Volume 55 Number 39
                    Produced: Thu Aug  9 21:15:04 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Authorship of the Zohar (3)
         [Michael Frankel, Alex Heppenheimer, Dr. Ben Katz]
Dikduk Question
         [Richard Schultz]
Judaism and finances
         [Bernard Raab]
Left and Down
         [David Riceman]
Yeshiva high school tuition
         [Dr. Josh Backon]


From: Michael Frankel <michaeljfrankel@...>
Date: Wed, 08 Aug 2007 15:56:23 -0400
Subject: Re: Authorship of the Zohar

> From: Jonathan Baker <jjbaker@...> 
> .. as the Zohar becomes more and more an important halachic source.
> The Real Old Time halachists, such as R'Yosef Karo, a well-known
> kabbalist, kept kabbalah out of their halachic works.

> From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...> 
> If the Zohar was actually written by Rashbi, it could be taken as
> divinely inspired and given a certain weight. (I understand that
> Chabad actually rules, in cases where the Talmud and Zohar contradict,
> like the Zohar)

> Perhaps this is why many authorities refrained from using the Zohar in 
> deciding halacha.  (Of course, you cannot stop people from developing 
> customs based on the Zohar.) 
> Frank Silbermann

Some weeks ago, following a partially off-line exchange with R. Teitz, I
had planned to write a more expansive note on the theme of lo
bashshomayyim hee, essentially attacking the conventional wisdom that
halokhic p'soq is a human endeavor divorced from "heavenly"
determinations, as might be - and has been - (imnvho, incorrectly)
inferred from that bas qol business with the stove.  Iy"h I shall still
do so if my work breaks do not grow to the point they completely crowd
out my hobbies.  Right now I merely offer a few quick comments on the
place of qabboloh, particularly the Zohar, in the halokhic process, at
least as perceived by the classical pos'qim, including the Shulchon

In a word (OK, a few) , the halokhic positions of the Zohar were/are
considered normative if they do not explicitly contradict a contrary
view expressed by the Talmud.  Thus the Talmud - presumably reflecting
the normal "human" halokhic processing (though not always.  But, od
chozone lammoeid)- takes precedence over ruach haqqodesh/heavenly
declamations.  But halokhic precedence is a quite different concept than
no halokhic weight at all.

This position - that we can rely l'halokhoh on decisions of qabboloh -
is explicitly expressed by, inter alia, R. Yitzchoq Karo (the Shulchon
Orukh's uncle - brought down at the end of shu"t Bais Yoseif) and the
Ridbaz.  the Shulchon Orukh himself in his intro to the Bais Yoseif
lists the Zohar as one of the sources he inspected "in a few places" and
certainly includes obligatory dinim in the Bais Yoseif whose source is
the Zohar.  The Mogein Avrohom (O"H, 192:1) has no philosophical problem
in ascribing to the Zohar the custom to precede bentshing zimun with the
words "rabbosai n'voreikh/rabbosai mir velen bentschen" (zimun first
starts at n'voriech she'okhalnu me'shelo). R. Yitzhoq karo ascribed to
the Zohar the decisive halokhic influence which established the practice
in s'faradic lands to not wear t'filin on chol hammoeid (despite the
Rosh).  There is a whole 19th century sefer - "bar Yochai" that attempts
to list the various places that the mechaber relied on the Zohar .

The influence of the Zohar in the halokhic sphere is not without irony.
After all, poor R. Shimon b. Yochai could hardly ever win a halokhic
argument back in the old days when he could push his position in person.
Back then the final p'soq almost invariably went with whomever he was
arguing. This precise incongruity of authority between R. Shimon's pre
and posthumous careers did not escape the sharp notice and tongue of the
Maharshal .

As time permits, I shall try to submit a follow up note that treats the
notion of such meta-halokhic processes from a somewhat broader

Mechy Frankel

From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Thu, 9 Aug 2007 07:58:10 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Authorship of the Zohar

In MJ 55:36, Frank Silbermann wrote:
>However, I would tend to think that any generation would be obligated
>to apply its critical facilities to evaluate claims about the holiness
>of any book that our ancestors did not know about.  (Yes, our recent
>ancestors knew about the Zohar, but not until the time of R' Moshe de
>Leon, and significant skepticism existed from the time of its first
>publication.)  We have in our tradition great rabbis, some who believed
>de Leon's claims and some who denounced those claims.  So it seems we
>have the freedom to decide for ourselves.

