Thursday, January 29, 2009

Save the Q74 Rally in Queens

The out-pouring of support from CUNY Law, Townsend Harris and Queens College for the Q-74 was outstanding and the MTA may have gotten the message.

Councilman Gennaro is holding a SAVE the 74 rally on Friday at 1:30PM at Melbourne Avenue and Kissena Boulevard.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Interesting Posts and Articles #115

  1. Kankan Chadash takes note of an article in a kabbalah magazine -- cheat codes to reality, and the God cheat code. His comment:
    I do not mean to imply that the articles printed in Kabbalah Today represent the views of all kabbalists. Nevertheless, I think you'll find that the sentiments expressed in this article reflect trends in mainstream kabbalistic practices. That being said, here is the article in full. I think it speaks for itself.
  2. Popehat discusses how the LA Times gets it badly wrong on a Patriot Act story, about a drunken woman beating up her kids on a flight.

  3. Rabbi Lookstein defends his actions in participating in the inaugural multi-faith event in a church.

  4. Mystical Paths has a followup to the Mishpacha magazine PhotoShopping Laura Bush out of a photo, noting instances in the most recent magazine where they did not.

  5. Hirshel Tzig notes and discusses a nice video from

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Halachic Sources on visiting Kivrei Tzadikim and praying there, pt i

What follows is a partial listing of sources, based on the lists in the footnotes here. Bli neder, in subsequent posts, still more sources, including those leaning in the other direction. Follow the links to see the texts in context.

This is from sefer Maharil, hilchot Taanit, pg 72 in the PDF.

Meanwhile, see what Rama, Orach Chaim 581 has to say, and how both Be'er Hetiv and Mishnah Brurah endorse this position of the Maharil:

I could not find online the teshuvot of Rav Chaim Paltiel about this. But here is the Bach citing it, on Tur Yoreh Deah siman 217.

We also have the Shach in Yoreh Deah 179 seif 15 discussing whether this is doresh el hameisim, and the Beer Hetiv on this.

Next, we present Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim chelek 5, siman 43, seif 6. You may need to click on some of these to make them larger and readable, or else you can just follow the link to the PDF above.

Next up, the teshuva of Maharam Shick, Orach Chaim, siman 293, accessible here.

Next, the teshuva of the Minchas Eluzar, chelek 1, siman 68. Bli neder, I will try to present more in a later post. And after all the sources are out there, perhaps discuss some of them.

There are other sources -- I am thinking of Aruch HaShulchan and Rav Ovadiah Yosef, but this post is long enough already. Perhaps in a later post, after I scan the relevant Aruch Hashulchan.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Latest on the Mama Rachel Urban Legend

Over Shabbos, I had some people close to me tell me that I was wasting my time debunking this story, but more important, it was not a good thing to discredit it. While perhaps it was not a good thing that the urban legend got started in the first place, one it is out there doing good, one should not discredit it.

A good example of this is over at Mystical Paths, where Reb Akiva talks about the impact it had on secular Israelis; and in the comment section there, how it is encouraging various soldiers to perform mitzvot.

It is a good and valid point, though I do not agree with it. For example, should the Discovery Seminar present the Torah Codes proof, if there is a real possibility or probability it is false, just because it is effective? Though I do not know if they still present it, or if they think that it is false. Can one use sheker to achieve kiruv? Do the ends justify the means? And what happens when some people come to the realization it was false? Do they feel snookered? Even if we are concerned about impact rather than honesty, what effect does this have in the long term?

Meanwhile, Dreaming of Moshiach says "hello" from Yerushalayim. I wish her and her husband hatzlacha on their aliyah. In terms of posts I would like to see from her, I would like to see a post explicitly acknowledging now that she was wrong in identifying Bush as Gog, and that she was wrong in her interpretation of Zohar and Ramchal. I would also appreciate if she would keep up the pressure in contesting the idea that Obama is Gog.

Anyway, in this recent blogpost, she puts forward a version of the Rochel Imeinu in Gaza story:
During the war in Gaza, there was a story that soldiers were saved by the same woman before entering a trapped home (trapped with hidden bombs). The soldiers were about to enter a house and when they tried walking in, a woman stopped them in their tracks and told them that it's trapped and they should not enter. This reoccured 3 times in 3 different locations in Gaza. At the third trapped house, the soldiers asked the woman, "Who are you?" and she answered "Rochel". My brother in law is friends with Rav Shmuel Eliyahu Shlita and the Rav told my brother in law that his father, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu Shlita, prayed to HaShem to send Rochel Imenu to save our soldiers and it was Rochel Imenu, a'h, that stopped the soldiers entering the trapped house.
So she heard it from her brother-in-law who heard it from Rav Shmuel Eliyahu. So it is not first-hand. But the version of the story has her identifying herself as Rachel, unlike the original story, in which Rabbi Lazer Brody suggested it as such well after the fact.

But note how the game of broken telephone operated here. She writes that
Rav Mordechai Eliyahu Shlita, prayed to HaShem to send Rochel Imenu to save our soldiers and it was Rochel Imenu, a'h, that stopped the soldiers entering the trapped house.
But of course, listening to the video in which Rav Shmuel Eliyahu recounts it, it is not so. He did not pray to Hashem to send Rachel. He prayed to Rachel (or requested of Rachel) to pray to Hashem to save the soldiers. He did say in the video that his father said in jest, "Did she tell the soldiers that I sent her," but that is in line with the above.

Meanwhile, everyone misinterpreted Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu's remarks, including Nava in the aforementioned blogpost. In an Op Ed in YNet, he explains the meaning of the joke, besides replying to Rabbi Cherlow about the doresh el hamesim. He writes:
ובשולי הדברים, הבהרה חשובה. המשפט "אני שלחתי את רחל לעזור לחיילים" לא נאמר על ידי אבי, הרב מרדכי אליהו, לא באופן ישיר וגם לא ברמז. הוא רק סיפר כיצד התפלל על ציון קברה שלא תמנע קולה מבכי ועיניה מדמעה. הוא ביקש ממנה, כמו כל אדם אחר, שתתפלל ותסייע לחיילים הנמצאים במערכה. לאחר מכן הוא אישר כי הסיפור על האישה שסייעה ללוחמים בעזה והציגה עצמה כ"אמא רחל" אכן קרה.

בשיעור שמסרתי ביום שני הבאתי את דברי הרב, ששאל בחצי חיוך: "למה אתם שואלים, היא סיפרה להם שאני שלחתי אותה?". מי ששמע את השיעור עצמו הבין את "העוקץ" של האמירה ופרץ בצחוק, ואולי מקריאת תמליל "יבש" של הדברים ניתן להבין בטעות את הבדיחה כאמירה יומרנית: "אני שלחתי את רחל". אבל אבא רק ביקש ממנה שתתפלל לקב"ה לשלום החיילים
And as a footnote, an important clarification. The sentence "I sent Rachel to help the soldiers" was not said by my father, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, not in a straightforward manner nor via hinting. He only related how he prayed upon the gravesite of her grave that she should not hold back her voice from wailing, and her eyes from crying. He requested from her, just like any other person, that she pray and {thus} help the soldiers who are found in battle.

