Volume 37 Number 94
                 Produced: Mon Dec  9 23:24:56 US/Eastern 2002

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Censorship (2)
         [Eli Turkel, <FriedmanJ@...>]
The Making of a Gadol
         [Mark Steiner]
Tzedaqah Obligations to Street Panhandlers (5)
         [Art Werschulz, Stan Tenen, Zev Sero, Dov Bloom, Mordechai]


From: Eli Turkel <turkel@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 2002 11:24:59 GMT
Subject: Censorship

<<From: Lawrence Kaplan <lawrence.kaplan@...>
 But perhaps it was banned because it doesn't contain any lies!

Michael Kahn writes
<Mr. Kaplan raises a good point. But I think Rav Shwab ob'm writes
(not sure where, perhaps in his colleted writings) that there is no
heter/dispensation for lashon hara even when it comes to writing
history. Likewise, I once heard a Rav say that he knows of no heter
for lashon hara when it comes to the writing of book reviews. >

The question is what is lashon ha-ra and what is political correctness?
Is it lashon hara to say a gadol did a certain action which he did quite
consciously because he thought it was a good idea and today it is
censored from the books because today's rabbis don't think it right that
a gadol could do such actions.

Examples of this abound besides the book "making of a gadol". As a
trivial example R. Soloveitchik dedicated his book to his wife. When it
was translated into Hebrew the dedication was left out because it was
thought not fitting for a gadol to dedicate a book to his wife.  Many
more serious cases arise where some gedolim read newspapers, learned
secular studies etc. and these are all ignored in censored histories.

There is an excellent biography of R. Breuer where the authors stress
that they show R. Breuer as he was even when he disagreed or had a
different approach than other gedolim. Unfortunately such books are the
exception rather than the rule

From: <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Sun, 8 Dec 2002 21:38:23 EST
Subject: Re: Censorship

      But I don't see any reason why responsible rabbis don't have the
      authority to ban books they feel write lashon hara/slander, which
      by the way is forbiden even if true, about Gedolay Torah/Torah
      greats or a book which they feel will cause a chillul Hashem by
      its being read. Why book banning doesn't sit well in our free
      society, the world is not hefker (a free for all) and not all may
      be read.

Did it ever occur to anyone to teach our children critical thinking? And
do we really think the gedolim are infallible like the pope? Isn't all
this against the Torah? And furthermore, we will have to put newspapers
out of business, magazines, and all the rest.  And then a whole bunch of
wrongs will never be righted because we will be ignorant while we teach
our children lies about the world and lies about human beings.


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 2002 16:56:39 +0200
Subject: Re: The Making of a Gadol

    Concerning the "controversial" book, The Making of a Godol: the
author of the book is Reb Nosson Kamenetsky, shlita, son of Reb Yaakov
z"l and a major talmid chochom in his own right.  (Or at least he was,
until the posters went up in Mea Shearim.) He did research on the life
of his father for years and the results appeared as a three volume book,
I believe.  I say "I believe" because I can't get a copy even though my
daughter-in-law is a great-granddaughter of Reb Yaakov.  My wife works
in the National Library, but I can't get it there either, because a
hareidi librarian warned that if the book is not placed in the rare book
collection, it will disappear.

    In any case, nobody can claim that anything in the book is "false".
The book does relate facts about the early years of gedolim, Reb Yaakov,
Reb Aharon Kotler, and others, which may be embarrassing to some, but
the message of the book is that gedolim are made, not born.  Some of
these facts are well known (or believed) in the yeshiva world, e.g. that
a certain godol read Russian literature (Pushkin) and was in serious
danger of leaving the Torah world and becoming a maskil.

    There is no question that the laws of loshon hara apply to
scholarship as to all forms of speech.  The question is: is it loshon
hara to say of a godol that he was tempted in his youth but overcame the
temptation?  (How about Yosef Hatzadik?)  What happens when the author
of a book/sefer regards a story about a godol as complimentary but
others are embarrassed by it?

