Volume 37 Number 54
                 Produced: Sat Oct 26 22:59:04 US/Eastern 2002

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Beyond Melitz Yosher
         [Shalom Ozarowski]
Chamar Medinah
         [Eli Turkel]
"For a sun and a shield is Hava'ye Elokim"
         [Stan Tenen]
         [Bill Bernstein]
Traveling to Australia for Shavuos
vay'hi and va'yehiyu
         [David Farkas]


From: <Shalomoz@...> (Shalom Ozarowski)
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2002 00:11:53 EDT
Subject: re: Beyond Melitz Yosher

Though most respondents have rejected the suggested "reasoning" for
unexplained suffering/death (specifically the original tragedy of the
bear & the baby 'dying for peoples sins') as anti-Jewish, i think the
issue is still a complex one.  Obviously, we are not prophets and we
can't claim to know why G-d is doing something.  So why is it that we
find all sorts of Torah-based "explanations" (i.e. in sources) for why
suffering occurs?

I personally see a pattern that the Torah shebichtav warns us of
NATIONAL suffering being the result of sinning (e.g. idolatry).  Moshe
predicts this in a number of places in sefer dvarim including the
tochacha in ki tavo, shirat haazinu etc.  In na"ch also, nevi'im
typically rebuke b'nei yisrael for transgressions widespread amongst the
nation (hence many nevuot addressed to yehuda or yisrael) and warn of
national punishments.  [if anyone thinks i'm mistaken on this, please
correct me.  I can't comment on sefer iyov because i haven't yet learned
through the sefer.]  I would say these examples are unique for our
purposes, since during the biblical period we usually had a 'direct
line' to Hashem Who told us (through neviim) about major events.

In ma'amarei chaza"l, we find explanations of suffering or punishment
both on a national level and on an individual level.  examples that come
to my mind are why b'nei yisrael endured slavery in Egypt (faults of
avraham etc.- i forget the exact source offhand), destruction of the 2nd
beit hamikdash (sin'at chinam, kamtza bar-kamtza) etc.etc.  I also
recall a dialogue in the gemara where someone suggests to a woman in
mourning for her husband that he died because she wasn't careful in
observing taharat hamishpacha (or something similar, i forget where).
the approach appears more recently with people who will quote the
meshech chochmah in bechukotai (that making berlin to be like Jerusalem
will cause major catastrophies) and say it likely refers to assimilation
and the holocaust.  Or even the eim habanim s'meichah that suffering
during world war II is due to abstinence from coming back to eretz
yisrael... i'm sure lots of you can think of more examples like these.

So after seeing the posts on this topic (beginning in mj37:13), a gemara
in ktubot (8b) caught my eye: When Resh lakish's son died, R. Chiya bar
abba, the boy's melamed (teacher), goes with yehuda bar nachmeni to be
menachem avel.  R. Chiya bar abba tells him to "say some torah" in
respect to the deceased.  [the context here is proving that one can make
brachot for sheva brachot or aveilim when there are panim chadashot/new
faces present, and yehuda bar nachmeni ends his statements with actual
brachot.]  So Y.b.n.  darshens a pasuk & says something to the effect
that children die because of sins of their family. (there are 2 versions
of the gemara here but the gist is similar.)  at this point the stama
d'gemara interjects and asks "he came to provide comfort, and now he's
causing them anguish?!"  The gemara answers that his remark was in fact
meant to be 'merciful' (a strange sort of backhanded compliment)- he
meant that resh lakish and his family were on such a high level that his
son's life was taken for the sins of the generation ["chashiv at
l'atfusei adara"].  This idea seems to be based on a statement in
Shabbat 33b (mesoret hashas mentions it), where R. Gurion says that if
there are tzadikim in a generation they die for the sins of the
generation and if there aren't tzadikim then tinokot shel beit rabban
(schoolchildren) die for the sins of that generation.  If i am
understanding these statements accurately, they may sound somewhat like
the suggestion that >"The baby that was attacked by the bear, r"l, died
because Hashem took >all of our aveiras and put them on the baby so the
baby died but we >don't have aveiras any more."