, he confirmed that the story about the woman who aided those battling in Gaza and presented herself as "Mother Rochel" indeed occurred.

In the shiur that I gave over on Monday, I brought down the words of the Rav, who asked half-jokingly, "Why are you asking {me}, did she tell you that I sent her?" One who heard the shiur itself understood the barb of the statement and broke out in laughter, and perhaps from hearing the "dry" text of the matters, it was given to understand incorrectly the joke as a pretentious statement -- "I sent Rachel." But father only wanted from her that she pray to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for the safety of soldiers.
I saw the video, and I can see how even listening to the retelling in rapid-fire Hebrew, it was unclear. And indeed people who saw the video, rather than hearing it with inflection, misinterpreted what the joke was.

In even further news, Rav Ovadiah Yosef has endorsed this urban legend, but he skewed the story even further, having Rachel warn the soldiers of three terrorists inside. To quote:
In his Shabbat sermon Shas' spiritual leader described Rachel's role in the recent war. "The soldiers arrived at a house and wanted to go inside. There were three armed terrorists waiting for them there. "And then a beautiful young woman appeared before them and warned: Don't enter the house, there are terrorists there, be careful. - "Who are you?" - "What do you care who I am," she said, and whispered - "Rachel." The rabbi continued to describe how the soldiers indeed found the terrorists inside and killed them. The three were carrying guns, just like the woman said. "Mother Rachel was called to the place, 'Go save your sons.' Ah, praised be His name! God redeems and rescues, and sends angels to save the people of Israel. How we should thank God," Rabbi Yosef concluded.
This is an even further twist on the story. We have the embellishments of the whispering of her identity. And it is, in the more compelling tale, a beautiful young woman. And now, rather than there being three buildings being booby-trapped, we have one building with three terrorists inside. Note also how he eschews specifying exactly who called her there. "Mother Rachel was called to the place," allowing the ambiguity of Rav Eliyahu calling her there, which since has been clarified that he did not. And so Hashem sends angels, in the form of the Imahos, to save the people of Israel.

This is unfortunate, in my opinion. Do I have any faith in Rav Ovadiah Yosef's "confirmation" that the story is true, when he is retelling a story that is even more skewed than before. Rather, he is, likely unwittingly, adopting an urban legend as truth. (I also wonder whether a Sefardic mindset is playing a role in this credulity.)

Meanwhile, what does this do for our belief in the integrity of our mesorah, when we can see the evolution of a story, as false detail after false detail accrues, and is put forth by leading rabbonim as inspirational truth of a nes, that will surely be told for generations to come?

Darkness as thick as a Dinar?

Once again, the same Anonymous commenter points me to a fascinating source. (I still want to really address the malach by the burning bush, but will have to return to it later.) In a recent comment, he writes:
Are or did you ever do a Piece on the Controversial Piece of Torah Temimah on Makkos Chosech being a Piece of s[k]in over the Eyes?
I assume the Torah Temima he has in mind is this one, here and then on the next page, here, though if so, I would translate slightly differently.

I would not exactly call it controversial. After all, many meforshim actually argue on midrashim on more than one occasion. Meanwhile, Torah Temimah here is casting his explanation as an interpretation of the midrash. Sure, he does say lulei demistafina, since it is a new idea, but meforshim come up with new ideas all the time.

Expanding on why it might be considered controversial, Anonymous explains:
The Torah Temimah copied that from Wessley's Yayin Levonon commentary on Avot! This, of course, is standard practice in the Torah Temimah. That is, much of what he says appears in earlier places.

I don't think that is enough for it to be controversial. As the Rambam said, שמע האמת ממי שאמרה.

Even though I don't think it is controversial, I do think it is wrong, and will explain why. And like Matlock, I will even identify the true meaning of the midrash he is misinterpreting.

First, to summarize Torah Temima. But we must first provide a background. The pasuk states:
כא וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, נְטֵה יָדְךָ עַל-הַשָּׁמַיִם, וִיהִי חֹשֶׁךְ, עַל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם; וְיָמֵשׁ, חֹשֶׁךְ. 21 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Stretch out thy hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.'
and it is perhaps not even a midrashic interpretation to translate as the Jewish Publication Society translated above. And even though some pashtanim saw fit to explain vayamesh as an expression of darkness (and provide a convenient root), a pashtan of Shadal's ilk sees fit to explain it as feeling, as feeling (/groping) around in the dark:
וימש חשך : ויש שפירשו כמו ויאמש , ואמש ל ' לילה וחושך , ואין טעם לומר ויחשיך חושך ; ואחרים פירשו משורש משש , והוא הנכון , אלא שאמרו שנעשה האויר עב עד שימששו אותו . והנכון שהיא מליצה כמליצת ימששו חושך ולא אור ( איוב י " ב כ " ה ) שטעמו ימששו בחושך , אף כאן ויהי חושך , עד שמיששו בחושך כאשר ימשש העיור , וכן בתרגום ירושלמי : ויהון ממשמשין בחשוכה . ואייכהארן ייחס המכה הזאת לרוח חזק חם ומזיק הנושב במצרים מפסח עד עצרת באותם חמשים יום הנקראים אצלם עדיין חמשין , ואז בני אדם מוכרחים לישב בביתם ולא יצאו החוצה ; וכל זה איננו שוה לאייכהארן , כי אמנם אין מדרך הרוח ההוא שיימשך ממנו חושך גמור , עד שלא יראה איש את אחיו בתוך ביתו . אמנם מצאנו שאירע במצרים לפעמים חושך גדול , אבל היה תמיד בסיבת רוח סערה וסופה גדולה , וכאן לא נזכר דבר מזה .

