Volume 21 Number 11
                       Produced: Fri Aug 18  0:06:48 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chief Rabbinate/Daas-Torah
         [Eli Turkel]
Halacha = Morality (?)
         [Steve White]
Halacha and Paying Taxes (2)
         [Carl Sherer, Erwin Katz]
         [Eli Turkel]
         ["Lon Eisenberg"]
Rav Lau on: "Can you call up Reform clergy for an Aliya
         [Isaac Balbin]
Zodiac Signs
         [Elozor Preil]


From: Eli Turkel <turkel@...>
Date: Thu, 17 Aug 1995 11:25:20 -0400
Subject: Chief Rabbinate/Daas-Torah

    Mr. Sherer argues that the chief rabbinate is a political office. To
some extent this is clear. Even in 1935 when Rav Soloveitchik ran for
the position of chief rabbi of Tel Aviv he did not receive the position,
among other reasons because he was considered too much of an "Aggudah"
rabbi.  It is not known why he declined to become chief rabbi of Israel
later on, but at least one strong reason seems to be that he considered
the position too political. Nevertheless, IMHO one has two choices with
respect to the rabbinate in Israel. Either one considers it irrevelant,
e.g. the charedim, because it is political, or else one agrees to abide
by the decisions of the chief rabbinate without second guessing their
motives. One cannot (and I am in no way accusing Mr. Sherer of doing
this) accept their decisions whenever they are acceptable and reject
them on political grounds whenever they are not. Similarly, it is not
acceptable to second guess them and claim that they said one thing for
political reasons but really meant something else - none of us are

    He further asks

>> What if I ask my own posek and he has no opinion on the question, if 
>> these nine Rabbis are among the gedolei hador and are the only ones to 
>> have spoken out on the issue am I required to follow their psak?
>> (I suspect at least the answer to the last one should be yes, because 
>> that is da'as Torah)?

   I have written extensively on daas torah and have no wish to discuss
it further. However, I suspect that the most fervent believer of daas
Torah could not accept this position. It is impossible to believe that a
follower of Rav Schach (for example) is required to follow the position
of other gedolim on every issue that rav Schach has not stated a public
opinion.  No gadol is required is state his opinion on every position in
the world to prevent his followers from being required to obey the psak
of some other gadol. A psak of these 9 gedolim affects their followers
and has absolutely no halachic implications for followers of other

   Maharatz Chajes has an extensive discussion of the concept of
majority.  He proves that a majority "wins" only in a formal
court. However, after the end of the Sanhedrin there is no concept of
following the majority of rabbis on any issue. First, one has no way of
deciding which rabbis to include in any "vote". More fundamentally there
is no such concept as majority when the rabbis are spread out
geographically and chronologically and are all not debating the issue in
one room. Furthermore, even in a court of law, one requires a majority
of those present, not a majority of those voting, in order to issue a
psak. Hence, one certainly is not required to follow the psak of any
gadol merely because others have not discussed the issue.

    Both Rav Feinstein and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Zt'l made a big
point of never issuing a psak on general issues but only on an immediate
problem.  I previously brought a story of Rav Auerbach where he refused
to pasken on an issue that would arise in another month. He said he
would deal with the issue at the appropriate time. Rav Moshe states in
his sefer that he would pasken whether Golda Meir (as a woman) was
allowed, according to halacha, to be prime minister only if the Israeli
government would ask him a formal question. He would not pasken on
matters that had no practical application since obviously the Israeli
government didn't care about his opinion.  It would be absurd to
conclude that if some other gadol did issue a psak on such an issue that
followers of Rav Feinstein or Rav Auerbach would be required to follow
such a psak because their gedolim refused to issue a psak.

Finally he asks

>> Are there criteria for determining when I am *required* to go ask
>> a question of my own posek?

