Saturday, January 30, 2010

IDF creates socks you can wear for two weeks straight -- מעשה אבות סימן לבנים

So the latest news is that the IDF is distributing to their soldiers special socks:
Israel's foot soldiers are getting new odour-free socks that can be worn for two weeks straight without smelling or stinking up the feet, the Maariv daily reported on Thursday.
This seems to me to be recreating our ancestors' meritorious actions in Egypt. From midrash Lekach Tov:

כננד ד׳ זכיות שבידם, שלא שינו את לשונם
ולא חילפו את שמלותם, ולא גילו את סודם
דכתי׳ ושאלה אשת משכנתה ולא בטלו ברית מילה

Friday, January 29, 2010

posts so far for parshat Beshalach

  1. Beshalach sources -- more than 100 meforshim on the parsha and haftarah, organized by topic.
  2. Feeding the birds on Shabbos Shirah.
  3. Was it the Egyptians or the Israelites on the seashoreTwo parses of the pasuk וַיַּרְא יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-מִצְרַיִם מֵת עַל-שְׂפַת הַיָּם? The traditional one is that the Egyptians were dead on the seashore. Rashbam and Ibn Ezra differ from Rashi and the midrash, and claim that the Israelites were standing on the seashore when they saw the Egyptians dead. I side with Rashi and Shadal, in the traditional explanation. Also, does the trup indicate anything in this regard?
  4. How could it say "lest" the nation repentTouching on Bechira vs. Omniscience, what is meant by the opening of Beshalach, thatpen the nation see war and return to Egypt? Ibn Ezra vs. Ibn Caspi.
  5. Two rights -- Considering a Rashi and Mechilta about two right hands.
  6. The zakef on mikkedash -- Rashi interprets the the zakef on the word מקדש in the Shirat Hayam, and is absolutely correct. Plus, considering what some supercommentators say.
  7. Twisting a pasuk, to make it accord with the scientific fact of spontaneous generation -- A Mechilta, Rashi, and Ramban, all believe in spontaneous generation, and therefore grapple to understand a pasuk which seems to contradict it. This is unsurprising, since spontaneous generation was accepted as scientific fact until the recent past.

  1. Beshalach sources -- links to an online Mikraos Gedolos, by perek and aliyah, as well as to a vast array of meforshim on the parshah and haftarah. Great for preparing the parsha.
  2. Beshalach commentary, first pass, pt i -- an experimental format of running commentary on a sequence of psukim.
  3. Is the command not to leave one's place intended leDoros? Ramban vs. Rambam, and my own reading of the pesukim into the Ramban, on a peshat level.
  4. The dangers of mispredicting the ketz -- where according to Tg Yonatan, some Israelites mispredicted the ketz and left 30 years too early. Hashem took the present Israelites in a circuitous route so that they would not encounter the results of that war and be discouraged. As I conclude there:

    This is certainly the case for me, in that knowledge of previous failed messianic attempts and predictions, and their repercussions (physical and theological), stands to caution me about present messianic attempts. It does not help, of course, when I see that their prooftexts are often extremely kvetched and go against the meaning in context. And perhaps that is one of the reasons I often take stands against thisketz-ism which is so prevalent today.

  5. Followup to mispredicting the ketz -- Addressing the question of why exactly the Bnei Ephraim left 30 years early, according to some midrashim. I claim it would be based on misunderstanding a pasuk. But would the ancient Israelites have such a pasuk to misinterpret? I address that as well.
  6. After you, or after them? A derash in Chizkuni, based on neermu mayim in Beshalach and a seemingly different pasuk than we have in parshat Ekev.
  1. Why did Yosef adjure the descendants? Trying to explain Rashi's motivation, and how Bnei Yisrael means the children of Israel rather than the children of Yaakov.
  2. In his discussion on the age of trup, Shadal notes how the Mechilta reads the word in shirat haYam as nod rather than ned, and discusses what this may mean.
  3. When Moshe says "Hu Asher Dibber Hashem," is this something already known, or some new and surprising information? cross-listed from parshat Shemini.
  1. Beshalach and the Weak Fa -- explaining the first Ibn Ezra on the parsha. He is not talking about the letter feh but rather the "weak fa," a grammatical feature in Arabic, with a parallel in the vav here.
  2. The Sanctuary, O Lord [which] Your Hands Founded -- and how the trup on the word mikdash removes an ambiguity and bolsters the Biblical parallelism.
  3. Is VaEd In Hashem Yimloch LeOlam Vaed Spelled With a Patach or A Kamatz? No, and I don't think Rashi had it so either. (And against some who read this into Rashi.)
  4. Parshat HaMan -- there is a spreading practice to say it specifically on Tuesday of parshat Beshalach. Here is a post detailing the reasons why specifically this day. And here is a post regarding my flippancy in that other post, and the difference between internalizing the message of parshat haman on the one hand, and saying it as a magical formula or incantation on the other. I mention the practice as well in 2008 in a post about Tu BeShvat seders, and that post contains a link to the (Artscroll) text.
  5. Tu BeShvat Seders -- Why I oppose them (2007) and Why I *really* oppose them (2008)
  1. Midrashic Literalism: 180 Billion in Egypt?! A Response -- A response to an article on midrashic literalism. One portion of this is an analysis of chamushim who left Egypt.
  2. עָזִּי vs. עֻזִּי in actual practice -- As was leined in my shul. Heh.
  3. Az Yashir: Use of the Imperfect to Designate Desire -- Moshe will sing in the future. So stated a midrash. How are we to understand this construction on a peshat level? Parallels to English "will." Also, an analysis of עָזִּי וְזִמְרָת קָהּ, וַיְהִי-לִי לִישׁוּעָה. Plus a great comment.
  4. Issi ben Yehuda's Five as Disambiguated by Trup -- Cross-listed from Vayigash/Vayechi. Issi ben Yehuda gives five pesukim that are ambiguous in that they can be parsed in one of two ways. Yet trup is a logical and syntactic system of division within pesukim, and can thus disambiguate, choosing one of the two parsings. We go through each example, and one example is a pasuk from parshat Beshalach: Is Moshe saying that Yehoshua will go out to fight Amalek on the morrow, or is he saying that Moshe will stand on the top of the hill on the morrow?
  1. Puns in the Parsha -- about the word nacham, though not the joke that poor Nachum was the only one not to leave Egypt.
  2. `ain muqdam um`uchar baTorah -- in Shirat haYam, and elsewhere. Why? What else can we say?
  3. Write it in the book. Which Book? After Yehoshua's victory over Amalek, Moshe is told to write something in the book. Which book? Some suggestions.
  1. Beshalach Trivia -- Two groaners. Plus a relatively unknown, and positive spin on the chamushim with which the Israelites left Egypt, from Targum Yonatan.
  2. Each According to His Appetite/Number of Eaters: Rashi's Commentary on Exodus 16:17--  An 20-page paper I wrote for a Revel class, "Rashi as an Exegete," analyzing a particular Rashi and how it connects to, and deviates from, its midrashic basis.
BTW, the filename of the image reveals what relevance it has to the parsha. ;)
to be continued...

