Volume 51 Number 61
                    Produced: Wed Mar 15 20:48:42 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Counting Mechalel Shabbos for Minyan/Kitzur not Halacha
         [Chana Luntz]
Rabbi Reuven Agushewitz
         [Mark Steiner]


From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2006 17:13:56 +0000
Subject: Counting Mechalel Shabbos for Minyan/Kitzur not Halacha

Quoting Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>:
 Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...> writes:
>       and Michael brings a number of sources that do not hold by the
>       aforementioned Kitzur's position, including some from YU, NCYI,
>       Aish Hatorah and Chabad,
> These are not exactly halakhic sources.  I did not see that Michael
> brought any pesaq halakha that counters the Mishna Berura.  MB 55:46-47
> enumerates the types of `aveirot that disqualify one from being counted
> in a minyan.

We have rather been around the houses on this before - see inter alia,
my posts on Minyan and the great divide and Minyan and sources in volume
48 of mail- jewish.  There, inter alia, I discuss Rav Moshe's famous
teshuva allowing the counting of a mechalel shabbas b'farhesia [public
sabbath desecrator] in Iggeros Moshe Chelek aleph siman 23 as well as
the follow on teshuva in Iggeros Moshe Orech Chaim chelek gimmel, siman

Most of the aforementioned YU etc rely either on these teshuvas, or some
of the other reasoning discussed in that thread (tinok shenishba etc)
for the halachic positions stated above.

If you go back through that thread, you will see that these issues were
extensively debated, so I will not go into detail here.  However to be
fair it is clear that while there is a significant body of opinion that
is matir [permits], there is a body of opinion that assurs counting a
mechalel shabbas b'farhesia in a minyan.

The only tweak in this case (although it was in fact adverted to in the
previous thread) is that it does not by any means appear clear that the
person who was not acceptable in the eyes of the "waiter" outside of the
room was indeed a mechalel shabbas b'farhesia.

Even somebody who holds by those who insist that one should not count
into a minyan a mechalel shabbas b'farhesia, is on much more difficult
ground, it seems to me, if they have any form of safek [doubt] as to his

Firstly minyan is d'rabbanan, so safek d'rabanan l'kula [for a
rabbinical requirement we rule leniently].  Secondly even when one would
hold in a certain way, in ideal circumstances, in more difficult
circumstances, when there is a machlokus haposkim [disagreement of
rulings], one is often permitted if not required to rely on the
alternative opinions, so long as they fall within the authorative
spectrum (which it is hard to argue the likes of Rav Moshe Feinstein do
not).  In this case, with the potential for embarressment (a d'orisa
violation liked by the gemora to murder) to counterbalance, as well as
potentially holding up a minyan (or not having one, he could have waited
and waited and no 11th might have showed), there appear to be a lot of
counterbalancing arguments even for somebody who would normally follow a
different opinion (in this case possibly even tifrosh min hazibbur -
separating oneself from the community).  At the very least, with what
would seem to be a safek safeka in a d'rabanan, and potential d'orisa
violations on the other side, one would hope that the call on the cell
phone was to his LOR.  


Chana Luntz


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2006 14:44:22 +0200
Subject: RE: Rabbi Reuven Agushewitz

In response to Dr. Katz' request to hear more about Rabbi Reuven
Agushewitz, I will reproduce some material from my translation of Faith
and Heresy, R.A.'s third book (I am now working on his second book
Principles of Philosophy).

First, a blurb written by Professor Harry Frankfurt of Yale and

"This is a truly outstanding philosophical work. It makes penetrating,
important, and genuinely original contributions to the debate concerning
freedom of the will, and it does so with admirable rigor, lucidity, and

Those not in the academic world will not understand my astonishment upon
receiving this blurb from one of the most prominent philosophers of the
English speaking world working on the free will problem.  Professor
Frankfurt, writing in 2004, says that the book, which appeared in 1948,
written by a man with (I think) no formal university training, makes
genuinely original contributions to a debate thousands of years old.  I
receive junk written by autodidacts in philosophy every other week.  The
man must have been a genius.  As for Talmud, readers can download his
posthumous Bi'ur Reuven on Bava Kamma from the website that preserves
old Hebrew books written in the U.S., www.hebrewbooks.org -- this sefer
earned haskamot from R. J. B. Soloveitchik and R. Aharon Kotler.