     To take another example, it is a well known fact that R. Shach had
grandchildren who were not religious, which is the type of truth that is
usually censored from books on gedolim.  Yet I am full of admiration for
how R. Shach handled what for him must have been a great embarrassment.
His son relates how he would close his gemara and jump up to embrace his
grandson who came to Ponevez in his army uniform in front of the whole
bais medrash.  I myself get a tremendous amount of encouragement
(hizzuk) by thinking how R. Shach refused to become disheartened by his
"failure" and continued to be the great leader and Torah giant he was.


From: Art Werschulz <agw@...>
Date: Sun, 8 Dec 2002 19:09:34 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Tzedaqah Obligations to Street Panhandlers

Hi all.

David Yehuda Shabtai <dys6@...> writes:

> While thinking about this issue a certain gemarah comes to mind on
> the last daf of the first perek of Bava Kama.  It recounts a
> story of how Yirmayahu Hanavi asked HKBH to "punish" Bnei Yisrael by
> making sure that the people they give tzedakah to are not 'worthy'
> (I don't recall the exact wording used, but it was stated much
> better than I am doing here) of that tzedakah and thereby even when
> Bnei Yisrael think they are doing a mitzvah, they in fact will not
> be doing so. 

I heard another take on this.  Yirmiyahu was hoping that by giving
tzedaqah to the underserving, the people of Anatot would be treated
mida-k'neged-mida, that is, with rachmones by HKBH.  (Sorry, don't have
the source.)

Art Werschulz (8-{)}
GCS/M (GAT): d? -p+ c++ l u+(-) e--- m* s n+ h f g+ w+ t++ r- y? 
Internet: <agw@...><a href="http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~agw/">WWW</a>
ATTnet:   Columbia U. (212) 939-7061, Fordham U. (212) 636-6325

From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Mon, 09 Dec 2002 18:34:05 -0500
Subject: Re: Tzedaqah Obligations to Street Panhandlers

The question of whether to respond to panhandlers is very personal.  To
a person who sees themselves as different than others, better than
others, or Jewish vs. just human, seeing to it that one's own
hard-earned funds (even small, symbolic amounts) go to the _right_ or
_preferred_ people, is quite natural.  This need to distinguish one
person's value and lifestyle from another's is a measure of our
self-importance, and a measure of our judgmentalism towards others.
These are very big ego-functions.

To a person who is like a tzaddik, and who apprehends God's Infinity,
and their own infinitesimal "bitul" at all times, no one is greater or
lesser.  To a tzaddik, who could make accurate character judgments, and
who could tell who is truly needy and who is not needy, _every_ human
being that asks always deserves response, and is never to be judged.
This is a result of a person's closeness to the Truly Infinite, and
their consequent gut-understanding that as we end the Amida, they are
dust, just like everyone else.

Also, there are elements of empathy, memory, and the golden rule.  The
haughty have a hard time remembering when they were in need, so they
don't empathize with apparently scruffy, and apparently irresponsible
"low-lifes", and when a person doesn't remember the golden rule, then
they don't remember how to treat others either.

So, whether we give or not, is not a measure of a person that we're
giving to, but rather a measure of ourselves.

We give because God, in the guise of another living being, asks us,
and/or because we come upon someone on our path who is needy, and we
empathize with them.  In other words, the reason for giving is that this
fulfills God's giving to us.

In order for "spiritual effulgence" (one of those literary terms that is
trying to tell us that we all live in the stream of God's living energy
at all times) to be received by us, we have to keep giving it away.

The truly rich person remembers that they are here at all times, by the
grace of God, and not by dint of their own effort.  (If I were born in
East Africa today, no matter how good or hard-working I might have
become, I wouldn't be likely to survive childhood.)

The truly impoverished person guards their property and wealth from all
sorts of less worthy purposes, because they don't recognize where it
comes from in the first place, and because they don't recognize that
compared to the infinite Infinity of God, we really all are dust.


