Volume 55 Number 65
                    Produced: Thu Sep  6  5:59:03 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Da'as Torah (2)
         [Akiva Miller, Daniel Geretz]
Is a Converted Jew Still a Jew?
         [Daniel Geretz]
Issur Karet
         [Daniel Geretz]
Law of Return
         [Carl Singer]
New ATID Publication: Talmud Study in Yeshiva High Schools
         [Jeffrey Saks]
Rosh Hashanah in Uman
         [Carl Singer]
         [Joseph Ginzberg]


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2007 12:09:03 GMT
Subject: Re: Da'as Torah

Martin Stern wrote:

> The faction which has taken over my shul and radically altered its
> character justify their changes by claiming to be based on an
> anonymous "Da'as Torah". ... Can anyone explain how one can tell the
> genuine article from its many purported imitations?

It seems obvious to me that "one can tell the genuine article" simply by
asking for the source of the Daas Torah being invoked. Exactly which
rabbi said to do this, and exactly which rabbi said not to do that?

If the answer is nonspecific, along the lines of "the gedolim said" or
"everyone knows", I would not feel obligated to follow it, though I
*would* make an attempt to consider whether or not it makes sense. A
good idea is a good idea no matter who originated it, and this could
easily be something I never thought of before.

The same thing would apply even if a specific name were given, but they
could not give me a specific place where I could find that view in print
so that I could double-check. Too often, even well-meaning people
misquote their leaders, deliberately or accidentally. It is always good
to double-check. Unfortunately, it is sometimes impossible to do this
double-checking, because those leaders don't always put these decisions
in writing. This leads to situations where the rabbi is being quoted
correctly, but I am suspicious anyway because I can't verify it.

Of course, even where they quote a source which can be easily found and
verified, that does not necessarily obligate us to follow that
particular view. There could well be other views, published by other,
equally competent rabbis.

I do recognize that the masses are often non-critical-thinking people,
who accept whatever they hear without question. From the post, it seems
that these may be the sort of people in the faction which has "taken
over" Martin's shul. From my experience, asking them "Says who?" is not
likely to produce any meaningful information. I suppose it couldn't
hurt, though, unless their considering you a left-wing heretic bothers
you. (It wouldn't bother me, and in fact I'd be proud of it, but
depending on situations, I can see where it would bother others.)

Akiva Miller

From: Daniel Geretz <danny@...>
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2007 08:56:52 -0400
Subject: Da'as Torah

Martin Stern queries:

"Can anyone explain how one can tell the genuine article from its many
purported imitations?"

Some tongue-in-cheek answer might be:

a. If it's coming from someone with a beard and wearing a black hat,
it's da'as torah.

b. If you agree with it, it's da'as torah.

As a more serious answer, which is more appropriate for Elul, and also
may be more informative, I will share with you my ruminations on Da'as

I openly admit that I am a left-of-center Modern Orthodox Jew.  When I
was younger, I tended to think of belief in Da'as Torah as one of the
great hallmarks of Charedi Judaism, as opposed to Modern Orthodox
Judaism.  For example, Chassidim look to their Rebbe for Da'as Torah, to
the point where they ask for and follow the advice that he gives on many
aspects of their lives.  Some of these aspects, such as where to live,
what profession or wife/husband to choose, etc., I take to be subject to
my personal autonomy, so to me it makes no sense to seek out the counsel
of a Rebbe to make decisions for me which are properly mine to make.

As I have grown older, I have come to realize that I, too, believe in
Da'as Torah, surprising as this may seem.  I believe in Da'as Torah in
the sense that Torah and halacha are temporally and geographically
universal, and that one can find within Torah and halacha answers to
many questions which at first glance have very little to do with Torah.
I believe, at least for me, that there is a "Torah" derech to approach
all projects and challenges within my life, and that, as a Jew, fidelity
to Torah and halacha obligate me to work to see out that "Torah" derech.
Thus, essentially, I believe in Da'as Torah, and when I proceed from the
presumption that such a Da'as Torah exists, I usually am able to figure
it out.  (As an aside, I will submit that, in reading the guidelines
that our esteemed Moderator posts from time to time, he too believes in
Da'as Torah.)

