Saturday, March 15, 2014

The New York Asifa by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

update: Rabbi Hoffman's rebuttal of Rabbi Slifkin's comments

update Rabbi Slifkin sent me this rebuttal

Five Towns Jewish Time   This is a response to my good friend Reb Barry Jacobson’s remarks on the Asifa this past Sunday in Manhattan.  It also addresses his inquiry printed in the Five Towns Jewish Times about Torah sources regarding Bnei Torah continuing to study rather than serving in the army.  There is no question, of course, that the soldiers who are protecting the nation against the enemies of the Jewish people are fulfilling a remarkable task and a holy role.  Certainly, all of us who are beneficiaries of their bravery and dedication should express our sincere hakaras haTov and pray for their welfare and well-being.

The leading sages of America, Degel HaTorah, Agudah in Eretz Yisroel and the sages of Shas – the Sefardic Torah organization had all signed on for the call to join in the mass gathering in the Wall Street area.  The mass gathering was to show solidarity with the Torah community in Israel that is facing the unprecedented law in the state of Israel’s history to draft Yeshiva students into the armed forces.

This response is an explanation and a historical overview about the confluence of army service and Torah study.   Not everyone will agree with the explanations and positions set forth here.  However, those that do not agree must realize that they do come from a very different socio-religious milieu than those in the Chareido world who have been brought up with and raised with a deep appreciation of Torah being the only definition of true life.

Serious-minded Chareidi Jews do not merely recite the words of the blessings of the Shma perfunctorily.  No.  When they recite the words, “Ki haim chayeinu – for they are our life – v’orech yameinu and the pathways of our life..” – they truly mean it. [...]

What is missing in all this, however, is the realization that we are all children of the same mother and father.  We are all parts of the same body and we should treat each other with the respect and love that we must have for our family members – even if we do disagree as to what approach should be emphasized or adopted.   Recently, we have seen two conflicting PR Youtube videos to a song entitled “Anu Mashkimim v’haim Mashkimim.”  The song explains how we awaken early for the right purposes, they awaken early for useless purposes.  The song was used by both sides of the debate to denigrate the other side.  Both uses of the song are wrong.  We stand now in the month of Adar.  The Manos HaLevi, Rav Shlomo Alkabetz, explains that the concept of Shalach Manos is to further brotherly love and ahavas Yisroel among ourselves.  It is to counter the statement of Haman that the Jewish nation is Mefuzar and Mefurad throughout the nations because of their lack of unity.  The month of Adar should counter the spirit of disunity and contribute to family love.

May Hashem speedily grant mutual respect and unity among us.  Amain!


  1. I think the point to be made here is that if the chareidim of chu"l can't be bothered with the mitzva of yishuv ha'aretz, then what happens in E"Y is really none of their business.

    1. Yes, the term for that is "argumentem ad hominem"

  2. I think the point here is that if the chareidim in chu"l can't be bothered with the mitzva of yishuv ha'aretz, then what goes in in E"Y is really none of their business.

  3. There are stories of how in Russia and its Empire, the army would take Jewish conscripts from the age of 10, and keep them for decades in the army. Was there ever any asifa then? Why not? The reason is that the Jews were then afraid of the retribution agasint them if they protested. What does it mean? it means they had a different cheshbon in those days. They valued life, even if it risked turning their kids into chilonim, rather than to be killed or take martyrdom. The situation today is relatively better. At most, the regular army would take them for 3 years. in an environment where they can have glatt kosher; they get jewish holidays off; they have Rabbis in the army. And B'H they perform the mitzvot of saving Jewish life. Yet today, hareidim have become more assertive. they know that the Government is not persecuting them and hence they feel free to protest, as there is no risk in doing so. they knwo they can play the game of democracy and have un-jewish views in their political party - eg one haredi MK speaking of taking revenge - something not permitted in Torah that they purport to fly the flag of.
    And on occasion, they talk of sacrificing their lives rather than go to the army - which of course was not done in Russia.
    So please, let us see some perspective and honesty, rather than political expediency and moral relativism.

    1. "There are stories of how in Russia and its Empire, the army would take Jewish conscripts from the age of 10, and keep them for decades in the army."

      On cantonists from Wikipedia:

      "Strains within the Jewish community

      The 'decree of August 26, 1827' made Jews liable for military service, and allowed their conscription between the ages of twelve and twenty five. Each year the Jewish community had to supply four recruits per thousand of the population. Strict quotas were imposed on all communities and the qahals were given the unpleasant task of implementing conscription within the Jewish communities. Since the merchant-guild members, agricultural colonists, factory mechanics, clergy, and all Jews with secondary education were exempt, and the wealthy bribed their way out of having their children conscripted, fewer potential conscripts were available; the adopted policy deeply sharpened internal Jewish social tensions. Seeking to protect the socio-economic and religious integrity of Jewish society, the qahals did their best to include “non-useful Jews” in the draft lists so that the heads of tax-paying middle-class families were predominantly exempt from conscription, whereas single Jews, as well as "heretics" (Haskalah influenced individuals), paupers, outcasts, and orphaned children were drafted.

      They used their power to suppress protests and intimidate potential informers who sought to expose the arbitrariness of the qahal to the Russian government. In some cases, communal elders had the most threatening informers murdered (such as the Ushitsa case, 1836)

      The zoning rule was suspended during the Crimean war, when conscription became annual. During this period the qahals leaders would employ informers and kidnappers (Russian: "ловчики", lovchiki, Yiddish: khappers), as many potential conscripts preferred to run away rather than voluntarily submit. In the case of unfulfilled quotas, younger boys of eight and even younger were frequently taken."


