Volume 21 Number 25
                       Produced: Thu Aug 24  0:50:03 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Bible and Literature
         [Shalom Carmy]
Daas Torah
         [Jonny Raziel]
Rav Lau on: "Can you call up Reform clergy for an Aliya?"
         [Isaac Balbin]
         [Rachel Rosencrantz]


From: Shalom Carmy <carmy@...>
Date: Wed, 23 Aug 1995 09:24:09 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Bible and Literature

"Should not our holy Torah be at least like their idle chatter?"

If the tools of literary interpretation lead us to a subtler
appreciation of general literature, why should we not avail ourselves of
them in studying Tanakh?  Many of the insights developed by
practitioners of the recent "Bible as Literature" orientation have
recapitulated, systematized and extended approaches found in, or
implicit in, Hazal and the major meforshim. As such, its contribution is
very much in the spirit of Rashbam's *peshatot ha-mit'haddeshim be-khol
yom* (=peshat that renews itself each day).

Nevertheless, it would be wrong and dangerous to embrace uncritically
the work of scholars and writers associated with this approach.

1. "Literary" as used by many professors, means a concentration on
aesthetic or psychological issues, while bracketing the theological
truth of the text. One of the attractions of this method is that it
seems to create a neutral ground where we Orthodox can shed our
awareness of radical alienation from the dominant academic culture.
This may work for certain limited purposes. Ultimately, however,
downplaying the unbridgeable chasm is a lie, distorting the essential
nature of Tanakh as we perceive it. A correct, and honest, literary
approach to Tanakh demands that we acknowledge not only the similarities
between Tanakh and other types of literature, but also the differences,
the areas where Tanakh is sui generis.  Imagine two people discussing
Tolstoy's *War and Peace,* one of whom took the book as a
straightforward newspaper report, while the other claimed it had no
connection to history at all (i.e.  Napoleon never existed). They might
be able to agree about some literary issues, but the confusion about
genre would seriously affect anything they had in common.  How much more
so in dealing with the difference between secular and Orthodox
approaches to Devar Hashem?

2. Following Rashi and the prevalent approach among rishonim and
aharonim, we do not equate Torah she-be-al Peh with peshat in every
case.  Nevertheless the authoritative tradition is an essential
dimension of encounter with Tanakh. It is impossible to avoid enormous,
crucial differences in perspective between us and those who keep Hazal
and meforshim at arm's length.

3. When a literary critic is persuasive, it is not only because of the
arguments he marshals on a particular point. What makes a critic
memorable and influential is his (or her) ability to create a community
of reading, to evoke and insinuate a set of tacit assumptions which the
audience comes to take for granted.  In this the critic is akin to other
creative writers. Anyone who has felt the sway of T. S. Eliot or Lionel
Trilling in their most powerful essays will know what I mean.

Given the enjoyment and insight that I have derived from the work of
Robert Alter, to take an appropriate and well known example (and I must
include his excellent contributions to modern Hebrew literature in my
encomium), it may seem almost churlish to quote an eminent non-Jewish
student of literature, who writes: "`Our' and `we' are accurate only if
Alter is addressing atheists, Low Church Protestants, and Jews who don't
believe or practice the faith." Better ungrateful than dishonest: it is
perilous for us to pretend that individuals committed to Torah miSinai
are part of his "we."

4.  When people talk about the Trinity or the Documentary Hypothesis we
are usually on our guard. We often let our dukes down when the
assumptions being purveyed are secular, and hence nominally neutral.
That is reason for greater vigilance rather than less.

In general, one who is willing and eager to benefit from the insights of
a liberal arts education should be more critical of what he or she reads
rather than less so. How to cultivate a sharp critical sense towards my
general education is something that I have tried, together with my
friends and talmidim, to pick up from my Rebbeim.  It is perhaps the
most salient difference between the kind of liberal arts education we
advocate, as an important ancilla to Talmud Torah, and the shallow "me
too" gimmickry of the PR ideologists.

I apologize for the length of this posting.  Having written and spoken a
great deal about the value of a liberal arts education in the study of
Torah and self-understanding, I feel a special responsibility in this

[I have dealt more systematically with some of these issues in *"To Get
the Better of Words:" an Apology for Yirat Shamayim in Academic Jewish
Studies* in TORAH UMADDA JOURNAL 2, and *A Room With a View but a Room
of Our Own* in TRADITION 28:3, the second article is the first chapter
LIMITATIONS, forthcoming with Jason Aronson Press.]


