Volume 29 Number 25
                 Produced: Wed Jul 28  7:02:43 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Can't We Be Polite?
         [Susan Shapiro]
Halakha and a "higher" Morality
         [Bill Bernstein]
Names of G-d in Shir haShirim (2)
         [Joseph Geretz, Alexander Heppenheimer]
Rav Kook on Slavery
         [Yehoshua Kahan]
         [Michael & Bonnie Rogovin]
Shir HaShirim and Megillas Esther
         [Alexander Heppenheimer]
Slavery in the time of Mashiach
         [Zvi Weiss]


From: Susan Shapiro <SShap23859@...>
Date: Sun, 25 Jul 1999 10:22:39 EDT
Subject: Can't We Be Polite?

<< You are free to assume anything you want, but I think most historians
 would consider your position idiosyncratic, to say the least. >>

I find reading posts that begin this way rather insulting to the
previous poster, especially since it is going out to the whole list.  Is
it completely necessary?  Can't we disagree politely?

[Just want to add my agreement to Susan that we should please try and be
polite in our postings and it is probably not a bad idea to reread your
posting before you hit the send key. Give it the extra few minutes, and
it will likely be better reading for all of us. Mod.]

Susan Shapiro


From: Bill Bernstein <bbernst@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 1999 11:12:39 -0500
Subject: Re: Halakha and a "higher" Morality

In MJ 29.11 Frank Silbermann cites my comment and an opposing one on
vegetarianism and a "higher" morality.

> In response, Jeffrey Bock quoted Rav Yehuda Amital proving that ethics
> does not end with that the specific commandments. 

I should have picked up on this one sooner.  We have specific mitzvos
both bein odom l'makom and bein odom l'chovero.  Additionally we have
chumros on both these.  Further there are eitzos tovos from Chazal.
Wherever we read about some unusual piece of behavior from a godol,
frequently there is often a source attached to it.  So my question
stands: what is the source of the "higher" morality that people
frequently cite?


From: Joseph Geretz <jgeretz@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 08:22:40 -0400
Subject: Names of G-d in Shir haShirim

Barry Best wrote:
> regarding Scott D. Spiegler's question regarding God's name in Shir
> HaShirim, one of His names, Tz'va -- os, does appear a few times.

At first glance this would appear to be the case. However, according to
Rashi, the word Tzva'os in all instances is a feminine derivative of the
word Tzvi - gazelle. (Is this grammatically the norm or a poetic form of
the word?) It must be understood thus, since in context, it is always
paired together with Ayalos Hasadeh, another type of deer (hind?) and it
would be difficult, to say the least, to explain the juxtaposition of
G-d's name with Ayalos Hasadeh.

Kol Tuv,

Joseph Geretz

From: Alexander Heppenheimer <Alexander.Heppenheimer@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 21:21:12 -0600
Subject: Re: Names of G-d in Shir haShirim

Actually, in all of those places, it's an improper noun, the plural of
"tzvi," meaning "deer" or "gazelles" (I think there are various
translations of the word).

The same word also means "armies." Based on a cursory review of Tanach,
it seems to me that it functions as a name of Hashem only when it's
paired with one of the other six names listed in the Rambam, Foundations
of the Torah 6:2.

Kol tuv y'all,


From: Yehoshua Kahan <orotzfat@...>
Subject: Rav Kook on Slavery

Apropos of the gathering discussion on slavery and morality, and in
light of Russell Hendel's "upping the ante", I thought it might be
profitable to see a "defense" of slavery from a Torah perspective.  The
following is my translation of a piece from Rav Kook's commentary on Ein
Ya'akov, entitled Ein Ayah (vol. 2, pg. 214).  Please forgive the length
of the post - I'll save my own comments for a subsequent issue.  Keep in
mind that Rav Kook is writing this as the slave trade has wound to a
close (apparently), at the close of the 19th century, and that he is
referring exclusively to the institution of Eved C'na'ani.

Rav Kook on Slavery

Commenting upon the passage from Talmud Berachot 47b:
        Once Rabbi Eliezer came into a synagogue when there were not
quite ten for a minyan.  He freed his slave to fill out the minyan...but
how could he have done that?  Did not Rav Yehudah state: One who frees
his slave nullifies the positive precept, "You must hold them as slaves
in perpetuity"?