What do other readers think? (chilukim?)
Of course, the question is what are we supposed to do with these
gemarot??  Who of us would ever say such a thing (well, maybe some)?  It
seems clear that different 'torah-perspectives' were taken on jewish
suffering in different time periods.  are we to distinguish between soul
searching/taking mussar in response to a tragedy and attempting to find
a reason for it?

may klal yisrael know of no more suffering
shalom ozarowski


From: Eli Turkel <turkel@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2002 15:20:44 GMT
Subject: Chamar Medinah

<When I grew up in England tea - with milk - was considered
preferable to coffee as the national drink, because it is indeed the
national drink there.>

How much of chamar medinah depends on the local habits? If they do then
opinion of various poskim are fairly meaningless as they apply only to
the communities of those poskim and not to other communities


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2002 08:53:34 -0400
Subject: "For a sun and a shield is Hava'ye Elokim"

Below is from Chapter 3, Shaar Hayichud Vehaemunah, in my handy-dandy
Likutei Amarim Tanya. (Just one of the many sources we're examining.)

"An illustration of this is the light of the sun which illumines the
earth and its inhabitants.  [This illumination] is the radiance and the
light which spreads forth from the body of the sun and is visible to all
as it gives light to the earth and the expanse of the universe."

 From Chapter 4:

"It is written: "For a sun and a shield is Hava'ye Elokim."  The
explanation of this verse [is as follows]: "Shield" is a covering for
the sun, to protect the creatures so that they should be able to bear
[its heat].  As our Sages, of blessed memory, have said, "In Time to
Come, the Holy One, blessed be He, will take out the sun from its
sheath, the wicked will be punished by it. . . ."  Now, just as the
covering shields [i.e., conceals] the sun, so does the name Elokim
shield ]i.e., conceal] the name Hava'ye, blessed be He."

In the context of this discussion, the writer is telling us that Hashem
is comparable to the sun, and Elokim is comparable to a shield around
the sun.  The text is comparing Hashem's centrality in the entire
universe, to the sun's centrality in the physical universe.  I'm not
saying this; Shaar Hayichud is saying this.

This is in a discussion which is topologically identical to the
discussion Roger Penrose uses to explain the negentropic gradient that
causes life on earth in his now-classic "The Emperor's New Mind".

We studied this last night in our colloquium on B'reshit, here in Sharon.

You can find essays I wrote a while ago that outline the same process as is 
discussed in Shaar Hayichud, in "Man Bites Dog" at 
<www.meru.org/manbitesdog.html>, and "Which Way Up", at 

I have also passed on the discussion here on geocentrism to some friends
from MIT.  There appears to be no difference of opinion.  The issue has
nothing to do with quantum mechanics, or esoteric modern physics of any

But having tried and failed to write reason here, I'm going to leave it
to my associates to respond -- hopefully using better language -- if
they want to.

The reaction to the obvious (that the Earth rotates around the Sun) is
in my opinion a major problem afflicting the credibility of Torah and
the Torah world.  I believe, from interacting with some of the posters,
that for them, physics serves tradition, and in this case, tradition
requires -- at least in the minds of some young people -- that our sages
were _never_ wrong.

I think this is a greater problem than the fact that the general public
can still be easily swayed to believe that the sun goes around the earth
(or easily swayed to believe that the earth goes around the sun).  This
is a greater problem because it affects our critical judgment with
regard to our own tradition.  Misleading our children in ways that
damage their ability to think clearly about Torah sources is damaging
our tradition long-term.

For Torah Judaism to flourish, it must be based on a balance of
judgment, mercy, and humility.  The judgment part is about "emet".  When
we allow our children to believe that the sages of Torah were more
perfect than ordinary human beings, we're teaching a form of idolatry
that brings our whole tradition into question.

It is not because of some modern formalism in physics that clear-minded
people now all agree that the Earth goes around the Sun, but rather,
because of a constellation of effects that would be very difficult to
work with if it were the other way around.

As it turns out -- according to the people I've spoken with -- the
sun-earth system (and all the other planets) rotate about a point that
is actually within the surface of the sun. To pick any other point as a
center for the study of planetary physics leads to situations where
nothing useful can be calculated.  Physics is not just theory-based.
Like all true sciences, it's based on observations, calculations, and
reproducible results and predictions.

