Volume 9 Number 93
                       Produced: Thu Nov 11 12:10:13 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Avraham's "seed"
         [Marty Liss]
COMDEX minyan + shabbat
         [David Chasman]
Da lifnei mi ata omed (2)
         [Steven Friedell, Elhanan Adler]
         [David Elkin]
Meimad and the Peace Agreement:
         [Warren Burstein]
Midot and Frumkeit
         [Michael P. Kramer]
Tallit Katan
         [Jeff Woolf]
Women and Rambam Yomi
         [Aryeh Frimer]


From: <marty@...> (Marty Liss)
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 93 17:00:11 -0500
Subject: Avraham's "seed"

At the end of his answer re: Noach's seeds, Josh Klein asks:

>Now: can someone shed light on how in Lech Lecha (17:17) Avraham doubts
>his ability to father children, while God assures him that it will
>happen. Is Yitzchak's birth thus a miracle? If so, what are we to make
>of the end of Chayei Sara (22:1-2), where Avraham fathers six more
>children by Ketura?...

Perhaps Josh is seeking a "deeper" explanation, but I think the party
line espoused by Rashi, Ramban, and virtually all the major commentators
provides a plausible and simple--but not necessarily simplistic--answer.

First, Avraham's reaction (Vayipol Avraham al-panav va-yitzkhak... [And
Avraham fell on his face and laughed]) reflects great joy and
thankfulness rather than doubt.  "Tzkhok" can connote either disbelief
or joy; the latter understanding is supported not only by our underlying
expectations of Avraham's unwavering faith but by its textual use in the
context of "vayipol...va'yitzkhak".  This phrase clearly refers to
honorific genuflection rather than a vulgar "falling on his face in
stitches"; see, for instance, the responses of both Avraham and Lot when
the mal'akhim [messengers/angels] came a-callin'.

This does not mitigate the miraculous aspect of Yitzkhak's conception.
Sarah was past menopause (verses 18:11-12) and everyone seems to agree
that Avraham was aware of this fact.

So the miracle lies primarily in Sarah's fertility, rather than
Avraham's (R. Ovadiah of S'forno, though, infers that a man's fertility
diminishes in old age such that he could only impregnate a youthful
woman).  Remember, Avraham was no spring chicken (age 85) when Yishma'el
was conceived.  Rather than being perplexed at Avraham's ability at age
140 or so to father several children by Ketura, Ramban uses it as proof
of the procreative capabilities of old men.  He notes that even in his
own time ninety- and hundred-year-old fathers were running rampant, all
the more so in Avraham's era of longer life spans.  (A prominent modern
example is U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, although the ages of his wives
support the S'forno's inference.)  Of course, if Ketura is really Hagar
then she was no youngster either, but let's not go in circles...

-Marty Liss


From: David Chasman <chasman@...>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 1993 12:12:57 -0500
Subject: COMDEX minyan + shabbat

Does anybody know anything about a minyan at COMDEX ( for the shabbat
following the show ? ) and if people are trying to make shabbat plans -
other than of course leaving quickly for LA on Friday afternoon.
--David Chasman


From: Steven Friedell <friedell@...>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 93 14:45:18 EST
Subject: Da lifnei mi ata omed

The sentence, Da lifnei mi ata omed, does not appear in the Bible. The
closest one comes, I think, is Ex: 3:5 where G-d tells Moses not to come
close and to remove his shoes because the ground he stands on is
holy--it's at least the idea of knowing where you stand.

The sentence appears in Ozar Hamidrashim (Eisenstein) 27:18 as advice to
a child about how to pray.  It appears in the plural form in B. Berakhot
28b.  In a slightly different wording it appears in J. Sanhedrin 18a
where R. Akiva recounts the way he would inform litigants when they come
to court.

Steve Friedell

[Shaul Wallach <f66204@...> also pointed out that it is not in
Tanach and refered to the plural form in B. Berakhot. Mod]

From: <ELHANAN@...> (Elhanan Adler)
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 93 00:24:03 -0500
Subject: Re: Da lifnei mi ata omed

1) Come on now! What did we do before computers (and what would you do on
Shabbat?). It took me less time to look it up in my handy concordance than it
would take to boot a PC. 

2) No - it isn't a Biblical verse.

3) According to the book "Otsar imre avot" It is a quote from "Tsava'at
rabbi Eliezer ha-gadol" (the will of R. Eliezer the great)

* Elhanan Adler                   University of Haifa Library              *
* Israeli U. DECNET:      HAIFAL::ELHANAN                                  *
* Internet/ILAN:          <ELHANAN@...>                          *


From: David Elkin <elkin@...>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 93 11:58:12 EST
Subject: Maiden-voyage

>  By the way I'd welcome some commentary about the custom of saying
> such a verse at the end of shmonei esre. 

The commentary is easier to provide than the requested knowledge.  I am
moved to do what I can with the time I have.

This custom, among other reasons, is preparation for the n'shama for
olam haboh.  The transition may cause disorientation to the point where
the n'shama no longer recognizes its own name.  Recollection of these
verses is facilitated by the repetition at a critical point in tefiloh,
and will aid the n'shama at its time of need.

Among the other reasons, as I have learned, is the reinforcement of the
character traits of an individual which are embedded in the name.

For the name "David," which I suspect is your middle name, you have the
option to use the 4th posuk after "Baruch she'omar."