  4. A few weeks ago, a similar message was imparted here, on video, by Rabbi Mayer Twersky. We should overlook the other guy's "blind spots". Have respect and tolerance. Perhaps we should deliver shalach manos to Bernie Madoff, Avrohom Mondrowitz, and Baruch Lebovics. I'll also check out the yahtzeit calendar, and buy herring and schnapps for the minyan l'zacher nishmas, Leon Trotsky, Bugsy Siegel, and Mayer Lansky. They're all shayna yidden. Peace on earth, good will towards men. I love you, you love me, we're a happy family. Welcome to the religion of Barney, the Purple Dinosaur. Shlomo Hamelech? Fuggedaboutit. A time for war, a time of peace. No. Peace only. We are Jewish Quakers.

  5. I was at the Atzeres, not that I agree or disagree with anything, because in all honesty, I don't really know the issues, but I was responding to the call of the Chareidi Rabbis, so I joined, and I hope to be Zoche to be Roeh B'nachamas Yisroel, Bimhera.

    Again, I'm not making a statement about the issue, but this is what I experienced there. I heard The Mashgiach, Rav Don Segal, cry as he said Yaancho Hashem B'yom Tzarah, and I heard many people cry as they said Gam Tzipor Matzah Bayis... I understood and felt the pain, at least at some small level, from back here in Chutz La'aretz. I cried too. Eretz Yisroel, our home, the home of Tzion Bais Chayainu, is in danger of no longer being a place where Tzurva Merabonons can flourish, without losing several of their most vital formative years of Torah study.

    If there would be unity among us all and mutual respect, there would be a willingful division of labor. The Lomdim would be thankful to the soldiers, and the soldiers would be appreciative of the Lomdim.

    1. There also needs to be a definition of "LOMDIM", who are they? is it their full-time career, etc?

    2. Yoni, Eleph Nichnassim L'mikrah etc, and Gedayim Naasu Teyashim. At age 18, we don't yet know who will sincerely be of the Lomdim, so we can't annihilate the entire breed. For the percentage that are for real, we need to maintain the structure.

  6. Without getting into the issue of whether or not people should be serving in the army, my question is this:
    Was this actually a mass Kiddush Hashem, as is being reported by all the Yeshivish news outlets? When I look at all the secular news, I see hundreds upon hundreds of hateful, anti-semitic comments. Basically, people in the United States blocked traffic for half a day and made a big demonstration regrading something that is of no concern whatsoever to the American people, and worse, something which they have no understanding of whatsoever. Even if the position that they demonstrated for is correct, no one in this country has any concept of its meaning, and instead looks with great derision on the Haredim as draft-dodgers and freeloaders and worse. In my opinion, whatever "Kiddush Hashem" was made by the "massive show of solidarity" was negated tenfold by the Chillul Hashem that was committed. It would do everyone, including those in Israel, good to realize that we are still in golus and cannot just do what we want and thumb our noses at the gentiles, no matter what the "greater good" may be. Just one man's opinion.

    1. Nat, I thank you for your comment. This was the Shita of the Satmar Rav Z"L. Remember we are in Golus, and don't put yourself in front of the Goyim. Don't stand out to be noticed by them. I too, for the reasons you explained, don't understand the reasoning behind this Atzeres, but I went because these are my people, for better or for worse, and even if they are mistaken in their approach, I don't cut myself off in the time of pain, and Kol Hamis'abel Imahem Zocheh V'roeh B'nechmasan. I know that my critics on this blog are going to be all over me for this statement, and I understand their point, that how can I go along with something which may be very wrong. Would I go along and sin Ch"V if that's what everybody is doing? Well. if it would actually be a sin breaking the laws of The Torah, I would certainly have to stay away, but this was not so. No sin was committed, and the fact that the Goyim don't understand, does not constitute a Chilul Hashem, if there was no true misconduct, which there was not. This might not be completely adequate, but the idea of not being Poresh Min Hatzibur outweighed.

    2. 1) you stated "... I went because these are my people, for better or for worse." Among the many legitimate complaints against the Chareidi world in Israel is that they do not consider the rest of the Israeli citizens their brethren. If they did, they would never be able to say "sh'foch chamsocha ..." or other verses that vilified their brethren. Unless, of course, we are not all really considered your brothers.
      2) According to the Rambam a chillul Hashem is not about what the goyim think, but what your Jewish brethren think as well. So, if it was a CH ,then your going was quite a grave sin. So you cannot necessarily claim "no sin was committed."

    3. @jeffk
      1) I here your point, and I can't, in all honesty, completely deny it. But I suppose that there is a closer connection to those who are Rayacho B'Torah Uv'mitzvos. But we must love and feel brotherhood to all(with very few exceptions, as the Tania says, ואכמ"ל) of our Jewish brethren. And you are right that even against Jews who sin, we should not pray for their downfall, but that they repent, as the Gemara says (Brachos 10a). And in addition, I maintain that tremendous Hakoras Hatov is called for, to those of our brothers who serve in the army and protect us. I once saw a famous ultra Chareidi Rabbi as he was walking away from visiting Kever Rachel (before it was built up as it is today), and as he passed the soldiers who were guarding, he turned to them and said "Toda Lachem She'atem Shomrim Otanu". Unfortunately, when disputes reach the level of the masses, the simple people can't handle the idea of having differences without hatred, but the greater people do not have this conflict. (Please let's not start calling names and pointing fingers.)
      2)A CH is neither about what Goyim think nor about what Yidden think, it is about reality. Someone once suggested that the way Yidishe men respond to women that they don't shake hands or chat an extra friendly word, is a Chillul Hashem. They couldn't be more wrong. According to them, the Goyim set the rules and establish that it is appropriate for men and women to relate with excessive familiarity, which is wrong, as we are taught by Chaza'l, and then if we don't follow their mistaken view, it is a CH?! That is absurd! The same here, if no sin was committed, then the mere fact that some don't agree, does not constitute a CH.

