Volume 39 Number 34
                 Produced: Tue May 20  5:26:23 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Candles while Travelling
         [Zev Sero]
Modern Orthodoxy Definition (Chumras)
         [Allen Gerstl]
Observant Jews as vegetarians
         [Bernard Raab]
SIN--Impetuousness vs Doubts about God
         [Russell J Hendel]
         [Zev Sero]


From: Zev Sero <slipstick1@...>
Date: Wed, 14 May 2003 11:52:28 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Candles while Travelling

Leah S. Gordon <leah@...> wrote:

> One reason that it is potentially more dangerous to light candles
> in a hotel room (vs. at home) is that you wouldn't ordinarily
> light candles in your bedroom and go to sleep with them lit (or at
> least I wouldn't), because of fear of fires--in fact, falling
> asleep while smoking is supposedly a cause of many house-fires.

Smoking *in bed* is dangerous, because if you fall asleep the cigarette
is almost guaranteed to fall onto the bedding, and set it on fire.
Smoking in the *bedroom* is no more dangerous than is smoking anywhere
else.  And I can't see anything special about a bedroom as such, that
makes it more dangerous to light candles there than it is in a dining

If one dragged ones bed into the dining room, that wouldn't make it any
safer to smoke in it!  Nor does putting a dining table into a bedroom
make it more dangerous to light candles on.  For that matter, it seems
to me that smoking while sitting on a fabric sofa or recliner, where one
is likely to fall asleep, ought to be just as dangerous, even though
it's not in the bedroom.

Zev Sero


From: Allen Gerstl <acgerstl@...>
Date: Wed, 14 May 2003 20:39:27 -0400
Subject: Re: Modern Orthodoxy Definition (Chumras)

On Sun, 11 May 2003 20:13:27 -0500 Binyomin Segal <bsegal@...>

>On 7 Apr 2003 Allen Gerstl wrote about a particular type of chumra as being 
>specific to the charedi community.

>>Yet we also have a recurring phrase "u-baal nefesh yachmir" (and someone
>>who cares about his soul will be stringent concerning the matter). This
>>concept of "baal nefesh yachmir" is I believe a hallmark of non-MO and
>>it is grounded on a particular view of the halacha. I believe that the
>>latter view is based upon speculation that there is a (Platonic-style)
>>absolute halacha.  Thus while a rav must pasken and his pesak IS the
>>halacha and it may be relied upon by the shoel (the questioner), from
>>the standpoint of an absolute halacha, the posek might be wrong. So
>>while by relying upon pesak, no culpable aveira might be committed if
>>the posek was wrong; on an absolute basis there might still be harm to
>>the neshama of the shoel (questioner).

[Binyomin continued:]
>There are two points here which I believe require further analysis.

>First, Allen implies that this type of chumra is a fairly new phenomena
>of the modern charedi community, different from the traditionally
>sanctioned chumra of siyag.

I did not intend to imply that such was fairly new, only that such
practices generally stem from a particular ideological viewpoint that is
now normative in the modern chareidi community and not generally
normative in halacha.  AIUI such chumrot are extra-halachic
stringencies, although they may well be normative within chareidi
communities.  Like most broad statements, mine is subject to
exceptions. Thus there are examples of stringencies that are recorded in
the SA which (e.g.) came down to us from the Chassidei Ashkenaz of the
medieval period, but I would argue that such is still not the normative
approach of the halacha.

>Second, he attributes this type of chumra to the assumption of an
>absolute correct answer.

I attribute this approach to a fear that the answer arrived at using
halachic methodology was incorrect in an absolute sense, and therefore
that a minority opinion among poskim or a halachic theoretical construct
formulated in a beit midrash (such as might be arrived at through a
Brisker type of analysis) might perhaps be correct on an absolute level,
notwithstanding that using halachic decision-making methodology such
stringency was not called for.