Essentially, therefore, where I differ from my Chassidic peers is not
whether or not I believe in Da'as Torah - rather, the salient difference
is in the method that I might use to discover what that Da'as Torah is.
I will argue that, when analyzed more carefully, the actual differences
in methodology are probably pretty minimal.

Although I want to take Martin's query at face value, I will run the
risk of "reading between the lines."  I believe that Martin's query
might arise from two different perceptions (this is not meant as an
exclusive list):

1. That somehow Martin's shul was not operating according to Da'as Torah
before, and now it is.  This assertion does not square with my
understanding of Da'as Torah.

2. That Martin's shul was operating according to Da'as Torah, and now a
faction of people within the shul have a different Da'as Torah which
they want the shul to follow.  This assertion does square with my
understanding of Da'as Torah.

Although the second assertion is consistent with my understanding of
Da'as Torah, it is problematic because this sort of behavior contravenes
the mishnaic dictum of "aseh lecha rav."  The way that I read this
dictum is that individuals have the autonomy to choose their own
rabbinic decisors. I personally cannot see how a faction that compels
others within an existing institution to choose a particular perspective
by taking away their rabbinically mandated autonomy, can be acting in a
manner consistent with Da'as Torah.

Certainly, as a member of a congregation, one hopes that one is
voluntarily affiliating with that congregation with an attitude of
cooperatively seeking Da'as Torah, as opposed to compelling others or
being compelled by others.


From: Daniel Geretz <danny@...>
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2007 09:02:03 -0400
Subject: Is a Converted Jew Still a Jew?

Very apropos to this question and Akiva Miller's post on it, I suggest
you see a pasuk in this week's parsha:

Even if your diaspora is at the ends of the heavens, God your Lord will
gather you up from there and He will take you back. (Devarim 30:4,
translation courtesy of bible.ort.org.)

Akiva, I think that G-d agrees with you.


From: Daniel Geretz <danny@...>
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2007 08:29:45 -0400
Subject: Issur Karet

Immanuel Burton writes about issur karet:

> Does the God-implemented punishment of karet really require witnesses?
> If I knowingly and with malice aforethought eat leaven on Pesach in the
> privacy of my own home, will I not be subject to karet?

This brings to mind an interesting question I debated with a friend not
too long ago - which offense is more chamur (grave,) an issur karet, or
an aveira where one is subject to Bet-Din administered capital

My totally uninformed opinion on the matter is that issur karet is more
chamur - Bet-Din administered capital punishment effects, in a sense, a
"kaparah" (atonement) for the sin.  An issur karet, on the other hand,
has no means to effect kaparah.  (Both of these meant in the sense where
one does not do teshuva and therefore the punishment is coerced on the


From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Wed, 05 Sep 2007 06:48:17 -0400
Subject: Law of Return

 Two thoughts re: the posting in #63 re: the law of return.

1- Given the political climate both when the original was crafted and
subsequent, AND the fact that it's "administered" by a secular court,
not a bet din -- shouldn't it be considered a secular law without any
halachik import?

2 - Briefly scanning the provided text, there seems to be a distinction
between one who previously converted to another religion and one who is
currently practicing another religion.  This is no small distinction.



From: Jeffrey Saks <atid@...>
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2007 13:26:34 +0300
Subject: New ATID Publication: Talmud Study in Yeshiva High Schools

Talmud Study in Yeshiva High Schools
by Rabbis Aharon Lichtenstein & Yehuda Brandes (ISBN 965-7324-08-4; 64

New ATID publication for the new school year...

Talmud study in yeshiva high schools creates many difficulties and
challenges. ATID is honored to present to the community of educators
this engaging debate about how to ameliorate those challenges. Rabbi
Aharon Lichtenstein and Rabbi Yehuda Brandes, among today's leading
teachers of Gemara in Israel and the world, present two very different
approaches to the most effective ways to teach Gemara under contemporary
circumstances -- including the question of to what degree Gemara should
be our curricular focus.