    4. Let's put it like this: if someone does something that is an unquestionable mitzva, then he is supposed to disregard those who would scoff at him, and the opinions and reactions of the observers are not taken into the equation. However, once someone is doing something which he is not sure is the right thing to do, then I think that he would have to include in the equation what will be the repercussions of his actions and possible negative responses of the observers. I understand that many people went to this rally or asifa or whatever, but I think that the great majority of them went because someone else told them to, or because they were following the crowd. I personally know someone who went just because of the "Kiddush Hashem" that was going to be made by tens of thousands of people davening together. If you ask most of these people what the real purpose of this gathering was, they would not have a good answer. If you don't agree with me, then you should know this: Behind the scenes, there were major disagreements about whether this was meant to be a protest or a prayer meeting. So if it was not clear among the higher-ups, then it was certainly not clear among the lower-downs. So the fact that "everyone was going" does not constitute a reason to go, and therefore the question of "will the Honor of Hashem and religious Jews go up or down as a result of my going?" definitely does have to be taken into account. And, by the way, since when are 50,000 people "everyone"? There were many more frum Jews, even haredim, who did not attend than those who did attend.

    5. I appreciate your honesty and forthrightness: "I [hear] your point, and I can't, in all honesty, completely deny it." I disagree with your stance, but I can respect your viewpoint. You are incorrect, though, when you write "when disputes reach the level of the masses, the simple people can't handle the idea of having differences without hatred, but the greater people do not have this conflict." The masses are following their leadership - and it is supposedly greater people (the Rabbeim/Rabbonim) who are using the vile terms like amalek, shmad, nazi comparisons, and so on. That is the essence of the problem. And even if they claim that "the other side started using evil terms first" (which I disagree with, but let's even assume it for the purposes of this discussion) it is still beyond the pale for a Rav of any caliber to stoop so low. Zu Torah? And that is why I would not go to the asifa, and why I consider it the ultimate chillul hashem. (BTW - the comparison to a handshake with a female also does not buttress your point. I was talking about CH as seen by another Jew coming from the same core set of values and beliefs, not someone from a different belief system.)

    6. "This was the shita of the Satmar REBBE zt"l, remember we are in golus, etc"

      Seems that that shita is not applicable with the descendants of the Rebbe, over the last five years there have been at least half a dozen protest/demonstrations against Israel and its policies. Not taken place in Williamberg yet in MID Manhattan, so that the goyim can be alerted to their protest style and anti-Israel rhetoric.

    7. Jeff, you took the words right out of my mouth regarding Satmar; aside from that, we get to thank them for the added benefit of being lumped together with them by the media. It wasn't 50,000 Jews, but 50,000 Satmars.

    8. The Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel ZT"L, protested in public and took ads out in the NYTimes against Israel.

      Plus I'll take the current SRs understanding of the original SR better than anyone else's opinion on what the SR ZT"L held.

    9. There were 150,000 Jews in Manhattan. MSG can hold almost 20,000 people and the rally was back-to-back for over 10 Manhattan city blocks.

    10. @nat
      "The question of "will the Honor of Hashem and religious Jews go up or down as a result of my going?" definitely does have to be taken into account."

      I think you are right. I did take this into consideration while weighing up whether or not to attend, and my Shikul Hadaas decided to go for the above mentioned reason. Maybe I'm wrong. The Atzeres was nothing but Tefilla. Up until the end, when I was so disappointed as the 'Statement' was given, and I cringed as the statement was made. I am torn. My heart pains with the pain of the Lomdei Torah who are afraid of what they are afraid of, and yet I strongly consider the possibility that it is being mishandled. But i don't live in Israel so I don't really know, and I suspect and hope the the 'Gedoilim' there know how to handle the situation better than me at the very least.
      @ jeffk
      "Zu Torah?"

      What can I say. I feel exposed, and rightfully so. Maybe the Tzar is Mekalkel Es Hashura. Let at least those of us who are not grieving beyond control, maintain a semblance of mutual respect, and may I dare say love.

    11. Katchke-Lab: I appreciate your honesty and sense of nesius ohl im chaveiro. If it's any consolation, it is my opinion that anyone in Israel who truly wishes to learn will not be affected by this. First of all, there is no way that the Israeli government will arrest large numbers of people. And even if they would do so, it would be as a show and would be extremely short-lived. They just would not be able to handle the backlash. I will give an analogy. Even if you believe that the illegal Mexican immigrants (of the US) should be arrested and deported, there is no way that this will happen practically on a large scale. The government has no stomach for the public backlash that will surround a major round-up of otherwise lawful citizens. It will be the same thing in Israel. They are not stupid. They do not want a full-scale uprising.
      Second, I do not even believe that thee will be any loss of social programs such as bituach leumi or health insurance to charedi families. Even if this is what is being threatened, there will also be a great backlash if this is carried out.
      So what is this all about--the stipends. And the loss of stipends will not make or break anybody. I actually do not believe that a government that does not believe in the utility of grown men sitting and learning should be forced to support it. If they do not believe in it, it is not for us to convince them. That is their issue. This is also the reason why I did not agree with the asifa. There is no threat of imprisonment or loss of life. The present-day Israeli government is not Czarist Russia. This is not the Cantonist decree. For stipends we do not hold protests. The only arrangement that should be made is that they should leave the Charedim alone, and stop giving them stipends. This may be wishful thinking, but that is what I think.

  7. Nat ,
    Great point about the chilul Hashem caused by mass Tefilah. My feelings about the mass tefilah here in Israel was similar to that of Yam Suf - The people pray and God says –start moving – in other words get your act together. One of the lessons of the last election , also city elections is that in order to protect the interests of the frum community and especially the chareidi community there needs to be unity of purpose among all the frum elements in the country. We don't need Rav Amsalem or Rav Amnon Yitchak to go alone, we don't need the Eidah etc to boycott the elections , we need every vote. Each community should feel respected and accepted. I live in a mixed neighborhood – when a chareidi , and it is only chareidim that come for Tzedakah , the response is - ' I am a su'roog , I am treif, I am amaleik , but my money is Ok. Both sides bear responsibility. Disagreements can be expressed in a respectful way. It is so unfortunate that 2 leading Serfadic Rabbis have imho used language which is highly disrespectful and gets in the way of the message they were trying to make. They forget that soldiers did not die in battle because there were good relationships between people despite the avoda zara . The 2 Dat-leumi Rabanim could also have been careful not to be critical at a time where ' unity ' is important.

