Volume 30 Number 18
                 Produced: Wed Nov 24 22:09:03 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Halakhah and the "ideal"
         [Perry Dane]
         [Eli Turkel]
Monarchy and Halacha
         [Ahron Wolf]
Near Death Experiences
         [Yael Levine Katz]
Telephone calls for tzedakah and appropriate response
         [Stuart Wise]
Where would you like to live?
         [Carl Singer]


From: Perry Dane <dane@...>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 09:52:30 -0500
Subject: Halakhah and the "ideal"

Russell Hendel wrote: <rhendel@...>

>As for monarchy being the ideal torah form of government see the
>Abarbanel on parshas Shoftim and in Sefer Shmuel where the people ask
>for a king. Also see the Netziv on parshas Shoftim. Both these
>authorities do not believe that the monarchy is the ideal form of
>government. The Abarbanel holds that monarchy is very bad form of
>government indeed and was only allowed as a concession to the Yetzer
>Hara of imitating the nations of that era.
>But it is well known that creation of a monarchy is a Biblical
>commandment according to many authorities. So my general questions are
>--do commentaries like the Abarbanel imply a HALACHIC opinion that there
>is no commandment of monarchy
>--if Abarbanel accepts the halacha does he have a right to let the
>negative comments of Samuel on the monarchy override the fact that
>commandments are usually positive things to wish for
>In other words...what should our attitude be towards commentaries which
>base themselves on Agaddic type material in Tnach but avoid discussing
>the larger halachic framework on which these issues revolve

To which the moderator responded:

>[I think I have some problems with the above paragraph. I'm putting this
>here to the whole list, since I see similar type posts from many
>people. The tone of the last paragraph clearly sends a message to me
>when I read it that commentaries like the Abravanel and the Nitziv are
>doing something "wrong" and you ask what our attitude should be. I think
>a more productive approach is to make sure one knows the range of
>halachic opinions on the topic is question (here, whether appointing a
>king is a desired positive commandment, or is a requirement only if the
>people demand a form of government outside of Sanhedrin/Navi), try and
>understand if the halachic issue is dealt with by that reashon or
>acharon possibly in a different location. Mod]

There is a larger issue here.  Why do both Russell and the moderator, in
their different ways, assume that the halakhah necessarily mandates the
"desired" or the ideal?  It seems to me that traditional commentators
were perfectly willing to draw a philosophical or aggadic picture of the
"ideal" that was at variance with the halakhah.  For example, Rambam
clearly did not believe that animal sacrifices were an "ideal" form of
worship.  But he also believed that they were halakhically mandated.

Indeed, if the halahkah always represented the "ideal" state of affairs,
then obedience to it would be less meaningful, and less of a virtue.

Perry Dane           		<dane@...>
Professor of Law and Director of Faculty Development
Rutgers University School of Law	Work:	(856) 225-6004
217 North Fifth Street	Fax: 	(856) 225-6516


From: Eli Turkel <turkel@...>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 16:09:15 +0200 ("IST)
Subject: Kulot/Chumrot

> Carl Singer writes
> But I must admit that I was taken aback by the statement that Poskim
> have banned bike riding on "emotional issues."  This was followed up by
> two statements whose structure I hear all too often regarding various
> religious matters.
> (1) Plony ruled that it's muhter but he (or his kin) say that he
> wouldn't dare take a public stand to that effect.

 While I agree with that stand, these days it is not PC in some circles
to be makil. I have heard stories of major rabbis who felt a eruv to be
kosher but did not speak up because they would have problems in their
shul with such a stance.
 There are numerous articles of cases where stands of rabbis were
consciously changed by others to make them more PC. One of the most
famous being the claim that Rabbi S.R. Hirsch did not "really" believe
in Torah im Derech Eretz.
 There have been even threats of physical violence against major gedolim
who issued a psak that was mattir something when "others" knew better.

This is not necessarily a modern issue. There are halakhic discussions
in the past what to do if a judge is threatened to give the "correct"
psak.  While the case Carl is talking about is not that extreme I can
understand rabbis not wanting to take a public stand on a an issue that
may cost them their job or at least a lot of antagonism in their shul.

