Volume 47 Number 43
                    Produced: Wed Mar 30 22:35:28 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

God's Bookkeepers
         [Shmuel Himelstein]
Goses and End of Life Decisions
         [Jack Gross]
Indeed, there are two classes of Jews
         [Norman Miller]
Regarding seeking a rationale for the Holocaust or any suffering
         [Rick Blum]
The Schiavo case (and developing halacha)
         [Bernard Raab]
Sins and Outcomes
         [Joseph Ginzberg]
Withholding Nutrition
         [David Graber]


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Sun, 27 Mar 2005 17:26:29 +0200
Subject: God's Bookkeepers

While no Frum Jew would dispute the basic principle of Sachar VeOnesh
("Reward and Punishment") for our deeds, and that that means that God
punishes those who do evil and rewards those who do good, there is NO
ONE in our generation ore in the preceding generations who has or has
had enough of a direct link to God to be able to point to any causal
relationship between any specific act - no matter how heinous it might
be - and a specific punishment. This includes those who can tell us why
God killed the six million. To me, anyone who makes any such type of
claim - whether on the macro level of "explaining" the Shoah or on the
micro level of blaming a bus accident in Israel a few years ago on the
fact that stores in that city were open on Shabbat - is guilty of no
less than blasphemy. How DARE anyone be presumptuous enough to be "God's

If calamity befalls us it is our duty to examine OURSELVES and to try to
improve ourselves. We have no right to attribute to others calamities
that befall us. Such behavior is no less than utter arrogance.

For those who claim to "know" how God "works," I would like to remind
them what the Kotzker said: "I would not be willing to serve a God whose
actions I could understand."

Shmuel Himelstein


From: Jack Gross <jbgross@...>
Date: Sun, 27 Mar 2005 09:00:22 -0500
Subject: Re: Goses and End of Life Decisions

Akiva Miller writes:
>This is not merely "hopeless". It is *beyond* hopeless. And there is a
>specific halachic category for people in this situation, who have begun
>to die, called "goses".
>Determining which patients are merely hopeless, and which are in the
>goses category is a very delicate matter, to be determined carefully by
>a rabbi in consultation with the doctors. But if that determination has
>been made, then there are a number of halachos which apply. These
>include the points Bernie made, such as the lack of obligation to
>artificially prolong the life of this person who has already begun to

NO!  The status of "Goses" is not a criterion for downgrading the
chiyyuv of pikkuach nefesh.  That is a "ta'us bidvar mishna".

A "goses" has all the same laws a one who is in perfect health, l'chumra
and l'kulla: Yoresh, Morish, Poter MiYibbum etc., and (despite the fact
that one is normally enjoined from handling a goses for fear of
hastening death) in case of imminent danger (e.g., a fire) one is
obligated to move the goses out of harm's way, even if that entails
chillul shabbos.

If there is an obligation to violate Shabbos to save the life of the
goses, one cannot have the option of witholding treatment because of
that status.  Whatever R. Moshe's reasoning, gesisah is not the basis.


From: Norman Miller <nm1921@...>
Date: Sun, 27 Mar 2005 15:48:27 -0500
Subject: Indeed, there are two classes of Jews

Jeanette Friedman and Frank Silbermann have written eloquently on the
practice in some Orthodox circles of blaming the Shoah on some of its

A long time ago I heard a secular Zionist argue that if all of Europe's
Jews had fled to Palestine in the 1930's there would have been no Shoah.
If it's arguably 'true' -- since without Jews in Europe there would have
been none to destroy -- it yet remains a statement that's
extraordinarily stupid not to mention cynical and vicious.  What then
shall we say of a statement that is neither a truism nor capable of
being verified?  I often get the feeling that between these blamers and
deniers such as David Irving there is precious little difference.

Noyekh Miller


From: Rick Blum <4at1x@...>
Date: Sun, 27 Mar 2005 08:16:59 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Regarding seeking a rationale for the Holocaust or any suffering

Following up on the discussion (Vol 47 #4) as follows:
> "The Holocaust was the fault of the Reform Jews and the Bundists who
> ate chazer treyf in the Rebbe's hoyf on Yom Kippur. That is why Hashem
> killed 6 million Jews, including 1.5 million innocent children. THEY
> did that to us."  ...I was taught this by my parents, by my rabbis and
> morot...