And Ibn Ezra gives various explanations, and decides on a substantive darkness.
וימש חשך -
אמר יפת:
כי וימש חשך כמו וימיש. והטעם כי ימיש כל חשך שהיה להם ידוע. ויבא אחר עב ממנו.
ויש אומרים:
כי הוא חסר אל"ף ומלת אמש בלשון הקודש הלילה שעבר. כמו: אמש אמר אלי.
ובלשון ערבי אמ"ס כי השי"ן יתחלף בסמ"ך ברוב המלות. כמו שמש שמ"ס. והנה אין טעם לפירושם.
ולפי דעתי:
כי וימש מגזירת ימשש. ואין טענה בעבור שהוא מפעלי הכפל. כי כמוהו בזה הענין ידיהם ולא ימישון. ושב על מצרים, כי מצרים לשון יחיד. כמו: ויאמר מצרים אנוסה.
והנה הטעם שימששו בידם החשך שכל כך יהיה עב כי האור של אש לא ידלק ולא הנר, והעד: לא ראו איש את אחיו, לא באור היום ולא באור הנרות.
Rashi takes it as a degree of darkness, though mentions the midrash about thickness:
כא) וימש חשך -
ויחשיך עליהם חשך יותר מחשכו של לילה, וחשך של לילה יאמיש ויחשיך עוד:
וימש -
כמו ויאמש יש לנו תיבות הרבה חסרות אל"ף לפי שאין הברת האל"ף נכרת כל כך אין הכתוב מקפיד על חסרונה, כגון:
(ישעיהו יג כ) ולא יהל שם ערבי, כמו לא יאהל, לא יטה אהלו.
וכן (שמואל ב כב מ) ותזרני חיל, כמו ותאזרני.

ואונקלוס תרגם:
לשון הסרה.
כמו (שמות יג כב) לא ימיש בתר דיעדי קבל ליליא, כשיגיע סמוך לאור היום.
אבל אין הדבור מיושב על הוי"ו של וימש, לפי שהוא כתוב אחר ויהי חשך.

ומדרש אגדה פותרו:
לשון (דברים כח כט) ממשש בצהרים, שהיה כפול ומכופל ועב עד שהיה בו ממש:
With that background, we may consider Torah Temimah. To cite him again:

He thus cites the Mechilta and states
that the verse is relating that the Egyptian was not able to sit if standing, and was not able to stand if sitting, because the darkness was thick. In footnote bet: And it is explained in midrashim that the darkness was as the thickness of a dinar. And the matter is extremely wondrous, for what is the reason to seize about the measurement of thickness of the darkness. And it also needs consideration, for according to the explanation of Rashi, that all the darkness was 24 hours, entirely night, and there was no day at all, if so, this changed the order of Creation, and this is very difficult, for behold Hashem promised Noach and his sons "And day and night will not cease."
And if I were not fearful to bring forth a very new matter, I would say that the matter is darkness was not in the air but in the eyes of the men. And this is that there was a cataract stretched over the eyeball, and the Sages (of the midrash) said that that cataract was felt by the hand and also was the thickness of a dinar, and all is then fine.
Beautiful. Though not correct.

To answer the objection of the three days of darkness according to Rashi, who is citing midrash Tanchuma, if I understand correctly. I am not convinced we need to resolve this midrash or explanation of Rashi with that pasuk, but if we did, I would simply bring a parallel. How could Hashem drown the Egyptians? Did he not promise Noach not to flood the world? Indeed, according to a midrash, this was what the Egyptians counted on to avoid midah kineged midah. But, answers the midrash, there is a difference between global and local. So too here, this only effected the Egyptians, but not the Jews in Goshen, nor the Moabites in Moav, and so on.

Furthermore, the idea in the midrashim, when you examine them, was that it was thick darkness, with substance, such that one could not move through the thick substance. Thus the idea of being physically stuck in place, in a standing or sitting position. That Torah Temimah does not understand the need for measurement, and the measurement as the thickness of a dinar (though I do) is not reason for a radical reinterpretation of the midrash. Say you don't know, and leave it at that. Do not rework the midrash to your liking! But at least he marks it an a worrisome novel suggestion.

This midrash appears in Tanchuma (though there were, accidentally, fairly late additions to the Tanchuma) and in Shemot Rabba (around the time of Rashi). Tanchuma has:
וימש חשך.
כמה היה אותו חשך?
אמרו רבותינו זיכרונם לברכה:
עבה כדינר, שנאמר: וימש חשך:
and Shemot Rabba has:
וימש חשך
כמה היה אותו חשך?
רבותינו אמרו:
עבה כדינר היה, שנאמר: וימש חשך, שהיה בו ממש.
The thing Torah Temima is missing out on is that the thickness of a dinar is not to connote a thick thing, but rather a fairly thin thing. In order to understand the expression, we simply need to do a Google search to determine how the expression is used elsewhere - a technique Torah Temimah did not have at his disposal.

The gemara in Chagiga has:
פושעי ישראל אין אור של גיהנום מכלה אותם, ק"ו ממזבח הזהב שאין עליו אלא כעובי דינר
זהב אין אש מכלה אותו, פושעי ישראל שמלאים מצות כרימון על אחת כמה וכמה

Thus, the golden altar only had the thickness of one dinar of gold coating, and yet it protected them, and so too the fire of Gehinnom will not destroy the sinners of Israel.

So too, in Midrash Rabba on Tzav:
Midrash Rabba on Tzav
ואש המזבח תוקד בו א"ר פנחס ואש המזבח תוקד עליו אין כתיב כאן אלא תוקד בו האש היתה מתוקד בו תני בשם רבי נחמיה קרוב למאה ושש עשרה שנה היתה האש מתוקדת בו עצו לא נשרף ונחשתו לא ניתך אם תאמר דהוה גלד תני בשם ר' הושעיה כעובי דינר גרדיון היה בו אמר רשב"ל אף מזבח הקטורת כן שנאמר (שמות ל) ועשית מזבח מקטר קטרת מתקטר בקטרת אין כתיב כאן אלא מקטר קטורת המזבח היה מקטיר את הקטרת ורב אמר ובכלי הבקר נתבשל הבשר אין כתיב כאן אלא (מ"א יט) ובכלי הבקר בשלם הבשר הבשר היה מבשל את הכלי:

It was thus a nes that the fire, which was burning the altar, rather than burning on the altar, did not destroy or melt the altar, for its coating was only the thickness of a dinar, and yet it was burning for 116 years.

If a dinar's thickness is something very thin (as one would expect as the width of a coin), then we can answer Torah Temimah's question of why seize upon a measurement (or even this measurement) of the thickness of the darkness. The intent would seem to be that the air was still air, but it was still somewhat thick, such that with difficulty one could break through it. It was thus somewhat substantive airspace, something that had mamashut.

Or an alternative, where I keep flitting between the first suggestion and the second in terms of which I like more. Ibn Ezra correctly understood the midrash. To refresh your recollection, Ibn Ezra said:
והנה הטעם שימששו בידם החשך שכל כך יהיה עב כי האור של אש לא ידלק ולא הנר, והעד: לא ראו איש את אחיו, לא באור היום ולא באור הנרות
Thus, Ibn Ezra is saying that the felt the darkness with their hands so much, that it was so thick that the flame of the fire did not light, nor the lamp. And the prooftext to this is "and a man did not see his brother," meaning not via the light of day nor via the light of lamps.

What kind of thickness would prevent a flame from taking hold? This is precisely the role this thickness, the thickness of a dinar, played on the golden altar. Recall that it prevented the flame on the mizbeach from taking hold and destroying the altar. And perhaps this is why Chazal seized upon this measurement.

