Volume 55 Number 18
                    Produced: Mon Jul  9 22:21:25 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Authorship of the Zohar
         [Joseph Ginzberg]
Comparative Jurisprudence
         [Bernard Raab]
Midrashic exegesis is the spontaneous response of the Native speaker
         [Russell J Hendel]
Shiur Times goes online
         [Nadine Bonner]


From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Mon, 09 Jul 2007 16:34:37 -0400
Subject: Authorship of the Zohar

Some time ago there was a link posted here to an excellent article about
the authorship of the Zohar, which I am unable now to find again.  I
would greatly appreciate it if someone who still has it could send it to
me offline.  Thank you

Yossi Ginzberg


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Sun, 08 Jul 2007 15:26:04 -0400
Subject: Comparative Jurisprudence

From: Jay F. Shachter 

> ... For the purposes of the qal vxomer, a deaf person is the smallest
> element in this range, the example from which all others can be
> inferred.  You can infer a chartered accountant from a deaf person,
> but you could not infer a deaf person from a chartered accountant,
> because the deaf person cannot even hear your curse, whereas the
> chartered accountant can.

I am unconvinced by this argument. Why is a deaf person the smallest
element in the range of humankind? Specifically, it could be argued that
a tinok (infant) should be so regarded. If the verse had said that you
should not curse a tinok, who could not understand a curse, and who
would be aprioi regarded as totally innocent, then a kal vachomer might
be derived which would forbid cursing any person. But on a strrictly
logical basis the prohibition against cursing a deaf person might be
simply to establish that the principle which forbids placing a stumbling
block before a blind person extends to taking unfair advantage of a deaf
person. In this case since the deaf person cannot hear the curse, he
would not be able to take any defensive action against it, or make an
argument in his defense. Logically, the kal vachomer could simply be to
extend the prohibition against taking unfair advantage of any person's
physical disability.

On the larger issue which Mr. Shachter expounds so insightfully,
regarding which powers inhere in any legal system: If I understand him
correctly, he argues against relying totally on any written system of
laws or assurances, such as the US Constitution. This is a useful
reminder that freedoms must always be actively defended and fought for.
Much has been written lately about the usurpation of power by the
executive branch of the US government, which some legal scholars
describe as bordering on "monarchization" of the US Presidency. Indeed
President Nixon said it openly: "If the President does it, it is legal."
At that point in history the Supreme Court shot him down, but since then
Presidents Reagan and now G.W. Bush have extended this process beyond
all previous boundaries. The powers that they have usurped have mostly
been at the expense of the US Congress, which has been proportionately
weakened. But this could not have occured without the tacit acceptance
by the Congress. Congress is not without defenses, primarily by
controlling the budget, and in the end by impeachement of the executive.
Of course these defenses are all written into the Constitution, but if
they will erode away if they are not exersized when the situation
desperately calls for it. I assume this is what Mr. Shachter is warning

But in the end, the people rule, and this applies to Torah law as well.
Not to be too sanguine about this either, because absolutists have all
kinds of strategies to defeat the power of the people!

--Bernie R.


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 8 Jul 2007 15:17:13 -0400
Subject: Midrashic exegesis is the spontaneous response of the Native speaker

Jay in a recent posting made severely critical and hostile comments to
Midrashic Exegesis: "The growth of the Karite movement was promoted by
the quite accurate observation that Jewish laws, even those laws that
are claimed to be Scriptural, sometimes appear to be very weakly related
to the verses claimed to be the basis for them, like mountains suspended
by a hair, or hanging in midair. Such observations may lead you to
entertain the notion that Jewish legal exegesis is, at times, forced and
unnatural, the rabbis choosing their conclusions regardless of the
language of the verse, deciding first what conclusion they want to
reach, and then deciding how to derive that conclusion from the verse."

Jay then proceeds to give Lv19-14 (Dont curse a deaf mute) as a good
example of this.

First: I have spent my whole life trying to show that all Midrashic
exegesis "is the effortless spontaneous response of the Native speaker
to verses - the exegesis and text are one and flow naturally "(See my
article Peshat and Derash (Tradition 1980) at

Furthermore in a recent article, "Biblical Formatting" (JBQ, 2007) I
show that ALL LANGUAGES have means of indicating emphasis and
teaching. Once one knows the METHODS OF THAT LANGUAGE the exegesis
becomes clear and spontaneous and not forced.

