Volume 32 Number 96
                 Produced: Mon Jul 17  5:35:12 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Book burning
         [Zev Sero]
Chalav Akum and "New" Chumros (2)
         [Bill Bernstein, Joel Rich]
         [Michael Horowitz]
Derech eretz
         [Josh Hoexter]
Kosher, Mehadrin and Derech Eretz
         [Dovid Oratz]


From: Zev Sero <Zev@...>
Date: Tue, 11 Jul 2000 15:40:55 -0400
Subject: Re: Book burning

Eliezer Diamond <eldiamond@...> wrote:

> those who wrote about the "historical" - to use Medad's term -
>question of bookburning made no reference to its implicatins for
>today. I found it disturbing that bookburning could be discussed without
>considering these implications, particularly because this discussion
>group is primarily about Torah, not history. 

I did write both about historical and current book burning, and I was
certainly writing not about theoretical question, but about what the
Torah's attitude is, AFAIK, to burning books in olden times, today, and
for all eternity.

Mr Diamond then wrote:

>I am unalterably opposed to the burning of any book[...]The first
>reason for my stand is that I hold very dear the right of free human
>expression. Clearly this must include protecting the expression of views
>that I find hateful.

As he himself wrote earlier, this is mail-jewish, and the topic of this
list is Judaism, not modern liberal politics.  As a matter of politics I
am a first amendment absolutist, but I don't pretend that the Bill of
Rights is a translation of the Ten Commandments, or has any sort of
divine sanction.  As far as I know, there is *nothing* in Jewish law or
tradition that shows the slightest discomfort with the idea or the
practise of burning books.  In fact, it is an open halacha that a Sefer
Torah written by a Min must be burned; surely this also applies to any
Christian Bible, even a volume that only contains the `OT'.  Does Mr
Diamond suggest that this law does not apply today, because it doesn't
accord with our shared liberal philosophy on free speech?

>The second is that, as in the case of the burning
>of Rambam's writings and the subsequent and consequent burning of the
>Talmud, once the bookburning genie has been let out of the bottle it is
>very difficult to put it back in. I do not trust anyone, including and
>especially myself, to have the wisdom to know what must be burned and
>what may remain. 

Again, this assumes that there's something wrong, a priori, with book
burning, which could only be suspended in the most extreme
circumstances; from the POV of Torah and Halacha, I don't know of
anything to justify such a negative attitude to book burning.

>Third, in the particular case of books such as Mein
>Kampf and the Protocols, we need not to burn these books so that we can
>read them, understand better what and how our enemies think, and find
>ways to respond effectively, in the spirit of "dah mah le-hashiv le-

I don't think that anyone is suggesting that the last copy of any book
be burned, so long as it has a useful purpose.  But so long as
sufficient copies remain in research libraries available to those who
are pursuing such knowledge for the purpose of refuting it, what's wrong
(from a Torah POV, not a free speech one) with burning the rest of the
print run, not only to prevent it from falling into the hands of those
who will not use it properly, but also and primarily to make a point -
`and all Israel shall hear it and be afraid'?

Zev Sero                Any technology distinguishable from magic
<zsero@...>       is insufficiently advanced.
                         - Gregory Benford 


From: Bill Bernstein <bbernst@...>
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2000 15:21:27 -0500
Subject: Re: Chalav Akum and "New" Chumros

A recent post on this subject got my dander up.  Without going into the
details of chalav akum/chalav hacompanies etc *again* several points
could be made.  The first is that virtually every national kashrus
agency relies on the heter to use non-supervised milk and it has become
an accepted practice among many many religious people.  Second, I think
there is a distinction between what the basic halakha is and what people
*ought* to be doing.  Minimally of course people ought to be following
the basic halakha.  Therefore, as I understand it, a basic principle is
koach heter adif (the power of permitting is preferred), to allow as
many people as possible to remain within the strictures of halakha.
OTOH, an individual should strive to increase observance and act
stringently to fulfill all opinions, where this does not contradict
other aspects of halakha, e.g.  respect for one's rebbe and parents.
Merely separating and identifying the forbidden, the permitted, and the
preferable would a first step.  Without that, disrespect and sinas
chinam (hatred) grow rampant as those acting according to chumra look
down on those who are doing what is "merely" permitted, and vice versa.

