Volume 41 Number 67
                 Produced: Thu Jan  1  8:09:18 US/Eastern 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Bars and Inns
         [Michael Kahn]
Halacha Reflected in Popular Fiction
         [Yisrael and Batya Medad]
Hanukkah miracle
         [Shalom Ozarowski]
Original Sin
         [Alan Cooper]
question about Hanukkah miracle
Test of Faith
         [Stan Tenen]


From: Michael Kahn <mi_kahn@...>
Date: Wed, 31 Dec 2003 23:46:59 -0500
Subject: RE: Bars and Inns

>In Czarist Russia of old there was no soda.

Very true. That's why Chasidim, who often tend to act European are more
open to drinking tea instead of soda. I've seen Chassidisha elementary
school with a whole set up for the kids to drink tea. When I was a kid I
never drunk tea. My yeshiva ktana had a soda machine! 

> Hard liquor was served with food.  Even sheyne Yidn on the road
> stopped in these establishments. 

Even in the United States a hundred years ago alcohol consumption was
much higher than it is today. It was common to send your son down to the
bar with a pail to fetch some ale for supper. No ID required. 

>in the time of the Chofetz Chaim, [bars] were mostly, if not
>exclusively male establishments.

Again, this was true in America at that time too.


From: Yisrael and Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Dec 2003 23:02:01 +0200
Subject: Halacha Reflected in Popular Fiction

I am reading The DaVinci Code which includes a bit of Atbash (Alef-Tav;
Bet-Shin) and other references to gematria.  On page 309 I found this:
"...early Jewish tradition involved ritualistic sex.  In the Temple, no
less...  Men seeking spiritual wholeness came to the Temple to visit
priestesses - or hierodules - with whom they made love and experienced
the divine through physical union".

The author, Dan Brown, then goes on to intimate that the tetragrammaton
is based on the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic name for Eve, Havah.

Besides the problem that in Hebrew, Eve is actually Chavah, was there
any reply to this that appeared anywhere?

Yisrael Medad


From: <Shalomoz@...> (Shalom Ozarowski)
Date: Wed, 31 Dec 2003 10:49:26 EST
Subject: Hanukkah miracle

> So my question: Is it an absolute requirement of Judaism to believe
> in the story of a single day's jar of oil miraculously lasting eight
> days?  Or is it permitted to believe a less miraculous story of the
> Hasmonean victory and rededication of the Temple??

an interesting question which has crossed my mind too.  i was told that
r' yoel bin-nun (from machon herzog in gush etzion) discusses this
question in an article in megadim (vol. 12, around p. 49 or so -
embedded within an article on yeshayahu).  my friend told me that r'
yoel claims the oil miracle did not in fact occur, although i personally
have not yet read the article.

For whatever it's worth, i dont think that doubting the neis as such
would be m'akev (prevent) a proper and fully religious celebration of
the chag. [al hanisim, which i assume is based on the account in sefer
hamakabim, doesnt really mention that neis either- just "v'hidliku nerot
b'chatzrot kodshecha."]  Of course, this doesn't mean we should
generally attempt to dismiss traditional nisim.

Kol Tuv,
Shalom Ozarowski


From: Alan Cooper <amcooper@...>
Date: Wed, 31 Dec 2003 10:44:23 -0500
Subject: Original Sin

>From: <Shalomoz@...> (Shalom Ozarowski)
> > This is getting very close to- if not well into- Christian, not Jewish,
> > theology. It is, in fact, one of the more important and significant
> > aspects of the differences between the two, which are far greater than
> > the simplistic "Did the Messiah come or not" question. I have no doubt
> > there are kabbalistic statements of this nature; it seems to fit an
> > overall view of nitzotzot and the like. However, it illustrates very
> > well why kabbalistic sources are to be treated very carefully, if not
> > ignored entirely by most or even all.
>The Ramchal, in at least one of his works (the anti-Sabbatian work Kinat
>Hashem Tz'vakot), says something very similar regarding the sin of Adam
>Harishon that sounds like the Catholic concept of original sin (though i
>dont claim to be an expert on the specifics of its theology).  I'm sure,
>as the above posting notes, that there are other examples.
>However, why should we turn a blind eye toward those statements within
>our tradition simply because they sound to us like the beliefs of a
>different religion?  If the Ramchal indeed believed something similar,
>does that not make it a "Jewish" belief?  Should we assume we
>misunderstood those thinkers, or that certain beliefs of ours cannot
>possibly overlap with those of Christianity?  Why should we insist on
>"Judaism" differing on this point?