    Yedidiyah Mei'ir has some interesting observations on the issue

    I hope Rabbi Hoffman's message of unity reaches the Rabbanim of eretz Yiroel and its people

  8. Tehillim 79 was recited at the Atzeres. Who was it intended to refer to?

    1. Quite frankly, we are our own enemies.....

  9. Serious minded Chareidi Jews really mean the words "for they are our life," as opposed to serious minded non-Chareidi Jews who are on a lesser level of Kedusha.

    Pathetic Yair Hoffman, pathetic.

  10. Really, now, if I had wanted to know what slifkin has to say, I am perfectly capable of going on his website (which I will not do). And if he wants to post a response on your blog, he is perfectly capable of doing so himself. You don't have to do us the "favor." Thank you, at least, for only posting the link and not the actual response.

    1. We're also capable of reading R Hoffman's article over at the 5TJT. Is there a reason you only have a problem with the rebuttal but not the original article?

    2. You are correct on that point. However, I do not think that R Hoffman's works have been labeled kefira by the likes of R Dovid Feinstein and R Moshe Shapiro.

  11. I read r Slifkin's response. I personally am not in favour of a mass haredi draft, and would prefer the old nachal system which had the Haskamah of R' Shteinman shlita.
    However, the use of the Manhattan project by R' Hoffman really exposes what little understanding he has of science, history and warfare.

    The Manhattan project was a military project. It was managed by the US military, and they recruited scientists who knew they were working on a military application of nuclear fission. Most of the key scientists were actually Jewish, eg Edward Teller, Oppenheimer, Fermi, Feynman etc. They were employed by the military, and had high security clearance. Now this has nothing to do with yeshiva studies. It is not my purpose to debate whether yeshivas protect Israel, (although they did not protect the Jews in Europe).
    Israel also has its own military technology projects. The Israeli nuclear capability, was actually helped by none other than Edward Teller, the Hungarian scientist. He visited israel and felt a very strong emotional connection, and gave some help to Israel in developing its own defence.

    Now, if we are to categorise the manhattan project, it is one of hishtadlus and it pertains to secular knowledge and its application to warfare. You must also consider the fact that had Britain, USA and USSr not had the military edge of the Germans, yemach shemam, the shoah may have been even more widespread, chas v'shalom.

    If R' Hoffman wants to bring an analogy or evidence for the protective effect of yeshivas, then he should try bringing realistic ones and not fairy stories.

  12. Hello Eddie - Merry Purim!

    Immediately before Lithuania was conquered by the Nazis, three gedolei Torah passed away in rapid succession: Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky, the rav of Vilna and one of the leaders of the generation; Rav Shimon Shkop, the renowned rosh yeshiva of Grodno and mentor of the late Rabbi Koppelman, who was his last talmid; and Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz of Kamenitz, zichronam l’vrachah. The Chazon Ish ztz”l remarked that the Torah of each of these three gedolim had the ability to shield his city from the Nazis. Once the Divine edict had been decreed, they had to be removed from the world so that their spiritual protection would no longer be potent in shielding their towns.

    So yes, even in WW2 learning Torah had the ability to protect from harm, unless you consider the Chazon Ish's thoughts to be fairy tales. Unfortunately, those few lomdei Torah were not enough to sway the scales and avert the terrible decree. But considering that the majority of pre-war Jewry had abandoned the Torah, this is not surprising, and at any rate, there is no "proof" that learning Torah does not have a protective quality if there is enough of it and the decree is amenable to being averted. If you put a few plasters on someone with a gaping chest wound and he dies, does that prove that plasters are worthless? If an armed battalion is defeated by overwhelming opposition forces, does that prove that weapons are useless? Come on Eddie - you've done better in the past.

    One recent failure of some Chareidim is the way in which they treated Slifkin, which turned him into the Gedolim-basher and ראש לשועלים he is today - something which in my opinion could have been avoided. It is a loss for everyone.

    1. Shalom Chaim and Purim Sameach.

      The argument has now been switched from Talmidei Yeshivos to great Torah personalities. Why did Moses and Joshua have to battle in war? it is true that Moses held his hands to shamayim, but we do not really have Moses anymore. Thus, David haMelech would physically go to war.
      I am not going to comment on the words attributed to the CI. Unfortunately, there were many other gedolim and yeshiva students who perished, so the story you tell is one of changing goalposts to suit its own inefficiencies
      Chabad tel a tale that R Levi Yitzhak of berdichev said about the Alter Rebbe that he could wipe his forehead, and Petersburg would be wiped out. . None of these tales ever came true. It is just if, if only, etc, There was another alleged story that was published here that the CI said that he could have stopped the Shoah if he had known about it. They are all "ifs", but no real evidence.

      BTW, were there not any Gedolim in the time of the Chelmnicki massacres? Why did Rambam and Ramban have to flee the Muslims and Xtians respectively?

    2. Rav Elchanan Wasserman and Rav Avraham Kahane Shapiro (the Kovno Rav) were in Kovno and Rav Menachem Zemba was in Warsaw.

      Was their Torah less worthy?

      For that matter,why did Rav Aaaron Kutler leave Vilna; he could have stayed and saved everybody (I am not criticizing him; I am pointing to a major flaw in your view).

    3. According to the Chazon Ish, Chaim brings, it had to be incredibly great Talmidei Chachamim, and they had to be in the locale to be protected: The Chazon Ish considered that "the Torah of each of these three gedolim had the ability to shield his city from the Nazis."

      His city. Not even all of Lita, let alone Poland. Even setting Truthseeker's excellent question aside, Chaim seems to me to be bringing support for R' Slifkin rather than disproving him.

