Volume 27 Number 11
                      Produced: Fri Oct 10  1:07:48 1997

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Accurate Reporting of History
         [Daniel Israel]
Heresy and Halacha
         [Shlomo Pick]
Hypocrisy vs Piety
         [Anthony Fiorino]
Merit of the Patriarchs (Zechus Avos)
         [Moshe Hillson]
         [Seth Kadish]
The last days of Volozhin
         [Shmuel Himelstein]
Torah - History
         [Ralph Zwier]
Who is a Heretic
         [Saul Newman]


From: Daniel Israel <daniel@...>
Date: Tue, 7 Oct 1997 22:44:00 -0700
Subject: Re: Accurate Reporting of History

Elie Rosenfeld <erosenfe@...> writes:
   Suppose the book of Bereishis was just now being newly written as a
   contemporary-style "Gadol biography series".  How many incidents would
   surely be edited out - Abraham and Sarah in Egypt, Sarah and Hagar,
   Yehudah and Tamar, Reuven and Bilhah, etc.  Yet chazal and the meforshim
   elucidate each of these seemingly "incongrous" stories in a variety of

While I generally agree with Elie's point in the rest of his article, I
don't think this comparison is quite parallel: Bereishis was written by
HaShem.  Even in Nach, the writing was with ruach HaKodesh; very few of
us attribute such a level to contempory "Gadol Biography Series."

The precedent of Tanach tells us that the general concept of including
such incidents is an appropriate hashkafah, but with regard to a
particular case, the halachic/shmiras haloshen issue still must be
considered seperately for each case.

Hayim S. Hendeles <hayim@...> wrote:
   IMHO the statement [regarding the Netziv reading a newspaper] *had to
   be deleted*. And I say this, because you and I *DO NOT KNOW* what the
   word "newspaper" means. To some, it means the New York Times, to some
   it means the Yated Neeman (which contains the news from a Torah
   perspective as well as numerous Divrei Torah), and to others the word
   "newspaper" means one of these sleazy British tabloids.

   While I am not a Rabbi, and I cannot pasken, whatever the laws are
   about reading newspapers on Shabbos, there may well be a difference
   between the sleazy British tabloid and the Yated Neeman.

   If this is true, unless you know the nature of the paper read by the
   Netziv, it would be deceiving to state his position that newspapers
   are permissible. Thus, the honest and ethical course of action would
   be to omit details that will be misinterpreted.

As far as I can tell, there are two issue here.  One is the impression
one will get of the Netziv, the other is a halachic conclusion one might
draw.  As far as one's impression, it would seem to me that the concept
of dan l'chaf z'chus, especially as applied to a Talmud Chacham, would
assure that we would conclude that this refers to a newspaper that
contains appropriate subject material.  While we might disagree over
whether that means divrei Torah or unbiased news, it certainly is not a
sleazy tabloid; I don't think anyone would conclude that the Netziv read
papers he shouldn't have, chas v'shalom.

As far as halachic conclusions are concerned, anyone who is learning out
halachos from such a book is in trouble to begin with.  While there are
specific cases in which actions of particular gedolim are cited in
halachic discussions, we shouldn't be learning halacha from books like
this, and I see no reason why editors should be expected to vet a book
in terms of this possible misuse.

Daniel M. Israel
University of Arizona		
Tucson, AZ			


From: Shlomo Pick <picksh@...>
Date: Thu, 09 Oct 1997 17:35:00 -0700
Subject: Heresy and Halacha

hi and shana tova

I have some small comment on your editorial and submission from the 27:9 issue.

1. the moderator submitted the examples of driving on shabbat or that
mikva is no longer required, it would not get accepted. to be
provacative - what if someone suggested that there was no longer a
commandment of say, sleeping in the sukka (not because of weather
conditions) but for just no longer appilcable. is that within the bounds
of "Responsa Judaism" (which i really don't think is a good definition,
haven't you ever seen reform and conservative responsa?).

2. re. mr. clark's comment that certain gedolim required a get from
marriages performed by certain non-Orthodox rabbis. i don't that
r. moshe zt"l disagreed with that. r. moshe in many teshuvot, discounted
reform marriages that were usually double ring ceremonies and hence not
keddushin and thus did not require a get. btw, this was a big kula
(=lenient rulling), because should the marriage end in a civil divorce
and the woman remarry, the children of the second "marriage" would not
be mamzarim (=halakhic bastards). [i wonder if this was the real reason
for r. moshe's pesak and not due to questions of heresy.] i believe that
a number of articles have been written analyzing this phenomenon of
r. moshe to void reform marriages but not ever stating his voidance of
conservative marriages per se. i believe that yael levin in an article
in sefer aviad (Hebrew) already discussed this point.