Mr. Ozarowski makes a powerful and, to my mind, valid argument here.  As
far as I know, Judaism does not establish halakhic norms for
anthropology.  In other words, it is not normative or halakhically
required to believe that there have been two competing "inclinations"
(yetzarim) in humans since the time of creation.  The kabbalistic view,
like that of Christianity, is that the first humans were created in a
state of perfection from which they "fell" by their own exercise of
will.  One of the most picturesque ways of putting this is the Shelah"s
depiction of how the first humans, by sinning, exchanged their garments
of light ('or with an aleph) for garments of skin (`or with an ayin):
they had been incorporeal, but now they assumed physical forms.  That
image is repeated more than 100 times in the Shela"h's work.

Of course there are Jewish versions of "original sin," going back to the
famous statement about the "pollution of the serpent" that is found
three times in the Bavli (Shabbat 146a, etc.).  That statement--that the
pollution of the serpent was overcome by the giving of the Law at
Sinai--is obviously an anti-Christian polemic; in effect, we agree that
human nature was tainted by the first sin, but we disagree as to the
cure.  According to the Zohar (1.52b), the pollution of the serpent was
mitigated by Sinai, but reintroduced into human nature by the sin of the
golden calf.  We are still combatting it, and our only weapons are the
mitzvot, which--according to the Shela"h--we must observe with
ever-increasing stringency (chumrot) if we are to have any hope of
overcoming it.

Now I know that these views will sound strange and unattractive to many
people.  But to say that they are "not Jewish" is nonsense.  Nor, as far
as I know, is there any halakhic impediment to accepting them.  The
Shela"h's attitude concerning chumrot seems to have been adopted by
segments of the halakhically-observant community today, and I wonder
whether those who are striving mightily to increase their observance are
aware of its kabbalistic underpinnings.

Anyone who wants to see some examples of a Jewish version of "original
sin" integrated into biblical interpretation should take a look at later
medieval commentary on Leviticus 12 (tazria), specifically Rabbeinu
Bachya on 12:7, and also Avraham Saba's Tzeror ha-mor and Ephraim
Luntshitz's Keli yeqar on the entire chapter.  There is also a sermon on
tazria by Chaim Vital, in Etz ha-da`at tov, that is illuminating in this

Alan Cooper 


From: <chips@...>
Date: Wed, 31 Dec 2003 20:59:49 -0800
Subject: Re: question about Hanukkah miracle

>    The Hanukka story about the miracle of one jar of oil lasting 8 days
> does not appear in the earliest accounts of the Hasmonean victory; e.g.,
> the Septuagint and Josephus; and does not appear until a Talmudic story
> some 300 years removed from the event.
>    It is, under those circumstances, very easy for some people (i.e., me)
> to suspect that the miracle of the jar of oil didn't happen and that the 8
> day celebration is to commemorate the eight days spent rededicating the
> Temple without any such miracle (as stated in the Septuagint and
> Josephus), and to suspect that either there was enough kosher oil or that
> someone was willing to stretch the supply by using nonkosher oil to keep
> the lamps burning.

personally, I find it hard to believe that at the end of the Gaonic
period with all the inner turmoil that was occuring none of the non-
Rabbinic sects didn't pounce on this if the miracle was not a well
established oral history before the Gemora editors put it in.  I know
that that is basically trying to prove from a negative but until someone
provides records from that era of the Gemora to the end of the Gaonic
times that disputes the 8 day miracle angle, I hold by it.

As for why the Megilla Chanuka didn't mention it, I do think it may have
been a miracle that was not figured out till all the facts came in.

