Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Interesting Posts and Articles #25

  1. Hashem is *not* here
    • Assuring an Uncle Moishe concert
  2. Rav Elyashiv and Rav Steinman ban dangerous chareidi newspapers, competitors to Yated. Another reason to be glad Israel is not a theocracy.
  3. An effort to "clean up" a store in Monsey that sells women's apparel, perfume, and cosmetics? At DovBear.
  4. At Wired, a story quite representative of the entire issue,
    "The Chinese bribed the Nepalese to make the mountain a police state," Benitez said. "I've been a mountaineer my whole life and I've never seen anything like it."
  5. SerandEz has a post about saying lashon hara about YU. And Emes veEmuna posts his take.

Did Yisro Remain Silent When He Fled?

The gemara (Sotah 11a) just says that Bilaam counseled, Iyov remained silent, and Yisro fled (ברח). Was he silent when he fled? The gemara does not elaborate. But the assumption that he simply fled without a word of protest underlies this post at Hirhurim.

In Ginzberg's Legends of The Jews, page 254, which I quote here for a different purpose, attributes to Yitro a lengthy speech in defense of the the Jews and against the plan, such that Pharaoh dismisses Yisro in disgrace. I don't know what Ginzberg's source for this is, assuming there is one.

At Balaam's insistence, the king sent for his two advisors, Reuel the Midianite and Job the Uzite, to hear their advice. Reuel spoke: 'If it seemeth good to the king, let him desist from the Hebrews, and let him not stretch forth his hand against them, for the Lord chose them in the days of old, and took them as the lot of his inheritance from amongst all the nations of the earth, and who is there that hath dared stretch forth his hand against them with impunity, but that their God avenged the evil done unto them?' Reuel then proceeded to enumerate some of the mighty things God had performed for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and he closed his admonition with the words: "Verily, thy grandfather, the Pharaoh of former days, raised Joseph the son of Jacob above all the princes of Egypt, because he discerned his wisdom, for through his wisdom he rescued all the inhabitants of the land from the famine, after which he invited Jacob and his sons to come down to Egypt, that the land of Egypt and the land of Goshen be delivered from the famine through their virtues. Now, therefore, if it seem good in thine eyes, leave off from destroying the children of Israel, and if it be not thy will that they dwell in Egypt, send them forth from here, that they may go to the land of Canaan, the land wherein their ancestors sojourned.

When Pharaoh heard the words of Jethro-Reuel, he was exceedingly wroth with him, and he was dismissed in disgrace from before the king, and he went to Midian.

If I see other relevant sources, I will bli neder update.

Update: With some assistance from S., we have the following:

Perhaps more later.

Update, 2009: See the lengthy speech in Sefer Hayashar.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt xi

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) They now begin a discussion of how the "sefirot" of sefer Yetzirah has been misinterpreted. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: And how do you not admit to the early origin of our kabbalah? Is it not founded upon the Sefer Yetzirah, which is mentioned in the Talmud.

The guest: I admit to the early origin of sefer Yetzirah, and this is for two reasons. The first one is that it, alone, of all the books of kabbalah finds mention is in the Talmud. And the second one it that it alone of all the books of the kabbalists is written in a pure and clean language, which was the language of the Tannaim, which is not true regarding the rest of the books of kabbalah attributed to our Rabbis, all of which are written in a confused and mixed-up language combining Biblical language, Mishnaic language, the language of Talmud Bavli, the language of Talmud Yerushalmi, the language of Targum Onkelos, and the language of the later composers.

The author: How do you fill your heart to deny the wisdom of the kabbalah, after you admit that sefer Yetzirah is not forged?

The guest: And what is the connection of sefer Yetzirah to the wisdom of the kabbalah?

The author: All the wisdom of the kabbalah is founded upon it, and at the least, the 10 sefirot are mentioned in it.

The guest: The matter is so, that 10 sefirot are mentioned in it, but not like the thoughts of the kabbalists are the thoughts of the author of sefer Yetzirah. For he does not say in any place that the Sefirot are either Divinity or angels. Rather he says "10 sefirot" and does not explain more what is the intent of this name. And since he does not explain it, there is not for us except to explain it like its plain intent -- "Sefirot" as a language of number, and 10 Sefirot are the ten numbers from 1 to 10, which are the basis of all the numbers.

Do you not see in the beginning of his words "10 Sefirot of Belima {restraint?} like the number of the ten fingers." And how does he attach the number of those found above to the number of fingers, and what connection is there between one matter and the other.

Unless his intent was upon the numbers, which in truth are only ten because our fingers are ten, for the beginning of numbers {counting} is on fingers (as explains the sage
Coadillac {=Étienne Bonnot de Condillac} in the beginning of his book la langue des calculs).

And also that which he said that "there are ten Sefirot blima" demonstrates with a finger {=points out} that they are not things found actually manifest, but rather abstract conceptual things, which are not found outside the soul {nefesh}, for this is the implication of the language "beli ma." {=without substance}

And only according to this {understanding} is it true that which he said that "with them the Holy One, Blessed Be He, created his world." For if they are things found in manifested reality, how could he say that with them He created the world? Is it not the case that there was nothing before the creation except for He, Yitbarach, alone? Also, it is not possible to say that the Sefirot are themselves His Identity, Yitbarach, for he {=the author of sefer Yetzirah} says "and before His throne they prostrate themselves." If so, the only thing left to say is that they are in truth beli mah {without substance}, that is to say the numbers themselves, which are abstract concepts which have no existence except in the intellect. {J: It would be especially fitting to read up here on the competing doctrines of nominalism and realism.}

See further that he says "ten which have no end." And once he has already explained that they are not part of the Divinity, from that which he said "and before His throne they prostrate themselves," how is it possible that the were created and do not have an end? And is it not that everything which was Created, that nullifies {?} the possibility that it is without end {=infinite ?}.

And if you say that they are neither Divinity nor Created, but rather an Emanation, such that it is possible that they do not have an end -- this is also falsehood, for after they are more than one, they necessarily have an end and a boundary, for it is not possible to something to be infinite except one. {J: Presumably because if there is more than one, then one would intrude upon the other.}

If so, they can only be abstract concepts, such as Time and Place, which are things which have no end, for they do not exist in reality.

And further, if the Sefirot are in truth manifest honored upper entities {?}, like the opinion of kabbalists, what connection do they have with the 22 letters, which are only signs for the sounds of of articulation, and what is the relationship between this and that, to the extent that the author of Sefer Yetzirah says that via these and these Hakadosh Baruch Hu created His world?

Is not all of this what would prove to anyone who has an olive's measure in his skull that the author of the sefer Yetzirah did not intend with the "ten Sefirot" he mentioned anything other that the ten number. And thus, like the distance of East from West are his thoughts from the thoughts of the kabbalists.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt x

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) They finish debunking the chain of kabbalah from the sefer haEmunot, in turns of Rav Kashisha Gaon and then Rav Chamai Gaon. The guest claims there is not a single kabbalist before the year 856. And further that what the later kabbalists say is not what the early kabbalists say. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: Be silent, place your hand over your mouth. Perhaps this Rav Kashisha whom Rabbi Shem Tov mentioned was not himself a Gaon, but was rather after the completion of all the Geonim. But rather, he was from the seed of the Geonim, that is to say, his father, or his grandfather was a Gaon. And it is also possible that the intent was not a literal Gaon of the Geonim of Bavel, but rather that he was a great Rav and Sage, and he was called by the appellation Gaon, like Rashi and Rambam, and the rest of the gedolim who were called Geonim.

