Volume 8 Number 80
                       Produced: Tue Aug 17 13:16:34 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Bar Kamtza (4)
         [David Novak, Benjamin Svetitsky, Kibi Hofmann, Todd Litwin]
Jewish Fiction (3)
         [David Sherman, David Charlap, Neil Parks]


From: David Novak <novak@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 93 07:46:34 -0400
Subject: Bar Kamtza

In mail-jewish Volume 8 #73 Eitan Fiorino discusses the gemara in Gittin
55b concerning the destruction of the Second Temple.  The Rabbis were
ready either to offer a blemished sacrifice or kill the plotter Bar
Kamtza in order to prevent a war with Rome.  But the counsel of R.
Zechariah b. Avkilas prevailed and, as Eitan writes:

>Rabanan then rejected the korban, allowed Bar Kamtza to return to Rome
>to inform that the emperor's korban was rejected, and consequently the
>Beit Hamikdash was destroyed and the Jewish people exiled.

>Certainly, either of the actions suggested by chachamim [the Sages -
>Ed.] would have been permissable, considering the certain loss of life
>that was involved. But R. Zechariah b. Avkilas was concerned that what
>was being decided as a horaat shaah, a decision of the hour [i.e.
>temporary instruction - Ed.], would be confused with the normative
>halachah. And R. Zecharia's view prevailed, in spite of the incredibly
>tragic consequences.

Eitan then uses this situation to make an argument about the correctness
of the (in my words) uncompromising attitude of Orthodoxy towards early
Reform.  I think the whole concept would have been clearer if Eitan
would have quoted the end of this section in the gemara:

	R. Yochanan said: The forbearance of R. Zecharia b. Avkolas
	destroyed our House, burnt our Temple, and exiled us from our land.

In light of R. Yochanan's comment, I would say rather that the entire
Jewish nation would have been far, far better off had the Rabbis taken a
less extreme position towards Rome; it was a mistake to listen to R.
Zecharia.  Whether this argument, or Eitan's, can be fairly applied to
the schism with Reform is very much an open question.

                                 - David Novak

From: Benjamin Svetitsky <FNBENJ@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 93 08:24:07 -0400
Subject: Bar Kamtza

Eitam Fiorino quoted part of the story of Bar Kamtza from Gittin 55b ff.
R' Zecharia ben Avkulas objected to the attempts of Rabbanan to issue
a horaat sha'ah -- a temporary decree -- in order to get out of a
difficult and dangerous situation vis a vis Rome.  He objected because
of how it would look.  Eitan learned from this that you have to be
careful with appearances and consequences of a horaat sha'ah.

I think that if you want to interpret this tale, you should start with
the opinion of an Amora.  R' Yochanan states (loc. cit.) "The humility
of R' Zecharia be Avkulas destroyed our House, burned our Palace, and
exiled us from our Land."  I'm not sure "humility" is the right word here;
maybe a figurative translation, say "squeamishness," would fit better.
This is definitely a negative opinion of the failure of Rabbanan to act
decisively.  It goes along with R' Akiva's explanation of R' Yochanan
ben Zakkai's later lapse of judgement:  "He   turns wise men backwards,
and makes knowledge foolish."  (Is. 44:25)

Ben Svetitsky       <fnbenj@...>

From: Kibi Hofmann <hofmanna@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 93 09:02:33 -0400
Subject: Re: Bar Kamtza

I must take issue with Eitan's understanding of the gemara in gittin
(55b) particularly as he seems to deliberately leave out the next line
of the gemara which says "because of R. Zecharia's modesty [timidity?]
the temple was destroyed" which would seem to imply that the gemara does
_not_ think R. Zecharia was right.

Even if you were to tell me that this shows how one highly respected
Rabbi ruled (and everyone seemed to come around to his way of thinking)
we are clearly being shown through an historical perspective that he
erred in his judgement in this case.

Just as a matter of interest (and to keep the debate fueled), I was at a
shiur last week where we were discussing the halachos of not calling up
one Kohen after another (since it would be a slight on the lineage of
one or both of them). I recall this subject was discussed on mj not too
long ago. In the course of the discussion, our rav mentioned a
"Mordechai" (famous commentator) at the end of Hanizokin (5th perek of
gittin) who talks about a town which was all Kohanim - who gets called
up? The Mordechai quotes a "R. Simcha" to say that we call up one Kohen
twice (for the first two aliyas as we would if there was no levi) then
for the rest of the aliyas we should call up women (!) Even though the
gemara in Megilla concludes that this is not done because of Kovod
Hatzibbur (respect for the congregation), here we push aside kovod
hatzibbur because of "pegam kohanim" (the possible slur on their

Now, it seems to me that the possible slur to a Kohen if it was known
that the whole town was kohanim anyway, would be quite small, so the
question I ask is, how much excuse is needed to allow women to be called

By the way, the Mordechai concludes that if there were only kohanim, no
women no children and no servants, then they just don't lein !