   This is a more difficult question. I suspect the answer depends on
the person asking the question. It is well known that Rav Lichtenstein
went to Rav Auerbach for several personal questions. It certainly does
not mean that Rav Lichtenstein ran to rav Auerbach for every question.
He by himself paskened for many others. Rav Lichtenstein had to decide
when he was unsure and when not. In fact every local rabbi has to decide
when he is capable of answering a question and when he goes to his
posek.  Certainly we would be in trouble if every question had to go a
gadol.  Where to draw the line is very difficult and personal. Even the
Chatam Sofer asked a question of other gedolim concerning whether he was
required to travel to visit his mother because he was afraid that he
might be affected by personal considerations. According to halacha he
was certainly allowed to pasken for himself, he just personally felt he
would prefer an outside, unbiased position.

>> Can I have one posek for one type of question and another for another type

   This is done all the time. In fact I know of several cases where
major poskim refused to answer a question, because their personal
opinion was to be stringent, and instead sent to the questioneer to
another posek who they knew was more lenient. I know of several LOR who
go to different poskim for their questions based on their area of
expertise. Rav Feinstein would refuse tp pasken on many Israeli issues
and send the people to Israeli poskim but would respond to the same
people on other issues.

    Similarly, I am bothered by non-Israelis who are very involved in
the issue of "peace" for land and abandoning bases etc. Whatever, the
outcome of this period of history those living in Israel will - G-d
forbid - have to fight the next war, have missiles attack their homes or
hopefully reap any benefits. I am not interested in someone from outside
of Israel telling me what to do, on either side of the issue, when my
sons and not his will be the future soldiers. Meyer Rafael of Australia
asks whether President Weizmann
>>  can continue to accept the credentials of a government ..
Well, legally he has no other choice. As Himelstein and Schnee have
stated the state of Israel is not a halakhic state. Rabbi Bechhofer has
pointed out that the Haredi rabbis have long complained about many
violations of Halachah in Israel. If Rafael wants to do something about
all of this I suggest he make aliyah and live in Yesha instead of
complaining.  I also suggest that anyone discussing this issue list his
place of residence as part of any discussion.

Eli Turkel
Raanana, Israel


From: <StevenJ81@...> (Steve White)
Date: Tue, 15 Aug 1995 00:09:28 -0400
Subject: Halacha = Morality (?)

I don't think that I can agree with my friend Zvi Weiss on this.  If it
is true that halacha DEFINES morality (his terminology), then it can
only be in the sense that that which is NOT halachic is NOT moral for a
Jew.  In other words, the halacha DEFINES the limits of what MIGHT

However, there is a saying that one can be a scoundrel (? -- is that
word exactly right) within the law; this suggests that it is possible to
be immoral even while acting totally in accordance with halacha.  (Note
that the formal-logical analysis of the if-then above only implies that
what is moral must be halachic, not that what is halachic must be

Actually, I think it's an interesting question as to whether one can say
that all of the Torah's requirements (mitzvot aseh) are actually moral.
They are not immoral of course, but might be amoral -- neutral with
respect to morality.  (Are the commands to count Nisan first, or to make
the Temple wash basin out of copper, moral, or are they just there?  It
would be immoral to ignore them, of course.)  Even if you feel that all
mitzvot aseh are by definition moral, some activities are permitted but
not mandated by the Torah?  So are they moral? immoral? equally moral to
each other?

So I don't think that the comment about "halachic and moral arguments"
is either redundant or offensive.  It simply refers to decisions taken
as to what of two halachically permissible actions one might choose to


From: <adina@...> (Carl Sherer)
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 95 22:29:38 IDT
Subject: Halacha and Paying Taxes

Jacob Klerman asks:
> What is the halacha about paying taxes?  Is there reason to distinguish
> between various types of taxes?  As usual, mekoros (specific citations)
> would be useful.

The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society Vol. I No. 1 has an
article by Rav Hershel Schachter shlita on Dena DeMalchusa Dena (the law
of the government is the law), and he discusses this issue on Pages
109-115 of the article.