From: Jonny Raziel <JONNYR@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Aug 1995 10:30:18 GMT+0200
Subject: Daas Torah

 On Mon, 7 Aug 1995, l wrote:
> > The concept of Daas Torah, in the sense of asking a she'ela and
> > receiving a binding psak concerning issues that are judgemental ("shikul
> > hada'at"), is foreign to halachic judaism. The term is hardly mentioned
>> in the gemara or achronim, and certainly not in the context which we are
>> speaking of.

and on : Wed, 9 Aug 1995 Mordechai Perlman replied 
>> I found a Rishon which our dear writer has  overlooked.
and brings the  Sefer HaChinuch.

Hear are my comments to the reply and I apologise for the delay (blame
the Israeli army).

Actually , "hardly mentioned" refered to the Chinuch, who is a lone
opinion on the issue of applying the biblical prohibition of "lo tasur"
to the decisons of sages other than the Great Sanhedrin in
Jersualem. (neither the Rambam,Shulchan Arukh (S.A.)  or other
commentators agree and the minchat chinuch writes that there is no
source for this, as does Mahari Perele).

The S.A. Yoreh Deah (Y.D.) 242 does state that a talmid may rule
independantly after he has received permission ("natal rshut") to do so
and in every generation rabbanim ,who were once themselves talmudim,
decide halachot even contra to their teachers, and that is the way of
torah. If the opinion of the chinuch had been accepted then no
dissenting views could be expressed since one would be transgressing a
negative command from the Torah.  Every LOR decides in his own way, not
every decision conforms with that of his teachers. (c.f. Torah Temima
Exodus 23:2 "al riv lehatot - al rav lehatot, that you should not be
like a servant before your master, but say what is on your mind. - that
you are not allowed to agree with the beit din untill you have closely
examined their reasons")

> when the Great Chochom  speaks, one should listen and obey

This applies to a talmid (who is not ordained) who asks a question which
then becomes like an oath (Raived, Ramban,Rashba, Rosh and Ran in chap 1
of Avoda Zarah) ,or due to fear of slighting the honour of the chacham
(Rashi) c.f Rama S.A Y.D 242:31, but NOT if one hears 'in passing'.

> one has to choose HIS Great Chochom and stick to his views

Rambam chap 5 laws of Talmud Torah, a "Rav Muvhak" is one - "from whom
he has learnt most of his wisdom" , also Bava.Metzia. 32A.  See
A.H. Yoreh Deah. 242:21 who holds that in the opinion of the Rema, since
the times of the tanaim we have learnd most of our wisdom from books,
then there is no din today of "rav muvhak".

>   Second of all, if a person accustoms himself in a mitzva three or
> more times, this practice becomes obligatory upon him as if he vowed
> thusly

Do you really mean to say that if a person accepts the psak of a Rav
three times then he must follow him in all matters from then on ?!!  The
first mishna in masechet horayot states that a talmid, who knew the din
and did not speak up when the Sanhedrin were sitting, committed an
offence. Similarly, 'stam a Yid' who accepted the psak of the Sanhedrin
when he knew it was incorrect has to bring a sin offering, since it was
his obligation to speak out until the truth comes out.  Also it is
brought in sanhedrin that if a man accepted a ruling from an expert
court (mumchim) concerning punitive damages against him, when he knew
the psak was wrong, cannot obligate the judges to redress the damages
since it was his responsibility to present the correct arguments

However, all this is not entirely connected to my initial posting.

I claimed that issues, which by their very nature are not clear cut and
definable ('shikul hadaat'), do not have the same obligatory nature as
dinim, such as hilchot shabbat or agunot.  One just needs to look at the
massive responsa literature over the centuries to see that the sages
dealt with din torah as opposed to daas torah. Were daas tora considered
to be identical to every other din, then they would have been included
in the responsa in the same quantity.

>> I found a Rishon which our dear writer has  overlooked.
 I assume you meant 'dear' as in 'precious' (and I thank you), and not
in a condescending manner, chas vshalom.

I will end with an anecdote from the sfat emmet ('toldot chassidei
Gur'), who when asked to intervene in a dispute concerning buisness
tactics.  He asked them why they thought that he was greater than the
Maharal from Prague, since the Maharal created one golem, but he seems
to have many more !