Twisting a pasuk, to make it accord with the scientific fact of spontaneous generation

Summary: A Mechilta, Rashi, and Ramban, all believe in spontaneous generation, and therefore grapple to understand a pasuk which seems to contradict it. This is unsurprising, since spontaneous generation was accepted as scientific fact until the recent past.

Post: In parshat Beshalach, there is a verse which describes what happened to manna left over:

20. But [some] men did not obey Moses and left over [some] of it until morning, and it bred worms and became putrid, and Moses became angry with them.כ. וְלֹא שָׁמְעוּ אֶל מֹשֶׁה וַיּוֹתִרוּ אֲנָשִׁים מִמֶּנּוּ עַד בֹּקֶר וַיָּרֻם תּוֹלָעִים וַיִּבְאַשׁ וַיִּקְצֹף עֲלֵהֶם מֹשֶׁה:

If we take this verse straightforwardly, it seems to suggest that first it bred worms, and then it rotted. Actually, I am not entirely convinced of this. I would treat it as a hendiadys, which roughly is using "two words linked by a conjunction to express a single complex idea." For example, "sound and fury" in MacBeth to represent one idea. Or alternatively put, since both happened to the leftover manna, and the intent is to describe the new state, it does not matter which came first. The idea is that this was now the new state, and at the same time, now, this was the new state. This is a different sort of ain mukdam, but one that works on a peshat level with little to no difficulty. But I can understand how others can assume that, because of the use of the vav hahippuch, the vav conversive, it refers to developing action, such that X happened before Y. That is how it is often used.

Rashi writes regarding this as follows:

and became putrid: This verse is transposed, because first it became putrid and later it bred worms, as it says: “and it did not become putrid, and not a worm was in it” (verse 24), and such is the nature of all things that become wormy. — [from Mechilta]ויבאש: הרי זה מקרא הפוך, שתחלה הבאיש ולבסוף התליע, כענין שנאמר (פסוק כד) ולא הבאיש ורמה לא היתה בו, וכן דרך כל המתליעים:

And that Mechilta:
וירם תולעים ויבאש - הרי מקרא זה מסורס. וכי מרחיש ואח"כ מבאיש, אלא מבאיש ואח"כ מרחיש, כענין שנאמר: ולא הבאיש וגו'. 
What motivates the Mechilta is that of course things don't first get wormy and then rotten. It is the opposite order. And indeed, we see this opposite order in the later pasuk. Therefore, it is a verse that has been twisted around, and we must twist it back in our minds.

But why must it be that things first rot and only then become wormy? The answer is obvious, when we consider the contemporary scientific belief, of spontaneous generation. Worms were not born of other worms, or of eggs. Rather, food rotted, and worms

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is Dreaming of Moshiach unwittingly promoting idolatry?

When people who are not so knowledgeable start making up their own theology and practices on the basis of dreams, there is a real danger of not only going off the deep end but straying into idolatrous practices. And I am worried by some of the suggestions and ideas recently mentioned in posts at Dreaming of Moshiach.

Nava at DreamingOfMoshiach had a dream about 3 years ago where the Abir Yaakov, zatza"l, asked her to visit him. And so recently, she did. Then, in a post titled "Dreams Do Come True", she writes (emphasis mine):
Last night, exactly a week since being at the Tzion of the Abir Yaakov, zs'kl, my husband dreamed that the Abir Yaakov appeared to him. The Tzaddik Kadosh Elyon told my husband that all the prayers I prayed at his Tzion for all the people around the world, including my personal prayers, reached him.

The Abir Yaakov also told my husband that Miriam HaNevia was at his Tzion in the image of a white dove and he also told my husband that together with Miriam HaNevia, a'h, are judging all the bakashot to b'h fullfill them.

If you would like your judgment to be sweetened, I humbly sug
gest you light 2 candles, one for Rabbi Yaakov Abuchazera and the other for Miriam HaNevia, a'h, and ask that your bakashot be fullfilled for the good, amen.
The evidence that "dreams do come true", I suppose, is that her husband also had a dream. Sure.

Meanwhile, see what I stressed above. Praying at the kever of a tzaddik is somewhat questionable, but the reason it is most commonly allowed is that the tzaddik is just a meilitz yosher, who brings the tefillot to Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Yet here she writes that the tefillot reached him, meaning the Abir Yaakov, not Hashem! And who is the one to judge bakashot to fulfill them? Not Hashem! Rather, the Abir Yaakov together with a female consort, Miriam haNeviah. (This is a theme.)

