Volume 45 Number 93
                    Produced: Fri Nov 26  7:26:06 EST 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Chanukah / 25 December
         [David Prins]
Men in Women's Section
         [Chaim Shapiro]
         [Ira Bauman]
Relationship between Halachic development and Kabalah
         [Binyomin Segal]
Two Pairs of Tfillin (2)
         [Martin Stern, Gershon Dubin]


From: David Prins <prins@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 2004 17:59:50 +1100
Subject: Chanukah / 25 December

Mike Gerver (v45i89) referred to a non-Jewish colleague in the United
States who one year wished him "Happy Chanukah" a few days before 25
December, and that year a couple of weeks after Chanukah had ended.
Mike suggested: "maybe he thought that Chanukah was just the Jewish term
for Xmas, and didn't realize they don't always come at the same time."

Sadly, this mistaken view of Chanukah may be prevalent in the United
States even among some who celebrate Chanukah.  I reached this
conclusion when I was once in Los Angeles also a few days before 25
December, and also that year a couple of weeks after Chanukah had ended.
I was very surprised to see a large display of chanukiot for sale, on
display at the front of a shop in a quite Jewish part of the city (near
Pico/Robertson for those who know LA).  On enquiry, I came to understand
that there is quite a large group of people, who knowing no better, are
accustomed to light their chanukiah on 25 December, in commemoration on
that day of what they believe to be Chanukah.  It was to those people
that this shop was appealing.

I submit this because it is all to easy in a forum such as m-j, where we
all well exceed this basic level of knowledge and understanding, to
forget the extent of the assimilation, and lack of Jewish education,
among large portions of Jewry at large, particularly these days in the
US, and presumably in other countries as well.


From: <Dagoobster@...> (Chaim Shapiro)
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2004 21:20:04 EST
Subject: Men in Women's Section

I have to wonder if those men are considered Tifrosh Min Hatzibur
(separating themselves)and by extension not Yotzae Tefila Btzibur
(fulfill public prayer)?

Chaim Shapiro


From: <Yisyis@...> (Ira Bauman)
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2004 21:17:37 EST
Subject: Re: Rashi

When I was a student in Yeshiva University, my Jewish History
instructor, Dr. Irving Agus had a unique idea of what Rashi's true role
was in history.  Rashi learned his Torah from his teachers before 1096.
When the first Crusades decimated European Jewry in that year, the
transmission of the mesorah was interrupted.  Rashi however was a
prolific and accurate note-taker and his notes were instrumental in
reestablishing that link.  Therefore we find few thoughts in Rashi that
are original but rather an important inscription of pre-Crusade Torah

BTW, I've always thought that a good example of this is from the first
sentence in Vayera.  Mamreh is mentioned in that posuk, according to
Rashi to reward him for his advice to Avraham regarding the Bris Milah.
This is an excerpt from the Mechilta where Abraham asks the advice of
his three friends whether to go ahead and get a Bris.  Only Mamre says
that he should.  This is a troubling Mechilta because it portrays
Avraham as someone who. when commanded by G-d to do something, thinks it
fine to get a second, third and fourth opinion from his buddies first.
Rashi therefore, even though he feels it is important to quote the
medrash as taught to him by his rebbe on this posuk, yet still can't
record the whole thing due to it's problematic nature.

Ira Bauman


From: Binyomin Segal <bsegal@...>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2004 15:25:44 -0600
Subject: Re: Relationship between Halachic development and Kabalah

The relationship between kabbalah and halacha is a complex one, and it
is certainly a topic that merits discussion and investigation. Allow me
to share my thoughts.

First, in terms of definitions. I take kabbalah in a broad sense to mean
a description of the spiritual mechanics of all creation.

It seems to me that there is little doubt that the ULTIMATE source for
Jewish law (that is the reason for the laws) is deeply connected to the
mechanics of a spiritual world that is described significantly in
kabbalah. That is, one can not understand the full depth for why we eat
kosher unless one understands the full significance and spiritual
effects of animals, etc.

