Volume 39 Number 15
                 Produced: Tue May  6  5:15:38 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Banning "Making of a Gadol"
Link to Download "Making of a Godol" (3)
         [David Eisen, Allan Baumgarten, Anonymous]
Making of a Godol
         [Mark Steiner]
Shir HaShirim
         [Mark Steiner]
the Song of Songs
         [Sarah Elizabeth Beck]
The Song Of Songs
         [Gil Student]
translating Shir haShirim
         [Leah Aharoni]


From: <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 05:42:57 EDT
Subject: Re: Banning "Making of a Gadol"

How did anyone expect that book banning wouldn't get out? The disease of
hagiography has been rampant in the frum world for at least 35 years
now.  I don't get it. Reb Moishe z"l never acted badly and would even
take phone calls from young female American Jewish teenagers, me among
them, especially when it came to asking about cosmetics on Pesach. So
someone cut me a break!

We are turning our teachers into infallible popes. That's terrible
because our children are not perfect, and neither are the gedolim
(someone shoot me for saying that they are human beings and not
gods--this hagiography thing is a form of avodah zorah, you know).  If
our children want to emulate them, they cannot because THEY know reality
and people are imperfect.

So we are setting our own kids up for failure, making sure that when
they do find out these people are "normal" they will get disgusted and
leave.  90% have already, as someone noted in a previous post.

My mother's book was published by Art Scroll, and they scrubbed it
perfect before it went to press. BTW, tho it's in its second printing,
she never saw a dime. Interesting.


From: David Eisen <davide@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 14:33:23 +0200
Subject: RE: Link to Download "Making of a Godol"

In order to avoid copyright violations, R. Nosson Kamenetsky has stated
that while he certainly did not support the uploading of extensive
selections (over 600 pages) of his book on the web, now that it has
entered the public domain, appropriate payment for the download is $10
or the undertaking to purchase the book when it comes out, which he
intends to release at a future date.

Until a special fund is established to this end, payments should be sent
to the following address:

R. Nathan Kamenetsky
9 Sorotzkin St.
Jerusalem, Israel

[Several other members sent in similar information on R. Nosson's
statement. Mod.]

From: Allan Baumgarten <baumg010@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 10:37:08 -0500
Subject: Re: Link to Download "Making of a Godol"

What are the copyright issues here?  I assume that the author and publisher
reserve their copyright privileges for the book and would not want someone
to scan the pages and make a PDF available for free download.

Allan Baumgarten
952/925-9121    Fax 952/925-9341

[Good question and answered in this case, I think, by the above
posting. However the general question may still be valid. Mod.]

From: Anonymous
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 19:41:16 -0400
Subject: Re: Link to Download "Making of a Godol"

Subscribers to Mail Jewish should know that the portions of the book
posted on that site are deliberately incomplete.  Many pages are missing.
I have been told that the omissions reflect censorship, but I have not
been told by whom.

[With the book not being available, I do not not know how easy it is to
determine if the above claim is correct or not. Mark, as you have spoken
with Reb Nosson and R. Shurin, are you aware if the uploaded portion is
missing pages within what is uploaded as opposed to just being the first
volume of the book, as indicated in the original link to the uploead
site? Mod.]


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 14:55:54 +0200
Subject: Re: Making of a Godol

A number of remarks on Reb Nosson Kamenetzky's "The Making of a
Godol"--written after having a number of conversations with the author
and his nephew Reb Yitzchok Shurin who is my "mechutan".

    The newspaper accounts of the book all pick up the "juicy" story of
Reb Aharon Kotler's letters to his fiancee, the daughter of Reb
Isser-Zalman Meltzer, all of blessed memory.  The impression is given
(though the book does not characterize the content of the letters) that
these were love letters.  In fact, Reb Nosson thinks they were letters
describing the great success of Reb Aharon's "khabures"
(havurot="colloquia") in the Slabodka yeshiva, to which a great number
of students flocked.  Reb Aharon's future "shver" regarded these stories
as prideful ("gayve").