But not I flit back to the first explanation, and like it better. Regardless, I would consider either of these two explanations to be truer to the midrash's intent than his novel peshat, simply because mine are grounded in an understanding of the way the phrase is used, rather than trouble grok-ing the midrash leading to a reinterpretation.

Even if it is not a correct explanation of the midrash, it might be a good explanation of the pasuk, given these considerations of God's promise not to change the order of night and day, and given the different experience of the Egyptians and Israelites. Indeed, for those who would rather the makkot have manifestations within the natural order, for philosophical reasons, or because as we see within the psukim themselves, e.g., Hashem made the wind blow to bring in and out the locusts, and for the splitting of the Reed Sea, this might well be a compelling peshat.

Personally, I don't think it works, because why then have Moshe stretch his hand towards the heavens?
כא וַיֹּאמֶר ה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, נְטֵה יָדְךָ עַל-הַשָּׁמַיִם, וִיהִי חֹשֶׁךְ, עַל-אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם; וְיָמֵשׁ, חֹשֶׁךְ. 21 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Stretch out thy hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.'

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Did Gog-bama Deliberately Flub The Oath Of Office?

People say the darnedest things. But it is still funny.

That he deliberately flubbed the oath is what Shirat Devorah believes.
Interesting.... it seems even Justice Roberts couldn't supply a Bible for the revised oath, despite the "abundance of caution" being applied and the much-hyped Lincoln Bible being made available by the Library of Congress - giving us more reason to believe that the fluffed lines were rehearsed beforehand, so that the real oath could be taken sans Bible. And all this from a man who made a very public point of attending prayer services before and after his inauguration.
The reason for this, I would guess, is that Obama is Gog and would not want to swear on a Bible. Heh.

A few points:

(1) The Lincoln Bible is a King James translation, containing both Old Testament and New Testament.

(2) Obama did not flub the oath. It was Roberts, trying to fix a split infinitive.

(3) John Roberts was a Bush appointee, a Republican, and a Catholic. Would he really be colluding with the Democratic candidate to avoid bringing God into the ceremony?

(4) Whether or not the first, flubbed oath satisfied the Constitutional requirements (it likely did, but the second oath was misafek), even so, Obama did take an oath on a Bible with the same message as the oath in the Constitution. The difference was a misplaced modifier. If there some benefit for Gog-bama to take a binding oath on a Bible separately, and take an oath of office later without one? What benefit accrues to him, exactly, in this conspiracy-theory scenario??

(5) Even if he never took the oath, he likely became president at noon regardless.

(6) The swearing on a Bible is only a "minhag", but does not invalidate the oath with its absence. And perhaps since this was just to fulfill a technical safek, they did not bother, since the "flubbed" oath with all the pomp and ceremony had it, and that was enough.

(7) Is any of this really worthy of comment? No, since the allegation is just so silly. But I've seen how these snowball in various communities, so I might as well put my two cents worth in early on.

Interesting Posts and Articles #114

  1. At Kankan Chadash, part four of a conversation on whether to teach the Chassidic idea that Hashem gets pleasure from our doing mitzvot, or the Maimonidean idea that such is kefirah, to the opposite audience.

  2. On the Main Line about the teshuva of Arnold Ehrlich.

  3. In Mol Araan -- is Barack Obama too skinny? some dietary advice.

  4. HaEmtza on mistreating Baalei Teshuva by not giving them full reign when teaching.

  5. JNUL now has Sefer HaChinuch, which I might include now in my "sources" roundups on the parsha. And has Maggid Meisharim.

  6. Wolfish Musings complains of a made-for-TV-movie on CBS tonight (Sunday) called Loving Leah, where the plot is a woman (Leah) who undergoes yibbum. We don't do yibbum nowadays! Pesky Settler gives video of the actress who plays Leah's mother, on the View, where she displays a lack of knowledge and a dislike for Lubavitch Jews, e.g. saying they are all ugly, and talking about the backwards ways and attitudes of Chassidic Jews.

    Meanwhile, Debbie Schlussel also complains about that interview on "The View".

    At the NY Post, you can get a review, which includes a bit of plot summary. Apparently, the initial plan was to do chalitzah, but the irreligious brother refused. And yibbum is apparently presented as the first option.

    Right off, he's distressed to find that he has to rip the lapels (the traditional sign of Jewish mourning) on his good suit. Worse, he finds out that he is also required by Jewish law to marry his widowed sister-in-law if she is childless.

    Jake is already engaged to a WASPy fellow doctor, Carol (Christy Pusz). He's relieved to discover that he can get out marrying his sister-in-law if he waits two months and 28 days and participates in an ancient ceremony.

    At the ceremony, he is told to lean against a wall wearing a special shoe. Leah then kneels down, unties the special shoe, lifts up his leg, removes the shoe, throws it across the room, while Jake loudly denies his brother's existence.

    Wearing the shoe is one thing, denying his brother's existence is another. So he and Leah get married instead and she moves - wigs and all - with him to DC.

    He would not have to deny the brother's existence in a chalitza ceremony; that is a misunderstanding of what goes on... And regardless, yibbum would not be practiced by a frum Lubavitch woman nowadays. She would sit as an agunah, not able to marry, until they figured out a way to compel the brother to participate. See here, on zikkah le-yibbum. And see here is the Rif where he lays out the order of a chalitzah.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Posts so far for parshat Va`era


  1. Is the derivation of Putiel's name knowableCan we know the derivation of the name Putiel? A four-way machlokes between Rashi, Ibn Ezra, Ibn Caspi, and Shadal reveals something about their methodology, and their approach to peshat.

  2. Vaera sources - links to over 100 meforshim on the parsha and haftara.

  3. Was Pharaoh's heart hard, or did it become hardEvaluating Rashi's emendation of Onkelos, from an itpa'el verb to an adjective, on the basis of the dikduk of the Hebrew word being translated.

  4. Getting Pharaoh to play ball -- What was Pharaoh doing at the bank of the Nile? Ibn Caspi visits Egypt, and emerges with some realia with which to understand the Biblical narrative. Also, a difference between peshat and derash.

  1. Vaera sources -- links by aliyah and perek to a mikraos gedolos, and a whole slew of links to meforshim on the parashah and haftarah.

  2. 430 years or 210 years? -- and how Shadal feels compelled to say it was 430 years, and explains how the generations of Levi, Kehat, and Amram, span that time.

  3. Did the Egyptians dig, or did they dig for water? A minor difference which may manifest itself at the level of trup.
  1. Executing judgments against the gods of Egypt, or making use of the gods of Egypt in executing judgment.

  2. Were the ten plagues natural? An explanation of Shadal's take on the matter, which I decided to present in partial response to a complaint about a 2007 post about how the Egyptian magicians created frogs.

