried...not from religiousity but from self
interest, an instinctive fear for their lives...what was absent among
those thronged students in Bnei Brak was that primal fear of Divine
judgement, simple and direct".

Dr. Soloveitchik then continues to explain that while today a curious
child may be told that diseases come from viruses, in yesteryear he
might have been told that they are the "workings of the soul or "G-d's
wrath". "These causal notions imbibed from the home are reinforced by
the street and refined by the school." "G-d's palapable presence and
direct, natural involvement in daily life - and I emphasize both
'direct' and 'daily'... was a fact of life in the East European shtetl."

His most subjective statement, and his most powerful, lies in the

"...while there are always those whose spirituality is one apart from
that of their time, nevertheless I think it safe to say that the
perception of G-d as a daily, natural force is no longer present to a
significant degree in any sector of modern Jewry, even the most
religious. ...individual Divine Providence, though passionately believed
as a theological principle...is no longer experienced as a simple
reality. With the shrinkage of G-d's palpable hand in human affairs has
come a marked loss of His immediate presence, with its primal fear and
nurturing comfort. With this distancing, the religious world has been
irrevocably separated from the spirituality of its fathers...

"It is this rupture...that underlies much of the transformation of
contemporary Orthodoxy. Zealous to continue traditional Judaism
unimpaired, religious Jews seek to ground their new emerging
spirituality less on a now unattainable intimacy with Him, than on an
intimacy with His Will, avidly eliciting Its intricate demands and
saturating their daily lives with Its exactions. Having lost the touch
of His presence, they seek now solace in the pressure of His yoke."

I wondered if there are others who read the article who would like to
share their thoughts.

Arnie Lustiger


From: <light@...> (Sam S. Lightstone)
Date: Thu, 5 Jan 95 10:31:14 EST
Subject: Lights, Camera, Action, etc.

Seth Ness wrote recently on the discussion regarding motion activated
lights and video cameras. He commented that the two activities were
dissimilar in that passing by a motion activated light causes the
completion of an electrical circuit, while the the same could not be
said of a video camera. This is only somewhat true.

Seth's statement about the motion detector and the light is very
true. However, passing in front of a video camera is not an
electronicly inconsequential activity.

When you pass in front of a video camera the light viewed through the
camera lens is used to modulate an electrical signal. This is not unlike
the way speaking into a microphone modulates an electrical signal.

Moreover, if the camera is a digital one, then modulating the video
signal probably has the effect of switching many transistors, and
therefore causing many small circuits to turn off and on.

However, I should also state that this exact issue became problematic
for my wife and I since we moved into an apartment which had a video
camera installed in the front lobby. I discussed this issue with the rav
of my shul, who (after a lengthy deliberation) finally decided that it
was acceptable to pass through the front lobby on Shabbat given that:
there is no intention on our part to "use" the camera, and we derive no
benefit from it.

However, the idea that video cameras can be operated on Shabbat even
though we do not turn off or on their main power supply, greatly
oversimplifies what is going on inside the device.

Sam S. Lightstone


From: R. Shaya Karlinsky <msbillk@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Jan 1995 11:25:37 +0200 (WET)
Subject: Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

     This origin of this question is built on a number of assumptions.
1) We are ENTITLED to have good things happen to us.  2) Everything that
happens to us is either a reward or a punishment for something that we
did.  So if we behaved well, we deserve to be paid back in kind with an
easy life.
     Judaism has a different perspective which does not accept these
asuumptions.  We are in this world to confront challenge, to CHOOSE to
do good deeds.  Every situation in which we are placed is a test, and it
is our responsibility to respond with ethical behaviour and service of
G-d.  This is the purpose of our temporary life on earth, and the level
of our success determines our place in an eternal reality.
     The real question then becomes: Why do bad things happen to good
people - as well as good things?
     If G-d gives us good health, social prestige, or lots of money, it
isn't necessarily because we have been "good boys and girls."  He is
giving us resources with which to serve Him, and it is our
responsibility to use those resources for that purpose: To imitate G-d
by giving to and helping others; working to bring the recogniniton of
G-d in to the world; improving the world in some way.  When we are in a
situation of poor health, poverty or some other difficult situation, it
is not neccearily a punishment.  We are being challenged by G-d to
remain faithful to Him, to commuincate to the world our conviction of
His existence, and to contiue serving Him in every situation.
     Ideally, every resource that G-d gives us should be utilized in
His service.  So if a person is given one million pounds a year, he
must justify how the entire amount was used in some way or another in
the service of G-d.  This does not mean that comforts of life, nice
homes, or recreation are discouraged.  They may truly enhance our
effectiveness as human beings, they may improve our disposition so
that we are nicer to our neighbors, they may enable us to host more
guests and treat them more lavishly.  But we may frequently find that
we spent a lot of money on our personal self-aggrandizement, or to
satisfy physical or social drives that in no way imporved our ability
to serve our Creator.  If G-d sees how a rich or healthy person is
misusing his resources, He may decide to redistriute them.  With only
25,000 pounds a year, we would have an easier time standing before our
Creator explaining how every pound was used on the necessities of
life, devoted to serving Him.
     G-d can only expect service commensurate with the resources He
provides us with.  If a person is ill, poor, or suffers tragedy, this
is his challenge.  How will I serve G-d under these circumstances?
And without people placed in these difficult situations, there would
be no challenge for others to give of their resources to improve these
     We prefer going through life healthy, wealthy and wise. If G-d
grants us those resources, it places great responsibility on us to use
them totally in the service of G-d, improving the world, and sharing
with those who were given different challenges.

Sources for further study:
     The Way of G-d.  Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Part 2, Section 3.
     Talmud Bavli, Brachoth, 5a
     Talmud Bavli, Bava Bathra, 10a
     Kli Yakar, Shemot 22:24

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky                   Darche Noam Institutions
Shapell's/Yeshivat Darche Noam          POB 35209
Midreshet Rachel for Women              Jerusalem, ISRAEL
Tel: 972-2-511178                       Fax: 972-2-520801


End of Volume 17 Issue 74