Volume 55 Number 78
                    Produced: Wed Sep 19  6:14:46 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

The Baal Shem Tov and Talmud study
         [Saul Mashbaum]
Fruit juice requires a hechsher
Hechsher on Fruit Juice
         [Hosseinof, Joshua]
Tzavaas HaRivash (2)
         [Frank Silbermann, Alex Heppenheimer]
Tziva'at HaRivash
         [Yisrael Medad]


From: Saul Mashbaum <smash52@...>
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2007 21:49:35 +0200
Subject: RE: The Baal Shem Tov and Talmud study

The suggestion of some of the early chassidic masters that learning
Talmud is not necessarily the highest form of avodat Hashem (divine
service), and must not be allowed to interfere with the higher activity
of clinging to G-d, understandably seems scandalous and almost heretical
to some of us, and surely shocked the rabbinic establishment of the
time.  It seems to me that this is not the first time such a position
was expressed by a major religious leader, and lead to great

The Rambam, both in the Moreh Nevuchim and in the Mishne Torah, Hilchot
Yesodei HaTorah, makes it clear that the highest form of religious
experience, for those capable of it, is the philosophical contemplation
of Hashem. It is reasonable to believe, as many did in fact did, the the
Rambam would hold that engaging in this activity puts one on a higher
spiritual level than engaging solely in Talmud study, although the
Rambam also very emphatically supports and praises such study. Indeed,
this position of the Rambam aroused much opposition, leading to the
Maimonidean controversy of the 1200's, and indeed the banning of some of
the Rambam's works, subsequently largely rescinded. Surely the
intellectual activity the Rambam promoted was different from the
presumably more emotional clinging to Hashem the chassidic masters laid
emphasis on, but the principle is very similar. Both controversies were
resolved with an accomodation between the opposing camps. It is fair t o
say that while the chassidic movement became a major force within
Judaism, the philosophical thrust of the Ramban, presumaby because of
its elitist basis, has not gained such wide acceptance, and probably
almost no one nowadays would hold that philosophical contemplation of
the godhead is spiritually superior to Torah study.

Saul Mashbaum


From: <chips@...>
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2007 18:17:34 -0700
Subject: Re: Fruit juice requires a hechsher

> WRT several of the posts:
> 1) the addition of grape juice would not be problematic according to rav
> moshe, as it is battel beechad beshes.  However, even if one does not
> wish to follow rav feinstein, addition of grape juice would be on the
> label - this wouldn't be pure apple juice.

somewhere in the archives there is a copy of a post of mine that relates
to this. I'm guessing in the mid 90's. I had asked a Rav haMachshir in
New England about using fruit juices that listed grape juice way down
the ingredient list. When he said no, I countered with Rav Moshe
psak. His response ws that he did not allow his congregants to use
canadian whiskey even though Rav Moshe paskened it was ok.  i believe it
is a matter of fact that the Rav haMachshir's that allow for Rav Moshe
psak in regard to grape as an additive are in the distinct minority,
something less than 16% :)


From: Hosseinof, Joshua <JHosseinof@...>
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2007 10:43:59 -0400
Subject: re: Hechsher on Fruit Juice

I think a posting by Prof. Marc Shapiro may clarify the position of the
kashrut agencies in requiring certification on 100% pure fruit juices,
even for juices containing no grape juice or indeed for any situation
where a hechsher is required because of machinery that is also used for
non-kosher runs.  The URL is
http://www.kashrut.org/forum/viewpost.asp?mid=4915 and I have quoted it

"Rav Henkin, who together with R. Moshe Feinstein was the leading
halakhic authority in the U.S. in the 1950's and 1960's, is quoted as
saying that the entire basis for the existence of the kashrut
organizations is the view of the Rashba. What did he mean by this?

There is a machloket rishonim and the Rashba holds that if a non-Jew, in
the normal process of making a food product, adds some non-kosher
element, even a very small percentage, then it is not batel. Bittul only
works when it falls in by accident. This view is known by those who
study Yoreh Deah since it is quoted in the Beit Yosef.

If you look at any of the standard Yoreh Deah books you will find,
however, that the halakhah is not in accordance with this
Rashba. Rather, any time the goy puts a small amount of treif into the
food it is batel, even if it is intentional on his part. There is a
famous Noda Biyehudah that discusses this at length. See Mahadura
Tinyana, Yoreh Deah no. 56 where he permits a drink that was produced
using treif meat in the production but the amount of meat was very small
and could not be tasted.  He states that it is permissible. There is a
Rama who has a teshuvah and states similarly. (I am sure if you describe
the Noda Biyehudah's case to people, even learned ones, and say that
there is a contemporary rabbi who permits this, they will mockingly
refer to him as a Conservative or Reform rabbi since in their mind no
"real" rabbi who knows halakhah could ever permit something that has
non-kosher meat in it!)

