Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chol haMoed: Rav Meir Triebitz will discuss Empathy & Yiddishkeit

 Reminder - We are meeting tonight

update: Date is Thursday March 28 at 9 p.m. in Har Nof. At home of Dr. Baruch Shulem.  Those who will wish to attend send me an email and I'll send you the address and material that we will be discussing.  

Also read the previous posting here
I was discussing the issue of my post on Empathy and Yiddishkeit today with Rav Meir Triebitz and he agreed with me. When I mentioned that this issue has been a major point of contention on my blog, he said he would like to lead a group discussion on this topic during Chol haMoed Pesach.

If  you will be in Jerusalem and would like to participate - please send me an email regarding day and time you would be available. The location has not been finalized except that it will be in Jerusalem perhaps in Har Nof. Group will be limited to about 10 participants.

contact me at


  1. OK, so he agrees that the Rabbis didn't have empathy. What does this imply? Should we emulate that trait?

    1. great question - why don't you come and ask him?

    2. I would love to! If I can make it to Israel during Pesach.

  2. A tape or video will be helpful for the many who are not zocha to be in Israel during that time period.

  3. you should have someone live tweet from the event with a hash tag like #noempathyfromchazel (no, i can't come).

  4. Now I know what you're talking about.

    BUT... I see you withdrew your invitation from all us chutznikim! And here I was waiting for the tickets you would send me...

    FWIW, WADR to RMT, he likes chiddushim a little too much too. I often find I disagree with his take on the sources, that his chain of "in other words" end up playing "broken telephone" to make not just new words, but eventually new concepts. An advantage of only listening by MP3 is that I can't follow through on the temptation to chime in every time I object.

    While I will now hold off on this discussion until then, I think the other side of that topic still stands. Regardless of whether chazal advocated empathy or "merely" sympathy, one would still expect to see more dinim preventing abuse because of the pain it caused -- if it were causing the same amount of trauma then as it does to victims today.

    I emailed RDSedley, asking him if he could record this shiur too and put it on

    1. I second the motion to record and post the discussion for us poor souls outside of eretz yisroel

    2. @Micha - "to make not just new words, but eventually new concepts":

      Micha, it seems that your YU / Modern Orthodox intellectualizing has confused you again, as it did with your recent comments against the Rambam.

      I've listened to many of Rav Triebitz's shiurim, and I've never encountered any "new concepts" in them. Rather the Rav seems to understand the great Torah thinkers on much deeper levels than they are commonly understood today by many rabbis.

      A related issue is the apparent prevalent mentality among the MO "Rationalists" who seem to be imposing their Enlightenment derived, atheist leaning "scientism" attitudes on the Rambam's ideas, while in fact they're only understanding the Rambam's concepts on a superficial level.

    3. ELY in your rush to protect RMT's kavod, you missed two things:

      1- I'm allowed to have a different opinion, saying that I think he's too readily creating chidushim isn't an insult, it's a disagreement.

      Such as when he says that the Rambam's words about yeish mei'ayin has more to do with bechirah chafshi than the age of the universe. Or that the Rambam holds that sekhar ve'onesh is about this world, not olam haba. (Both examples are from the series on the Iqarim.)

      2- In voicing this statement that at times my conclusions differ, I am claiming RMT is not being traditional enough, not the other way around. Reread the very words you quote!

      So leave your false assumptions about both Mod-O and my own believe system, as well as your irrational need to insult both out of this.

      Meanwhile, you're saying motzi sheim ra about more people than you have the capacity to apologize to in your time left in this world.

    4. @Micha -

      I never denied your right to a different opinion. I did not consider your comments re: RMT to be insulting to him, I was simply disagreeing with your contention that RMT was making chidushim.

      Re: MO "Rationalists" who fanatically accept evolution and accept everything Charlie Darwin taught -
      The Rambam in MN II:15 and II:22 lambasts the followers of Aristotle for believing that everything Aristotle taught has been demonstrated, when it has not been demonstrated, and is just conjecture.

      Re: the Rambam and yeish mei'ayin - I listened to RMT's shiur on that a while back ago, and I do remember some discussion of bechirah chafshi. But I don't think you can claim this is a chidush of RMT. An eternal Universe would be controlled by scientific determinism only, and no Law, prophecy, or miracles would be possible.