Also, Miriam has apparently returned and taken corporeal form, of a bird (depicted above), who moves about in our world, rather than just being a tzaddekes who might help argue on our behalf in Shamayim. These elements make me extremely wary. And then, by lighting two candles, one for the Abir Yaakov and one for Miriam Haneviah, asking that the bakashot be fulfilled for good, there is more than a slight possibility that someone will have in mind that these are offerings, chas veshalom, to these spiritual entities.

Miriam is not the only dead tzaddekes to come back and take avian form. Apparently, Rachav haZonah has done so as well, as a white raven. And so we should light candles for her as well:
My husband was very surprised in the dream that Rachav is in Paris and Rachav HaTzaddika told my husband that in the zchut that she made it possible for Am Israel to capture Eretz Israel, she was given the important task of gathering Am Israel from all over the world to Eretz Israel.

Rachav HaTzaddika, a'h, asked my husband that we light candles for her neshama because it helps her and gives HKB'H much nachat. Please light a candle in honor of Rachav HaTzaddika and b'h, ask that in her zchut you will b'h be zoche to make Aliya, amen.
This grabbing of random Biblical female characters, even though some of them are neviim, promoting them to important roles in the coming of mashiach, and recommending offerings of sorts towards a specific purpose seems rather iffy to me. (And we don't see the same for Shmuel HaNavi, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon, Calev, Betzalel, Shlomo, Chizkiyahu, etc.)

It is not just Miriam and Rachav. It is also Devorah HaNeviah, who has been DreamingOfMoshiach's mainstay. She is hoping that on Shabbos Shirah, people will participate in a special meal in Devorah's honor, and in gratitude for what Devorah has done for us. In a post titled "Importance of Gratitude":
Devorah HaNevia is so humble and cares so much about Am Israel - she humbly transferred her promised miracles, 3,000 years later, to us, TO US!!!!!!

In gratitute to Devorah HaNevia's song of praise to HaShem, we also need to show Hakarat Hatov (gratitude) to Devorah HaNevia for transferring her promised miracles to us for the redemption to come without pain....

If you would like to show your gratitude to Devorah HaNevia, join us for Seudat Shabbat Shira in honor of Devorah HaNevia at the Chabad Shul in Ramot Aleph, Jerusalem, or you can participate by sending a donation in this tremendous Mitzvah.
If you cannot attend the scheduled upcoming Shabbat meal or contribute, I'd like to propose to light a candle in memory of Devorah HaNevia and remit a donation to another organization this week to help the Jewish needy in Israel in her memory and honor
Making a meal in gratitude to a deceased individual for miracles -- it is more than possible that this is idolatrous. I discussed this a while back in terms of "setting a table of Eliyahu". The defense listed there, for why it was not idolatrous, would not seem to apply here.

I say this before this Shabbos arrives, so as to warn anyone who may be considering participating in such a seudah, to first consult your local Orthodox rabbi.

Interesting Posts and Articles #252

  1. Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths contrasts two different segulos to prevent damaged tefillin.

  2. AstroTorah on whether references to aliens in the gemara are legit, or the result of ignorance on the part of modern folk who read those gemaras.

  3. Bloggers vs. Doers -- purportedly, someone who learns in Lakewood defaced copies of Rabbi Eidensohn's Yad Moshe in a seforim store, rather than merely complaining about the Daas Torah blog online in a comment:

    “For your info. I recently went into a VERY popular otzar hasforim of a very popular yeshiva here in lakewood ( Im not saying any names). one that is used by many talmidei chachamim 24/7; There are a few Yad moshes on the shelf there. every single Yad moshe in the cover by your name said the following (in hebrew) ‘Rasha merusha, mevazeh talmidei chachamim v'gedolei hador R"L. Baal blog shel motzi shem rah v'lashon horah vchoo. R"L.’” 
    It is good to see people take action in meatspace, rather than just complain in cyberspace. (Yes, I am joking.) Read all about at Daas Torah and the Five Towns Jewish Times.

  4. At Ishim veShitot, Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky, Mendelssohn, and Jastrow's dictionary:

    While there are likely fewer students in Torah Vodaas today who would know about the Biur and its author, that particular bochur did, and his horror was visceral. Rav Yaakov immediately understood, and reportedly smiled (he seemed always to smile) and said, “They are surprised that I would own such a work. If only they knew how many difficulties it helped me solve.”

    Although not an irrefutable proof, the following excerpt (Emes L' Yaakov YD 281) would seem to falsify the above to some extent...

  5. At Matzav and elsewhere, a segulah miraculously doesn't work:

    Had the baby turned, the baby would have died. The segulah did not work because the cord was around the neck and the miracle saved the baby.
    They performed a C-section and the baby was boruch Hashem born healthy.
    Miraculously, in this case, the segulah did not work.

    A nice comment there by Kish Ka:

    Reminds of a story: A Rebbe missed his train. He was so upset he said: “The train should crash”. His Chassidim pointed out that there might be Yidden on the train. The Rebbe agreed and said “It shouldn’t crash”. Sure enough, the train did not crash!!!

  6. At Cross-Currents, Rabbi Avi Shafran explains and defends his comments regarding the earthquake in Haiti. And at Emes veEmunah, Rabbi Harry Maryles defends Rabbi Shafran as well. And Rabbi Slifkin responds to Rabbi Shafran's latest article.

  7. And Rabbi Twersky also attempts to make sense of the devastation in Haiti. Not sechar veOnesh per se, but natural consequence of violation (by non-Haitians) of the sheva mitzvos bnei Noach elsewhere in the world. Check out the comments.

  8. On the Main Line has a bulla from Nechemia Gaon. Also, he considers what would be a greater psul for a dayan -- wearing a brown article of clothing or holding that one can be a full and complete Jew while disbelieving all of kabbalah, relating it to something I discussed in my recent post on Dybbuks, Gedolim, and adding to ikkarei emunah via makchish magideha.