  3. How did one frog become many? An exploration of the themes in the midrashim.

  • Did The Avot Not Know Shem Hashem?
    • Yet many times through Bereishit the Shem YKVK is mentioned. There are all sorts of possible answers -- Moshe changed it after the fact, editorially, the Documentary Hypothesis solution, grammatical distrinctions, nodati vs. hodati, etc. In this post, I focus on names not just being names, but carrying very specific implications -- something we get a sense of from the text itself (and which Rashi mentions as well).
      Finally, two of my favorite dealings with this issue, from Tg Yonatan and Rashbam, in how they manage to reparse the pasuk. (And I always like reparsings.)

    • Spitting blood and whistling frogs: the tzadi - quf switchoff (2005)
      • Two midrashim which I argue stem from a linguistic tzaddi -- quf switchoff. Thus, yishretzu becomes yishrequ, whistled, and thus the frog whisted in the process of yishretzu. Second, eretz mitzrayim becomes roq mitzrayim, and thus even their spittle turns to blood. More details in the post.
    • Pharaoh's multivalent dreams (2005)
      • Another way of interpreting Pharaoh's dreams -- as a fall from power, which finds fulfillment in this week's parsha.
    • Why couldn't the magicians create lice? (2005)
      • Daat Zekenim has an amusing answer. Just as we know by the story with Shimon ben Shetach and the witches, witchcarft draws power from the earth, but the plague had turned all the earth to lice!
    • Ganymedes Copies Military Tactic From Hashem (2005)
      • Depriving the Egyptians of their water supply. And Caesar responds the same way the Egyptians of old did, according to one way of reading the pesukim, and that they managed to circumvent the makkat dam.
    • All's Well That Ends Well (2004)
      • Were the Egyptians successful in their attempt to get water by digging around the river? Or did these wells also produce blood? Targum Yonatan's textual insertion. Ibn Ezra's take, against Chazal, that they were indeed successful, and the ever-frum Avi Ezer's reaction to this (that it was a mistaken student, and not, chas veshalom, Ibn Ezra who wrote this). Plus, a connection to Yitzchak's wells, a homiletic lesson we may draw, and a joke.
    • Why was Pharoah in de Nile? (2004)
      • The textual source for Pharoah using the Nile as his bathroom. And a new reason -- to do magic on it. And how this fits in with the narrative. Both from Tg Yonatan.
    to be continued...

    Did the Egyptians Dig, Or Did They Dig For Water?

    Shadal takes on the Baal HaTeamim in parshat Vaera, saying a peshat at odds with the trup and explaining how the trup would differ according to his peshat.

    The pasuk in question is in Shemot 7:24:
    כד וַיַּחְפְּרוּ כָל-מִצְרַיִם סְבִיבֹת הַיְאֹר, מַיִם לִשְׁתּוֹת: כִּי לֹא יָכְלוּ לִשְׁתֹּת, מִמֵּימֵי הַיְאֹר. 24 And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river.
    The pasuk, with the trup, is pictured to the right. Noteworthy is that the tipcha trup is on the word hay`or. Shadal writes:
    כד] ויחפרו וכו ' מים : חמרו והוציאו מים וכיוצא בזה ויחפרוהו ממטמונים ( איוב ג' כ"א ) ; ולפי זה היה ראוי הטפחא תחת מים (ויחפרו כל-מצרים סביבות היאור מים לשתות, ובעל הטעמים פירש ויחפרו לשתות מים.
    Thus, he says he argues with the meaning intended by the baal hateamim and would put the tipcha trup on the word mayim.

    What is happening here? Well, tipcha divides in half the phrase ending in etnachta. So we begin with:
    וַיַּחְפְּרוּ כָל-מִצְרַיִם סְבִיבֹת הַיְאֹר מַיִם לִשְׁתּוֹת
    which is divided into
    וַיַּחְפְּרוּ כָל-מִצְרַיִם סְבִיבֹת הַיְאֹר
    מַיִם לִשְׁתּוֹת

    according to our trup. Meanwhile, Shadal would divide
    וַיַּחְפְּרוּ כָל-מִצְרַיִם סְבִיבֹת הַיְאֹר מַיִם לִשְׁתּוֹת
    וַיַּחְפְּרוּ כָל-מִצְרַיִם סְבִיבֹת הַיְאֹר מַיִם

    His point, based on Iyov 3:21:
    כא הַמְחַכִּים לַמָּוֶת וְאֵינֶנּוּ; וַיַּחְפְּרֻהוּ, מִמַּטְמוֹנִים. 21 Who long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures;
    would appear to be that חפר is a word which applies to a definite object. Lemashal, and this is not an exact parallel, we can say:
    "He grew."
    and we can say
    "He grew tomatoes."
    So when we say that "The Egyptians dug around the river...," can one simply dig, or does one dig for something? The example in Iyyov has the word וַיַּחְפְּרֻהוּ, where the uhu ending shows that one is digging for something. Perhaps other examples can show digging not for something, but I am too lazy to look now. Or perhaps there are no counter-examples.

    At any rate, if one must dig for something, and the prepositional phrase "around the river" only specifies location, and not the object of the digging, we need to supply it.

    That is what Shadal means when he writes ויחפרו וכו ' מים, with the וכו' ש serving as an ellipses, to show that mayim is the direct object of the verb. Thus, they dug for water.

    The trup we have, then, would divide it incorrectly, for by chopping of mayim lishtot as a unit, it forces them together. (I would interject that perhaps the baal hateamim could take it as Shadal, as a direct object, but that the direct object is "water to drink," or "drinking water.") Shadal says they dug for water, in order to be able to drink. But our trup (if I understand Shadal correctly) would say that they simply dug, and it was "in order to drink water," almost as if mayim lishtot is to be reversed as lishtot mayim.

    Doresh El HaMeisim and Rochel Imeinu's Appearance

    Some followup to my post attempting to debunk the urban legend of Rochel Imeinu working in the bomb squad in Gaza.

    1) The woman magically changed her clothing from black to white. From R' Lazer Brody, who purportedly heard from the soldier's father:
    A woman in long black local attire came out and pleaded with them not to storm the house.
    while in a recent post at Shiloh Musings:
    Drawing near a building, a woman dressed in a white Jalabiya (the traditional clothing of North African Jews from places such as Morocco and Tunisia) came out.
    This in addition to the other few important divergences in the story -- that R' Lazer is the one to suggest it was Mama Rachel, while now it is the woman herself who identified herself as such; and whether she spoke Arabic or Hebrew.
    An anonymous commenter on the previous post told me that this is not a black and white issue. But apparently it is. ;)

    This recent confirmation from Shiloh Musings, which is supposed to convince everyone, is from an anonymous blogger/teacher. Did she hear it directly from the soldier? No, as she writes, she heard it from a soldier in the unit, who was not actually there at the time, since they split up. So he did not see her, so see that she said that she was Rochel Imeinu. He also told her the name of the soldier. Great, so we can ask him directly? His name is "Yoel S." It is a pretty unique name, S with no other letters in the last name, so all we need to do is look him up. Nor does the soldier say explicitly that he heard it this account directly from Yoel S.

