Volume 20 Number 56
                       Produced: Thu Jul 20 10:00:12 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Joseph Smith:  idolater? (3)
         [Burton Joshua, Micha Berger, Burton Joshua]
Kabbalah / Zohar
         [Stan Tenen]
Mormons and Chritianity
         [Sam S. Lightstone]
Rambam & Zohar and Zohar Authorship
         [Gilad J. Gevaryahu]
         [M. Linetsky]


From: Burton Joshua <ftburton@...>
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 1995 09:16:40 +0300 (IDT)
Subject: Joseph Smith:  idolater?

Micha Berger writes, in regard to a potential problem with a shul
sharing a building with an LDS church:

> Does the fact that these are Mormons, who are clearly polytheistic (in a
> halachic sense), as opposed to a church with trinitarian doctrine make a
> difference in this regard? Avodah Zarah is metamei ba'ohel. (Idolatry
> will make anything else under the same roof tamei.)

First of all, if we are tired of being called 'Hebrews', we should
probably return the favor and eschew the nickname.  Second and more
substantively, is there a source for the distinction Micha makes
between 'clearly polytheistic' and 'trinitarian'?  Most American
churches teach the divinity of a heretic from Galil, in the time of
Hillel.  Roman Catholics also seem to have a doctrine suggesting the
divinity of this person's mother.  Brigham Young taught the divinity
of Adam ha-Rishon, and the potential divinity of later patriarchs.

All of these doctrines are repugnant from a Jewish viewpoint, of
course---certainly compared to the monotheism of, say, Islam.  But is
there a dividing line among them that is relevant to Jewish law, and
in particular is there any reason to think that any of them constitute
avoda zara?  Remember that if we hold this way the purchase of a lot
of useful software from Utah will become problematic, at least on days
preceding their festivals.

CYLOR of course, but as a Toyota owner I have to say that the
practices prevalent in Japan and India, for example, look enough like
Canaanite avoda zara to make me a bit uneasy.  'Mormon' worship, on 
the other hand, looks fairly indistinguishable from all the other odd 
things Americans do with their Sundays.

We're sorry:  the number you      +-------------------------------------------+
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From: Micha Berger <aishdas@...>
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 1995 08:30:53 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Joseph Smith:  idolater?

I commented:
> Does the fact that these are Mormons, who are clearly polytheistic (in a
> halachic sense), as opposed to a church with trinitarian doctrine...

Joshua Burton replies:
> First of all, if we are tired of being called 'Hebrews', we should
> probably return the favor and eschew the nickname.

I had not realized the term is a nickname. For example, their public
service advertisements always end, "Paid for by the Church of Latter
Day Saints, the Mormons". I'm also not sure if one is not OBLIGATED to
refer to idolaters in derogatory terms. But, I'll stick to LDS for the
rest of the conversation.

> Second and more substantively, is there a source for the distinction
> Micha makes between 'clearly polytheistic' and 'trinitarian'?

I was assuming the opinion of the Ba'alei Tosfos who wrote that
trinitarianism is shutfus (partnership?) which is permissable under
the laws of Noach, but not for Jews.

> Brigham Young taught the divinity of Adam ha-Rishon, and the potential
> divinity of later patriarchs.

He also taught that "God" (with an O, since this is their deity) is
a collective noun, and is singular in the same sense that "family"
is in the singular. Not some 3=1 mumbo-jumbo, which the Tosafists would
not consider a sin for non-Jews, but a true pantheon, the pantheon just
happens to go by the name "God".

From: Burton Joshua <ftburton@...>
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 1995 20:55:02 +0300 (IDT)
Subject: Re: Joseph Smith:  idolater?

Shalom, Micha.

I just wanted to be sure that you didn't take my post as criticism; I
think you have raised valid questions, and I am curious what the list
has to say.  To clarify a few things:

> I had not realized the term is a nickname.

I don't think that `Mormon' is insulting or derogatory to them; it's
the name of one of their prophets, who supposedly lived in America
around the time of the Gemara, and completed the record of a rather
fantastic history going back to the Bayit ha-Rishon.  I believe it's
like the Quakers:  they know that the world calls them by what was
originally a derogatory name, and they are willing to shrug it off, so
it has lost any force it once had to demean.  The Quakers call each
other 'Friends', and the Mormons call each other 'Saints'.  I guess
the right analogy would have been 'black-hats' (not wrong, nor
particularly insulting, but not preferred) rather than 'Hebrews'.

