Volume 20 Number 24
                       Produced: Wed Jun 28 21:16:39 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [David Steinberg]
Avos - A Traditional View
         [Yitzchok Adlerstein]
         [Yeshaya Halevi]
Historical Revisionism
         [Joel Goldberg]
History as it SHOULD be - Censorship of Hebrew books.
         [Gilad J. Gevaryahu]
Names, an Historical Footnote
         [Mordechai E. Lando]
         [Danny Skaist]
Rambam and Kabbalah
         [Jeffrey Woolf]
The Avot
         [Avrom Forman]


From: David Steinberg <dave@...>
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 1995 13:55:01 +0100
Subject: Avos

Avrom Forman's question regarding the Avos is one that I've thought
about aver the years.  I share his background of black-hat yeshivas and
have likewise run across Rabbonim and teachers who take a literary view
of the Avos.

My personal solution is to imagine a contemporary godol in the role of
the role.  For example, imagine Rav Moshe Ztz'l in the role of Yaakov
Avinu.  I find it incomprehensible to imagine Rav Moshe doing anything
deceitful.  I therefore find it necessary to reexamine my understanding
of the text.

We have it on the witness of our predecessors that their predecessors
were at a higher level than they.  Those predecessors in turn regarded
those that came earlier as having been on a higher level still.  That
does not imply that the Avos were perfect.  But it should eliminate
depictions that fail to take as fundamental their greatness.

Dave Steinberg


From: <yitzchok.adlerstein@...> (Yitzchok Adlerstein)
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 95 00:22:34 -0700
Subject: Avos - A Traditional View

While Avrom Forman's question about our attitude towards the Avos
deserves a much fuller answer, I will contribute just one modest thought
to the discussion.

All of us who consider ourselves Orthodox recognize that interpretation
of the Torah is not a free-for-all.  We understand that its Author had a
certain meaning, or at least set of meanings, in Mind when He
communicated with us.  Unlike many Protestants, we don't allow ourselves
the luxury of feeling that G-d "speaks" to us as individuals from the
pages of the Bible, showing us in our hearts what He wants from us.  We
do not reach personal understandings of what tefillin, or Shabbos, or
tzedaka, or kashrus are supposed to be about.  We recognize instead that
Hashem asks us to turn to the Mesorah [oral tradition] to determine what
He asks of us.

To be sure, the parts of Torah that do not immediately seem halachic are
no less important.  Hashem does not waste space in His precious Torah.
The stories, the narrative portions of Chumash, were also written with a
definite aim in Mind.  The traditionalist approach is to assume that we
can access this purpose through means that are no different than those
we use to determine halacha.  Mesorah richly describes the basic
parameters, the essential approach we take in deriving meaning from our
Torah.  To be sure, there can be (as the Author Himself intended) a rich
variety of nuances and variations within the basic approach, just as
there can be many halachic opinions on a given issue.  But just as there
are some opinions clearly outside the pale of halachic thinking, there
are interpretations of text that lie outside the boundaries of the
approach our Mesorah has provided for us.

For those readers in whom this argument resonates, the rest is simple.
The evidence is overwhelming, at virtually every stratum of commentary
from the time of the Gemara forward, that the Avos are treated as
occupying a spiritual pinnacle, of coming as close to fulfilling G-d's
mission for Man as human beings ever did.  (For some of the possible
reasons as to why this is so, you are invited to examine an article that
appeared in the Spring '90 issue of Jewish Action.  The author is an
unabashed promoter of the specialness of the Avos.  I know him well :-)
:-) :-) If you can't get to the article, he can probably be persuaded to
send you a copy by snail-mail if you send me your address.)  They were
not perfect.  But their imperfections must be seen (as indeed our
sources consistently demand) as flaws only relative to the greatness
that usually attended them, and that was therefore expected of them by
G-d.  Their flaws were not our flaws.

The words of the Zohar (Part 3, 152a) are appropriate here:

     Woe to those people who say that the Torah comes to relate
     stories and common incidents.  For if so, we could use such
     incidents to make a Torah, even in our time, and use even
     better ones!...All of the Torah deals with elevated ideas, and
     Heavenly secrets... The narrative portions of the Torah are
     but a garb for the Torah... Fools look at nothing but the
     story...Those who comprehend more...look at what is beneath...

The choice is a simple one.  We can be guided by the collective wisdom
of our Mesorah, or we can strike out on our own (pun intended).