    The discussions of censorship obscure valid criticisms that might be
made of the book (these are things I said to Reb Nosson).  There are a
number of "negative" stories about Reb Aharon which are intended to show
flaws in his character--pride, unwillingness to listen to others, etc.
There are no "positive" stories at all, at least in the volumes I read
so far.  There are even stories that explain away the achievements of
Reb Aharon over those of Reb Yaakov (the author's father and a childhood
friend of Reb Aharon and classmate of his in Slabodka)--e.g. the special
treatment given Reb Aharon in Slabodka is attributed, not to his
preeminence in Torah, but to Reb Nossen Tzi Finkel's desire to wean Reb
Aharon away from the harmful influence of his sister (a Communist).  Reb
Yaakov is reported as saying that the only reason Reb Aharon surpassed
him in later life is that Reb Yaakov's mind became clouded by his heavy
smoking.  Since no other godol in the book gets such skewed treatment,
the author might be accused of bias.  In fact, in the case of one
particular godol in the book, who is protrayed as having exhibited a
severe failure of leadership (in the opinion of Reb Yaakov z"l), the
godol in question is referred to, not by name, but only as a "world
famous posek."

    At the same time, there is no book that even comes near to "The
Making of a Godol" in the wealth of its information.  The sheer number
of sources is staggering.  Reb Nossen's atttempt to verify the truth of
his stories, by cross checking a number of versions of a story--such as
the one about Reb Yisroel Salanter's making kiddush and eating in public
in Kovno during a cholera epidemic is astounding, considering the
author's lack of formal secular education or training in historiography.
Readers of mail-jewish will be interested in the halakhic aspects of the
book.  Here I found fascinating Reb Nosson's account of how the yeshiva
world came to adopt practices that contradict the shulhan arukh
(abolishing the repetition of the amida prayer during the minha service,
eating before shofar blowing on Rosh Hashanah) as a result of the
influence of the mussar movement, and the resistance to these changes by
rabbis and even roshei yeshiva.  (Rav Y. E.  Henkin, the dean of the
poskim in the U. S., contacted the Kotler family and forbade them to eat
before shofar blowing, but Reb Aharon answered that it didn't matter
that year because the first day of R. H. fell on Shabbos that year; by
the next year, Rav Henkin was no longer among the living.)

    The following is a postscript to my posting on "The Making of a Godol."

    I referred therein to "positive" and "negative" stories.  A distinction
here should be made.

    One kind of "negative" story about a person is a person which highlights
faults, e.g. character faults.

    Another kind of "negative" story highlights traits which the subject
of the story himself would not consider faults at all, but lesser
mortals might.  For example, the story of the "akeda" (Binding of Isaac)
in the Torah is certainly not meant as a negative story about Avraham,
but modern secularists do not see this as a positive story.  The story
about David and Bat-sheva is a "negative" story which highlights a sin
(the Talmud, or rather, some opinions in the Talmud, acquit David of the
crime of adultery, but a mitzvah it wasn't), as the Bible clearly
indicates--David Hamelekh wrote a whole Psalm in penance for this act.
By contrast, not only do Hazal not attempt to "whitewash" the akeda, but
they put into the mouth of Satan all the arguments which modern
secularists would use, in order to persuade Avraham not to go through
with the akeda.

    In "The Making of a Godol," there are many stories about Reb Aharon
Kotler z"l which are meant as negative stories in the second sense.  At
the same time there are a number of stories about the "Alter" of
Slabodke, Reb Nossen Zvi Finkel, which by outsiders would be regarded as
negative, but Reb Nossen Zvi, and even the author of the book, think of
as "positive."  The Alter's system of musar allowed him to set aside
usual rules of ethics for the cause of Torah--in extreme cases.  For
example, he intercepted letters to Reb Aharon Kotler for years and read
them to see whether they were designed to lure him away from the yeshiva
into a secular life.  (These were written by his sister.)  Dangerous
letters were confiscated without telling Reb Aharon.  Not only did the
Alter see nothing wrong with this, but he was proud of having saved Reb


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 14:10:31 +0200
Subject: Re: Shir HaShirim

Shalom Carmy makes an excellent point, which I would like to elaborate upon:

There is an interesting remark by Rav. J. B. Soloveitchik, of blessed
memory (whose 10th yahrzeit we just commemorated), in his Essay
"Uvikashta misham" about Shir Hashirim: the allegorical interpretation
of the Song of Solomon is an axiom of halakha, not just agada: the
holiness of the Book (expressed for example in the law that anyone who
touches the scroll of the Song has the same halakhic status as one who
touches a Torah scroll) depends on the allegory.  (This is R. Akiba's
point in Mishnah Yadaim.) Exactly what the allegory is, however, is a
matter of interpretation--there is the national intepretation, that
Israel is the Bride of the Almighty.  (The Church hijacked the Song of
Songs and diverted it to their own needs.)  Maimonides' interpretation
has to do with the intellectual love of the Almighty by the individual.
The entire Essay of R. Soloveitchik is based on the latter
interpretation, it is dedicated to the memory of his lamented wife, and
I am told by family members that he regarded it as his greatest
philosophical work.

However, it is possible that Artscroll goes too far in claiming that
Shir Hashirim "has no plain meaning", i.e. that there is no human-erotic
element present in the pshat.  After all, as I once pointed out on this
list, Hazal did derive some of the laws of erotica ("erva") from the
Song--one is not permitted to recite the shma in the presence of "erva."
The Song contains a number of good definitions of what is considered

And, those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the Land of Israel,
certainly have their love of the land strengthened by the obvious
infatuation with Eretz Yisrael in the Song.  And, in fact, some of the
laws of the Land of Israel can also be derived from the Song: borders of
the Land ("tashuri merosh amana") and concepts connected to tithing
("ha-te-nah hanetah fageha").


From: Sarah Elizabeth Beck <sbeck@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 22:42:58 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: the Song of Songs

In response to Mr. (R'?) Schachter:

My post read: "Most (if not all) of my peers want a companionate marriage.
It's not a matter of some idea of romantic love *marching in from Chretien
de Troyes*." (That last, about Chretien, may have been overlooked in the 

I did not mean, Heaven forbid, that the love of Song of Songs is
anything less than wholly native to the Jews. I meant exactly what I
said: the notion of love *imported from Chretien*, whatever its charms,
is not ours (ha-elef lecha, Shlomo, indeed!) That of Song of Songs IS
ours entirely, as Mr. (R'?) Schachter correctly notes. And this love,
not any entertaining or utilitarian substitutes, is what makes a
companionate marriage, one hopes.


From: Gil Student <gil_student@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 13:26:09 -0400
Subject: Re: The Song Of Songs

Jay Schachter wrote:
>This astonishing notion -- the notion that there is any branch of Torah
>Judaism which rejects romantic love as a value and a goal -- must be

I am not aware of any source, in either the written or oral Torah, that
implies that romantic feelings should be evident PRIOR to marriage.
Yes, there is a deep relationship between husband and wife.  But that is
after the wedding.

Gil Student


From: Leah Aharoni <leah25@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 14:59:20 +0200
Subject: translating Shir haShirim

In v39#11 Shalom Carmy wrote:

> There is an Aramaic translation of Shir haShirim that also omits the
> literal translation of the words in Tanakh. In fact there are several
> Aramaic translations of Torah and Nakh that do the same (Onkelos on
> anthropomorphic terms in Humash; pseudo-Jonathan on prophetic parables).

The above-mentioned targums were meant to be just that, translations. They
translated the Hebrew text for the benefit of their mostly
Aramaic-speaking Jewish audiences. In a number of places, as Shalom
mentioned, they replaced translation with commentary.

As any translator would tell you, there is a huge difference between a
translation, which includes a number of clarifications (such as the
targumim), and a wholesale substitution of translation by commentary, in a
book which includes BOTH translation AND commentary in its format. In
fact, adding necessary glosses in the process of translation is the
standard practice and duty of any professional translator.

It is my guess that either Artscroll did not want its lay readership
to understand the literal meaning of the Shir haShirim text, or it could not
find satisfactory terminology to express the Hebrew ideas in English.

Leah Aharoni
English/Hebrew/Russian Translator
Telefax 972-2-9971146, Mobile 972-56-852571
Email <leah25@...>


End of Volume 39 Issue 15