Volume 50 Number 29
                    Produced: Tue Nov 29  6:15:41 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Ibn Ezra
         [Ben Katz]
Internet Bans (2)
         [Kenneth H. Ryesky, Ruth Sternglantz]
Origins of the Prayer for State of Israel
         [Michael Pitkowsky]
         [Russell J Hendel]
Tahanun and presence of a Hatan
TV News (was Internet Ban)
         [Bernard Raab]


From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Sun, 27 Nov 2005 23:13:05 -0600
Subject: Re: Ibn Ezra

>From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
>I think I have made my view clear on Ibn Ezra, just one closing posting
>in response to two points made by Dr. Katz:
>1. The final verses of the Torah are the subject of a dispute by Hazal
>themselves--Moshe writing of his own death.  IE just took sides.
>Otherwise, I believe that both Hazal and IE believed in the Mosaic
>"authorship" of the Torah (meaning that Moshe wrote it down by

         IE is not just "taking sides".  He is disagreeing with both
opinions in the Talmud (ie whether Moshe wrote the last 8 verses of the
Torah bedema or whether Yehoshua wrote them) and stating that Yehoshua
wrote the last 12 verses of the Torah.  And, at least in these
instances, that is what IE is referring to when he talks about the sod
hashnem asar -- he is not referring to mysticism).  And if you do not
believe me, this is how Wiser (in the Mosad Harav Kook edition of IE),
Tzaphnat Paaneach (in the 14thy century) and many others (again, I refer
to Marc Shapiro's article in Torah Umada Journal or his book on the 13
Ekarrim for the references) read IE.


From: Kenneth H. Ryesky <khresq@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 17:14:03 -0500
Subject: Internet Bans

Two years ago, when we were in Israel, we visited my wife's uncle, who
learned in Lakewood back in the 1940s and who is now a rav in Bnei Brak.
Not surprisingly, he falls somewhat on the "overprotective" side of the
spectrum, and is, to say the least, quite uneasy about the Internet.

So when the topic of our family's Internet usage came up, I told him
that just as we need to know the source of the food we eat, we also need
to know the source of the information we consume.  And, as with food,
there are (A) information sources that are very kosher and trustworthy;
(B) information sources that are questionable; and (C) information
sources that you know, without question, are absolute rubbish.

And just as we need to take cognizance and control over our childrens'
food consumption, so, too, must we take cognizance over our childrens'
information consumption.  Which is why, when my then about 12 year old
son was doing a school paper on Civil War General Thomas Hooker, my wife
insisted upon doing the Internet research.

I think that my wife's uncle was impressed by the fact that she receives
weekly e-mail from Aish HaTorah and other such kosher sources of

Kenneth H. Ryesky, Esq.
East Northport, NY 11731
E-Mail:  <khresq@...>

From: Ruth Sternglantz <resternglantz@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 19:35:23 -0500
Subject: RE: Internet Bans

Thanks to those who posted more complete details of the Lakewood
internet ban.  This is an excellent example of why telling only *part*
of the truth can be dangerous.

I very much suspect (based on conversations that I've had with
non-Jewish colleagues with school-aged children -- and these are
sophisticated intellectuals who fully understand the many positive uses
of the internet) that there are many in the secular world who would
happily send their children to a school where none of the children had
internet access.  This is not just because of the many well-documented
dangers to children that the internet poses but because of the ways
children socialize with one another online, making it difficult for one
parent to separate her child from the internet without turning him into
a social pariah at school.  If this ban wasn't issuing from Lakewood,
but was instead from the consortium of all the prep schools in
Manhattan, I think it would be seen as a bold educational move.

Ruth Sternglantz


From: Michael Pitkowsky <pitab@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 16:55:18 -0500
Subject: Origins of the Prayer for State of Israel

The Israeli journalist and author Yoel Rappel has been researching the
origins of the Prayer for the State of Israel and from my understanding
his conclusions are that the two Chief Rabbis (Rabbis Herzog and Uziel)
wrote the prayer and that Agnon touched it up. Rappel claims that it is
a religious paraphrase of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. I
myself heard from the late R. Shmuel Avidor HaCohen how he took a copy
of the prayer from the two Chief Rabbis and brought it over to Agnon's
home in order for him to work on it a little bit.

