Volume 20 Number 30
                       Produced: Sun Jul  2 23:08:30 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Avos and Black Yeshivos
         [Kenneth Posy]
         [Yaacov Dovid Shulman]
Revisionism, "improvements" and R. Zevin
         [Robert A. Book]


From: Kenneth Posy <kpposy@...>
Date: Thu, 29 Jun 1995 14:58:44 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Avos and Black Yeshivos

Avrom Forman writes:
"My point for the past post was as follows. There are a number of 
rishoni, 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 

My Rosh Yeshiva, R. Ahron Lichtenstein, spoke about this very issue in
his weekly Shalosh Seudot speech this year in Parshas Va'erah. He quoted
the medrash that lists fifteen or so possible sins that Moshe commited
by complaining that Paroh increased the work load on the jews after his
first attempt to get Paroh to release them. (I don't have the exact
reference, but it is either the first section in Va'erah or the last in
Shemot) He said that the approach that Chazal take, critisizing Moshe
Rabenu for minor infractions that are barely eluded to in the text, is
only because their overall relationship to him is so deferential and
appreciative of his contribution, that people would never obscure that
with nitpicking, and it is risk free to try to learn small moral lessons
from his treatment.
 However, he contrasted that approach with the ill-advised word of a
particular member (no name mentioned) of the Israeli government said in
the Knesset. He emphasised that the lesson of any sins of out
progenitors could only be learned in the context of our dpiritual debt
to them and an appreciation of their greatness. Historicall accuracy is
fine, but we cannot lose our *heritage* for "history". (My words)
 IMHO, I think this the answer to your problem.  Chazal continuously
nitpick on minor "sins" commited by the Avos and Nevi'im, when the
tanach mentions none. On the other hand, when the tanach emphasizes what
may seem to be a major sin, Chazal do minmize the actual
transgression. I think this is because when there is a danger of us
losing our respect and admiration for the figure (Dovid was an
audulterer, Yackov had a disfunctional family, ch"v) then they ephasize
that we must take these sins in perspective of the great people and
their actions that left us a great spiritual legacy.

Avrom further writes: 
"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."

Wo'ah, I think I take exception to this remark. Although I have limited 
experience in "black yeshivahs" [most of my time was spent in "white" 
yeshivos, although most of my rabeim and friend were/are in black ones] I 
know that there are a wide variety of approaches taken to learning. The 
Briskers disagree with the Mirrers, not to mention the Telzers and the 
Chasidim. Then there is Chofetz Chaim, that has its own, well ,"unique" 
approach. This but scratches the surface of "shevi'im panim la'torah" 
(seventy faces of torah).
	However, what black (and I hope white ones also) are not open to 
is a dispationate and divorced critical approach. Critical thinking is 
fine when it is done constructively, with the understanding that torah is 
G-d's manifestation on earth and our stongest connection to Him. It is an 
emotional subject, and when the fundimental appoach of critisism is with 
the attitude of  "it's wrong, prove it right!" not "i don't understand. 
explain it, please?", that obviously draws a strong emotional reaction. I 
think that is why you will find more of the "party line" when learning 
chumash and other philisophical type subject than when learning gemarah/ 
	Not that I am implying that you or the rabanim you quoted in your 
original post took a negative approach.
	Well, this took longer than expected. This is my first post, so I 
would appreciate any pointers. (please send via private email)

Betzalel Posy


From: <YacovDovid@...> (Yaacov Dovid Shulman)
Date: Fri, 30 Jun 1995 01:07:33 -0400
Subject: History

In regard to whether generations are getting better or worse, Rabbi Nachman
of Breslov is quoted in Sichot Haran: "Rabbi Nachman said that G-d's way is
different than that of man.  After a person makes a garment, he cares for it
as long as it is new.  But as it gets older, it spoils, and he doesn't think
so much of it.
But when G-d created the world, it was spoiled at first.  Then, step by step,
it was rectified and He regarded it more highly.
Then came Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and afterward Moses.  Step by step,
tzaddikim rectify the world.  Continuously, the world becomes more precious
to G-d.  Finally, the Messiah will come and the world will be perfected"
(Sichot Haran #239).
Rabbi Nachman also mentioned that gentiles are improving: "Rabbi Nachman
spoke of the kings who war against each other and spill a great deal of blood
for nothing.  He said that a number of follies (such as human sacrifice) that
people used to believe in in previous generations have already been
eradicated.  But the error of war has not been eradicated." (Chayei Moharan
2:64, #99).

