Volume 22 Number 96
                       Produced: Thu Jan 25 21:36:07 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Consolation for Death
         [Yaacov-Dovid Shulman]
G_d's Omnicience vs. Free Will
         [Bennett Ruda]
Kushner's "argument"
         [David Olesker]
Life Support and Halakha
         [Eric Jaron Stieglitz]
Tzaddik V'ra lo
         [Al Silberman]
Why Bad Things Happen
         [Yakov Farrell]


From: <YacovDovid@...> (Yaacov-Dovid Shulman)
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 1996 00:40:20 -0500
Subject: Consolation for Death

     In a recent posting, a woman requested consolation after the tragic
death of her son.  Responses to her request quickly transmuted into a
discussion regarding the possibly heretical nature of Kushner's Why Bad
Things Happen to Good People.
     I do not know what I could say to a parent who has lost a child,
but perhaps it would be germane to paraphrase some relevant teachings of
Rav Kook:

     Death is a false phenomenon.  What makes death unclean is that it
spreads an aura of falsehood.  Actually, what people call death is the
opposite: an ascent into an even greater and more real life.
     We are plunged into the depths of small-mindedness.  What has
placed us here?  Our physical and emotional drives.  These drives,
gazing upon this ascent into life, interpret it as a dreadful, black
phenomenon that they label: death.
     In their purity, the cohanim must shield themselves from this
falsehood.  The only way to escape while this false consciousness lays
spread across the earth is to avert one's eyes from any sights that
cause one's soul to err.  That is why the cohanim are commanded to avoid
the vicinity of any dead person-- for in their human apprehension of
death, this falsehood, they are defiled (Orot Hakodesh II, p. 380).

     Our temporary existence is only one spark of our eternal existence,
the glory of ever-lasting life.  There is only one way to bring forth
the wealth of goodness concealed within our this- worldly life: and that
is our connection to our eternal life.
     This is an inner understanding that dwells within the spirit of all
creation.  All the spiritual battles in the world cannot dislodge it.
All they do is prepare the way before it.  Even those forces that oppose
this understanding ultimately, in the depths of truth, support it.
     A life of true civility and culture is based solidly on one's
connection to eternity.
     The yearning for the glory of that eternity overwhelms death.  It
wipes the tear from every eye (Orot Hakodesh II, p.  377).


From: Bennett Ruda <bruda@...>
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 1996 23:29:40 -0500
Subject: G_d's Omnicience vs. Free Will

Whenever I hear people discuss the apparent paradox of how G_d can be
omnicient yet we have free will, I think about the explanation that I
heard Rabbi Aaron Rakefet give when I was in the Kollel in BMT. Just
look at the 1986 World Series. We can rent a video tape and watch how in
the 6th Game, in the 9th inning, Mookie Wilson's single dribbles past
Bill Buckner at first. We rewind the tape and watch it over and
over...knowing (omniciently?) exactly what will happen. Yet this
knowledge in no way interferes or affects the outcome -- Bill Buckner
will never get Mookie out.  Is it not possible to imagine then that
HaShem too could be equally aware of exactly what will happen without
that knowledge affecting what we do.

Such a comparison is not so outlandish. Didn't the Chofetz Chaim tz"l
say that the technological advances of his day in telecommunications
better help us to understand how HaShem could communicate his
Commandments to men?

Bennett J. Ruda              || "The World exists only because of
Former teacher               || the innocent breath of schoolchildren"
Whose credo remains the same || From the Talmud
<bruda@...>        || Masechet Shabbat 119b     


From: <olesker@...> (David Olesker)
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 22:16:59 +0200
Subject: Kushner's "argument"

 (The following four premises are all basic assumptions about the nature
of God.  They are common to all monotheists, but if you want Torah
sources for them then I would recommend the first chapters of the
"Handbook of Jewish Thought" by Aryeh Kaplan.)
 1) Unity
 God is a perfect unity, ie He is perfectly simple, incapable of
division into parts or functions.
 2) Omnipotence
 God is capable of all things, and any limitation on His capabilities is
 3) Omniscience
 God's knowledge is coexistant with, and indistinguishable from, His
self.  Therefore it is limitless and and perfect.
 4) Timelessness
 God exists without the confines of time as we know it. From His
perspective, past, present, and future are equally knowable, equally

Given these four assumptions (which are inescapable consequences of our
definition of God) then the following conclusions flow.