3. mr. kaiser has raised a point of what is heresy in modern judaism
(orthodoxy or whatever you call it). the point is well taken (go back to
point no. 1 - the question was the basis of the founding of degel
hatorah and the anti-chabad movement on the part of r. schach). is the
ralbag a heretic because of milchamot hashem? is a mizrachist a heretic
in munkatch circles? is a chabadnic a heretic today? how about one who
is a mochichist chabadnik?
 Accordingly, one may have to deal with a correlation between halakhic
observance and what may be considered heretical ideas. one may claim to
be a complete believer in maimonides's 13 foundations of faith (which
may be a problem in and for itself -see m. kellner's book on dogma) and
yet be a mechalel shabbat bepharhesia (a public sabbath desecrator) and
hence still be considered a heretic by halakhic standards. i really
don't know if there is or can be a precise definition.

gemar chatima tova
shlomo pick


From: Anthony Fiorino <afiorino@...>
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 1997 00:17:32 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Hypocrisy vs Piety

>To often we classify as "character traits" matters that are strictly
>legal. The issue of how to deal with a Yeshiva boy who is wearing
>Tzitzith is NOT a psychological issue but rather a halachic issue.  I
>hope this brief introduction helps steer the discussion in the right way

For an excellent treatment of rabbinic attitudes towards acts of
personal piety see Sarah Epstein Weinstein's "Piety and Fanaticism"
recently published by Jason Aronson (Northvale NJ).

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


From: Moshe Hillson <xmjh@...>
Date: Wed, 08 Oct 1997 09:29:04 -0400
Subject: Merit of the Patriarchs (Zechus Avos)

 On the one hand, several places in aggada (Talmud Bavli and possibly
more) mention that Zechus Avos has been exhausted ("used up") and we
will need other sources of merit to merit redemption. See also Ramban on
Deuteronomy chapter 32 verse 27 (Ha'azinu - Lu'le ka'as oyev agur - if
not for the accumulated anger of the enemy .....) who interprets this
verse as saying that the final redemption will be merited due to the
desecration of G-d's name caused by the exile - and brings Ezekiel
ch. 36 (haftarah of Shabbos Parah) and several other quotations from
Isaiah and Jeremiah.

On the other hand, both the selichos ("supplications") and the prayers
of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are full of supplications to pardon us on
the merit of the Patriarchs (Zechus Avos).

Can anyone reconcile the seeming contradiction?
G'mar Hathima Tova!
Moshe Hillson.


From: Seth Kadish <skadish@...>
Date: Tue, 07 Oct 1997 21:45:54 +0200
Subject: Newspapers

> >IMHO the statement (about the Netziv reading a newspaper on Shabbat - WB)
> >*had to be deleted*. And I say this, because
> >you and I *DO NOT KNOW* what the word "newspaper" means. To some,
> >it means the New York Times, to some it means the Yated Neeman
> >(which contains the news from a Torah perspective as well as
> >numerous Divrei Torah), and to others the word "newspaper" means
> >one of these sleazy British tabloids.
	As far as I remember (though I haven't rechecked), the
turn-of-the-century discussions on whether one is allowed to read
newspapers (in general, not just on Shabbat) had nothing to do with the
quality of the papers.  Nor did it have to do with their supposed lack
of a "Torah perspective."  Rather, the possible halakhic prohibition was
one of reading about and likely accepting lashon hara.  It was likely
also an issue of bittul zman and bittul Torah.  (Also: Divrei Torah
aside, neither the quality of the newspaper nor its "perspective" should
be relevant to the Shabbat issue either.)
	Lashon hara is the most serious issue here, and when it comes to
lashon hara, we should realize that no person and no newspaper is
immune.  Not even religious newspapers that include divrei Torah, and
not even the divrei Torah printed in them.  I know that for myself, even
my own divrei Torah sometimes hide the temptation to add comments
bordering on lashon hara, and I've too often fallen into the trap.  All
the more so for newspapers that are read by thousands.  Jewish
newspapers that consider themselves religious have a major
responsibility to gaurd themselves vigilantly against lashon hara and
sinat hinnam; when they fail, it violates not just the rules of lashon
hara, but also hurts people, and often creates tremendous hillul Hashem.
Buyers must beware as well.  (This goes for mailing lists, too!
Mail-Jewish deserves credit for tone of its discussions, which reflect
mahloket le-shem shamayim. :-)
 Gemar hatima tova,
Seth Kadish
Karmiel, Israel


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himelstein@...>
Date: Thu Oct 09 21:05:53 1997
Subject: The last days of Volozhin

