Volume 62 Number 14 
      Produced: Thu, 22 May 14 15:33:41 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Census Counts (2)
    [Jack Stroh]
Know how to answer Epicurus (3)
    [Katz, Ben M.D.  Harlan Braude  Rabbi Meir Wise]
Men and Women: Equal Kedusha? (2)
    [Len Moskowitz  Leah S. R. Gordon]
Sfeika d'yoma of Yom Ha'atzmaut in Chutz La'aretz 
    [Rose Landowne]


From: Jack Stroh <jackstroh@...>
Date: Wed, May 21,2014 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Census Counts

Sanford Lefkowitz wrote (MJ 62#13):

> In Parshas Bamidbar, we see the first listing of census numbers by tribe. One 
> rather anomalous feature of the counts is that 11 of the 12 counts are
> multiples of 100 and one is a multiple only of 10. One question this raises
> is "Are these exact numbers or round numbers?". If they are round numbers the
> rounding rule must be 'round to the nearest 10'. The probability that 11 out
> of 12 numbers, when rounded to the nearest 10, would also round to a multiple
> of 100 is on the order of one in 10 billion. The same anomaly, 11 out of 12
> numbers being a multiple of 100, also occurs the second time the census 
> counts are given in Parshas Pinchas. The probability that we would have two
> independent counts, rounded to the nearest 10, both producing results where
> 11 out of 12 counts round to a multiple of 100 if on the order of 10-20. This 
> suggests there is something unusual going on here.
> Shortly after the Bamidbar tribal count, we are given the count of the 
> Levi'im, 22,000. That certainly looks like a round number. But shortly after
> that, we are given the count of the first born, 22,273 and told that each first
> born has to be redeemed by a Levi. The Torah then explicitly asks the
> question of what happens with the 273 remaining first born. Since 22,273 is
> clearly not a round number and the Torah explicitly mentions the number 273,
> it must be that 22,000 is an exact number. Given the unlikelihood of most of 
> the tribal census counts being a multiple of 100 and the apparent fact that 
> the Levi'im count is an exact number, it seems likely that all the tribal
> counts are exact numbers.
> Why are 11 out of 12 tribal counts multiple of 100 each of the times the  
> count is given? Here is a speculation. Perhaps the Torah is trying to call  
> our attention to the anomaly. If all the counts had been a multiple of 100,
> that would have been even more unlikely than 11 out of 12 counts being a  
> multiple of 100. But if that had been the case, we might have just assumed 
> they were all being rounded to the nearest 100 and not considered it very
> interesting. If the counts had been numbers like 21,906, we might just say, 
> "OK, that's what the number turned out to be. No big deal". But by having 
> exactly 11 out of 12 counts be multiples of 100 on two occasions, the Torah
> is telling us to take notice. The only way such an unlikely event could occur
> is if Hashem is in control. He is taking care of everything, even down to the
> population counts. 

Please refer to the article by Rabbi Samet from VBM for a complete review of the


Jack Stroh

From: Abraham Lebowitz <asaac76@...>
Date: Thu, May 22,2014 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Census counts

The census count of Levi'im and bechorim in Bamidbar is interesting for a reason
in addition to the one Sanford Lefkowitz wrote about in his posting (MJ 62#13).
There were 22,000 bechorim in relation to 600,000 Israelites in the desert. This
is approximately 1 bechor for every 27 men.  (Presumably there were also 600,000
women and 22,000 bechorot.)  In other words each mother averaged 27 children,
possibly as quintuplets or sextuplets as the Midrash says.

