Volume 8 Number 68
                       Produced: Fri Aug  6  7:06:52 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Turkel Eli]
Academic Treatment of the Bible
         [Philip Beltz Glaser]
Halachic Change
         [Anthony Fiorino]
Knowledge of Tanach
         [Robert A. Book]


From: Turkel Eli <turkel@...>
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 93 15:33:17 -0400
Subject: Abortion

     There have been several comments indicating that abortion is not
that serious of a prohibition. I would like to stress that according to
halakhah abortion is strictly forbidden under all circumstances.

      For all laws (except idolatory, murder and incest) laws are
overriden when there is a danger to life. To say that abortion is
lessened by the permission to save the mother at the expense of the
fetus is equivalent to stating that shabbat is not a serious prohibition
because one may (or rather must) violate shabbat to save a life. There
is simply no connection between the seriousness of a prohibition and the
fact that the saving of a life is considered more important. It is clear
that abortion is not murder and so the life of the mother takes
precedence of that of the unborn (but not born) child.

      It was all brought up that the capability of the mother to take
care of many children is factor. This is also only partially true. As
with all halakhot we do not ask the mother if it is okay with her.
However, it is recognized by the rabbis that severe depression is life
threatening. Hence, if there is a chance that the mother will become
severely depressed then her mental state and consequent danger again
overrides the prohibition of abortion. In this case usually the local
orthodox rabbi will not decide on his own but will go to a "higher
authority" . There is a fine line between a temporary depression of the
mother after birth and the severe depression that is life threatening
and most rabbis will not decide on their own.

      Some rabbis (see Tzitz Eliezer by Rav Walman) do distinguish
between the first 40 days or even first trimester and afterwards and
allow abortions for many additional reasons within 40 days. This is
because they consider that there is no formed fetus until enough time
has passed. Most authorities do not allow abortions even within the 40
days unless there are dangers to the mother.

Eli Turkel


From: <glaser@...> (Philip Beltz Glaser)
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 1993 14:52:22 +22305714 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Academic Treatment of the Bible

David Kauffman writes asking for references to works dealing with the
academic treatment of the Bible and supporting its Mosaic origin.

As the formulation of your question implies, there are, indeed, two ways
of answering the problems which biblical criticism raises to the belief
in the Mosaic origin of the Torah. The literary approach serves to show
how the putative "contradictions" and "inconsistencies" in the text that
critics use to isolate the different "sources" of the Torah are in fact
deliberate elements of the text's literary strategy.  Another approach
is to question the validity the documentary hypothesis and of form
criticism on their own ground -- to show that they are unsound by
academic standards.

As for the literary approach, the best work I have seen so far is Meir
Sternberg's THE POETICS OF BIBLICAL NARRATIVE and a number of articles
of his to which you will find references in POETICS.  Robert Alter's THE
ART OF BIBLICAL NARRATIVE is much less thorough and it has been
suggested that it is derivative of Sternberg's work. There are of course
others who use the literary approach as well, but Sternberg is the best
place to start. His approach is sophisticated and thorough.  His
introduction deals with some of the larger issues of the Torah's unity,
but is very technical and dense. You might want to read the introduction
with a copy of John Haralson Hayes's AN INTRODUCTION TO OLD TESTAMENT
STUDY at your side. Hayes presents the state of the field in the least
obnoxious and most sensible way. His explanations will help you make
sense of Sternberg's references, for example, to "genre criticism."

As for addressing Bible criticism's claims more directly, Kenneth
Kitchen's ANCIENT ORIENT AND OLD TESTAMENT deals a good blow to bibli-
cal criticism. The essence of his argument is that if Bible critics
treated the Torah with the same intellectual standards as those with
which Assyriologists and Egyptologists study Near Eastern texts dating
from the same period as the Torah, the documentary hypothesis would not
have a leg to stand on. Kitchen's book is concise and intelligently
written, and directly covers all the big issues. Here again, there are
other works available (such as Cassuto's THE DOCUMENTARY HYPOTHESIS),
but Kitchen is the best place to start.

A word of caution is in order. Few writers in the academic world, so far
as I have seen, will explicitly assert that the Torah in its entirely of
Mosaic origin. Kitchen, for example, will only go so far as to say that
the materials that make up the Torah are authentic insofar as they
originated in the time that they imply they do (for instance,that the
"Ten Commandments" originated at the time of the Exodus) and insofar as
the Torah's historical references are accurate (for instance, that the
Exodus and conquest of Israel really did happen at the time that you
arrive at if you use the Bible's own chronology). Kitchen still
assumes, in other words, that the Torah underwent some kind of literary
composition well after the time of Moses. Nonetheless, by undermining
the specious arguments of the Bible critics, he gets you 95% of the way
towards an academic (as opposed to purely faith-based) argument for the
Mosaic origins of the Torah. If any one else has suggestions for
academic works that argue more directly for the Mosaic origin of the
Torah, I would be very interested to know about them myself.

Philip Beltz Glaser


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 93 17:57:59 -0400
Subject: Halachic Change

Arthur Roth's recent posting (8#51) contained a statement which I must
clarify.  He states "I reject Eitan Fiorino's implication that an issue
(such as being 'dissatisfied') is not legitimate just because it has not
been raised before, or at least because there are no direct sources for it
in the Talmud."  I never said this, I never implied this, and this is
a distortion of my remarks and my approach.  I have said, numerous times
now, that (1) it is outside the bounds of Orthodox psak to attempt to
further a particular aggenda by consciously searching through the sources
for support; and (2) that the demands of modernity have no a priori
halachic viability -- the demands of modernity may not simply be accepted
as valid, but rather must be evaluated, so their validity or lack thereof
can be determined.