> I was assuming the opinion of the Ba'alei Tosfos who wrote that
> trinitarianism is shutfus (partnership?) which is permissable under
> the laws of Noach, but not for Jews.

There was some discussion of this a year or 18 months back on the
list, and the conclusion was that Tosafot, who had direct experience
with European churches, were convinced that Christianity is not avoda
zara, while the Rambam, who saw Islam first-hand, reached the same
conclusion about Muslim beliefs.  Were the sources less towering, we
might whisper that darchei shalom shaded the decisions---in each case,
direct confrontation with the local majority faith was avoided.  As it
is, I don't think we have broad enough shoulders to read rishonim for
political bias, so we have to conclude that those who observed each
alien faith most closely failed to turn up the marks of idolatry.

As practical halakha, I think it is at least possible to conclude
today that there is _no_ remaining avoda zara in the world---after
all, not one of the false deities cursed in Tana"kh still commands a
following.  (Maybe in California?)  In the other direction, you can
look at all those funny statues in Orissa or Punjab, and get as
righteously upset as you like.  But in the absence of an idol I can
point at (or even in the presence of one, say the Virgen de Guadalupe)
I would rather leave the fine theological distinctions to people who
care about the difference between a 3-for-the-price-of-1 deity and a
grammatically collective or plural one.  I really don't.

If you hold pasta shells |=====================================================
up to your ear, you can  | Joshua W Burton  (972-8)343313  <burton@...>
sometimes hear the soup. |=====================================================


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 1995 08:56:57 -0700
Subject: Kabbalah / Zohar

There is a paragraph in Jonathan Katz' posting (MJ 29 #49) which I find 
very disturbing:

>A quasi-proof to the fact that the Zohar is not necessary for Torah
>thought is the fact that, to the best of my knowledge, no Yeshiva
>elementary or high schools (in America) teach Kaballah/Zohar to their
>students. If Zohar is essential to a proper understanding of the Torah,
>one would think that these schools would at least touch the subject (I
>am aware that some believe that Kaballah is not to be learned until old
>enough/mature enough, but that does not change the fact that all these
>students are progressing in Torah without the use of the Zohar!)

 From my perspective, this is an example of the worst sort of circular
reasoning.  As somewhat of an outsider, in my opinion, the reason that
Kabbalah / Zohar is not taught has nothing to do (in our age) with the
maturity of the students, but rather reflects the fact that the teachers
of our current yeshiva teachers did not teach *them* Kabbalah or Zohar

We constantly bemoan the fact that our sages of earlier generations were 
on a higher plane than ourselves.  Here, in my opinion, is a direct 
example of the cause.  My study of kabbalistic materials indicates that 
by and large, and except for a few recent examples, Kabbalah was not and 
did not have to be kept secret.  As it says in Ain Dorshin, you can only 
teach these ideas to people who already know them for themselves.  That 
the teachers of the teachers of the teachers of our current students did 
not know this for themselves, and did not pass it on to those who knew 
it for themselves, would, without the record of Talmud and Torah, 
irreversibly break the chain of Jewish learning.  Fortunately, Hashem is 
a lot smarter than us.  Torah and Mishnah are rigged so that any 
dedicated and intellectually honest student can, with diligence, recover 
what has been lost - for themselves.  If we wish these teachings to 
again illuminate Torah for all of us, as they did for the sages of the 
Mishnah, et. al., then we must stop deriding or demeaning Kabbalah 
because it is not "essential to the proper understanding of Torah", and 
recognize that we can only understand how very essential Kabbalah / 
Zohar is to Torah, after we have grasped what Kaballah and Zohar are 
saying.  When an ignorant person says "I don't see", that doesn't mean 
there's nothing to be seen.  When we declare that the teachers at our 
yeshivas don't see the necessity to teach Kabbalah, that, in my opinion, 
speaks poorly of their knowledge, and says nothing about the relevance 
of Kabbalah to Torah.  

