Volume 64 Number 69 
      Produced: Fri, 26 Jun 20 07:26:00 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Avoiding the issue  
    [Joel Rich]
Bible criticism (2)
    [Joseph Kaplan  Martin Stern]
Bo'i ve-Shalom 
    [David Olivestone]
Illogic on Mail-Jewish 
    [Martin Stern]
    [Joel Rich]
Yehareig velo ya'avor? 
    [Yaakov Shachter]


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 24,2020 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Avoiding the issue 

The Mishnah Berurah is full of examples where the author suggests avoiding an
issue rather than providing an answer by picking one authority's approach over
another's. It's an approach - not sure why it found so much favor (as in
suggesting that a Ben Torah shouldn't eat granola bars because of the difficulty
in determining the appropriate blessing).


Joel Rich


From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 21,2020 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Bible criticism

Martin Stern writes (MJ 64#68):

> It struck me that those who espouse the views of the Bible critics may be doing
> so for much the same reason as Korach - to discredit the legitimacy of the Torah
> and, consequently, the obligatory nature of the mitzvot contained in it.

That's always a possibility. Another possibility - a better one, I believe - is
that they are people seeking the truth, and this is where their search led them
to. Disagree with them all you want, of course; that's what thoughtful people
do.  But personal attacks on their motives are highly unconvincing - at least to


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 21,2020 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Bible criticism

David Tzohar wrote (MJ 64#68):

> In my misspent youth 40 years ago I studied Bible, archaeology, Assyriology
> and ancient Jewish history at the Hebrew University. After much cheshbon
> nefesh [soul searching], I came to the conclusion that all modern biblical 
> criticism based on the principles of literary criticism, archaeology or 
> comparison with other ancient texts is simply put - ALMA D'SHiKRa i.e. false
> and illegitimate.

I think David is being a little too sweeping. Facts, as opposed to the
speculations based on them, need to be addressed. Where the speculations
contradict the Torah one must produce an alternative explanation of the facts
that is in harmony with it. 

For example, one cannot deny what the archaeologists find but that does not
compel one to accept the historical reconstructions that they deduce from them.

Similarly there are undeniable difficulties in the text of the Torah but that
does not mean that the literary critics 'solution' by postulating multiple
authorship is correct. 

As regards 'other ancient texts', one has to bear in mind that they represent
their author's perspective on events and are not necessarily an objective
description of events, any more than the columns of the New York Times, which
purportedly report current affairs, might not be slanted to reflect its editorial
> Either you believe in Torah MISiNaI, the absolute divine source of the Torah
> or you don't. If you do, you read the TaNaCH through the prism of traditional
> interpretation beginning with Tanaitic midrash and Talmudic aggada through
> Rishonim such as RaSHi and RaMBaN through ACHaRoNim such as Sforno and MaLBiM
> up to MeFaRSHiM of our day and I would include both the students of Rav Tzvi
> Yehudah Kook and students of Nechama Leibovitch both ZTZ"L. The underlying
> principle is that the spiritual source is ToRaH MiSiNAi.

Absolutely true but that does not mean that one cannot use, for example, the
results of comparative Semitic philology to suggest the meaning of an obscure
word in Tenach - after all that was done by such Torah giants as R. Saadia Gaon.
The various academic disciplines can help our understanding of the Torah so long
as one accepts that "the underlying principle is that the spiritual source is
ToRaH MiSiNAi" As Chazal say "tekufot vegematriot parperaot lechochmah"
[astronomy and calculations are like a desert for wisdom i.e. Torah] (Avot 3:23)
- one has to distinguish the ikkar [primary] from the tafel [subsidiary]. One
need not "throw out the baby with the bathwater".

> Is this true for the interpretations of Rav Breuer and his followers?
> LaSHeM HaPiTRoNot.

>From what I have so far found out about his opinions, I would say so. Vetzarich

Martin Stern


From: David Olivestone <david@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 21,2020 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Bo'i ve-Shalom

There are differing minhagim about which way to face during Bo'i ve-Shalom, the
last stanza of Lecha Dodi. Many congregations turn 180 degrees, i.e., to the
back, presumably because that's where the shul doors were usually located in
earlier times. Others turn to where their own shul doors actually are. Here in
Jerusalem, many have the custom of turning to the west, regardless of the
location of the doors. Besides Mishnah Berurah, who seems to prefer the west
option, what other sources discuss this and how do they pasken? 

And one more thing: In which direction do those people who live east of
Jerusalem turn? Since they face west when they daven, do they not turn at all if
they believe that bo'i ve-shalom should be said facing west?