Arthur lists 4 cases of halachic change, and then argues that the first 3
could not be implemented today due to a lack of universally recognized
authority.  I agree with his analysis, but would add a point -- more than
the lack of recognized authority, there is perhaps a more fundamental lack
of authority b'klal -- a beit din can only overturn the decisions of a
prior beit din if it is greater in stature.

Numerous examples of halachic change are given by R. Eliezer Berkovits
zt"l in his _Not In Heaven_ (Ktav, 1983), and he advocate adopting similar
changes based on the precedent of the examples he brings.  However, there
are flaws in R. Berkovits' analysis.  First, as noted by R. A. Nadler
(Tradition 21:3, fall 1984), R. Berkovits neglects to include in his
analysis the talmudic dictum Ravin v'Rav Ashi sof horaah -- that with the
close of the Talmud, so too closed much of the ability to overturn
precedent.  Second, though R. Berkovits correctly identifies halachah in
galut as being more static, he fails to demostrate, in the absence of
mikdash, malchut, or mashiach, how galut has ended.  The establishment of
medinat yisrael has not ended galut, and in no way grants a new authority
to contempporary pokim and in no way reverses "sof horaah."

Finally, Arthur holds his 4th example as an instance of contemporary
halachic change, but I must disagree with his analysis.  When Rav Moshe
invokes "hefsed meruba" (large financial loss), he is not being m'chadesh
anything.  Hefsed meruba is a halachic concept which has consistantly
played a role in halachic decision-making, particularly in kashrut.  If
the inyan of hefsed meruba was not already established, Rav Moshe would
not have been able to invoke it.  To conclude from Rav Moshe invoking the
concept of hefsed meruba that Rav Moshe "recognized the need for change in
some issues" is erroneous.  The latter statement may be true, but this
example is no proof of it.  Rav Moshe balanced an already existing
halachic concept against the normative halachah and was able to generate a
leniency.  It is not "stretching the sources" to make use of legitimate
halachic concepts in order to arrive at a decision, especially a concept
like hefsed meruba, which is specifically invoked to allow leniencies in
the case of a large financial loss.  It simply was the case that such a
question had not been addressed before, and Rav Moshe applied the
halachic dialectic to this new problem.  He did not pursue an agenda
through his psak.  It is also informative to look at the details of the
case -- my understanding is that this teshuva involved the parents of a
baal teshuva who wanted to make their home kosher for their child.  Thus,
there was a shalom bayit issue to start with.  Second, this was a case of a
person trying to do teshuva; if the people were frum from birth and
accidentally treifed their fine china, it isn't so clear that such a ruling
would have been forthcoming.  Finally, there is a source in the gemara (I
don't know the exact details) which seems to indicate, in the case of
barrels of wine, that after a year, the treif taam [flavor] is completely
gone.  In the absence of this source, Rav Moshe would not have been able to
issue his ruling.  And of course, as noted by Arthur, such a ruling does
not apply across the board to all treif dishes; ie, if I accidentally trief
something, I must kasher it; I can't just leave it for a year based this psak.

In the case of women's tefila, there is no even-handed application of the
halachic dialectic.  There is not a balancing halachic concept invoked
by R. Weiss in _Women at Prayer_ which justifies the institution of
birkat hatorah in the manner he advocates; the only justification is the
desire to establish a women's prayer service.  As I said in my first
posting on women's tefilah, I personally think women's desire to grow
spiritually is something which should be addressed, and perhaps justifies
certain "non-ideal" halachic situations.  But the strength of this
justification is what is being debated, and I don't believe that whatever
need and desire there is for women's tefilah justifies the halachic
reasoning that lies behind the establishment of women's tefila in its
currently manifested forms.

Eitan Fiorino


From: <rbook@...> (Robert A. Book)
Date: Sat, 31 Jul 93 18:29:47 -0400
Subject: Knowledge of Tanach

Sam Goldish <0005891269@...> writes:
> Leora Morgenstern, in her eloquent posting (V8-56) upholding the 
> right of women to study Gemara, says:
> "...There is also a subtle and unfair implication to the 
> But-you-haven't-learned-all-of-Tanach-yet argument..."
[Goes on to relate story about Rabbi who hid the fact that he was
studying Tanach.]
> Rabbi Feitman went on to explain how many of the talmidim had
> virtually no grounding in Tanach per se,

I also once had a rather interesting experience along these lines.
Not having had the benefit of a Yeshiva education, when I was in
college I attended a program for students of such background operated
by Yeshivat Aish Hatorah in Jerusalem.  Many of the Aish Hatorah
talmidim [students] who constituted the staff for my program, told me
they were very impressed with my extrodinary (or so they said)
knowledge of Tanach, and in particular Chumach, and claimed I was more
knowledgeble in this area than they themselves were!  I found this
quite interesting, as most of them had been at Aish and/or other
Yeshivot for many years, and at least two received smicha soon after.

Anther student on the program, who had attended Yeshiva school from
about the junior high school level onward, explained to me that at his
schools, Tanach had been considered something for children, and that
since he had attended secular schools through the sixth grade he had
never been taught it at all.

--Robert Book


End of Volume 8 Issue 68