Volume 18 Number 86
                       Produced: Tue Mar 14  0:47:07 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Blinders on???
         [J. Dora Schaefer]
Is G-d Perfect (2)
         [Yaakov Menken, David Charlap]
Pride and Prejudice
         [Saul Stokar]
Putting the cart before ...
         [Steve Albert]


From: J. Dora Schaefer <jschaef@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 1995 10:55:58 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Blinders on???

H. Hendeles seems to be blaming Modern Orthodoxy for something he is guilty 

>This statement underscores what is, IMHO, a significant problem with the
>so called "Modern Orthodox" - viz.  approaching halacha with
>preconceived biases and opinions.  There is a major difference between 
>approaching the Torah from an unbiased standpoint, vs. approaching it to 
>find support for your beliefs.  

Each generation approaches halacha from its own world view defined by our 
parents, our teachers, our rabbis, our friends.  Do you really think that 
Rambam, a physician and man of the world, had the same world view as 
Moses?  Should we not interpret the Torah in the context of our times?   
Should we not include medical advice (modern, very different than would 
be heard in the times of the Gemarra) in halachic decisions?  Was R. 
Neuwirth wrong (chas v'shalom) for compiling shmirat shabbat, almost 
entirely devoted to incorporating innovations of _our time_ into the 
observance of shabbat?  

>This latter approach, so prevalent in our modern society, undermines 
>the entire relationship between the Jewish people and G-d; for we are 
>supposed to be "avdei hashem" [servants of >G-d] and not vice-versa.

Does shmirat shabbat undermine the relationship between the Jewish people 
and hashem, or is this the cornerstone?  Do you truly believe that the 
use of the crockpot on shabbat distances us from hashem?  Is the shabbos 
clock, a more radical innovation, really a stumbling block?  It seems to 
me (IMHO) that finding ways to include women, within halacha, in 
_meaningful_ aspects of Judaism, and this extends to many, many aspects 
from raising children (isn't teaching talmud torah an absolutely 
essential part of this, how can we be left ignorant with such an 
important responsibility) to reading and hearing kiddush, megillah, and 
hamotzi (why shouldn't a woman read megillah for other women when the men 
have already fulfilled their obligation.  Every Purim, there are multiple 
readings, and always women who are not able to make it to shul -- why 
not?) is no more radical. 

>Unfortunately, the Torah is not interested in your opinions nor is the
>Torah interested in my opinions. G-d did not consult us before he wrote
>the Torah. The question we must ask is "What does G-d want?" --- and
>NOT "where can I find a basis in G-d's Torah to support my opinion".

Torah is not changing or subject to opinion, _but_ (and I quote Adin 
Steinsaaltz, The Essential Talmud") some of our interpretations certainly 
and necessarily are:

"the Talmud is concerned with subjects, ideas, and problems, there 
evolved over the centuries the custom of quoting various views in the 
present tense: "Abbaye says, Rabba says."  This stylistic habit reflects 
the belief that the work is not merely a record of opinions of the 
scholars of past ages, and should not be judged by historical criteria.  
The talmudic sages themselves distinguish between personalities and 
periods... but the distinctions are cited when strictly relevant and are 
not employed for evaluation or discussion.  For these scholars time is 
not an ever-flowing stream in which the present always obliterates the 
past; it is understood organically as a living and developing essence, 
present and future being founded in the living past.  Within this 
wide-ranging process, certain elements take on a more stable form, while 
others, pertaining to the present, are flexible and more changable; the 
process as such, however, is based on faith in the vitality of each 
element, ancient as it may be, and the importance of its role in the 
never-ending, self-renewing work of creation." 

Who is any one of us to end the cycle, end the process of questioning.  
Admittedly, women's roles have changed radically in the last century.  It 
is quite threatening to those who fear the unknown, but isn't that why we 
have Torah?  It gives us the means to "coordinate the a priori concept 
with the a posteriori phenomena" (Soleveitchik, Halachic Man).  Many of our 
grandmothers worked outside the home in Europe, particularly if our 
grandfathers wer soferim, so don't fool yourself.  Kollel wives often 
support their husbands, and this is seen as o.k. by even the right wing 
spectrum.  Women have not stayed the same over the ages, and neither has 
their "essential nature" (or any nature -- compare diseases of the Torah 
to modern afflictions - different).  We have questions, and thank G-d, so 
many are posing that inquiry within halacha, and living within 
traditional Judaism, when there are so many other options out there.

