Volume 9 Number 81
                       Produced: Wed Nov  3 22:33:09 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Advice Wanted
         [Andy Goldfinger]
Creation, Torah and Shabbos Braishis
         [Eli Turkel]
         [Scott Spiegler]


From: Andy Goldfinger <andy_goldfinger@...>
Date: 1 Nov 1993 09:57:07 U
Subject: Advice Wanted

My son is now in 11th grade at a small Yeshiva.  He is a B student
mostly due to lack of motivation.  He is bright and very creative, with
a very fast wit and impish sense of humor, but he will pick up a sefer
and learn only when required by school, or when I suggest that we learn
together.  His major interests at present are science fiction, and
fantasy novels.  He does have an interest in science, and he can write
(creatively) very well when he wants to (recently he has expressed some
interest in journalism).

In many ways he is a paradox.  As I have said, he is not motivated in
learning and his Rebbe calls him a reticent and very quiet student who
nevertheless seems to learn the material and get B's on his exams.  Yet
-- he is also very scrupulous about his observance of many mitzvos, and
he has chosen to dress in the Chassidish fashion (bekesher and gartel)
on Shabbos (although this is my minhag, I made it clear to him that it
was only a minhag and that he should feel free to dress as he wishes).
He is also very particular to wear a jacket and hat for all dovening
during the week (such as mincha), which I do only only when in shul.

Our best guess as to what is going on with him is that he is trying hard
to be a "frum jew" because he wants to be a "good boy," but that this is
not yet integrated with his personality (i.e. it is his way of
satisfying external expectations) and that there is another side of him
that just wants to "play" and have fun.  It is hard to tell what is
really going on since he is very uncommunicative.  His is very quiet at
home, though he seems to have a lot of fun with his friends at the

So--here is my enigmatic son, and we are beginning to think about where
he should go when he finishes high school in a year and a half.  He
could go to learn for a year in Israel, and then return to go to college
(he definitely wants to go to college), but we fear that in a "standard"
yeshiva he would turn off and have a negative experience.  He would do
it if we told him to, but I think this could in the long run lead to
resentment.  On the other hand we are afraid to send him to a college
campus until he has a real derech in Yiddishkeit (Yahadut?).

My wife and I are basically "black hat" chassidish, but we feel strongly
that our children should choose their own paths.  If my son were to
choose to become a committed "kipah srugah" mizrachi type, I would be
overjoyed, just as I would be if he chose to be a Satmar, so long as in
either case it was a true expression of his personality in Torah.

Now, for the advice I am seeking: Does anyone have any ideas of a good
place for him to go?  Are there, in Israel, any learning environments
that are suitable for him?  Are there any Yeshivas that combine learning
with science, journalism or college (preferable that learn in English
since his Hebrew is not fluent)?  Is there a religious kibbutz that
might be appropriate for a year or two?  Is there a place he could get a
job in an interesting environment in which he could come into contact
with people who combine a "worldly" profession with a committed Torah
life?  What about the U.S. or other countries?  Has anyone had
experience with boys of his type?

My wife and I would greatly appreciate any information and/or advice you
can provide us.  Thanks -- Andy and Shana Goldfinger.


From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Tue, 2 Nov 93 17:51:32 +0200
Subject: Creation, Torah and Shabbos Braishis

     Pinchas Edelson stresses that we should follow the literal meaning
of the Torah about creation within 6 24 hour periods and that Shabbat is
based on this.

     I assume that everyone on this list believes that God has the power
to create the universe in 6 days or for that matter instantaneously.
The relevant question is what God decided to do and not what he could
have done.

     The verse in Kings about Yam shel Shlomo implies that pi has a
value of three. There are various places in the talmud that also imply
that pi=3. Should we therefore say we ignore all the mathematicians and
accept the simple explanation of the Tanach and Hazal? There are various
hints that the value of three is not to be taken seriously but obviously
these are the feelings of individuals (by the way at the recent Higayon
conference it was pointed out that the gematria of kav/kavoh as the
proper ratio between three and pi is due to Rabbi Munk and not the Gra).

      The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim, second part chapters 5-9, discusses
the origin of the world. He accepts Aristotle thesis that the worldly
bodies are living creatures but says that Aristotles proof that the age
of the world is infinite is not fool-proof and so we accept the version
given in Bereshit. Hence, if the Rambam were completely convinced of the
logic of Aristotle he would explanation bereshit allegorically. Further
in the Yad Hazakah, Hilchot Chiddush Hachodesh Chapter 16 #24 he says
that we rely on the books of the Greeks for calculating the position of
the moon.  Even if we would find a book written by a prophet that
contradicts these theories we would rely on the Greeks rather than the
prophet since the Greeks were the best astronomers !

      Rav Azayiah de Rossi (1511-1578) wrote a book Meor Einayim in
which he pointed out many contradictions between statements in the
Talmud and science. The Maharal from Prague (1526-1609) wrote a book,
Be-er ha-Golah, to defend the talmud against various critics. In chapter
six he discusses the accusation of de Rossi (without mentioning his
name). In particular he addresses the point that many midrashim seem to
imply that the world is flat and Jerusalem is the center and the highest
point. The main answer of the Maharal is that the Talmud is not a book
of science and that Hazal are coming to teach us deep spiritual messages
and not geography. The many passages that discuss the size of the earth
are mention as spiritual lengths not material lengths. On a globe there
is no center and hence Jerusalem is the spiritual center of the globe
not the physical. Similarly, we ascend to israel (aliyah) in the
spiritual sense and not the physical sense. In no way does the maharal
say we believe the simple meaning of the Talmud over what the scientists
tell us. On the contrary one who understands aggadah in its literal
sense is missing the whole point and making fun of the Talmud.