Michael Pitkowsky


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 27 Nov 2005 08:22:33 -0500
Subject: RE: RASHBAM

Someone recently cited the Rashbam as roughly stating "I simply give the
simple meaning of the text which might deviate from the talmudic
meaning.  But Talmudic law does hold."

A famous line in a jewish musical states "If I bend back that far I
break." I have recently defended Ibn Ezra. I also spend much time
defending Rashi and have written articles defending Rambam. With this
background I must attack RASHBAM on 3 grounds: a) He was INTELLECTUALLY
wrong in assertng that the simple meaning of the text is EVER different
from what Chazal (our Talmudic sages) said the text meant; b) he was
MORALLY wrong (that is, he violated numerous Biblical prohibitions,
listed below) to assert this (that is, what he did is not a point of
view but wrong) and c) he seriously hurt Judaism and Jewish scholarship.

Before defending what I just wrote let me give 3 quick examples. In this
weeks Parshah we have a sequence of verses about Rivkah who was having
trouble with her pregnancy. The text states (A) She went to seek God (B)
and God spoke to her. Note: the phrase (B), GOD SPOKE TO HER, by ITSELF
has the simple meaning that the person is a prophet and received
prophetic advice. But in CONTEXT, (A-B) together state that she went to
seek God and received advice FROM SOMEONE ELSE (Rashi's comment on this

In other words, the simple meaning of (B) BY ITSELF is that she received
a prophetic order. But the simple meaning of (A-B) COMBINED is that she
received guidance from prophets from whom she sought advice. The
technical rule used her is the Rabbi Ishmael rule of CONTEXT (On the
Rashi website I call this the rule of Paragraph development since
paragraphs must contain a unifying theme...I am simply using a different
name). Now context is NOT something invented by Rabbi Ishmael; not is it
Sinaitic; rather it is the way people talk. The word "fifth" for
example, could refer to a) a fraction, b) a symphony c) a drink
depending on whether you are talking about a) Taxes b) Music, c)
Parties. There is only ONE simply meaning. For a person e.g. to say that
he owes Beethoven's fifth for taxes and it is only politics that
requires him to pay 20% is simply criminal (he will be prosectued and no
court of law would regard his claim as 'serious').

Conceptually I have argued on the Rashi website, and presented several
times on mail jewish that what people call PESHAT-DERASH
(Simple-homiletic meaning) is very often
then the simple intended meaning of the text is the meaning in context.
The meaning of the phrase by itself is not relevant to anything.

To take an example from Mishpatim: There are 3 Biblical paragraphs on
'watchers of objects' only one of which identifies the 'watcher type' as
a 'requested loan, presumably for payment' of the object. Nothing in the
text indicates that the first paragraph is speaking about a 'gratuitous
request to watch' or that the second paragraph is speaking about 'watch
requests for hire'. What drives (Goraym in hebrew) the interpretation of
the text is the listing of 3 paragraphs with INCREASING LIABILITY and
the simple ASSUMPTION that INCREASING LIABILITY would correlate with
INCREASED BENEFIT. Thus the interpretation of the text while NOT
EXPLICITLY mentioned (no dispute here) is nevertheless the reasonable
simple meaning of the text (no one including Rashbam has ever proposed
an alternative).

Take another example well known and controversial: Certainly the phrase
AN EYE FOR AN EYE when read BY ITSELF means if you take out my eye the
court will take out your eye. However when we read this phrase IN
CONTEXT that other torts are punished monetarily -- for example if you
deprive me of working for a few days the court does not prevent you
going to work but rather requires payment and similarly if you make me
sick the court does not make you sick but requires payment and these
monetary payment requirements are explicitly listed in the Bible---IN
required, to interpret EYE FOR EYE to indicate monetary
compensation. (Note the subtlety: CONTEXT here is not the context of the
immediate paragraph but rather the CONTEXT of SIMILAR EXAMPLES in the
same text)

The fact that these interpretations are not explicit but derived from
context does not change anything. The context interpretation is the
simple meaning, or better still, the INTENDED meaning of the text by the
author. All cultures agree to this.