First, for a sensitive and authentic study of the complex issues
involved, I recommend the book Shoah: A Jewish Perspective on the
Holocaust by Rabbis Schwartz and Goldstein, published by Artscroll.  For
a Chasidishe elucidation of similar matters, R. Manis Friedman's
itsgoodtoknow.org put out a 2 CD set called Why Me?: Handling Grief,
which centers on the same subject.  The big question raised by the above
post and responses to it is "theodicy," why the righteous and the
innocent seem to suffer unjustly.

What the sources I mentioned make clear is that the Jewish position is
dual and powerful.  For myself, for my own suffering, I learn to explore
the Talmudic dictum, gam zu latova, that everything HaShem does or
allows to happen to me is part of His plan.  Sometimes, I will
eventually see how it was ultimately providential (hashgacha pratis),
and other times I will never notice a clue.  Still, part of my mission
is to look for them.  So, my suffering over the fact of the Holocaust,
the challenge to my emunah, can be helped with whatever clues I can
gather, while my understanding will always be limited.

The rest of the dual position is that gam zu latova, the best thing I
can ever say for myself, is the worst possible thing to say to someone
else about their suffering.  When it comes to the suffering of others,
we must as Jews take the position that there is no explanation that can
satisfy us, that the suffering must stop, and that we must be agents in
stopping it.

Only Judaism has the power of this duality, elusive though it can be to
fathom.  It starts right at the beginning, when you contrast Avraham
Avinu's response to learning about the planned suffering of others
(Sedom) versus his response to hearing that his own life would be
decimated (the Akedah) by losing his son, 'his beloved son, whom he

If awareness of this duality is lost, the most sensitive of all
teachings, the center of Jewish theology, becomes rendered, G-d forbid,
as insensitive and even cruel.

Rick Blum


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 00:19:26 -0500
Subject: RE: The Schiavo case (and developing halacha)

>From: Akiva Miller :
>He (B. Raab) wrote <<< since this can result in an indefinitely extended
>commitment to a clearly hopeless case, it has been ruled... >>> No, as I
>understand it, that's not the logic at all. Being "hopeless" has nothing
>to do with it. The important point is that breathing and blood
>circulation are part of the definition of death in halacha. If a
>person's health is such that he is unable to breathe on his own (or
>unable to circulate blood on his own) then he has actually started to
>begin to die.
>This is not merely "hopeless". It is *beyond* hopeless. And there is a
>specific halachic category for people in this situation, who have begun
>to die, called "goses".

and From: Martin Dauber:

>Whereas I accept brain death as a criteria for death (if, and only if,
>properly diagnosed and applied), one who withholds fluids, even by
>faining to fix a "broken pump" is akin to a murderer.
>FWIW, despite the comfort society as a whole , exclusive of Bnei Torah,
>has with separation from life support---->passive euthanasia----->active
>euthanasia----> even worse !!! (yes, it happens here in the US all the
>time), the withholding of food and liquids will never be sanctioned by
>any halachic authority.  Near brain-death, chronic vegetative state,
>fetal anomalies "incompatible with life" are no exceptions.

In my earlier post I assumed, probably a little too thoughtlessly, that
Ms. Schiavo could be judged to be brain dead. I realize now that that
she probably does not meet the halachic definition, and probably not the
medical definition, of brain death. In which case, as Dr. Dauber points
out, witholding of nutrition is halachically forbidden.

Nevertheless, this is small comfort to those of us who would not want
our lives to be artificially supported in a "persistive vegatative
state". In fact, it is a source of some consternation to some of us, as
Ed Greenberg points out:

>Which begs the question of whether a shomer mitzvot person can, in a
>living will, decline food and water (as well as other measures) if s/he
>is in a condition worse than a particular state of being.

In other words, in a halachic setting, a Living Will might not be
controlling, if the family were to consult a rabbi who then rules that
the patient is not a "goses" and therefore not qualified for this form
of "passive neglect".

