Volume 39 Number 29
                 Produced: Thu May 15  5:23:02 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

13 Ikarim are NOT Islamic influence but Jewish
         [Alan Cooper]
G-d has no body, and the Raavad (2)
         [Chaim Mateh, Shaya Potter]
Halacha and Plusralism
         [Cohen, David A]
A Serious but Halachic Approach to the Orthodoxy Problem
         [Douglas Moran]


From: Alan Cooper <amcooper@...>
Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 14:18:43 -0400
Subject: Re: 13 Ikarim are NOT Islamic influence but Jewish

>From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
>The idea I am trying to bring out is that NECESSITATING BELIEF IN A
>LIST OF IDEALS is not inherently a Jewish idea, but was taken from
>Moslem philosophy, most likely.

"Taken from" may be a bit of an overstatement, since Rambam had some
precedents in prior Jewish sources (going back to his starting point,
Pereq Heleq).  But Mr. Katz's basic point, namely that the effort of a
Rabbanite Jew to enumerate the dogmas of Judaism was a response to a
similar development in Karaite and Muslim theology, is correct.  For a
full discussion of the issue, see the introduction to Menachem Kellner's
book, Dogma in Medieval Jewish Thought from Maimonides to Abravanel
(Oxford University Press, 1986).

Alan Cooper


From: Chaim Mateh <chaim-m@...>
Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 20:29:02 +0200
Subject: G-d has no body, and the Raavad

In vol 39 #24, Ben Katz <bkatz@...> wrote:

<< I am not disputing the importance of any or all of these ikarim.  The
fact is, however, that they are not universal.  As has been pointed out in
the past on this list, the Raavad either did not believe that God was
incorporeal or he at least acknowledged that people "greater than the
rambam" did not believe that God was so, and no one would argue that these
individuals were somehow kofrim.>>

To be exact, the Rambam, Hilchos Tshuva 3:7, says that "he who says that
there is One L-rd, but that He has a body and countenance (baal
tmunah),...  is a min".

On that, the Raavad says: "Why did he (Rambam) call this a min?  Some
who are bigger and better from him went with this thought according to
what the saw in writings, and moreso from what they saw in the words of
Aggados which cause incorrect (mishabshos) views".

It's clear that the Raavad holds that the belief that G-d has a body is
an incorrect belief. However, he holds that since the holders of that
belief (incorrectly) base it on writings and Aggados, they should not be
considered a min.

The Kesef Mishna there wonders at how the Raavad can consider those with
such a belief to be "big and better", and he says that the words of the
Raavad are different than printed and are as the Sefer Ha'ikarim wherein
there is not mention of "bigger and better" people who hold such
beliefs.  Furthermore the Kesef Mishna says that even with the wording
that is printed in our Rambams, the intent of the Raavad was such, i.e.,
that it is an incorrect belief but that he who believes it is not a min.

Kol Tuv,

From: Shaya Potter <spotter@...>
Date: 13 May 2003 10:53:14 -0400
Subject: Re: G-d has no body, and the Raavad

As Ben Katz said:

> As has been pointed out in the past on this list, the Raavad either
> did not believe that God was incorporeal or he at least acknowledged
> that people "greater than the rambam" did not believe that God was so,
> and no one would argue that these individuals were somehow kofrim.

Interestingly enough, this raavad isn't on Yesodei Ha'torah where the
Rambam talks about that one has to believe that Hashem doesn't have a
guf.  It's in Hilchos Teshuva where he says a Min can't do teshuva and
there are 5 beliefs that make a person a Min, one of them being
believing the Hashem has a Guf.

What the Raavad says on that (paraphrased, I think it's Perek 3, Halacha
6 or 7, but I dont remember exactly and dont have a Yad handy, easy
enough to find if one just flips through hilchos teshuva looking for the
hasagot, its 2 lines in most Rambam's, I think there are 2 hasagot on
this #'d halacha) is that "you shouldn't call these people Mins, as
there people "gedolim v'tovim mimenu" who did believe this because they
got "confused" when they read the agadot" (I assume Agadot means Tanach
and sayings of "Yad Hashem" and the like, which the Rabmam himself talks
about in the hakdama to perek hahelek).

So it's seems fairly clear that the Raavad didn't believe in this and
also believed that this belief was wrong.

I believe I read here once about a teshuva of the Chazon Ish where
someone asked him about this very thing, "how do we deal with rishonim
who believed things that we (klal yisrael kula) believe is apikorsus
today" (this raavad being a clear example).  The answer was that
basically for those rishonim to believe it was ok for them because they
had a mesora, the fact that klal yisrael rejected this mesora shows that
its apikorsus (I guess the idea is that we act as a filter over time
sifting out the ideas that are apikorsus) and therefore assur for
someone nowadays to believe it.  but I can't find any reference on
google to this chazon ish (so guessing not in mail-jewish archive), so I
might have played telephone w/ myself a few time too many (would
appreciate a pointer to the orig source if that's not the case)


From: Cohen, David A <davidaco@...>
Date: Wed, 14 May 2003 14:24:23 -0400
Subject: Re: Halacha and Plusralism

Several days (weeks?) ago, Stan Tenen opened up a thread of discusion
about how there is much that is wrong with Orthodox Judaism. I'd like to
reply to several of his points and make some of my own.