    4. Can anyone provide a source for this statement of Chazon Ish?

    5. Raphael Halpern in "20 years beside the Chazon Ish" (p259):

      The Torah study of R' Baruch Ber Levovitz and of R' Shimon Shkop protected their cities so that Hitler's minions did not enter them as long as they lived."

      (p228 in original Hebrew edition במחיצת החזון איש.)

      By the way, "Truthseeker"'s question is not "excellent", it is ludicrous. The Talmud and Midrash are replete with statements that "Ploni merited A because he did B", even though in almost all of them there are examples of another person who did B yet did not merit A. Such counterexamples prove nothing other than that there are also other factors at play - life is complicated. Cigarettes are dangerous for one's health, yet my great-uncle smoked heavily and lived to a ripe old age. So what? Anyone with any Seichel knows why that is not a counter-example. So when Chazal reveal that a certain Mitzvah caused a person to merit something, the believing, faithful Jew knows that of course there may be others who also did that Mitzvah without reaping that reward or who got that benefit without doing the Mitzvah - Hashem knows why. There are all sorts of Cheshbonos to which we are not privy. My belief in the words of Chazal remains undiminished.

      Of course, you can ask - am I saying that the Chazon Ish is Chazal? No, of course not. I'm just showing that the type of argument used against the CI's statement is obviously faulty, unless you are prepared to discount the words of Chazal as well - a non-Torah position.

      Of course, I am fully aware that in certain MO circles (I have no idea how many), there is the notion that Chazal were in the habit of making statements which they themselves did not know to be true, עפ"ל. Here's a famous MO Rosh Yeshiva's take on Chazal's description of Olam HaBo:

    6. "Someone could still say: let’s face it, the charedi world is, some would say more naïve, others would say not naïve but trusting, it’s a simpler kind of faith, and therefore, whatever they see written black on white in the gemara, that, for them, is absolutely certain. That includes things which, admittedly, CHAZAL HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING (emphasis mine). The afterlife, as Hamlet described it, is that land from which no traveler returns, so there are no reports. That being the case, maybe we could understand that gemara as being assertions of Chazal with regard to the afterlife but not news reports of just what happens over there."

      So whereas the Chareidim believe that Chazal were privy to information inaccessible to others, Shakespeare indicates otherwise! Never mind about all the Gemaras and Midrashim telling us how the Tanaaim and Amoraim were able to, on occasion, speak to the departed, perform miracles, resuscitate the dead etc. They were no different than us, just a little less sophisticated (see below), עפ"ל. WE are the ones who are rational (cue Slifkin וחבריו). And don't worry about the fact that people USED to believe Chazal - modern man has gotten past THAT naivety:

      "Modern people, many of them have more skepticism, and are less easily manipulated in faith content than people from 1000 years ago."

      Modern Orthodox indeed. Oy vay.

      (I want to make it clear that I have no beef whatsoever with people who self-identify as MO. I personally think that the MO label is in and of itself unimportant; as Rav Avigdor Miller זצ"ל said, you're either שומר תורה ומצוות or you're not. But the MO camp has some members - highly respected ones - with views which do not conform with those of our Mesorah.)

      By the way Eddie, let's make a deal (in the brotherly spirit of Purim). If any of us makes a point which the other concedes to be the truth, he should say so, even if there are other points with which he disagrees. How does that sound?

    7. The well known Rosh Hayeshiva of Chaim Berlin, Rav Yitzchok Hutner, ztz"l, stated categorically that only a Tanna or a Navi could tell us why the Holocaust happened. With all due respect for the Chazon Ish, he was neither a Navi nor a Tanna; logically it follows, from what Rav Hutner said (that the reasons for the Holocaust is unknowable to us) that the Chazon Ish could not know who could or could not protect his city.

      Assuming the Chazon Ish made thestatement, I do not question that he truly believed in its truth. That does, however, not establish his belief as a fact which everybody who believes in the Torah mst accept as true.

      Rav Oshri, in Shailot and Tshuvot Mimiakim (Hebrew), has an extensive list of the Roshei Yeshivot and Talmidim from LIta whose Torah was unable to protect either themselves or their familes or cities. HY'D.

      See the Ramban in the Vekuach, available in Rav Chavel's Kisvei Ramban (in both the Hebrew and English Translation editions), for the Ramban's statement on the authority of Chazal's Agadic (as opposed to Halachic) statements.

      Question: Do you think the Ramban is not part of our Mesorah?

      (I want to make it clear: I have no beef with those who self-identify as Charedi; I think that the label is unimportant; you are either Shomar Torah Umitzvos or not. But there are those in the Chareidi camp - even highly respected ones - who have views which do not conform to reality, or to our Mesorah - or to Halacha)

    8. "So whereas the Chareidim believe that Chazal were privy to information inaccessible to others, Shakespeare indicates otherwise!"

      I think it's disgusting of you to twist RAL shlita's words like that. He is not remotely saying that Shakespeare knew better than Chazal. He's paraphrasing Shakespeare to make a point. I suggest people read his article for themselves:

    9. To truthseeker - I'm sorry, you got me. I don't know how to reply to a ramble. You prove many of my points, but you wouldn't understand how.

      To shaul shapiro, who seems genuine:

      1. There is a reason why I didn't identify the Rosh Yeshiva I was quoting.
      2. I read and reread RAL's words, and believe me, I have a great negius and desire to interpret them in the best possible light. But the truth seems to me (and I might be mistaken - see 1) that his words are very damaging and beyond the pale. I have not twisted them at all. I highly doubt that his father-in-law Zatsal would have countenanced the position that Chazal had no way of knowing things which we do not. There are countless definitive statements in Chazal about things which no human, however wise, could claim to know without access to a higher source of knowledge - I can give you examples if you'd like - and to just assume a priori that Chazal COULD NOT HAVE KNOWN what they were saying is true, yet said it anyway by way of creative suggestion, is (1) intellectually dishonest, (2) insulting to Chazal whose מדת האמת was magnificent, and (3) probably in the category of מלגלג על דברי חכמים, and greatly damaging to the Mesora of Yiddishkeit.
      3. I too would like people to read that article - I second your suggestion.
      4. You are twisting my words, I never said that he wrote that Shakespeare knew better than Chazal - I clearly wrote that "Shakespeare indicates other" than the deluded Chareidim who "believe that Chazal were privy to information inaccessible to others". Ie, acc. to Shakespeare's Yesod (that nobody has come back from the dead) we can surmise that Chazal's knowledge is much more limited than Chareidim assume it to be. Nobody is saying (or claiming that anybody else is saying) that Shakespeare's knowledge surpassed that of Chazal!

