Volume 8 Number 90
                       Produced: Tue Aug 24 22:44:28 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Birkat Hatorah
         [Anthony Fiorino]
Just One Life
         [Jerome Parness ]
Psalm 27
         [Ezra Tanenbaum]


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Thu, 19 Aug 93 14:03:25 -0400
Subject: Birkat Hatorah

This is a very old posting which seems to have gotten hung up in the loop
somewhere . . .

Several issues ago (early in volume 8) , Arthur Roth proposed a solution
the problem of learning Torah before having made birkat hatorah [the
blessings on learning Torah].  He quotes the Rav zt"l as saying that the
Rambam does not include birkat hatorah as a separate mitzvah in the
sefer hamitzvot because birkat hatorah is part and parcel of the mitzvah
of talmud torah.  Arthur expands this explanation of the Rav to explain
that if one learns before making birkat hatorah, then such learning is
"incorrect" -- since, according to the Rav's explanation of why birkat
hatorah is missing from the sefer hamitzvot, talmud torah includes
birkat hatorah, engaging in talmud torah without having made birkat
hatorah is similar to doing any other mitzvah incorrectly, and thus,
such learning is in Arthur's words, "halachically meaningless."

I, and others, have responded to his qualification of such learning as
"halachically meaningless," refering to the gemara in nedarim (81) and
the language of the shulchan aruch and the mishna brura.  It seems very
difficult to identify learning Torah before having made birkat hatorah
as "halachically meaningless" since to do so is prohibited by the mishna
brura. I, and others, have responded to his qualification of such
learning as "halachically meaningless," refering to the gemara in
nedarim (81) and the language of the shulchan aruch and the mishna
brura.  It seems very difficult to identify learning Torah before having
made birkat hatorah as "halachically meaningless" since to do so is
prohibited by the mishna brura.  In a later posting, Arthur states,
regarding the postponment of birkat hatorah until kriat hatorah, that
"it should be avoided, but we might be able to 'get away' with it." The
shulchan aruch feels very strongly about "fooling around" with birkat
hatorah, since the entire discussion of birkat hatorah is prefaced with
(orach chaim 47:1, from memory): "birkat hatorah call for extreme care."

Beyond this point, I think there are several  other methodological flaws
in the analysis.  First, although the Rav explained the Rambam this way,
we must understand that this is an _explanation_  of a difficult Rambam,
not  a statement  of  psak.    With all do   respect, I believe Arthur's
extension of the Rav's explanation of why birkat  hatorah doesn't appear
in the sefer hamitzvot to his contention that  learning without a bracha
is "halachically  meaningless"  is  unwarranted.  Especially   given the
Rav's statements that talmud  torah, and other  mitzvot, require a matir
-- require one to ask permission from  G-d before the performance of the
mitzvah.  Thus  it is clear that  the  Rav  would certainly not classify
learning without having asked   permission from hakadosh  baruch  hu  as
"halachically  meaningless;" rather, the  Rav would have been opposed to
such activity on the grounds that it is  performing a sacred act without
first having asked permission from G-d.

Second, it should be pointed out that the Rav's understanding of this
Rambam is not the only one.  Others (rishonim) feel that the Rambam
simply held that birkat hatorah is d'rabanan [a rabbinic commandment];
this explains why it is excluded from the sefer hamitzvot as well as the
neutral language in the mishneh torah (hilchot t'filah 7:10).  By this
understanding, the Rambam takes the gemara in brachot (21b), which seems
to indicate that birkat hatorah is d'oraita [commanded in the Torah], as
simply an asmachta [a biblical allusion to a rabbionic mitzvah].  I am
aware of yet a third understanding of the Rambam's view of birkat
hatorah, but I do not recall what it is at the moment.

It was pointed out to me by a friend that it is clear that the shulchan
aruch considers birkat hatorah a birkat hashevach [a blessing of
praise], not a birkat hamitzvah [blessing on a mmitzvah]. This is true
because the shulchan aruch does not obligate women in birkot hamitzvot,
while he clearly obligates women in birkat hatorah (orach chaim 47:14).
This understanding coincides with the understanding of Rav Chaim
Soloveitchik as brought down by the Brisker Rav, which I mentioned in my
last posting (v8#19).