So now we can understand R. Henkin's comment. If you go to the kashrut
organizations' websites and speak to them they will tell you that you
need the hashgachah because sometimes the runs are not properly cleaned
between kosher and non-kosher or milk and meat and some slight amounts
of the objectionable ingredient might remain (yet here even Rashba will
agree that it's not a problem!), or they tell you about release agents
or that small amounts of ingredients are not listed on the label,
etc. etc.  The Rashba indeed holds that these last cases are
problematic, but the halakhah is not in accordance with the Rashba. The
hashgachot have raised the bar and are now operating at a chumra level
here as well as in other areas. But the average person has no idea about
any of this and has never even heard about the concept of bittul. Even
if you explain the concept of bittul to him, his response will be: "OK
maybe this is the strict halakhah, but I'm not starving so why should I
eat something that we had to rely on bittul for. A person who cares
about kashrut won't eat something that has even the smallest amount of
treif." Since people haven't been educated about the halakhot, they
assume that bittul is a kula to be used in emergency situations, and it
is not their fault that they believe this, since this is the view that
the kashrut organization hold and publicize.

There is a good article waiting to be written about how in the last
thirty years we went from halakhah to chumra when it comes to food

Marc Shapiro wrote the above as an explanation of the philosophy of the
website kashrut.org run by Rabbi Abadi and his sons when they offer
their kashrut pesak's based almost always on just the ingredients panel.
As there are at least a couple of readers on Mail-Jewish involved in the
kashrut agencies it's possible that they may wish to offer a different
perspective on this issue.


From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2007 21:18:17 -0500
Subject: Tzavaas HaRivash

> Judge for yourselves. I quote the Tzavaas HaRivash, not from where the
> whitewash comes, but from chapter 117: " ach hatzer harah mefateh oso
> shelo yilmod aize davar sheyavo lo yiras shamayim meza, k'mo sifrei
> musar o shulchan aruch leda hadin al buryo, ach mefateh oso sheyaasok
> tamid rak b'gemara im kol hamefarshim".
> My translation: "The evil influence seduces him not to learn things from
> which he will have fear of heaven, as in books of musar or the halachic
> codes to know the halacha clearly, but rather it (the evil influence/
> yetzer hara) seduces him into always learning only Talmud and its
> commentaries".
> Is this is not a clear rejection of the basic principles of Torah study
> according to the historical tradition?

That depends.  _Is_ it a basic principle of Torah study, according to
the historical tradition, to learn only Talmud and its commentaries, and
never, say, books of mussar or halachic codes?

Frank Silbermann         Memphis, Tennessee

From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2007 17:32:22 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Tzavaas HaRivash

In MJ 55:76, Yossi Ginzberg responded to me:

>Judge for yourselves. I quote the Tzavaas HaRivash, not from where the
>whitewash comes, but from chapter 117: " ach hatzer harah mefateh oso
>shelo yilmod aize davar sheyavo lo yiras shamayim meza, k'mo sifrei
>musar o shulchan aruch leda hadin al buryo, ach mefateh oso sheyaasok
>tamid rak b'gemara im kol hamefarshim".
>My translation: "The evil influence seduces him not to learn things from
>which he will have fear of heaven, as in books of musar or the halachic
>codes to know the halacha clearly, but rather it (the evil influence/
>yetzer hara) seduces him into always learning only Talmud and its
>Is this is not a clear rejection of the basic principles of Torah study
>according to the historical tradition?
>Let me make clear- I have no gripe against chassidus. That battle has
>long ago been conceded, and anyway I am (at heart, anyway) not anti at
>all, I am just very pro-emes.

So let me see if I get this straight. Within a single book, which
consists of statements by the same person, a passage that doesn't fit
one's preconceived notions (namely sections 29-30 that I quoted) is a
"whitewash," while another passage that can be used to support one's
claim is "clear." (Whereas of course it might of course be exactly the
other way around: secs. 29-30 representing the Baal Shem Tov's opinion,
sec. 117 being a paraphrase based on a misunderstanding.) So perhaps
there is something less, or more, than being "very pro-emes" here?

