Volume 33 Number 88
                 Produced: Mon Nov 27  5:40:41 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Dorrevii website
         [David Glasner]
Reasons for Commandments
         [Nachum Klafter]
Reasons for Mitzvot
         [Steve Bailey]
Shabbat "Hagadol" and transliterations
         [Saul Davis]
"Symbolic" Observances
         [Andrew Klafter]


From: David Glasner <DGLASNER@...>
Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2000 10:09:57 -0500
Subject: Re: Dorrevii website

Subscribers to mailjewish may be interested in a website that
my brother and I have recently launched dedicated to our great-
grandfather, R. Moshe Shmuel Glasner, the Dor Revi'i.  The URL for the
Website is: www.dorrevii.org

The website includes a biographical artice by his youngest son, Isaac
Glasner which originally published in Leo Jung's volume, Men of the
Spirit, and my article about him which appeared in the winter 1998
Tradition.  It also includes Prof. Y. Elman's abridged translation of
the important hakdamah to Dor Revi'i (a commentary on the tractate of
Hulin) which appeared in the spring 1991 Tradition.  The website also
contains a wonderful picture of the Dor Revi'i and a scan of the title
page of Dor Revi'i.  Finally, I have begun translating his divrei torah
on the weekly parsha and on the chagim from his book Shivivei Eish.  So
keep checking back every week for new divrei torah as they are posted.
In due course, I hope to translate material from other sources as well.

Any comments or suggestions, and certainly any information about him
would be greatly appreciated.

David Glasner


From: Nachum Klafter <andrew.klafter@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2000 22:34:12 -0500
Subject: Reasons for Commandments

Nachum Klafter (<andrew.klafter@...>)
> > One of the texts cited to support this idea is the following: Don't
> > say "I don't want to [perform this forbidden act, or to eat this
> > forbidden food]."  Rather, say "I want to [peform this forbidden act],
> > but my Father In Heaven has decreed upon me [that I may not]." (Toras
> > Kohanim, cited by Rashi, Kedhoshim 20:26).  This implications of this
> > are profound.  According to the Rebbe, the Rambam is telling us that
> > when we give tzedaka, WE SHOULD BE MOTIVATED TO HELP THE POOR, and
> > not just to do HaShem's will.

Esther Zar <ESTABESTAH@...>:
> I can't understand why ""I want to [perform this forbidden act], but my
> Father In Heaven has decreed upon me [that I may not]" would serve as a
> proof that we must know the reason for the act. Rather I would learn
> just the opposite.

    According to the way it was posted, you are right that it does not
serve as a proof.  My quote is missing a paragraph, however.  The
following is my point:

    Chazal in the Toras Kohanim (also referred to by Rashi in his
comment to Vayikra 20:26) states the following: Do not say "I do not
want... [to do this forbidden act]."  Rather, say "I want to... [perform
this forbidden act], but what can I do as my Father in heaven has
decreed upon [that I may not]?"

    The Rambam in Chapter 6 of the Shemona Perakim (his introdoction to
Pirke Avos) states that this concept applies ONLY to Chukim
(non-rational ordinances), such as shatnez or forbidden foods.  The
Rambam points out that it does NOT apply to "mitzvos sichlios" (rational
commandments).  His major proof of this is philosophic, but he also
points out (in my opinion persuasively) that that Chazal never made the
statement in connection with the ethical prohibitions against murder,
theft, or dishonesty.  They did, however, make it in reference to
Shatnez and to Basar BeCholov (milk and meat).

    The Rebbe, infers from this that in order to fulfill the rational
commandments (mishpatim, as well as Ediyos, such as
Shabbos/Festivals/Tefillin/Tefilla) Here is some characteristic language
of the Rebbe: "One must fulfill these commandments also because of their
reason, in a manner that the person will understand and intenralize
their reason and benefit...  If a person desires for forbidden things
[rational prohibitions, such as murder, theft] and prevents himself from
transgressing them only because 'my Father in heaven has decreed upon
me' then he has corrupt personality traits.  It can be understood that
this also applies to positive commandments which human reason would have
obligated us to observe, and that their fulfillment cannot be solely
because 'my Father in heaven has decreed upon me' but also because of
the underlying reason for them."  (Gedaran Shel Miztvos, p. 8, and see
notes 15 and 16.  Also see Likkutei Sichos Vol 16, page 248)

> It is quite bothersome to see one quoting the the
> Lubavitcher Rebbe to have said that we should be motivated to help the
> poor and not JUST to do Hashem's will.  This idea has been misconstrued
> and has been used as a guideline in the more modern/evolving forms of
> Judaism.