    2) Vos Iz Neias has a post entitled "Rabbi Cherlow: Spreading Fables About Rachel Imenu is Like Communicating with the Dead" with an active comment section. Read the post, as well as the comments.

    3) What are my thoughts about praying to Rachel Imeinu?

    OK, you will tell me that that is not what Rav Eliyahu did. He spoke to Rachel Imeinu asking her to pray to Hashem. Is one allowed to do this? One generally accepted approach is yes, though this is actually a halachic dispute whether one is permitted to address the meis, which is what Rav Eliyahu says he did, or whether one should only address Hashem. (See e.g. Be'er Heitiv seif katan 17 here; see also here for a more detailed discussion of the dispute.) I have another post I've been sitting on for over a year, discussing the implication of various sources in the gemara, midrashim, and Zohar in this regard, where I do not think they say what people assume they say, but I do not want to take away attention from the main point.

    4) My understanding of Rav Eliyahu's remarks is that he did not claim that he literally sent her. He said what he said. Which was:
    'I told her: Rachel, a war is on! Don’t withhold your voice from crying [based on Jeremiah 31,14-16]! Go before G-d, and pray for the soldiers, who are sacrificing themselves for the Nation of Israel, that they should strike - and not be stricken.'
    So all he asked was for her to pray to Hashem, just as she did in the pasuk of Rachel Mevakah Al Baneha. He did not say that he asked her to actually go out and act as a scout. He just deduced that that is what she decided to do on her own, and thus it is "as if" he sent her.

    But people may well think that this means that one can go and ask dead tzaddikim to take action. That would be prayer to them, rather to Hashem. That would likely be doresh el haMeisim, even according to the accepted position that davening at kivrei tzaddikim is allowed, or that asking tzaddikim to daven for you is allowed. For this transforms the deceased tzaddikim into the saints of a certain other religion, and that is not good.

    And this is indeed dangerous territory because we are dealing with an already superstitious hamon am, which performs segulahs directed towards specific deceased rabbis (such as the Chofetz Chaim) to achieve magical ends. And because there is a particular deceased tzaddik, buried in Queens, who people might just turn to in their requests, hoping for direct influence from him.

    Postscript: I forgot, last time, to note some of the websites discussing this. See Shirat Devorah Yeranen Yaakov.

    Thursday, January 22, 2009

    Interesting Posts and Articles #113

    1. At Mystical Paths, Reb Gutman Locks about his interaction with Christians coming to put on tefillin.

    2. Professor Levine with an accumulation of articles about segulos. (here, here, here, and this is a 55 meg PDF, so save it and then view it)

    3. Avakesh notes the appearance of Beyond Agent Emes videos -- hashkafos for adults, and asked where one goes from here.

    4. Dixie Yid on the tradeoff between Chabad's great mesirus nefesh and their belief that only their way is the real correct way, and how one may cause the other.

    5. A Mother In Israel has an exclusive -- the official Chareidi guide to modest necklines.

    6. Lion of Zion on the implications of a pregnant soldierette fighting Hamas, and a chatan straight from his chuppah doing the same. (With a followup to the latter, here.)

    7. Also, see my post on whether Rav Eliyahu "confirmed" the miracle of Rochel Imeinu appearing to the soldiers and helping them out. Together with the somewhat active comment section.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    430 Years or 210 Years?

    Last week, on parshat Shemot, I discussed one point from a larger theory that there were multiple generations within the 210 years, from R' Medan. I addressed whether the intent of 6 in one keres likely was intended by Chazal to mean across the woman's entire lifetime, as opposed to in a single pregnancy, and concluded that it was unlikely. But even that particular detail was off, the larger theory is quite possibly sound, and quite possibly true. It tries to squeeze multiple generations -- 9 of 'em -- into the three generations of Kehat, Amram, Moshe, and that other sons were born alongside those who were explicitly named, so the apparent average birthrate of 3 to a family and three generations not generating the needed 60 myriads is resolved.

    This was response to Shadal's theory, that there were many generations, but across the 430 years that the pasuk gives, rather that 210 years; that the being fruitful and multiplying was impressive but not entirely miraculous as it would be for 6 per pregnancy; that holid means that he was the ancestor, rather than father, such that the "lifespans" given for Levi, Kehat, Amram did not overlap, but were instead sequential. Or perhaps they were sons, but what is being discussed here are the families. Sort of like dynasties, where at a specific point the family expanded and it was called after the name of that person. This would also eliminate any issues about Levi or Yocheved's age.

    Most impressive, IMHO, is his point that if you add up the "lifespans" given, taken them sequentially, and add as well the 17 years Yaakov was in Egypt, you come pretty close to the 430 year figure the pasuk gives for living in Egypt, without having to resort to kvetches like counting from the time of Yitzchak's birth.

    And so I present for your enjoyment the words of Shadal. On Shemot 6:20:
    כ וַיִּקַּח עַמְרָם אֶת-יוֹכֶבֶד דֹּדָתוֹ, לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה, וַתֵּלֶד לוֹ, אֶת-אַהֲרֹן וְאֶת-מֹשֶׁה; וּשְׁנֵי חַיֵּי עַמְרָם, שֶׁבַע וּשְׁלֹשִׁים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה. 20 And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses. And the years of the life of Amram were a hundred and thirty and seven years.
    Shadal writes:
    כ] ויקח עמרם וגו' : על כרחנו צריכים אנו לומר שהשמיט הכתוב קצת דורות בין קהת לעמרם, כי במדבר ג' כ"ח היו לקהת פקודים במספר כל זכר מבן חדש ומעלה 8600, ולא היו לו רק ארבעה בנים שהעמידו משפחות, הרי לכל אחד מארבעה בני קהת בנים 2150; והנה עמרם לא הוליד רק אהרן ומשה ומרים, ומשה לא הוליד רק שני בנים ואהרן ארבעה, ואיך ייתכן שיהיו לעמרם וכן ליצהר ולחברון ועוזיאל 2150 נפשות בשנה השנית בצאתם מארץ מצרים?
    "And Amram took...": We are compelled to say that Scriptures omitted a few generations between Kehat and Amram, for in Bemidbar 3:28:
    כז וְלִקְהָת, מִשְׁפַּחַת הַעַמְרָמִי וּמִשְׁפַּחַת הַיִּצְהָרִי, וּמִשְׁפַּחַת הַחֶבְרֹנִי, וּמִשְׁפַּחַת הָעָזִּיאֵלִי; אֵלֶּה הֵם, מִשְׁפְּחֹת הַקְּהָתִי. 27 And of Kohath was the family of the Amramites, and the family of the Izharites, and the family of the Hebronites, and the family of the Uzzielites; these are the families of the Kohathites:
    כח בְּמִסְפַּר, כָּל-זָכָר, מִבֶּן-חֹדֶשׁ, וָמָעְלָה--שְׁמֹנַת אֲלָפִים וְשֵׁשׁ מֵאוֹת, שֹׁמְרֵי מִשְׁמֶרֶת הַקֹּדֶשׁ. 28 according to the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, eight thousand and six hundred, keepers of the charge of the sanctuary.
    there are to Kehat the census counting all males from one month and onwards of 8600, and he {=Kehat} only had 4 sons who established families. Thus, for each of the four sons of Kehat there would be 2150 {because that is 8600 / 4}; and behold Amram only fathered Aharon, Moshe and Miriam, and Moshe only fathered 2 sons and Aharon 4, and how is it possible that there would be to Amram, and so too to Yitzhar, Chevron and Uziel {the sons of Kehat} 2150 souls {meaning descandants, each} in the second year of their leaving from the land of Egypt?