What I believe Avi was referring to though is the ongoing debate
regarding to what degree these understandings play a role in determining
the practical law. It is, at least generally, the mitnagdic approach, to
divorce the process of jewish law from its kabbalistic roots. This is
seen as mirroring the approach in the mishna and gemara that - at least
generally - keep the halachik conversations pretty much legal, technical
oriented. While the kabbalisic (that is philosophic, spiritual - aggada)
conversations - for the most part distinct from the legal ones - are
metaphoric and storylike.

To give one example. The gemara discusses at some length how many walls
the sukkah should have. Never in this discussion does the gemara discuss
the shchina's presence or any other conceptual understanding of the

That is, even though kabbala is the ultimate source for halacha - the
motivating force - it is not a significant part of the practical
process. And has not been a significant part of that process for at
least two thousand years.

What is perhaps most interesting to note about this is Rav Hirsch's
insistence (see his discussion of symbols in Collected Writings vol 1)
that all the details of a law shed insight into the philosophy of the
law. That is, there is a philosophical reason why a sukka needs only 3
walls. And if your philosophic understanding doesn't explain why that is
true then your philosophy is flawed. That is, Rav Hirsch has essentially
reversed the equation, halacha - in all its detail - is a source for
kabbala. He does not suggest changing the law based on the philosophy,
but changing the philosophy to fit the law.

This conception of a "halachik process" divorced of the kabbalistic
roots seems to have been accepted to some degree by every halachik
source we have. But the devil - so to speak - is in the details. Some
halachik traditions, notably sephardic and chassidic have allowed
kabbalistic understandings and sources to be part of the process of
halachic development. Although even in these sources, the effect is
relatively minor (and my impression is that it is almost always the
source for a stringency, that is kabbalistic sources are allowed to add
to the halachic process but not often contradict them).

There are a number of reasons for this separation. First off it seems
clear that there was an expectation that most Jews would need to know
what to do, but would not be able to master the kabbalistic material.

Second, as a result of that, it seems that there was a fear that the
kabbalistic material would be - at least to some degree lost - and
halacha would need to continue despite that fact. This observation is
particularly important because it is essentially what Stan has claimed
occurred. Real kabbala has been lost and halacha has had to go on by

Finally, one might speculate that some degree of separation between law
and reason is needed to avoid anarchy and create community. Imagine if
anyone could argue that 55 mph is based on an average drivers skills,
but I am so very much more skilled. etc. We are not always so honest
with ourselves, the separation of the legal process keeps us

In light of the above, some specific comments:

Stan Tenen wrote:
> My point is that while the words
> of these references have remained constant through the ages, our modern
> understanding of these words (the last 60 years) has in many cases
> drifted far from their original intended meaning, emphasis, and cultural
> context.
And later:
> I'm concerned that any questioning of any teaching, as it's understood
> today, is going to be taken as heresy or ignorance, or likely both.  So,
> I'd also like to discuss the issue of how reliable is current Torah
> scholarship, vis a vis our understanding of it, say, 200 years ago.  I'm
> concerned that modern interpretations of the teachings of our reshonim
> are more the result of defensive reaction to Enlightenment thought, the
> Holocaust, and the challenges posed by Conservative, Reform, and
> Reconstructionist, than they are true to our understanding before these
> events.

I accept as possible that the understanding of some of the metaphoric
and kabbalistic statements of chazal have shifted over the years. But it
is hard to see how the more classically halachik statements have shifted
- the language is technical and generally unambiguous. It is the very
fact that these two types of conversation exist separately that is the
crucial point.

Avi said:
>> I object to the statement that it is a "FACT" that Halacha descends
>> from Kabbalah (where Kabbalah is being defined as the Sod aspect of
>> Torah s'baal peh by Stan). I would not object to a statement that there
>> are traditional sources that may be of that opinion, but I do strongly
>> object to a statement that basically says to me that no one disagrees
>> with that statement.