      "Know that with a belief in the creation of the world in time, all the miracles become possible and the Law becomes possible..." (Moreh Nevuchim II:25)

    5. @ Sofek L'Yankel, it is strange that you attack anyone for being MO/YU, when R Treibitz himself is a perfect example of YU/MO. He quotes R' Kook and Kant in his shiurim. (Perhaps Kant is less controversial for you/Stan).

    6. @Eddie -

      I do not attack anyone simply because they are MO or from YU backgrounds. I probably agree with them on many points.

      I do attack ideologies and attitudes such as the following that seem to be common among some MO / YU:
      - Darwin's original theory, or its more recent versions, are in fact proven scientific facts.
      - Feminism should be fully integrated into Judaism.
      - Opposing the "gay" rights movement is homophobia and a violation of Torah.
      - Women in Jewish divorce processes can only be victims, and can never be guilty of evil actions.
      - the Rambam's "rationalism" is compatible with the ideologies of modern Enlightenment rationalists.

      By the way, Rav Kook ZT"L was NOT a MO / YU rabbi.

    7. @ ELY

      The list of ideologies you present - I also reject, I think they are incorrect. R' Kook was MO in its broadest sense, not exactly like RJBS, but he was interested in Mada as well. Rambam was MO of his day, but the Mada of his day was like his Philosophical and Scientific works. it is hard to bring an example today of someone who is a gadol in every field he involves himself in (or even one field for that matter).

    8. hashkafa circle fanboyMarch 29, 2013 at 7:40 AM

      I can't help but to suggest to ely to raise the topic of the age of the universe (an evolution related matter) w RMT. You may be surprised.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. RMT told me that since this will be a discussion, not a shiur, he does not wish to have it recorded.

    1. That is a pity.

      Would it be permissible to give some of the highlights of the discussion?

      A further issue - which is how this theory relates to the issue of trauma and abuse? Is it such that if we can show that Chazal did not accept empathy, then we have to find an easier way of dealing with abuse, and that we are oversensitive to it today?

    2. given the recent news, one can understand why people don't want it recorded.

    3. Eddie, as I wrote in the discussion that led to this talk...

      I don't think the topic of whether or not they accept the notion of empathy relates to the subject of chazal's cavalier treatment of something we consider traumatic. If not empathy, then sympathy would require we do something to prevent trauma. Or even just straight "uviarta hara meqirbekha" -- if we take it for granted that causing trauma is "ra" (evil) as meant by the pasuq.

      So no matter where things stand on this issue, you either have to reach the conclusion that:
      1- Chazal didn't care to prevent a traumatic situation (unacceptable); or
      2- it wasn't traumatic in their day and age.

    4. or 3)

      It was traumatic for the victims but the level of psychological insight was limited or not strong enough to be a factor in halacha.

    5. What insight was necessary? If there were symptoms, people would have noted them. Someone noticed when their abused child never acts quite the same again.

      Our host tried tying that question to this one of empathy, proposing that empathy is a new insight. But as I noted, a derabbanan or understanding an existing deOraisa as demanding a penalty for abuse qua abuse doesn't require empathy, it requires having one's eyes open, seeing pain, and acting to prevent more of it.

    6. "doesn't require empathy, it requires having one's eyes open, seeing pain, and acting to prevent more of it."

      Empathy entails seeing pain. That should be reasonably obvious. Why, for example, is something like cheese with vegetarian rennet, or kol isha singled out to outlaw, with no basis in D'Oraita law, whilst abuse, which has much basis in oraitah is not? For example, the capital crime of kidnapping, is essentially what abuse is about.

    7. You are conflating empathy with sympathy. RDE is speaking specifically of "to try and understand how the other person sees the situation and feels about it.

      "Therefore to say that you should love your fellow man as yourself - meaning that what is hateful to you do not do to others is not an example of empathy. A person who doesn't like himself or is very humble will misread what is important to others and thus will not be empathetic."

      RDE proposed a very specific definition of empathy when pointed out examples that others and myself thought proved that chazal (and Tanakh) presumed and valued empathy. I think even that definition still is assumed in the sources. For example, Hillel isn't telling someone who enjoys his chocolate to share some with someone who enjoys pursuing personal fitness.

