Volume 33 Number 85
                 Produced: Mon Nov 20 20:01:57 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Alephbets (2)
         [Isaac A Zlochower, David Charlap]
Can we know >THE< reason for a commandment
         [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
Lo Plug
         [Eli Turkel]
Shabbat HaGadol
         [Caela Kaplowitz]
Shtetl Website
         [Paul Ginsburg]
         [Stan Tenen]


From: Isaac A Zlochower <zlochoia@...>
Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2000 12:41:34 -0500
Subject: Alephbets

My friend Stan Tenen went too far this time in defending his thesis
about the significance of the Meruba alphabet.  I won't pretend that I
understand much of his geometric arguments.  However, what I do know of
talmud makes his assertion that the Torah was never written in ktav Ivri
(ancient Hebrew) a rather bold intrusion into an argument of earlier and
later talmudic sages - Tanaim and Amoraim (Bablonian Talmud Sanhedrin
21b, 22a).  There we find three Tanaitic views; The Torah script was
changed by Ezra - R' Yossi, the original script was resurrected by Ezra
- R' Yehuda the patriarch, or was never changed - R' Eliezer of Modin.
R' Yossi also asserts that the reason the new script was called Ashuri
was because it came with the returning exiles from Ashur (Assyria).  R'
Yehuda is the one who differs and says that Ashuri means beautiful.

Stan's argument on how the ancient Hebrew or Canaanite alphabet could
not possibly have ever been used to write the Torah since it is based on
allegedly pagan symbols is rather strained.  Why, pray tell, is the Ivri
"ayin" which means eye and is written as a circle a pagan symbol?  Or
for that matter, why is the Ivri "shin" which means teeth and is written
as the "English" (a derivative of the Ivri - Phoenician alphabet) "w" a
pagan symbol?  Why is the Ivri "mem" which represents the Hebrew word
"mayim" (water) and is written as the English "m" (water wave) a pagan
symbol?  All of these symbols and many more are simple symbolic
depictions of things in nature.  That does not make them representations
of pagan deities.  Even the Ivri "aleph" which is a simplified
representation of the head of an ox bearing a yoke is not a depiction of
the Egyptian bull deity.  Sacred animals were never depicted as work
animals.  It is one thing for Stan to argue, as he has done elsewhere
and on his Meru website, that it is difficult to believe that the Torah
uses the depiction of things rather than ideas in formulating its script
[I, however, have no problem in accepting that the Torah was written in
a conventional script just as it used conventional expressions].  It is
quite another to invalidate the views of a major halachic decisor in
talmud based on his own understanding.  Possibly, however, Stan was not
aware of the talmudic antecedents of this alphabetical argument and is
relying on some Artscroll editorial comments.


From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2000 13:16:59 -0500
Subject: Re: Alephbets

Roger & Naomi Kingsley wrote:
> Since he mentions the Dead Sea scrolls - it may be of interest to
> note that one of the psalm scrolls on display is clearly written in a
> modern script, but with the Tetragrammaton everywhere in the archaic
> phoenician letters.  Presumably this was a conscious archaism on the
> part of a scribe who felt that made it more "correct" - which implies
> a conscious awareness of a transition.  I have not noticed this in
> any of the other scrolls on display.

Your conclusion does not necessarily follow.

Yes, this does imply that the scribe made a conscious decision.  But we
do not know the reason for his decision.  Nor do we know if his decision
was halachicly kosher.

Some other possible conclusions include:

- The scribe used the phonecian letters because he knew they were not
  kosher.  Thus avoiding problems with erasing, editing or destroying
  the resulting document.  In much the same fashion that we don't
  attach kedusha to English representations of God's name.

- The scribe thought the use of phonecian lettering for God's name was
  correct, but was later told otherwise by the rabbis of the time.
  Note that the DSS are from a geniza - documents found there may have
  been placed there due to errors that render them unfit for use.
  (Today, we do similar things with holy documents that have
  uncorrectible errors in them.)

- The scribe and his community may have considered them correct, but
  they were not held to be correct by the rest of the Jews.  If the
  author belong to a heretical group (as some people today theorize),
  then this may also be a distinct possibility.