Arthur explained the fact we are admonished not to learn before making
birkat hatorah in the following way -- since, according to his extension
of the Rav's explanation of the Rambam, talmud torah before birkat
hatorah is "halachically meaningless" learning, we are encouraged by the
poskim to engage only in "real" talmud torah.  To engage in halachically
meaningless learning is batala [a waste of time].  But this assumes that
the halachic sources which uniformly direct us not to learn before
making birkat hatorah held like the Rav!  The beit yosef (who is the
author of the shulchan aruch) didn't hold like this at all -- he simply
feels that the Rambam holds that birkat hatorah is d'rabanan.  Since he
understands the Rambam this way, it means that he cannot hold by the
explanation of the Rav (remember, the Rav's explanation is based
entirely on the fact that the Rav feels that the Rambam holds that
birkat hatorah is d'oraita).  Thus, when the shulchan aruch tells us not
to learn before making birkat hatorah, it is most certainly *not*
because he feels that birkat hatorah is part and parcel with talmud
torah and thus learning before the bracha is thus "halachically
meaningless." Rather, it is because the shulchan aruch simply feels that
it is wrong to learn before making birkat hatorah.

Finally, it should be noted that the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch states (7:8)
that if one receives an aliya before one has said birkat hatorah, then
l'chatchila [the most preferable action], one should recite birkat
hatorah and some Biblical verses before going to the Torah and making
the blessing "asher bachar banu" [the second blessing of birkat hatorah,
also said before an aliya].  If one does not have time to do so, then
one can go to the Torah anyway, have a normal aliya, then recite the
blessing "laasok b'divrei torah" [the first blessing of birkat hatorah]
and some Biblical verses afterwards.  I did not see this in the mishna

As I mentioned in another posting (v8#17), the only way to get around
the problem is if one holds like the Gra, that women make birkat hatorah
for the same reason they may make a birkat hamitzvah.  In this way, just
as a woman may choose either to make a bracha or not on mitzvot in which
she is not obligated, a woman may choose to make a brachah or not on
talmud torah.  However, the Gra's position is a minority, and is
disputed by the beit yosef/shulchan aruch, who holds that a woman has an
equal chiuv to a man, and the shulchan aruch poskins [rules] this way.
Furthermore, even if one holds like the Gra, there is still the problem
of consistancy -- either one makes the bracha before learning, or one
doesn't.  This also raises a problem for Sefardic women, who do not make
brachot on mitzvot in which they are not obligated.  Sefardic women do
say birkat hatorah, but only because the shulchan aruch holds that it is
not a birkat hamitzvah.

Eitan Fiorino


From: Jerome Parness  <parness@...>
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 93 15:31:25 -0400
Subject: Just One Life
	In the most recent issue of MJ Ben Svetitsky described Just One
Life, an organization in Israel that is dedicated to offering women
considering abortion an option to continue with the pregnancy. As a
member of the board of Directors of this organization, I would like to
expand a bit on Ben's description and at the end of this transmission, I
will give the address and phone # of the American offices for those who
are interested.

	JOL was begun as an organization of Young Israel a number of
years ago to offer women in Israel a true choice, the possibility of
carrying a fetus to term if she so desired. Research on the type of
woman in Israel seeking abortion revealed that the vast majority of
women were married, poor and/or stressed out by having many other
children (what constitutes many often depended on the personality of the
individual woman). If given the ideal choice, a majority revelaed, they
would carry to term. Most often the child was wanted. Abortion was being
used as a choice of last resort. JOL was formed to deal specifically
with this situation. It is a non-coercive organization that does not
attempt ot stand in the way of a woman who decides for herself that
abortion is the only option she wants. It is an organization that
attempts to educate the woman to realize that there is someone who is
available to help, either financially, just being there, with social
work help, even money for education to help a woman get a trade so that
she can help her family financially. Sometimes it is just enough money
to buy a little baby furniture.  Sometimes it is sufficient to have
someone to come in and help with two or three other small children so
that the woman is not stressed out. Sometimes it means family counseling
to convince the husband that accepting a little help from an
organization such as JOL does not mean that he is not functioning as the
family breadwinner. The situations are as varied as is the Israeli
population. Our help has even been extended to single women who have
wanted to carry to term and bring up the child, but didn't know how she
was going to do it. Some of the stories would make great movies and soap
operas if they weren't so tragic in human terms.

