Volume 26 Number 43
                      Produced: Sun May 11  9:20:12 1997

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Dr Haym Soloveitchik's article
         [Shalom Carmy]
How Do you Make Decisions when Ignorant
         [Russell Hendel]
R Dr Haym Soloveitchik's Article
         [Micha Berger]
Responses to Haym Soloveitchik's article
         [Anthony Fiorino]
Yom Hashoa
         [Merling, Paul]


From: Shalom Carmy <carmy@...>
Date: Wed, 7 May 1997 09:30:27 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Dr Haym Soloveitchik's article

Two responses, by Rabbi Hillel Goldberg and by Prof Mark Steiner, were
published in a recent issue of Tradition. Another, by Prof Isaac Chavel,
is scheduled to appear (if I am correctly informed) in the Torah uMadda


From: <rhendel@...> (Russell Hendel)
Date: Wed, 7 May 1997 19:38:29 -0400
Subject: How Do you Make Decisions when Ignorant

Eric Jason gives a long detailed account of what ordinary people go thru
when they are faced with a halachically difficult decision and do not
have clear knowledge or a Poseyk they can go to readily.  Several
interesting examples are cited from his and other postings.

Several remedies are mentioned: The most basic of course is learning
laws ---one should learn sufficiently so that one knows the answer in
each case.

Another possible remedy (which is not totally accepted in the posting)
is being as stringent as possible till one can ask a competent halachick

I would like to suggest another solution: Developing ones critical
thinking ability in analyzing cases. The development of critical
thinking is the main skill competency developed thru the learning of
Talmud.  Note that this is a complementary skill to learning laws.
Learning in Judaism encompasses both law knowledge and analysis

To illustrate the novelties of this method I apply it to the case cited
by Eric: 
 >>My grandfather was very ill; we visited the hospital Friday
afternoon; I brought my grandmother home to light candles; because of a
traffic jam we got in late.  My grandmother started to prepare to light
candles and I glanced at my watch and realized it was after
Shabbath. What do I do.>>

Eric says that in his mind there were two conflicting halachic principles:
 1) The prohibition of lighting candles on Shabbos proper; 2) The
prohibition of endangering his grandmother's health in her aggrevated
state by inteferring with her regular routine.

However if one uses critical thinking one can "create" new
alternatives. In this case I would suggest making the Shabbos Beracha
over the electric lights (which I assume were already on since Eric
could read his watch). It would thus be possible to satisfy both
halachic principles.

I conclude by noting that the great Poskim were noted not only for their
ability to adjudicate between conflicting halachic principles but by
their ability to critically create new alternatives.

Russell Jay Hendel; Ph.d.;ASA; rhendel @ mcs drexel edu 


From: <micha@...> (Micha Berger)
Date: Wed, 7 May 1997 08:49:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: R Dr Haym Soloveitchik's Article

I wrote:
: According to a footnote to R Dr Haym Soloveitchik's famous article in
: the Spring '73 issue of Tradition,  
: The article as a whole is tangentially related, as it discusses the
: transition from reliance on memetic to textual tradition. I don't 
: agree with much of his thesis, but that's a different topic.

As I understand it R Dr Soloveitchik argued that in the transition from
Europe to America, the O community went from a memetically based halacha
to a more textual one.

Perhaps he was contrasting today's spate of halachic guides (from
Shmiras Shannos Kihilchaso to Artscroll's guide to kashrus) with the
words of his namesake "Der Shulchan Aruch iz fahr yesoimim". (The
Shulchan Aruch is for orphens; ie, for people who can't learn day-to-day
halachah by watching their parents. Related to this, Dr Soloveitchik
points out that since the bastions of this trend include such places as
Lakewood and B'nei Brak, which are clearly not dominated by Baalei
Teshuva or kiruv, the number of people who couldn't learn by being
raised in an observant culture is not a major cause.)

In a footnote, he contrasts the approach of the Aruch Hashulchan, who he
uses as an example of the memetic norm, and the Chofeitz Chaim, whose
Mishnah Brurah he considers an early sign of the seeds of textual trend.
(Of course, there are exceptions either way, but we're trying to
summatize the general outlook of the two Acharonim.) I'm not clear how
the seeds of the trend could predate the rupture of the Shoah that R Dr
Soloveitchik blames for causing it.