Abe Lebowitz


From: Katz, Ben M.D. <BKatz@...>
Date: Wed, May 21,2014 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Know how to answer Epicurus

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 62#13):

> In a recent letter to a ewspaper, a correspondent quoted the Greek 
> philosopher, Epicurus, as saying:
> "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
> "Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
> "Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
> "Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
> This led him to state that he had "not heard a single persuasive argument to
> support the premise of the existence of a theistic, personal, all-powerful,
> all-benevolent God" and to deduce that "the God of the Bible is certainly
> not all-benevolent".
> This is a non-trivial challenge which we meet from time to time and I thought 
> to answer it along the following lines:
> From the point of view of Jewish theology, the basic premise is that, for
> whatever reason G-d may have had, He has given man the gift of free will to 
> make whatever choice he wishes in the moral sphere, with the purpose that man 
> should bring the world to its perfection - what we call the Messianic era. 
> ...
> It follows that G-d has, so to speak, to withdraw from too obvious an
> interference in human affairs. If every time someone did wrong they would be
> struck down from heaven, nobody would have free will. However what, to us,
> appears evil may be, in the long run, beneficial. 
> ...
> The upshot is that Judaism holds that G-d is all-powerful and all-benevolent
> but, because of our inability to view events from His perspective, we may be
> unable to understand why He allows evil events to occur.
> Perhaps others may be able to shoot down this approach - any suggestions,
> anyone?

This is obviously an old problem.  It is dealt with by many, including the
Rambam in the Guide.  Rambam basically analyzes evil and comes up with many
categories and shows that God has nothing to do with many of them (eg evil that
man does to himself, evil that 1 man does to another).  Halbertal in his recent
SUPERB book on the Rambam explains this quite nicely, although those particular
chapters of the Guide (I think towards the end of book 3) are fairly easy to
read in and of themselves.

From: Harlan Braude <hbraude@...>
Date: Wed, May 21,2014 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Know how to answer Epicurus

In reply to Martin Stern (MJ 62#13):
I'm not in a position to shoot down anyone's approach, only to offer a slightly
different one (not better, just different).

The definition of "evil" is subjective. The losing side in a battle or war will
view the outcome opposite to that of the victor. Which side is "evil"?

How about the "cruelty" designed into the world, such as in the animal kingdom
in how carnivores kill their prey. HaShem could just as "easily" have designed
all carnivores to eat only animals that die of natural causes (whatever
"natural" means in that context) or be vegetarian instead of having them rip
their prey to pieces while they're still alive. Is nature inherently evil or are
we just overly sensitive by our own fear of mortality?

The role of natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes and such are
interesting phenomena to categorize in this discussion. Is the ignorance of the
consequences of populating what turns out to be a "danger zone" evil or merely
an expected result of mankind's trial-and-error approach to learning to survive?
Perhaps, that's evil, too.

Maybe Koheles is answering this question: In practical terms, trying to figure
this out is an unproductive waste of time. Just follow HaShem's Torah and leave
the big stuff to him.

From: Rabbi Meir Wise <Meirhwise@...>
Date: Wed, May 21,2014 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Know how to answer Epicurus

In reply to Martin Stern (MJ 62#13):

I should point out that my teacher, the Gaon Harav Simche Bunim Lieberman
zatza"l, survivor of several camps including Auschwitz, from which he emerged
with strengthened faith, pointed out that Chazal said that one should know what
to answer an apikorus but not that one should actually answer or debate with one.

He severely criticised his Talmid, one Jonathan Sacks (later Chief Rabbi Sacks)
for doing so in the columns of the (London) Jewish Chronicle.

Martin Stern has fallen into the trap. Judaism has never had a problem with the
existence of evil, merely with its distribution, or in the language of Chazal -
Zaddik Vera lo Rasha ve tov lo.

Since HaShem created an imperfected world and gave man free will, evil was bound
to be exist. It didn't take Eve long to sin!

Despite the prophet Isaiah (45:7) I form the light, and create darkness: I make
peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. We are forbidden to
ascribe evil directly to God. Chazal changed the formulation in the morning prayers.

Even Moshe Rabbenu was punished for ascribing evil directly to HaShem.

Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, O Lord, why have you done EVIL to this
people? Why did you ever send me? (Exodus 5:22). For which he was denied entry
into the Land of Israel. (See Rashi)

Chazal's solution was Olam Haba. We see the world like the back of a tapestry.

The Kabbalistic solution is well known, that all evil is only apparent. 