First of all, Stan says that one sign of the failures of the orthodox
movement is the fact that 90% of the movement left us. This argument is,
at best, an illustration of how ignoring history can lead to fallacious
arguments. At worst, the argument is just plain inane.

The 90% of Jews that left Orthodox Judaism in the 19th century because
of the introduction of reform Judaism, and the secular/non-orthodox
population that has emerged from that separation had very little to do
with Judasim's failures. Judasim lost a following because it was hard to
reconcile Judaism with the philosophy of the times -
rationalism. Although Rav S.R. Hirsch tried very hard, it is almost
impossible to be purely rational and still practive any religion at
all. Some things will simply lach proof, always, and so it should be
impossible to believe in them. The question, though, arises - is the
fact that Judasim could not be reconciled with rationalism a failure of
Judaism? the answer is - only if we must view the world through the lens
of rationalism, and i'm pretty sure that as Jews, our job is to view the
world through a Jewish philosophy, whatever that philosophy might be. It
may be a combination of rationalism with an experiential element (Rambam
+ R. Yehuda Halevi), and that philosophy must be based on the only thing
we know for sure is truth - the Torah, and the people who know the Torah
the most, like any body of knowledge, are those that have studied it,
i.e. the Rabbis.

Anyhow, the 90% dropout from Orthodox Jewry is not an indication of
failure, it is an indication of how the philosophy of the times was more
appealing than Judasim. That appeal is not very hard to explain - any
life that is marked by self-restraint, a thirst for knowledge, being
bound to a deity whose existence cannot be proven, by manifesting the
idea that physical success is not a true measure of success - this type
of life cannot be appealing compared to a life that Nietzche perscribed
- no rules exist, no truth exists, and as a result, anything goes. If
Judasim is the truth, it is still hard to practice. And whatever you
want to say, you cannot get the masses to start philosophically
assessing right and wrong and the values of Judasim and
self-restraint. That is why 90% of people have dropped out of Orthodoxy
- it is just too hard to follow without the philosophical background, or
without the steadfast belief in G-d's word.

Another flaw with the 90% argument is the classic rebuttal - if 90% of
people jumped off the bridge, would you? Just because 90% of people do
something, does not mean that is the right thing to do. If there is
objective truth, there is objective truth, even if 90% of people leave
that objective truth out to dry. In the 19th century, that's exactly
what people did, and the result was this 90% fallout. It was not because
of Orthodox Judaism not having the proper midot towards other Jews (in
fact, Geiger and the reform movement weren't very nice as you would read
in a good history book). If it was actually the result of a bad defense
of the truth, then Mr. Tenen is still wrong - a bad defense of the truth
does not invalidate the truth. Further, if there was not a proper
defense of the intellectual truth of Orthodoxy, the intellectual tenets
of reform or Conservative Judasim are even more tenuous (for a good
treatment see Hillel Halkin's article in the April issue of Commentary).

Where does this leave us? You can debate to eternity what the reasons
are for Orthodox Judasim's fallout. But in the end, I think you'd find
it has something to do with the intellectual currents of the mid to late
19th century. You'll also find that based on those currents, and based
on good logic, the other branches of Judasim are even less intellectualy
defensible than Orthodox Judasim.

Some other points about Mr. Tenen's arguments: He says "it's up to God
to decide who's a sinner and who's not a sinner" and then several
sentences later... "How do we know when we've got it right?  When the
90% of Am Israel that has distanced itself from Torah starts to move
closer to Torah.  That's the objective test." Quite simply, these two
arguments are inconsistent. How can we have an objective measure of when
Orthodox Judasim has it right when only G-d decides who's a sinner and
what is a sin. Further, as I've refuted above, 90% of people doing
something doesn't tell us that it's right. Over 70% of high school
seniors in the US have already engaged in sexual intercourse - is that

Mr. Tenen also says "But to 'love the sinner' _actively_ means to find
some legitimate points of respect.  Once we start by labeling a person a
'sinner,' we've already excluded them, and demonstrated a profound lack
of respect." If this is true, does that mean that we must find something
to respect in the way the worship or the way they practice Judasim? That
is completely outside the realm of Halach, which the author stated he'd
like to stay within. We can respect their politics, their intelligence,
and other characteristics. But we cannot respect the way in which a
non-Orthodox Jew practices Judasim from an intellectual standpoint. The
intellectual standpoint of a non-Orthodox Jew does not admit the divine
source of Halacha or of Rabbinic authority. There can be nothing to
respect here. You either believe in the divine origin of the Torah and
Mitzvot or you don't. If you don't, then there is no reason to stay
within Judasim in the first place except for such reasons as 'Tikkun
Olam' or cultural Judasim - reasons that either make sense outside the
bounds of Judasim or are simply not justifiable. Retaining Jewish
culture, for example, is a nice thing, but it cannot be argued to be
binding on a Jew if there is no divine source to the Torah and to the