But very well, let's look at section 117. (I have never learned Tzavaas
HaRivash, so I wasn't aware before of what it says there; thanks for
bringing it to my attention.)

Picture a Torah scholar, during the twilight years of the first Beis
HaMikdash, who is getting ready to sit down and study Torah, and who
takes the view that he'd prefer to skip reciting the berachah on it (in
which he'll acknowledge Hashem as its Giver), since that will leave him
more time for actual learning. A Torah sage, or even a prophet, might
commend this person for his single-minded devotion to Torah learning;
but Hashem differs, and cites it as a major contributing cause to the
Churban (Nedarim 81a, from Yirmiyah 9:12), and as the "gateway" to more
serious aveiros (the following verse in Yirmiyah). Shall we say, then,
that Hashem is thereby denigrating Torah study?

But actually, that scenario has more to do with sec. 29 than with 117,
because 117 includes the key phrase "o Shulchan Aruch, leida hadin al
buryo" ("or the code of Jewish law, from which you would know the law
properly"). Without that phrase, sec. 29 and 117 are saying the same
thing; but the addition of these words creates a different
perspective. Sec. 29 posits a conflict between the values of Torah study
and deveikus (and proposes how to resolve this conflict); 117 describes
a dichotomy between theoretical and practical study, and that the latter
(which in turn is necessary in order to fulfill the mitzvos correctly,
in the spirit of "lo am haaretz chassid") is necessary in order to give
meaning to the former. This is a perspective that we find amply in
Chazal ("Torah study is greater, _because_ it leads to action"
(Kiddushin 39b), and "one who says that he has only Torah (without
observance - Rashi), does not have even Torah" (Yevamos 109b).

So section 117 is articulating an idea that is indeed fully in keeping
with "the basic principles of Torah study according to the historical
tradition"; it's the behavior it decries - which evidently was common
enough then to warrant comment - that was a departure from what Torah
study should be. (If anything, you could argue that sec. 29 - far from a
"whitewash" - is the more radical statement, since it claims that Torah
study (presumably of any kind, including the study of practical
halachah) has to sometimes give way to deveikus. However, of course,
deveikus is simply another name for fear of Hashem, which our Sages tell
us is a necessary component without which Torah study is meaningless
(Avos 3:17) or even counterproductive (Shabbos 31a).)

You mention that "that battle has long ago been conceded." But consider
why that should be so, and what the implications of this are. As I
mentioned in my previous post, there is no yeshivah in the world today
that doesn't set aside time for one or more of the areas of Torah that
are listed in sec. 117 as conducive to fear of Heaven. Which means that
this idea should probably be seen as one of the _least_ controversial
ideas of the Baal Shem Tov, given that all Torah leaders (and the Jewish
People as a whole, who as Chazal put it, are "b'nei nevi'im") of
subsequent generations have endorsed it. R' Yisroel Salanter's emphasis
on mussar, the Chofetz Chaim's on avoiding lashon hara, etc. - all of
these are outgrowths of the Baal Shem Tov's insistence that Gemara study
by itself is insufficient to mold a person's behavior, and that it needs
to be coupled with observance of mitzvos and fear of Hashem.

(By the way, consider which personages are responsible for probably the
greatest increase in Gemara learning in centuries, possibly since Ravina
and Rav Ashi themselves. These would be: (a) R' Meir Shapiro, the
originator of the Daf Yomi program, who was a chassid of R' Yisroel of
Tchortkov, and (b) R' Avraham Mordechai Alter, the Gerrer Rebbe, who
directed his chassidim to follow the program. Pretty good work for a
movement that supposedly started with "a clear rejection" of Gemara

Kol tuv and g'mar chasimah tovah,


From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2007 00:02:05 +0200
Subject: Tziva'at HaRivash

Yossi Ginzberg states that he is "just very pro-emes"

I have no reason to doubt him.

I perhaps was not clear enough in my remark that he quoted, towit: 'the
Besht's allegedly having denigrated the learning Talmud' should be
historically modified.  It was Yaakov Yosef of Polaney. Yisrael Medad"
Or perhaps I assumed that what I was referring to was known.

Most scholarship of Chassidut indicates that
a)  the first Chassidic printed work was Toldot Yaakov Yosef and it
contained the first printed evidence of a strong anti-Rabbinic/Lamdanut
b)  the book we know as Tziva'at HaRivash was not authored by the Besht
but represents Dov Ber the Great Maggid's interpretations of the Besht. 

That's just more clearly restating my emes.

Yisrael Medad


End of Volume 55 Issue 78