1) When (from our perspective) God created the world, he created all its
"natural" laws.

2) Being omniscient, He was capable of "foreseeing" (from our
perspective) all the consequences of the act of creation, from the macro
level of the collision of galaxies, to the micro level of subatomic

3) Hence, in the act of creation, He would have understood that His
actions would inevitably have lead to the creation of a San Andraeus
fault, and inevitably to the San Francisco earthquakes.

4) Hence God _is_ responsible for loss of life in (say) earthquakes,
since they were the known. and inevitable consequences of His
actions. If he had not wanted the earthquake to happen, He would have
created the world in some subtly different way.

5) Certain actions come about as the result of the interplay between
human actions and "nature". One example posted here was a tree branch
being blown onto one's car.

	This action of the wind and the tree is also "built in" to
creation. The fact of the drivers presence at that moment in that place
was also foreseen, since God's knowledge of one's freely willed action
is as clear as any other thing that He is aware of. Furthermore, due to
His timelessness, it was known to Him at the instant of creation.

Kushner's argument -- that God somehow "lets" things happen and
therefore is not responsible for them -- is equivalent to a plea in
traffic court that you are not responsible for driving into the side of
another vehicle, since you only "let" your car do it!

Kushner's argument isn't just anti-Torah, it's silly. Any first-year
seminary student could supply the refutation I have above, as could
anyone who has thought even a little clearly about basic philosophical

Furthermore, it appeals to people who do _not_ want to think about
matters of good and evil, mainly those who have suffered a personal
tragedy. Yet the "comfort" provided by his book is about as real as that
provided by Prozac, and for similar reasons -- it isn't a reflection of
reality. It substitutes the hard acceptance of Divine justice (no matter
how incomprehensible it may be for us) summed up in the blessing "Baruch
Dayan emes" ("blessed is the true Judge" uttered on hearing bad news,
God forbid) with a cop out; an "argument" that will collapse under the
weight of a single thought.


From: Eric Jaron Stieglitz <ephraim@...>
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 1996 23:25:00 -0500
Subject: Life Support and Halakha

Steve White <StevenJ81@...> writes on Mail-Jewish:
  > >  The Tel Aviv district court handed down a precedent-setting
  > >decision Thursday blocking doctors from artificially lengthening
  > >the lives of terminally-ill patients against their will, HA'ARETZ
  > >reported.
  > >  The court ruled that patients could not be connected to a
  > >respirator or life-support system if they consciously refuse the
  > >treatment.
  > As this reads, this seems like a halachically ominous decision, as a
  > number of recent decisions of Israeli courts have been of late.  Does
  > anyone have further information on this?

  My family recently had to deal with a question of this type. We
consulted Rav Dovid Feinstein, the son of Rav Moshe. What I'm writing
below is an abbreviated (and possibly slightly misquoted) version of
what Rav Dovid told my father, so be sure to CYLOR.

  The question of whether to keep a person on life support boils down to
whether the life support prolongs life or prolongs death. Obviously,
this type of decision must be made in consultation with a doctor. In the
case where the patient might eventually be weaned from life support,
then it is certainly required to keep them on it. However, in a case
where the person is brain dead and will never regain the stamina to keep
the heart beating when life support is removed, then this is considered
prolonging death which is against Halakha and the life support should be

  I'm pretty sure that this does not mean that we should withhold food
and medication from the person, but instead means that if the only thing
keeping a person alive is a machine (which can never be removed), then
we are permitted (and sometimes required) to remove it.

