Volume 38 Number 46
                 Produced: Thu Jan 30  6:40:28 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

General Studies & The Rav
         [Jeffrey Saks]
Making of a Godol - protesting misrepresentation of Rav (2)
         [Daniel Eidensohn, <Maylocks1@...>]
Rav and Medinat Yisrael-- Part I
         [Mike Gerver]
Requirement of Saying blessings on Eclipses
Woman Gadol
         [Ari Trachtenberg]

To: <mail-jewish@...>

From: Jeffrey Saks <atid@...>
Subject: General Studies & The Rav

On-Line Audio at www.atid.org


Last week ATID hosted Rabbi, Scholar and Dean of the Rabbi Soloveitchik
Institute, Jacob J. Schacter, as our 2003 scholar-in-residence. Rabbi
Schacter enjoyed an intensive week of teaching and mentoring the ATID

On Wednesday, January 22nd Rabbi Schacter delivered the keynote at our
Mid-Winter Conference on 'The Role of General Studies in Torah
Education: Lessons from the Approach of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik
zt"l' to a standing-room-only audience of over 200 teachers and those
concerned with Torah education.

Respondents to Rabbi Schacter's talk included Rabbi Shimon Adler, Head
of Religious Education in the Misrad HaHinukh, and Dr. Beverly Gribetz,
of the ATID faculty and Principal, Evelina de Rothschild School,

Listen on line and view the packet of documents which accompany the
lecture at www.atid.org  


From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2003 00:04:58 +0200
Subject: Making of a Godol - protesting misrepresentation of Rav

HaRav Moshe Sternbuch shlita was shown the following posting on
mail-jewish vol 38 #3 Sunday December 15 2002 from Prof. Marc Shapiro
which states: "In addition, R. Moshe Sternbuch who has read the book
[Making of a Godol], finds nothing wrong with it and has been telling
people who ask that they certainly can read it.".

HaRav HaGaon Moshe Sternbuch instructed Rabbi Yaakov Bear to correct
this misrepresentation of his views and to make the following statement
in his name.  "HaRav Moshe Sternbuch shlita denies that he approves of
the book and furthermore says that many of the parts of the book should
not have been printed. For as it is written it is degrading of
gedolim. He thinks the book should be corrected and it is not acceptable
in its present form.

    Daniel Eidensohn

From: <Maylocks1@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Jan 2003 19:53:44 EST
Subject: Re: Making of a Godol - protesting misrepresentation of Rav

Everything I reported was in R. Kamenetsky's name. I thought that was
made clear. In addition, the man I sent it to also posted the following
in my name.

Many people have been contacting me about what you posted, so please post
this as well. I don't know how many rabbanim support R.Kamenetsky, and he
didn't give me many names. He just make it clear that there are those who
agree that there is nothing wrong with the book. As I told you, however,
I think I can speak for him when I say that he is not asserting that R.
Sternbuch or other rabbanim agree with everything in the book. No doubt
they too feel that certain formulations were wrong, should be worded
differently, or even omitted. But they do not believe that because of
this the book itself is pasul. Just because you have a few disagreements
with an author does not mean that you should destroy him or his work. A
few errors in judgment by Rabbi Kamenetsky does not make him a heretic!


From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Mon, 27 Jan 2003 19:42:17 EST
Subject: Rav and Medinat Yisrael-- Part I

Rabbi J. J. Shachter, director of the Soloveitchik Institute at
Maimonides School in Boston, gave a talk motzei shabbat (Jan. 25) at
Lechu Neranana in Raanana, about the relationship of Rav Soloveitchik to
Medinat Yisrael, part of a lecture series on the occasion of the Rav's
10th yahrzeit and 100th birthday. I took notes, and will try to
summarize here what he said. It was a beautiful talk. I know I missed
some things, and may have misunderstood some things, and I have not
asked him to review what I have written to see if it is accurate. I'm
dividing this into two parts, so each e-mail will not be too long.