A number of messages have been posted regarding the sanitizing and falsifying
of gedolim's lives.  This is part of a greater phenomenon: the sanitizing and
falsifying of Jewish history.  An excellent example is found in the book,
 From Ashes to Renewal, issued by Agudath Israel at a recent ceremony in
commemoration of the fiftieth anniversay since the liberation of the
concentration camps.  One piece consists of an ostensible record of
Magda Bergstein's oral history.  I myself saw the taped interview with
her and read the original transcript.  Here is an excerpt from the
transcript, followed by the version in From Ashes to Renewal: 

 Original transcript: "As a matter of fact, in Auschwitz also, while we
saw the flames, we found out somehow that it was Yom Kippur.  And when
the Germans found out it was the holiest of holidays in the Jewish
calendar, they made a very rich bean soup--and we were starving and
broken up.  That was the only day that they served a rich thick soup.
What did we do?  Why did we do it?  I don't know.  Fourteen and fifteen
year old girls--we saved a few beans with a slice of bread and we said
during the day Al Cheit and a few things that somebody remembered there,
and at night we ate this piece of bread and some beans.  Why did we do
this?  Is there an explanation?  Is there an explanation?  There is no
black and white answer to anything."

 From "Ashes to Renewal": "In the hellish cauldron of Auschwitz, amid
the flames, the beatings, the hangings, the backbreaking work and the
gnawing hunger, somehow we found out that Yom Kippur was at hand.  The
Germans knew that it was the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, a day
on which every Jew fasts.  With characteristic German viciousness, they
came up with a fiendish way to torment us.  That day, instead of serving
the usual fare--a watery turnip broth--they distributed to us starving,
run-down, fifteen-year-old girls a savory, thick bean soup.  But we
defied them.  We saved a few beans and a slice of bread, and we
fasted--all of us.  We davened from memory the few tefillos we could
recall, recited the Al Cheit as best we could, and wept bitterly when we
said mi yichyeh umi yamus, "who will live, and who will die."  At night
we ate the slice of bread and some beans.  Why did we do it?  Is there
an explanation?  Who can gauge the greatness of a Yiddishe neshama?"

Another example:
 Original transcript: "You cannot judge these people [who did not remain
religious] too harshly.  You are only a weak human being, and you have
to really be very strong, or you have to experience a certain something
to put you on the right path.  You had to have an influence from
someone.  After the war a few girls were together and we started talking
about our past, our homes, and what life was like.  Whether from
nostalgia or missing everything you loved so much--I don't know why we
made a kosher kitchen there.  I don't want to say that I was a bigger
tzaddekeste than the other one--because we couldn't even think.  We were
in such shock after the war, and we were so physically, emotionally and
mentally not functional.  So how could you think of these things like
the murder of your parents, how could you justify something like that?
How can you say: Yes, this was the right thing to do, this should have
happened to them, they deserve it.  And if we were searching why it
happend to them, I couldn't find anything to justify this.  I certainly
couldn't find anything.  So maybe it was by chance--I can't explain why
I started to eat kosher after."

And now, the "From Ashes to Renewal" version:
 "Many of us felt that there was nothing to live for.  Nevertheless, a
few of us girls got together and started talking about our past, our
parents, our homes--what life had been like.  Quite imperceptibly,
something began to stir inside of us, and then suddenly, quite
impulsively, we decided to set up a kosher kitchen.  To us girls
drowning in a sea of sorrow, it was as if someone had thrown us a
lifeline and was pulling us to safety.  That kosher kitchen was our
first hesitant step on the road toward building Torah-centered homes.
It was a road that gave us back our sanity and our pride in the heritage
we had received from our avos."