In the end, I think the author either wants to be "inclusive" through a
respect of the non-truth, or is asking for something that Orthodox
Judasim cannot do on its own - an intellectual justification for the
belief in G-d and the divine origin of the commandments when no such
purely logical justification exists. And that is really the issue.


From: Douglas Moran <dougom@...>
Date: Wed, 14 May 2003 11:05:33 -0500
Subject: Re: A Serious but Halachic Approach to the Orthodoxy Problem

On Sun, 11 May 2003 20:25:33 -0500, Binyomin Segal wrote:

>However, while that is true of individuals, many poskim have a different
>attitude when discussing anything that is organizational.  That is,
>while an individual reform Jew does not have the status of a heretic,
>the Reform movement does. Therefore, any organizational cooperation
>between orthodox and reform is prohibited as a matter of law.

Actually, Binyomin, Russell specifically referred to a Chabad and a
Conservative rabbi (the Conservative rabbi being intermarried).  I
haven't met a *lot* of Conservative rabbis, but every one that I have
met and spoken with thinks the Reform movement is heretical, just as you
(and I and as far as I know all observant Jews) do.  I think we should
be careful about lumping them together, or substituting one for the
other.  It is hardly unknown for Conservative Jews to make the jump to
BT status.  I don't know of many Reform Jews doing the same thing,

I personally am more interested in the statement that the rabbi was
intermarried.  Was he actually married to a goyim?  Or is it a case of
the rebbitzim being converted, but converted by a Conservative beit din?
I realize that some folks will think I'm nit picking, but it's an
important point: as far as I understand, the Conservative movement
professes to be halachic in nature, albeit with some holding "minority"
opinions that have come out of the Conservative RA.  As such, if a
Conservative rabbi marries a ger that is a ger by *their* lights, he's
at least upholding what Conservative Jews believe to be halachically
correct.  If he actually married a goyim, he's not (as I understand it).
So then the issue of a Chabad and Conservative rabbi meeting and
cooperating comes down to two people who disagree about halacha, not one
observant Jew and one who not only has heretical beliefs but is actually
demonstrating their heretical beliefs for a congregation!

To me, that's a big difference.

>One of the concerns is the prohibition of granting credibility to
>heretics and their beliefs. As a result, the lines between corporate
>cooperation and private friendship can get messy. When the orthodox
>Rabbi in town learn with the reform Rabbi in town it lends credibility
>to the reform positions. This would seem to violate this halacha. (But
>it may also mean that if the orthodox rebel in town chooses to learn
>with the reform Rabbi, no halacha has been violated.)

I think this argument could just as easily be turned around and used by
a Reform Jew as a reason for *their* rabbi to not meet with a Chabad
rabbi.  "Those people are psychos!  Do we really want our rabbi meeting
with theirs?  Doesn't that just make it look like we don't really
believe in the legitimacy of our movement, and have to go asking advice
of an Orthodox rabbi?"  (And yes, I've heard plenty of non-Observant
Jews talk about the observant in ways perhaps not as bad, but a lot like
the above.  A lot of Reform Jews are very, um, protective of their
non-observance, in my experience.)

And again, it seems to me that you are conflating things: are they
"learning together?"  Or are they cooperating on areas that are
important to Jews as a people?  In my opinion, this is an important

Finally, I think it could be argued that it would be a *good* think for
a Conservative rabbi to learn with an Orthodox rabbi.  If a goal is to
move all Jews toward a greater level of observance, what better way than
for an Orthodox rabbi to be in a position to poke holes in the halachic
opinions of a Conservative rabbi?  (Sorry; maybe I'm just too

On parting thought: on another thread, people have spoken about the
attrition rate from Orthodoxy, specifically in the New York/Boro Park
area.  I would opine that throwing up walls between the observant and
the non-observant, cutting the two communities off from each other
(which is what Binyomin seems to be implying here; forgive me if I've
mis-interpreted, Binyomin), will only exacerbate this problem.  Everyone
knows that teenagers rebel.  How much more so will they rebel if their
community is not only isolated from the secular community at large, but
even further is isolated from the *Jewish* community at large?  This
strikes me as a very risky and self-defeating strategy.

Let me point out here that I am *not* an expert on halacha; a lot of
what I'm saying is tactical in nature, and based on my *limited*
understanding of halacha.  So before blasting me, please be aware of

Just my thoughts,



End of Volume 39 Issue 29