And so too, the ancestors of this Rabbi Kashiava, it is possible that all of them were great rabbis, in such a way that it is correct to say upon him that he was of the seed of Geonim.

The guest: Even in this I am willing to agree with you, as you admit to me that the fathers of kabbalah were not Geonim nor in the days of the Geonim, but rather some generation after the early yeshivot in Bavel ceased to exist, in the days in which the wisdom of our Sages was lost and the understanding of our wise ones was hidden, and the beliefs began to be corrupted via the Greek and Arab philosophies which grew strong in the land, and also via the sufferings which from the year 856 and on, for the great sufferings and the terror round-about confused the hearts.

And in truth, you will not find a single kabbalist before the year 856. Do you not see that Rashi (who died in 865) wrote in masechet Beitza (daf 16) in the matter of the extra soul {neshama} which the Sages mentioned, which comes to a person on the day of Shabbat, and these are his words: An expanded heart for peace and for happiness, and to be open for wellbeing, and he eats and he drinks, and his soul {nefesh} is not repulsed by it.

Behold, for you, how much he knew of the secrets of the kabbalah, this giant from whom nothing was hidden, whether in the wisdom of the written law or the wisdom of the oral law.

And further, in another place you will find to him that he admits, and is not embarrassed, that he does not know what is the Name of the 42 letters (Kiddushin daf 71), and this is a matter that schoolchildren know nowadays, if the truth is with the kabbalists.

The author: And what will you say when you see in sefer haEmunot to the aforementioned Rabbi Shem Tov, and also in the sefer haPardes to Rabbi Moshe Cordevero z"l, many secrets in the wisdom of the kabbalah which Rav Chamai Gaon wrote, and which Rav Hai Gaon wrote to Rav Paltoy Gaon?

The guest: I say that Rav Chamai did not exist and was never created, and no Sage whose name was such is found amongst the Geonim nor amongst the Rabbanan Savorai, and not even amongst the Sages of the Talmud. And I say that Rav Paltoi Gaon died 100 years before Rav Hai Gaon was born. {!!} And therefore I saw that one should not rely much upon the testimony of the sages of kabbalah, for they are established liars.

The author: The mouth of he who speaks falsehood should be shut up! And what will you say when you see with your eyes that Rav Hai Gaon, z"l, in the letter written in sefer Ein Yaakov (masechet Chagiga, perek Ein Doreshin) mentions Heichalot Rabbati and Heichalot Zutrati, and the author of the Kuzari (maamar 3, siman 65) mentions the sefer Heichalot, and Hakarat Panim, and Maaseh Merkava, and attributes them to Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha the Kohen Gadol. And also the Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra (in parshat Ki Tisa) mentions Shiur Komah. {All kabbalistic works.}

The guest: I admit about all these books that they came out from the hands of our Rabbis, even though I have not seen them, and I do not know if they agree with the opinions of the kabbalists or not. But this I have seen -- that Rabbi Yehuda haLevi and Ibn Ezra who saw them and established their early origin, did not maintain at all the positions of the kabbalists.

I also think that if these books supported the beliefs of the masters of kabbalah, the kabbalists would have already been swift to promulgate them in Israel, which they have not done. And in truth, I have read chapters of Heichalot and Midrash Konan, which were printed in sefer Arzei Levanon, and I did not find in them a single thing of all that the later kabbalists say.

Nechama Leibowitz online

Received via email:
Nechama Leibowitz online!!

Do you miss the classical commentaries on the Parasha?

For those who are familiar with Nechama's teachings, and for those who are not,
At last, all the "Gilyonot Parshat Shavua" that Nechama taught, have been collected onto one website, together with references, commentaries and more.

In this website you will find the complete collection of weekly lessons, wrapped in up-to-date technology.

The Nechama website:

מתגעגעים לפרשנות הקלאסית של התורה בלי תוספות האקטואליה?

לאלה שהכירו ומתגעגעים, ולאלה שלא זכו לטעום, סוף סוף כל גיליונות פרשת השבוע של נחמה לייבוביץ אוגדו לאתר אחד.
קרן קשת, עמותת סנונית ומשפחתה של נחמה קבצו את כל הגיליונות, ביחד עם פרשנויות, דברי ביאור, ועוד....
באתר תוכלו להיזכר ולהכיר את הגיליונות של פעם, עטופים בטכנולוגיה מתקדמת.

אתר נחמה:

Interesting Posts and Articles #24

  1. CrownHeights.Info has an interesting cartoon, in which a cow and a duck protect a Jew from influences such as pork, shaatnez, and electric shavers, while the Jew says that it is not because he does not want them, but because Hashem prohibited it, on the basis of a particular Rashi. I made a comment or two there. Rashi does not mention shavers, or rather razors, in this context:
    And I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine If you are separated from them [through your observance of Torah], you will be Mine, but if not, you will belong to Nebuchadnezzar and his ilk. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah says: How do we know that a person should not say, “I find pork disgusting,” or “It is impossible for me to wear a mixture [of wool and linen],” but rather, one should say, “I indeed wish to, but what can I do-my Father in heaven has imposed these decrees upon me?” Because Scripture says here, “And I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine”-your very distinction from the other peoples must be for My Name, separating yourself from transgression and accepting upon yourself the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven. — [Torath Kohanim 20:128]
  2. A New York Times Article which puts forth Wright's claim the criticism is an attack on the Black Church, rather than on him. He may be correct. Not that people are not legitimately horrified by his words, or perhaps correctly link it with statements Obama himself has made and which his wife has made to cast them as non-patriotic in the classical sense. But some of the ideas he put forth are apparently prevalent in that community. And one can see even from certain Reform temples how political ideology can supplant religion in a house of worship. Coming from an activist background, it might well be that many black churches are indeed houses of radical and racist rhetoric. If this is the case, that is part of structured religion should not give it safe haven from criticism. Anyway, here is a transcript of Wright's speech to the National Press Club.
  3. In Tunisia, a 20-year-old woman claims she was raped on the telephone. And they believe her! Read for details.
  4. Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths translates a teshuva from Rav Belsky from 2003 forbidding Consegrity. Rav Belsky says he has done due diligence in researching this. Not knowing anything about it, I wonder though if Christian references are original to it or were added to the original basis, just as Jewish people make their own twists. Regardless, see all of what he writes.
    He also writes, "
    In the gemara, midrashim and ancient works, even to this day, many stories are told of "miracle workers" who have healing powers. It has always been so. The powers of tuma and the sitra achra are not imaginary; they are real; it is only that the holy Torah has commanded us to distance ourselves from them and not to use them to heal ourselves."
  5. It is fitting that discussions of shaving in gemara Nazir take place during Sefiras HaOmer. See the posts at DafNotes.
  6. HaEmtza on "Matza Brawl" in the Jerusalem Post.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt ix

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) They now discuss and debunk the chain of kabbalistic tradition mentioned by Rabbi Shem Tov ben Shem Tov in his sefer HaEmunot. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: This is only a claim of "perhaps," while the testimony of the Ramban and the rest of the greats of the world is a claim of certainty.