  9. Yachdus discusses a ban on newspapers without a hechsher, from the same rav behind the ban on chareidi websites. He has an image. And a cute post (a spoof, it would certainly seem) on the latest kupat ha'ir segulah.

  10. At the Jewish Press, My Machberes column, Rabbi Tannenbaum discusses praying etiquette and quacking like a duck. My thoughts, perhaps, in a later post.

The zakef on mikkedash

Summary: Rashi interprets the the zakef on the word מקדש in the Shirat Hayam, and is absolutely correct. Plus, considering what some supercommentators say.

Post: Part of the Shirah is:

17. You shall bring them and plant them on the mount of Your heritage, directed toward Your habitation, which You made, O Lord; the sanctuary, O Lord, [which] Your hands founded.

יז. תְּבִאֵמוֹ וְתִטָּעֵמוֹ בְּהַר נַחֲלָתְךָ מָכוֹן לְשִׁבְתְּךָ פָּעַלְתָּ יְ־הֹוָ־ה מִקְּדָשׁ אֲדֹנָי כּוֹנְנוּ יָדֶיךָ:

And Rashi says upon this:

the sanctuary: Heb. מִקְּדָשׁ. The cantillation sign over it is a “zakef gadol,” to separate it from the word ה following it. [The verse thus means:] the sanctuary which Your hands founded, O Lord. 

מקדש: הטעם עליו זקף גדול להפרידו מתיבת השם שלאחריו המקדש אשר כוננו ידיך ה'. 

And he is absolutely right that this is what the trup conveys. That trup is:

Analyzing from after the etnachta, we have:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Two rights

Summary: Considering a Rashi and Mechilta about two right hands.

Post: In the Shirah:

6. Your right hand, O Lord, is most powerful; Your right hand, O Lord, crushes the foe.

ו. יְמִינְךָ יְ־הֹוָ־ה נֶאְדָּרִי בַּכֹּחַ יְמִינְךָ יְ־הֹוָ־ה תִּרְעַץ אוֹיֵב:
Your right hand…Your right hand: twice. When the Israelites perform the will of the Omnipresent, [even] the left hand becomes a right hand. — [Rashi from Mechilta]

ימינך ימינך: שתי פעמים, כשישראל עושין את רצונו של מקום השמאל נעשית ימין:

Based on a Mechilta:
דבר אחר:
ימינך ה' נאדרי בכח -
כשישראל עושין רצונו של מקום - הן עושין שמאל ימין, שנאמר: ימינך ה' ימינך ה' שני פעמים.
וכשאין ישראל עושין רצונו - כביכול הן עושין ימין שמאל. שנאמר: השיב אחור ימינו. 

I would venture that some of what influences this interpretation is that, within typical Biblical parallelism, we would expect to find alternation. Sometimes yemincha is placed opposite yadecha (your hand); another time  against semolecha (your left):
יחזקאל פרק לט
  • פסוק ג: וְהִכֵּיתִי קַשְׁתְּךָ, מִיַּד שְׂמֹאולֶךָ; וְחִצֶּיךָ, מִיַּד יְמִינְךָ אַפִּיל. 

In a case of Biblical parallelism, to use the same word, rather than a synonym or antonym, seems "off", and therefore calls out for a derasha. But of course, Biblical parallelism does on occasion make use of repetition, sometimes even repetition of the same word. This might well be for intensifying effect.

Ibn Ezra, indeed, argues on this Rashi and midrash:
ואמר פעמים ימינך ה'. כטעם: כי הנה אויביך ה' נשאו נהרות. והטעם כי פעם אחר פעם. פעמים אין להם מספר תעשה ככה, שתרעץ ימינך האויב.

He is referring to the duplication in:

תהילים פרק צב
  • פסוק י:   כִּי הִנֵּה אֹיְבֶיךָ, יְהוָה--    כִּי-הִנֵּה אֹיְבֶיךָ יֹאבֵדוּ:יִתְפָּרְדוּ,    כָּל-פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן.

and in:
תהילים פרק צג
  • פסוק ג:   נָשְׂאוּ נְהָרוֹת, יְהוָה--נָשְׂאוּ נְהָרוֹת קוֹלָם;    יִשְׂאוּ נְהָרוֹת דָּכְיָם

There are indeed many of this sort, and one should not feel compelled to darshen it. Or perhaps rather, on a peshat level, this is not irregular at all.

Tangentially related to all the above, I noticed the common matchup of yemincha to yadcha. But then, I suspect that these two are deliberate:
תהילים פרק ס
  • פסוק ז:   לְמַעַן, יֵחָלְצוּן יְדִידֶיךָ;    הוֹשִׁיעָה יְמִינְךָ ועננו (וַעֲנֵנִי).


איוב פרק מ
  • פסוק יד:   וְגַם-אֲנִי אוֹדֶךָּ:    כִּי-תוֹשִׁעַ לְךָ יְמִינֶךָ.

Dybbuks, Gedolim, and adding to ikkarei emunah via makchich magideha

Judaism has several axioms, called ikkarei emunah. Rejecting these axioms puts one into the category of heretic. Yet there are few of them. There are many other beliefs in Judaism, and someone who rejects any of those might be grievously wrong, and an idiot, but not necessarily a heretic. This despite how these beliefs have always had, or have gained over time, common acceptance, including among great rabbis. The Rambam says that there is no pesak in hashkafa, which would compel one to follow the majority or precedent. E.g:
וכבר אמרתי פעמים רבות כשיש מח' בין החכמים בסברת אמונה אין תכליתו מעשה מן המעשים שאין אומרים שם הלכה כפלוני

As I already wrote many times when there is a dispute between the chachamim on a matter of faith that has no relevance to action we don''t say the hakacha is like Ploni.