Making the Earth the center means that essentially none of this can be
done -- or if it can be done, it requires enormous super-computer power.
In fact, we now know that the solar system is unstable and has chaotic
features.  So, one could argue -- theoretically, of course -- that none
of the planets or the sun are in orbit at all, because over "God's time"
(that is, eternity) all of these are open trajectories, and not orbits
at all.

I could go on, but it just gets more and more ridiculous.

With regard to the ridicule heaped on my phrase, "God's Eye View," this
is a metaphor for the Infinite.  There are two kinds of infinity -- the
very great, and the very small.  When I'm referring to a "God's Eye
View," I'm simply referring to a very great distance. That's all.  Why
this should raise hackles is beyond me.  It's a metaphor.  It's not an
insult.  It's not taking God's name in vain, and it's not attempting to
assign any properties to God.  It's just a concise way of pointing out
that we, on the Earth, take a "small view," much more easily than a
"great view," because we're small and local.

The term "small-headed" is best applied to the human condition (in
comparison to God, of course).  This is the view from the surface of the
Earth, and it is, in fact, geocentric.

The "large-headed" view is heliocentric.

And the true "God's Eye View" would really include both.

Zev Sero's comments are, of course, personal and theological.  I was
trying to discuss the physics of the situation.  Mixing these personal
and theological comments with technical comments always leads to bad

For people looking in at Judaism from the outside, it isn't helpful to
TO SERVE ME".  In fact, this vehemence in defense of what doesn't need
to be defended is what lends itself to our young people's inappropriate
belief that our sages could not be wrong.

There is no physics here at all.

Bernard Raab's discussion is physics, but it's the physics of a small
truth in the service of a large misrepresentation.  As I said, if some
of my friends from MIT would like to comment further on the physics,
I'll send their comments along to Avi.



From: Bill Bernstein <bbernst@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2002 08:56:18 -0500
Subject: Mechitza

A post I have been unable to find on mechitza mentions:

> The burden of proof falls on those who would claim that mehitzah
> is limited to the synagogue alone (which, I believe, they have done --
> but it's still only one halakhic option).

(i am indebted to someone else for this quotation).
I found that at least one source for this "one halakhic option" is that
great proponent of Modern Orthodoxy, Reb Moshe Feinstein zt'l in a teshuva
in OC 1 on mechitza.  He is asked whether it is necessary outside of tefilla
and answers no.  He brings as proof the korban Pesach, that was eaten
"b'chabura" which was conceivably many families, with the wives.

Bill Bernstein
Nashville TN


From: <SShap23859@...> (Susan)
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2002 09:36:16 EDT
Subject: Re: Traveling to Australia for Shavuos

In reference to your comment:

> It is my understanding that Lubavitch travelling to
> Australia from USA (example) during Sefirah and stay
> in Australia untill after Shavous, actually keep the days
> of Shavous a bit differently.

Why only a Lubavitcher?  Although the Rebbe did ask that Australians
traveling to NY to see him for Shavuos should go via Israel (the long
way around).

******* Susan*******


From: David Farkas <DavidF@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2002 09:26:00 -0400
Subject: vay'hi and va'yehiyu

Michael Feldstain asks:
>During the last two weeks of Torah readings, I noticed that the text--in
>describing the life span of various individuals--alternates between
>"vay'hi y'mai" and va'yehiyu y'mai".  Grammatically, it's probably more
>proper to use the plural, since y'mai is plural.  Is there any rhyme or
>reason as to why the singular (va'yehi) is used in some cases and the
>plural (va'yehiyu) in other cases?

Both words are correct. Matter of fact, the great Dr. Leiman has a tape
where he points out that we are unsure which word to use for Beraishis
9:29 " Vayehi/Vayehiyu yimay Noach" etc. The Allepo Codex and Lenin MS,
I believe, have it one way whereas most other versions have it the
other.  The Mossad Rav Kook chumash ( Toras Chaim) plays it smart and
puts a "yesh gorsim" ( = some say) on the side of that verse.

zai gezunt
David Farkas


End of Volume 37 Issue 54