Maybe your interpretation is correct.  Maybe one of mine is.  My point
is only that we can't possibly know this based solely on an examination
of the scrolls.  Additional information is required before we can know
if this practice was correct or not.

-- David


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2000 10:32:46 -0500
Subject: Re: Can we know >THE< reason for a commandment

> From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
> > From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
> > However my understanding is that Rav Hirschs views are the opposite.
> > Rav Hirsch introduced introduced 3 fundamental principles which allow us
> > to actually arive at >THE< reason for a commandment.
> >
> > Take Shabbath. Rav Hirschs 1st principles is to listen to the Bibles own
> > quotes: If the BIble says "OBserve the Shabbath because it is a symbol
> > between Me and the Jews< then I am ***sure*** that this commandment must
> > be observed symbolically. Rav Hirschs second principle is to apply known
> > methods of symbolic interpretation: If the Bible says >abstain from work
> > on Shabbath< because >God created the world in 6 days and rested on the
> > 7th< then I am sure that my resting is a symbolic affirmation of Gods
> > resting.
> I am concerned with the use of the term "symbolic" in relation to
> Shabbat observance, or any observance.  It seems to me that if we say we
> observe "symbolically" we are open to the kinds of changes in observane
> one sees in non-Orthodox movement.  " for me, it is resting to listen to
> good music, go to a concert, Do the kind of activities I don't get
> achance to do during the work, etc" I am sure you have heard these.  How
> does this symbolic observance led to reasonably strict observance of
> shabbat, Kashrut, etc.?  Am I missing something here?

I think that there is a difference between the way Rav hirsch used the
term "symbolic" and the way we (modern American, mainly, Jews) use the
term.  In modern times, "symbolic", at least as used by the people you
are worried about, seems to mean that each individual can, and often
does, change the meaning, use, and interpretation of the symbol at will.
Indeed, the meaning is also changed based on the modern meaning of the
English translation being used.  For example, the use of the term "rest"
in the paraphrase Ms. Baker gives above or the use of the term "work"
when melacha is really meant.

Rav Hirsch uses the term "symbolic" in a very precise and detailed way
which means that "rest" can be used only in the way that the halacha
sets up.  Thus, symbolic observance would not only "lead to reasonably
strict observance" but would *require* complete observance of halacha.

Said the fox to the fish, "Join me ashore" | Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz
 Jews are the fish, Torah is our water | Zovchai Adam, agalim yishakun


From: Eli Turkel <turkel@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2000 15:36:42 +0200 (IST)
Subject: Lo Plug

R. Eli Linas writes

"Is the language of the prohibition of gilui phrased in the way the
Rambam does the above halacha? If not, then it cannot be read in that
manner.  Secondly, gilui is a prohibition not a mitzvas aseh. It
therefore seems to me that there is good reason to say that there's no
basis for comparison.  It seems that one would need to bring raiyos from
other similar prohibitions and whether they are plug or lo plug. Off the
top of my head, I am not aware of any."

The question of when one applies lo plug and when one says that this
case is different is a very difficult case in halacha. One of the more
famous examples is whether one should say the beracha before lighting
candles on Yom Tov eve. The wife of the "Perisha" says that one should
say the beracha first since the reason for shabbat does not apply to yom
tov when one can light a fire. Magen Avraham makes fun of her and says
that one says "lo plug". Certainly the opinion of the wife of the
preisha is accepted by many poskim and is a common custom.

Similar problems arise in terms of shaving on chol hamoed and sefira
when many people shave every day anyway and the old reasons don't apply.
Some poskim say that the halacha changes and others use essentially "lo
plug" Tosaphot in a number of places state that some halachot like
"gilui" and clapping/dancing on shabbat no longer apply because we no
longer fix instruments. Most poskim do not apply this logic to medicines
on shabbat. The exact reasons are not always clear.  Even in the Talmud
the gemara sometimes uses "lo plug" and sometimes says different cases
are treated different.

This applies even more to cases where ancient medicines are involved.
Thus, Rambam, Shulchan Arukh do not mention prohibitions of eating
peeled garlic , using things in pairs etc. However, shulchan Arukh jarav
does bring some of these down.