As we go into the Three Weeks it may be a good idea to review and learn
halakhas more extensively to combat this form of sinas chinam and merit
the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdosh.

From: Joel Rich <Joelirich@...>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 2000 08:21:29 EDT
Subject: Re: Chalav Akum and "New" Chumros

> It's high time to reevaluate our priorities: good old-fashioned Torah
> and kiyum hamitsvos, constantly progressing from day to day, or
> integrating ourselves well into the modern and materialistic society and
> continuously regressing into the corruption and coarseness of the age of
> "instant gratification", 'everything goes' and constant indulgence.
> Just some food for thought.

If, in your mind, theses are the only 2 choices, than the former is
obviously preferable.  There are at least a few who believe that "old
fashioned" tora umitzvot and progressing from day to day require us to
take a holistic view of life and affirmatively "integrate" modern
society under the central rule of tora umitzvot.

BTW-why do you think it is that you see so few ascetics amongst the "old
fashioned" you describe.  Is it possible that they have been affected by
the world around them?

Kol Tuv,
Joel Rich


From: Michael Horowitz <michaelh1@...>
Date: Sat, 15 Jul 2000 20:14:40 PDT
Subject: Chumrot

A poster recently wrote eloquently on why we should follow chumrot to
better follow the mitzvot.

Following this logic I have some suggestions for chumrot.

1) Jewish big brother/big sister programs.  My wife got us into this.
As we know their are thousands of Jewish children without a stable home
environment.  Many (many from shomer shabbos homes) do not even live
with their families, instead living in the foster care system.  Many of
these children do not live with a family, instead in a group home or a
special (non Jewish school.)

Halacha doesn't require us to spend one day a week (lets say 4 hours)
with such a child.  But it would be a valuable chumra in fulfilling the
mitzva of ahavat Yisrael.  More rewarding than drinking chalav Yisrael

2) Special education schools in every Jewish community. I am not sure
this is actually a chumra.  As I understand the halacha a community is
required to tax itself to educate Jewish children in the event a parent
does not/cannot fulfill his responsibility in this regard.

Indeed as I understand it we can sell the 6th or even the 5th sefer
Torah in the Ark to help pay for the school.  Instead of having an
assistant Rabbi in the shul, we could hire one for the school.  We could
even tax simcha's (I got this idea from the Reform Mazon program) to
raise the money.  More rewarding than a second pair of teffillen.

We are very much into chumros, between Jew and G-d.  Lets try following
some between Jew and Jew. Indeed neither of these suggestions are really
a chumra.  They should be seen as base requirements as a Jew.  What
right do we have to follow a chumra, when we aren't following our
required behaviors as a Jew.


From: Josh Hoexter <hoexter@...>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 2000 12:20:13 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Derech eretz

One of the things I like about mail-jewish is learning about the
customs, views and philosophies of people I would likely never meet in
real life.

I think we can share our ideas without denigrating the practices and
beliefs of others.

Let's try to have a little more humility, and try to judge others
favorably. A personal chumra isn't always an indication of insincerity;
following a lenient but accepted community standard does not necessarily
mean one is unconcerned with one's soul; obviously those that have their
own customs don't agree that they are forbidden because of chukos
hagoyim... let's move on.

This list is much more polite and respectful than most other internet
forums (fora?), I just hope it stays that way.

 - Josh Hoexter


From: Dovid Oratz <dovid@...>
Date: Sat, 8 Jul 2000 21:40:04 +0200
Subject: Kosher, Mehadrin and Derech Eretz

I think that I finally have the issues of Kosher vs. Mehadrin -- as
discussed in MJ -- clear in my head. I'd like to share my thoughts with
the list:

There are essentially three levels (in no special order):(A) Ikar Hadin
(the essential law); (B) extra meiticulousness in the law -- whether
this is called Chumra, Zehirus, Hidur Mitzvah, Mehadrin, Baal nefesh or
whatever; (C) Leniencies -- whether called Kula, Heter (which although
etymologically related to Mutar, generally refers to a leniency under
the circumstances, e,g,. Heter Mechirah) or whatever.