    10. Please reread my sentence and be מודה על האמת. I am not coming from a place of wanting to falsely accuse anybody of anything. I wish there would be אחדות in כלל ישראל and that at least all the שומרי מצוות would be one happy family. But does that mean that there is no allowance for criticism of what one believes to be against the Torah? I don't think anybody - from any camp - ascribes to that viewpoint. Come to think of it, that might be the one point we all agree upon! : )

      Please tell me what you think RAL meant. At the end of the day, he is explaining that the MO world doesn't talk about Olam HaBo using descriptions which Chazal gave, because as modern humans, we are not gullible enough to believe them. Chazal themselves did not know - COULD not know - if what they were saying was true or not, but that didn't stop them from giving definitive statements on the subject, which they actually only meant as conjecture. How am I misrepresenting his words? And do you not see how non-Torah this is, and the potential for the weakening of the Mesora inherent within them?

      Lastly, I try not to give anecdotal evidence in a serious discussion - so I'm not going to. But if you're honest you know that parts of the MO community suffer from a much larger amount of Chilul Shabbos, Isurei Arayos and "complete dropout" level than the Chareidim do. Could this not be traced to that "sophisticated" approach of not EVER (and I have read a large amount of MO literature) stressing the unimaginable greatness of Chazal, the holy Tannaim and Amoraim, who could revive the did and were able to do many miracles as recorded in our Mesora, and who the Gemara says were privy to special hidden knowledge by way of סוד ה' ליראיו? Is it wise, much less truthful, to portray ourselves as being much more savvy and less gullible than our ancestors, and still expect people to give up their girlfriends and immersion in the non-Jewish culture to try to emulate our Sages? How do you inspire people to have Yiras Shamayim while simultaneously telling them to discard certain parts of the Gemara as hypothesis?

      Honestly, any MO person I have asked about this and other issues has either agreed with me or misrepresented my viewpoint without responding in substance to what I have to say. Nobody has disagreed and actually answered me without impugning my motives and/or mudslinging. Why does it have to be like this? If you are so sure that my טענות are baseless, to the extent that the very fact that I am making them indicates a prejudicial bias on my part, then surely it shouldn't be to difficult to explain why!

      Shaul, you and I are brothers. Our great-grandfathers might have known each other. Help me out.

    11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    12. TO Chaim: Whose IQ and learning is so above mine that I could not possibly understand the depth of his comments.

      Try answering one question. The Ramban in the Vkuach (disputation) states explicitly that you do not have to believe any partucular aggadic statement of Chazal.

      Was the Ramban lying, mistaken, or not part of our Mesora?

      I double dare you.

    13. Truthseeker:

      רצון plays as great a role as שכל - if not greater - when it comes to understanding.

      If you Seek the Truth, then see my post "ChaimFebruary 23, 2014 at 7:42 PM" on this page:
      where I cite the Ramban and other Rishonim and Acharonim who agree with him.

      Now what is your real question?

    14. Chaim, before you start attacking RAL, I suggest you sit in one or 2 of his Gemara shiurim. You will find yourself totally lost, as he has such a depth of knowledge and understanding beyond what you might have picked up in the places you studied at.

    15. Eddie

      I absolutely agree with you that RAL is a tremendous Talmid Chacham (having listened to many of his Shiurim and having read many of his Torah articles), and I am happy to see that that sort of thing impresses you. However, RAL would be the first to admit - no, to insist - that breadth and depth in Torah knowledge does not in and of itself guarantee דעת - he makes this point explicitly in his remarks on the concept of Daas Torah, after bringing an anecdote of Rav Hutner - see here:
      It is therefore perfectly legitimate to question whether certain of his statements are theologically sound and/or damaging to transmitting Mesora.

      See also the portion of "Leaves of Faith" cited here:

      Based on his comments there, I don't think that my conception of Daas Torah differs that much from RAL's - but I am left befuddled as to how to reconcile his words with what I cited earlier. He writes:

      "And while the quasi-mystical element of Sod Hashem Li-Yrei’av U-Veriso Le-Hodi’am [the secrets of the Lord are for His fearers, and His covenant to inform them] always remains applicable, that, too, presumably is not wholly independent of circumstances…"

      So here RAL is professing his belief in the סוד ה' ליראיו mechanism - albeit dependant on the circumstances. So how is he so absolutely sure that Chazal COULD NOT have any possible knowledge of the afterlife, to the extent that he interprets all their statements on that subject as suggestive rather than definitive? Does RAL have סוד ה' ליראיו, and was it revealed to him in a quasi-mystical way that Chazal were never told ANYTHING about Olam HaBo?

      Eddie - you might still be in the spirit of ונהפוך הוא, but are you becoming a Chareidi? Instead of answering me on the issues, you are saying that I shouldn't argue with RAL because of how great he is! :o)

    16. To Chaim:

      Obviously, you cannot answer my direct question. Put up or shut up.

    17. Truthseeker

      May you seek the truth, and then find it.

    18. Chaim - you should certainly argue with him and bring sevaros. My point is don't assume he is making up his stuff or at least respect that he knows a lot. It is possible for him to be mistaken though.