Dora Schaefer  


From: <menken@...> (Yaakov Menken)
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 95 11:27:07 EST
Subject: Is G-d Perfect

>From: <eshnav@...>
>Subject: Is G-d Perfect
>My 6th grade Sunday school religious class asked this question and I did
>not have a good answer since I am not well-read in Torah nor Talmud having
>had basically a secular education. My rabbi replyed that nowhere in the
>Torah does it say that G-d is perfect. I would like to go back to the class
>and provide them a more indepth answer that can stimulate discussion.

The Rambam in Yesodei HaTorah (Fundamentals of Torah) refers to G-d as the
Matzui Rishon (Prime Being? First Being?), who has no body and is completely
Emes (truth) and who created all else that exists.  Further, we are
incapable of understanding Him at His fundamental essence.  So albeit that
we cannot see this, G-d is complete, missing nothing, and is therefore
perfect - that which could not be better in any way.  The Ramchal (Rabbi
Moshe Chaim Luzzatto) in Derech HaShem (the Way of G-d) says this
explicitely in Section I, Chap. I paragraph 2: "It is furthermore necessary
to know that G-d's true nature cannot be understood at all by any being
other than Himself.  The only thing that we know about Him is that He is
perfect in every possible way and devoid of every conceivable deficiency."

> Also the kids asked--Why didn't G-d make the world perfect???

This is a very important point - there is no doubt that this world does NOT
provide perfection in Good vs. Evil - we do not see Good rewarded and Evil
punished as would be appropriate.  Only a fool could claim otherwise!

So how, indeed, does this fit with G-d's perfection?

The answer (proved again by the Ramchal, in Section I, Chap. 3) is that this
world was not created for that purpose.  There is no set time limit on
reception of reward - that continues forever.  This world is described as
the time for _earning_ that reward.

In order for us to enjoy perfection, and connection to G-d, it is necessary
for us to earn it for ourselves (we truly master, and own, only that which
we gain through our own efforts).  Thus G-d provided us with this world,
which provides us with constant opportunities to choose in the battle
between Good/Spirituality/Pefection and Evil/Physicality/Lack.  As the
Ramchal puts it (paragraph 4):

"Since the period of earning and that of reward are different, it is
appropriate that man's environment and experiences be different in the two.
While he is striving towards perfection, he must be in a setting containing
elements necessary for such effort.  The period of earning must therefore be
one [where a maximum challenge exists and] where the spiritual and physical
are in constant strife.

"In this environment, there must be nothing to prevent the material from
prevailing and doing what it can, and conversely, there must be nothing to
prevent the spiritual from doing likewise.  ... Though it might seem best to
make the spiritual stronger than the physical, nonetheless, in the light of
man's true purpose and what G-d desires of him, namely, that he earn
perfection through his own effort, it would not be good at all."
[Translations, incidentally, are almost word for word Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's,
published by Feldheim.]

In terms of opportunities for choosing Good over Evil, this world is indeed
perfect.  We cannot prove this from direct evidence, but at the very least
we do not see this contradicted by world history.  One knows this to be true
by understanding the blueprint for the world - the Torah - and what it
explains about the nature of our existence.  _Then_ it makes sense!

Yaakov Menken                                            <menken@...>
http://www.torah.org/genesis/staff/menken.html             (914) 356-3040
Just Remember:  "LEARN TORAH!"           Project Genesis: <learn@...>

From: <david@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 95 20:08:34 EST
Subject: Is G-d Perfect

<eshnav@...> writes:
>...the kids asked--Why didn't G-d make the world perfect???

You might want to argue that it is perfect.  From there, ask the class
for some examples of why they think it isn't and then hypothesize what
would happen if that wasn't the case.

For instance, if they as "it would be perfect if people didn't die"
you can explain how death is necessary.  Explain the horror of a world
where people would get older and older and never die.

Approaching the problem from this direction is difficult.  Especially
since you're going to be expected to have answers to the inevitable
questions.  But this attitude of "gam zu letova" (even this is for the
best) when seemingly bad things happen is not without precedent.

A sage (perhaps someone can remember the name and provide the
reference) once asked his students "how would you change the world if
you were God?".  Many students propsed many things.  The one student
who gave the right answer said "I would leave everything as it is.
But, being God, I would know why it should be this way."

The real question (to me) is not "why isn't the world perfect" but
"why is the world the way it is?"

(Another attack on this question is that God deliberately left the
world imperfect so that humans could finish it off and make the world
perfect.  There are midrashic sources for this belief as well.)


