Volume 21 Number 18
                       Produced: Sun Aug 20 23:33:30 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

A Defintion of Orthodoxy
         [Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer]
Consulting Willows
         [David Neal Miller]
Davening at the Kotel
         [Carl Sherer]
Definition of Orthodox
         [Alan Zaitchik]
Definition of Orthodoxy
         [Michael J Broyde]
Hallah; Literature/Bible; Shofar
         [Richard Friedman]
Hatekufah Hagedolah Election Flyer
         [Melech Press]
Rav Soloveitchik & Chief Rabbinate
         [Shalom Carmy]
The Bible as Literature
         [Alan Cooper and Tamar Frank]
What is Orthodox
         [Micha Berger]


From: <sbechhof@...> (Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer)
Date: Fri, 18 Aug 1995 12:56:09 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re: A Defintion of Orthodoxy

I must have missed the beginning of this thread, but I maintain that the
defintion of Orthodox is, as the word implies (despite its disparaging
origin), someone who subscribes to the doctrines, i.e., the theological
principles that the Rambam set out (loosely summarized in the Ani
Ma'amins and Yigdal) as the fundamental tenets of Judaism.

As Heilman and Cohen in their book on Modern Orthodoxy "Cosmopolitans
and Parochials" pointed out, many people are sociologically Orthoprax,
despite lacking solid belief in the underlying Dox.

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer


From: David Neal Miller <miller.3@...>
Date: Sun, 20 Aug 1995 00:47:33 -0400
Subject: Consulting Willows

I wonder whether anyone could provide information (personal narrative,
textual sources, scholarly discussion) regarding the custom of
consulting willows to foretell the future. I know that this practice was
part of my great-grandmother's consultancy (curer, clairvoyant,
opshprekher[i]n), but there my knowledge ends. Did one visit the willow
(Yid. _verbe_) or merely consult its leaves? If the former, did one look
for specific signs or commune with it more generally? Were there
attendant rituals? Did anyone have access to the verbe's wisdom, or only
(wise) women? What was the practice called in Yiddish? Was it shared by
coterritorial non-Jews?

Does anyone remember a song in which Chava Albershteyn's persona
announces her intention to visit a willow which would "alts dertseyln"
[tell all] about her intended? Note, possibly lehavdil, that Disney's
Pocahontas consults a willow to the same end.

Many thanks in advance.

David Neal Miller
        Visit "1010 President Street: A Brooklyn Home Page"


From: <adina@...> (Carl Sherer)
Date: Sat, 19 Aug 95 23:21:45 IDT
Subject: Davening at the Kotel

There is a minhag we have heard of davening for forty straight days at
the Kotel for something one really wants, whether, for example, for 
someone's health or a proper zivug (marriage partner), etc.  Does anyone
know of any written source for this minhag?

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


From: Alan Zaitchik <ZAITCHIK%<INCDV1@...>
Date: Fri, 18 Aug 1995 07:59:19 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Definition of Orthodox

About Ari Benkiy's definition of "Orthodox" --

I suggest we do not spend time on this doomed effort to define logically
such a complicated concept.  IMHO "Orthodox" can be argued to be a 19th
century term that is anchored in a particular sociological and
historical context (the struggle against Reform and more generally the
reaction to so-called Modernity).  Like many (maybe all) ideologies it
misunderstands its own historical context and devises a history that
reflects its official beliefs rather than objective historical
truths. In this case you could take as an example anything from
philosophical claims ("All Orthodox Jews have always beleived that
Hashem has no body" or "that all Jews will enjoy the physical
resurrection of their bodies in some future time) to historical claims
("All Orthodox Jews have always believed that the words of the Torah as
we have them were written by Moshe (except for the last few psukim
written by Yehoshua)"), and so on. These are not true claims but the
Orthodox community has devised a history for itself which incorporates
them. If you go back a few centuries you can find Rishonim who reject
these claims, but of course _their_ statements also get reworked in
Orthodox history.

Even with respect to a commitment to halakha, that commitment -- its
nature and limits -- comes in many many forms that do NOT coincide with
the Orthodox community.

The common "basis" being sought is not definitional, neither with
respect to beliefs about theology, history, halakha, or whatever. It is
a common sociological context in which people live their lives. You
cannot set sharp boundaries around it and come up with a "definition".
And I cannot see why a "definition" would be a good thing to have,



From: Michael J Broyde <relmb@...>
Date: Fri, 18 Aug 1995 09:28:13 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Definition of Orthodoxy

One writer stated:
> Definition of Orthodoxy.
> Orthodoxy = Shabbat (+Kashrut + Kipah). For married also a regular Mikva.
> This is a "bottom line" but a real one.