Rav Kook:        The foudation of all the evils that can be found in
slavery come entirely from the blows of evil masters who act cruelly toward
their servants and have no mercy upon their lives or feelings, while the
goal of the Torah is that the people of the Eternal shall be outstanding in
their good characteristics.  Then shall slavery become one of the
foundations of the civilized world -  until the time shall come when the
happiest goal is achieved:  when the earth is filled with knowledge of the
Eternal in the highest possible manner.  For then, when He brings all the
peoples to speak in [one] clear tongue, all of them calling upon the name
of the Eternal, all of them linking up with the Eternal as are His people
Israel, behold the whole institution of slavery shall vanish.  It is,
however, well-known that a time is envisioned for the world when the the
people of the Eternal shall be shining example, in their qualities and
characteristics, and from them shall spiritual and moral wholeness pass
over to all the nations of the earth.  Thus, since there can be found
amongst people those who are inferior due to minimal awareness and
constitutional weakness, of body or spirit, it is most appropriate that
they be subjected to superior individuals, the latter being charged with
seeing to their ways, and that the former be in awe of the latter - in this
matter will they straighten themselves out.
        More: should it turn out that there be amongst these successful
invidivuals some who due to their power hold subject the poor amongst
the people in exchange for wages, [these employers] will not feel
constrained to concern themselves that these people get enough to eat,
nor that they come to rest sufficiently to maintain their health.  This
is for two reasons: First, the feeling of uprightness does not beat so
solidly in their hearts to bring them to feel that they are
transgressing, for they have no legal responsibility to provide for
their employees food and other needs, since for the work they do they
are compensated in accordance with what they have agreed upon to accept.
Since he does not force them to work for him, he feels no obligation
regarding their poverty - despite the fact that they are compelled to
accept the onerous conditions, conditions they cannot actually stand up
to, due to their poverty.  Second, even should these people live shorter
lives, or become ill, the master who subjugates doesn't lose a thing,
for he can always find other workers.  The law of slavery comes to
defend against such a situation: since the slave is the owner's
property, he will certainly concern himself over the welfare of that
which he posseses.  Only if it turns out that the master is devious and
cruel does slavery become a source of evil.
        When the slave trade becomes widespread, that's when, in the
hands of slavetraders, all sorts of evils befall the family life of the
slave, as can be seen in the last few years when such developments
brought the end of slavery in many countries.  In truth, according to
Torah law, which stipulates that it is forbidden to extradite a slave
who has run from his wicked master, there is no place for expanding the
slave trade, even if it is merely a matter of extension from the
Diaspora to the Land of0 Israel.  Since it would be impossible to do
business with these slaves in faraway countries, the slave trade is
prevented from spreading.
        A comment like this is sufficient, in accordance with the good
qualities which are inherant in Jewish life, to protect the slave from
some awful evil, and to benefit them a great deal by means of proper
education and encompassing protection from the evils people can do.
For, should such slaves turn into "enslaved freemen", their portion
should be all the worse...Therefore, one who frees his
slave... nullifies the positive precept, "You must hold them as slaves
in perpetuity", and demonstrates thereby that he does not recognize the
advantage of the holy characteristics which are fit to become fixed
amidst Israel, by means of the holy Torah - for then should slavery
become a blessing for all of humanity, especially since by virtue of
Divine Providence which especially manifests itself amidst Israel, it
turns out, and it will always turn out, that the worst sorts are slaves.
Instead, then, of becoming great criminals as freemen, who are convicted
of great crimes, sometimes being sentenced to suffering or death - as
slaves, the fear of an upright master and his good character will
prevent this.


From: Michael & Bonnie Rogovin <rogovin@...>
Date: Fri, 16 Jul 1999 18:15:38 -0400
Subject: Re Slavery

Chaim Shapiro writes

> What happens when Torah morality is not in conjunction with pop
> culture morality?  One of the most obvious examples is in terms of
> slavery, which according to the Torah is moral when done properly.
> How many people out there are willing to say that they believe slavery
> is moral?  I, in fact, have made that argument on several occasions in
> my college classes.  The basis being that Life and Liberty are
> invented concepts and that slavery bereft of racism does not violate
> the utilitarian view of morality.  However, I would say that most Jews
> would disagree with me on the strongest terms.

I don't think that it is logical to make such an argument. Slavery has a
conotation which is generally accepted by most people and which is very
different from what the Torah permits.  As I understand the permissible
forms of eved, the Torah permits indentured servitude, with many
caveats.  Indeed, the treatment of such servants is, in some respects,
more demanding on the "owner" than modern day labor law imposes on
employers. Slavery, in common usage, was for an indefinite amount of
time, the owner could do anything he or she wished to the slave, and the
slave was mere property and had no rights as a person.  This is
certainly not the Torah's view.