And furthermore, it is fit that you know that Rabbi Shem Tov ben Shem Tov in his sefer HaEmunot (gate 4, chapter 14) {which I found on, and so I include this chapter at the bottom of this post} brings a few of the secrets of the kabbalah in the name of Rav Kashisha Gaon from the seed of the Geonim in the city of Mechasia, who promulgated Torah in Puglia and there he died, and he transmitted them to his student, the pious Rabbenu Yehuda the holy, and he, Rabbenu Yehuda transmitted them to Rabbi Eliezer miGermaiza. Behold there is before you that the kabbalah extended in a chain until the geonim, about whom all their words are words of kabbalah.

Then the man's mouth was filled with mirth, and he said to me: How many bundles of dreams and vanities you say to me at one time! A Gaon from the Geonim of Bavel who promulgated Torah in the land of Puglia! Who ever heard such as this? And what is this that you said "a Gaon from the seed of the Geonim?" Are is it not true that the Geonim were not all from a single family, for they sought wisdom, and not lineage. And we have not found in the Geonate a continuous family line except for Rav Yehuda Gaon and Rav Chanina his son, and Rav Sherira his son, and Rav Hai his son, who was the latest of the Geonim.

And who is this Rav Kashisha Gaon? For we do not find this name to any one of the geonim. And it appears that R' Shem Tov invented this name from his heart, in order to mislead the simple, that they should believe that the gaon was a very early man, since his name is Kashisha whose meaning is "elder."

I answered him: It appears that a scribal error fell into the sefer haEmunot to Rabbi Shem Tov, and in place of Rav Kashisha it should have said Rav Sherira; know this, for behold in the openings to the sefer it is written Rav Sherira, and not Rav Kashisha.

The guest: Rav Sherira, at the end of his days, was still in Bavel, and not in Puglia. For he was 100 years old when the King of Ishmael seized him and hung him by one hand, and despoiled all their he had. And even if you say that he did not die by this, who will still believe that an elderly man, 100 years old, would leave the land of his bird, and while naked and missing everything, would put his steps to the road and travel to a distant land, and not dwell by his son who was a Gaon?

And besides all this, you should certainly know that Rav Sherira was a Gaon in Pumbedita, not of Mata Mechasia. And perhaps R' Shem Tov the kabbalist did not know that there were two great yeshivot in Bavel, one in Pumbedita and one in Mata Mechasia, which is Sura, and that there were at all times two Geonim, one in this city and one in that city. And it appears as well that he did not know that before the year 800 to the fifth millenium, the two yeshivot ceased to exist entirely, and no further Gaon arose.

Also he did not know that Rabbi Eliezer of Germaiza was 200 years after the death of the last of the Geonim, and it is not possible to say in any way that he received from one who received from the Geonim.

And furthermore, if R' Shem Tov knew who was the last of the Geonim of Mata Mechasia, he would not have said like this; for behold, the last Gaon of the Geonim of Sura was Rabbenu Shmuel ben Chofni, a man far removed from the vanities of the kabbalah, for he was a great philosopher, and he said that it is only fitting to believe that which the intellect compels him. (See Radak on Shmuel aleph, at the end of siman 28.) {I give the text of Radak at the end.}

And if the Gaon whom Rabbi Shem Tov mentioned is not this Rav Shmuel, then it was a different Gaon who was earlier than him, for after him there were no further Geonim. And if so, his time becomes more and more distant from the time of Rabbi Eliezer of Germaiza, and more and more is revealed the villainy of the kabbalists, who invent of their hearts things which have no foundation, to lift up the fools who do not see the light.

First Radak, and then scans and a brief discussion of sefer Emunot and whether Shadal is necessarily correct in his assertions.

Radak writes:
וראינו מחלוקת בין הגאונים בדבר הזה וכלם נשתוו כי מעשה האוב הבל ותוהו ודברי כזב והתול אבל יש מהם אומרים כי לא דבר שמואל עם שאול וחס ושלום לא עלה שמואל מקברו ולא דבר אבל האשה עשתה הכל ברמאות כי מיד הכירה כי שאול הוא אך להראות לו כי מצד החכמה הכירה ומצאה דבר זה אמרה למה רמיתני ואתה שאול ודרך בעלת אוב להביא בן אדם שמדבר מתוך מחבואו בלשון נמוך וכאשר בא שאול לדרוש מאתה וראתה אותו נבהל וידעה כי למחר יהיה יוצא למלחמה וכל ישראל היו בפחד גדול וידעה מה שעשה שאול שהרג כהני ה' שמה בפי המגיד הדברים הנאמרים בפרשה ומה שאמר ויאמר שמואל אל שאול על מחשבת שאול כי היה חושב כי שמואל היה המדבר אליו ומה שאמר ולא עשית חרון אפו בעמלק ידוע היה דבר זה כי מאותה שעה אמר לו שמואל וימאסך מהיות מלך ומה שאמר לרעך לדוד ידוע היה זה בכל ישראל כי דוד נמשח למלך ומה שאמר מחר אתה ובניך עמי מדרך סברא אמר זה, זהו פי' רב שמואל בן חפני הגאון ז"ל ואמר אף על פי שמשמעות דברי החכמים ז"ל בגמרא כי אמת היה שהחיתה האשה את שמואל לא יקובלו הדברים במקום שיש מכחישים להם מן השכל אבל רב סעדיה ורב האיי הגאונים ז"ל אמרו אמת הוא כי רחוק הוא שתדע האשה העתידות וכן שתחיה היא את המת בחכמת האוב אך הבורא יתברך החיה את שמואל כדי לספר לשאול את כל הקורות העתידות לבא עליו והיא האשה אשר לא ידעה בכל אלה נבהלה כמו שנאמר ותזעק בקול גדול ואשר אמרה האשה את מי אעלה לך דברי התולים הם כי דעתה היה לעשות כמנהגה אלה דבריהם, ויש לתמוה לדברי הגאונים האלה אם הקב"ה החיה את שמואל כדי לספר לשאול הקורות הבאות עליו למה לא אמר לו על ידי חלומות או על ידי אורים או על ידי הנביאים אלא על ידי אשה בעלת אוב ועוד איך היה נעלם משאול שהיה חכם ומלך אשר היו עמו כמה חכמים גדולים אם ענין אוב נעשה על ידי אדם מדבר מתוך מחבואו ומי יאמר שיטעה הוא בזה ואין זה הדעת מקבלו והנכון הוא מה שפירשנו:}

{The text of sefet haEmunot follows. I would suggest that Rabbi Shem Tov never meant to imply that this was an early Gaon. Rather, perhaps by Gaon gadol, he meant this is an informal honorific. And he used this honorific because this was a late person, descended from the Gaonim, but that it was transmitted father to son, avot levanim, as Rabbi Shem Tov says. And then, we need not even say it is from Rav Chofni ben Pinchas the philosopher, for since as Shadal mentioned, there was no specific yichus, he could have been descended from a previous Gaon, and this information was passed down in his family. Indeed, next, Shadal as the author suggests something similar, but perhaps he over-asserts, calling the entire defense into question. I like my response better. Even so, see what the guest responds, once it is established that this was not a Gaon from the time of the Geonim.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Interesting Posts and Articles #23

  1. "Nearly 900 EPA scientists reported political interference in their scientific work. That's 900 too many. Distorting science to accommodate a narrow political agenda threatens our environment, our health, and our democracy itself," she said.

    Shouldn't that be "That's nearly 900 too many?"

  2. "A federal judge has ruled [PDF text] that a school district in Louisiana must stop allowing the distribution of Bibles in schools, saying that the distribution is "a religious activity without a secular purpose" in violation of the First Amendment."