      But you're working from a point before that bit of conversation.


    8. "Therefore to say that you should love your fellow man as yourself - meaning that what is hateful to you do not do to others is not an example of empathy. A person who doesn't like himself or is very humble will misread what is important to others and thus will not be empathetic."

      V'AhaVTA et Re'ech Kmocha presumes that we have healthy self esteem, or perhaps prescribes it. If someone hates themself, they cannot use this to hate others, since hate is the opposite of love. However, it is interesting that often the ones who have self hate or poor self esteem are hateful to others.

      Now, perhaps there is a link between chumras and abuse. Chumras or ascetism is a form of self hatred or self punishment. Thus the one who values religiosity by how much self flagelaltion he can inflict may end up projecting this pain on others - and not notice it. I am not talking about spiritual giants, but for most regular people this could be a possible mechanism.

    9. Bereishis Rabba disagrees with your understanding.

      Bereishis Rabba (24:7): … Ben Azzai said, “This is the Book of the descendants of Adam” is a great principle of the Torah. However Rabbi Akiva said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is even a greater principle of the Torah. Because if we only had Ben Azzai’s principle a person might say that “since I have been been embarrassed, my neighbor should also be embarrassed with me. Just as I have been debased, my neighbor should also be debased with me.” Rav Tanchuma said, “If you do so, you should know whom you have embarrassed because man has been made in the likeness of G d.”

    10. If the quote from Bereishis Rabba is a response to my post , then I must take the precise opposite understanding to that of DT. It seems to be saying what I am saying but in a different way.
      Ben Azzai's quote is understood by R Akiva as having the "hate your neighbour as yourself" implication.
      However, the verse Love thy neighbour is not presented in the negative form. Since r Akiva does not view self hatred as a fulfillment of love thy neighbour!

    11. You are correct regarding the Bereishis Rabba which is a minority view that hold that Rabbi Akiva's view is superior to Ben Azsai.

      The majority text is that Ben Azzai's principle is superior for the reason that if you only had Rabbi Akiva's principle then if you did not mind being embarrassed and disgraced etc you would not need to ensure that the other person had it better than you.

      What I meant to cite is the text of the Sifra, Kedoshim IV, 12, where the order is reversed. R. Akiba's view being stated first, viz., that But thou shalt love... is a great principle, and then Ben ‘Azzai maintains that THIS IS THE BO0K, etc., is even a greater principle. For from R. Akiba's verse it might be said that when a man is put to shame he may retaliate, since he is not bidden to love his neighbour more than himself.

      See also Maharal Nesiv Ahavas Re'ah chapter 1

      ספר נתיבות עולם ב - נתיב אהבת ריע - פרק א
      ועוד כי בפסוק זה נאמר בפי' זה ספר תולדות אדם ביום ברוא אלהים את האדם בצלם אלהים עשה אותו, ובזה הפסוק נזכר כי כל תולדות האדם נבראו בצלם אלהים. וכלל זה יותר מן ואהבת לרעך כמוך, כי ואהבת לרעך כמוך משמע כמוך ולא יותר ואם הוא מתבזה א"כ חבירו ג"כ יהיה מתבזה שהרי לא כתיב אלא ואהבת לרעך כמוך ולא יותר מן כמוך, אבל פסוק זה לא כתיב כמוך רק בדמות אלהים עשה אותו לכך הוא כלל יותר ויותר. והגרסא בילקוט בפ' בראשית ר' עקיבא אומר ואהבת לרעך כמוך זה כלל גדול בתורה בן עזאי אומר זה ספר תולדות אדם כלל גדול בתורה. ר' עקיבא אומר ואהבת לרעך זה כלל גדול בתורה שלא תאמר הואיל ונתבזיתי יתבזה חבירי עמי הואיל ונתקללתי יתקלל חבירי עמי אם אתה עושה כך דע למי אתה מבזה בדמות אלהים עשה אותו ע"כ. ונראה כי טעות סופר הוא כי מה שאמר שלא תאמר וכו' הכל דברי בן עזאי הם שאמר כי זה ספר תולדות אדם כלל גדול יותר, ועל זה קאמר כי לכך הוא כלל גדול יותר שלא תאמר כי מן ואהבת לרעך כמוך משמע שאם נתבזה יתבזה חבירו עמו לכך זה ספר תולדות אדם הוא כלל גדול יותר, כך הגרסא וכך הוא בב"ר בפ' בראשית, כך פירוש ת"כ:

    12. RDE:

      The Bereishis Rabba is based on the Yerushalmi.