>The first point is, I think, somewhat inaccurate. There are examples of
>this type of chumra from previous generations. One example that leaps to
>mind is the waiting period between meat and milk. The ashkenazik PSAK is
>that no time period is required (all that was required was that the two
>be eaten during separate "meals".) The rama (yd 89:1) records that the
>custom at the time (c. 1500) was to wait one hour. At the end of the sif
>he states that the "medakdikim" (precise ones) wait six hours (like the
>psak of the sephardim), and that this is an appropriate practice. The
>Aruch HaShulchan quotes this rama and says that in his time (c 1900) the
>universal custom is now to wait six hours, and that one is required to
>follow that custom. A clear example of a chumra of this sort that has
>become the halachicly required norm for most of ashkenazik jewry.

But I do not consider that the above IS analogous.That minhag that has
obviously evolved and its more stringent form has been generally
adopted.  The reason for this minhag is still that of siyag ve-geder,
notwithstanding the fact that it has evolved into a stricter form.

>The second point that Allen makes requires more complex analysis. As
>Rabbi A Cohen points out in his recently discussed article, reliance on
>daas torah in general suggests the very opposite world view as is here
>attributed to the chareidi community. That is while the daas torah
>philosophy attributed to the chareidi world suggests "even on the right
>if it is left", Allen here is attributing the very opposite approach to
>the chareidi world.

I am not quite sure as to what Binyomin means and I would appreciate
clarification if I misunderstand. AIUI "daas torah" is a doctrine of
group adherence to the decisions of that group's gedolim while being a
"baal nefesh" is an individualistic activity which could in theory be at
time discordant with the decision of chareidi gedolim. However my point
is that chumrot of such type are now normative within the chareidi
community and what may once have been a private stringency has become
normative for the group and enforced by the group including by decisions
of its gedolim.



From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Wed, 14 May 2003 19:38:08 -0400
Subject: Observant Jews as vegetarians

David Curwin writes:

>>After the flood, therefore, God explicitly permitted eating meat, so
this mistake (i.e.; consumption of humans vs. animals--BR)
would not be continued. But when the Jewish people recieved
the Torah, they were restricted once again - only some animals allowed,
with proper shchita, etc. R' Albo goes on to quote the Gemara where it
says that man should only eat meat when he has a strong desire - ta'avah
- for it.  That for him is the proper balance.<<

He then goes on to explain:

>>But I believe the idea here is that God wants us to understand that
there exists in this world what appears to the human eye to be
conflicting or even contradicting ideals: nutritional value vs. ethical
training, humans created in tzelem elokim vs all of the world being
created by God, the need to relate all meat as sacrifice vs. the need to
settle the land. God created or enabled these conflicts davka so we
wouldn't have it easy. The constant struggle we make to balance
ourselves between what seem to be conflicting ideals is what the Torah
is all about. That is how we reach holiness.<<

I find Curwin's historical egigesis, based on R' Albo, fascinatiing. The 
second paragragh, however, which attempts to plumb the *reasoning* of God, 
is just presumptuous. I prefer a simpler explanation:

Obviously, God created Mankind with free will, which means ipso facto
that He cannot simply demand observance of all His laws. Nor can he know
in advance all that Man will do. (To argue that He knows but does not
interfere is the equivalent, far all practical purposes.) Therefore,
God, like Man, can learn from experience. Thus, the flood. Obviously, if
God could exercise complete control over Man, the flood would never have
been necessary. Now, having observed Man's degeneration into paganism,
including animal and human sacrifice, He decides to wipe the slate clean
and prepare the world for a more complete set of explicit laws: the
Torah. But He realizes now more then ever, that He must offer
compromises to Man's basic instincts if the Torah is to stand a chance
of acceptance. The first "compromise" is to offer the Torah to just a
small "sample" of humanity. If this sample cannot make a go of it, then
it doesn't stand a chance of wider acceptance.

Two other obvious compromises, in this view, deal with the sacrifice and
consumption of animals. Many ancient texts, including the Gemara
Z'vachim, for example, testify to Man's strong need for animal
sacrifices, which appears to have been rampant in the ancient
world. This craving has clearly abated in the modern world. The craving
for meat in Man's diet, however, continues to this day, although perhaps
moderated to some extent.  Hence, no outright ban to such sacrifices or
consumption are found in the Torah. Nor is slavery, so common in the
ancient world, totally abolished.  Rather, these are closely regulated
with all sorts of constraints and surrounded with rituals, of which we
on this list are all very familiar. The whole idea was to make it
possible for the ancients to accept this strange doctrine, and to learn
its rules.