>Given that freedom, however, it seems to me that using such a
>controversial book as a basis for halacha would tend to be devisive
>where devisiveness is most dangerous -- in our religious _practice_.
>Perhaps this is why many authorities refrained from using the Zohar in
>deciding halacha.  (Of course, you cannot stop people from developing
>customs based on the Zohar.)

But we find, for example, R' Yaakov Emden, who wrote a sefer, "Mitpachas
Sefarim," arguing against the authenticity of (parts of) the Zohar - but
at the same time he quotes from the Zohar and from Kabbalah in general
throughout his other works, such as his Siddur.

Which might mean either of the following:

a. He held that the Zohar is indeed not the authentic work of Rashbi,
but that it's at least as good as the words of a Rishon (as Jonathan
Baker wrote in MJ 55:27), and therefore is a valid basis for halachah;

b. His arguments against the Zohar's authenticity didn't represent his
true opinion; they were meant to discourage inappropriate use of its
teachings by the followers of Shabbetai Tzvi and his ilk.

Kol tuv,

From: Dr. Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Wed, 08 Aug 2007 18:38:12 -0500
Subject: Re: Authorship of the Zohar

>From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
> > Many have made this argument, but Orthodoxy has drawn the line here
> > (perhaps with Louis Jacobs having been a rare exception).
>The late Louis Jacobs may have started off as an Orthodox rabbi but he
>clearly moved away and started a UK branch of the Conservative movement.
>Despite his frequent self description as "Orthodox as it was understood
>prior to the shift to the right" or "non-fundamentalist Orthodox", it is
>misleading to include him, even by implication, as Frank seems to do.

    The latter statement by Mr. Stern is not exactly correct.  Rabbi
Jacobs started a masorati movement in England which has some
similarities to Conservative doctrine in the US but was never
institutionally affiliated with the Conservative movement; it may
resemble more the Union for Traditional Judaism, although the latter is
probably more to the right than Rabbi Jacobs was.


From: Richard Schultz <schultr@...>
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2007 03:00:26 +0300
Subject: Re: Dikduk Question

In mail-jewish Vol. 55 #38, Leah-Perl <leahperl@...> writes

> Can anyone explain the term "segholation" in plain English?  

IIRC, "segholate" refers to a class of noun such as "melech" that is
accented on the first syllable and in which the vowel in the second
syllable disappears upon addition of a pronomial suffix, e.g. "melech" =
"king," but "malki" = "my king."  They are called "segholates" because
most of them have a seghol as the vowel in the first syllable.

> Am I correct in understanding closed and open syllables to mean
> stressed and unstressed?

No, an "open" syllable is one that ends with a vowel, and a "closed"
syllable is one that ends with a consonant.  For example, in the word
"melech," both syllables are closed.

> Is there a book on didkduk that can help me fill my gaps?

I like Thomas Lambdin's book on Biblical Hebrew grammar.  Be aware that
Biblical Hebrew and modern spoken Hebrew differ in some respects
(e.g. the verb form "Hophal" in Biblical Hebrew is "Huphal" in modern

					Richard Schultz


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Thu, 09 Aug 2007 01:02:32 -0400
Subject: RE: Judaism and finances

>From: Tzvi Stein
>I completely don't get what is meant by "the Orthodox don't contribute"
>to the public schools.  They pay for them but don't use them, and people
>are complaining?!  What is the objection to that?!

The Orthodox don't contribute in subtle and not-so-subtle ways: By
withholding a cohort of mostly good students from good homes the school
population is simultaneously reduced and skewed negatively. This is the
subtle but very real effect. The not-so-subtle way is by voting to
reject the school budget or to vote down a new bond issue intended to
upgrade facilities or to build a new school. Yes, they are voting in
accord with their own interest, which is what is supposed to happen in a
democracy, but that doesn't help the public school system. Ultimately,
the reputation of the school system suffers and the desirability of the
neighborhood declines.  Of course, these effects are most acute in the
suburbs, and are only manifest when the Orthodox population grows into a
sizeable minority. But once this size is reached, the conflicts can get

--Bernie R.


From: David Riceman <driceman@...>
Date: Thu, 09 Aug 2007 19:28:36 -0400
Subject: Left and Down

I've seen many drashot about the shapes of the Hebrew letters, but I
don't recall seeing any about their direction (letters right to left and
lines top to bottom).  Are there such drashot? If so, where, and if not,
why not?