      You realize you just effectively stated that Ben Azzai was unhappy with R' Aqiva's choice of pasuq because Ben Azzai thought the Torah demanded empathy?

      But still, R' Aqiva could well have required empathy too, it's just that his pasuq doesn't spell that out, and therefore was an inferior choice.

      In any case, R' Wolbe quotes the Alter of Slabodka on "ve'havta lerei'akha kamokha" in his essay in Alei Shur vol II titled "Frumkeit", pg 152. Emphasis RSW's, translation mine:

      "Ve'ahavta lereiakha komakha — and you shall love your peers like yourself." That you should love your peer the way you love yourself. You do not love yourself because it is a mitzvah, rather, a plain love. And that is how you should love your peer.

    13. Post Mussar you could read it as empathy - but there is no necessity that that is how it was understood before. As it stands now Ben Azzai was adding a corrective in the case where the person didn't expect much more himself and raised the standard to what a normal person - not necessarily "your fellow" would want.

    14. It is not "normal person" vs someone with low expectations. It's any two people. I like chocolate, you like feeling fit. I don't like chazanus, you do.

      To implement even what you wrote, though, requires empathy. That'the only way to implement that "corrective". How does someone content with "pas bamelach tokheil" know what a former rich person's "dei machsero" is without empathy?

    15. Regarding your first point - what I said is how the Sifra says and that is how the Maharal understands it. Please refer me to a single commentary which adopts your view?

      Regarding your second point you raise a very interesting question. Which I will answer with another question. What is the reason that everything the Chofetz Chaim dealt with becomes a very detailed halachic issue? Why was the Rambam content with one page dealing with lashon harah and the Chofetz Chaim wrote pages and pages with footnotes describing the law and the complex conditions when it was required or permitted?

      The answer is when you have a clear understanding or a properly tuned sense of yashrus - then most interpersonal obligations don't have to be spelled out in great detail. You don't need a mussar sefer to explain in detail the pain you cause to "x" if you do "y".

      In fact the Chazon Ish said that the Chofetz Chaim on lashon harah can be summed up simply - don't say something which hurts another person.

      Thus in the absence of empathy or yashrus (Rav Triebetz will be making the connection next Thursday and tie it the the Netziv's haskoma to the Chofetz Chaim's Ahavas Chesed) it is necessary to have laundry lists. In fact I think when you find reams of rules and conditions it is a clear sign that no one's judgment, intution or empathy is not trusted.

      Dealing with child abuse - the natural response is to do what is necessary to save the child. However the more you learn about halacha the less you rely or utilize your normal human reaction - and everything needs to be spelled out in great detail.

      In sum, empathy can be funtionally approximated by halachic writings - but it is clearly not identical to it. An autistic child can be taught to act as if he is empathetic - but he arrives at the behavior by a much different route then a child who has empathy. A computer program can also mimic empathy or at least instill in a person the feeling that the computer understands and cares about him - even though it is not so.

    16. RDE, you write (emphasis mine): Thus in the absence of empathy or yashrus ... it is necessary to have laundry lists.

      Are you actually now arguing that the reason why we need a rulebook like Sefer Chafeitz Chaim is because we are LESS empathetic than our ancestors? It appears to be the oppositee of your thesis.

      As for the Sifra, the Y-mi and the Maharal, they're arguing about which pasuq teaches a more central value, not what the central values are. Ben Azzai prefers his pasuq, because he feels R' Aqiva's does not spell out empathy as clearly. That doesn't mean R' Aqiva's doesn't imply emptathy, nor that R' Aqiva didn't value empathy (even if the implication weren't there).