-- Carl Sherer
	Adina and Carl Sherer
		You can reach us both at:

From: ERWIN_KATZ_at_~<7BK-ILN-CHICAGO@...> (Erwin Katz)
Date: Mon, 14 Aug 95 14:41:15 CST
Subject: Halacha and Paying Taxes

I refer you to the gemarah Pesachim,112b right after "Maaseh Derav
Poppo" where the gemarah advises(loosely translated) Don't fool around
with taxes or you may lose all your assets!

From: Eli Turkel <turkel@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 1995 12:58:26 -0400
Subject: Halacha/Morality

Mr Weiss writes
>> My understanding has always been that the halacha DEFINES morlaity for us
>> that something that the halacha permits or mandates cannot be
>> considered "immoral" for Jews.

   Actually this whole topic is very debateable. Is there a ethic
independent halacha? There is a comment of Chazon Ish that seems to
agree with Mr. Weiss.  On the other hand Rav Lichtenstein has an article
on "Lifnim Me-shurat ha-din" that seems to argue for some ethical
positions that are not in halachah.

    That something that halacha mandates is not immoral is taken for
granted. His second statement that something permited is not immoral is
much more questionable. Thus for example, the Ramban (in parshat
Kedoshim), considers the possibility of a wicked person within the
bounds of formal halacha.  I once read a story that Rav Moshe Feinstein
was making the rounds with a talmid (Rav Alpert) collecting charity
funds. They argued for a while who would pay the subway fare for Rav
Alpert. At one point Rav Alpert said that if Rav Feinstein was so
insistent then it must be based on some section of the Shulchan
Arukh. Rav Feinstein responded that it was not based on shulchan arukh
he simply felt that it was the right thing to do.

    When the Begin government was involved in a controversy over a
slaughter in one of the refugee camps in Lebanon Rav Soloveitchik
threatened to resign from the Mizrachi movement unless the Mafdal party
voted to investigate the issue. My understanding is that his strong
opinion was not based on a specific halachic issue but rather on his
moral ourage at the situation.



From: "Lon Eisenberg" <eisenbrg@...>
Date: Tue, 15 Aug 1995 09:29:10 +0000
Subject: Halakha/Morality

Zvi Weiss validly points out that morality is determined according to
halakha (you can't do something REQUIRED by halakha and at the same time
be doing something immoral); however, IMHO, the halakha does not always
prevent immorality (you can sometimes do something PERMITTED by halakha
and at the same time be doing something immoral).  Haven't we recently
discussed a case where a man married off his minor daughter (technically
within halakha, and even encouraged by halakha under appropriate
conditions), yet, at the same time, did a very immoral act?  I'm sure we
can all think of other examples.

Lon Eisenberg   Motorola Israel, Ltd.  Phone:+972 3 5659578 Fax:+972 3 5658205


From: Isaac Balbin <isaac@...>
Date: Tue, 15 Aug 1995 10:05:41 +1000
Subject: Rav Lau on: "Can you call up Reform clergy for an Aliya 

On his recent trip to Melbourne, Rav Lau Shlita was allegedly asked by a
member of a "modern orthodox" shule if it was permitted to call up a
clergyman of the Reform movement. This clergyman was from a neighbouring
City and was a brother of a Bar Mitzva Boy's mother. Rav Lau permitted
the Aliya. This information was relayed to me by a member of the shule
who told me that the Rabbi of the shule, Rabbi Michael Fredman, had
organised for the Sheila to be put to Rav Lau.

I must say that I was shocked by the Psak. Rav Moshe in the Igros went
as far as saying that we should not even answer Amen to a Brocho from
either a Reform or Conservative Clergyman.

Does anyone know what Rav Soloveitchik's attitude to the above problem


From: <EMPreil@...> (Elozor Preil)
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 1995 01:39:05 -0400
Subject: Re: Zodiac Signs

Joel Ehrlich writes:
>I had always thought that the symbols of the Zodiac were neither of
>Jewish origin or concern.  But recently I have seen them in places such
>as artwork in a Hebrew bookstore, and in kinot.

A few years ago in Israel, we visited an excavated 6th century shul at
Beit Alfa, and the entire mosaic floor was a Zodiac motif.


End of Volume 21 Issue 11