And indeed, it seems that he argued with Chazal in certain theological matters, such as in the existence of sheidim or about the precise nature of Divine providence.

Yet in a theological debate, there is great temptation to turn one's frum position into an ikkar, an axiom. That way, you are automatically right; no one can question the foundations of the axiom, and you are not forced to grapple with its foundations yourself. Furthermore, your disputant need not be engaged. He is a heretic for daring to say this, and one should not engage with a heretic! And proof that he is an oisvorf whose words and proofs should not be considered is this position he is putting forth.

Thus, as an example, the belief in the integrity of the transmission of the Oral Torah is expanded to include the integrity of the Zohar, despite it being revealed / having been invented in the 13th century. If someone argues that this is not part of Oral Torah, and has proofs of late authorship, this should not be considered. After all, he is a heretic, according to Rambam! This even though Rambam did not agree with certain kabbalistic beliefs and considered them nonsense.

One way of expanding the axioms of Judaism is via appeal to authority, combined with the idea of makchish maggideha. Thus, for example, Rav Tzadok Hakohen writes:

וכבר מפורסם אצל כל ישראל דברי חז"ל וכל קדושים מחכמי האמת, עניני מעשה מרכבה מה הם. [ואין צורך להשיב כאן על דברי המתפלספים הקדמונים, בפירוש מעשה מרכבה (גם כן) שהוא בהשגת חקירות הפילוסופים בחכמת הטבע ושלאחר הטבע, שכבר תמהו עליהם חכמי הדורות דאם כן כבר נגלו לקטני אומות העולם המסתכלים בספרי חכמיהם, יותר ממה שנתגלה לגדולי הנביאים ברמזים וחידות: ואין צורך להאריך מזה לכשרי ישראל עתה שנתפרסמה חכמת האמת בעולם, מוסכם בפי כל חכמי ישראל האמיתים. וכל הכופר בה הוא מכלל האפיקורסים, וכמו שיתבאר במצות לא תסור, וכמו שכתב בתשובות הב"ח הישנות (סימן ה') דהמלעיג על דברי חכמים ומדבר דופי על חכמת הקבלה, שהיא מקור התורה ועיקרה וכולה יראת שמים, פשיטא דאין לך מזלזל בדברי חכמים גדול מזה שחייב נידוי, עיין שם]:

Rabbinic consensus, such that an idea is muskam befi kol chachmei yisrael ha'amitim {=true Scotsmen}, creates a new axiom, such that one who argues upon it is a heretic, because he is mocking the words of the chachamim. Thus, according to this, there is pesak in hashkafah. This is, in effect, using makchish magideha to make rabbinic consensus into pesak and into an ikkar.

Yet I don't think Rambam held this, as he held that there is no such thing as demons, or real magic.This despite Chazal maintaining the existence of each of these. And despite widespread contemporary rabbinic consensus that certain impossible midrashim were absolutely literal, Rambam maintained that they were allegorical, and considered those who thought otherwise to be fools.

Similarly, there is a rather silly "debate" raging at Rationalist Judaism, in which someone is arguing that one cannot say that Rambam was influenced by Greek philosophy which moved him from the masorah -- despite that this is what some of the most prominent Rishonim and Acharonim indeed say -- because that would be makchish magideha.

What about belief in dybbuks? There is indeed some precedent in early Jewish sources for demonic possession, or possession by an evil spirit, though this is not necessarily the same as modern dybbuks. But suppose I follow Rav Saadia Gaon and don't think dybbuks are real. Am I a kofer, because this is a widespread Jewish belief among chareidi rabbonim and rabbonim in general in recent generations past? Since the Chofetz Chaim (purportedly, or thought he) saw a dybbuk, and the Gra saw a dybbuk, by saying that dybbuks are not real, would I be makchish magideha?

It gets better than that. Forget general belief in dybbuks, which can take us on several tangents. I will grant the reality of dybbuks in the general case. What about in the particular case? Let us say several prominent chareidi rabbis, dubbed Gedolim, attest to the reality of a particular dybbuk. What if I then say that this is likely, or certainly no dybbuk, and that the fellow needs the assistance of a psychologist or psychiatrist? Am I a kofer for saying this?

I would assert that I am not, and that to claim otherwise is hashkafic overreach.

Let us consider the case of the present-day dybbuk. I will cite Rabbi Shternbuch, but we should not hide behind Rabbi Shternbuch. As the Daat Torah blog puts it:
I showed Rav Sternbuch various press releases which asserted that he had placed the Brazilian dybuk in  niddoi to protect R Batzri.  He categorically denied the story. He added this is not a case of a dybuk but of mental illness. He expressed dismay that thousands of people believed that this was a dybuk and were involved with R Batzri's ceremony. He urged me to please write an article regarding his denial and emphasized the urgency to publicize his denial of involvment with the proclamation of nidoi and that he viewed this is a case of mental illness.
Thus, we can simply say that we are relying on Rabbi Sternbuch. And I've heard some people say this, thus holding like one legitimate side in a machlokes. But that is not all that Rav Sternbuch said, that this was a case of mental illness. Rather,
He expressed dismay that thousands of people believed that this was a dybuk and were involved with R Batzri's ceremony.
Why should he be dismayed at these thousands of people believing it. After all, at the time, no prominent rabbinic authority came out to say that it was mental illness. Rav Shternbuch only spoke up because of the nonsense attributed to him. So any random person of those thousand -- how could they not think that it was a dybbuk? What permission did they have to think for themselves, when other Gedolim had spoken in its favor? The answer is that people can and may think for themselves, and they should not be gullible and superstitious fools. When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras. And the horses in this case, for non-superstitious, sane people, is mental illness rather than evil ghostly possession. So think it is not a dybbuk, but think. And think so before Rav Sternbuch has to say it.

