Volume 41 Number 54
                 Produced: Wed Dec 24  5:39:41 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chanukah and music
         [Michael Rogovin]
Kollel System
         [Eugene Bazarov]
Test of Faith (3)
         [Jeanette Friedman, Batya Medad, Michael Toben]
         [Russell J Hendel]


From: Michael Rogovin <rogovin@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Dec 2003 15:56:15 GMT
Subject: Re: Chanukah and music

Michael Savitz asks:
> it seems to me that Chanukah is associated with music far and away
> more than any other Jewish holiday: Chanukah songs, Chanukah concerts,
> Chanukah CDs, etc.  ... Is it simply because it's a nice long holiday,
> without any Yom Tov restrictions, ... Or does it have anything to do
> with [Christmas]

I think Michael has correctly answered his own question.  Certainly,
Chanukah *lends* itself to concerts, parties, etc. more than a holiday
that restricts melacha in an all encompassing way. But that could
equally be applied to Tu B'Shvat or other days. Indeed, some of the
themes of Chanukah do NOT lend themselves to the themes of music and
gift giving (much of the historical theme is of a Jewish civil war,
rather than a celebration of religious tolerance and freedom; indeed if
I recall correctly, the subsequent Macabbean rule was not known for its
tolerance of dissent/diversity in religious practice).

What makes Chanukah what it is is its proximity to Christmas (which by
the way, is unlikely to be a coincidence--they both take place on the
25th day of the first month of winter, around the time of the
solstice). I recall a Jewish host of a popular radio program of folk
music lament the dearth of good Chanukah songs compared to Christmas
songs.  After pointing out artists and songs for the holiday that he was
unfamiliar with, I noted that he should really look to the folk music
associated with festivals that have more significance to Jews
(particularly Pesach which (l'havdil) is comparable to Christmas or
Easter in its respective importance to the religion). While gracious, it
seems he was determined to keep the focus on the Christmas/Chanukah

That Chanukah assumes the prominience it does even in Israel is likely
to reflect the influence of the galut brought to Israel by olim. But as
I have not been in Israel for Chanukah in many years, I welcome rebuttal
from Israelis on the list.

Happy Chanukah!
Michael Rogovin


From: Eugene Bazarov <evbazarov@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Dec 2003 13:20:38 -0800 (PST)
Subject: RE: Kollel System

Michael Kahn in Vol 41 Num 47 wrote:
>We have discussed the issue of kollel numerouse times in
>mail-jewish. While I agree that long term kollel was not the norm for
>centuries, I was always under the impression that todays learn term
>kollel idea was Reb Aron Kotler zatzal's "revolution."

I have heard this so many times that it is worth seeing if it is
actually true. Is there anything written about this in Reb Aron Kotler's
many writings?  Does he say anywhere that things are OK until now but
"Times they are a'changing"? Are there any personal stories where
someone came over to Rav Kotler and said that he has a family full of
children and he would like to go to work, to which Rav Kotler said "no,
stay in Kollel"! I doubt it. I also doubt that Rav Kotler accepted
students who had no interest in becoming Rabonim or Rebbies into his
Kollel. I imagine that he thought of Kollel as something for the elite.

It is my understanding (and I have no sources) that Rav Kotler kept
Lakewood for the elite and hence small. It it was actually his son, Rav
Shneur Kotler who opened it "for the masses". Now-a-days, everyone
spends many years in Kollel even if they have no talent or intention to
stay in the Rabbinate or to go into teaching. This is a "revolution."

E.V. Bazarov


From: <FriedmanJ@...> (Jeanette Friedman)
Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2003 14:21:44 EST
Subject: Test of Faith

I agree with this statement, and believe that Avraham was punished for
it.  Yitchak never spoke to him again and Sarah died as a result of his
actions.  Judaism is the exact opposite of avodah zorah, and because it
is, it was wrong to even THINK of making a human sacrifice. That was the
failure and you are correct...in my humble opinion anyway.

jeanette friedman

From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2003 18:52:30 +0200
Subject: Re: Test of Faith

Wasn't Yitzhak tested no less than Avraham?  He was was a grown man, not
a helpless infant, and he wasn't stupid.


