Volume 22 Number 83
                       Produced: Sun Jan 14  9:43:02 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Charedi poverty
         [Shmuel Himelstein]
Kushner's book
         [Shalom Carmy]
Paucity of great leaders
         [Yaacov-Dovid Shulman]
Pinchas/Zimri and Matityahu situations
         [Chana Luntz]
When Bad Things Happen to Good People
         [Jerome Parness]
When Bad Things Happen...
         [Perry Zamek]


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himelstein@...>
Date: Wed, 10 Jan 1996 09:11:59 +0200 (IST)
Subject: Charedi poverty

As far as I understand it, the bases for Charedi poverty in Israel are a
confluence of factors, among others:

a) The fact that many males are engaged in Torah study exclusively until
a relatively advanced age, where the amount they receive in any given
Kollel cannot possibly be commensurate with what a person in similar
circumstances would earn on the open market.

b) The high birth rate, which makes the income *per family member* that
much lower. Typical families often have 6-8 children, with higher
numbers not at all uncommon.

c) The fact that rental housing is almost non-existent, which means that
parents must find ways to finance the buying of apartments for their
children when these marry.

d) What added to this was the fact that until the present government
changed the law, the family allowance granted per month for children
under 18 had two separate scales: one for those who had completed army
service and one for those (generally Charedim and Arabs) who had not,
with a very marked differences in the scale once people had three
children or more. The law has since been changed, so that all families
now receive the higher amount.

Now, given the tremendous gap between income and needs, the Charedi
population was - and still is - aided by tremendous help from Jews
abroad, especially the United States. However this source is becoming
less of a factor for a basic reason (and I say this in very crude terms,
not in scientifically quantifiable terms): while the help from abroad
has been inceasing arithmetically, the high birthrate of Charedim has
caused the Charedi population to increase geometrically.  Simply put,
there just isn't that much money available PER COUPLE to pay for all the
needs of newlyweds, etc. (One can note in passing that this had had
another major sociological effect in the Charedi world, with Charedi
women entering fields of endeavor that would have been unthinkable a
generation or two ago, including, for example, computer programming or
even something like telephone receptionists).

Another factor, I believe, in the Charedi population explosion as
compared to the population growth in the rest of the country is the fact
that Charedim generally marry very early, often at ages 17 or 18.  This
means that by age 19 many Charedi women have their first children,
whereas for the general population is it is much later. This would
effectively mean - in very broad terms - that in the time that it would
take for four generations in the non-Charedi population, the Charedi
population might have five generations.

As to the poverty of the city of Bnei Brak, recent newspaper accounts
have pointed out that Bnei Brak has the highest percentage of buildings
and individuals which have been exempted from property tax. While this
includes Yeshivot and Shuls, it evidently also includes various
commercial enterprises, such as catering halls, which are nominally
affiliated with this or that religious institution.

           Shmuel Himelstein


From: Shalom Carmy <carmy@...>
Date: Fri, 12 Jan 1996 00:59:49 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Kushner's book

It is sad testimony to the lack of intelligent resources of our own that
Harold Kushner's "When Bad Things Happen..." turns up on the tables of
observant Jews. His conclusions are surely incompatible with normative 
religious doctrine, and the mode of argumentation is  implausible, to put 
it mildly.

When the book first appeared, I was editing Tradition and felt the need 
to obtain a review in the light of its popularity. The many reviews 
that we received were of two types: The first was so respectful to 
Kushner (partly out of sympathy for the tragedy in his own life) that the 
reviewer was incapable of cogent criticism. The second group was more 
aggressive and frummer, but invariably these authors directed such wild 
shots at Kushner that they ended up condemning positions held by most of 
the Rishonim. The review we finally ran (circa 1985) concentrated on 
presenting Kushner in his own words, letting the reader draw his or her 
own conclusions. [You ask about Orthodox thinkers who are serious 
philosophers. Those I approached didn't want to waste their time attacking
something that flimsy. Rabbi Wurzburger did debate Kushner and his fans 
at the 92nd St Y and I believe that a text is available.]