But before Rav Sternbuch said it was mental illness, various Gedolim (purportedly) went on record that it was an actual dybbuk. And this made it difficult and awkward for the more rational among us to assert it was mental illness.

Which Gedolim? Well, there is Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Shteinman:
The community rav was notified, and he contacted HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita, with whom he maintains contact. Rav Chaim was briefed at length, leading to many questions, until he began probing seforim, ultimately announcing “this is a real dibuk”. Rav Chaim explained that the Chafetz Chaim and the Chazon Ish knew how to expel a dibuk, but in our generation, there is only one man, sending them to Maran HaGaon HaRav Aaron Leib Shteinman Shlita. “Tell him that by all the signs, this is a genuine dibuk. Perhaps he will know what to do,” Rav Chaim is quoted as saying. 
Rav Shteinman also probed and questioned, as well as investigating in seforim, coming to the same conclusion, adding there is a man in Yerushalayim by the name of Rav Batzri who knows how to remove a dibuk, and “perhaps he will know what to do”.
Thus, for a non-Gadol to say that it was no dybbuk would be to argue on the Gedolim. Which we certainly can and may do, though people think we may not, and that to do so is a breach of Emunas Chachamim.

I would assert that this was also the reason that the dybbuk made the Gadol-tour upon arriving in Eretz Yisrael:
The Yid was brought to Eretz Yisroel over the last few days. He visited the homes of various rabbonim and gedolim, including Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Rav Levi Rabinowitz (author of Madanei Hashulchan), Rav Yaakov Meir Schechter, Rav Zundel Kroizer and the Amshinover Rebbe. The visits to the gedolim were arranged at the recommendation of Rav Batzri, who said that prior to the attempt to banish the dybbuk, the Yid should visit gedolei Torah and get brachos from them.
That is, though the purported reason was to get brachos from them, I would guess that Rav Batzri's reason was to effectively get the haskamos of all these Gedolim, such that their followers would be forced to concede the reality of the dybbuk, and not assert that it was a hoax, just as the woman from Dimona with the dybbuk about 10 years ago confessed, after Rav Batzri performed a well-publicized exorcism. Though that is my jaded suspicion, rather than something provable. I think that was also why the false report about Rav Shternbuch putting the dybbuk in niddui surfaced.

Must we give way to the determinations of Rav Kanievsky and Rav Shteinman (even where they did not see the person, just as Rav Shternbuch did not see the person)? It is either dybbuk, mental disorder, or hoax. Can they tell the difference?

Catholics also believe in demonic possession and exorcism. See here. To cite:

This widespread explosion of interest in exorcism was confirmed by aWashington Post article (Feb. 10, 2008) titled "Exorcism makes a comeback in Europe: Citing modern ills, hundreds of priests have trained to expel the devil." In that anachronistic news report, a Catholic priest in Poland routinely conducting twenty exorcisms per week explains, " ' there is a group of people who cannot get relief through any other practices and who need peace.' " Another priest who holds a doctorate in theology and serves as the resident exorcist at a psychological counseling center outside Warsaw, states that "the institute realized they needed an exorcist on staff after encountering an increase in people plagued by evil.' " The article notes that, in keeping with current Vatican policy, exorcists regularly consult with psychologists and psychiatrists in an effort to differentiate mental disorders from bona fide demonic possession.
That is, they believe in demonic possession, but they also acknowledge mental disorder as a possibility. And, believing in New Testament UMadda, they will consult with psychologists and psychiatrists in order to differentiate the two.

Did Rav Kanievsky or Rav Shteinman consult with psychologists of psychiatrists? Nope. According to the report, they relied on a second-hand description, and consulted sefarim. There are probably particular signs in such sefarim, but I do not think that Rav Kanievsky or Rav Shteinman are equipped to recognize mental or emotional disorders as well as a trained psychologist.

That is right. I do not think that either of these two rabbis are infallible when it comes to topics touching on science. That is why Rav Kanievsky had to look at a grasshopper up close in order to understand matters pertaining to chagavim. (A good thing, BTW, though I don't think that story has been really proven true, despite Rav Kanievsky's first-hand statements. I'll have to explain in another post, how what Rav Kanievsky said in that interview is not at all what was reported, and how there are important differences.) That is why Rav Kanievsky thinks Jews differ from gentiles in number of teeth, and that an anti-Semitic dentist in the US counts his patients' teeth, and will not work if there are 32. (And that was after consulting someone he thought was an expert!) And that is why Rav Shteinman was unable to understand just why facilitated communication for autistics is nonsense in many or most cases, and supported it as a real phenomenon, with disastrous results. Unless they actually consulted experts on the matter, I would not grant much credence to these Gedolim's diagnosis. Nor to the other Gedolim on the Gadol-tour.

Now, it is unclear that Rav Kanievsky and Rav Shteinman actually said it, even though people were leveraging their approbations to frumly shut up any dissent. For example, this comment:
R’ chaim Kanievsky And R’ Yehuda Leib Shteinman both said that he should go to R’ Dovid Batzri. That implies that they know he’s legitimate and not one who can be fooled into thinking that anyone can say there’s a dibuk. Why, then, are many suggesting that this is a hoax? 
I saw a comment, which I cannot track down at the moment, asserting (after the failed exorcism) knowledge that Rav Kanievsky and Rav Shteinman just referred them to Rav Batzri, but did not confirm that it was a dybbuk. And more than that, based on an article in the Hebrew Mishpacha magazine, Yachdus now reports that:
Rav Chaim Kanievsky has dismissed it as a mental case
I don't know whether that means that he changed his mind as more information came to light, or whether his support was fabricated in the first place.

How could it say "lest" the nation repent?