      My reply focused on something else, though... You argued against "ve'ahavta lereiakha" implying empathy (wrongly, IMHO, as per above) by arguing that "zeh sefer toledos ha'adam" does! In terms of proving the antiguity of the value of empathy in Yahadus, you just replaced one of my proofs with another, and the main point is made either way. Nu, so you would say Ben Azzai proves that Chazal cared about empathy. Our understanding of the machloqes becomes irrelevant to the basic idea -- at the time of the rishonim, we already thought a good Jew was an empathetic person.

      As for your other point, it's the thesis of R Dr Haym Soloveitchik's (RYBS's son's) "Rupture and Reconstruction". His topic was how the rupture in Jewish culture caused by the dramatic relocation from Europe to the US and Israel caused our greater reliance on texts. Why we need books on shiurim today, and there is no similar conversation back then.

      R' Dr Koppel describes his own slightly different (and much less famous) variant of this idea in a number of ways (including a chapter that uses Information Theory which is IMHO a must-read before any discussions on free will) before moving on to sections about their consequences. Among them is a mashal that I think is compelling.

      A person learning their primary language doesn't learn grammar by studying a set of rules. They instead get an informal sense of what "sounds right". It is only by learning what "sounds right" that a writer knows how and when to take poetic license and still make sense. The formalized version is less complete. And this is why the need for Rebbe to compose the mishnah was such a tragedy.

      It is also why the opinions of those who lived before the formalization are considered more reliable than those since. And why they had more leeway in variety of opinions they we do. Compared to amoraim, tanaim knew what "sounds right". And compared to geonim or rishonim, the amoraim had that advantage. And so too before and after we started relying on the formalisms on the page of the SA.

      When you don't know what "sounds right" in how to treat other people, you need an entire book on Shemiras haLashon or Ahavas Chessed.

    17. While I agree with much of what you say - you are missing my basic point. The Chofetz Chaim didn't write a book on lashon harah because the intuitive empathetic understanding was fading. He took an approach which doesn't value the intuitive, empathetic approach and replaced with the pure halachic approach. The significance of what he did is that it became widely accepted. in many other areas seichel and yashrus have been deemed irrelevant.

      However in the area of child and sexual abuse - there never was a time when it was clear that the victims were suffering. In my search for an explanation for this I suggested that people today are more vulnerable because of the focus on the psychological.

      In contrast I don't think that people were more or less likely to speak lashon harah. But there was a shift from the Rambam's approach, the Maharal and Rav Chaim Ozer's approach and the Chazon Ish etc etc - to a very detailed halachic basis system which left no room for the use of yashrus or empathy in guiding ones actions.

      In essence I am positing that aside from the issue of trauma there are two approaches - the dialetic between yashrus, empathy and seichel with halachic principles verus the pure halachic approach where you only do that which is in a book or you receive a psak that it is permitted.

      I think the Mussar approach was to develop the ethicial, yashrus in conjuction with halacha while the alternative as exemplified by the Chofetz Chaim seemed to be an empahsis on pure halacha. Similarly I think that Rav Y. B. Soloveitchik was wrestling with this issue regarding the supremacy of halachic man versus religious or ethical man - and the matter was unresolved for him.


    here is a list of child abuse symptoms (physical, sexual, emotional). i'll leave it to the reader to decide which require empathy and which require nothing more than a pair of open eyes.

  8. A question for DT and other eminent bloggers here:

    Would the following classic sources qualify as illustrating both the existence and the recognition empathy plays in the Mesorah?

    'It was in those days that Moses grew up and went out to his brothers and saw their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian man hitting a Hebrew man of his brothers' ( Shemot 2:11)

    'What is the meaning that he saw their burdens? When he saw their burdens he cried out and swore "would that I die for them!" He then gave of his own shoulder to share the burden with every one of his people...הקבייה said, "you left behind your private interests to actively go out and see the suffering of Yisrael...I too will put aside the higher and lower realms to speak with you." (Shemot Rabba 1:27)

    Rashi writes as follows: 'He focused his eyes and heart to be pained over them'

    The Marahal elaborates saying that because Moses saw their pain, he suffered together with them. His sharing of the burden of their experience (of empathy for his people) therefore caused him to notice the beating (abuse) of one of his brothers.

    1. It could be that this is empathy - but it is not necessarily any different than the Chovas Halevavos which says we do chesed to others to stop the pain we feels when we see others suffering. That is more of chesed or rachamin - you see a person being afflicted and it bothers you. Empathy would be the put yourself in the person's shoes and feel what he feels - with the emphasis on the other rather than yourself.