    לפיכך צריך שנסכים עם דעתו של חוקר אחד, שאמר כי לוי, קהת ועמרם לא היו דורות תכופים זה לזה, אך דורות אחרים היו ביניהם, ולפי זה יתיישב כמשמעו מספר שלושים שנה וארבע מאות שנה שישבו בני ישראל במצרים ( שמות י"ב מ ), ולפי זה יובן עוצם ריבוי בני ישראל במצרים, שלא אמרה תורה שהיה דרך נס ממש

    Therefore, it is necessary that we agree with the position of a certain exegete who said that Levi, Kehat and Amram were not generations immediately following one another, but rather that there were other generations between them. And according to this it is explained with its normal implication the figure of 430 years that Israel dwelled in Egypt. (See Shemot 13:40:

    מ וּמוֹשַׁב בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר יָשְׁבוּ בְּמִצְרָיִם--שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה, וְאַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה. 40 Now the time that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.


    והחכם יאסט אומר כי השמות האלה הנזכרים כאן הם שמות המשפחות, כי יאמר שכל זמן שהיה האב חי, על הרוב היו כל צאצאיו לאגודה אחת במשפחה אחת (אעפ"י שלפעמים היו הבנים מתפרדים בחיי אביהם, כגון יצחק וישמעאל בחיי אברהם, ויעקב ועשו בחיי יצחק), ובמות האב היתה המשפחה נחלקת, ולפעמים גם אחר מיתת האב לא היתה מתחלקת עד אחר זמן מה. והנה משמעות הפרשה הזאת לפי דעתו היא כי משפחת לוי נשארה בתואר משפחה אחת ונקראת ע"ש לוי משך 137 שנים אחרי מות יעקב, ואז אחר זמן שמת לוי נחלקה לשלוש משפחות, ע"ש גרשום, קהת ומררי . וכן משפחת קהת עמדה לאגודה אחת 133 שנים, ואח"כ נחלקה לארבע משפחות. ובזמן יציאת מצרים כבר עברו 137 שנים, שהיתה משפחת עמרם משפחה אחת, וממנה היו משה ואהרן. והנה אם תחבר שלושת המספרים האלה 137 ו-133 ו-137, ותוסיף עליהם 17 שנה שעברו לישראל במצרים קודם מיתת יעקב, יהיו בידך 424 שנים, כלומר קרוב ל-430 שנה. לפיכך (הוא אומר) כל מקום שנאמר בן יצהר, בן קהת וכיוצא, ענינו מזרע יצהר מזרע קהת

    And the scholar Yust {Isaac Markus Jost -- thanks!} says that these names which are mentioned here are named of families, for he says that so long as the father lives, in general all his descendants are combined into one band in a single family (even though at times the sons separate from one another in the lifetime of their father, such as Yitzchak and Yishmael in the lifetime of Avraham, and Yaakov and Esav in the lifetime of Yitzchak). And when the father dies, the family divided, and at times even after the death of the father it is not divided until some long time. And behold, the implication of this parsha according to his position is that the family of Levi remained in its form as a single family and was called no the name of Levi for a span of 137 years after the death of Yaakov. And then, after the time that Levi died, it was divided into three famlies, on the names of Gershom, Kehat and Merari. And so too the family of Kehat stood as a single band for 133 years, and afterwards it was divided into four families. And at the time of the Exodus from Egypt there already passed 137 years, such that the family of Amram was a single family, and from that was Moshe and Aharon.

    And behold, if you combine together the three numbers {of Levi, Kehat, Amram}

    and add to them the 17 years that passed for {the people of} Israel in Egypt before the death of Yaakov, you will have in your hand 424 years, that is to say close to 430 years.

    Therefore (he says) that every place it says "son of Yitzhar"; "son of Kehat"; and the like, its meaning is "from the seed of Yitzhar; from the seed of Kehat."

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    Did Rav Eliyahu "Confirm" The Miracle of Rochel Imeinu In Gaza?

    Snort. He did no such thing. Or if he did, it does not mean much.

    Let us start with the story, though it has all sorts of variants. Apparently, some soldiers in Gaza were going to enter specific houses, three consecutive times, and were asked not to by an Arab woman named Rachel. When they searched the houses, they found that they were booby-trapped. The claim is that this was Rachel Imeinu.

    Some points:

    (1) Does her name being "Rachel" mean that it must have been Rachel Imeinu? For all we know, it might have been Rachel Corrie! ;) Or better yet, it might have been a random Arab woman whose name was Rachel. Yes, apparently some Muslims also bear this name, not surprising because it has a Biblical basis. See here for a Muslim woman named Rachel. Or maybe this detail, like many others, was added by some idiot. After all, this account has no mention of the name Rachel.

    Yet see how Shiloh Musings reports this Urban Legend:
    When he asked her who she was, she replied that she was Rachel Imeinu, and she wanted to protect and save the soldiers.
    and compare with this account, from Life In Israel:
    No one knows who she was. She disappeared as quickly as she had appeared. One soldier asked who are you, and she said Rachel. Other soldiers heard her say this.
    So if the story happened, it is possible she just said Rachel, and then other people expanded this to Rachel Imeinu and her also saying explicitly that she was acting to protect and save the soldiers.

    {Update: See that R' Lazer Brody, who spread previous hoaxes, was the initial one posting on this. And in this story, the woman does not say her name. But he writes:
    Who was that woman? Sounds to me like Rachel Imenu...
    And so this was the likely genesis of that particular detail.

    (2) Did we hear of this directly?