So: Mrs. Bergstein says she cannot give an explanation for why she
fasted on Yom Kippur in Auschwitz.  The published version has her
stating a creed of "the greatness of a Yiddishe neshama," "defying" the
Germans.  The adaptor also improves on her experience in Auschwitz,
adding some tears to her prayers.
 And Mrs. Bergstein says she cannot explain why she renewed her kashrus
observance after the war.  The adapted version has her Yiddishe neshama
at work again ("something began to stir inside of us"), and throws in
some salubrious material about "Torah-centered homes," "roads that give
back sanity" and "pride in our heritage."
 One gets the feeling that the adapter of the transcript almost wishes
that he had been in the war instead of Mrs. Bergstein--for he would have
done it right!  He would have had the right religious feelings and drawn
the proper, inspiring conclusions.
 I do not think it carping to comment on the smarminess of the language
of the adapted text.  Mrs. Bergstein's interview is an honest statement
of what she experienced and of her thoughts and feelings.  Her language
is direct, clear and expresses her intent (and confusion) precisely and
eloquently.  The language of the reworked version is an integral part of
the falsification of that record.  Simple, powerful statements are
replaced by endless, treacly cliches that fill up sentences like Turkish
taffy filling up one's mouth: "the hellish cauldron," "backbreaking
work," "gnawing hunger," "Yom Kippur was at hand," "characteristic
German viciousness," "a fiendish way to torment us," "we defied them,"
"wept bitterly," "the greatness of a Yiddishe neshama," "something began
to stir inside of us," "drowning in a sea of sorrow," "our first
hesitant step on the road," "building Torah-centered homes," "our pride
in the heritage we had received from our avos."
 George Orwell stressed the profound connection between dishonest
thought and bad, cliche-clotted prose.  There can be no more marvellous
example than the two sets of quotations above.
 Yaacov Dovid Shulman


From: Robert A. Book <rbook@...>
Date: Thu, 29 Jun 1995 23:19:13 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Revisionism, "improvements" and R. Zevin

Shalom Carmy <carmy@...> writes
> > 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?
> The above excision was pointed out in Tradition about ten years ago. 
> Those responsible for the English edition responded that R. Zevin had 
> recanted his statement and that his widow had insisted on the change.
> What is most interesting about this explanation is that the book, in its
> original Hebrew, went through quite a few editions while R. Zevin was
> still alive, and the author did not avail himself of the opportunity to
> remove the offending passage. Apparently it took every moment of a very
> long life for him to see the light and make a deathbed repentance. Also
> curious is the fact that his change of heart reached the English audience
> so far from Jerusalem, who have been spared exposure to his Zionistic
> deviationism, but has yet to affect the Hebrew texts published in his back
> yard.

In the Gemara, when a (suspected) mistake was found, the original text
was preserved, either by enclosing a to-be-deleted phrase in
parentheses, or by enclosing an inserted phrase in brackets.  This was
done out of respect for the possibility that the "mistake" was not
really a mistake, and it applied even when changing a SINGLE LETTER.

When those of past centuries found it necessary to respect the texts of
their predecesors to such a degree, shouldn't modern-day editors and
translators show the same respect to the authors, who are no doubt
greater than they, at least in the subject of the book in question (if
not, the translators would themselves be authors!).

One might even be able to make the case that if a translation is
presented as an accurate rendition of a work in a different language,
but has actually been subjected to editing which changed the content,
then the translator has commited a fraud on the reader, and in the event
that the translation is purchased, the translator has "stolen" from the
reader, in the sense of accepting payment for one object and delivering
another while fraudulently presenting the delivered object as the
desired one.

This must be a very serious averah (sin).

--Robert Book    <rbook@...>
  University of Chicago


End of Volume 20 Issue 30