    I admire your faith in our sages and and our holy texts, and I share
your suspicion of heterodox Jewish movements.  I think that it is
misplaced here, however.  The Rambam contends that there ARE underlying
reasons for each of the rational mitzvos.  There is nothing more
spiritual or FRUM about giving tzedaka only because it is HaShem's will
as opposed to being motivated to help your fellow Jew.  There are many
opportunities in Judaism to subbordinate our own judgment and desires in
order to serve HaShem.  Giving Tzedakka is not one of them.  I believe
that any normative reading of the Torah, the Talmud, Rishonim, and
Achronim will agree with me and not with you on this.

> So to summarize my point - we should be
> motivated to help the poor because that is what G-D wants us to learn
> from the act of giving tzdakah.  However, with the implanting of this
> midah in the person by giving tzdakah, it is inexcusable if he would,
> let's say, give charity to the leader of Jews for J.  The need to give
> tzdakah is not meant to supersede Hashem's commandment but is rather the
> shaping of the human personality.

    I agree that the motivation to help the poor does not supersede
HaShem's command, chas v'sholom.  HaShem's command, according to the
Rambam and as emphasized by the Rebbe, z'tz"l is the following: You must
give tzedaka (and only to proper Jewish causes which support
legitimately impoverished Jews, and aniyey ircha kodmim) and you must do
so out of a motivation to help the poor in your community.On the other
hand, it would be negligent and misplaced self-nullification to give
Tzedaka only out of a desire to serve HaShem and not out of a desire to
heIp the poor in your community.  I did not mean to convey some sort of
universalistic, left-wing Democrat style socialism which undermines the
technical halachos of tzedaka.

    The following comes out as a practical difference between Shatnez
and Tzedaka.  If you have a strong desire to wear a linen and wool
outfit, the proper avoda would be to simply suppress/subjegate/nullify
your desire to wear that outfit and surrender to the will of the
Almighty.  On the other hand, if you have a strong inclination not to
give a 10th of your income to tzedaka because you want to keep the money
for yourself, the proper path to follow is to make yourself sensitive to
the plight of poor Jews in your community in order to lessen your
resistance to giving tzedaka.  (Yes, if you simply force yourself to
give because you know you are supposed to, I know that you are Yotze.
However, this is not the ideal lechatchila, lamehadrin form of kiyum ha


From: Steve Bailey <sbailey@...>
Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2000 10:24:46 +1100
Subject: Reasons for Mitzvot

        First, let me say that this topic is crucial for discussion on
this list. I think all members of this list are passionately concerned
with living Judaism and are unhesitant to ask challenging questions that
touch the core of living a meaningful religious life.

        The basic issue is: Does our observance of mitzvot need to be
reasonable and meaningful? Should we behave halachikly (as interpreted
by our Sages over time) simply because G-d commanded us or should every
thing we do impact the meaningfulness of our lives? Some argue for the
former and separate reason and meaning from commandments, so that, in
effect, every mitzvah, even those with understandable rationales, is a
chok (a commandment with apparent unreasonability). Others, like Rav
Hirsch, argue that G-d gave mitzvot to affect our moral and ethical
character and our spiritual connection to our "G-dly" nature. As such,
ALL mitzvot (including chukim) need to be done in a meaningful way.
Therefore, ALL mitzvot are subject to "decoding" in terms of the moral,
ethical or theological message it means to transmit to us. Indeed, some
mitzvot are labeled by the Torah as symbolic ("ot" in Hebrew) and are
inherently meant to be "decoded" into ideas and concepts. Shabbat is one
of those.

        To address Wendy Baker's concern that a symbolic approach to
Shabbat (or other mitzvot, by extension) would result in a subjective
interpretation leading to subjective expressions of the mitzvah -- like
"resting" on Shabbat would be the same as personal leisure: Rav Hirsch
makes it clear at the start, that the EXPRESSION of any mitzvah must be
bounded, at all times, by the halachik definitions. What he argues for
is that the specific halachik expression represents the symbolic
concepts that make the act spiritually meaningful to the
practitioner. The symbolism comes FROM the halachik act, not
vice-versa. So the halachik observance of Shabbat provides the raw data
to be analyzed and understood symbolically. The same for kashrut or
tefillin or tzitzit and all the biblical holidays, with their

        If we are told to "look at tzitzit and remember all the mitzvot
of HaShem and do them....", it is inconceivable that tzitzit are not
symbolic of the concepts underlying the concept of mitzvot. Otherwise
the mitzvah is done mindlessly and meaninglessly. It is equally
inconceivable that the physical manner laying of tefillin is not
symbolic of fundamental ideas and concepts that are contained in the
excerpts written on parchment inside the boxes.