Kibi Hofmann

From: <litwin@...> (Todd Litwin)
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 93 11:35:18 -0400
Subject: Bar Kamtza

Commenting on Eitan Fiorino's speculation on R. Zechariah b. Avkilas's
response to the Bar Kamtza episode: Don't I recall that R. Zechariah was
criticized later for his insistence on not accepting the offering?  I
seem to recall that a second reason was given for the destruction of the
second Temple: false modesty -- and that it was precisely the actions of
R. Zechariah that were intended. I recall learning that R. Zechariah was
the greatest halachist of his time, and should have been the Av Bet Din
(leader of the high court). But false modesty -- or improper self
evaluation -- led him to accept only the least position on the court.
Thus he voted first, not last (since voting was from least to greatest),
and his vote influenced others due to his reputation.  Had he been
sitting and voting where he should have, then either the offering would
have been refused, or Bar Kamtza would have been killed, thus averting
the trajedy. So I wonder about learning anything about proper behavior
from this.



From: <dave@...> (David Sherman)
Date: Tue, 10 Aug 93 02:33:26 -0400
Subject: Re: Jewish Fiction

This may not answer the question asked, but the novels by Faye Kellerman
are the only ones I've seen of their genre.  They're detective/murder
mysteries which appeal to the general public, but are set in a backdrop
and context of the yeshiva world. (For example: the first book, The
Ritual Bath, is about a woman who is attacked after leaving the mikvah,
and the subsequent tracking down of the attacker by the protagonists,
who are a police detective and a frum widow.  Those two end up in a
romantic relationship, and it turns out he's Jewish (though he hadn't
known it); over the next few books he becomes observant and they get

These books display the yeshivah/frum world with quite a bit of
sensitivity, and the technical details describing the world are
generally correct (I've found a couple of "bugs", however).  Caution: I
make no suggestion that they are halachically "acceptable", however that
be defined; they do contain lots of sordid scenes, though nothing
gratuitous in my view.  And I've seen enough Harold Robbins and Sidney
Sheldon tucked away in frum homes to know that such novels aren't
unknown in the frum world.  Let's just say, if you're going to read such
stuff, choose Faye Kellerman over the others.

The plots and storylines are excellent.  The Ritual Bath, Day of
Atonement, Milk and Honey, False Prophet and one or two others so far.
There's a new one called Grevious Sin, I believe, that's coming out

I think Faye Kellerman is doing a great job at explaining the Orthodox
perspective on life to the world, in a context where the general public
will read it.

David Sherman

[Same series suggested Victor M.J. Ryden <71551.1415@...>.

From: <dic5340@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 93 13:50:09 -0400
Subject: Jewish Fiction

Most of my reading is fantasy and science fiction, so this may not be
something you care to read...

If you're looking for fiction involving Jews and Judaism, I remember a
good book called "Diasporah", (sorry, I forgot the author's name) which
involves a Jewish space station, lots of social problems that ended up
being transplanted from Earth to space, and the way they deal with it.

If you are interested merely in good fiction that poses some
down-to-Earth moral dillemas, there are two good series of books.  One
series, by Orson Scott Card: "Ender's Game", "Speaker For The Dead", and
"Xenocide" is particularly excellent.  (Actually, if you like these
books, I recommend many more books by Card as well) The second series,
by Greg Bear: "Eon", and "Eternity" are also very very good.  These
books do not deal with Judaism, as such ("Speaker For The Dead" and
"Xenocide" deal mostly with Catholics), but they bring up very real
moral problems in a space-age futuristic environment.

From: <aa640@...> (Neil Parks)
Date: Sun, 15 Aug 93 21:57:18 -0400
Subject: Jewish Fiction

I enjoyed "The Chosen" and its sequel, "The Promise", by Chaim Potok.

My favorite books also include the "Rabbi" series by Harry Kemelman.
(The rabbi of the title is a Conservative rabbi, but the stories
are pretty good anyway.)  Kemelman's style is very much like Erle Stanley
Gardner.  It's probably no coincidence that they had the same publisher.

NEIL EDWARD PARKS       >INTERNET: <aa640@...>  OR
(Fidonet) 157/200 (PC Ohio)  
(PC Relay/RIME)  ->(pending)


End of Volume 8 Issue 80