Rabbi Shachter was introduced by Rabbi David Martin, head of the YU
alumni association. He quoted R. Aaron Soloveitchik's hesped for the
Rav, where he said that Chazal compare Torah to light, and said that
this comparison is not only homiletic, but goes deeper. Light can be
reflected, refracted, or diffracted. R. Chaim Soloveitchik, the Rav's
grandfather, reflected Torah in pure form, as given at Sinai, back to
Klal Yisrael. His son R. Moshe found a new medium in the US, and when
light enters a different medium it refracts; R. Moshe refracted the
light of Torah, bending it for use by a new society.  His grandson the
Rav diffracted the white light of Torah into its component colors. Rabbi
Martin added that he thought that the Rav did all three, reflection and
refraction as well as diffraction. He showed how to resolve apparent
contradictions in Torah, especially in the Rambam, by breaking Torah
down into its component parts, its logical categories, and showing that,
when analyzed in this way, the contradictions did not exist. It is
crucial to set up logical categories to truly understand the halacha,
and make it relevant to our lives. The Rav once said that if he could
have, he would have added a 14th principle to the Rambam's 13
principles: that Torah is relevant to our lives. (This thought was an
important theme in R. Shachter's talk that followed.)  The creation of
the State of Israel, R. Martin went on to say, was one of the most
important events since the Churban. It is difficult to understand this
sugiya. The Rav helped to analyze its meaning.

Rabbi Shachter began by saying that Rabbi Martin's love for the Rav, and
his feelings of closeness, were obvious from his words, and thanked him
for being the "shadchan" for this program. He also thanked Rabbi Stewart
Weiss of the Jewish Outreach Center in Raanana, who had arranged for
Rabbi Shachter's appearance here.

Before getting into the topic of the talk, R. Shachter told a couple of
stories from the Rav's talmidim about his shiur at YU. The former talmid
who told the first story, I didn't catch who it was, said that the first
time he attended the Rav's shiur, which ran from 1 to 4 in the
afternoon, he made the mistake of having lunch first, but he never made
that mistake again. The second story was from R. Velvil Wormeth (?), who
once came to shiur unprepared. The talmidim used to take turns, in
alphabetical order, saying the shiur, and they were up to R. Wormeth,
who thought that the Rav did not know who he was. When the Rav called
for R. Wormeth to say the shiur, he said "Oh, he's not here today,
Rebbe!" to which the Rav replied, "OK, then you say the shiur!"
R. Shachter said that he had not been in the Rav's shiur at YU, although
his father had been the first one to get smicha from the Rav, and the
Rav had been mesader kiddushin at R. Shachter's wedding, But he did not
really get to know the Rav until 1973, when he started studying in the
graduate program of the Rav's son-in-law, Rabbi Yitzchak Twersky, at

The Rav reflected on how he related to religious Zionism vs. how his
forebears related to it. His great-grandfather R. Yosef Ber
Soloveitchik, the Beit HaLevi, whom he was named after, died in
1892. Early on he was a supporter and follower of the Chibat Zion (or
Hovevei Zion?) movement. But he turned against it because of its secular
leadership, and the fact that he was unable to control the direction it
was taking. He especially did not like its messianic overtones. The Rav
felt the same way about reading messianic ideas into the State of
Israel. The Beit HaLevi compared these messianic Zionists with the
followers of Shabtai Zvi. His son, R. Chaim, was strongly opposed to
Zionism. He was especially opposed to Mizrachi, and in a letter he wrote
in 1899 to R. Yaakov Moshe Karpas, warned him against letting Mizrachi
get established in Hungary, saying it had done great harm in Russia. His
son R.  Velvil, the Rav's uncle, had a close relationship with the Rav,
they learned together when the Rav was growing up, and the Rav gave a
hesped for him. But R. Velvil (who lived in Israel) was very opposed to
the State. [Rabbi Israel Miller zt"l once told me that when he visited
Israel shortly after it became independent, he visited R. Velvil, who
asked him suspiciously "Did you come in honor of the State?" and would
have thrown him out if he had answered "Yes." So Rabbi Miller replied,
"We came in honor of Jerusalem," which seemed to satisfy him.-- MG] Why
was the Rav different?

The Rav was born in 1903 and lived in Pruzhin with his maternal
grandfather until the age of 7. The family then lived in Brest-Litovsk,
where the Rav was influenced by Chabad, and in 1920 moved to Warsaw,
where his father R. Moshe became Rosh Yeshiva of Tachgemoli (?). This
was a Mizrachi yeshiva, so already in 1920 R. Moshe was not as opposed
to Zionism as R. Chaim and R.  Velvil were. The Rav was in graduate
school in Berlin, 1926-1930, moved to Vilna where he got married,
returned to Berlin in 1931, and came to Boston in 1932. He had been
offered a position at Skokie Yeshiva, but the position fell through when
they did not have enough money, and his father found him a position in