 From this perspective, God's "experiment" seems to have succeeded
amazingly well. Paganism and polytheism is practised in only small
remote "uncivilized" groups. Human (and animal) sacrifices, and slavery,
have been largely or completely eliminated from humanity, and
vegetarianism seems to be gaining more adherents with time. And, the
small "sample" group which started the ball rolling, continues to
survive, and to push the ball along as best as it can, arguing amongst
themselves the whole time!


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Tue, 13 May 2003 09:11:02 -0400
Subject: SIN--Impetuousness vs Doubts about God

Stan (v39n16) answers avirab on the issue of proof of God.  Stan posits
that lack of clear proof of God is a prerequisite for free will.

I have frequently(both on Mail Jewish and on the email list Torah-Forum)
expressed a different viewpoint.

First: There is no clearer proof of Gods existence then a prophetic
revelation. Certainly Moses and David, being prophets, had proof that
God existed...they in fact personally saw him.But they both sinned? What
then is sin?(If it is not doubt about Gods existence)

I have expressed the opinion that sin is letting ones impetuousness
dominate ones actions (vs ones will). So if I lose my temper (Moses sin
by the rock) I have proof of Gods existence but I have let my
impetuousness take over and therefore have sinned.

Similarly if I obsessively think about a woman (as did King David) then
I let my impetuousness take over my body--but I have no doubt that God

Thus the prohibition of sin is a prohibition of letting my impetuousness
get the better of me. Perhaps this is the reason that THOU SHALL NOT
COVET and THOU SHALL NOT LUST are in the decalogue...they are the
essence of sin.

Russell Jay Hendel; http://www.RashiYomi.com/


From: Zev Sero <slipstick1@...>
Date: Wed, 14 May 2003 12:49:43 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Tachanun

Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...> wrote:

> But, the holiday must be from the night through the day. 
> If not, this rule doesn't apply.  An example would be Pesach
> Sheni, where the korban is sacrificed only in the time of late
> afternoon of the day.  So, while on Pesach Sheni itself, one
> does not say Tachanun, one would recite it on the previous
> day's mincha.

The same would apply, of course, to Erev Pesach itself, if we weren't
already omitting tachanun for the whole month of Nissan.  And it also
applies to Erev Rosh Hashana and Erev Yom Kippur, which are
mini-holidays in their own right, but their holiday status begins at
daybreak rather than at the previous sunset, so they don't affect the
tachanun of the previous afternoon.

A more interesting case, which illustrates this principle, is Lag
Ba'omer.  There are two traditions about what Lag Baomer is about, when
it starts, and whether tachanun is said on the previous afternoon.

One tradition is that it marks the end of the 33-day mourning period for
R Akiva's students.  Like the last day of shiva, we consider part of a
day to count as the whole day, so the mourning ends in the morning (so
to speak).  Following from this, the 33rd night of sefira is still part
of the mourning period, like the 7th night of shiva, and all sefira
restrictions apply until daybreak on the 33rd morning, and we certainly
do not omit tachanun on the 32nd afternoon!  What's more, even on the
33rd day, it is not a holiday but rather a day on which the restrictions
of mourning are lifted; while we do mark it in a special way by omitting
tachanun at shacharit and mincha, there is no call for celebrations.  We
don't mark the end of shiva by getting up and dancing!

The other tradition of Lag Baomer is that it is the yarhtzeit of R
Shimon, which he requested be celebrated as a hillula (wedding).  (This
is the origin of the whole idea of regarding a yahrtzeit as a day of
hillula rather than of mourning).  Accordingly, it is not just a day of
absence of mourning, but a positive holiday, on which we celebrate as we
would at a physical wedding.  And like any holiday it begins at sunset,
on the 33rd evening of the omer, and it extends backwards to the
tachanun of the 32nd afternoon.

Zev Sero


End of Volume 39 Issue 34