After reading the different comments about the last days of Volozhin, I went 
to *Mosdot Torah Be'eiropa BeVinyam Uve'Churbanam" ("Torah Institutions in 
Europe, their Development and Destruction") edited by Prof. Shmuel K. Mirski 
(New York: Ogen, 1956), which, I believe, is an authoritative work on the 
Yeshivot. In the article on  Volozhin, written by Prof. Mirski himself, he 
quotes a document signed R' Yitzchak Elchonon Spektor of Kovno, R' Yosef Ber 
HaLevi Soloveichik, R' Naftali Tzvi Yehudah of Volozhin (Netziv), and R' 
Yitzchak Yaakov Reines of Lida (the founder of Mizrachi at a later time), in 
5647 (1887). In this document, the Gedolim note the tremendous pressure upon 
them, both by the Russian government and by the Maskilim to introduce 
secular studies. They urge everyone who is able to, to help them resist the 
pressures, and note that anyone who has come through the Heder system will 
be able to learn within a single year what takes other many years, because 
of the logical thought processes developed there.

These Gedolim nevetheless agreed that those students who did not know how to 
read and write Russian would be offered courses in this, provided this was 
done in a separate building, that the teacher was to have no novels in the 
room or mention any novels in his teaching, and that the teacher would have 
to have a "teacher's diploma" from the appropriate authorities (the latter 
assumedly to placate the government).

Prof. Mirski includes a photostat of this document, including the 

Prof. Mirski goes on to say that very few students attended these classes.

As to why the Yeshiva eventually closed down, Prof. Mirski quotes what the 
Russian government eventually decreed (on December 22, 1891):

"That general studies are to be given between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
"That there is to be no studying at night, and that the Yeshiva is to be 
closed then.
"That no more than 10 hours of every 24 are to be devoted to studies.
"That the head of the Yeshiva and all its teachers are to have government 

* * *

Given the above, it would seem to me that:
a) Under no circumstances would Netziv have been willing to head such a 
caricature of a Yeshiva.
b) Even had he wanted to, he could not have remained its head, as he 
certainly had no government diploma.

I hope the above sheds some historical light on this era.

Shmuel Himelstein


From: Ralph Zwier <zwierr@...>
Date: Fri, 10 Oct 1997 12:32:16 +1000
Subject: Torah - History

I want to add a little comment about (a) our concern for the truth and
accurate transmission of tradition, versus (b) our being bound in some
way to withhold "less than stellar" incidents from being published:

In all of our histories, starting from Bereishit until and including the
latest Artscroll publication, the purpose of "publication" is only to
teach us Torah values. What those histories are doing, IMHO, is telling
us how WE as Jews have to see and understand the events.

This means that whenever a "sin" of a Tzaddik is mentioned, its only
purpose is to teach us some Torah value. In fact, even a simple reading
of the story of Dovid Hamelech and his so-called "sin" reveals that it
is brought in to show his greatness, to contrast his reaction to Shaul's
upon being told of it etc..

Therefore, in telling the biographies of modern Torah personalities, the
publisher has the same "balancing act" to perform today, as was ever the
case. On the one hand we have a principle that does not approve of
giving false praise just for the sake of it. On another hand we have a
principle that seeks to see the Hand of G-d in the unfolding of
history. On another hand we do not want to gratuitously publish
unpraiseworthy incidents about anyone, but we DO have an obligation to
teach and to learn, even from other people's failings.

When you look at Tanach, you see there that the Neviim (with Ruach
Hakodesh) have indeed traversed this minefield of conflicting
principles, and what the modern publisher needs to do, is to abide by
those same principles.

(This incidentally, is also the same balancing act which a Rabbi does at
a Hesped. We all disapprove of a Hesped which totally distorts the life
of the deceased person out of recognition. This is because of our desire
to seek truth.)

Gmar Tov
Ralph Zwier                        Voice    61 3 9521 2188
Double Z Computer                    Fax    61 3 9521 3945


From: Saul Newman <Saul.Z.Newman@...>
Date: Tue, 7 Oct 1997 12:41:23 -0700
Subject: Who is a Heretic

 No doubt the discussion of what is a heretical belief will be
controversial-it is really the crux of the who is a rabbi issue.
 Although alll Jews are entitled to ahavat yisrael, some distinction
must be made to determine who has a status of tinok shenishba
(essentially halachically ignorant from birth) vs.  the legitimate
choteh or maybe choteh umachti et harabim ( knowledgable sinners who
lead others astray). 
 Rather than engage in polemics here, it's probably better to
concentrate on the halachic issues--where can one pray, who counts to a
quorum, where can one eat, whose testimony is valid.  I think the poskim
have probably delineated clearer behavioral guidelines, as opposed to
more social,interactive issues--how can one show disrespect in a ahavat
yisrael manner of invalid approaches to judaism.
 Gmar chatima to all klal yisrael--may it be a year of teshuva and geula


End of Volume 27 Issue 11