This definition is very problematic.  Kipah is certainly not a central 
halachic requirement for men; many many poskim thought that wearing a 
head covering during davening is merely a custom; see GRA OC 8:1 and 
Melamed LeHoil YD 52 (?).  Indeed, there are many clearly frum men who do 
not wear a kippah at work, and poskim sanction that; see Aruch Hashulchan 
8:1-4.  On a halachic level, I have always accepted that the central 
defintion of orthodox is that the person accepts that halacha is fully 
binding and would never deliberately violate one of its mandates.
On a social level, mikva use was never considered one of the indicia of 
orthodoxy.  It was limited to shabbat and kashrut.
Michael Broyde


From: Richard Friedman <RF@...>
Date: 18 Aug 1995 17:27:17 EDT
Subject: Hallah; Literature/Bible; Shofar

     1. Hallah.  I noted that the custom of cutting hallot one on top of
the other may reflect sexual symbolism, with the "male" halla on top and
the "female" one underneath, so that the lower one is cut on Friday
night when the dominant symbolism of Shabbat is female.  Fran Glazer
asks (MJ 20:12) whether, if the wife says motzi on Friday evening, she
should cut the _top_ halla.  Under this symbolism, I think not.  What is
symbolized is the "gender" of the portion of Shabbat, and not of the
person saying motzi -- one would cut the lower halla because Friday
night is "female" and because the female is seen (in this symbolism) as
under the male; it has nothing to do with who's doing the cutting.

     2. Literary approaches to Bible.  David Kaufman raises (MJ 20:12)
the question whether a frum person can in good conscience teach the
approaches of certain secular scholars to reading the Bible.  He
mentions in particular Robert Alter.  I think that frum people have
nothing to fear from Alter's approach, at least in his book _The Art of
Biblical Narrative_, and could learn much from it.  Alter applies
techniques developed in the study of literature to the reading the
Tanach.  He argues that the Tanach conveys its message(s) through
devices that are used in other literary works, but he clearly
acknowledges that the Bible's messages are religious.  Alter's approach
is very different from source criticism, which (for example) divides the
Humash into different source documents authored by J, E, P, and D, and
which could be problematic for someone accepting traditional theology.
Alter treats the Tanach as a unitary work (though without feeling any
need to resolve whether that unity comes through Divine Authorship or
human redaction).  His book on Biblical narrative is packed with
insights, and his use of language makes the book a delight to read.  I
do not think the book should give any substantial problem to persons
with traditional theologies, and I would urge people to read it.

     3. Shofar.  Shmuel Himelstein asks how to justify the custom of
starting shofar blowing on 1 Elul, if the blowing of the shofar
commemorates the shofar-sounding at Mt. Sinai, since Yom Kippur falls on
the 40th day only if we start on 30 Av.  I think that the custom of
starting on 1 Elul assumes that our blowing is _not_ connected with
Mt. Sinai, but is simply to prepare for Rosh Hashana, so we begin on the
first day of the month leading to Rosh Hashana.

          Richard Friedman


From: Melech Press <PRESS%<SNYBKSAC.BITNET@...>
Date: Sun, 20 Aug 95 13:50:47 EST
Subject: Hatekufah Hagedolah Election Flyer

I too had for many years been struck by the election flyer quoted by
Shmuel Himelstein from "Hatekufah Hagedolah" in which various gedolei
Yisroel referred to the period after the founding of the state as
"Aschalta Digeula". I had always interpreted it as a sign of the intensity
of the emotional response of those who had actually been present in Israel
during those years.  Some years ago I discovered from someone who actually
saved old documents that the flyer was in fact a falsification - the
original document signed by the names that Himelstein mentions did not
contain  the words "Aschalta Digeula".  What apparently occurred is that
several similar but not identical flyers were circulated with different
signatures and that they were then collated into a single statement that
appears in "Hatekufah Hagedola". Since I am in the U.S. I don't have
access to the raw material. The things we learn fromn historians!

Melech Press
M. Press, Ph.D.   Dept. of Psychiatry, SUNY Health Science Center
450 Clarkson Avenue, Box 32   Brooklyn, NY 11203   718-270-2409


From: Shalom Carmy <carmy@...>
Date: Sat, 19 Aug 1995 23:11:42 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Rav Soloveitchik & Chief Rabbinate

The Rav declined to be considered for the position of Ashkenazi Chief
Rabbi after the death of R. Herzog. The reasons he gave in writing focus
on the fact that the position is "political" whereas his vocation is to
teach Torah.