David Elkin, <elkin@...>


From: <warren@...> (Warren Burstein)
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 93 22:51:37 -0500
Subject: Re: Meimad and the Peace Agreement:

I wrote:

>As to Rav Amital, he appeared at a gathering of Oz V'Shalom/Netivot
>Shalom on Monday of this week.  He spoke in favor of the agreement.

Oops, that message bounced around the net for a while due to my
mistake, and the meeting referred to was on October 11, not last

[Probably usually a good idea to use real dates rather than things like
last monday etc, since it also takes me some time to get things out,
especially after a day like yesterday when it appears that everyone on
the list had something to say (all right, it was only about 40-50 of you
and the full list is over 900 by now. Mod.]

 |warren@      But the Kibo
/ nysernet.org is not worried at all.


From: Michael P. Kramer
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 1993 11:38:45 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Midot and Frumkeit

WRT Scott Spiegler's agonizing over the perceivable gap between
character and observance among Orthodox Jews (9:81) and Frank
Silbermann's reasonable (as usual) response (9:87), two remarks:

1.  One explanation for the phenomenon observed by SS is the implicit
distinction made by SOME Orthodox Jews, across the spectrum, between
ritual observance and ethical behavior (roughly, between "bein adam
lamakom" and "bein adam lakhaveiro."  I imagine we are all acquainted
with those who are punctilious about Shabbat, Kashrut, and Taharat
Hamishpakha (to name the big three) but who are cavalier about, say,
their business dealings, particularly with goyim.  I've heard various
explanations of the phenomenon (sometimes offered as excuses), all
having to do with the oppression suffered by our ancestors in Europe,
i.e. that Jews were forced to cheat in order to survive.  One might also
theorize that the emphasis on ritual emerged as a response to Reform and
assimilation.  Of course, this observation does not answer SS's
question, but as long as the Orthodox community countenances such
implicit distinctions, they're bound to continue with impunity.  SS's
letter was, hence, refreshing.

2.  That said, I'm not all sure Torah is supposed to influence character
but to direct behavior.  It's not supposed to make us kinder and gentler
but to make us act more kindly and gently.  The purest motive for doing
a mitzvah is the subordination of one's own will to G-d's will, not
self-improvement (which seems to me to be just another version of
serving one's master to receive a reward).  So it doesn't really
surprise me when I see observant Jews who aren't such nice people.  Of
course, it feels good to believe in the Jewish Mystique, and it's fun to
talk about a "yiddishe kup" and a "goyishe kup."  But I think that
unfettered chauvinism is dangerous--even when the chauvinism is linked
to Torah observance, even when the chauvinism is a result of a state of
war.  Chosenness is a contractual relationship not a variety of human
nature.  It is extraordinarily disturbing to hear the bigotry and racism
that is countenanced in Orthodox circles--though I can't say it's
surprising.  It is very difficult to distinguish between ahavat yisrael
and baseless chauvinism.

It needs to be said as a kind of corollary that neither are Jews
(Orthodox or otherwise) essentially worse than anyone else.  But as
Torah Jews we do have an extra obligation to control our behavior.

Let me close by saying that I do know Torah Jews, across the spectrum,
whose very faces radiate with holiness, who serve as my models when I
contemplate my own failings work on teshuva.  (BTW, they are not
gedolim--just poshute yiddin.)

Michael P. Kramer                          WORDS TO LIVE BY:    
Department of English                      "Ben Heh Heh omer:   
University of California, Davis            Lefum tzaara agra."  
Davis, CA 95616                                   --Avot 5:27 


From: Jeff Woolf <F12043@...>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 93 09:23:16 -0500
Subject: Re: Tallit Katan

In response to the origins of the Tallit Katan, it appears to be a
Medieval Ashkenazic invention in order to allow the fulfillment of
wearing tztzit all day even though contemporary dress no longer had four
distinct corners. The blessing recited over it (Al Mirtzvat Tzitzit)
appears only in the late 12th or Early 13th Cent (I can't recall at this
moment). As a Post-Talmudic blessing one understands the discomfort of
Authorities with it and their advice to rely on the Tallit Gadol's
blessing to cover both. BTW, it is clear from Rambam in Hil Shabbat 30:2
and at the end of Hil tzitzit that these were not worn in the Islamic
orbit in the 12th Cent except by Baalei Nefesh. (Most of this is based
on a discussion I once had with Rav Professor Haym Soloveitchik).

                                                     Jeffrey Woolf


From: Aryeh Frimer <F66235@...>
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 93 02:08:31 -0500
Subject: Women and Rambam Yomi

     Aliza and Freda are being a little unfair to Lubavitch regarding
their attitude towards women learning Torah since the Present
Lubavitcher Rebbi has come out on several occassions in support of women
learning Torah She-Be-Al peh. The fact that women are encouraged to
learn Rambam is a radical departure from most other Haredi movements
that won't even encourage women to learn Mishnayot.

[Just as a note, I don't think that Aliza and Freda were making
statements about Lubavitch per see, just about the way the individual
response on the list was made. Mod.]

     I would appreciate hearing from some Lubavitchers on the net
regarding how much Torah She-be-al Peh girls/women in Habad
schools/educational institutions actually learn? Mishnayot? Gemarrah?
Shulhan Aruch (Harav)? etc.


End of Volume 9 Issue 93