     I suspect that almost every issue of Scientific American has some
article that implies that the earth existed for more than 5754 years;
from cosmology to evolution to earthquakes and tectonic plates to
fossils to discussions of ancient civilizations. When I visited Yosemite
several years ago the guide said that they had found a tree with over
6000 rings on it.  (Since the flood occurred in the year 1656 no tree
should be more than 4098 years old. For those interested in 2 years from
now we celebrate the 4,100th centennial of the flood).

     As Rabbi Tendler points out in his article in Jewish Action it is
an old tradition that many worlds existed before ours. This is not a new
invention to answer problems with dinosaurs etc. Acceptance of this
Zohar does not imply anything about shabbat. We accept shabbat as a sign
that God created the world in six periods and then rested (in some
sense). It is irrelevant what the was the length of the six periods. As
has been pointed out as the universe was rapidly expanding according to
special relativity the definition of time depended strongly on where is
was measured.  As such, scientifically there is no meaning to the
question of how long was each of the six days. In general it is unclear
if Bereshit talks about the creation of the universe or only the earth.
There was grass on the third day but the sun was created on the fourth
day. There have been numerous answers to these questions but they
basically assume that one cannot take the Torah literally.
     Kibi Hofmann pointed out that Adam was created as a 20 year man.
Rav Soloveitchik once mentioned an old proverb that says "the past is
over, the future is not yet, and the present is instantaneous" (my
translation). This leads to a very pessimistic view of the world.  Rav
Soloveitchik's answer is that it all depends on memory. The past is
important because we (individually and collectively) use the past and
remember it. For a person who has lost his memory and immediately
forgets everything that has happened the world is indeed a sorry place
to be.  The question is when Adam was created did he have memories of
his first 20 years. If he did not then he was 1 day day old in spite of
physical appearances otherwise. Again, we do stipulate the capability of
God to make miracles and have a newborn baby look like a 20 year old man
but he is still a newborn. I fully agree with the comment that if Adam
acted in every conceivable way as a 20 year old for all scientific
inquiries including memories etc. then he was 20 years old. Events that
cannot be distinguished by any possible scientific means are identical.

      The Torah is a book of mitzvot and lessons (hashkafot) and not a
book of cosmology or evolution.
       One is not required to follow the opinions of the Lubavitcher
Rebbe.  The Vilna gaon severely criticized the Rambam for his views on
philosophy, that does not mean that one cannot rely on the Rambam.

Eli Turkel


From: <cs016111@...> (Scott Spiegler)
Date: Mon, 1 Nov 93 14:48:59 -0500
Subject: Re: Punctuality

I have a question which includes some of the concerns discussed in this
thread, but which is perhaps a bit more broad in its scope.

As a BT myself, I am disappointed by what I find to be the level of
psychological awareness and development in the 'frum' community. While,
I certainly realize that frum people are far more observant of the
mitzvot (at least in the format in which they are most commonly
presented) than the Jewish population at large, I find that, at best,
they are no more refined in their sensitivity or perceptivity than most
of my other Jewish friends.  In fact, a large majority of my non-Jewish
friends have displayed far more insight and awareness to me, than many
of the frum people I know.

I have discussed this with some of the frum people in our community,
because this truly bothers me. While I acknowledge the value of
adherence to the Will of HaShem, I personally find it limited in impact
if it does not transform a person's midot. I have heard the point
mentioned by those I've talked with and here in this group that frum
people are just 'people' like anyone else. If that's the case, then
what does the adjective 'frum' tell me about a person who describes him
or herself as being frum?? I don't expect frum people to be superhumans,
but I think it is reasonable to find some differentiating behavioral
characteristics amongst those who live a Torah observant life.

Some people have said that Torah living doesn't necessarily mean that
these people have worked out there 'personal' (and here I take it to
mean 'psycho- logical') problems. If that's not the case, then what are
midot supposed to be other than ones psychological characteristics that
are instances of Divine Midot?? Even further, the Rabbonim who determine
Halachah are given the authority to do so, presumably because their
complete involvement with Torah life has transformed their entire
personage into that of a 'living' Torah. It's from that level of
development that they are seen as embodiments of Torah principles, in
order to give them the qualities of one skilled to understand the
implications of the Written and the Oral Law. So, if Torah life is not
intended to transform Jews, whether it be in regards to their
sensitivity to the importance of punctuality or any other idea that
pertains to interactions between human beings, then how does one answer
the question of ' Why adhere to G-d's Laws?' other than 'Because G-d
said so'??

I think the frum community is often to quick to judge the behavior of
the non- frum world and oftentimes not critical enough of it's own
progress, both as individuals and as a community as a whole. So as not
to end on too negative a note, I don't want to be misconstrued here as
saying that no frum Jews I have met embody the qualities I've been
talking about. What I am saying, however, is that I am less impressed
than I wish I were by the frum people I have known, in terms of the ways
that Torah seems (to me) to have transformed there lives in general, and
also in relation to the non-frum world. I welcome all feedback.

Regards, Scott


End of Volume 9 Issue 81