    The first Amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    While a federal judge is not Congress, surely a federal judge prohibiting the free exercise of religion by disallowing distribution of Bibles by religious groups is a greater violation of the First Amendment.

  3. The War On Terror Is Not A Crime

    "Lynching lawyers, as Shakespeare once suggested, has never appealed much to the legal profession itself – literally or figuratively. But an exception apparently will be made for a group of attorneys who advised President Bush and his national security staff in the aftermath of 9/11. They've been subject to an increasingly determined campaign of public obloquy by law professors, activist lawyers and pundits.

    Their legal competence and ethics have been questioned. Suggestions have even been made that they can and should be held criminally responsible for "war crimes," because their legal advice supposedly led to detainee abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere."

  4. Bitter Women at the Pesach Seder (an illustrated running joke); and a reversed Eruv Tavshilin at LionOfZion
  5. Nancy Pelosi makes use of a verse in Yeshaya (Isaiah) that does not exist. "To minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship, to ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us."

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt viii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) Is early kabbalah of Chazal the same as the kabbalah of the kabbalists? Where does this tradition start? The text of the Vikuach follows:

The guest: I do not deny this, and it is not hidden from me that there was already mention in the Talmud maaseh bereishit and maaseh merkava {Creation mysticism and Chariot mysticism}, and hidden Torah and the Ineffable Name, and the name composed of 12 letters and of 42 letters, and other matters which the Sages transmitted to the eminent of their students mouth to mouth. But I see that all these matters were already forgotten from our mouths because of the troubles of the Exile.

The author: This is only evilness of heart. And at the least, behold you see that your claims are only claims of "perhaps." And how can you rely on the claim that "perhaps they were forgotten," when there is before you a sure claim from so many giants of the world, where all of them testify and relate that it was not forgotten, and indeed the opposite, that they themselves received them from their Rabbis, until the Amoraim and Tannaim, and until Moshe Rabbenu, peace upon him?

The guest: The matter is not as you have said. For the kabbalists do not say that their wisdom is a tradition in their hands from the Amoraim and Tannaim. Rather, they say (Avodat haKodesh [age 33) that Eliyahu haNavi himself revealed to Rabbi David, the father of the Raavid, the author of the hasagot, and revealed to him all the secrets of the kabbalah, and that from him extended to the Raavad, who also merited to speak with Eliyahu, and from him the chain went afterwards to the Ramban and to the rest of the kabbalists.

And after the matter is so, behold you see that according to that which our Sages instructed us that "it is not in heaven," it is not for us to pay heed at all to the visions of the Raavad and his father, just as we do not pay heed at all to that which he, the Raavad, wrote in his glosses in the matter of a lopped-off hadas {myrtle}, and these are his words: "The divine inspiration {ruach hakodesh} has already arrived in our study hall and revealed to us that it is valid." End quote. And the Ramban himself, the head of the kabbalists, responded to his words and rejects his reasoning. Behold, you see how much the Ramban relied upon the ruach hakodesh of the Raavad.

The author: Perhaps he did not rely upon him in this matter, for in a matter of law {dina} we pay no heed to a bat kol, and it {=the Torah} is not in heaven. And the Rambam already wrote in the introduction to his commentary on the Mishna that if a prophet testifies that Hashem said to him that the law it such, that prophet is killed, for he is a false prophet.

But in the matter of the wisdom of truth, in which there is not in it what comes from the intellect of a person, perhaps he relied upon him.

And still, according to your words that you speak, that the Ramban did not rely at all upon the ruach hakodesh of the Raavad, behold you draw from this that not from the Raavad and from Eliyahu who was revealed to him did the chain of kabbalah extend to the Ramban. And if so you are compelled to admit that it did not come to him from the Heavens, but rather received mouth-to-mouth, man from the mouth of man, until the Tannaim and until the Prophets, peace be upon them. For when it comes down to it, I do not think that you suspect also the Ramban, they he invented it from his heart.

The guest
: Forfend for me to think such! And behold I agree with you that the Ramban, z"l, received his kabbalah from his teacher. But I do not agree with you that this kabbalah reached him via an unbroken chain, not until the prophets, and not even until the Amoraim.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt vii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The author agrees to continue the conversation, and suggests reading Shomer Emunim which contains a Vikuach. The guest dismisses this book. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The author: In order that you know that I am not of those who despise wisdom, I will not refrain from bringing you to my house and from hearing from your mouth all your invectives and blasphemies. And my heart is reliant and will not fear, for the God who knows my kidneys and the simpleness of my heart, He will be in my flank {?} and will guard my feet from being captured, and He will teach my hand to wage war, to fell all your claims to the earth, and also to return you from the way of ruin upon which you travel.

And it was, that we came to the place of lodging, this was the Succah, and breakfast was placed before us, and we ate and our hearts feasted, and thanks was given to He Who Sustains the entire world with His kindness and mercy. And I {=the author} opened my mouth and I said to the man who stood at my right side to oppose me: Behold how good and how pleasant, if you are a lover of truth, that we take to us the dear book Shomer Emunim and read in it the first dispute; for that Sage takes the time to bring there the claims of those who deny the kabbalah, and he answers them one by one.

And the man laughed and said: Forfend for us to waste our time reading that disputation, for the love of the author for the wisdom of kabbalah brings him to pervert the line, and to hide under his tongue bundles and bundles of claims that one can claim against the kabbalists, as well as answers that exist upon their dreams and their words.

And you should know that in truth I read and learned in it, but many times I needed to raise my voice as I read in it, to say: How great a pauper was this Shealtiel, and how many answers he could have answered and did not answer!

I {=the author} said to him: Do you not believe that there were to our Rabbis, the authors of the Mishna and the Talmud, secrets and hidden things which were not explained in the Mishna and the Talmud?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Interesting Posts #22

  1. "Yeshiva Student" Disrobes to Protest Selling Chametz On Pesach.Heh.
  2. Daf Notes on Sheitels
  3. Chaptzem has a picture of "Baby Fingers." Also known as "Fingers." Or "L. Fingers." They must have read my kol korei. :) Actually not, because I saw the same thing last year. But I would say that perhaps "fingers" is problematic, as maaris ayin. As per the famous story I cannot pin down about white ispargos (IIRC) and someone thinking it was real.
  4. Emes veEmunah on davening on a plane.
  5. JammieWearingFool posts about Zawahiri vs. the Troofers. And Little Green Footballs notes that this is an example of Life Imitates the Onion:

  6. From Reuters:
    Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men’s penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.


    Police arrested the accused sorcerers and their victims in an effort to avoid the sort of bloodshed seen in Ghana a decade ago, when 12 suspected penis snatchers were beaten to death by angry mobs. The 27 men have since been released.

The Pizza After Pesach Segulah


It is not so, so important to have chametz immediately after Pesach, such that one would be willing to spend hundreds of dollars for a pie. Yet that is what happened last year in this ebay auction for the first pizza after Pesach from Pizza Time (proceeds went to charity). And now, to bolster this advertising gimmick and charity, they resort to the awful practice of promoting it as a segulah.

To cite from the ebay auction:

Here we go again!!

You are bidding on the right to buy the first Pizza after Pesach from the world famus PIZZA TIME on Avenue J in Brooklyn, NY.

You will also have the right to walk into Pizza Time every motzei shabbat in May (2008) and not wait in line!!


Last year the bid went for $720.00!! (which went to the Sephardic Bikur Holim)

After 1 week the winner found some old gold in his house and sold it for ..... $720.00!!

Good investment!