Saadiah ben Joseph Gaon (882-942) was the first major medieval Jewish
philosopher and the first Jew to address the question of the existence rather
than distribution of evil/suffering. He wrote a commentary on the book of Job,
called the Book of Theodicy. In this work he extensively analyzes the problem of
suffering and evil. 

For Saadiah Gaon,  there are three purposes resulting from the phenomenon of
human suffering: education, punishment and testing. Suffering can help
discipline us and point us in the right direction, that is, the direction in
which we shall ultimately benefit. Saadiah has both a retributive and a
deterrence view of punishment, in that our suffering helps to clear our guilt
while at the same time making us motivated to avoid the actions which led to the
pain. The third purpose is obviously what the Book of Job is about, namely: that
of trial and testing. An upright servant, whose Lord knows that he will bear
sufferings loosed upon him and hold steadfast in his uprightness, is subjected
to certain sufferings, so that when he steadfastly bears them, his Lord may
reward him and bless him. This too is a kind of bounty and beneficence, for it
brings the servant to everlasting blessedness.

Saadiah goes on to strengthen his claim even further by asserting that it is not
unjust for a creator to kill his creature in the midst of his normal life span,
provided that he is promised recompense. Indeed, he further claims that such
sufferings are a sign of divine benevolence, since the future reward is greater
than the span of life foregone.

He points out that we may grow accustomed to a particular form of existence, and
may dislike being obliged to move onto a different form even if it is to our
advantage. This certainly has some merit as an argument when applied to changes
within our lives, but when we die we might wonder how we are going to benefit in
the future.

Instead of saying that if we deserve to benefit, we shall benefit in our next
life, Saadiah takes the course of claiming that God's wisdom is superior to that
of his creatures, and He knows best. We may not understand how we are to be
compensated in the next life for our undeserved sufferings in this [one], and we
might expect to be made aware of what arrangements we can look forward to when
we face death.

Maimonides deals with the problem of evil (for which people are considered to be
responsible because of free will), trials and tests (especially those of Job and
the story of the Binding of Isaac) as well as other aspects traditionally
attached to God in theology, such as providence and omniscience: "Maimonides
endeavors to show that evil has no positive existence, but is a privation of a
certain capacity and does not proceed from God; when, therefore, evils are
mentioned in Scripture as sent by God, the Scriptural expressions must be
explained allegorically. Indeed, says Maimonides, all existing evils, with the
exception of some which have their origin in the laws of production and
destruction and which are rather an expression of God's mercy, since by them the
species are perpetuated, are created by men themselves."

The moderns oscillate between theodicy and anti-theodicy but the formulation of
Hume "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
- David Hume (1776, paraphrasing Epicurus c. 300 BC) is only an apparent
contradiction. It's like the old chestnut, can God make a power greater than
Himself? Is so, then He is not all powerful and if not then He is not all
powerful. Wittgenstein has proved that these apparent paradoxes are in reality
an abuse of language.

Strangely, the best summary in English of the Jewish position was written by a
non-Jew, John Bowker, Problems of Suffering in the Religions of the World, which
you can buy second hand on Amazon for 1.68!

Rabbi Meir Wise


From: Len Moskowitz <lenmoskowitz@...>
Date: Wed, May 21,2014 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Men and Women: Equal Kedusha?

Aryeh Frimer wrote (MJ 62#13):

> See Iggerot Moshe, Vol. IX, Orah Hayyim, sec. 2 and Netsiv, Meromei Sadeh 
> to Horayot who argue that a man's and woman's kedusha are identical. They
> specifically reject that the order in Horayyot has anything to do with a 
> man's greater kedusha.

I'm in the middle of writing an article about the nature of k'dusha, so this
topic interests me. Please excuse my late entry into this thread.

In general, you can determine a population's formal level of k'dusha by how far
they can enter the Mikdash.

Jewish men and women who are in a state of tahara (or with one specific type of
tum'a) can enter the Azara and the Ezrat Na-shim respectively. That implies
that their levels of k'dusha are identical.

With appreciation for this group,

Len Moskowitz
Teaneck NJ

From: Leah S. R. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Thu, May 22,2014 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Men and Women: Equal Kedusha?