From: <YacovDovid@...> (Yaacov-Dovid Shulman)
Date: Thu, 11 Jan 1996 23:08:21 -0500
Subject: Paucity of great leaders

     In the latest issue of Jewish Action, Rabbi Jacobowitz, chief rabbi
of England, writes about the current paucity of great Jewish leaders,
and places the blame on a yeshiva system that produces graduates
according to a Procrustean (or Sodomite) bed, rather than supporting
individuals to flourish.
     I would like to conceptualize this problem according to the
formulation of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who stated that a leader must
be a man of rachamim: compassion or empathy.
     A leader acknowledges problems, empathizes with those involved, and
seeks to help them.
     Over the last few years, the impression that a number of rabbinic
authorities have given is of having to be drawn against their will to
acknowledge and address themselves to people's problems.
     I am thinking particularly of such phenomena as abusive marital or
parental relationships.  So many people have experienced, or have a
close friend who has experienced, a hard time at the hands of "noted
rabbis" who proved to be insensitive, incompetent and damaging.
     Even those who do attempt to address such issues often appear
primitive in their formulation of issues.  Exalted essays about the
glorious values of our Jewish yesteryears can only excite readers so
far.  And simplistic approaches to psychological quandaries can
temporarily quell but not solve psychological dilemmas.
     For instance, that same issue of Jewish Action featured an article
on the importance of not expressing one's anger.  There was no mention
of such possibilities as expressing that one is anger without using
abusive language, unravelling the causes of one's anger, and the like.
In my view, this approach can create a repressed anger that is
cathartically released against a Jew whom it is considered legitimate to
hate: "sinat chinam."  Perhaps this is one cause of the examples of
petty-mindedness cited in a recent posting by Carl Sherer.
     The traditional method of learning Torah produces a person trained
in making judgements.  Such a person is liable to be judgmental about
people rather than empathetic.  This method of learning Torah trains a
person to construct hierarchies.  Such a person is liable to compare
people who come before him, rather than seeing each as intrinsically
     Faced with a choice, is a rabbi's loyalty to his perhaps- mistaken
understanding of the Torah's judgements, or to the reality of the Jew
who seeks help?


From: Chana Luntz <heather@...>
Date: Sat, 13 Jan 1996 19:19:22 GMT
Subject: Re: Pinchas/Zimri and Matityahu situations

Avraham Husarsky wrote:
> the mishna on sanhedrin 73a that discusses rodeif specifically excludes
> one who is attempting to worship avoda zara.  however, from the
> juxtaposition it is clear that chazal certainly entertained the
> possibility that such a person falls into the category of rodeif who can
> be killed by an individual during the course of his/her action. 

The fact that Chazal may have a hav'amina that perhaps this could have
been the halacha, does not mean that they ever seriously entertained the
possibility in a real life situation. To take an example at random (and
I am sure that people on this list can come up with a dozen even more
apt ones), the fact that the gemorra in Shevuos 30a raises the
possibility that women may be forbidden from being litigants in a court
case does not mean that the halacha in this matter was unsettled until
the time of the gemorra (there are lots of references to women litigants
in Tanach) or that bringing this suggestion meant that the gemorra
entertained it as having anything to do with halacha l'ma'ase.
 The examination of possible alternatives to the way the halacha
actually is, is an extremely valuable learning exercise, but should not
be confused with how they would posken in a practical situation (halacha
l'ma'ase) such as that which occurred with Matitiyahu.

> for that matter on 74a, the gemara brings down the opinion of rabbi
> shimon bar yochai who holds that oved avoda zara matzilin b'nafsho,
> i.e. is considered a rodeif.  the gemara has similar discussions
> regarding aishet ish.

Actually, I think the similar discussion is actually with regard to
shabbat, where Rabbi Elazar holds like his father. Eishet ish initiates
the discussion (since we learn the whole matter out from the forcing of
a nayara ham'orasa) and it is accepted by everybody that if some tries
to force an eishet ish they can be rescued even if it means killing the
aggressor - a matter that can be deduced from a pasuk.

> mattityahu predated the above sages, so it is highly likely that this
> argument in halacha had not been settled during his time, and he
> followed the opinion of rashbi.  thus it is not necessary to bring in
> horaat shaa, or the possibility that he was av beit din.