From: Zev Sero <zev.sero@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Dec 2002 20:20:01 -0500 
Subject: Re: Tzedaqah Obligations to Street Panhandlers

David Yehuda Shabtai <dys6@...> wrote:

> This raises a clear question firstly and most obviously about
> tzedakah - that if a person is not 'worthy,' or poor enough, to receive
> tzedakah then one accomplishes no mitzvah by doing so.  Secondly, it
> raises a question in general, as to how mitzvot are defined by criteria
> that we do not control.

Tzedaka is different in this regard, as the Torah teaches us in the case
of shikcha (sheaves forgotten in a field).  Further, the gemara says
that if you lose some money, and a poor person finds it and is helped by
it, you get a mitzvah.

Further, consider this: the mitzvah of tzedaka is to give to Jewish poor
people, not those who aren't Jewish.  But the law is that nevertheless
`we feed the gentile poor together with the Jewish poor, because [we
need to follow] peaceful ways'.  But the gemara in Bava Batra says that
if the money you donated to the town's tzedaka fund ends up being given
to a poor person who isn't Jewish you did not get a mitzvah.  (I assume
that this means you don't get the mitzvah of tzedaka, which is helping
the Jewish poor, but surely you do get the mitzvah of helping the
community, since without your donation they would have had to feed that
gentile with other money.)

Binyomin Segal <bsegal@...> wrote:

> Further, given Rav Elyashiv's psak, if I do give to someone without real
> solid evidence of their need, I do NOT count that money in my tzedaka
> account (ie I don't count that towards my maaser obligation).

I don't think that you need to do that.  First of all, remember that
maaser is not a law, it's an Ashkenazi custom that spread.  Further,
many sources say that you can even count the extra money that you spend
for your own hiddur mitzvah, such as buying a nicer etrog, etc.  In
other words, the custom of giving maaser (and remember, it is not a law,
but merely an Ashkenazi custom) covers all money that you give `for the
sake of Heaven', to any cause whatsoever, Jewish or not, and whether
it's for the relief of poverty, the maintenance of a shul, spreading
Torah, or whatever (you do include shul and school donations, don't you?
even though they're not really tzedaka?).  Surely that includes money
given to people who claim to be poor, whether they are or not.

Zev Sero

From: Dov Bloom <dovb@...>
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2002 01:01:07 +0200
Subject: Tzedaqah Obligations to Street Panhandlers

Rav Shlomo Aviner said:
"poshet yad bashuk" a panhandler who approches everyone - we can fulfill
our tzedaka obligation by giving him a "grogeret" - a date . He said
this is about 20 agorot (a nickel). This of course does not address
substance abuse... 

Dov A Bloom

From: <Phyllostac@...> (Mordechai)
Date: Sun, 8 Dec 2002 20:25:25 EST
Subject: Tzedaqah Obligations to Street Panhandlers

I believe the story is as follows -

The halocho is 'ein bodkin limezonos' - if a person is starving / in
need of food (or says [and looks like?] s/he is ?), we are to help them
with basic food needs (as defined by halocho) without
investigating. However, if they ask for more / other things,
investigation is in order.

Those that wish to obligate giving to all indiscriminately at all times,
are not in accordance with our tradition (perhaps such would be the
christian tradition though). After all, we are taught that - on Purim -
kol mi sheposheit yodo, nosnin lo (whoever stretches out his hand is
given) - the clear implication is that during the rest of the year that
is not done. Those that wish to act all year in Purim-fashion may very
well be making year-round fools of themselves.........By the way,
perhaps even on Purim, if a person is known to be non-worthy of funds
(e.g. criminal, etc.) they are not given either. The leniency on Purim
is that if there is doubt, the ruling is to give.....(my personal
thoughts - don't know if this is stated/accepted by others).

In certain communities (e.g. Baltimore, MD) there have been attempts
(with Rabbinic approval) to check out the worthiness of people
collecting money and make recommendations to the public as to whether to
give and / or how much to give, based on what was found. Although
perhaps such programs are not perfect and focused more on door to door
solicitors, etc., rather than NYC street panhandlers, nevertheless, they
show us that investigation of collectors is in accordance with the



End of Volume 37 Issue 94