I wonder if Avi finds this "fact" objectionable the way I stated it. I
realize there are issues of strands and schools of kabbalah - I am
purposely avoiding those issues. But that the law is based on some
spiritual reality seems to me to be very clear conceptually. Avi, do you
think I am mistaken here?

> In my understanding -- as I use the word
> Sod, which if it's not standard, I apologize for -- Sod is nothing more
> nor less than the letter-text of Torah.  Sod as I mean it is just the
> sequence of letters, without cantillation, without word divisions, and
> without vowelization.  It's the underlying (woven) pattern of letters,
> and it's not related -- at least, not directly -- to the Torah
> narrative, nor to Torah s'baal peh.  Much the opposite.  In my
> understanding, and as I think can be demonstrated both logically and
> from Torah references, the Torah narrative -- the stories -- and Talmud
> both derive from the letter-text.

If I understand Stan correctly here, his statement is clearly contrary
to classic Orthodox belief. The written text was not completed and given
to the Jewish people until 2488. The oral tradition, including what I
think of as kabbalah, and Jewish law was given 40 years earlier in
2488. Rav Hirsch (and others) says explicitly that the written text is
meant as "class notes" to remind us of what we had received 40 years

> Here, we have a very very powerful disconnect.  Correct me if I'm wrong,
> but in my understanding, there is no such thing as "intellectual
> knowledge" that there is a God.  This is tantamount to, and for all
> intents and purposes equivalent to, the idea that a "proof of God" is
> possible.
> Does anyone on m-j actually believe that one can prove, to one's self or
> others, the existence of God?  Can Avi's apparent perspective that this
> is what Rambam is saying, be accurate?  Or is it more likely incomplete,
> and thus suffering from errors of omission?  Or are we dealing with
> semantics here?

I can not speak for others, but as for me - I believe that almost
nothing in life can be PROVEN in the mathematical and absolute way to
which Stan is referring. However, I do believe one can bring EVIDENCE
that demonstrates one position reasonable or probable. I believe it is
this type of evidence that the Rambam is referring to, because it is
this type of evidence that we use to evaluate EVERYTHING we say we KNOW
in this world.

Do you KNOW that George Washington was president? Or perhaps more
interestingly do you know that human beings travelled to the moon? You
evaluate evidence and then say you know something. This is, I believe,
the process the Rambam is referring to.

And further, I would submit that this evidence is often referred to as
proof (hence the disconnect) as in "proof beyond a reasonable doubt"
which is clearly not proof in the mathematical sense. This type of proof
- when it is strong enough can reasonably be called knowing.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 2004 06:19:09 +0000
Subject: Re: Two Pairs of Tfillin

on 25/11/04 1:19 am, <Joelirich@...> (Joel Rich) wrote:

> Why by tfillin is there a need to keep both the accepted lhalacha
> (Rashi) and not accepted(Rabbeinu Tam) vewrsion? IIRC the GRA pointed
> out that to fufill all the opinions you'd need 32? 64? pairs of
> tfillin. Why is this mitzvah different from others ?

If one learns through the Gemara (Menachot 34b) with Tosaphot, Rabbeinu
Tam's reasoning does seem very compelling. Thus of all the 64
possibilities, apart from the normative Rashi arrangement Rabbeinu Tam's
does have a strong reason. The Ra'avad and Shimusha Rabba arrangements,
the only other two I have ever heard being used, are merely the mirror
images of the these - i.e.  from G-d's perspective looking at us, so to
speak, rather than us facing Him. The remaining 60 are, to the best of
my knowledge, nowhere suggested as in practice.

Martin Stern

From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 2004 23:00:16 -0500
Subject: Two Pairs of Tfillin

From: <Joelirich@...> (Joel Rich)

<<2. For those who mentioned individuals who wear 2 pairs and keep them

Keep ONE covered;  the other is left open.



End of Volume 45 Issue 93