Yonatan Raziel


From: Isaac Balbin <isaac@...>
Date: Wed, 23 Aug 1995 08:53:53 +1000
Subject: Rav Lau on: "Can you call up Reform clergy for an Aliya?"

  | >From: <Chaimwass@...> (Chaim Wasserman)
  | Isaac Balbin [mj21.11] writes 
  | >I was shocked by the p'sak. 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 concervative clergyman.
  | Is this to imply that Rav Lau has no right to see things differently
  | than Rav Moshe zatzal?

No it does not. However, it was seen by me to be a far reaching Psak
that had departed from the common approach as typified by Rav Moshe (and
as you probably well know, many others)

  | Then, Isaac continues to ask:
  | >Does anyone know what Rav Soloveichik's attitude to the above problem was
  | The question is irrelevant.  

Not really. The Rabbi of the Shule in question was a musmach of the Rav
and so I wanted to find out if there was an already existing view of the
Rov and if so would have been curious to find out why it wasn't

  | I would humbly suggest that a more tachlis
  | kind of a pursuit would be to ask: "What is Rav Lau's attitude to the
  | above problem?"

Indeed. I was hoping someone would say something along those lines too.

  | To put it pointedly: (and this is Rav Soloveichik's known mandate) If
  | one is a rov who has examined the issues of a case then the rov should
  | pasken - even if there are others who disagree and/or see the problem
  | differently.

To put it clearly. If you have determined that my article questioned Rav
Lau's right to pasken differently, then you are mistaken. What you
should have seen was that I was noting that there were other opinions,
and that Rav Lau's Psak was far reaching and that I wanted to open up
discussion of this issue.

  | Just an aside: Does Isaac Balbin use liquid soap on yom tov or Shabbos?
  | What does Rav Moshe say about that?

 He does because he agrees with Rav Shlomo Zalman and never understood
the Igros Moshe. Furthermore, in this case, he understands Rav Moshe but
would like some to explain what might be behind the Rav Lau Psak.  In
the meanwhile, Rabbi Broyde had mentioned that Rav Lau may have
restricted the Psak to Hosafos (I will investigate) and that perhaps
clergy aren't considered to be the clergy that Reb Moshe was writing
about. On the latter, surely the Rov knew that and hence my question


From: <rachelr@...> (Rachel Rosencrantz)
Date: Mon, 21 Aug 1995 15:20:25 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Wine

From: <bsegal@...> (Binyomin Segal)
> For  various reasons the VAST majority of kosher wine sold today is cooked
> in this way. It avoids all sorts of problems (like waiters at a wedding).
> However it does (so they say) affect the delicate flavor of good wines. I
> believe, Golan - in an attempt to be a really good wine - is one of very
> few wineries that do not cook their wine.
> As for the second issue - ie non-religious Jews treated as non-Jews here
> - I believe the Chazon Ish is clear that they are treated as JEWS - and
> so the wine would be permitted. But since the issue comes up
> infrequently I'm not sure its clear what "normative" practice is. CYLOR.

I'm not sure what the Chazon Ish said, but in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
in the laws of Shabbat (around chapter 72) it states that a Jew who has
publically desecrated the Shabbat (it is common knowledge to at least 10
adult Jewish men that they desecrate the Shabbat) is considered as Akum
- a non-Jew in all areas (except marriage).  Therefore food they have
cooked, bread they have baked, and wine they have touched all are
affected the same way as food/bread and wine cooked/baked or touched by
a non-jew.  This is a rabbinical restriction.

Now, many Jews today who may appear to publically desecrate the Shabbat
can be considered as if they had been raised in captivity.  Basically,
they weren't raised/taught to know any better, so they are not fully
culpable in their violations of halacha.  Does this change the status of
these desecrators of Shabbat to no longer be Akum?  Some hold that this
doesn't change things sufficiently, others may hold differently.

CYLOR for poskens.

Now although meshuval wines solve the problem with wine being touched it
is considered better (according to some poskens) to use non-mevushal
wine for rituals and in particularly Pesach.  After all, if non-mevushal
makes the wine no longer of the status of "wine", and the 4 cups should
be 4 cups of "wine" or "grape juice", if you are using non-wine wine is
the obligation being filled?


P.S.  If halacha doesn't determine morality then what does?  What
society thinks is ok?  What an individual thinks is ok?  What makes
killing a human any worse than killing an animal?  Our inate
sensitivity, or what G-d says?


End of Volume 21 Issue 25