Summary: Touching on Bechira vs. Omniscience, what is meant by the opening of Beshalach, that pen the nation see war and return to Egypt? Ibn Ezra vs. Ibn Caspi.

Post: The first pasuk of Beshalach:

יז  וַיְהִי, בְּשַׁלַּח פַּרְעֹה אֶת-הָעָם, וְלֹא-נָחָם אֱלֹהִים דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים, כִּי קָרוֹב הוּא:  כִּי אָמַר אֱלֹהִים, פֶּן-יִנָּחֵם הָעָם בִּרְאֹתָם מִלְחָמָה--וְשָׁבוּ מִצְרָיְמָה.
17 And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said: 'Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt.'

What in the world does it mean to say פֶּן? This means "lest". This would suggest a fear, rather than a certain knowledge. But surely Hashem is all-knowing!

Ibn Ezra:
כי טעמו: למה לא נחם אלוהים דרך ארץ פלשתים, בעבור שהוא קרוב. והנה נחם דרך רחוקה שלא יראו מלחמה ויאמרו: נתנה ראש ונשובה מצרימה.
וידענו כי השם יודע העתידות בלי ספק וידע שינחמו אם יוליכם דרך ארץ פלשתים. ואמר: פן ינחם העם. כי דברה תורה כלשון בני אדם שיבינו הלומדים.

"And we know that Hashem knows all futures, without doubt, and knew that they would indeed repent if He took them by way of the land of the Philistines. And it said 'lest the nation repent' for the Torah speaks in the language of people, such that the learners would understand."

In contrast, Ibn Caspi thinks

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Was it the Israelites or the Egyptians on the sea-shore?

Summary: Two parses of the pasuk וַיַּרְא יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-מִצְרַיִם מֵת עַל-שְׂפַת הַיָּם? The traditional one is that the Egyptians were dead on the seashore. Rashbam and Ibn Ezra differ from Rashi and the midrash, and claim that the Israelites were standing on the seashore when they saw the Egyptians dead. I side with Rashi and Shadal, in the traditional explanation. Also, does the trup indicate anything in this regard?

Post: The pasuk in Beshalach, in Shemot 14:30:

ל  וַיּוֹשַׁע יְהוָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל--מִיַּד מִצְרָיִם; וַיַּרְא יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-מִצְרַיִם, מֵת עַל-שְׂפַת הַיָּם.
30 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore.

Rashi gives the standard, traditional explanation:

and Israel saw the Egyptians dying on the seashore: For the sea spewed them out on its shore, so that the Israelites would not say, "Just as we are coming up on this side [of the sea], so are they coming up on another side, far from us, and they will pursue us."-[from Mechilta and Pes. 118b]

וירא ישראל את מצרים מת: שפלטן הים על שפתו, כדי שלא יאמרו ישראל כשם שאנו עולים מצד זה כך הם עולין מצד אחר רחוק ממנו וירדפו אחרינו:

That Mechilta:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Beshalach sources

by aliyah
rishon (Shemot 13:17)
sheni (14:9)
shelishi (14:15)
revii (14:26)
chamishi (15:27)
shishi (16:11)
shevii (17:1)
maftir (17:14)
haftara (Devorah and Shirat Devorah, sefer Shofetim 4:4 - 5:31) with Malbim and Ralbag

by perek
perek 14
perek 15 (az yashir)
perek 16
perek 17

Judaica Press Rashi in English
Daat -- with Rashi, Ramban, Seforno, Ibn Ezra, Rashbam, Rabbenu Bachya, Midrash Rabba, Tanchuma+, Gilyonot.
Gilyonot Nechama Leibovitz (Hebrew)
Tiferes Yehonasan from Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz
Chasdei Yehonasan
Toldos Yitzchak Acharon, repeated from Rav Yonasan Eibeshitz
Even Shleimah -- from Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Ehrenreich
R' Saadia Gaon's Tafsir, Arabic translation of Torah (here and here)
Collected commentary of Saadia Gaon on Torah
Kli Yakar (and here)

The following meforshim at JNUL. I've discovered that if you click on the icon to rotate sideways, change to only black and white, select only the portion which is text, it is eminently readable on paper.
Ralbag (pg 104)
Chizkuni (59)
Abarbanel (155)
Shach (85)
Yalkut Reuveni (pg 86)
Sefer Hachinuch (pg 14)
Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite (87)
Daat, Rashi In Hebrew (perek 13)
Judaica Press Rashi in English and Hebrew
MizrachiMizrachi (100, JNUL)
Gur Aryeh (Maharal of Prague)
Siftei Chachamim
Berliner's Beur on Rashi
Commentary on Rashi by Yosef of Krasnitz
R' Yisrael Isserlin (on Rashi, 8, JNUL)
Two supercommentaries on Rashi, by Chasdai Almosnino and Yaakov Kneizel
Rav Natan ben Shishon Shapira Ashkenazi (16th century), (JNUL, pg 72)
Levush HaOrah
Yeriot Shlomo (Maharshal)
Moda L'Bina (Wolf Heidenheim)
Dikdukei Rashi
Mekorei Rashi (in Mechokekei Yehuda)
Yosef Daas
Nachalas Yaakov
Also see Mikraos Gedolos above, which has Rashi with Sifsei Chachamim

Daat, Ramban in Hebrew (perek 13)
R' Yitzchak Abohav's on Ramban (standalone and in a Tanach opposite Ramban)
Kesef Mezukak
Kanfei Nesharim
Rabbi Meir Abusaula (student of Rashba)

ibn ezra
Daat, Ibn Ezra in Hebrew (perek 13)
Mechokekei Yehudah (Daat)
Mechokekei Yehudah (HebrewBooks)
Mavaser Ezra
R' Shmuel Motot (pg 21, JNUL)
Ibn Kaspi's supercommentary on Ibn Ezra, different from his commentary (here and here) -- not until Yisro
Mekor Chaim, Ohel Yosef, Motot
Avi Ezer
Tzofnas Paneach
Ezra Lehavin
Also see Mikraos Gedolos above, which has Ibn Ezra with Avi Ezer