As an example, the Aruch Hashulchan proves that women don't bentch gomel
because minhag Yisroel ties gomel to getting an aliyah. By contrast, as
you well know, today it's no longer so clear. And even those who are
against argue on "tznius" (modesty), not "minhag Yisroel" (the customs
of Israel).

First the points I do agree with:
1- O today is testually based.
2- There was a memetic tradition, whos last vestiges died in the Shoah.

I would set the trend much furth back, to the Gr"a and the
Besh"t. Neither the mihagei Hgr"a nor Chassidus were yahadus as their
fathers practiced it.  After the Gr"a, we have R Chaim Vilozhiner, who
took the approach and built the Yeshiva movement, not long after
followed by the other movements of Mussar and neo-Orthodoxy. All of
these stressed a focus on text, a superiority of theoretical argument,
as a way of establishing practice.

I would instead view the Aruch Hashulchan as the end of the mimetic
trend, not the norm of his era. The Shoah may have killed memeticism
when it brought down the shtetl, but it was by far not the birth of

In other words, the Chofeitz Chaim's support for Beis Yaakov was
directly connected to his being a ba'al mussar -- one of those who
believed in rewriting halachic p'sak to match an idea.

In v26n41, Simcha Edell asks:
> Do you have any alternate/additional explanations which could account
> for the major changes which have occurred in the pattern of jewish
> observance in the last generation?

If you notice, all my examples of textualism in Europe were movements
based in rebuilding practice so that it had some philosophical and
emotional focus that it would revolve around. New practices arose, but
to support a particular global view of what Judaism is.

American textualism lacks that focus. This means that instead of
deciding halachah based on how well each opinion fits with a given
hashkafah (outlook; philosophy) far too often the decision must be made
with no solid reason to prefer one over the other. Instead we end up

1- Being chosheid for a shitah (Being concerned for an opinion). In other
   words, choosing a more strict opinion, or even combining the strict
   halves of conflicting opinions -- in order to play safe.

2- Choosing a leniency that lets you do what you want.

3- Choosing a stringency in order to "keep up with the Cohens", as the
   title of one article put it. This is actually a variant of the previous
   choice, in that the person wants to appear "more frum", out of a
   socilogical or psychological, non-religious, desire, and searches for
   the opinion that will let him do so.

Micha Berger 201 916-0287        Help free Ron Arad, held by Syria 3790 days!
<micha@...>                         (16-Oct-86 - 6-May-97)
http://aishdas.org -- Orthodox Judaism: Torah, Avodah, Chessed


From: Anthony Fiorino <afiorino@...>
Date: Thu, 8 May 1997 12:18:21 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Responses to Haym Soloveitchik's article

Regarding the date of Haym Soloveitchik's article "Rupture and 
Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy," it 
appeared in the Summer, 1994 Tradition (Vol 28 #4 pp 64-130.

A writer asked:
>Do you have any alternate/additional explanations which could account
>for the major changes which have occurred in the pattern of jewish
>observance in the last generation? Anybody else who has read the article
>- in the Tradition of Spring 1993, I believe- who has something to add?

In the most recent Tradition (Vol 31 #2), there are two articles written
in response to the Soloveithik article, by Hillel Goldberg and Mark
Steiner.  Their criticisms, which I will not summarize, are an important
counterpoint to the theses advanced by R. Soloveitchik, and are well
worth reading, especially for those whose response to "Rupture and
Reconstruction" was "yes, he's hit the nail on the head."