        I hope this clarifies both Rav Hirsch's approach and the need
for us to meaningfully observe mitzvot.

        Steve Bailey


From: Saul Davis <sdavis@...>
Date: Thu, 23 Nov 2000 21:33:15 +0200
Subject: Shabbat "Hagadol" and transliterations

Caela Kaplowitz wrote that she prefers to translate Shabbat Hagadol as
the Shabbat of the great (miracle)" and not the great Shabbat. I think
that neither are correct.

There are a few Shabbatoth in the year with a special name: Shabat
"Nahamu", Shabat "Shuva" and Shabat "Hagadol". All of these are
named after a key word in the haftarah. The key word for the haftarah of
Shabat Hagadol is Hagadol and is the penultimate word of the haftarah at
Malakhy 3:23 (as the penultimate pasuq is repeated after the ultimate
pasuq). Personally I would have preferred "Wearva" which is the first
word, as are "Nahamu" and "Shuva", and it is maybe significant that
"hagadol" was chosen and not "Wearva".

I want to use this opportunity to suggest that the official, standard,
Israeli system of transliterating Hebrew into English be used in this forum.
It is simple and avoids confusions - but can look a little strange!

Here are the letters in order of the alef-beth:
a b v g d h w z h t y k kh l m n s o p f ts q r sh s t th.

The interesting ones are:
H for the heth, clearly ch is not the right sound and cannot be used, better
that a non Hebrew speaker says a h sound than a ch for the heth. Kh is used
for the khaf. Unfortunately h is also used for the hay. The best is to write
the heth with as an h with a dot under it (but computers do not allow for
W for the consonant waw (OK the vav), which is the correct pronunciation (as
Yemenites say it) and differentiates from the veth.
O for the oyin to differentiate from the alef.
Ts is closer in sound to the tsade, although tz is also good. Z is used for
the zayin.
Q and not k is used for the quf for 2 reasons: to differentiate it from the
kaf and because the order of the letters in English is almost the same as in
Hebrew, oyin pay tsade quf resh shin tof = o p q r s t, so that quf is in
the same position as the q.
Th is the correct pronunciation of the non-dageshed taf. This is how
Yemenites pronounce it and thus at least the non-dageshed taf is
differentiated from the t which is used for the tet.
One should use j for the non-dageshed jimmel and dh for the non-dageshed
daleth but this is too radical for me.

Of course either an o or an a can be used for the qamets if you want
Ashqenazi or Sefardi pronunciation respectively. Letters with a dagesh
in should be doubled but that can be cumbersome.

Any meqaweh sheatem tishtamshu belo. Hen niroth muzaroth aval hen yother
tovoth waqaloth mehaothiyoth hangliyoth haregiloth.

Qol Tuv

Saul Davis


From: Andrew Klafter <andrew.klafter@...>
Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2000 12:19:46 -0500
Subject: "Symbolic" Observances

> > 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?

> From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
>     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.
>     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.

    "Symbolic Observance" according to Rav Hirsch, applies to the entire
group of mitzvos referred to as "Ediyos".  The terminology in English
may be somewhat awkward in translation from German.  What he means by
"symbolic" is that the observance (and it must be according to the
letter of the law, as biblicly ordained and rabbinically
interpreted/extended) of these mitzvos serve a specific function in that
they commemorate, symbolize, and celebrate the relationship of the
Nation of Israel with HaShem, with the Torah, with the Land of Israel,
or with fellow Jews.  Therefore "symbolic observance" means "literal,
halakhic observance".  "Commemerative Mitzva" would be a better
translation perhaps.

    Such mitvos strengthen and cultivate religious values.  The fact
that this can be misunderstood and corrupted by non-Orthodox Judaism (in
the manner that Wendy provids a good example of) should not cause us to
ignore the fact that these mitzvos were given to us in order to enhance
our appreciation for very specific national, spiritual, ethical, or
political values.  The more we internalize these values, the more we
wish to follow the letter of the law.  Not vice versa, as Wendy's
question might imply.


End of Volume 33 Issue 88