      It is also no different than all the commentaries of "loving your fellow" where the focus is "if you were in his situation what would you want done for you" - instead of saying that you need to try and understand HIS PAIN. This is gemilas chesed not empathy.

      In addition even if it is empathy - it was not a typical reaction according to the commentaries.

      Again I am trying to understand the mindset i.e., empathize with the commentators and poskim who saw child physical and sexual abuse - and yet make absolutely no reference to it.

      It keeps coming back to the suffering is basically irrelevant to the discussion since it is not a halachic issues and it represented a transient discomfort. It was not viewed as pikuach nefesh or induce a chronic disability. Was that because they were ignorant of PTSD or was it because they were tougher in the old days and were not so readily traumatized? If they were tougher was it because of being used to suffering or was it because they didn't obsess about it and tie it to their identify and self-image.

    2. Dear DT, I wish to be quite blunt with a number of points here.

      a) You have to have empathy in order to feel for someone else's suffering. It is precisely when psychopaths have no empathy that they are able to inflict torture and murder on others.

      b) there is no difference between "if you were in his situation what would you want done for you" and empathy. You are suggesting that empathy can only be achieved if you hook yourself up to a machin whcih will replicate the exact pain that someone else is feeling. This is clearly ridiculous.

      c) the Torah forbids incest. Since many cases of sexual abuse are actually incestuous,a re you suggesting that halacha does not forbid this as Incest if the children are "underage"? (or homosexuality for that matter).

      d) At which stage in Jewish history was suffering not an issue? In the books of the Neviim it was a big issue.

    3. Eddie I am also going to be "quite blunt". I simply don't understand what relevance the words you wrote above has - they have nothing to do with the discussion up until now. In addition it shows you haven't bothered reading what I have written.

    4. RDE: It's not Eddie bothering to read that's the problem. I too can't follow your position. You started out arguing that Chazal didn't value empathy, only sympathy. You end up with a statement that seifer Chafetz Chaim takes the historical emphasis on empathy and yashrus off the topic of shemiras halashon. I am left entirely confused about what you mean, since all I see is self-contradiction.

      And I know you better than to think I properly understood you contradicting yourself. So I must have misunderstood something.

      I actually could have written exactly what Eddie did, if I weren't convinced that I didn't understand that which I'm trying to reply to.

    5. Then I apologize. So far I have spent much time with my chavrusa Dr. Shulem and with Rav Triebetz - and they have no trouble understanding what I am saying. Perhaps after the Chol HaMoed gathering the issues will be more developed. I'll try writing it up and will see if it makes more sense.

      The issue which you find confusing is my point about halacha. I wasn't saying that there was empathy. I was using that as an example of how a detailed check list is an alternative to the use of intuition (which is not empathy) or yashrus (which might in some cases be the result of empathy). Therefore the fact that someone has a list of what a rich person is accustomed to before he became poor - is not empathy - it is a list. It is simply whether a person relies on his understanding of foundation concepts or whether everything needs to be spelled out and that which isn't spelled out can not be done.

      One of my rebbeim mentioned in the 1970's when measurement cards came out for the Seder. He assured me that in Europe no one would have used them. A person ate what a normal person ate- without a measuring cup or tape measure. Because of spelling out all aspects of halacha people don't feel comfortable with that system. If you want to know when shkiah is you look at a clock not at the sun.

      Anyway I see what the issue is and I will try and be more coherent and clear. My original thesis of empathy still stands. the issue of yashus and a detailed halachic framework is really secondary but I think also valid.

    6. I will quote what you wrote again, because I think your point about halakhah is obfuscated by a technical definition of "empathy" that Eddie and I aren't getting.

      Now you say something that looks like another contradiction.

      You wrote: Thus in the absence of empathy or yashrus ... it is necessary to have laundry lists.
      Now you explain: The issue which you find confusing is my point about halacha. I wasn't saying that there was empathy. I was using that as an example of how a detailed check list is an alternative to the use of intuition (which is not empathy) or yashrus (which might in some cases be the result of empathy).