Well, even were it possible that you were right, I still would have put
it the opposite way ie it is not necessary to bring in the concept of
rodef, meaning that Mattityahu has to hold like like a minority opinion
in the gemorra when you can explain his action according to all

But the reason this cannot be right is because Rashbi and the Rabbanan
who were disputing in our gemorra knew about Mattityahu at least as well
as we do. If the matter had been poskened halacha l'ma'ase in his day,
then the Rabbanan could not have held the position they did, there could
be no stam mishna and the matter would have been settled. Take, for
example, the halacha that we do know was unsettled in the time of
Mattityahu, namely that of fighting on shabbas.  Originally it was
thought that one could not fight on shabbas, because this problem had
never cropped up in practice before, and people were killed before it
was poskened by Mattiyahu and his beis din that fighting on shabbas was
permissible. After this decision, there could be no machlokas between
Rashbi and the Rabbanan on the subject. Similarly here, if Mattityahu
had poskened rodef then Rashbi would have had a cast iron proof against
the Rabbanan. Since not only did he not bring it, but it is clear we
posken against him, then Mattityahu could not have based his decision on
this concept.

(BTW there are various references to the beis din of the Hashmonaim in
the gemorra and their gezeros - see eg Avodah zara 36b, Sanhedrin 82a)

> it is important not to be anachronistic regarding halacha.  what was
> decided by a rov during a certain period of chazal, may not have been
> the way it was practiced by everyone prior to that.  an example is the
> opinion that holds that the currect practices of shofar blowing combine
> a number of different variants that were extant within the land of
> israel at that time.

There is a difference between the halacha actually being unsettled, with
different variants in different places and the gadol ha'dor within a
centralised halachic system poskening halacha l'ma'ase. For later
generations of Rabbis to come along and rule the other way they need to
be greater in number and in wisdom, and it is certainly something that
would require comment when the matter is discussed in the gemorra.




From: Jerome Parness <parness@...>
Date: Fri, 12 Jan 1996 11:35:02 EST
Subject: When Bad Things Happen to Good People

	Rabbi Lawrence Kushner's book expresses ideas that are indeed
beyond the pale of normative halachic thinking when it comes to the role
of G-d in man's everyday affairs.  He does express the notion that G-d
is not in control of everyday events in our lives.  If G-d is not in
control, then it follows that it is foolish to be angry with G-d.
	A recently published book that deals with the problem of the
Holocaust and 'Tzadik V'Ra Lo..." is a book by R. Shmuel Boteach
entitled, Wrestling With The Divine: A Jewish Response To Suffering,
published by Aronson Press, 1995.  R. Boteach is the Rav of the L'Chayim
Society, at Oxford University, in the UK, is an unabashed Lubavitcher,
and an absolutely fearless writer.  I may take issue with some of what
he writes, but his approach to the moral problem of the difficulties of
human existence in the light of a presumed benevolent higher power is
simply to be admired for its adherence to a particular genre of halachic
approach, and his fearlessness in asking the questions appropriately.  I
highly recommend this book to all who have suffered tragic loss, and all
those who would who would suffer along with them.

	Jerry Parness


From: <menachem@...> (Perry Zamek)
Date: Sat, 13 Jan 1996 22:06:02 +0200
Subject: When Bad Things Happen...

>I have seen this book by Harold Kushner recommended or mentioned a
>couple of times by people here on MJ. I have not read the book, but
>have heard that it is beyond the pale of normative Othodox Judaism (to
>put it mildly) because it either implies or states that G-d is not
>omniscient or omnipotent. I certainly would not mind being corrected if
>my information is inaccurate, but, assuming that my information is
>accurate, extreme discretion must be exercised in making use of the
>book in question.

(and others in v22n79)

I was lent the abovementioned book at a difficult period in my life some
years ago. While I disagreed (even then) with the author's conclusion, I
found the way that he raised the questions was itself a comfort. (Ask
yourselves: When was the last time you cried, literally cried, over
Akedat Yitzhak, even though you *Know* the end of the story -- I cried
when I read this book.)

More generally, I feel that sometimes we, as Orthodox Jews, tend to
reject the *questions* if asked by the "wrong" kind of Jews, instead of
only rejecting the *answers* that don't fit with our world-view, while
seeking the answers that do make sense in our world-view.

Is there, within the spectrum of "normative Orthodox Judaism" any
*question* (other than those with the intent of scoffing) that is not

Perry Zamek (on Menachem Kuchar's account)


End of Volume 22 Issue 83