In an earlier posting (V47:39) I wrote: "It is important to realize that
in such matters, responsible public behavior by the observant community
leads the way, and the halacha follows." I was challenged to support
this observation, which some might regard as heresy, and I intend to
respond in more detail in a few days. But this issue offers one example
immediately at hand: For 2000 years, or at least since the compilation
of the Talmud was completed, the definition of death was clear: the
cessation of respiration and circulation, as Akiva points out. But Dr.
Dauber "accept(s) brain death as a criteria for death", as do a growing
number of rabbis following the lead of R. Moshe Feinstein, ZTZ"L. This
is a significant innovation, which was resisted by many rabbonim, but I
believe is gaining more universal acceptance as time goes on. How did
this change come about? Simply put, public pressure, or public necessity
if you prefer: Jews were wiling recipients of organ transplants, but
were halachically ineligible to be donors, based on the accepted
definition of death. In Israel, the Rabbinate was able to enforce this
definition. The situation was critical, as the world governing body for
organ assignments threatened to cut off the supply of organs to
Israel. In this case I would modify my statement to say that public
pressure by the community leads the way, and the halacha follows. Of
course, R. Feinstein did not simply invent new halacha. It was his
genius (and his willingness to try) to find the halacha that was always
there, waiting to be discovered.  Perhaps in time, public pressure to
allow a Living Will to include a persistent vegatative state as a
criterion for witholding nutrition, will become halachically acceptable
as well.

b'shalom--Bernie R.


From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Sun, 27 Mar 2005 12:09:27 -0500
Subject: Sins and Outcomes

>I think there are several issues.  One, is whether we should try to see
>a connection between our sins and bad things that happen to us.  I
>think it's pretty clear that the Torah teaches this.  For example, we
>are told of a hatred between two Jews that led to the destruction of
>the Second Temple.

While I feel instinctively that Jeanette's position as well as Franks
are both much more acceptable to the "gut feeling", it does appear that
the major commentators disagreed.  Their lines have in common that we
cannot assume that factor "X" caused "Y" to happen, which I too feel.
But Rashi says that it WAS caused specifically by the Shushanites eating
at the infamous meal of the king, presumably meaning assimilationism.

Speaking of which: If we accept that Mordechai was the "Chief Rabbi" or
equivalent of Shushan, and the simple meaning of the megillah that
Esther was his adopted daughter, wouldn't the assimilation factor be a
reason why she should keep her heritage secret?  Otherwise, all the
other intermarrieds (and potentially so) would say "The rabbi's daughter
married the non-Jewish king, why can't I marry my on-Jewish boyfriend?

If this is non-heretical, the secrecy issue becomes clearer, as does
perhaps her request for fasting on Pesach and Mordechai's agreeing to
it.  If she was 100% non-assimilated herself, she wouldn't have made
such a request, since it is easy to understand that prventing people
from keeping the seder is not a positive. But IF she was mostly
assimilated and not unhappy with her situation, she might do such a
thing without knowing, and Mordechai would not want to jeaopardize her
assistance, therefore agreeing.  This could also explain why she didn't
ask the king at any later point for her freedom, and in fact she
apparently stayed in the palace for the rest of her life.

Purim: The Festival of Intermarriage?

Yossi Ginzberg  ( maybe still a little high?)


From: David Graber <dgraber@...>
Date: Sun, 27 Mar 2005 18:49:35 -0500
Subject: Withholding Nutrition

As a physician who specializes in geriatrics, I am frequently involved
with feeding tube questions. If a person is unable to eat at all, then
it is obvious that he will shortly die unless given "artificial
feedings" and the question clearly is must we place a feeding tube to
prevent imminent death from not eating.

The situation in the nursing home is frequently that an elderly patient
starts to eat less as he declines physically and mentally. Food is
provided and he takes what he wants. Weight loss develops and perhaps
mild dehydration. I wonder when, if ever ,a feeding tube must be
inserted halachically if oral intake never ceases completely. Must a
feeding tube be inserted if someone only eats 50%, 30%, 10%?  As a
physician, at what point am I mandated by halacha to start "artificial

david graber


End of Volume 47 Issue 43