      I think there was a statement of Rambam that all the prophecies of the Neviim were regarding the end of days and not about olam haba. If this is the case, then there is basis for what RAL says. It is inconceivable that Chazal would have access to Torah knowledge that was not known by the Neviim.

    19. Eddie

      "don't assume he is making up his stuff" - what does that mean exactly? Every Chiddush of every Talmid Chacham is by definition not explicitly stated anywhere - the TC invents/discovers it in order to answer a question, understand a concept or otherwise clarify a Torah concept. The true "source" of the Chiddush, like that of any original idea, is unknown - though it is definitely affected by that TC's breadth of knowledge and understanding, and I would add that the יראת שמים and קדושה of that TC plays an important role as well. I am claiming that this Chiddush, of attributing a lack of knowledge to Chazal without any (Jewish) evidence and therefore reinterpreting their statements to the point of reducing their relevance and reliability, is not reconcilable with many Torah sources, and is an unacceptable Chiddush - a mistake far more dangerous than, say, an error in Hilchos Shabbos. I am not calling it Kefira, because I do not believe that every harmful non-Torah Hashkafa is necessarily Kefira (and in this I am agreeing with RAL in the article under discussion). But even if it was Kefira, that would not mean that RAL is not a massive TC, as the Chazon Ish (authoritative to me) says that even a גדול בישראל can inadvertently be נכשל in אפיקורסות.

      "or at least respect that he knows a lot" - I do, as I said before.

    20. "I think there was a statement of Rambam that all the prophecies of the Neviim were regarding the end of days and not about olam haba." - yes there is, it is in Hilchos Teshuva 8:7 based on Shabbos 63a.
      But remember that the Gemara says that there were 12 hundred thousand people who experienced prophecy in Clal Yisrael. This means that the ספרי נביאים contain only a minuscule amount of the huge body of divinely revealed wisdom imparted to the prophets, so the very fact that information is not recorded in Nach is definitely not to be regarded as proof that that information was not imparted. And Chazal could have had traditions going back to these prophets, just like they received the הלכות למשה מסיני.
      Also, I would like some proof before accepting your assertion that "it is inconceivable that Chazal would have access to Torah knowledge that was not known by the Neviim" - perhaps we can discuss it later.
      Nevertheless, I think that your argument has validity even if I reject both your premises (ie, if we say that there were prophecies not recorded in Nach (which is non-debatable) and also that Chazal could access information which the prophets did not have). This is because the Gemara's argument that the Neviim could not have been referring to Olam HaBo is based on the Possuk עין לא ראתה אלקים זולתך, meaning that no eye has seen Olam HaBo. And it is safe to presume that this lack of ability to see Olam HaBo extends to Chazal as well. You therefore find in this statement of Chazal support for RAL's statement. I get that.

    21. There are, however, 2 important distinctions to be made:
      1. It is clear from the Gemara in Shabbos and Rambam that the subject under discussion is the reward for Tzadikim in Olam HaBo. (That is what the aforementioned Possuk is referring to.) The reward is so unimaginably great that no human eye has ever seen it. The punishments of Reshaim in Gehinnom, however, are not included in that discussion, and therefore your argument is reduced by (at least) 50%.
      2. The Gemara and Rambam are referring to the ACTUAL PLEASURES of Olam HaBo, which as the Rambam there explains are impossible to explain to a human being who is only familiar with pleasures relating to the 5 bodily senses. There is, however, much discussion in Chazal of the nature of Olam HaBo in terms of concepts which ARE understandable to human beings, eg that the more effort, the more reward, certain Mitzvos carry more reward than others (as the Rambam writes on the Mishna שאין אתה יודע מתן שכרן של מצוות), certain Mitzvos have reward without limit (זוכה לנחלה בלי מצרים), lesser Tzadikim cannot approach the level of experience of pleasure of greater Tzadikim (וכל אחד נכוה מחופתו של חבירו) and more. In fact, I would not be surprised if these statements outnumber the statements which actually describe the pleasure itself, which are not so many, at least not in the Bavli. Even the Mishna's comment (end of Shas) that every Tzadik will inherit 310 worlds is completely UNDERSTANDABLE - I may not have an inkling of the content and form of those worlds, but the Mishna is not seeking to give me that information anyway. My point is that all these statements are not at all at odds with the Possuk of עין לא ראתה אלקים זולתך. I could give you a task, and tell you that at the end of the day I'll give you 30 boxes of something really special; that the more diligent workers would get more etc., and much more information, all without actually revealing the content of the boxes themselves.
      In summary, there is no source in Chazal which indicates that the vast majority of their statements about Olam HaBo have less authority than anything else they said, and it is dishonest and harmful to suggest otherwise.

    22. Besides which, there are accounts in the Gemara and Medrashim of Tannaim and Amoraim receiving detailed visions of certain aspects of the Next World. These cannot be dismissed by a believing Jew as conjecture and imagination. Even RAL admits that Chazal always spoke the truth - he just claims (without basis) that since their lack of knowledge about Olam HaBo is axiomatic (as per Hamlet), they must have meant to merely be suggesting as opposed to definitively conveying information. Even if one would accept such a Dochak (which when applied to other areas of Torah would indeed lead to outright אפיקורסות), it is impossible to explain the actual accounts of Olam HaBo in this manner, and this refutes RAL's hypothesis.

    23. To Chaim;

      Torah is Emes; you cannot answer my direct question because you are afraid. In the immortal words of Col. Jessup in a Few Good Men: "You cannot stand the truth."

      I will not further reply to any comment by you unless you answer my direct and simple question to you about the Ramban:

      You are the weakest link: Goodbye.

    24. Truthseeker

      I am not in the business of answering nonsensical questions - even when I sense that there might be a good one round the corner.

      "I will not further reply to any comment by you...."

      What makes you think that I perceive this as a threat? Did you somehow read into my last comment an invitation to reply? Very puzzling.