Eric Jaron Stieglitz    <ephraim@...>
Home: (212) 853-4837/6795       Assistant Systems Manager at the
Work: (212) 854-6020            Center for Telecommunications Research
Fax : (212) 854-2497    http://www.ctr.columbia.edu/people/Eric.html


From: <asilberman@...> (Al Silberman)
Date: Wed, 17 Jan 1996 09:11:15 -0500
Subject: Tzaddik V'ra lo

M. Perlman writes in MJv22n82:

>On Thu, 11 Jan 1996, Aryeh Frimer wrote:
>> The issue of "Tzaddik ve-Ra Lo" is as old as mankind. Hazal struggled
>> with the issue and came up with no definitive answer. So did the
>> Rishonim and the Aharonim. So did our generation after the holocaust.
>        This is not entirely accurate.  Chazal say that a tzaddik is
>punished in this world for the minute sins that he has so that he may
>depart this world for the next one, totally clean.  What was difficult
>was pinpointing the exact misdeeds.

While the statement in the second sentence of the reply is correct, the
thrust of the reply is incorrect and not in accord with Jewish
philosophy.  It is based on a misunderstanding of the concept of
"Tzaddik V'ra lo" as used in the Gamara. The topic is a very complex one
and cannot easily be dealt with in a few short lines. Nor is there a
need to repeat here what is already dealt with extensively in countless

I will very briefly refer here to three fundamental sources on this
topic.  First, the Gemara in Berochos 7a which is the origin of this
phrase. Though the conclusion of the Gemara states that this refers to a
"Tzaddik She'ayno Gomur" (one who is not completely righteous) the
Gemara cannot refer to someone who has sinned for it is inconceivable
that Moshe Rabbeinu would have had difficulty with this concept. Indeed,
most mefarshim try to explain this difficult Gemara on the basis that
not completely righteous means incomplete righteousness (with no actual
accompanying sin). Chapter 1 of the Tanya gives a beautiful explanation
of this Gemara.

Second, the Gemara in Shabbos 55a/b where the conclusion of the Gemara
is that there IS death without sin and suffering without sin.

Third, the whole Sefer Iyov deals with this question. Iyov's companions
argue that while his sin is unknown there had to be a sin to account for
his suffering. The Sefer ends with the statement by G-d out of the
whirlwind that the companions are wrong.

I personally find satisfying the exposition on this topic by the Sefer
HaIkurim in his 4th Ma'amar, 13th chapter where his understanding of
this phrase also excludes a person who has sinned (explicitly in three
of the explanations and the fourth is also not a contradiction).

As for imagery on this subject I like to recall the Gemara in Ta'anis
25a where G-d tells the Amora Eleazar who complained about his suffering
"Would you rather that I should turn back the world to its very
beginnings?  Perhaps you might then be born at a happier hour?" There is
no mention of sin.

As to the relationship between the concept of punishment for a Tzaddik's
minor sins and "Tzaddik ve-Ra Lo" this is dealt with in Berochos 5a.


From: <eli@...> (Yakov Farrell)
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 1996 21:02:18 -0500 
Subject: Why Bad Things Happen

Harold Kushner's bestseller exploring this timeless problem presented a
less than authentic Jewish view.  The subject is a deep and complex one
and can challenge our emunah at times.

I was happy to hear of a new book coming out that seeks to meet that
challenge.  Entitled "Why Me, G-d?", it is written by Lisa Aiken,
co-author of The Art of Jewish Prayer with Rabbi Yitzchok Kirzner, zt"l.
She and Rabbi Kirzner began research on the book several years ago as a
response to Kushner's premises.  Chapters include "Coping with Poverty",
"Having Sick and Handicapped Children", "Facing Terminal Illness",
"Being Single", "Infertility", "The Holocaust" and more.

The book gives a traditional Jewish view to these very pertinent
questions and Mrs Aiken provides modern psychological strategies for
coping.  If you will permit me to plug this book, it will be in
bookstores soon, with a significant portion of the proceeds going to
Rabbi Kirzner's family.

Let's hope this will be the response so many have been looking for and
provide at least directions for answers.


End of Volume 22 Issue 96