Josh Berman wrote (MJ 62#13):

> I must thank Josh Backon for his reply (MJ 62#12). I looked into it
> and found a fascinating answer that is similar to his but qualitatively
> different in the Artscroll Talmud Bavli Horayos 13a notes 31 & 32
> ...
> It says in the notes that (all else being generally equal):
> ...
> A man's life is also saved first regardless for all life provisions because
> of the passuk in Vayikra 25,36 "and you shall fear your God, and let your
> brother live with you", meaning your brother (i.e. a man) and not your
> sister (i.e. a woman).
> ...
> Seems like they had it backwards on the Titanic though...

I can't tell if Josh Berman is joking, but it is generally the case that
"noblesse oblige" is the reason for "women and children first".  It was widely
accepted in the time and place of the Titanic, that men were of higher social
status.  The saving of women and children was because they were perceived to
need the help.  A man of good breeding would give the help to the
weakest/neediest in that context or risk looking like a cad.

> In reply to Leah Gordon who also commented (MJ 62#12):
>> I am left wondering why anyone thinks that it would be a good idea to
>> discuss who is holier, women or men, from a Jewish perspective.  Hurtful,
>> inaccurate, offensive...
> I appreciate her feelings and beliefs about this but there seems to be a
> double standard about this in nearly every Jewish community. Kohanim are 
> always compared to Yisroelim and there are many articles saying how (all else
> being equal) a Kohen is holier than a Yisroel, has more kedusha, is given the
> first aliya and precedence etc. So off the bat our society is fine with a Kohen
> and a Yisroel not being equal, yet when the conversation is flipped towards men
> vis-a- vis women it is taboo to quote the same gemara saying men have more
> kedusha than women. To me, there is a double standard. Why do people not say 
> "it is offensive and hurtful" to say Kohanim are more holy than Yisroelim yet 
> they do say it is offensive to say men are more holy than women.

It is not possible to draw a parallel between these cases for several reasons:

1. Kohen/Levi/Yisrael only applies for things like aliyot, leading benching,
etc.  No one in their right mind would insist on giving CPR first to the Kohen.
 I assume that you are of a bent not to be interested in determining whether a
man should have an aliya in preference to a woman having an aliya.  It is an
interesting academic question, but my guess is that anyone who wants women to
have aliyot, isn't really inclined to allocate women less kedusha in the first

2. In a culture where one side has the power, it isn't analogous to say "but
so-and-so discriminated against me too".  For instance, while an individual
Black person in the US could be mean or biased against an individual White
person for racial reasons, we wouldn't call it "racism" because it isn't backed
up by societal reality, money, power, etc.  Some may disagree on M.J but this is
the prevailing wisdom in how such issues are discussed in academia in 2014.

Therefore, it's not equally hurtful/offensive to say "Yisraelim aren't as
honored as Kohanim" as to say "women aren't as holy as men".  In Judaism,
Halakha and the world at large - we do have issues around women being
marginalized.  Therefore, it is particularly damaging to pile more bias onto
that problem.

...Also, while the idea of a "totem poll" is interesting ("Everyone please
let me know your favorite representative animal and fill in the boxes") I
think the actual cultural appropriation that you mean would be "totem pole".

--Leah Sarah Reingold Gordon


From: Rose Landowne <Roselandow@...>
Date: Wed, May 21,2014 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Sfeika d'yoma of Yom Ha'atzmaut in Chutz La'aretz

Sammy Finkelman wrote (MJ 62#12):

> Not too many years ago in Israel they realized that, this not being an actual
> Rabbinical holiday or day of mourning decreed by Chazal, like Lag B'Omer, they
> could move some days around as much as they wanted to, and this has happened
> with Yom Hashoa and Yom Ha-Atzmaut. Yom Ha-Atmaut now very rarely comes out on
> the 5th of Iyar.

This year the Rabanut moved lag b'omer to a day later so people wouldn't start
their fires on Shabbat.


End of Volume 62 Issue 14