From: Saul Stokar <sol@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 1995 09:56:07 +0200
Subject: Pride and Prejudice

	In mail-jewish Vol. 18 #77, Hayim Hendeles raised what is his
opinion is

> a significant problem with the so called "Modern Orthodox"
> viz.  approaching halacha with preconceived biases and opinions

He contrasts this with an alternate philosophy, viz.

> approaching the Torah from an unbiased standpoint.

	I assume that Hendeles means to imply that the so-called Haredi
(ultra-Orthodox) hashkafa (weltanschauung), approaches halacha (and
Judaism in general) without any preconceived biases and opinions.

	I find this claim so preposterous and insulting that it is hard
to know how to respond. Does Hendeles seriously believe that committed
Modern Orthodox Jews (and committed Conservative Jews) do not believe
that they are following the will of G-d but are merely trying to warp
G-d's Torah into providing a basis for their own personal needs and
beliefs, while Haredi Jews are fulfilling G-'ds "true" will? If this is
the case, Hendeles is accusing Modern Orthodox Jews (and certainly
Conservative Jews) of plain-old Biblical idolatry!

	The notion that some human being are capable of approaching
religion in general, and certainly halacha in particular, without any
preconceived biases and opinions is itself a blind prejudice. Anyone who
reads the halachic literature, from the Mishna and Talmud to the
contemporary responsa literature, with an "unbiased eye" will note that
everyone interprets Judaism via some set of biases and prejudices. For
instance, Hatam Sofer saw the world via the bias "Hadash assur min
HaTorah" - that which is new is forbidden by the Torah. Clearly, there
were MANY of his predecessors and contemporaries, who did not use this
particular "filter" to decide halachic issues.

	I am interested in hearing from other people who espouse the
Haredi hashkafa. Do you all believe that Modern Orthodoxy is a
idolatrous perversion of G-'ds word and that only you have a monopoly on
the pure truth revealed at Sinai? Is there no room for a difference of
opinion if that difference of opinion concerns basic hashkafa? Don't you
see evidence of VALID differences of hashkafa even amoung Tanaim (the
rabbis of the Mishna) and certainly amoung medieval and modern thinkers?

Saul Stokar


From: <SAlbert@...> (Steve Albert)
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 1995 01:32:09 -0500
Subject: Re: Putting the cart before ...

In MJ 18:#77, Putting the Cart before the Horse, we had the following:

>A previous poster commented:
>>However, these explanations, it seems to me, beg the question...
>>Is it an absolute and eternal religious desideratum that the
>>religious roles of women be private, and private only? If so,
>>one cannot argue with the reasoning above. However, if one
>>believes, as I do, that the place of women in religious society
>>is subject to modification based on the cultural nuances of
>>different times and places, ...
>This statement underscores what is, IMHO, a significant problem with the
>so called "Modern Orthodox" - viz.  approaching halacha with
>preconceived biases and opinions.
>There is a major difference between approaching the Torah from an
>unbiased standpoint, vs. approaching it to find support for your beliefs.
>This latter approach, so prevalent in our modern society, undermines
>the entire relationship between the Jewish people and G-d; for we
>are supposed to be "avdei hashem" [servants of G-d] and not vice-versa.
>Unfortunately, the Torah is not interested in your opinions nor is the
>Torah interested in my opinions. G-d did not consult us before he wrote
>the Torah. The question we must ask is "What does G-d want?" --- and
>NOT "where can I find a basis in G-d's Torah to support my opinion".

     I agree completely with the hashkafic point being made here, but object
strenuously to the libeling of "the so-called 'Modern Orthodox'" which
accompanies it.  To accuse an entire group of Jews of heresy in this manner,
when it is certainly NOT true that all of them (or depending on how you
define Modern Orthodox, any of them) would hold the attitude being attacked,
seems to me to be a clear case of lashon harah.  Rambam points out that
lashon harah against a group is especially bad, and one can never do complete
teshuva for such a sin, since one can never find all the members of the group
to ask mechila from them.  Please, everyone, if you feel compelled to make
comments about those who hold different beliefs (particularly when they are
Orthodox, i.e. shomrei mitzvos, rather than completely heretical), at least
restrict your attacks to the beliefs and to those individuals in a group who
may hold those beliefs.  (For example, in the present case, just insert a few
words in the above post:  "a significant problem with SOME OF the so called
"Modern Orthodox" IS THAT THEY approach halacha with preconceived biases and

      Again, I agree completely with the views expressed about how to
approach Torah; I only object to what I see as lashon harah against another
group of Jews.

Steve Albert


End of Volume 18 Issue 86