      But the word you chose, perhaps in error, WAS "empathy".
      I have no idea of what intuition about what would bother someone else and how badly it makes him feel (or not) is if not empathy.

      Eddie wrote: b) there is no difference between "if you were in his situation what would you want done for you" and empathy.

      I would had said "if you were in his situation and had his desires and proclivities, what would you want..." Spelling out the fact that "his situation" includes things about his personality and tastes. And that seems to me to be the very "intuition" you're discussing, that you yourself earlier called "empathy". I think.

    7. o.k. I see the issue as well as acknowledging some of your other feedback you provided. Will try put it together in a clear more cogent package after Pesach.

      Your comments have been very helpful

    8. Thank you MIcha, I can now discard my measurement cards!

    9. Eddie, I assume you mean for matzah and maror at the seder, but I fail to see the connection.

      It's one thing to lament the loss of the basic yashrus that caused the popularization and need for a guide like the CC. It's another to ignore that it actually happened.

      When it comes to having a feel for what the seder is about, so that we now need rule books... Does anyone actually question the real loss we've had in emunah peshutah compared to where we were before the combined cultural shocks of the Haskalah and WWII?

    10. Sorry Micha, I was making a joke, and not aimed you. I wanted to thank you for clarifying my position and yours with DT on this issues. But in the ensuing discussion, I found DT's comments on the measurement cards to be quite funny, hence my other comment.
      But regarding the empathy issues, I think we are on the same page.

    11. Eddie I missed the joke. What was quite funny?

    12. DT wrote "One of my rebbeim mentioned in the 1970's when measurement cards came out for the Seder. He assured me that in Europe no one would have used them. A person ate what a normal person ate- without a measuring cup or tape measure."

      perhaps this was written with a straight face or keyboard, but I thought it was very funny. Can you imagine Bnei Yisrael leaving Egypt with a measuring card, sealed in clear plastic, to show them what size their matzos should be? :)

    13. If you find it funny that bnei Yisrael used plastic measuring cards why isn't it funny if your neighbors uses them?

      that was my point - when you see detailed descriptions of what is acceptable when previously there was only general principles - that indicates a major shift in a person's relationship to reality. he is no longer relying on his internal understanding and seichel or feelings but he is now being directed by an external standard or guide.

      When he uses a clock to know when the sun rises or sets - instead of simply looking at the sky - something has drastically changed.

      Similarly I noted that a list can be provided to describe how to be kind to the poor or the widow etc. That list isn't proof that we have empathy but merely that we are going through specified acts that have been defined as kindness.

      If we avoid lashon harah by mastering the Chofetz Chaim's detailed description - it is not the same as avoiding it by following the basic principles which are described by the Rambam or Chazon Ish.

      If we avoid making our wives cry in order to not suffer G-d
      s wrath - then that is not empathy but just following the halacha.

      there is the story of the Alter of Slobodka who asked a recently married student if he helped his wife erev Shabbos. the student replied with some indignation that of course he helped - after it is describes in the second perek of kiddushin how some of Chazal were involved in Shabbos preparations.

      The Alter replied, "I wasn't asking to find out whether you were familiar with that gemora. I was asking you whether you helped your wife because she is likely to be tired erev Shabbos and in need of help."

    14. "When you find reams of rules and conditions it is a clear sign that no one's judgment, intution or empathy is not trusted."
      This thought brings to mind the laconic chassidic observation which goes back to the earlier generations of chassidim, contrasting the hassidic approach and emphasis to that of their objectors, the misnagdim.
      "The misnaged fears the Shulchan Aruch wheras the chassid fears the Ribbono Shel Olam."
      Is our emphasis on the details or on the context and the big picture?
      One might emphasize the fine details and possibly lose track of the context and the big picture.
      Another might emphasize the context and the big picture, possibly at the expense of inadvertantly missing some details.
      The call and plea for remembering the context and big picture, of not getting caught up in the fine details (which will frequently lead to trampling other major principles and details) was repeatedly emphasized by both the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples along with R' Yisroel Salanter and his disciples.

    15. There are a few important points here, and I am generally in agreement with you. I find the cards to be "funny", and/because I don't think they were used in previous generations. It is like a futuristic joke, that when the Moshiach comes, and he is dressed in white robes, the Hareidim won't accept him, because he isn't wearing a shtreimel. i.e. the hukkat hagoy of the Cossacks has nothing to to with observing Torah.