Anthony (Eitan) S. Fiorino, M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Medicine - Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA  19104
email: <afiorino@...>, fiorino@alum.mit.edu
homepage: http://mail.med.upenn.edu/~afiorino


From: Merling, Paul <MerlingP@...>
Date: Fri, 09 May 97 11:32:00 PDT
Subject: Yom Hashoa

        What should be the attitude of religious Jews towards Yom
Hashoa?  Should we take part in the public observances commemorating the
Shoa? What should be the Lekach or lesson of these communal events?
        Is there any kind of private observance of this day? Is there
some sort of partial Aveilus or mourning and what is it? I have read
that in the State of Israel there is a 2 minute period of silence. Is
there also a cessation of public entertainment at least for part of the
         It is well known that the Chazon Ish discouraged the proposal
for a Taanis Tseebur or communal fast day as he felt that today's Torah
leaders do not have the authority to impose such an obligation on the
Jewish people.  But what should stop individual communities from
adopting a full or partial fast? Why should this be different than the
20th day of Sivan which was widely observed as a fast day in pre-war
Poland in memory of the terrible calamities which befell
Polish-Ukrainian Jewry in the years 1648-49(tach tat)?
         When Menachem Begin was Prime Minister of the State of Israel
he consulted many Torah scholars. He later proposed that Yom Hashoa be
merged into Tisha B'av, so as not to increase mourning days in
Israel. This suggestion was rejected by the educational
establishment. They claimed that teaching children about the Shoa as
part of the preparation for Yom Hashoa was of vital importance. And
therefore this day has to occur when schools were open, and not on Tisha
B'av when schools are closed.
           A case can be made that the Sfeera period which is an Avelus
or mourning for the catastrophe that devastated Reb Akiva's students and
also for the great calamity of the Crusades is an appropriate time to
set aside a day to mourn the destruction of European Jewry. We thereby
merge one Avelus into another and do not increase mourning days in
Israel. (The Shoa was perpetrated during all months of the year and can
be remembered at any time period.) Perhaps it would have been advisable
to establish Yom Hashoa after Rosh Chodesh Ir when all the communities
are in mourning? Maybe the date is not set in stone and can still be
           There are people who object to the moment of silence and the
lavish programs done in many synagogues claiming that these are not the
traditional ways that Jews mourn or remember their martyred dead. But as
long as these ceremonies do not stray from Halacha, Poskim will most
probably not forbid them. I know that there is disagreement about
observing Yom Hashoa. But I have never heard of any prohibition against
attending the public ceremonies if they stay within Halachic bounds. Has
anyone heard of any such Isur?
             The real problem with many of the public events is their
content. Whenever I have gone to them I always got the feeling that G-d
is in the dock and no one will defend Him. But the centerpiece of Jewish
mourning is Tseeduk Hadin - acceptance of Hashem's righteous
judgment. This is not to say that I know or understand the reasons for
this unprecedented destruction. One Purim, a student of Reb Ahron
Kotler(the great Gaon whom the Rav said reminded him of Reb Chaim) got
together the courage and asked the sage if he could explain the calamity
of the years 1939-1945. Reb Ahron did not hesitate and said," I do not
know, no one knows, even the Prophets did not know."
             Did Reb Ahron mean that the Shoa was part of Chavlei
Mashiach, the birth pangs of the Messiah? Any other suggestions? Despite
our total inability to comprehend the 'why' of the Shoa , we must
continue to affirm that Hashem is the Righteous Judge. "Whatever the
Merciful One does is for the good." This appears to be the response of
Chazal to the events of their time. (As far as I know they did not give
reasons for the general catastrophe, only for the death of Reb Akiva's
               According to our Mesora, the fourth blessing of the Grace
After Meals (the Hatov Vihameitiv) was instituted after the destruction
of the city of Betar, the last stand of Bar Kochba/Ben Koziva. It is
believed that millions of Jews perished in Erets Yisraeil and in other
countries during this period. The Jewish community of Alexandria, which
may have numbered a million souls was totally destroyed . Chazal's
response was to bless Hashem for being exceedingly good, for allowing
the huge number of corpses not to decompose and to thank Him that the
dead were given over to burial.
               It looked as though Hashem had Chalila abandoned His
people.  The miracles at Betar showed us that Israel was still His
beloved child and so we added a blessing to the Birchas Hamazon.
               The Shoa survivor, Moshe Prager, used to say that with
the escape from Hitler's clutches of Reb Ahron, The Lubavitcher Rebbe,
the remnants of the great pre-war Yeshivos and a number of other great
sages and Tsadikim, Hitler, Yemach Shimo Vizichro, lost his war against
the Jews.
                               We have much to thank Hashem for.


End of Volume 26 Issue 43