From: Michael Toben <tobenm@...>
Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2003 22:44:52 +0200
Subject: Test of Faith

I would like to react to many of you who have creply to my request to
comment of the problem of the Akaidah. Thanks for helping me clarify
some of my thoughts on the problem.

Dec 15, 03 EMT wrote <What makes an act wrong morally is exactly that it
is wrong halachikly; our very definition of immoral behavior is that
which the Torah prohibits.  Thus, if Hashem commands that an akeidah be
performed, it is _by definition_ moral.  Otherwise, one is observing
one's own sense of morality, not Hashem's.  To give a less extreme
example: it is immoral to enter someone's field and pick fruit off his
tree.  However, it is not immoral to do so in a sh'mittah year.  For a
person to refrain from taking the fruit at that time because he
considers it immoral is to substitute one's sense of morality for

In the case we are discussing what Hashem demands of Avraham is
obviously against His own system of morality, not some personalized
version of morality invented by Avraham. So how could Hashem the Lord of
Justice act against His own system and laws by demanding human
sacrifice? Is obedience more ethical than keeping faith with the
principles taught to us by Hashem?

Dec 15, 03 Akiva Miller wrote: <In very sharp contrast, when HaShem told
Avraham to sacrifice his son, that was a command, and to question it
would have been insubordination. >

The sin of insubordination as against taking a life - the life of one's
own son. I don't think you have a case. In a case of Pekuach Nefesh,
insubordination is not one of those circumstances that should stop us
acting to save a life.

Dec 15, 03 Ezriel wrote: < There are other instances of a navi
commanding people to do what would otherwise be an averah. Eliyahu on
Har HaCarmel violated shechutei chutz, the prohibition against offering
a sacrifice outside the Beis Hamikdash after the building of the Beis
Hamikdash in Yerushalayim.  In Milachim I chapter 20:35 a navi tells
someone to hit him. The other person is punished for not listening to
the navi. Also Hashem tells Hoshea to marry an unfaithful woman. There
may be other.  These come to mind right away.>

Sure all of these instances are difficult to understand.  Just by saying
that Hashem knows better does not make it seem more logical. But that is
all probably part of the idea of free will and our struggle to become
better servants of Hashem. I see these cases as one's that support the
position of Avraham failing the test. I think that in every case we are
talking of special one-time events in which man is called upon to act
according to a higher morality that the special circumstances requires
of him.

Dec 17 03, Shayna Kravetz wrote< However, when it came to his own son,
Avraham was precluded from making this argument since he had no "right"
to his son.  Yitzkhaq was given to Avraham as a gift out of God's midat
ha-rakhamim (His aspect of mercy) and thus Avraham could only have
appealed to God's khesed.  But khesed is by its very nature outside of
reasoned appeals.>

I don't understand how you can say Avraham had no right to his son after
saying Hashem gave him to Avraham. According to the many times that
Hashem spoke to Avraham about his future he led him to believe that
through Yitzhak his seed would eventual become a large people. The
Akadah challenge was not one of mercy and there was no apparent Hesed
involved. Avraham's sense of right and wrong should have been so
outraged that he should have stood up to Hashem - as the Be'dicher Rebbe
did when he called Hashem to a Din Torah. (LeHavdil).

<Moreover, as a meilitz (advocate), Avraham was neutral in the case of
Sdom v'Amorah but nogei'a ba-davar (involved in the matter, i.e.,
biased) in the matter of Yitzchak.  As such, he might be said to be
precluded from arguing the latter case on the basis of midat ha-din.>

I'm not sure I follow the argument. Jewish law is meant to be about
justice and doing the right thing. Even if you are nogei'a ba-davar -
Avraham is not a witness or a judge here, he is one of those suffering
'damages' and has every right to present his case to the court. The
midat ha-din it seems to me should be on his side.

Dec 17 03 Wendy Baker wrote < In the time that Avraham lived it was
common practice among the people to sacrifice the first born child to
the local god.  Apparently not only was this the practice, but they have
found infant bodies buries in the cornerstones of buildings.  (I have no
source for this other than a course I took many many years ago).  This
situation leads me to my two possibilities.