After 1 month he won a car lease in a Chineese Auction valued at...


10 times the price he paid!!

We dont give guarantees but..... who knows????

The fact is that people who have $720 to spend on nonsense are more likely to have old gold lying around, not just what he happened to find. And such people are likely to participate in many Chinese auctions. Eventually, they pay off. Meanwhile, the casting of tzedakka as segulah promotes segulah-ism, which I don't think is good for chareidi Judaism in general.

Update: I certainly agree that this could be a joke. At the very least, it was said half-jokingly, which was how I read it.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt vi

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The author just said he has an additional defense to the kabbalistic belief in the sealing of the din on Hoshanah Rabbah, based on Ramban, based on the Rokeiach, and based on a Mishna in Rosh haShana. When the guest gives a different explanation of the Mishna from Ran, and denies the truth of what Ramban says, he must then defend himself from the accusation that he is accusing Ramban of deception. The text of the Vikuach follows:

The guest: And what could you have answered? Speak, for I desire your righteousness.

The author: I could have answered that the Ramban z"l who never saw the sefer haZohar already mentioned on the verse {Bemidbar 14:9}
ט אַךְ בַּה', אַל-תִּמְרֹדוּ, וְאַתֶּם אַל-תִּירְאוּ אֶת-עַם הָאָרֶץ, כִּי לַחְמֵנוּ הֵם; סָר צִלָּם מֵעֲלֵיהֶם וַה' אִתָּנוּ, אַל-תִּירָאֻם. 9 Only rebel not against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us; their defence is removed from over them, and the LORD is with us; fear them not.'
the concept of the signing, and the matter of the defense {/shade} which informs on this night about life and death which are decreed for a person; and afterwards also the author of the Rokeach, who also never saw the sefer haZohar, mentions the matter of this tzel {shade, defense}.

And furthermore, behold we explicitly learn {in a Mishnah in Rosh haShana 16a}, "and on Succot we are judged on water." Thus, even though the day of Rosh haShana is the Great Day of Judgment, still this does not restrict there being also a judgment on the Festival of Succot as well.

The guest: Rabbenu Nissim already stood (as mentioned by the author of Tosfot Yom Tov) on this doubt, and answered that on Pesach, Shavuot and Succot there is, Above, a judgment on the needs of the public, and upon the grain, upon the fruits of the tree and on the water in general, but the specific judgment for each and person, how much will reach each and every individual in particular, this is only on Rosh haShana.

And behold you see that the opinion of the Zohar and the opinion of the masters of kabbalah do not have anything upon which to lean upon, but rather it is against, and contradicts, the opinion of our teachers {rabbotenu} z"l, the masters of kabbalah in truth.

The author: Speak, O blasphemer. And the Ramban z"l was not a true master of kabbalah? Do you also suspect him to be a man of deception?

{The guest:} "All his words were received by him from his teachers."

The author: And how do you swell your heart to deny the words of his kabbalah? This is only evilness of heart.

The guest: This is not evilness of heart, but rather of the obligation of an Israelite man to delve into and investigate as to the nature of the words which are said in kabbalah.

For there is yet kabbalah and kabbalah {tradition and tradition}, and the prophet {Amos} cries out and says {in Amos 2:4}:
ד כֹּה, אָמַר ה, עַל-שְׁלֹשָׁה פִּשְׁעֵי יְהוּדָה, וְעַל-אַרְבָּעָה לֹא אֲשִׁיבֶנּוּ: עַל-מָאֳסָם אֶת-תּוֹרַת ה, וְחֻקָּיו לֹא שָׁמָרוּ, וַיַּתְעוּם כִּזְבֵיהֶם, אֲשֶׁר-הָלְכוּ אֲבוֹתָם אַחֲרֵיהֶם. 4 Thus saith the LORD: For three transgressions of Judah, yea, for four, I will not reverse it: because they have rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept His statutes, and their lies have caused them to err, after which their fathers did walk.
{thus they walked in the false ways of their fathers.}

Behold you see that it is an obligation upon us to investigate well every kabbalah {tradition}, to see if it was accepted by consensus with the general early kabbala from which we do not divert right or left.

If not for the fact that I see that my words weigh heavy upon you, and had I not known about you by rumor {/report}, I would have read upon you the verse {Mishlei 18:2}:
ב לֹא-יַחְפֹּץ כְּסִיל, בִּתְבוּנָה: כִּי, אִם-בְּהִתְגַּלּוֹת לִבּוֹ 2 A fool hath no delight in understanding, but only that his heart may lay itself bare.
However, I trust in your wisdom and in the quality of your ability to reason, that if you bring me into your house and hear my claimed person to person, you will no longer call me a denier {/heretic} and missing of faith, but rather you will call me a Jewish person complete {/simple} with his God, trustworthy in His covenant and keeping His faith.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Order Soft Matzahs Under a Buy-One, Get One Free Deal

My guess is that they overproduced it, and thus have overstock. If you did not want to buy it before because of cost, it is now half-price. Two pounds for twenty dollars rather than one pound for twenty dollars. Plus shipping, but you can alternatively pick it up in Flatbush. It might be a good idea if you want to see what it tastes like, or want to try the matzah to see if you want it next year.

Here is the email I received:
We're having a sale at Buy 1 get 1 free.
PLUS - Overnight orders over 5lbs. get $15 off shipping.

Davening Maariv Early On Shabbos On Erev Pesach

This Shabbos erev Pesach, both RJC (Riverdale Jewish Center) and Etz Chaim of Kew Gardens Hills davened maariv shel Motzai Shabbos early. They did the same the next day. This so as to be able to start the seder on time, at the earliest possible time.

The rabbis of these shuls did this in consultation with Rabbi Willig, who told them (if I understand correctly) that he could not tell them that it was forbidden, and that if one does this, one should say exactly what one would say at night. (This would include vaTodienu, which is the equivalent of Ata Chonantanu when Motza'ei Shabbos is a Yom Tov.) Meanwhile, Rabbi Willig did not do this in his own shul, the Young Israel of Riverdale.

The basis for this seems clear. If we look in the gemara in Berachos 27b, we read:
א"ר חייא בר אבין רב צלי של שבת בערב שבת רבי יאשיה מצלי של מוצאי שבת בשבת רב צלי של שבת בערב שבת אומר קדושה על הכוס או אינו אומר קדושה על הכוס ת"ש דאמר רב נחמן אמר שמואל מתפלל אדם של שבת בערב שבת ואומר קדושה על הכוס והלכתא כוותיה רבי יאשיה מצלי של מוצאי שבת בשבת אומר הבדלה על הכוס או אינו אומר הבדלה על הכוס ת"ש דאמר רב יהודה אמר שמואל מתפלל אדם של מוצאי שבת בשבת ואומר הבדלה על הכוס אמר ר' זירא אמר רבי אסי אמר ר' אלעזר א"ר חנינא אמר רב בצד עמוד זה התפלל ר' ישמעאל בר' יוסי של שבת בערב שבת כי אתא עולא אמר בצד תמרה הוה ולא בצד עמוד הוה ולא ר' ישמעאל ברבי יוסי הוה אלא ר' אלעזר בר' יוסי הוה ולא של שבת בערב שבת הוה אלא של מוצאי שבת בשבת הוה:
Note that while there is a vehilchesa kevasei for the former, it is lacking by the latter. But that does not mean that we don't rule in accordance with it.

Rather, we have Rabbi Yoshiya, Rav Yehuda, Shmuel, Ulla, and Rabbi Eleazar beRabbi Yossi who all appear to say it is permitted to do this.