    Well, we do seem to have this direct testimony, though I have not heard it directly. To cite Shiloh Musings, which got several details wrong:
    This testimony was provided by one of the Golani Brigade soldiers who was injured, and later reported the incident in the hospital. The soldier was interviewed on Galei Tzahal [Israel Army Radio].
    If he was injured, then I guess Rachel did not do her job so well. Did this soldier directly talk to Rachel?

    Others have it from the mother of one of the soldiers:
    ‘My son is in the Givati Brigade, and his unit’s job is to clean out areas around Gaza City.
    Meanwhile, how does Rav Shmuel Eliyahu know the details of the story? Well, we have:
    Recently, a story has been circulating about Rachel Imeinu, who appeared to soldiers in various places, and saved them from booby-trapped houses. A great Rosh Yeshiva told me that it was true, and that he knew the man told the story, and told me his name.
    This is thus indirect, kind of like friend-of-a-friend. Similar "confirmations" occurred by the hoax about the black student who was a victim of the attack on Merkaz HaRav (where the source was purportedly a rebbe in the Yeshiva), and similar confirmations in the hoax about Rav Kanievsky warning of people being in bomb shelters on Chanukkah (where it was again purportedly from a person X who spoke to Rav Kanievsky). Here, he does not say the name of the "great Rosh Yeshiva," such that we can confirm details from him. I am sure the great Rosh Yeshiva exists. And the great Rosh Yeshiva told him the name of the man in the story, and that seems to be enough for Rav Shmuel Eliyahu. He should call the man in the story himself, and confirm that it occurred, and confirm the specific details. Or ask the great Rosh Yeshiva whether he heard it from the man himself, or whether from someone in the man's family or shul, etc. As it is, and as it was for the two aforementioned hoaxes, there is entirely too much potential from broken telephone and misunderstandings or who did what.

    And what does it mean "that it was true?" That it was Rachel? Which version of the story is he endorsing?

    (3) How did the woman appear and reappear in different houses, if not via a miracle, and if not for her being Rachel Imeinu?

    Well, there are tunnels between the houses:
    The soldiers thought she probably came somehow through the tunnel network that Hamas had set up between houses, and one of the soldiers even yelled at her… Then they went to a third house – and the same woman appeared again. This time, all the soldiers froze.
    And indeed, as per another account, there were tunnels:
    A little while later, it turned out that the old woman was right: the houses were booby-trapped, and they had openings to tunnels. The houses exploded, and the soldiers' lives were saved!
    So she could have simply run from one house to the next via tunnels.

    (4) If it was really an Arab woman, why would she do this?

    There are a number of possible reasons. One, she could have been a righteous woman who did not like Chamas and did not want soldiers walking into a booby-trap.

    It is also possible that she had family in these houses, or she or relatives or friends owned these houses, and that Hamas, which likes to cause civilian casualties so that they can wave them at the cameras, booby-trapped the houses hoping or not caring about civilian casualties or damage to property. The woman was trying to protect loved-ones, or her home, and so warned the soldiers so as to prevent the explosion.

    Thus, to explain the reason:
    and started yelling at them in Arabic, ‘Ruchu min hon – Get out of here! It’s dangerous!’ The troops thought she might be trying to protect her family, but they didn’t want to take chances;
    (5) Did she speak Hebrew or Arabic?

    According to one account:
    Outside one house, a woman dressed in black appeared and started yelling at them in Arabic, ‘Ruchu min hon – Get out of here! It’s dangerous!’
    So she spoke Arabic. According to another account, she does not speak Arabic but rather only Hebrew:
    The officer asked her in Arabic to evacuate the doorway, but she answered him in Hebrew, and begged him to immediately get far away from the house, since it was booby-trapped [mined with explosives], and there was a danger to him and his soldiers.
    How can you believe such a story when crucial details such as whether she said a name, whether she said Rachel, or whether she said Rachel Imeinu; and whether she spoke in Arabic or in Hebrew, are at variance? Clearly if it did happen in some form, people are actively modifying it, and so even though Rav Shmuel Eliyahu heard it from an unnamed great Rosh Yeshiva who

    (6) Did Rav Mordechai Eliyahu confirm the details of the story?

    No, and he is in no position to do so. Rather, when told the story, he believed the story to be true. And that this was a fulfillment to his prayers, when he spoke to Rachel Imeinu and asked her to pray to Hashem for her children.

    (I would note that while the Navi Yirmeyahu writes poetry about the disconsolate Rachel,saying that she is crying, כה אמר ה' קול ברמה נשמע נהי בכי תמרורים רחל מבכה על בניה מאנה להנחם על בניה כי איננו, in a way that may well be allegorical, this is not the same as an endorsement to be doreish el hameisim.)

    All he asked Rachel for was to pray that Hashem grant the soldiers success and not to be harmed, not to work as a scout, as a sort of independent operating power. Yet Rav Eliyahu apparently sees this as a possible fulfillment of his request.

    I say "possible" because based on the video retelling by his son, it was said in a jocular manner, and as a question. "Did she tell them that I sent her?"

    And anyway, his belief is not a confirmation of reality. It is just a confirmation of his own beliefs, which may or may not accord with reality. And before Rav Eliyahu said this, I could point to any number of frum, mystically inclined individuals who also believed it. Th

    Meanwhile, here is YNet's account of it, with Rav Eliyahu's "endorsement" and Rav Aviner saying that one should be skeptical, and that the pasuk in Mishlei applies, that a fool believes everything:

    טו פֶּתִי, יַאֲמִין לְכָל-דָּבָר; וְעָרוּם, יָבִין לַאֲשֻׁרוֹ. 15 The thoughtless believeth every word; but the prudent man looketh well to his going.

    Some of Rav Aviner's remarks, cited from that YNet article:

    "יש שני סוגי קיצוניות", הוסיף הרב אבינר, קיצונות אחת זה לכפור בנסים וקיצוניות אחת זה להאמין שכל מי שמספר על נס באמת היה נס... יכול להיות שדמיינו. לפעמים אדם מדמיין, אדם בריא בנפשו. לפעמים הוא בלחץ, הוא עייף, הוא רעב, נדמה לו שהוא רואה משהו ואין, ואחר כך הוא מטפח את זה בזיכרונו. זה נקרא F.M.S - תסמונת הזיכרון המוטעה".

    "יכול להיות שזו הייתה אישה גויה. יש גם

    ערביות טובות - אמנם לא כולן, אבל יש. ואולי מישהו הזה את הרעיון הזה כדי לחזק את האמונה, ולומר: אתם רואים? יש אנשים שיוצאים למלחמה ויש אנשים שלא יוצאים למלחמה אבל הם מתפללים ובזכותם באה רחל ומצילה. לכן דברים כאלה צריכים הוכחות".

    Update: See also the post on this at Yeranen Yaakov.

    Also, see my continued discussion of this, in another blog post.


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