David Riceman


From: Dr. Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Wed, 08 Aug 2007 13:23:44 +0300
Subject: Re: Yeshiva high school tuition

> >College counselors: that's why the Ribono shel Olam created the
> >Internet: there are a number of excellent websites that guide the 12th
> >grader through the process of picking and choosing a college that fits
> >his/her needs. Gevaldig! We just saved $250,000 in salaries and thus
> >$431 in tuition.
>Anyone who uses the internet to research anything as important as a
>choice of college may, unfortunately, deserve what they get!  The amount

Note my choice of words: "there are a number of excellent websites that
guide the 12th grader through the process of picking and choosing a
college that fits his/her needs." See the word "EXCELLENT"?

PEYRUSH RASHI: websites that have been rated by experts in the field.

> >Librarians: there are excellent DVD's that train the person in
> >information literacy including use of databases on the Internet
> >(including the "hidden web") and commercial databases at public
> >libraries. Mazal tov! We shaved off another $250,000 in salaries and
> >thus $431 in tuition. Let retired teachers (now grandmothers) volunteer
> >to run the actual print library at the school using free open access
> >computer programs for librarians.
>Ever try to ask a DVD a question?  I thought not.  Librarians are
>/crucial/ in running a school -- and I speak here as someone with no ox
>in this marketplace.  I have no children in any school, I am not a
>librarian or a school teacher, and I am indifferent (well, not really,
>but you know what I mean) to their fates as professionals.  But they are
>often the only people in the school (besides the remote, harried, and
>ineffable principal) who are able to take a synoptic view of knowledge
>and make connections that the students may miss forever.  No DVD is
>capable of looking into a child's face and seeing whether that child is
>connecting with a book or not.  Computer testing for reading

Please look at the header: "yeshiva HIGH SCHOOL tuition". High school, not
elementary school.               ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

There's an old Chinese proverb: Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day;
teach a man how to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime. If you didactically
teach the HIGH SCHOOL student information literacy (and this can be done
by a $24 DVD, one time cost) he/she is able to search the free and
commercial databases on the Internet and critically evaluate the
findings. You've taught the students a skill which they can apply in the
real world. And that includes the ability to find and use a highly rated
website for college counseling.

A simple cost/benefit analysis shows that firing the librarian and
college counselor at the yeshiva high school (and replacing their
function by a DVD in information literacy costing a whopping $24 retail)
not only teaches a badly needed skill to the high school students but
also shaves off (using the example I listed) $860 in tuition. Iterate
this for the 50+ other nuchshleppers on the ADMINISTRATIVE staff of the
yeshiva high school and you reduce tuition costs by at least 50% without
any change whatsoever in academic level of the student.

I'm an American who teaches at a university medical school in Israel and
also owns and manages a US-based electronics firm. Way back in 1979 I
was the Assistant Head of R&D of the Training Command of the Israeli Air
Force [Sgan Rosh Cheker u'Pituach Hadracha] and then worked for a year
in the Training Dept. of what's euphemistically called here the "Prime
Minister's Bureau". You might say I know what teaching and training
entail :-) I'm in academia, and in business and have an extensive
background in teaching and training at the highest levels.

I've set up NY State Board of Regents approved proficiency exams in
Hebrew and Judaic Studies (Hebrew, Talmud, Bible, Jewish Law, Jewish
Music) for up to 95 college credits which are accepted by over 1500
American colleges http://www.jewishbible.org And for that matter have
collected the requisite DVDs that allow my hundreds of American yeshiva
students to prepare for and pass the standardized exams in general
education that US colleges require: English composition, college math,
college science course, US government or American history, social
sciences, public speaking, etc.

We've had over 350 American students go through the program getting a
regionally accredited BA. Students have gone on toward MBA's, law
school, medical school (after a 15 month post-baccalaureate), graduate
degrees in engineering at Boston University's program for humanities
graduates, MSW's at Wurzweiler, graduate degrees in computer science at
Johns Hopkins, US state teacher certification, 2nd BA's at Columbia
University. And the net cost of the regionally accredited American BA is
under $1000 (one thousand dollars).

And this is done by me part time as a volunteer 3 evenings a week in a
small crowded room with no airconditioner.

So it's an insult to my intelligence that I see American yeshiva high
schools charging $80,000 tuition ($20,000 per year for 4 years) and
having huge, overbloated administrative staff (what I call the "50
nuchshleppers") just to get kids through high school.

Dr. Josh Backon


End of Volume 55 Issue 39