Volume 38 Number 19
                 Produced: Sat Jan  4 21:23:06 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Eitan's comment on "Making of a Gadol"
         [David Farkas]
Everyone Can become a Gadol
         [Yehonatan and Randy Chipman]
Giving Charity to Non Worthy
         [David Waxman]
Moshe Rabbenu and the Ari
         [Isaac A Zlochower]
Prophecies Coming True
         [Gil Student]
Sons, si.  Servants, no
         [Zev Sero]
         [Ira L. Jacobson]


From: David Farkas <DavidF@...>
Date: Thu, 26 Dec 2002 10:57:55 -0500
Subject: Eitan's comment on "Making of a Gadol"

    Eitan Fiorino wrote that his concerns about Orthodox internal
struggles are allayed ( in whole or in part) by the fact that such
internal strife has been going on for hundreds of years. Eitan hit the
nail right on the head.

    As a faithful reader of MJ, I very often come across letters from
sincere Jews grousing about this or that. The topic of Eitan's piece,
"the making of a Gadol", is a perfect example, as is the current thread
called "censorship".  There are MANY examples of censorship, and in fact
there are numerous articles available showing that this stuff has been
going on for centuries. While that doesn't excuse the actions of some,
it is indeed a comforting thought. The same is true about the Jewish
Achdus cause generally.  Jews NEVER had total Achdus ( togetherness),
even if for no other reason than geographical distance.  It is silly to
think we can suddenly have it now. I believe the notion of Achdus is the
result of a foreign influence, the (equally naive and foolish) quest for
universal tolerance.

    What's more interesting is Eitan's comment wondering what "Hakodosh
Boruch Hu" thinks of all this. I think about this all the time. I have
two approaches to the question, depending upon what mood I'm in, or upon
what new mishagas has developed in the Jewish world.  The first approach
is that God, just like us, throws up His hands, so to speak, and says
"Good Lord, what are they doing with my Torah?!" According to this
approach, God will have to send the Moshiach not only to rescue us from
"shibod malchuyis" ( Gentile subjugation) but also to save us, and the
Torah, from ourselves.

    But there's another way to look at it. Controversy keep's things
fresh. It's like Thomas Jefferson said about rebellion - Its a good
thing to have every now and then.  God may have deliberately crafted the
Torah in such a way that different people can take different things from
it.  Without in any way condoning the vast excesses of Reform and
Conservative, those Jews too have taken certain ideals from the Torah.
Certainly among the Orthodox, the differing viewpoints can all point to
sources from the written and Oral Torah that support their views.
Looked at this way, God may be in Heaven , looking down at all the
infighting, and smiling, congratulating himself on a job well done - the
Torah is alive, healthy, and kicking. All the strife could be simply the
painful process foreseen by Hashem to be necessary to ensure the Torah's
continuing vitality.  ( That doesn't mean that there hasn't been
excesses in the level of Orthodox strife either) This is also a
comforting thought, and in my more lucid moments, I believe this to be

David Farkas
Cleveland Ohio
PS - I still wish to verify if it is true or not that no more than 7
pages of Gemara cannot be found consecutively without the name of Abaye
or Rava. If anyone knows from this (Yeshivish) lemme know.


From: Yehonatan and Randy Chipman <yonarand@...>
Date: Wed, 25 Dec 2002 17:58:36 +0200
Subject: Re:  Everyone Can become a Gadol

Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...> wrote in MJv38n04:

<<I do believe that most people can become a gadol IF they really wanted
to... .
Rambam states that "Every person can be as RIGHTEOUS AS MOSES or as
WICKED AS YARAVAM."  But Moses and Yaravam were LEADERS. Thus Rambam is
YARAVAM).  Rambam is not touching on prophetic capacity.

NEXT: Let us deal with the issue of whether EVERYONE can become
great....  If we really wanted to become a prime minister, or a great
doctor, or world champion in chess etc all we have to do is give up our
entire lives and study the subject at hand.  Another example: The recent
solution of Fermats last theorem... was only accomplished by someone who
was willing to sit and stare at the problem for 7 years(and give
everything up)...>>

     1.  I think that Russell clearly misinterprets Rambam's statement
there.  The fact that Moses and Jeroboam ben Nabat were leaders doesn't
mean that the statement refers to their leadership capacity; he probably
chose these examples because they were familiar figures to anyone who
reads Tanakh.  It means exactly what it says: righteousness and
wickedness, which are moral qualities. He is considered with free-will
(which is the subject of that chapter).