I should mention that R.A.'s brother shortened his name to Agus, and
thus we was related to a number of personalities readers of mail-jewish
might be familiar with.

In direct answer to Dr. Katz' request, now, I will reproduce from the
end of my Translator's Introduction, an excerpt from a volume I and
nobody else had remembered, an autobiography written by R.A.' brother,
who was a halutz in Eretz Yisrael before World War One.  I believe that
R.A. died while visiting this brother in 1951.  (By the way, this
autobiography, translated from Hebrew into English by R.A.'s nephew, a
physician in Borough Park, is well worth reading for it's own sake--it
has valuable details about life in EY before, during, and after WW I.
Those who visit one of the first neighborhoods of Tel-Aviv, Neve Tzedek
(well worth a visit), should be aware that this brother taught in the
school there, which is still standing.)

Appendix: A Tale of Two Brothers

Well after writing this Introduction, I found out that R. Reuven's
brother, Chaim Shmuel (see Agushewitz' own Introduction for details of
his life), who had adopted the name Rubin to avoid the Czarist draft,
had written an autobiography, and that Professor Shaul Stampfer of
Hebrew University had a copy.  I thus came upon a totally unexpected
source of biographical information about our author.  I reproduce below
verbatim, Chaim Shmuel's account of his meeting with R. Reuven in
Antwerp, 1928.  Chaim Shmuel was returning to Eretz Israel after a stay
in the United States, where he had completed a degree in chemistry.
(This work was translated into English by Dr. Haim Agus, R. Reuven's
nephew; I made a few stylistic corrections.)

We docked at last in Antwerp. I was hoping to see my brother waiting for
me on the pier, but then I realized that it was Saturday. I would not
dare take a cab since he probably lived with ultra orthodox people, for
which Antwerp was famous. So I dragged myself on foot, more than one
Sabbath distance, till I reached my destination. I passed many bearded
Jews with streimels.  I knocked on the door, introduced myself as the
brother of Reuven and was received with sincere joy.  The house exuded
the spirit of Sabbath.  But my brother was out of town.  He had received
my letter, but could not meet me at the pier on Saturday.  The landlord,
a rich diamond merchant, expressed respect and veneration of my brother.
At first I thought that there had to be a family tie between my brother
and this family, but it became clear that it was pure love and
adoration.  I waited impatiently for Reuven's arrival.  When he
appeared, our encounter was very emotional, with flowing tears of joy.
He did not want to tire me and was concerned about quarters for me for
the night.

He took me to my lodging.  My host belonged to a fanatically religious
sect.  He was against Zionism and opposed to free thinkers migrating to
the Holy Land.  Naturally, it was useless to have any discussions with
him.  I preferred to learn from him about my brother's living
conditions.  He spoke of him with great respect.  He told me that Reuven
exists on the income of several private lessons and of holding a Talmud
class for adults under the auspices of the chief rabbi, Amiel.  The
latter admired Reuven's genius and befriended him.  From his earnings
Reuven supported a young man who was indigent.