And this would include, apparently, saying havdalah on wine even on Shabbos. So certainly one should say vaTodieinu. (I have in the back of my mind a different reading of this, but this certainly seems the most straightforward reading.)

Tosafot writes that this is specifically where there is need to do a mitzvah after Shabbos, such as going to perform a circumcision on an infant.

The intent here was to perform the seder on time, surely a mitzvah. And if one does not start on time, it is absolutely conceivable that children would go to sleep in the middle, especially given the shift due to Daylight Savings Time. And also, given the long maggids we have, it is possible not to get to the mitzvah of achilat matzah and marror before chatzos halaylah. I would say that maggid as currently formulated is too long, and we should pare it down, or else put much of maggid discussions and perhaps even the body of haggadah text within the meal. But no one is going to listen to me, so this would seem to be another way of approaching this goal.

Rif also cites this gemara lehalacha. Rabbenu Yonah cites Rav Hai Gaon that this is only for purpose of mitzvah.

Rosh also cites this gemara lehalacha. He says that they held like Rabbi Yehuda. We too hold like Rabbi Yehuda about the time for maariv but there is an extra issue about Tosefes Shabbos, Yom Tov and Yom Kippur before each of these to consider. Rosh also suggests they did this because of Ones, some duress.

Importantly, Rosh even addresses matzah. He cites Rabbi Yaakov from Korvil who says that in terms of the mitzvah of eating matzah, one cannot do this early. This because there is a Tosefta in Pesachim 2:16 that says as follows: הלל הזקן היה [כרכן] שלשתן זה בזה ואוכלן מאימתי אוכלן משתחשך.

The full citation is:
החזרת והמצה והפסח לילי יו"ט [הראשון חובה ושאר ימים] רשות ר"ש אומר לאנשים חובה לנשים רשות הלל הזקן היה [כרכן] שלשתן זה בזה ואוכלן מאימתי אוכלן משתחשך לא אכלן משתחשך אוכלן כל הלילה לא אכלן כל הלילה לא יאכלם מעתה החזרת והמצה והפסח אין מעכבין זה את זה.

Thus, the matzah, marror and pesach are specifically at night, once it gets dark.

This would seem to suggest that it is specifically matzah which can only be eaten when it gets dark. And thus I would bolster what I said earlier about making an early seder. But Divrei Chamudos on the Rosh in Brachos says that in his own commentary on Avrei Pesachim, he explains why this also refers to kadeish. I am unconvinced, and think the Tosefta says otherwise, but then I have not seen this argument in the Divrei Chamudos on Pesachim inside.

(According to this Tosefta at least, by the way, it would seem that the time for eating the matzah is all night -- כל הלילה. If we would rule in accordance to this, we have plenty of time, at least, for the eating of matzah. In terms of keeping seder participants and children awake, on the other hand, it might be more difficult.)

Shiltei haGiborim says that even though the halacha is that one can make an early maariv of Motzai Shabbos, we do not practically do this. And further where the Tannaim or Amoraim did it, is was a case of Ones.

Push comes to shove, at the moment I think that these shuls acted properly. I did not end up davening at the shul on either night of early maariv, but not because I think that one should not daven early. The first seder I attended went I think until about 2. The seder of the second night ended at 4:50 AM.

I suggested to the rabbi that if they wanted to end early, they should eliminate Hallel, as is specified by Rema and is Ashkenazic custom, and the opinion of the Beis HaLevi and on. (I think chassidic custom is otherwise.) To cite a summary of the inputs into this idea:
The Yerushalmi in Berachos (1:5, 10b) also makes reference to reciting Hallel with a Beracha in Shul on Pesach night; the Tur (Ibid.) thus writes that it is an excellent Minhag. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 487:4) likewise rules that this should be done, and the Sephardim follow this ruling. The Ramo (Ibid.) however, says that the Minhag is not to say Hallel in Shul on Pesach night at all. The Vilna Gaon (Biur HaGra Ibid. s.v V'Kol Zeh). notes that the original idea of saying this Hallel in Shul was in order to help fulfill the obligation of (be Motze) those who wouldn't be able to recite it on their own, but it was never intended for those who could. Elsewhere, however, (Biur HaGra to Orach Chaim 671:7 s.v. Madlikin) the Gaon implies that saying Hallel in Shul on Pesach night is a means of publicizing the miracle, which is proper. There are indeed many Ashkenazic communities that do say Hallel with a Beracha in Shul on Pesach night.
The rav replied that such, not saying Hallel, is indeed his custom, but when he got to the shul, their practice was to say Hallel.

In fact, this minhag of the shul developed organically. Initially it was not the custom of the shul to say Hallel. Then, two specific congregants (who shall remain nameless here) within the same family stayed after davening to daven Hallel by themselves. Eventually, some people decided to stay and daven Hallel to keep them company. And slowly more and more did, until they finally decided to change the official policy such that everyone davened Hallel.

At any rate, an interesting halachic ruling here.

Note: Please do not take anything I said here as halacha lemaaseh, even though this was apparently acted upon. I claim no responsibility in the matter.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt v

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest now defends himself against the charges of being an apikores. He argues that were they living at the time the Zohar was first discovered, it certainly would not be heresy to investigate its authenticity deeply, given the contents. Nay, it would be an obligation. The author then says he should have given a better response about the kabbalistic belief that on Hashana Rabba is the sealing of the din. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And he {=the guest} answered and said: My master, do not be so quick on your words, lest you be wrongfully suspecting the righteous, and thus sin to God.

And the Tester of Hearts {=Hashem}, He knows, and also you, my master, should recognize and know that I am a Hebrew, and I fear the God of Israel, and I do not divert from the Written Law or from the Oral Law right or left, not in action nor in thought. And in Heaven is my Witness, and in the lofty heights is my Witness -- He will take His revenge from me, if I am speaking of two hearts.

And yet, since the investigation of the sefer haZohar is an investigation into wisdom {chochma} and not a delving into faith at all, since there did not come upon the sefer haZohar a general acceptance of the nation, upon which all the faith of Israel is based and rests upon, why is it evil in your sight if I speak about it according to what arises after the investigation and delving which I investigated and delved for many days and years?

Speak now, you my bother, lover of the Torah and wisdom -- imagine for yourself that we were in the days of the Rambam and the Ramban, which you know that the sefer haZohar was not revealed nor known in their days, as the kabbalist, the author of Minchat Yehuda explicitly relates to us in his introduction. And imagine for yourself that there came to our hands this book, the sefer haZohar. Say now by your life, you my brother -- if we would have investigated and delved into the nature of this sefer, to know if it was in truth the work of the Tannaim and Amoraim, or if it is a forged sefer -- would this investigation be forbidden, or permitted, or obligatory? And is it not so that the prophet who arises to say a matter in the name of Hashem, we are required to test him, {to see} if he is a true prophet or a false prophet. And how shall we not have pity on the honor of our teachers the Tannaim and Amoraim, such that we accept any matter which reaches us in their names before we investigate and delve into it to see if it in truth it came from them or not? And did our generation improve so much {over previous ones} such that we no longer need to worry about writers of satire {?}. I am astounded!

I {=the author} said to him: It is what it is, I do not wish to argue with you, for I am a youth, and you are a man of war from your youth; and behold I see in you that spirit of cleverness and trickery who only existed in days of old in the accursed serpent, who distanced us from the Garden of Eden, and this is the spirit found today in all the philosophers who throw off from themselves the yoke of Torah and the yoke of derech eretz, and all their words are in deception, to take in their trap the souls of the whole {/simple} of heart, to bring them down to the underworld.