But, and this is my 2nd point, the obligation to so interpret is moral
not intellectual. We have laws of slander. Miryan was punished for
accusing Moses of separating from his wife BECAUSE Moses other behaviors
showed Moses had humility and no airs. Jewish law requires us to judge
people favorably. How much more so must we judge Chazal favorably as
always interpreting things in context. The laws of slander applys to
people their products and their ideas. I would thus argue that Rashbam
has violated the slander laws-he is no different than a person who says
'I do have to pay taxes but the simple meaning of the statute is that I
owe the government Beethoven's fifth--it is homiletic to say I owe them
money...but nevertheless I will pay it.' A person who talks this way is
slandering the government statutues.

But my biggest bone of contention with Rashbam is what he did to
Judaism!. How often have I met people---students, Rabbis,
Professors---who don't even bother to try to explain midrashim. After
all, they argue, a Rishon, the Rashbam, asserted that the simple
interpretation and the Chazal interpretation are not always the
same. And because RASHBAM said this, these people DO NOT DEVOTE time to
understand and find answers. In other words the Rashbam's views have
destroyed the INCENTIVE to learn and have hurt Jewish scholarship
replacing sound grammatical arguments with bland statements of 'This is
our tradition and the way our law holds.'

I realize the views expressed in this posting are harsh. But I would
strongly argue that the damage--the lack of serious research among the
religious---is even more damaging. I for one would like to see the
Rashbam classified for what he is. I would also strongly suggest
replacing the space used to print his commentary in MIKRAOTH GEDOLOTH
with some super-commentaries of Rashi (I am not suggesting
book-burning---I am simply suggesting that we have 'better things to
read'--better in the sense that it will enable us to appreciate the
biblical text more and encourage us to learn)

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


From: <ERSherer@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 19:27:03 EST
Subject: Re: Tahanun and presence of a Hatan

<< : The Mishnah Berurah (don't have exact source handy,
but it's probably in the laws of tahanun) states that a hatan
(bridegroom) should avoid participating in a minyan because he causes
the congregation not to be able to say tahanun. (Ari Zivotofsky
mentioned this ruling in an article in either Jewish Action or the
Jewish Observer, to make a different point that I don't recall.) Has
anyone had experience of following this halakhah? >>

    I have never heard of such a thing. In most (all?) that I have been,
people are happy to have a chatan present so that we don't have to say


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2005 19:26:15 -0500
Subject: TV News (was Internet Ban)

>From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
>Has it never occurred to anyone that the news is probably the most
>corrupting thing on television. Before anyone reacts to my 'bigotry' let
>me explain. Most violent films are recognised as fiction by adults and,
>to some extent, discounted (children's perceptions are, of course, a
>separate issue) whereas the news is accepted by most people as fact
>despite the way it is often 'cut and pasted' to produce the desired
>impression on the viewer. What do others on mail-jewish think?

There was a time when watching the evening news on TV was "de-rigueur".
And when there is a big breaking news story like a major disaster,
either natural or man-made, TV is still compelling to see some video of
the event. But Martin is totally correct to suspect the spin which
always accompanies such reports. The problem is not confined to TV,
however. The newspapers, even the "best" newspapers, spin the news. When
the report is news from Israel, many of us have concluded that the news
organizations are almost all run by anti-Semites. Even the best news
organizations, like NPR in the US and BBC in the UK, have us tearing out
our hair at the seemingly biased anti-Israel reporting.

I believe the truth is less toxic but no less disturbing. There may well
be anti-Semites in charge of some news outlets, but I believe the real
culprit in most cases is the need to "tell a story" to a public
suspected of miniscule attention span. It is now well established in
modern journalism that the "news" must be put in context. That is, the
new developments have to be explained as part of an ongoing story. In TV
especially, the "story" must be one which can be told in a single
sound-bite, which means there is no room for subtelty. Thus Israel is
always going to described as the "occupier" of "Palestinian territory".
There is simply no time, or desire, to complicate the story with
historical details. Of course the real culprit is the need for "ratings"
or "circulation" to maximize profit for investors, or, in the case of
the non-profits, to justify the continuing government investment.

The good news is that today, thanks to this very internet, there are so
many more news sources at our finger-tips, that we don't have to rely on
the major outlets exclusively. The challenge is getting the powerful and
influential to seek out those news sources.

b'shalom--Bernie R.


End of Volume 50 Issue 29