From: Alan Cooper and Tamar Frank <Alan.Cooper@...>
Date: Fri, 18 Aug 1995 11:15:31 -0500 (EST)
Subject: The Bible as Literature

David Kaufmann asks:
>For instance, can/should a frum person teach a "Bible as Literature"
>course, assuming he/she can pre-set certain parameters (i.e., which
>commentators can be used, what areas are open for discussion). Some
>secular scholars (Alter, Steinberg, etc.) have applied "normative"
>literary analytical techniques to Biblical "narrative" and "poetry."
>Can/should an observant Jew teach such analysis?

The simple answer is "why not?"--as long as one abides by the
fundamental principle set down by the Reda"q in his introduction to
kol she-yir'at chet'o qodemet le-chokhmato chokhmato mitqayyemet, i.e.,
there is nothing wrong with the application of the "chokhma" of literary
critical method to the Bible as long as one pursues that application
from a standpoint of faith commitment.  Those who do not, according to
Reda"q, become hopelessly confused (yibbahel berucho).  It is worth
noting, perhaps, that the real pioneers in the modern literary-critical
study of the Bible were a pious Jesuit (Luis Alonso-Schoekel) and an
Orthodox Rabbi (Meir Weiss, winner of the Israel Prize in 1990).
Certainly Weiss saw literary-critical method as a way of rescuing the
Bible from the impieities of the historical critics!  There has, of
course, been some legitimate concern about overvaluing the Bible's
literary/aesthetic aspect at the expense of its religious teaching (see,
e.g., some of the writings of Uriel Simon and James Kugel).  But I do
not see this as an either/or situation.  Rather, the Bible's tsachut
["literary artistry," or "beauty of expression"]--long recognized by the
mefareshim--is the very vehicle through which it conveys its profound

With good wishes,  Alan Cooper


From: Micha Berger <aishdas@...>
Date: Fri, 18 Aug 1995 12:09:48 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: What is Orthodox

In v21n13, our ba'al habayis (master of the house), Avi Feldblum
<feldblum@...> writes:

:         ... my definition of "Orthodox" as a working definition for
: deciding issues relating to the list is "Accepting Halakha as a binding
: requirement, with Halakha being defined through the responsa
: literature". If anyone who understands what I am saying here wants to
: take a shot at putting it into two lines or less, be my guest.

I'd like to make some minor changes:
"Accepting halchah as the primary value system in one's life", implies
that there are no systems you consider as more binding or equally
binding, that can override halachah. Avi's formulation would not explain
why Conservatism would be excluded. In this formulation, their concept
of balancing halachah with societal or personal need, or to be more
correct, that halachah was always partly a product of external need (the
historical approach) would be exluded as it places another consideration
into that value system.

Also, I'm not sure what to do with that second clause. The Conservative
movement also has responsa. I was thinking of making it "Orthodox
responsa", even though it's self referential. In fact, that
self-reference is part of the idea I'd want to capture. That all changes
to the system have happened from within the sytem, being O today is
based on what O was last generation.  Unlike the movements, no one
looked at the system from outside (which would imply applying an
alternate value system) and decided that it was time for an
overhaul. It's not so much self-reference as a feedback loop.

So, I suggest
 Accepting halchah as the primary value system in one's life; where
halachah is defined by the responsa of a tradition that has always
considered halachah as the primary value system.

I don't like the idea of calling someone "bound" by halachah. To my
world-view, halachah is something you follow much like looking both ways
before you cross a street. Because the effects of not doing so are
disasterous. Not because G0d is going to smite you in retribution.  Any
smiting that might happen is not so much retribution as a direct
consequence -- like getting hit by the car you didn't see coming.
Whether or not you agree, I don't think my not feeling "bound" would
render me non-Orthodox.

We need to also specify that the person be Jewish and by O definition,
as well as basic beliefs? Should we include a "messianic Jew" who
follows halachah?

Micha Berger 201 916-0287        Help free Ron Arad, held by Syria 3211 days!
<aishdas@...>                     (16-Oct-86 - 18-Aug-95)
<a href=news:alt.religion.aishdas>Orthodox Judaism:Torah, Worship, Kindness</a>
<a href=http://haven.ios.com/~aishdas>AishDas Society's Home Page</a>


End of Volume 21 Issue 18