As his been the case with other topics ATID has taken on in this series,
we do not imagine that either of these two differing policy
recommendations will magically solve the very real struggles teachers
face, nor do we assume that either side of this debate will be
appropriate for all schools.  We do believe that these suggestions can
serve as a springboard for rigorous deliberation and pedagogical
planning in high schools. Each school can develop specific and
implementable strategies which will improve the Torah study of the
students and teachers.

Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein is Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion in
Alon Shvut. His two-volume collected essays have recently been published
as Leaves of Faith (Ktav).

Rabbi Dr. Yehuda Brandes heads the Beit Midrash of Beit Morasha. A
member of the ATID faculty, Rabbi Brandes was principal of the
Himmelfarb Yeshiva High School in Jerusalem until 1994, and has lectured
at the Herzog Teacher's College since 1991.

Purchase on Amazon.com or order through ATID.  Click here for more
details, Table of Contents, or to order:
http://www.atid.org/publications/talmud.asp Click here for our full
catalog: http://www.atid.org/publications/index.asp

Rabbi Jeffrey Saks
Director, ATID - Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions
9 HaNassi Street, Jerusalem 92188 Israel
Tel. 02.567.1719 | Cell 052.321.4884 | Fax 02.567.1723
Email <atid@...> | www.atid.org


From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Wed, 05 Sep 2007 06:56:11 -0400
Subject: Rosh Hashanah in Uman

> R' Ovadia Yosef recently caused an uproar by proclaiming that
> non-Breslover chasidim should stay home with their families rather
> than travel to Uman, to daven at the kever of R' Nachman of Breslov.

Perhaps R' Ovadia Yosef is doing the Breslovers a favor by discouraging
"outsiders" from "tagging along" (my characterizations.)



From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Wed, 05 Sep 2007 09:09:05 -0400
Subject: Uman

>There were also , to paraphase,statements to the effect that
>he has the power to pull Yidden out of gehinnom by the payos, and that
>Hashem has given him the power to understand Rosh Hashanah. All in one,
>the quotes seemed not to be in character with what one would expect from
>a rebbe, who I thought was to exemplify humility among others. I don't
>recall anywhere in the Torah where Moshe Rabbenu touted his direct
>pipeline to Hashem. Am I missing something here when people flock to
>Uman because the rebbi himself extolled his purported powers?

There are NO original writings from Rabbi Nachman, only attributions to
him, generally via Rabbi Nosson, his aide and promoter, so all alleged
quotes must be taken with a large grain of salt.  Also, due to the
nature of chassidus in general and Breslaver chassisus in particular,
the target audience was/ is generally less than intellectually superior,
and thus what may be meant as hyperbole or illustrative may be taken as
literal.  For proof, witness the recent to-do over the "piska", the note
that started the craze of repeating the na-nach-nachman chant- a note
from a man dead over 250 years that suddenly "appeared" one day making
outrageous claims, without any verification or provenance, and has been
accepted by many as if it were beyond question because a single
Brevlaver elder (in fact, very much elder!)  believed it.

Another proof could be drawn from the "Tzavaas Harivash", the alleged
ethical will of the Baal Shem Tov himself, a document one would think
would be beyond anyones ability to corrupt, yet it is widely
ackknowleged not to be his actual work, and in fact it warns against
learning Talmud, lest the deep concentration required lessen ones
"dveikus", cleaving to G-d.  If HIS work can be corupted, why not his

Having said that, I will admit that I did (on the spur of the moment)
last year go to Uman, and it was an incredibly profound and moving
experience, albeit on a visceral rather than intellectual level.
Immediately on my return I wrote a well -received piece on the
experience that was published in Indiana. I would eb happy to forward it
to anyone interested in an open-minded and unbiased view of the whole

Yossi Ginzberg


End of Volume 55 Issue 65