Michael Rogovin


From: Alexander Heppenheimer <Alexander.Heppenheimer@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 1999 22:22:08 -0600
Subject: RE: Shir HaShirim and Megillas Esther

Daniel Israel wrote:

>It seems to me that Shir HaShirim does have a p'shat: a love poem.  And
>if you want to say that this p'shat is so far "off" for part of the
>Tanach that it can't be considered p'shat then I would say the lesson of
>Esther if read as history is as bad if not worse.
>The p'shat of Megillas Esther, on the other hand, is
>that in our days HaShem doesn't perform miracles; if we want to protect
>ourselves we need to do it by political intrigue (and perhaps

First of all, we need to differentiate between plain meaning (peshat) and
lessons to derive from the text (derush). This thread so far has been
dealing with peshat; you're introducing a new angle, that of derush.

Normally, it's perfectly true that the peshat is more or less equivalent
to the literal translation. But there are exceptions, such as "bein
einecha" (in connection with tefillin), whose literal translation is
"between your eyes," but whose peshat, as transmitted to us by our Sages
in an unbroken chain of mesorah as part of Torah SheBaal Peh, is "in the
middle of your forehead." In short, we're not the ones who determine
what's peshat and what's not; we rely on what our Sages tell us, and
they told us - unanimously - that the peshat of Shir HaShirim is
different from its surface meaning (see introductions of Rashi and Ibn
Ezra to Shir HaShirim). And it's not that they looked at Shir HaShirim,
found that its surface meaning is out of character of the rest of
Tanach, and were therefore forced to reinterpret it, any more than
that's the case with "bein einecha."

In the case of Megillas Esther, on the other hand, we are told that the
events that it describes actually took place; therefore it's like most
of the rest of Tanach, where the surface meaning and the peshat are
about the same.

[All of this is also true, incidentally, of the Aggadata (narrative
portion) of the Talmud and Midrash: sometimes the peshat lies on the
surface, other times it is buried deeper (i.e., the events described are
allegorical) - and in all cases, we must consult the commentaries to see
which is the case.]

Now, as for the issue of derush: Here, there is apparently a little more
latitude in finding and applying lessons from the text. Still, we need
to check any suggested derush to see whether it conforms with what we
know of the rest of Torah, and if it doesn't, then we must reject it as

There are both positive and negative proofs, then, that your suggested
lessons from Megillas Esther are incorrect. On the one hand, we have
explicit statements throughout Torah literature that political intrigue
is not the salvation of the Jewish People, merely one tool through which
Hashem works, and that intermarriage is prohibited and is an act of
treason against G-d. On the other hand, we have the analyses of our
Sages, who teach us the real lessons of the Purim story: that in our
times, when we don't see open miracles, Hashem still works behind the
scenes and manipulates events; that attempting to mix into non-Jewish
society as equals (as at Achashverosh's feast) brings disaster (G-d
forbid) to the Jewish People; and others.

[And they also tell us that Esther was coerced into marrying
Achashverosh, and never - at least until her unannounced audience with
him - acted voluntarily as his wife, so that she was in no way violating
the prohibition of intermarriage. The source for this is the Gemara
(Sanhedrin 74b) and commentaries there.]

Kol tuv y'all,


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Wed, 21 Jul 1999 09:08:55 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Slavery in the time of Mashiach

Some add'l comments on slavery in the time of Moshiach.
 The Netziv noted that the *mitzva* of purchasing Eved K'na'ani did NOT
apply to Gerei Toshav (that is, there is no mitzva to purchase a Ger
Toshav as an Eved K'na'ani) -- only to people who were actually
idolatrous -- because there is a kiyum of removing people from idolatry.
(There is the *possiblity* of purchasing a Ger Toashv as an Eved
K'na'ani should he or she *wish* to so sell himself).  Since in Y'mos
HaMashiach, the Non-Jews will *all* (I think) acknowledge Hashem, it
seems to me that there would no longer be a mitzva of purchasing Avadim
K'na'anim -- although I imagine that there may be people who WANT to
sell themselves for that purpose.  That is, there may be non-Jews who
would wish to join the Jewish household and -- knowing that in Messianic
times we do not accept converts -- would choose this "path".

Since all of this is being done voluntarily, I am not sure what moral
objection would exist (if any).

In the case of Eved Ivri -- since we think that people's "Yetzer Harah"
will be reduced/diminished/eliminated -- it seems that we would no
longer have the case of Beis Din selling such people due to crime.

On the other hand, there MAY still be some "pockets of poverty" (I do
not think so based upon the descriptions of that era -- but I am willing
to admit to the *possibility*).  In that case, we might find people
selling THEMSELVES as Avadim Ivrim.  Again, since this is being done
voluntarily, I am not sure what the "moral objection" is...



End of Volume 29 Issue 25