Sometimes, what begins as a leniency becomes accepted as Ikar Hadin
(e.g., the Rama's leniency in not requiring Glatt). Many people never
followed that leniency; others, from families that did, might have
decided (to paraphrase one of the posters) that in this day of assembly
line shechitah, Glatt Kosher may be more likely to avoid pitfalls that
can make specific meat treif. There were even always those people -- a
highly respected minority in days gone by -- who would only eat meat
whose shechitah they personally observed.

Chalav Yisrael is one of those sensitive issues that is hotly debated
regarding the above three categories. Rav Moshe Feinstein, the source
for permitting regular milk in America writes in end of Yoreh Deah I:48
(for the sake of accuracy, I am quoting it i the original Hebrew
fo'llowed by my translation): "Velachen Tshuvati Harishonah sheyesh taam
gadol lehamekilin hee nechonah uvrurah. Aval vadai leba'alei nefesh min
harauy lehachmir, ve'ein bazeh mishum Yohara..."  [Translation: Thus, my
first responsum, that there is a big (good) reason for those who are
lenient, is correct and clear. However, certainly it is proper for those
who are scrupulous to be stringent, and THERE IS NO HAUGHTINESS
INVOLVED" -- emphasis my own; more on that later.]

The further we are from Sinai and the deeper into Galut (the state of
being, not the geographic location), the less clear we are with respect
to Ikar Hadin. The Sfas Emes uses this as the explanation for why later
generations are more Machmir than earlier generations. Certainly, even
if his view is not accepted, it should be easy to respect a person who,
to make certain that he is not going against the law, adopts
stringencies -- but again, more on that later.

It seems to me that the "standard" American Hechsheirim try hard to
delineate this Ikar Hadin state. One could perhaps argue in specific
cases whether what they posit as Ikar hadin is really a stringency (as
some say concernig gelatin) or really a leniency (as some say concerning
Chalav Yisrael), but they certainly try to stay somewhere around the
Ikar Hadin.

This does not seem to be the case concerning standard hechsheirim (read:
Rabbanut) in Israel. For various reasons there seems to be a need to
accept some form of lowest common denominator. This LCD, for example,
attempts to ensure that the the Israel Army and virtually all national
institutions eat what can be considered Kosher.

Wonderful. I truly think that that is a big zchut for the country. But
does that make the INDIVIDUAL have to eat that standard?  Obviously
not. Since in Israel the "Ikar hadin" contingent lack economic clout,
there are a hodgepodge of standards for that which is greater than the
lowest common denominator. Should one eat only Eda Hachareidis? All
Mehadrins? Only Rabbanut Mehadrins?  Why shouldn't we let the individual
decide, and respect his decision --even if it is stricter than the
decision we would make for ourselves?

I think that there is a backlash of good frum people who feel that
others, who put on airs of being "holier than thou," are really less
holy in other areas -- derech Eretz for instance. A casualty of this
backlash is that many people are reluctant to show the same tolerance
for one who acts more frum than he in certain areas, as he would show
for one who acts less frum than he in certain areas.  Some even take it
so far as to look for ways to show that their behavior is really
superior to those who seem to be always machmir.

Rabbi Eliezer Silver was famous for bringing his own quarter of a
chicken to every wedding that he attended. Once, when he attended a
wedding from the family of a highly respected Rav (I seem to remember
Rav Aharon Kotler, but if not he, someone of that caliber) he was asked:
"Surely for this wedding you didn't bring a quarter of a chicken?!" His
reply: That's right! For such a special wedding I brought a HALF a

Nobody criticized him for being holier than thou. Of course, many people
accept chumrahs the way others buy the latest style clothing -- and then
show them off the same way. That may well be disgusting. But does that
in any way change the fact that many people -- in America or in Israel
-- are just honestly not comfortable following certain standards? Should
one have to be on the defensive just because he wants to be sure that he
is doing the right thing?

A previous poster quoted the Gemara Beitza that one who follows all the
stringencies of Beit Shamai and Beit Hilel is a fool; one who follows
all their leniencies is a Rasha [wicked]. But what happens when one just
isn't sure what to do (and has no direct backing from a Rabbi on whom he
depends)? Isn't he better off risking being a fool than risking being a

It is admirable to be machmir in derech eretz. Perhaps it is even more
admirable to be machmir in derech eretz and other things as well --
perhaps not. However, certainly one who is machmir on derech eretz has
no right acting holier than those who are "only" machmir in other


End of Volume 32 Issue 96