Eli Turkel


From: Ahron Wolf <awolf@...>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 11:21:47 -0500
Subject: Monarchy and Halacha

In v30n16 we Russel Hendel raises the following
But it is well known that creation of a monarchy is a Biblical
commandment according to many authorities. So my general questions are

--do commentaries like the Abarbanel imply a HALACHIC opinion that there
is no commandment of monarchy

--if Abarbanel accepts the halacha does he have a right to let the
negative comments of Samuel on the monarchy override the fact that
commandments are usually positive things to wish for

In other words...what should our attitude be towards commentaries which
base themselves on Agaddic type material in Tnach but avoid discussing
the larger halachic framework on which these issues revolve

There is actually a dispute in the Sifrei about whether the
establishment of a monarchy is a commandment or not, whether its a
Mitzva or Reshus.  Rashi quotes the opinion of Mitzva that it is a
biblical commandment. The Ibn Ezra quotes the opinion of Reshus that it
is optional.

It seems to me that the Netziv learns that according to the opinion of
Mitzva, that the verse in the Torah that says you shall establish a king
is a commandment, this does not refer to monarchy per se but the verse
is referring to any system of government for the nation. The Netziv says
that the Torah is not trying to establish a specific form of government
but rather the obligation is to establish a government in whatever form
the people choose.

The Rambam for one however clearly refers to the establishment of a king
as a biblical commandment. According to this it seems that all the
problems that the Abarbanel raises against the monarchy come to the
forefront. Besides the arguments from experience and logic the Abarbanel
has some arguments against monarchy that come from Tanach itself I
advise the readers to learn this Abarbanel both the one in Shoftim and
in Shmuel. It would be hard to dismiss his arguments 'just like that'.

I believe the solution lies in the distinction between a king and a
monarchy which implies an absolute authority of the king. Without this
absolute authority a king is no more that a president or prime minister.
When we read about the king in Parshas Shoftim we do not find that he is
given such absolute power. On the contrary the Torah constantly stresses
that the king should not 'raise his heart above the people'.

In Shmuel though we find that the king is given authority to take the
daughters and money of the people at will. The Gemara also learns out
several other aspects of the absolute power of the king from the verses
in Shmuel such as the authority of the king (some say obligation) to put
to death anyone who disagrees or disrespects him.  Another question
comes to mind. How can we learn biblical obligations that are not
mentioned in the Torah from the Nevi'im. We know that a Navi is not
given authority to institute any new halachik rules.

The answer to all this can be found in Rav Hirsch's explanations on the
verse in Shoftim. He explains that according to the Torah there is an
obligation to appoint a king. The main purpose of this king however is
not political but to serve as a moral authority and example to the
people. The king does not have more authority than a modern day
president or prime minister.

However this is not the same type of king found by the other nations of
the time. The people in Shmuel were not satisfied with this institution
and wanted a king just like the other nations. This meant a ruler with
absolute authority. The people felt this would make them stronger as a
nation (the same attitude many Germans had about Hitler). Shmuel then
warned them what this would entail yet the people insisted.

Rav Hirsch then says that God gave into the peoples demands in order to
teach them that such a monarchy is not in the peoples best interests. So
the absolute authority of the king was not a biblical commandment but an
institution accepted by the people on themselves. Since they accepted it
they then put themselves under the absolute authority of the king and
this authority became obligatory on them. During our long history we
were suppose to realize the evils of absolute monarchy through our
experience.  We had few good kings and many evil rulers who took
advantage of the authority given to them.

This explanation fits well with accepted halacha which grants the king
absolute authority as well as the objections of the Abarbanel. When
Moshiach comes I assume he will absolve us from the absolute authority
of the king that we accepted upon ourselves, since we already learnt our
lesson (hopefully). We will then revert back to the original institution
of monarchy that the Torah had in mind. Against this original
institution the Abarbanel would have no objections.