From: <CHIHAL@...> (Yeshaya Halevi)
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 1995 13:22:40 -0400
Subject: Generations

      There is so much talk about how each generation is less than the
generation that preceded it, that I would like to propose the opposite;
a thought that some might think heretical.
       I think that our generation in some ways is more holy than the
generation of Jews who left Egypt and received the Torah from God
Himself at Mt. Sinai.  And of course I include converts then and now.
       The Exodus Generation witnessed the 10 plagues, the parting of
the sea, the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, manna and the Pillars of
Fire and Smoke which accompanied the B'nai Yisrael (Children of Israel)
in the wilderness.  To believe in God in the face of so many miracles
was no great stretch, whether one was born an Israelite or even a
heathen Egyptian.
        We, on the other hand, have not seen those miracles.  Instead we
witnessed in person or electronically the Holocaust, Hiroshima, mass
famine in the world, the trivialization and brutalization of humanity
and other blows to faith.
         To believe in God in spite of this is, literally, awesome. Is
it not a much harder achievement than that of the Exodus/Sinai
         And to have a convert not only believe in God but actually join
the People of Israel despite all this >>and<< the contempt in which so
many goyim hold us almost defies description.
         Let the others be the Me Generation.  Jews are the We Generation.
         You are all my people, and worthy of the Mashiah. 
   <Chihal@...> (Yeshaya Halevi)


From: <goldberg@...> (Joel Goldberg)
Date: Tue, 27 Jun 1995 11:00:38 +0200 (WET)
Subject: Re: Historical Revisionism

Shmuel Himelstein <himelstein@...>  writes about revisionism:
> The various hagiographical biographies of Gedolim published in English
> and Hebrew. Obviously Gedolim are in many ways sui generis, and their
> lives are indeed replete with remarkable behavior characteristics from
> which we have much to learn, but the way some of these books are
> written, one would think that they had the ability to leap over a
> building in a single bound.

   I have been hestitating to bring this up, because of the Lashon Hara
aspect, but I also think that the topic is important--especially as it
may cause people to make serious errors.  I have discovered that one
cannot rely on even the main detail of the stories involved in some of
these biographies. In a recently published book, by a well known author,
about a very well known Gadol, there is a story whose main point, the
reason the story was included in the particular section of the book, is
absolutely backwards from the way it actually happenned. I know, because
the author called my mother-in-law to ask her about the details. My
mother-in-law told the author to call my wife, which the author never
did do (everyone involved lives in Jerusalem.) When my wife and I saw
the book, my wife told me that the story is wrong. I questioned her
closely about it, and she was quite clear, saying that precisely the
incorrect aspect of it had been a big deal that caused a lot of back and
forth between her and the Gadol.

  So, now, when someone says that "Gadol X felt this way about issue Y
-- see what it says in his biography," I take it with a grain of salt.

Joel Goldberg


From: <Gevaryahu@...> (Gilad J. Gevaryahu)
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 1995 14:12:20 -0400
Subject: History as it SHOULD be - Censorship of Hebrew books.

In a thought provoking entry Shmuel Himelstein (June 27, 1995) brought
to the limelight the problem of Jewish censorship of Jewish books by
haredim and other people. These groups think that if we (Jews) will know
less, and get a distorted view of writing of the gedolim and the Torah,
we'll be better Jews.

I would like to share some other examples of such censorship:

In Rabbi Zevin's book Ha'moadim Ba'halacha page 371 Hebrew edition, the
last two lines did not make it to the English edition by Art
Scroll. Dealing with the issue of: Do we need keriah (=tearing) over
cities in Judea & Samaria?

In Mishnayot, Yachin u'Boaz, by Tif'eret Yisrael (Pardes edition) page
176 (Siman 77) to masechet Kidushin, the (Meorot 1976) edition omitted
one the last perushim of Yachin.

In the Meorot edition, the derasha of Or Ha'chaim at the end of
Sanhedrin is missing. Dealing with the age of the world [the Midrash
"boneh olamot umachrivan]. [I heard that new editions are puting it

In Mekor Baruch by Rabbi Baruch Ha'Levi Epstein (a histoty of his
period), Art Scroll censored a story about the Natziv's aunt (I did not
see it myself but received this example from a trusted source).

Alll these and other systematic censorship of books by Jews for the sake
of writing history the way it "should" be written is a disgrace and
intelectual dishonesty. This is also an aveira (sheker) and chilul

A side issue: Is "Sheker" an issur de'Oraita "me'dvar sheker tirchak"(
Ex 23:7) or de'Rabanan? Sefer Ha'chinuch counts this pasuk for dayanim,
but the Talmud expands this to a general lie. Does it include ommision
or only commision?