Are you not also like one of them? And how not? The disputation of yesterday, in which you widened your mouth without bound against the faith of all of Israel that the night of Hoshana Rabba is the night of the sealing {/signing}, and I in my poverty did not immediately remember the answer which is to your side, and I heard your blasphemies and I did not blunt your teach, as was fitting for me {to do}.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Yerushalmi Parallels

Via PaleoJudiaca:
Subject: Online database of sources and parallels to the Talmud Yerushalmi

From: "Leib Moscovitz" [email address redacted]
Subject: Notice for H-Judaic
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2008 10:28 AM

The Talmud Department of Bar-Ilan University and the Livin Chair for Talmudic Research are pleased to announce the online publication of a database of sources and parallels to the Talmud Yerushalmi.

The database contains references to biblical verses cited in the Yerushalmi, as well as sources/parallels from the Mishnah, Tosefta, Halakhic midrashim, the Yerushalmi itself, and the classical aggadic midrashim, as well as selected parallels from the Babylonian Talmud (additional parallels are currently being entered).

The database consists of a collection of PDF files, which can be viewed, searched, downloaded and printed, and is located at the following URL: (see also for more information).
(From the H-JUDAIC list.)

Looks interesting. Here is a screenshot of the beginning of one of their PDFs. (Click for a larger image.)

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt iv

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest had just said that because of the lack of traditional continuous consensus about the Zohar from its time of composition, of is not compelled to believe in its authenticity. The author now states that he chooses to do so. And further, that he regards the guest as an apikores and a proselytizer to apostasy, and does not wish to further converse with him. The text of the Vikuach follows:

I {=the author} answered him: After the matter is so, behold I choose to believe in the sefer haZohar, such as is the consensus of the majority of the congregation of Israel, and all its Rabbis and its Sages, from the time of its revelation until today. Of their portion should be my portion, and of their lot should be my lot . And you, if you want to cast your lot together with those of little faith, cast it, and who is holding you back?

And while engaged in them, I hurried to enter my house, and I closed the door behind me, and I slept until the light of morning, and I arose in the morning and went to the house of prayer {synagogue}. And when I returned to go to my house, this man attached to me and greeted me.

I said to him: Are you the muddier, who comes to muddy my heart with your doubts? Go in peace, and what is between me and you?

And the man answered and said: I am astounded at your words, my master, and I have heard about you, saying that you are always the lover of truth, and in truth this is not the way of lovers of truth, to berate a person who says things of reason, before you hear his claims.

I answered him: You are not speaking correctly, for even if this is my approach in all matters of understanding, and all my days such was my trait to learn from every man, and to accept words of truth from he who said it, still in things which touch on the matter of the faith, there is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel opposite Hashem. {A quote from Mishlei 21:30.} And behold, you are to my eyes like an enticer {/proselytizer to apostasy}, and the Torah says "you should not consent unto him nor hearken unto him." {See Devarim 13:9:
ז כִּי יְסִיתְךָ אָחִיךָ בֶן-אִמֶּךָ אוֹ-בִנְךָ אוֹ-בִתְּךָ אוֹ אֵשֶׁת חֵיקֶךָ, אוֹ רֵעֲךָ אֲשֶׁר כְּנַפְשְׁךָ--בַּסֵּתֶר לֵאמֹר: נֵלְכָה, וְנַעַבְדָה אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים, אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדַעְתָּ, אַתָּה וַאֲבֹתֶיךָ. 7 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, that is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying: 'Let us go and serve other gods,' which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
ח מֵאֱלֹהֵי הָעַמִּים, אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבֹתֵיכֶם, הַקְּרֹבִים אֵלֶיךָ, אוֹ הָרְחֹקִים מִמֶּךָּ--מִקְצֵה הָאָרֶץ, וְעַד-קְצֵה הָאָרֶץ. 8 of the gods of the peoples that are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;
ט לֹא-תֹאבֶה לוֹ, וְלֹא תִשְׁמַע אֵלָיו; וְלֹא-תָחוֹס עֵינְךָ עָלָיו, וְלֹא-תַחְמֹל וְלֹא-תְכַסֶּה עָלָיו. 9 thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him;

And our Sages have already said not to respond to an Israelite apostate {apikores}, and certainly one who is extremely skeptical {/irreverent}, and therefore my word is already spoken. My brother {presumably a reference to Avraham speaking to Lot}, do you wish yo go to the right or to the left? Believe {perhaps a play on תימין} or deny according to all that is good and right in your eyes, but me, why do you call to travel with you?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Some Fanscinating Info On Dayenu pt i

From Folktales of the Jews: Tales from Eastern Europe. All about date of composition, early references to it, and so on. It is unlikely I will have time to track down each of these references in turn. But it a great collection of scholarly info about the song. As compared, for example, to the Wikipedia article which lacks any hint of this, and gives a mistaken impression (IMHO) of what "it would have been enough" refers to.

Introducing the Absolut Haggada, 2008 Edition

Now bumped to the top. An friend of mine recently forwarded me this year's edition of the Absolut Haggadah. Once again, the authors are remaining anonymous. I did not get a chance yet to review it and see what changes there are (perhaps I will have a chance later), but here is what I wrote about it last year:
An assessment of their general aims with this haggadah: They try to avoid fluffy, homiletic divrei Torah. They try to avoid vertlach. Where they ask famous questions, they try to get to the underlying peshat of what the haggadah is trying to say, what the basis of the derashot are, and what the haggadah is trying to accomplish at each step. Thus, they also provide an introduction to the structure of the haggadah, and introduce things as Rav's introduction and Shmuel's introduction, etc.. All done in a conversational style.

As mentioned above, they would like comments, and would like people to forward it to others, so feel free to do so.
They would appreciate feedback -- that is, suggestions of what they could improve, praise, etc., at the following email address: ABSOLUTHAGGADAH@GMAIL.COM

They also will be checking the comment section of this post, so you can add your comments below as well.

One Who Puts On Tefillin on Chol haMoed Is Chayyav Misa?

So says the Zohar Chadash, Shir haShirim (page 60). This gets Shadal quite upset, and he argue against this.

This practice of not putting on tefillin on chol haMoed is my own minhag. I think because of the Gra, the standard practice in Eretz Yisrael is not to wear. Many years ago, on Succos or Pesach a friend of mine put on tefillin in public at the kotel, and got yelled at by (IIRC) an elderly chareidi man for his troubles. In America, in shul, people who put on tefillin do so and those who don't do not. But in Israel, perhaps in public at the kotel, and perhaps because of the prevalence of the custom such that this person never heard of an alternate custom in the matter, someone viewed it as problematic.

Rabbi Howard Jachter has a comprehensive article on the subject. Amidst it all, he states "In fact, the Zohar strongly advocates refraining from wearing Tefillin on Chol Hamoed" which might be an understatement. Read it all -- it is interesting.

It is not just the position of the Zohar, but Zohar is just echoing certain Rishonim and stating it in stronger terms.

Rabbi Jachter also writes: "In Eretz Yisrael, the ruling of the Vilna Gaon to refrain from wearing Tefillin on Chol Hamoed has been universally accepted. One who publicly dons Tefillin during Chol Hamoed in Eretz Yisrael is inviting a strong protest from his fellow worshippers." This friend of mine experienced this firsthand.