Note: I read in a book called 'Hamalchut BeYisrael' that when the
American colonies wanted break away from Britain and the monarchy they
assembled many scholars to write up a document containing all the
objections to the institution of monarchy found in the writings of
various philosophers. The Abarbanel in Sefer Shmuel was one of the main
articles featured in this document. I dont remember the author of this
book at the moment or his source.



From: Yael Levine Katz <ylkpk@...>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 22:04:16 +0200
Subject: Near Death Experiences

In connection with the query concerning literature on Jewish Near Death
Experiences I would like to point to several references, primarily in
Hebrew.  The first section of the second volume of the late Rabbi Chaim
David Halevy's work "Ase Lekha Rav" discusses these issues.  Rachel
No'am wrote an autobiograpical account of such an experience and the
change she underwent following it. She gave up her secular way of
living, and became Chabad. She now lives in Kfar Chabad.  Her book:
Rachel No'am, Hazarah La-Hayim (Hebrew), Tel Aviv, 1994 (expanded
edition).  The book in English translation was published in 1992: Rachel
Noam, The View From Above.  Recently a book dealing with the issue was
published by Yizhak Hallamish, Ha-Hayim She-Le-Ahar Ha-Mavet, Bnei Brak,
1999.  Additionally, there exists a cassette in Hebrew about a person
who was supposedly murdered, was in Olam Ha-Ba and returned to life
("Ha-Met Ha-Hai - Sipuro Ha-Ishi shel Hagni Avraham She-Nirzah, Haya
Be-Olam Ha-Emet Ve-Hazar La-Haim"). It was issued by Shofar - Irgun
Le-Hafazat Ha-Yahadut sometime in the 90s.

Yael Levine Katz


From: Stuart Wise <swise@...>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 13:37:12 -0800
Subject: Re: Telephone calls for tzedakah and appropriate response

Your sensitivity is admirable, but i think by being polite and letting
them complete their pitch and then kindly declining is probably the
kindest way of dealing with it. The spiel lasts seconds; the respect you
give them by listening to them is, to me, most admirable.

Which brings me to a related topic -- maybe an extension of your
questions.  We also get numerous phone calls, but often they are from
the same institutions that I just contributed to.  It annoys me that
their record-keeping is so shoddy that they have these poor innocent
volunteers wasting their time.  We always have our tzedakah ledger handy
so that we can respond to insistent callers that we contributed such and
such amount on such and such date with check number.

Also, some institutions, which will remain nameless, will call several
times a year for all their ancillary causes.  There are so many
worthwhile causes, that I don't appreciate being milked by the same

The bottom line is we all give to those causes we feel best about, and
as long as it is tzedakah and does some good, we should be rewarded for
our efforts.


From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 1999 21:39:51 EST
Subject: Where would you like to live?

I had an interesting conversation with a long time (20 year) friend re:
if you didn't live here, where would you move to?  Once we got past
mechanics (weather, housing stock, commute) we got to the real tachlis
-- community menchleckite.  It was a troubling conversation, we
discussed several communities that we knew, etc.  (I won't mention town
names, but nod if these sound familiar.)  ... and we went established
the following criteria.

Intolerance -- I'm not frum enough for them, I couldn't deal with all
the chumrahs.  (My friend has "black hat" smicha, his Father is a Rosh
Yeshiva, his wife's family has similar yichus.)

Lack of respect -- They don't think us old folks (40's & 50's) know

Politics -- They've become like Brooklyn, the local Va'ad has been
displaced by a few Rabbaim.

Too modern -- The school (in plony-ville) is almost a Soloman Schechter,
all the yeshiva-lite have to send their kids out of town.  You name the
chumra, they have it -- they even play basketball on Shabbos afternoon.

Too materialistic --  ....

With the clear premise that everyone to my right is a reactionary and
everyone to my left is a radical, it's always been difficult to find
people just like me to populate my "ideal" town -- but I am most curious
re: what others think are important (plus or minus) in choosing a
community to live in, to raise a family, etc.

Carl Singer


End of Volume 30 Issue 18