1, Abraham might have expected such a command from Hashem, so, although
heartbroken, would have felt he must obey without question.
2, Others around might well have charged wither Avraham or his god as
wimpy for not demanding such sacrifice.  Hashem might have provided this
test to Avraham to reassure him that he was able to make such a
sacrifice, therefore he (A) was not a wimp, and to teach him that this
kind of sacrifice was NOT what was expected and animals, not humans,
were the moral and right sacrifices.>

Surely, the whole point of what Hashem was teaching Avraham was to
reject the whole value system of those around him. Hashem had taught
Noah that spilling blood was Asur and punishable by death. Avraham
fought against these kinds of pagan practices all his life in Haran,
etc. he should have not accepted the command but rejected it - as Hashem
had taught him and his own sense of morality would have dictated. The
question of being a 'wimp' really begs the whole question. Avraham was
certainly not trying to prove himself according to pagan ideas and
attitudes. He was trying to spread a new faith and different values and

Dec 17 03 S. Wise wrote <One can equally argue that perhaps Avraham
Avinu had bitachon that there would be a yeshua at the last
moment--which there was.  I also think you walk on dangerous ground when
you presuppose what Hashem is thinking. >

To imagine that Avraham guessed Hashem was only 'kidding' is, surely, to
presuppose what Hashem is thinking, both on your part and not only
Avraham's. And what kind of 'kidding around' is this when you tell an
old man to sacrifice his own son and then say, 'Stop, no, I didn't mean
it.' Surely, that would be very cruel on the part of Hashem, the
merciful. You have taken the wrong road in your argument, I believe.


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 21 Dec 2003 23:34:04 -0500
Subject: Test of Faith - The AKAYDAH - WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

S Wise, Michael Kahn, Wendy Baker, Shayna Kravetz and others discuss the
essence of the Akayda (v41n48-49).

I have an essay on the subject THE AKAYDAH - WHAT REALLY HAPPENED at

Basically I posit that the Akaydah was a test in prophecy.  I cite
several Rashis (and verses) that Abraham had a premonition that he would
not be killing Isaac. But that is not the issue!

To make a long story short I suggest that the Akaydah sought to teach us
a well known lesson: We all know that to become religious we have to
give up things and make sacrifices. The Akaydah symbolized that these
sacrifices need only be CONSTRICTING --they need not involve
LOSS. (Hence the BINDING of Isaac but the PROHIBITION of KILLING HIM)

However the difference between CONSTRICTION and TOTAL SACRIFICE is very
subtle. It required an act of prophecy. Prophecy frequently acts in
stages (Again a point made by Rashi). Abraham had to go thru these
stages to crystallize this new concept that nearness to God did not
require loss but rather restriction.

The Test of the Akaydah lied in whether Abraham would argue with God --
vs following orders and waiting for realization at the end.

Abraham passed the test---he cheerfully followed all orders and
patiently waited (Again a point made by Rashi).

Two subtleties should be mentioned: First: I do mention the contrast
with Sedom and Amorah. It APPEARS that Abraham argued with God there
(Contradicting my thesis that Abrahams greatness lied in his not
arguing). But I answer this by suggesting that Abraham did NOT
argue---rather he had a prophetic vision of a dialogue between God and
him in which he asked questions and God said No--this prophetic vision
approach is derived from Rambam.

Second: I compare Abraham to Moses (In passing several readers of my
essay were deeply annoyed by this but the verses seem to bear me
out). Moses (Nu11) screamed that "I cant take it--if this continues kill
me first". I point out that no one would hold anything against Abraham
if he had said "I cant take it" when he was told to kill his son. I
conclude that while Abraham had a higher level of prophecy faith.

Third: My essay gives the following resolution to the faith-reason
issue. Faith does not contradict reason. You can KNOW something and
still be hesitant to act on it. Thus Faith is a sort of soil in which
reason grows and matures. Rashi gives strong arguments that Abraham knew
that he wouldnt be killing Isaac. But that is reason!!!! Abraham needed
an act of faith to let this reason grow.

Please feel free to download and or read the article

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


End of Volume 41 Issue 54