As I have posted many times, I believe that it is ultimately essential
to Jewish survival for all aspects of Jewish learning to be studied and
presented in the best possible way.  In my opinion, regardless of who
actually wrote down Zohar, Torah is not our Torah, without Kabbalah.

The Aish/Discovery people have presented "Codes in Torah".  They have 
not presented a Torah-explanation for these codes.  This may be in part 
because of the prejudice expressed in Jonathan Katz's posting.  When the 
Aish/Discovery program looks to Kabbalah, they will find that our sages 
knew of the letter-skip patterns, knew why they were intrinsic to Torah, 
and knew which ones were meaningful and which were not.  

Torah Judaism is not just rote; it is a science of consciousness, and in 
my opinion, it's our job to reconstruct from the ample sources available 
to us the explicit knowledge that put our sages of previous generations 
on a higher spiritual plane than ourselves.  

Stan Tenen


From: <light@...> (Sam S. Lightstone)
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 95 11:37:01 EDT
Subject: Mormons and Chritianity

Correct me if I'm wrong but I though the Mormons were just another
Christian sect with the usual Christian theology of Trilogy.  They
believe in the "prophet" Joeseph Smith, are generally polygomists, and
have the nasty habit of trying to convert Jews to their faith after
they've passed away. But apart from being a little odd, I think they are
still predominantly Christian in theology.

As well, my understanding is that it is a Machloket whether or not
Christianity constitutes Avodah Zarah for goyim. (everyone agrees it is
Avodah Zarah for Jews). Christianity is a form of Shituv, in which they
believe in G-d plus some other combination of entities. The majority
opinion (according to a tape I heard by Rabbi Frand) is that Shituv is
not Avodah Zarah for goyim.

So much for side points. As for your main question regarding the Church
in the same building as the Shul, I have not idea.  It certainly sounds
like a bad situation.

Sam S. Lightstone
Workstation Database Manager Development
IBM Canada, Software Solutions Laboratory
VNET: TOROLAB2(LIGHT)    INET: <light@...>


From: <Gevaryahu@...> (Gilad J. Gevaryahu)
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 1995 10:52:13 -0400
Subject: Re: Rambam & Zohar and Zohar Authorship 

Mordechai Perlman writes:
>On Thu, 13 Jul 1995, Yisroel Rotman wrote:
>    I can't locate it at the moment but the Rambam brings a halacha
>concerning Chalitza and the Vilna Gaon says that there is no source for
>this halacha except in the Zohar.  This may be a bad source for the
>Rambam's knowledge of Zohar because the Vilna Gaon says that the Rambam
>had no knowledge of the study of PARDES.

The current holding ("scientific" if you will) is that De Leon complied
known rabbinic texts and presented the collection as the Zohar
book. Thus you will find in it authentic rabbinic midrashim from various
authors and periods. If there was a forgery in the Zohar, it was the
presentation of it as one texts which came that way via transmission.

The conclusion (by Perlman) that Rambam must have taken it from the
Zohar (according to GR"A) is thus faulty. He might have access to one of
this original midrashim, which found their way later into De Leon's
Zohar. Thus we don't know if Rambam used the Zohar.

Gilad J. Gevaryahu


From: 81920562%<TAONODE@...> (M. Linetsky)
Date: Tue 11 Jul 1995 10:26 ET
Subject: Zohar

In issue 41 someone wrote that the anachronisms of the Zohar are not so
problematic as its contents. I find it hard to agree that when the Zohar
disagrees with the Midrashim, that there is something truelly
problematic with that. In all of Jewish history there is disagreement
about even the most funda-mental beliefs, such as ex-nihilo and the
like. The true problem may lie in a comparison between the Zohar,
attributed to Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai and his Mekhilta. I do believe that
they are not in full agreement. See the doctoral dissertation of Zvi
Yehuda, "The two Mekhiltot". The Vilner Gaon, in his library was found
to have only a piece of his Mekhilta, and it is doubtful if he was able
to determine where it was from. I am only curious how having the
Mikhalta in front of him would have affected his conclusion about the
authenticity of the Zohar


End of Volume 20 Issue 56