     2.  The second part of Russell's argument is marred by a basic
logical flaw: arguing from converses.  In elementary logic we learn that
the syllogism, A>B does not necessarily imply B>A.  Hence, the
statement, "All those who accomplished something really great dedicated
themslves singlemindedly and gave up everything else in life" (assuming
this to be true, for the argument's sake) does NOT logically imply that
"All those who dedicate themslves singlemindedly and give up everything
else in life accomplish something really great."

     Turning to a more down-to-earth level, based on life experience
rather than a priori statements: The old saying has it that, "Genius is
1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."  Note: you need both.  To
accomplish anything. you need to apply yourself and put in lots and lots
of hard work ("99% perspiration").  But the "1% inspiration" is equally
essential; there needs to be a spark of what we call "genius," however
defined.  The ordinary guy, if he works really hard, can master his
chosen field; but that still doesn't mean that he'll become "a gadol,"
whoever that term is understood.  In Jewish terms, I'd translate this
into saying "everyone can become a talmid hakham, but not everyone can
become a gadol."  I've not been reading this thread carefully from the
very beginning, so I don't really understand why it's so important, or
even desirable, that everyone become a gadol.  Why not change the theme
statement to "everyone can become a talmid hakham"?

     But, for argument's sake, to my mind becoming a gadol requires
three things: First, broad knowledge of kol hatorah kulah (what Hazal
called "Sinai" or "mara dehita" - the owner of the wheat)- this can be
accomplished through much hard work, and in a sense is at least in
theory open to everybody.  Second, analytic power in understanding Torah
and applying it correctly ("oker harim" - "he who uproots mountains");
this can partly be learned, but it also requires a certain inborn
intellectual power that is quite rare.  Third, what for want of a better
term I'd call "charisma" -- the ability to inspire and attract others,
for one's words to be listened to and accepted by others.  This is
important because being a "gadol" is also a social function; my own life
experience indicates that some people have this quality and others
don't.  One last thought: if Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai drew distinctions
among his five top talmidim, saying that only one of them was a "ma'ayan
hamitgabber," then clearly gadlut is a very rare commodity.  

Yehonatan Chipman


From: David Waxman <yitz99@...>
Date: Thu, 26 Dec 2002 17:54:55 -0800
Subject: Re: Giving Charity to Non Worthy

Jewish Ethicist #90 addresses this issue.


From: Isaac A Zlochower <zlochoia@...>
Date: Thu, 26 Dec 2002 00:51:16 -0500
Subject: Moshe Rabbenu and the Ari

Zev's repeated contention that the Ari's (Rav Yitzchok Luria)
understanding of Hashem was superior to that of Moshe is problematic.
Such ideas, it seems to me, are not consistent with mainstream Judaism
even if they are based on statements by the Ari (through his student
Chaim Vitale) that are elaborated by Rav Shneur Zalman in the Tanya and
by Reb Zadok of Lublin.  There are statements in Chazal that Moshe's
understanding of Hashem reached the human limits - expressed as the 49
gates of knowledge.  Are we to assume that the Ari reached the 50th
level?  There are also some obvious problems with attesting a
superiority to Moshe in understanding G-D.  First, how does the Ari know
the limits of Moshe's understanding and how can we properly gauge the
depth of the Ari's understanding?  They were, after all, separated in
time by some 3 millenia.  Moshe left a written record of teachings and
an oral record that went through many hands.  The Ari left no written
record.  What we know of his teachings are those refracted through his
students - primarily Chaim Vitale.  Moreover, the written torah that
Moshe was commanded to teach the Jewish people is but a brief summary of
what he had been taught and understood.  It may contain allusions to all
knowledge, but that knowledge is not evident to anyone who does not
possess the right keys.  How do we know that the Ari possessed more keys
than Moshe?  Did someone appear to him in a dream attesting to the Ari's
alleged superior understanding?  If so, is that dream at all comparable
to Moshe's prophetic experiences?  Did the Ari match Moshe's feat of
repeatedly communing directly with G-D for long periods without benefit
of any human sustenance?  Much has been made here of a statement by
Chazal that a sage is superior to a prophet.  Even if we interpret that
statement broadly (I prefer a narrow interpretation limiting it to the
idea that a sage can create halacha, but not a prophet), it surely does
not include Moshe who is the essential transmitter of halacha.  The
Torah testifies that Moshe's prophesies are of a different nature than
all other prophets.  His involve direct, intimate communication with the
Divine.  Does anyone imagine that such communications were limited only
to practical matters?  The Torah testifies that Moshe was trusted
thoughout Hashem's "house", i.e,. he could roam intellectually in all
spheres. Why should we assume that the Ari could achieve higher levels
by dint of his own intellectual effort?  Besides, if the Ari did not get
his ideas about G-D from a tradition stemming from Moshe (since he
appears to claim that his knowledge is superior), how do we know that
they are correct?  If the prophets (except for Moshe) see through a
clouded glass (in the language of the sages) then the lesser visionaries
should have even more difficulty in perceiving reality.