Gilad J. Gevaryahu


From: Mordechai E. Lando <landom1@...>
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 1995 12:17:51 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Names, an Historical Footnote

I have been following the thread concerning the same name for a man and
his father-in-law etc. and Mechy Frankel's citation of the Igros Moshe.

I'd like to point out that both of Reb Moshe Feinstein's sons in law; my
rebbe Reb Moshe Shisgal zt'l who tragically passed away very young and
l'he'bau'dayl l'chayim Rabbi Moshe Tendler had the same first name as
their great shver zt'l.

The appocraphyl (but perhaps true) story in Mesivta Torah Vodaath was 
that, because of the names issue, Rebitzen Shisgal referred to her 
husband as Morris.

Mordechai E. Lando ha'm'chu'na Yukum


From: DANNY%<ILNCRD@...> (Danny Skaist)
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 95 13:00 IST
Subject: Pi

>Joel Goldberg
> make. The "Yam shel shlomo" was very big. If one were to take a piece
> of string, stretch it across the diameter and call that length "1", then
> one could use this "1" to make a much longer piece of string into a ruler.
> Using this longer piece of string, one could measure around the circumference
> of the "Yam" and see that it is significantly greater than 3. In fact,

This is just not true.  The pasuk says that the "Yam Shel Shlomo" was 30
amot around and 10 amot across.  It is the source of using Pi rounded to
the whole number 3.

We have been here before. If I may quote from an old issue of m-j

>Date: Mon, 7 Jun 93 14:46 EDT
>From: <garber@...> (David Garber)
>1. There is a tradition of "Reading-vs.-Writing" in Melachim Aleph [1 Kings],
>23:7, about the value of PI: the word written as "Qavo" [Qof, Vav, Heh] is
>read as "Qav" [Qof, Vav] (this word means "line", and it refers to the
>circumference of the "Yam Shel Shlomo" [the molten sea of king Shlomo]).
>From the Pasuk [verse] we learn that the ratio between the circumference
>of a circle to its diameter (i.e. PI) is 3. But a more percise value is
>given as follows: (the Gimatriya [numerical equivalent] of "Qavo")
>divided by (the Gimatriya of "Qav"), i.e. 111 [(Qof=100)+(Vav=6)+(Heh=5)]
>divided by 106 [(Qof=100)+(Vav=6)] is approximately equal to PI divided by 3:
>                      111
>           PI = 3 x ------- = 3.1415094  (!)
>                      106



From: Jeffrey Woolf <F12043@...>
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 95 20:36:55 IDT
Subject: Rambam and Kabbalah

I don't believe we're rehashing this silly theory that Rambam knew
Kabbalah or Zohar. Rambam was a thorough aristotelian till the day he
died. The 'note' so often referred to is a comment by Migdal Oz, who was
a Kabbalist and therefore an interested part. And if Rambam did
'teshuvah' how come he didn't tell his son and closest disciple? It is
more likely that the Zohar saw the Mishneh Torah than vice
versa. R. Yaakov Emden....Help!

                                        Jeffrey Woolf


From: <CFishb2575@...> (Avrom Forman)
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 1995 11:13:13 -0400
Subject: The Avot

In response to Mordechai Perlman and M. Dratch concerning the Avot.

I would like to preface this post by saying that I never Chas Vashalom
meant any disrespect to the Avot when I posed the question of "Malachim
or People".  It is obvious that these were gedolim and that their
actions are the reasons for Am Yisroel. My point for the past post was
as follows. There are a number of rishonim and achronim who come to
explain many incidents as mentioned in the Torah. Whether it be about
Dovid Hamelech and Batsheva or about Moshe hitting the Selah there are
meforshim who will come to explain the story from different perspectives
and the 'correctness' of their actions. However, in my past education I
was always given a one sided explanation; namely that the Avot were
always correct.

The real issue here is the question of hashkafa and a derech in
learning. I therefore propose that regardless of which derech you take,
there is always something that can be learned from these stories in the
Torah. This is an essential part of learning, that we always get
something out of what we are studying and that we be able to apply it to
our everyday lives.

In regard to the issue of 'black' yeshivot vs. other yeshivot in regard
to the derech they take to learning, I will say the following. I feel
that 'black' yeshivot tend to have a very close minded approach to
learning. That is to say that there is only one approach to learning and
that other ways of explaining the same issue are not explored. I would
like stress here that this is my opinion of how these yeshivot operate
and that it is based on my experiences.

Avrom Forman


End of Volume 20 Issue 24