Let me give now a thumb nail biography of this remarkable, modest man,
my brother.  After graduating from cheder, he elected to continue his
studies in the yeshivah of Slobodka, known as Knesset Israel (named
after the great Rabbi Israel Salanter).  This school was renowned for
its emphasis on Ethics and Morality, known as Mussar.  Reuven had
absorbed the teachings to the full and adopted that system as a way of
life.  He shied away from ordination as rabbi as being an expression of
flaunting pride.  Father was greatly distressed that such a talent
should not be properly crowned.  Being a determined young man with
righteous conviction, my brother resisted all arguments.  It was only
after my father took seriously ill, that he went to Grodno and was
ordained enthusiastically by one of the great rabbis, at the remarkable
age of seventeen.  At the end of World War 1, after the October
Revolution, he became a social activist and made the rounds, preaching
justice and social equality based on religious tenets and principles.
It was his belief that religion was the foundation of morality and
ethics.  The new Polish government, virulently anti communist, branded
him as a dangerous radical and issued an order for his arrest.  Luckily,
he got wind of it in time and managed to escape to Germany.  From there
he went to Belgium.  Rabbi Amiel (later, chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv) became
his patron and mentor.  From his letters I learned that he planned to
get a doctorate in France.  Indeed, he traveled to Paris and prepared to
enroll in Sorbonne University.  But his economic poverty was unbearable.
His physical appearance, short and thin, did not help either in finding
a job. He was hungry and ill clad and was sure that he headed for
tuberculosis.  Completely frustrated, he decided to go back to
Antwerp. There he embarked on a study of philosophy in depth.  He
researched late in the night and wrote a critique on Immanuel Kant,
which is still in manuscript.  Years later he published, in Yiddish,
three books on philosophyBon Old Grecian, Middle Ages and Modern
TheoriesBfinding fault with such giants as Aristotle, Spinoza and
DescartesBwhich received favorable reviews.  His last book, Faith and
Apostasy, was translated into Hebrew by Prof. Chaim Lipschitz and
published by Rabbi Kook's Institute.  His ethical stature was towering
and unforgettable.  I took a long stroll with him and was amazed at his
tremendous erudition and profundity of thought. He had a positive
attitude towards Eretz Israel and Aliyah. I asked him to explain to me
the reasons for his excessive religious observance.  He said that once
he became convinced that Judaism was the true religion and that the
practice thereof is an essential principle, he followed the commands of
the Shulchan Aruch to the letter.  He took me around to visit many
homes.  Wherever he went he elicited respect and was welcomed at all
times.  When he stopped at a chess game, play would become serious and
when he smiled at a certain move, it would arouse increased attention.
I conveyed to him that Juda Leib would like him to come to New York, and
offered to help him to settle there.  He said that he got a letter from
him to that effect and that he was debating whether he could adjust to
the materialistic spirit of that country.  Nevertheless, he decided to
answer in the positive, mainly because of the wonderful libraries of New
York.  Too bad I could not stay longer than two days.  At the railroad
station, on the way to Paris, we parted tearfully.  A young man came
over later and asked me: "That fellow, the one who gave you such an
emotional good bye, what is he to you?" I said: "That's my brother,
why?" He said: "If there is any truth to the legend of the Thirty Six
just men, then he is one of them.  That's the reputation he has in the
diamond industry. "

In the two hour train ride from Antwerp to Paris by way of Brussels, I
felt very depressed about the eternal fate of righteous people, as
exemplified by my brother.  At home he suffered more than any other
child, because he was headstrong, because of his extraordinary
brainpower that could not be confined to the world of the Talmud, and
because of his demands for justice for all.  He missed motherly love he
hardly knew her.  Father was always full of resentment about his own
hard life and the orphans grew up in sadness.  As Reuven matured, his
great soul was buffeted by the new storms in society that promised
justice and equality and strongly challenged the traditions.  Father
considered these vacillations as deviations from the straight path.  His
[i.e., Reuven=s] foreshortened life thus passed without a spark of
pleasure.  His only satisfaction was the philosophical speculations that
he incorporated in his three published books and the several articles in
the Jewish press.  Very few books, however, are destined for eternity
and in the course of time, as Solomon says, it is all forgotten.


In preparing this work for publication, I have done my best to insure
that R. Reuven Agushewitz is not forgotten.


End of Volume 51 Issue 61