Volume 20 Number 21
                       Produced: Wed Jun 28  0:05:06 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Revisionism (3)
         [David Charlap, Avraham Teitz, David Kaufmann]
The Avot - People or Malachim??
         [Mordechai Perlman]
The status of the Avot
         [M Dratch]


From: <david@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 95 10:51:49 EDT
Subject: Revisionism

Shmuel Himelstein <himelstein@...> writes:
>The covering up of anything which might in any way detract from the
>"frum world's" view of what *should* have happened. The classic instance
>is _My Uncle the Netziv_, withdrawn by the Lakewood Cheder because,
>among others, it stated that the Netziv - Shomu Shamayim - read
>newspapers on Shabbat.

Isn't this lovely.  I wonder when they're going to censor the Torah
itself.  After all if (chas v'shalom) a Gadol reading the newspaper on
Shabbat is grounds for censorship, all the more so a book that describes:
   - King Saul refusing a direct order from God, when he spared the
     animals and king of Amalek
   - King David and his sending Batsheva's husband to war so he could
     sleep with her.
   - King Solomon taking hundreds of wives and setting up altars to
     foreign gods so he could gain political power.

I think these are a bit worse than reading the newspaper on shabbat.
And these were the greatest kings of Israel!

I find it very sad when organizations (especially Jewish ones) feel
the need to turn great men into gods, by censoring out any report of
their imperfections and human shortcomings.

From: Avraham Teitz <TEITZ.AVRAHAM@...>
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 1995 16:26:09 -0400
Subject: Re: Revisionism

Regarding Shmuel Himmelstein's post re: Revisionism, he stated:

>It's a strange world we (the frum) are living in today.
>In a translation of one of Rav Zevin's works into English, the
>English edition stated that he was opposed to the Heter Mechirah for
>Shemittah - even though the Hebrew said the *exact opposite.* When
>complaints were made about this "minor" inaccuracy in translation,
>the reply was that "Rav Zevin's grandchildren asserted that he had
>changed his mind (done Teshuvah?) about this issue in later years.
>(Sound familiar?)
> The classic instance is _My Uncle the Netziv_, withdrawn by the
>Lakewood Cheder because, he read newspapers on shabbat (this is a
>rough paraphrase)

This general tendency towards hagiography and revisionism is dangerous
because it attempts to give the current halachic trends (and dare I say
"fashion") the stamp of approval, through the bowdlerized biographies of
previous generation's gedolim (and who can argue with the previous
generation, since "nitkatnu hadoros" - the wisdom of the generations
have diminished).

We should learn the proper way to memorialize our gedolim from the
tanach, where the lives of the nevi'im and the kings were presented
"warts and all".  However, even *this* is being tampered with, through
the works of a very famous and widespread series of English translations
of tanach (and beyond), wherein only the most sanitized, inspirational,
and politically correct interpretations are given, virtually ignoring
the many perushim on tanach which are more complex and difficult.

  In sum, if everything is shaded with rose colored glasses (or
blinders, as the case may be), how are we to take the lessons of the
past into our present lives, since these lessons have been revised to
teach us only idealized, as opposed to actual, behavior.

Avi Teitz

From: <kaufmann@...> (David Kaufmann)
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 1995 00:08:08 -0500
Subject: Revisionism

>>From: Shmuel Himelstein <himelstein@...>
>It's a strange world we (the frum) are living in today. It seems that
>all those "western" values such as historical accuracy must be replaced
>by a type of "newthink" of "correct thought." That is the only way I can
>understand the views expressed in MJ (although some of them go back
>hundreds of years) that Ramban "did Teshuvah" in his later years
>vis-a-vis kabbalah. I'm not even sure which kabbalah this "newthink" is
>referring to - certainly not the Zohar, which only appeared in the 13th
>century (written or discovered by Moses de Leon - born 1240), while
>Rambam died in 1204.

There is a logical fallacy in the reasoning here. The false dilemma
appears in the parenthesis, that the Zohar was either "written or
discovered by Moses de Leon." This means that either Moses de Leon wrote
it or he discovered it, i.e, he found it much as the Dead Sea Scrolls
were found.

In fact, there is another alternative, namely, that he _publicized_ it.
Given the Rambam's (note, not _Ramban_) description of kabbalah in the
_Mishneh Torah_ (see the first 3 chapters), namely that it was handed
down from teacher to student in a carefully guarded manner, the logical
conclusion is that if de Leon did not write the Zohar - which the
evidence supports, despite Scholem - then he publicized it. (This view
is also in keeping with other testimony of the Sages from Talmudic times
on; that is, that there existed esoteric texts and teachings not
generally known - until the time of the early mystics and kabbalists.) A
man of Rambam's stature could be expected to be so taught. (Nor need we
rely on surmise; his other writings indicate familiarity with normative
mystical concepts.)

This has nothing do with revisionism (other than refuting some
"'western'" revisionism, i.e., poor, zealous or incomplete scholarship)
or Rambam doing teshuvah.

I again refer interested readers to _Shaarei Emunah_, the essay by Prof.
Lowenthal, etc. A close reading of the _Mishneh Torah_ coupled with a
solid historical understanding leaves no doubt that Rambam was familiar
with kabbalah, mysticism, yes, even the Zohar.


From: Mordechai Perlman <aw004@...>
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 1995 01:49:27 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: The Avot - People or Malachim?? 