So I am criticizing Jay for not knowing SOURCES (He cites two midrashim)
but for being ignorant of METHODS.  I am in fact presenting a talk on "A
Syllabus / Course-Outline for Rashi / exegesis / Midrash" at the 19th
Midwest Jewish studies association conference (See
http://www.case.edu/artsci/rosenthal/Program2007.doc for the program) at
which time I will suggest how our education system could be redesigned
to address such problems.

I in fact have decided to use Jay's example in my talk - since it shows
how even bright people can legitimately think that Midrash is arbitrary;
I also think this example is exemplary of how Midrash COULD /SHOULD be

Let me briefly show Jay how the two midrashim he cites can be made
sparkling, clear and intuitive. For this I use Rav Hirsch's point that
the STYLE of JEWISH LAW is to indicate laws by EXTREME cases (instead of
the American way to make General statements). Hence says Rav Hirsch a)
We are never told that WIVES have conjugal and allowance rights but are
instead told that EVEN slave-girls who are married have these rights b)
We are never told that ordinary people should be respected by a burial
on the day of death but are instead told that EVEN a convicted executed
criminal who made fun of our religion has these rights c) We are never
told that ordinary people should not be cursed but are instead told that
EVEN a deaf-mute (who cant hear the curse) should not be cursed.

I think my point is clear. It is not that we use a technical rule of Kal
VaChomer. Rather we use the "extreme example" method to hilight the
applicability of laws. A person reading the deafmute-no-curse text
AUTOMATICALLY generalizes it because that is what is required in his
culture. The exegesis appears natural and spontaneous. The LIST above
can be used to 'train' people on how to read such Biblical texts.

But there is another midrash (The mechiltah) which Jay incorrectly
cites.  This midrash does a search-engine query on prohibitions of
cursing and finds TWO (not one, Jay only cites one) prohibitions: a)
Lv19-14 (no curse a deaf mute) and b) Ex22-27 (Don't curse a King / Head
of Sanhedrin).

Before proceeding I cite a study on teaching computer science: Which
method is best: a) Teaching the abstract theory of program language b)
Presenting examples and letting the student wallow in them till he
figures it out. The studies show that no one method is best. Some people
learn best from examples and some people learn best from theory.

I hear Jay's anguish. I really do. Jay is a 20th century American. 20th
Century american law is taught by clear clean abstract concepts. But
equally valid is a pedagogy based on examples. Biblical law is based on
examples and "generalizations". In this case we have a "generalization
from 2 examples" - one of the Rabbi Ishmael rules. The conclusion "dont
curse anybody from a deafmute who can't hear to a King who is petty on
everything." Hence cursing the dead is not biblically prohibited.

I could go on but I try and make my postings short. My basic goal and
thesis was to show people that if they were TRAINED in HOW to read
Biblical verses the exegesis would be spontaneous and natural. (Those
who want to can browse the website below or join my weekly Rashi
newsletter--the Generalization rules are the 6th of my Rashi methods--I
call them the Rabbi Ishmael Style rules.)

Dr. Russell  Jay Hendel; http://www.Rashiyomi.com/


From: Nadine Bonner <nfbonner@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Jul 2007 09:54:45 -0400
Subject: Shiur Times goes online

Hi Everyone:

For the past six months, my daughter has been the assistant editor of an
English-language magazine in Israel. The magazine contains dvrai torah,
articles on relationships, community profiles and local artists. The
last issue featured a poignant article on an organization that rescues
Jewish woman who marry Arab men. But the centerpiece is a listing of
shiurim throughout Israel.  The magazine is distributed every other week
in shuls throughout the country. All my friends like it, but, hey, I'm
the mother of the assistant editor.

The magazine went online yesterday at www.shiurtoday.com. They are still
working out the bugs, but I'd like to invite everyone to take a look and
drop her a line if you like what you read. She is also looking for good
writers who are willing to work for no money, but will receive a byline
in a very handsome publication.

Kol tuv,


End of Volume 55 Issue 18