Here is Shadal, as the guest, from the beginning of Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah, arguing that it one is required to wear tefillin on chol haMoed; and that even if not, it is incorrect, and terrible, to say that one who does this is liable to the death penalty. He writes:
And the man became enraged and said: One who performs the commandment of his God is liable to death? Woe to the ears which hear this! And how do you speak to put deviation of the Sages of the Mishna, to place in their mouths something like this, that one who puts on tefillin on a day of the days in liable to death? And is it not that even on Shabbat and Yom Tov they did not say that it is forbidden to put on tefillin, and that one who puts them on is liable to a punishment, neither light nor stringent, but rather they only said that Shabbat and Yom Tov are not the time of tefillin, for they themselves are a sign. And how is it forbidden to put on tefillin on chol haMoed? And do we not find in the Talmud Yerushalmi (brought down in hagahot Maimoniyot) that one of the Sages commended a scribe that he write tefillin on chol haMoed for his own needs, so that he will be able to give his tefillin to another person who lost his tefillin on chol haMoed? And if one who puts on tefillin on chol haMoed is liable to death, what will be the penalty of the scribe who writes them on chol haMoed to put them on himself, in order to lend his own to another Jew so that he too will put them on on chol haMoed?
I would suggest that there is indeed an opinion that there is a violation at play, not just an exemption. If we look in Yerushalmi Berachot 14b:

ר' אבהו בשם רבי אלעזר הנותן תפילין בלילה עובר בעשה. ומה טעם (שמות י) ושמרת את החוקה הזאת למועדה מימים ימימה ימים ולא לילות ימימה פרט לשבתות וימים טובים והא ר' אבהו יתיב מתני ברמשא ותפילוי עילוי מצדדין הוה וכמין פיקדון היו בידו אית דבעי מימר לא אמר אלא הנותן אבל אם היו עליו מבעוד יום מותר

Thus, Rabbi Abahu is of the opinion that there is not just exemption on Shabbos and Yom Tov, but prohibition. As he says, עובר בעשה. My own theory of Rabbi Abahu (which I also think is applicable to certain positions in Bavli which may have been misinterpreted) is that where there is a command and a derasha which restricts to a particular time, or class of people, it is not just an exemption but an issur aseh. Thus, in that same gemara, we find that Michal bat Kushit (who is Michal bat Shaul in Bavli) put on tefillin, and the Sages did not protest. But for Rabbi Abahu, who claims this violates an issur asei, the Sages did protest!

I would guess that Shadal was unfamiliar with this particular Yerushalmi, which is not, after all, in the 10th perek of Eruvin, where it might have influenced discussions of the matter more.

This does not mean that Rabbi Abahu would agree that chol haMoed has the same status as Yom Tov, in this respect. I am only arguing on the level of whether there is a violation.

An violating an issur assei is certainly not necessarily to be equating with being liable to death. This might be poetic overstatement. Of else, an mistaken overstatement.

Interesting Posts and Articles #21

  1. Rav Belsky on the concert ban.
  2. Yehuda has a post about the fifth cup.
  3. In a recent post in my translation of Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah, Shadal mentions the compelling theory that the (/an) author of the Zohar was Avraham Abulafia, a false messiah.
  4. Rafi G. posts on a segulah of reading a particular letter on erev Pesach. And Nava posts the text of the letter in a comment at the bottom.
  5. A Masculine Haggadah?
    Not so much:

    In an effort to stanch a modern-day Exodus — men fleeing its synagogues — Judaism’s largest denomination has for the first time adopted a new seder and Haggadah for men only.

    Not even female cantors are allowed.

    “It uses the structure of a Haggadah to bring men together to explain contemporary Jewish men’s issues,” said Doug Barden, executive director of the Men of Reform Judaism, which represents 250 temple brotherhoods and its 20,000 members.

    The authors of the Haggadah — Dan Moskovitz, a Reform rabbi, and Perry Netter, a Conservative rabbi — note in an introduction that there are “certain experiences that only men can share ... Men need the company of men, to be men.”
    It is quite possible I am incorrect in this, but my assessment is not that this Exodus is a result of an over-focus on gender. Thus, Reform promoting feminism in the name of Judaism makes men uncomfortable. The solution should not be to say that women will do this and men will do that. I think it is just being remarkably silly and misguided, along the similar paths as the initial mistake. Not to mention that it is a transparent ploy, which I think many men will see through as inauthentic.

    How about a focus instead on the meaning of the seder, exodus from Egypt, freedom, faith, etc.? Not everything has to tie into a feminist, or masculist agenda. There can be things which are just as they are.

    The key, that is, is not to encourage the trend and say women can have their seder and men can have their own. Rather, it is to discourage the feminist seders in the first place. Judaism should be Judaism, and a seder should be a sefer, not just a way to advance a particular agenda over and over and over again.

The Authenticity of Kabbalah pt iii

Shadal continues his Vikuach al Chochmat haKabbalah. (See previous segment.) The guest continues to draw his distinction between believing the Mishna and the Neviim are not forgeries, on the one hand, and believing the Zohar is, on the other. The text of the Vikuach follows:

And so it is in the matter of the Mishna, and so too in the matter of Neviim and the holy writings, and so too in the matter of the Torah itself. For behold, the Torah, and the Mishna, and the books of the New Testament of the Christians, all of them inform that the Torah of Moshe was widespread and accepted in our nation at the beginning of the exile and at the end of the time of the second Temple; and the Temple itself, and the service which was done in it, is clear testimony to the widespread faith in this Torah from the day that the Temple was established and on.

And the books of Ezra and Nechemiah, and Chronicles, and Yechezkel and Yirmiyah, all of them testify and tell about how the Torah was widespread in the days of the exile of Bavel and at the end of the first Temple. And the book of Melachim and Shmuel, and Tehillim, Shofetim and Yehoshua testify on how it {=the Torah} was widespread in

the days of the {first} Temple and in all the days of the Judges, until the generation of the Wilderness, in which the Torah was written.

And not because we find that these books testify about the Torah do we rely upon them and upon it, but rather, because of the tradition which extends in an unbroken chain, which shows true to us how these books were well known in the nation from the time of their composition until the present day. Therefore, we are obligation from the straightforward intellect to rely upon them, and upon the Torah of Moshe, in the same way that we are compels to believe in the works of the Roman translator {? melitz} Cicero, because of how they were widespread among the nations from that day until today.

But if a person comes to you, and prints in this generation, prophecies of Natan the prophet and Gad the seer, even though it is not impossible that it is so in fact, even so, no man in Israel is obligated to accept them, after no general tradition came upon them from one generation to the next.

And behold, so is the sefer haZohar, after it is not mentioned at all in the Mishna and Talmud, and was not known or publicized in the days of the geonim, nor even in that days of Rashi and Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, and Rambam and Ramban and the Rosh, as the author of the Minchat Yehuda admits (in the introduction), behold it lacks the trustworthy testimony such that each man of Israel and every man of intellect is required to accept it -- is it not the widespread acceptance without interruption, and it is nothing more, except as amongst the books which were found in later generations attributed to earlier authors, such as the sefer haYashar and Divrei haYamim of Moshe Rabbenu, and their fellows, where the permission is given to anyone wise of heart to draw them near or to distance them, according to what appears to the eyes of his intellect, without their being in their any place for faith, for faith is not in that which has no tradition, and the sefer haZohar does not have upon it a tradition from the time of its composition until today.


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