David Olivestone


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 21,2020 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Illogic on Mail-Jewish

Yaakov Shachter wrote (MJ 64#68):

> Martin Stern wrote (MJ 64#67):
>> .... Given their [Biblical Criticism scholars - MOD] assumptions, their
>> scholarly edifice might seem entirely reasonable but one must remember the
>> basic logical rule "from a false premise one can prove anything" and not feel
>> compelled by their logic to accept their conclusions as proven.
> (Normally, I cite people anonymously when I am about to criticize them harshly
> -- as I am about to do now -- in order not to embarrass them publicly ... The
> reader should not think that one may embarrass people publicly without their
> permission, hence the need for this disclaimer.)
> Martin Stern does not know what he is talking about, and, moreover, has never
> thought about it for more than thirty minutes. You cannot prove "anything"
> from a false premise.
> It is true that from a false premise, you can prove both true and untrue
> things.
> ...
> What Martin Stern was thinking of -- and got wrong, because he tried to repeat
> something he did not understand -- is "a false statement implies anything".
> ...
Yaakov's observation is quite correct and I must apologise for my careless
wording - his last statement is what I had meant and should, of course, have

However, my point still stands that if the Biblical Critics' proof that "the
Torah is a product of multiple authorship" depends on the premise that "the
Torah is a human composition", and if the latter is false, then the conclusion
is unproven - and Torah-true Jews do not have to accept it as a scientifically
established fact.

I can only thank Yaakov for taking the trouble to read my submission so
painstakingly and drawing attention to my obviously poor choice of phraseology.
To err is human and politely to point out someone's errors is certainly,
contrary to his unfounded scruples, "not to embarrass them publicly". On the
contrary, such "pilpul chaveirim" is a very effective way to establish the truth
and should be welcomed by everyone who wishes to do so, requiring no apology.

Martin Stern


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 24,2020 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Risk/reward 

While not commenting on the advice that was given on timing reopenings from
corona lockdown, I'd just like to point out that from a risk/reward standpoint
at this point in time, the Rabbis would probably be wise to follow it in their
own self-interest. 

Look at the overgeneralized decision matrix - either they hold tight or loosen,
and either things get worse or they don't. IMHO, the risk that things get worse
if they loosen has very bad consequences for them. This is true no matter
whether the worsening is in any way related to their decision or not.

In addition there is only gut feeling as to how much any decision increases
risk. Unfortunately we tend to evaluate decisions only in retrospect with the
idea that "they should have known" even where that is patently untrue rather
than on risk/reward principles (e.g. would you take a bet for getting $100 if
someone rolled anything but double sixes in which case you pay $5? What about if
instead of $5 you have to give him your house?)

How does halacha take these considerations into account?

Joel Rich


From: Yaakov Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Sun, Jun 21,2020 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Yehareig velo ya'avor?

Joel Rich wrote (MJ 64#68):
> If a Ben Noach [Noahide, i.e. non-Jew] is being forced to abrogate
> one of his 7 mitzvot, does he have a requirement to give up his life
> rather than comply?  Presumably he is not directly covered by vechay
> bahem [you shall live in them].

If you accept the authority of Rambam, this is black-letter law.  See Sefer
Shoftim, Hilkhoth Mlakhim UMilxmotheyhem, Chapter 10, Paragraph 2: "A Ben-Noax
who is compelled to violate one of his commandments is allowed to do so.  Even
if he is compelled to worship idols, he may [or, perhaps, he shall -- the Hebrew
is ambiguous, but see Sefer Hammada`, Hilkhoth Yesodey Hattorah, Chapter 5,
Paragraph 1, for Rambam's belief in the impermissibility of voluntary martyrdom]
worship, because they are not commanded to do Qiddush HaShem".

> If, in general, he doesn't have to give up his life for them, is
> murder, whose exception for Jews is based on a logical inference, an
> exception for him.

It is apparent from the words of Rambam that murder is not an exception.  Rambam
draws an a fortiori from idolatry -- he may even engage in idolatry -- and says
nothing about murder.  You may think that murder is worse than idolatry, but it
is entirely plausible to say that idolatry is worse than murder: a prophet can
command you to murder an innocent person, but a prophet cannot command you to
worship idols.  I am trying to think of examples that go in the other direction,
and the only one I can come up with is that a priest who has committed murder is
forever barred from performing birkath kohanim, whereas a priest who has
worshipped idols is not so barred.

Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter
6424 North Whipple Street
Chicago IL  60645-4111
(1-773)7613784   landline
(1-410)9964737   GoogleVoice

"Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur"


End of Volume 64 Issue 69