The further citation from the Rambam in the Oxford manuscript about the
prophetic abilities of the future messianic king (closer than Moshe) is
also problematic.  It is not consistent with what the Rambam has written
elsewhere on the uniquely superior prophetic ability of Moshe, and is
not a complete sentence.  The Rambam's writing style is both precise and
elegant.  If he meant closer to Hashem than Moshe, he would have so
written.  The text that we have in the printed Mishneh Torah's (close to
Moshe) is, therefore, superior.  If we seek a superior function for the
messianic king, however, we can find it in his expected superior
leadership abilities which will accomplish what Moshe himself could not.
Of course, Jews and humanity will have had so many experiences
subsequent to Moshe's passing that the lessons of history will finally
be learned and our eyes will be truly opened to physical and spirituall


[On the last paragraph, there is a further posting from Lawrance Kaplan
addressing this issue. Mod.]


From: Gil Student <gil_student@...>
Date: Thu, 26 Dec 2002 13:52:30 -0500
Subject: Re: Prophecies Coming True

Yona Rothman wrote:
>If it were true that it's possible that a prophecy about good things
>will not happen, than there is no way to test a prophet's
>authenticity. that is because we know that a prophecy about bad does
>not have happen if people do Teshuvah. Also doesn't this undermine the
>belief in Moshiach.

There are different views on this subject.  A summary that I wrote of some
of the views can be found at http://www.aishdas.org/articles/navi.htm.

Gil Student


From: Zev Sero <zev.sero@...>
Date: Thu, 26 Dec 2002 15:04:36 -0500
Subject: Re: Sons, si.  Servants, no

<Joelirich@...> (Joel Rich) wrote:
>>> So why did Chazal in the medrash have Avraham tell him that he was bad
>>> and that his daughter was thus no good for a son of avraham?
>> He said no such thing.  The quote is `my son is blessed, and you are
>> cursed, and the cursed cannot adhere to the blessed' (Rashi on 24:39).
> IIRC the full medrash that rashi quotes in part refers back to a pasuk
> in nach that calls kenaan deceitful and Eliezer following that.  This is
> in contradistinction to other medrashim that say Eliezer went from the
> category of cursed to blessed due to faithful service to Avraham.

I am not familiar with the original medrash, but I think it significant
that Rashi chose to quote only the part about Eliezer being cursed, and
not anything about his character.  Since one of the greatest rules in
interpreting Rashi on chumash is that he quotes only that which is
necessary to explain the simple pshat to the 5-year-old first-time
chumash student, it may be that Rashi had the same problem Joel did with
the full midrash, and therefore only quoted that part which fits the
pshat, leaving the rest open to more metaphoric interpretations when the
student gets that far.

Zev Sero


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Wed, 25 Dec 2002 23:03:54 +0200
Subject: Re: Transliterations

Our moderator wrote:
>[Just a quick note on standards for Transliteration. To the extent that
>there is an "official" transliteration standard for mail-jewish, the one
>I "choose" many years ago is the one in the introduction of the
>Encyclopedia Judaica. However, at the same time, I decided that I would
>not impose any given standard, so members are free to chose what they
>want. I tried to look up the one Ira mentions, but was not able to find
>any link to it on the web. Ira, could you post the link if you have it?

I am unaware of any link to this, but the Hebrew language Academy has many, 
many print publications and they are priced quite reasonably.



End of Volume 38 Issue 19