Targum Onkelos opposite Torah text
Targum Onkelos and Targum Pseudo-Yonatan in English
Shadal's Ohev Ger on Targum Onkelos
Chalifot Semalot
Avnei Tzion -- two commentaries on Onkelos
Bei`urei Onkelos
Or Hatargum on Onkelos
Targum Yonatan
Commentary on Targum Yonatan and Targum Yerushalmi
Septuagint (Greek, English)
Origen's Hexapla (JNUL)

Tanach with masoretic notes on the side
Commentary on the Masorah
Minchas Shai
Or Torah
Taamei Masoret
Masoret HaKeriah
Shiluv Hamasorot
Masoret HaBrit HaGadol
Rama (but based on alphabet, not parsha)
Vetus Testamentum

Midrash Rabba at Daat (13)
Midrash Tanchuma at Daat (13)
Shemot Rabba, with commentaries
Midrash Tanchuma with commentary of Etz Yosef and Anaf Yosef
Commentary on Midrash Rabba by R' Naftali Hirtz b'R' Menachem
Matat-Kah on Midrash Rabba
Nefesh Yehonasan by Rav Yonasan Eibeshutz
Sefer Hayashar (English)

haftarah (Devorah and Shirat Devorah, sefer Shofetim 4:4 - 5:31)
In a chumash, with Malbim and Ralbag
In a Mikraos Gedolos, with Rashi, Radak, Ralbag, Metzudat David
Aharon ben Yosef the Karaite (pg 18)
Daat, with Yalkut Shimoni, Malbim, Radak

Interesting Posts and Articles #251

  1. In "Fault Lines", I take note of an attempt to blame the Haiti earthquake on those who dare question why the Gedolim have not addressed the Rabbi Leib Tropper affair, and then cast this as "introspection".

    I just saw something much better. We should, perhaps, blame the Haiti earthquake on the Gedolim and Rabbonim not addressing the Tropper scandal. Why? Well, I just noticed the following old post by Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn, at the Daat Torah blog on December 30, about two weeks before the earthquake hit Haiti:
    It is important to note that there are many who don't understand that a massive earthquake has happened that needs to be addressed. I have been getting a significant amount of letters like this and personal confrontations with people who have very strong opinions against what I am doing as well as Rav Sternbuch. I am simply waiting for the rabbinic leadership to assume responsibility for investigating this mess and making changes that will prevent it from happening again. This scandal is not simply that one Jew had strong appetites - he was given too much power and his deviations were ignored by too many who should have done something about it. Also contrary to what is asserted in this letter it is clear that those in power either read or are informed of what I say on my blog and thus there is clearly a to'eles 
    Yes, I am saying this in jest. But still, a rather interesting choice of words.

  2. At the Five Towns Jewish Times, also copied by Vos Iz Neias, an interview with a prominent Monsey rabbi, Rabbi Dovid Ribiat, on why the rabbis were silent post the revelation of the scandal involving Rabbi Leib Tropper. And see the reactions also at Daat Torah. I will admit -- I did not see much use in getting random prominent rabbis to comment on this particular scandal. But now, I find the (purported) reason for lack of comment maddening. He was asked the difference between the case of Rabbi Slifkin, where they jumped to condemn, and the case of Rabbi Leib Tropper. And see his response. But in terms of why not condemning Rabbi Tropper:

    As a Rabbi in Monsey, I can only say that once there is incontrovertible evidence, appropriate measures will be taken. However, no action will be taken before there is satisfactory evidence, regardless of any scurrilous reports or media pressures.

    Firstly, your question assumes Tropper's guilt. As I said, until there is due process we are not Halachically permitted to issue condemnations against an individual, or to take any other action against him ...
    This is why an Internet connection is an important thing. Although there are plenty of people with Internet connections who still are in denial about this.

    Anyway, compare with Rav Shternbuch's take.
  3. From Vos Iz Neias, a link to a JPost article about a woman, born Jewish but irreligious, became a Christian Scientist. Then she became blind. Then she became somewhat Lubavitch. Once no longer a Christian Scientist, she went for surgery (payed for by donations, but which eventually the doctor didn't accept) and can now see. An fairly inspirational story, I suppose, but similar stories could be had about someone who left Christian Science and became a Buddhist, and therefore had their medical condition treated. The true inspirational aspect of it is the chessed performed.

    It is too bad they had to resort to nichush, and nonsense, though:
    Schwartz didn't have the heart to tell Michal that the money wasn't enough for surgery. Not knowing what to do, in the Chabad manner, she opened a favorite volume of the letters of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson and asked a friend to read it to her: "In the matter of your eyesight," said the letter, "consult a good specialist who will give you proper instruction." So Schwartz made an appointment with Dr. Dennis M. Metz in Brooklyn.

  4. The latest issue of Hakirah is out. Some interesting articles: No, Rashi Was Not a Corporealist, Saul ZuckerRashi’s Stance on Corporealism: A Response to Rabbi Zucker, Natan Slifkin; “They Could Say It, We Cannot”:  Defining the Charge of Heresy, Natan Slifkin; Anatomy and the Doctrine of the Seven-Chamber Uterus in Rabbinic Literature, Edward Reichman. 

    At the moment, only the first two pages of each article are available, unless of course you buy a print copy of the journal.

  5. Another teshuva from Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch, about tinok shenishba bizman hazeh.

  6. This week's Haveil Havalim, at the Real Shliach.

  7. Torah Talk, with a discussion of the segulah of saying parshas HaMan this Tuesday, in order to become rich. See my discussion here and here.


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