The Targum Shivym was not a reliable indicator nor was it meant to be -
it was a political (and propoganda) document meant for Egyptian
overlords and one of the worst things that happened in our history and
to the Torah.

Josephus was not into miracle story telling, especially not to his Roman



From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Dec 2003 08:19:02 -0500
Subject: Re: Test of Faith

>This is getting very close to- if not well into- Christian, not Jewish,
>theology. It is, in fact, one of the more important and significant
>aspects of the differences between the two, which are far greater than
>the simplistic "Did the Messiah come or not" question. I have no doubt
>there are kabbalistic statements of this nature; it seems to fit an
>overall view of nitzotzot and the like. However, it illustrates very
>well why kabbalistic sources are to be treated very carefully, if not
>ignored entirely by most or even all.
>Nachum Lamm

If it is better that "kabbalistic sources be ignored entirely by most or
even all," then how do you explain the following quotation, from the
forward to the third edition of "Mystical Concepts in Chassidism," by
Jacob Immanuel Schochet, p. 15? Quoting R. Abraham Azulay who was
quoting earlier sages in his Introduction to Or HaChamah, Rav Schochet

"The decree against open involvement with Chochmath ha-Emeth (the Wisdom
of the Truth, i.e., the Kabbalah) was but for a set period of time,
namely up until the end of the year 5250 (1490). From then onwards it is
called the 'last generation,' and the decree was nullified and it is
permissible to occupy oneself with the Zohar. Since the year 5300 it is
most meritorious precept to be occupied therewith in public, for both
the great and the sjmall. As it is by virtue of this merit, and not
another, that the King Messiah will come in the future, it is improper
to be slothful [with this study]."(23)

Schochet also adds a short quote from Zohar I:118a.: "...R. Shimon bar
Yochai foresaw an ever-increasing revelation of mysticism in the period
preceding the Messianic redemption to the point that "when the days of
the Messiah will be near at hand even young children will happen to find
the secrets of wisdom."(24).

Also, how do you explain the following excerpt, from a 1980's era
(non-Berg) printed version of R. Yehudah Ashlag's commentary on the
preface to the Zohar as translated by R. Krakovsky:

--From "Concerning the Study of Kabbalah," (an introductory chapter to
this printed version), p. 3:

"Kabbalah is called the "inner Torah". Just as the Torah has a revealed
"outer" part, and an inner part as well, so does everything else in the
world. In the world-at-large, Jewry is considered the inner part, and
the 70 nations of the world are considered the outer part. Among the
Jews there are the inner Jews who serve G-d totally, and the external
ones who do not dedicate themselves to His service. Analogously, among
the nations of the world the inner people are the righteous (Chassidim)
of the nations, and the outer ones are the coarse and harmful men. Even
among those Jews who serve G-d there is an inner core of those who are
privileged to comprehend the inner-most secrets of Torah, and the outer
ones who only study the practical aspects of Torah. A man who studies
Torah and its secrets raises the level of Jewry, the inner-most part of
humanity, to ever-increasing levels over and above the external part of
mankind, and will cause the nations of the world to recognize and
testify to the superiority of Israel - until the prophecy of Isaiah
(14), "And the peoples shall take them, and bring them to their place;
and the house of Israel shall take them, and bring them to their place;
and the house of Israel shall settle themselves on G-d's land etc." will
be fulfilled. However, if, G-d forbid, a Jew does the opposite and
denigrates the inner part of Torah, which deals with the path of our
souls and their levels, or the outer part of Torah, which is concerned
with the mitzvot and their practical obligation, he causes the inner
world, Jewry, to be brought low and raises the level of the outer
world. Then the non-Jews humiliate and shame the Jews and consider them
inconsequential. Even worse, the outer core of the nations finds itself
riding ever higher over their own inner core, the righteous ones, and
they proceed to destroy and butcher wantonly as our generation has so
tragically witnessed, may G-d protect us. Hence, you see that Israel's
redemption and all of Jewry's uniqueness are dependent on the study of
the Zohar and the inner part of the Torah, while Israel's shame and
suffering are a result of the neglect and denigration of the inner



End of Volume 41 Issue 67