Eli Turkel


From: Caela Kaplowitz <caelak@...>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2000 22:02:48 -0500
Subject: Shabbat HaGadol

Hi! I am a lurker on this excellent list.
I believe that the word "HaGadol" in Shabbat HaGadol does not modify the
word "Shabbat". It is intended to mean: "The Shabbat of the Great
(Miracle)"-- i.e. Gadol modifies Miracle, Nays, which is masculine.

Caela Kaplowitz


From: Paul Ginsburg <GinsburgP@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2000 12:28:10 -0500
Subject: Shtetl Website

The once vibrant Jewish community of Sudilkov, Ukraine was completely
destroyed by the Germans during the Holocaust.  It was known throughout
the Jewish world as a center of the Hasidic movement, for its talis
(prayer shawl) manufacturing, and its Jewish book printing.  Today there
are no Jews in Sudilkov.

In order to remember this community, a website was created to preserve
the Jewish history of Sudilkov.  The site can be viewed at:

For more information, please write to:

Sudilkov Online Landsmanshaft
9809 Bristol Square Lane #301
Bethesda, MD  20814-5465

E-mail: <g521@...>

Paul W. Ginsburg
Sudilkov Online Landsmanshaft
Bethesda, Maryland


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2000 10:53:57 -0500
Subject: Symbolic

>From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
>I am concerned with the use of the term "symbolic" in relation to
>Shabbat observance, or any observance.  It seems to me that if we say we
>observe "symbolically" we are open to the kinds of changes in observane
>one sees in non-Orthodox movement.  " for me, it is resting to listen to
>good music, go to a concert, Do the kind of activities I don't get
>achance to do during the work, etc" I am sure you have heard these.  How
>does this symbolic observance led to reasonably strict observance of
>shabbat, Kashrut, etc.?  Am I missing something here?

There is an extraordinarily important difference between what we mean by
"symbolic" in the modern sense, and what we mean by symbolic in the
Torah sense.

We're taught that our symbols -- most especially, the letters of our
alphabet -- are not arbitrary in any way.  These symbols and other
symbols that our Torah tradition depends on are unlike the arbitrary
symbols that we're used to.  Our symbols directly represent exactly what
they really are.  Their appearance is meaningful, and symbolic actions
in a Torah context are also meaningful.  Torah actions are meaningful --
and not just empty symbols -- in the same way as the actions of a
researcher conforming to the laws of science, because Torah is and/or
contains a true science of consciousness (in the modern sense of the
word "science").

With regard to the letters, they are all different views of the singular
process of Hashem/Elokim creating and informing the world.  All
information -- including the information needed for the
self-organization that allows life -- comes from the contrast between
inside and outside (that's a long story).  The natural geometry of this
relationship directly generates the Hebrew letters from a model
tefillin-strap that fits on our hand.

Unlike the Canaanite letters, which are simply the arbitrary
symbol-images of pagan "deities", our Meruba Ashuris letters are the
non-arbitrary explicit images of the articulations of God's Will.

With regard to Shabbos: consider again the situation if we view our
Torah tradition as a science of consciousness, and not only as revealed
and inexplicable.  In science, when one system needs to partake of the
energy and information of another system, maximum transfer of energy and
information takes place when the two systems are in resonance.

If we wish to partake of the at-least-3500-years of Jewish space-time,
then we can attune ourselves to its 6+1-day resonance.  When we rest
every 7th day, we are literally tuning ourselves to the energies,
information, and modes of thought that Hashem used to create the world,
and that our predecessors engraved in the annals of time over the
centuries.  By keeping Shabbos, we literally (and I mean literally) step
into their space-time footsteps.  There's nothing arbitrary about this.
If we wish to resonate with Am Israel and Hashem's creation and Hashem's
Torah, then we keep Shabbos every 7th day.  There's no more magic nor
mystery here than tuning a radio to the station we wish to hear.

The symbols of pagan cultures, the symbols of our commercial culture,
the symbols of power and industry and money, are all arbitrary symbols
representing various idols.  The symbols of our Torah are not arbitrary.
Our symbols and "symbolic action" represent Hashem/Elokim. They are
direct, they carry explicit meaning, and when we engage them or act on
them, real things happen.

Meru Foundation   http://www.meru.org   <meru1@...>


End of Volume 33 Issue 85