      Now, linking this to the concept of empathy -and our mainstream discussion, yes, learning things by rote is not going to give us empathy. And "not" beating one's wife because we read in the Shulchan Aruch not to cause her tears is evidence that the man in question is very much a neanderthal. You don't need to learn from the Shulchan Aruch that such violence is immoral.

      But, there is still a problem when it comes to empathy. And there are other problems if we are looking at certain halachot, especially Issurei Biah 1:13

    16. the story of the alter doesn't prove much of anything. at the end of the day, the man was helping his wife without being told to do so by his rav. that he felt nervous about his performance as a husband and prattled on when a simple yes would have been sufficient was probably more of a function of his age and being newly married, and not anything related to his generation.

    17. Ben,

      Your take is implausible given the Alter's life-message and what Slabadka Mussar was. See the Alter's take on "Ve'ahavata lerei'akha kamokha" that I posted on "March 21, 2013 at 3:45 AM". This is the same message.

    18. Rav Micha

      i saw your post and i hear what you are saying, that the guy didn't need to, or rather shouldn't have, quoted any book to justify his (correct) actions. still, i can easily imagine a 19 year guy being asked a question by his rav about his actions and saying the wrong thing.

    19. So your problem isn't with what we would assume is the Alter's message in that story, but with our assuming the avreikh really did it only for the mitzvah???

      I think the Alter would have said that the fact that this is what he blurted out itself shows where, deep down, his priorities laid.

      Recall, this is an answer to the mashgiach ruchani in a mussar yeshiva. It's not even the answer you would give if your first instinct was to try to impress the rav.

    20. This guy had been learning in a mussar yeshiva for several years before getting married, and he STILL gives such a bad answer? Either he simply failed to learn what his rabbanim were teaching or he was just nervous. Either way, the story kind of looses its punch.

  9. Maybe President Obama has been reading this blog:

    Obama Urges Young Israelis to Lead the Push for Peace

    Published: March 21, 2013

    JERUSALEM — President Obama, appealing to very disparate audiences to solve one of the world’s thorniest problems, moved closer on Thursday to the Israeli government’s position on resuming long-stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, even as he passionately implored young Israelis to get ahead of their own leaders in the push for peace.

    Addressing an enthusiastic crowd of more than 2,000, Mr. Obama offered a fervent, unsparing case for why a peace agreement was both morally just and in Israel’s self-interest. Younger Israelis, Mr. Obama said, should empathize with their Palestinian neighbors living under occupation — or, as he put it, “look at the world through their eyes.”

  10. More, with fuller "empathize" context, from the NY Times article:

    Standing before a blue-and-white banner emblazoned with the emblem of the Israeli state — a menorah flanked by olive branches — Mr. Obama spoke of the past and the future, from the biblical story of Exodus and from Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, to Israel’s reputation as a high-tech incubator with a mania for social media.

    “Israel,” he said to prolonged applause, “is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea: the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own.”...

    Echoing a theme he first articulated in his speech to the Muslim world in 2009, Mr. Obama said the Israeli occupation of the West Bank imposed a shameful human cost.

    “Put yourself in their shoes — look at the world through their eyes,” he said. “It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents, every single day.”

    “Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer,” Mr. Obama said. “Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.”

    Meanwhile, the same article reports:

    The president’s new activism, on the second day of a four-day trip to the Middle East, came hours after rockets from the Palestinian enclave of Gaza hit southern Israel. He condemned the attacks, which broke a three-month cease-fire, but said that the Israelis should not use the violence as an excuse to avoid negotiations...

    The rocket attacks, which hit the border town of Sderot, caused no injuries...

  11. I hope empathy is enough of an ahavas Yisrael topic to permit my sharing this on 9 beAv...

    Shemos 22:24:
    אם כסף תלוה את עמי את העני עמך לא תהיה לו כנשה, לא תשימון עליו נשך.

    את העני עמך - הוי מסתכל בעצמך כאלו אתה עני

    Is this Rashi not spelling out an obligation to be generous and non-regretful in lending to others out of empathy?


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