	From the above you might guess that the vast majority of the
clientele of JOL is not religious, and that is true. However, some 5 -
10% of cases do come from those who describe themselves as religious.
Because of the nature of Israeli religious politics, JOL decided to
break away from YI soon after its formation so that it not be seen by
the secular Left as a religious organization out to put a stop to
abortions (this has been the major stumbling block of misinformation and
misimpression surrounding the organization since its inception). The
organization is steadfastly apolitical. It tries to work through all
those whose eyes would allow objective view of its methods and goals.
This has included individual family planning programs, hospitals and
obstetricians.  The organization has not gone out to advertise for fear
of being branded as some extreme form of religious subterfuge, but
rather has chosen to allow its advertising to be done by word of mouth,
by hard earned reputation for honesty and dedication to its client
families and stated goals. And, thank G-d, we have been successful,
largely through the efforts of Mrs. Madeline Gittelman, a social worker
who went on Aliyah to Jerrusalem from Highland Park, NJ, many years ago,
and Rabbi Macy Gordon, a former rebbe at MTA and rav in Teaneck, NJ, who
also went on Aliyah about ten years ago. Their efforts in Israel spurred
the creation of an American office, headed by Rabbi Martin Katz, who has
been doing a splendid job of impressing JOL, and its goals, on the
entire spectrum of the jewish community in the US. Interestingly the
pro-abortion segment of this community has coined JOL as truly "pro-
choice". Rabbi Katz has been assisted in his efforts by a very active
board of directors, headed by two warm and dedicated individuals. Fund
raising and education of the American Jewish public remains its goals
here in the US.

	Anyone who would like to find out more about this organization
can contact me privately via email (<parness@...> or
<parness@...>, separate mailboxes) or contact

	Rabbi Martin Katz
	Just One Life, Inc
	One East 33rd Street
	NY NY 10016

	(212) 696-0077, FAX: (212) 725-7204
We need people who might be interested in setting up chapters in their own
communities, with an eye towards education and fundraising.

	B'virchot Shana Tova
	Jerry Parness


From: <bob@...> (Ezra Tanenbaum)
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 93 12:04:01 -0400
Subject: Psalm 27

Now that Elul is here, I thought I would share a few thoughts about
Psalm 27, which is added to the order of prayers twice every day until
Shmini Atzeret.

Line 3 states, "Should an army besiege me, my heart would have no fear;
should war beset me, still would I be confident."
I heard in the name of the Kotzker Rebbe that we take faith in the fact
that an army besieges us. When troubles arise, and the Yetzer Hara
attacks our faith, we can rest assured that this is G-d's test, and He
would never test us if He had given up on our abilities to respond
with greater spiritual growth.

Line 10 states, "Though my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will
take me in."
Everything of this world is limited. Even our own parents must leave
us wanting. Only G-d has unlimited resources and knows what we really need.

Line 13 states, "Had I not the assurance that I would enjoy the
goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."
Rav Hirsch, relates the first word "Were it not for [Lulei]" to the previous
verse and translates it as follows, "were it not for [the false witnesses
and unjust accusers of line 12], I would have assurance that I would enjoy
the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, [But now I must]
Hope to the Lord, be strong and gather strength, and hope to the Lord
[Line 14]."

Having recently absorbed a 15% pay cut, I can use all the faith and
positive attitude I can get.

Ezra Bob Tanenbaum	1016 Central Ave	Highland Park, NJ 08904
home: (908)819-7533	work: (908)615-2899
email: att!trumpet!bob or <bob@...>


End of Volume 8 Issue 90