On Tuesday, June 20 1995 22:24:00 Avrom Forman wrote:

> I have an interesting question to ask regarding the Avot and all other
> leaders and Rabbonim in previous generations. Were these individuals on
> higher spiritual levels such that they could be compared to Malachim, or
> were they 'people' who had attained greater spiritual levels as a result
> of hard work and Emunah.
> I ask this question as a result of the educational background I recieved
> growing up. My parents sent me to a 'yeshiva ketana' (which was an only
> boys school) for my elementary years, and a 'yeshiva gedola' for my high
> school years. Both schools would be considered by most as 'black'
> yeshivot. 
> In any case, my teachers in both schools always taught me that
> the Avot in particular were on such high levels of spirituality, that
> their every moves were calculated and above all NEVER wrong. Even in
> cases where the Torah says that these people had erred (E.g. Moshe
> hitting the Selah), I was taught that the Avot had somehow understood
> their actions and that they were correct.

      The gemora in Krisus says that everyone in T'nach about whom their 
actions were predominantly good ones from Adam until R' Yehuda bar Ila'i 
never did an avaira.  The common explanation for this gemora is that 
their shortcomings fall into one of two categories or both.  Either they 
made a mistake in Shikul Hada'as, a bad judgement call (e.g. Moshe hit 
the rock and called the people rebels because he thought that the 
situation warranted it despite the command of Hashem otherwise) or that 
for the level of Avodas Hashem that they were supposed to be , this act 
was unacceptable and more so was deemed equal to a sin of great magnitude 
(e.g. David Hamelech lived with Bas Sheva, despite the fact that legally 
she was separated from her husband at the time, presently or 
retroactively, so that David Hamelech was really living with an unmarried 
woman, nevertheless, Hashem counted it, because of what was expected of 
David Hamelech at his level, as if he committed adultery, for which he 
was punished in various ways).
     My grandfather, who was very close to R' Elya Lopian zt"l once told 
me in his name that the gemora says that a person must say and make plans 
for the stage of when his actions will reach the actions of his 
forefathers Avrohom, Yitzchak and Yaakov.  He asked that that is 
impossible.  The Avos were given different evil inclinations and 
different positive inclinations.  Their inclinations were on a much 
higher plane than ours.  Therefore, he said, the p'shat is that a person 
has to plan to reach the level when he will be the Avrohom or the 
Yitzchak or the Yaakov of his generation.  To use to the utmost his 
abilities as the Avos used their own.
     The gemora recounts one of the sages saying that if the present 
generation are considered people, the previous generations are as angels; 
if the previous generation is like people, we are considered donkeys.  
Take your pick.  Either way they're on a higher plane than we.  True, 
they had failings and we can learn from their failings what to watch out 
for and to increase our efforts in the direction where they excelled. 

>  Furthermore, it was suggested
> that their actions MUST have been perfect, because of Maseh Avot Simah
> Lebanim, and if they erred, then we as their children would be doomed to
> repeat the same errors as well.

    I believe I went to the same schools as you did but I never heard 
this idea.  After all, everybody knows that because Yaakov Avinu was hurt 
by the angel by the gid hanasheh, therefore although he could not be 
affected spiritually, his children, because of ma'aseh avos siman 
l'bonim, could be affected.  Perhaps it is to this that you were 
referring.  This is found in many s'forim.

> However, in the past few months I have heard some deep shiurim from a
> number of distiguished and widely followed rabbonim. Their understanding
> of the Avot seemed quite different (and in fact, my two previous schools
> would probably say that these rabbonim did not know how to learn).

    Again, I'd be interested to know who these distinguished and widely 
followed rabbonim are that our yeshivos would probably say they did not 
know how to learn.  (Please reply in private post).

> For example, it was suggested that Yitzchak was a poor father who did
> not understand his children. Proof comes in two forms. First, he did not
> even know that Esav was a killer and hunter. He beleived that Esav was a
> better son than Yaakov, whom Yitchak deemed to be a simple person
> "Yoshev Ohalim". Second, when Yaakov comes as dresses up as Esav,
> Yitchak is fooled even though he says "Hakol Kol Yaakov".

      I would refer you to the Malbim on this topic.  He has an 
illuminating p'shat on this section.  Aside from this, the yeshiva 
community is not to blame for their radical explanations, many acharonim 
should be held accountable.

Mordechai Perlman
Ner Yisroel Yeshiva of Toronto


From: <MDratch@...> (M Dratch)
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 1995 23:29:21 -0400
Subject: The status of the Avot

In response to Avrom Forman's question re: the infallibility of the avot.
 See, for example, a statement by Ramban who speaks about the sin of
Avraham Avinu in lying concerning his relationship with his wife.
(Although I have been told that Rav Moshe considered this statement to
be that of a talmid toeh.  Others deny the authenticity of the
statement) Contrast the gemaras:
 one states that anyone who says that David hamelech sinned with
Batsheva is in error, and another explains David's request to be
included in the Birkat haAvot along with Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.
When Hakadosh Baruch Hu responded that they were tested and he was not,
David asked to be tested.  Batsheva appeared.  His name is not included
in the Shmoneh Esrei.
 See also the Pituchei Chotam, Chatam Sofer's introduction to chelek
Yoreh Deah of his Teshuvot.  He maintains that Avraham Avinu did not
achieve the same spiritual level as others.  Avraham was too busy
dealing with the masses to concentrate on his own spiritual development.
The Chatam Sofer observes that God needed more people like Avraham on
earth than He does more angels in Heaven.
 The greatness of the Avot, in my opinion, is not that they were
infallible but that they were great people, with great neshamahs, who
accomplished great things and are role models for human beings, not


End of Volume 20 Issue 21