In 1935, the Rav was on a short list of candidates to become chief rabbi
of Tel Aviv, and spent the summer of 1935 in Tel Aviv giving shiurim. In
a hesped the Rav gave years later for Rav Gold (published in "Be-seter
uva-gilui", Jerusalem, 1982), he recalled an evening he spent that
summer visiting Rav Gold in Ramat Gan, and taking a walk with him around
the orchards there, with stars and the moon shining, and the lights of
Tel Aviv visible in the distance. In very beautiful and emotional terms,
he quotes Rav Gold as saying that whoever does not feel the Shekhinah in
the shining stars, and the clear and fragrant air, must be blind, and he
describes Rav Gold picking up a small stone and kissing it, to fulfil
the pasuk "Ki ratzu avadeicha et avaneicha ve-et afarah yechonenu."
R. Shachter said that this remarkable hesped is the only place where the
Rav published anything about his visit to Israel, although it obviously
had a great influence on him.

R. Shachter quoted from a letter that R. Moshe wrote to Rabbi Boimenger
in Tel Aviv, to try to help the Rav get the job. (Published in "Sefer
Hayovel Likvod Moreinu Hagaon Rabbi Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik
Shlita," Tel Aviv, 5744, pages 621-623.) It is clear from the letter
that R. Moshe is proud of the Rav's secular knowledge as well as his
Torah knowledge. He also quotes R.  Chaim as being impressed by
something the Rav wrote as a boy. But there was a lot of party politics
involved, and the Rav did not get the job, which went instead of Rabbi
Amiel of Antwerp. The other losing candidate, Rabbi Herzog, shortly
afterward (when Rav Kook died) became Chief Rabbi of Palestine.

When R. Herzog died in 1959, several people pushed for the Rav to
replace him as Chief Rabbi of Israel. Yediot published an interview with
him by their American correspondent, a young reporter named Elie
Wiesel. When asked if he was interested in the position, the Rav replied
that he hadn't received an offer, he had only heard about it from the
newspapers. Shortly after that, the Rav was stricken with cancer, and
when he recovered, he said that he was not interested. He explained his
reasons in letters, later published, that he wrote to R. Chaim Moshe
Shapiro of Mafdal (the National Religious Party), an old friend from
Warsaw, and to R. Reuven Katz of Petach Tikvah. The Rav always referred
to himself as a "melamed," a teacher, and was derisive of what he called
"ceremonial." He didn't want to get caught up in it, and in the politics
of the postion. At first he thought he might be able to avoid it, but
then realized that would be impossible. [My colleague from work,
Yeshayahu Hollander, whose father was involved in trying to get the Rav
appointed as Chief Rabbi, told me that he thought another consideration
was that the Rav did not think that his wife would enjoy being Chief
Rebbitzin.-- MG]

[To be continued)

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: <chips@...>
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2003 22:40:45 -0800
Subject: Re: Requirement of Saying blessings on Eclipses

> From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
> I was shocked that a religious Rabbi could possibly override a Rabbinic
> obligation to say a blessing because of a superstition (It is a bad
> omen). This reminds me of Leah Gordons post(v38n31) that objected to
> superstitiously associating names to causes of death.

Well, I wasn't shocked and I disagreed with Leah, but it does seem odd
that a bracha would be made on a rainbow but not an eclipse.  The
rainbow is supposed to remind us that we would be destroyed if not for
the promise.



From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Mon, 27 Jan 2003 10:18:27 -0500
Subject: Re: Woman Gadol

> From: Gil Student <gil_student@...>
> I do not see why a woman cannot become a gedolah ba-Torah but I question
> whether being a brilliant expert in Tanach is sufficient to being called
> a gadol/gedolah ba-Torah.  I would think that the term is reserved from
> those who are masters of ALL AREAS of Torah.

Of course not.  Would you hesitate to call a world-class surgeon a
gadola b'refuah (despite probably knowing very little about, say,
infectuous diseases)?  or Albert Einstein a gadol b'mada (despite
probably knowing very little about biology)?  I would argue that being a
master of any one area of Torah, and especially Tanach (which relies
very heavily on oral Torah), would give a person the stature and
reputation for having a deep understanding of Judaism, at the level of

In the case of Nehama Leibowitz, my personal feeling is that she stayed
away from g'mara because of the social taboos at the time.  Had she
given opinions on g'mara as well, some people would have considered her
a rebel and not valued her opinions as much (is his not what happened to
Blu Greenberg, whom I would consider a gedola ba-Torah as well?).

Ari Trachtenberg,                                      Boston University
http://people.bu.edu/trachten                    mailto:<trachten@...>


End of Volume 38 Issue 46