      Perhaps we should just discard all the cultural references and agree on your 1st 3 words: "Torah is Emes". (Actually that's what my complaint was about. I believ Torah to be Emes; others misinterpret it as conjecture.)

      Again, I wish you הצלחה in embarking on your earnest search for truth, and finding it.

    25. Chaim - there were 1.2 million or so who experienced prophecy, but we have no record of who/when and what they experienced. were these the people who were at Sinai? Or is that another 1.2 million on top of those mentioned in the gemara?
      Next, you make a claim that suggests the quantity and quality of this nevuah.
      was greater than those mentioned in the TNaCh. However, you provide no support for such a claim.

      My assertion about extra-Neviim Torah knowledge - I said it is inconceivable. However, the rabbis themselves state that the Mesora came from Moses down through the prophets to the Anshei Knesset Gedola. Let us just rely on Moses. Do you think that there was Torah not known to Moses but known to other groups later on? The Rabbis even state that every chiddush made by an advanced student was already known to Moses!
      In fact, Rambam makes a very important argument regarding the fact that the Torah does not change, and that nobody can add to it, not even the Moshiach.
      The rambam also says in his introduction to chelek, although he warns that this is only for the few - that Midrashim have to be carefully understood and not taken literally. Thus, I see no problem to continue in the derech of Rambam, to interpret midrashim rationally or functionally or somehow non-literally.
      I once asked a Rav about midrashim. The same Rav had already said he doesn't take the wonderful midrashim literally; but on this occasion he said that a midrash states that when the Red sea parted, there were fountains of sweet water coming from the walls of water. In other words, even rational rabbis struggle with midrashim and veer from interpretation to literal understanding. Why not say that there were also coca cola and diet pepsi fountains? It is no more incredible than the earlier claim (although i read recently that there are actually some fresh water ponds on top of seawater, from rainfall).

      Chaim - do you think it would be heretical to suggest that some midrashim were part of the theological debates with other religions, eg Xtianity and the early islam? Those other religions were threatening non believers with eternal damnation; why can't the rabbis respond by giving some Hizzuk to Jews in captivity, that there is a better olam haba for us?

    26. Eddie

      Wouldn't it be nice if you would sometimes methodically address my points as I do yours? However, in a spirit of unfathomable magnanimity, I will yet again overlook the unfair one-sidedness of this discussion, and answer a few of your points.
      Still in the spirit of Purim, can we do it from back to front? That would be fun,

      "why can't the rabbis respond by giving some Hizzuk to Jews in captivity, that there is a better olam haba for us?" - if you mean that Chazal gave us Chizuk by telling us lies - lies which a discerning RAL can pick up on - well, I would find that to be, in your words, "inconceivable". Besides which, you have to assume that our ancestors - those Jews who received the Torah from the previous generations and transmitted it on to us - were less astute and more gullible, taking comfort in the fairy tales they were being given. That is also "inconceivable".

      Of course midrashim should not always be taken literally. Chazal, when trying to convey a concept, often cloaked it in Mashal - as did King Shlomo. There are various rules and opinions about under which circumstances we assume literalism, and when we don't. This is discussed extensively in traditional Jewish sources.
      However, nowhere do we find even once - and I challenge you to prove me wrong - in the classical Jewish sources, that there is an argument against accepting a statement of Chazal as truth, not because of any inference that Mashal is being employed, but simply because of an a priori assumption that Chazal COULD NOT have known the information they are giving to us. The dangers of such an attitude are obvious, and this methodology is not Torah-adherent.

    27. Chaim - going back to the original post and the idea of Talmud Torah protecting people - it seems this was not the case, nor was it believed by many Ashkenazi rabbis and Chassidic rebbes. On Nittel, not only did they feel that their learning could not protect them from being attacked by the goyim, some took the idea further - that torah study could actually be destructive! They made and still continue to make the claim that learning on erev krastmach give koach to some apikores, and can cause tremendous damage to Jews!
      Now I view this as superstition, but it does demolish the claim that learning Torah can protect Jews. And there have been other apikrosim, so why not stop all torah learning as it might coincide with other alleged birthdays?

    28. I am surprised that YOU are taking the Gemara's statement that Moshe knew every Chidush ever invented as literal, when the Mefarshim explain it in a different sense - see, for example, the Tosfos Yom Tov's introduction to his Peirush on Mishnayos.
      In fact, on the contrary - the further we are from Sinai, the more doubts and arguments crop up, and it is רצון השם that we learn all the opinions and discuss all the possible Halachic conclusions, and this is all called Torah. As rw Moshe זצ"ל writes in Igros Moshe, we must recite Bircas HaTorah before learning the opinion of Beis Shamai, even though the Halacha does not follow thim. אלו ואלו דברי אלקים חיים. Yet when it comes to objective truth, we cannot deny that there are a plethora of Dinim which Moshe - because of his superior knowledge of Torah, being so close to the Source - did not "know", because he would not have had the doubt which is the catalyst for (Chidush and Machlokes) to begin with.
      You can take an example from almost ANY Machlokes in Shas. Is Gid HaNashe of an unclean animal forbidden. Moshe knew the true answer, so he didn't know the Machlokes!

    29. But we digress. Your point, though interesting, is not germane to our discussion. Even if it is impossible "that there was Torah not known to Moses but known to other groups later on", that surely only refers to the Halachos of the Torah. But I wasn't talking about Halachos. Nobody was talking about Halachos. We were discussing quasi-mystical information given to Tzadikim, some of which is recorded in the Gemara. I compared this to prophecy, which also is information received supernaturally from Hashem. Who says Moshe knew all this information? (Maybe he did, but how do YOU know?) Did Moshe know where Shaul's father's asses were? Did he know that the Kingdom of Israel would be split into 2 parts, one to Rechavam and one to Yeravam? According to you, he must have, because later Neviim knew these things. I don't see what your conviction is based on.

      I never said anything about the "quality" of the Nevuah of the masses of unnamed prophets - I wouldn't have the foggiest idea of how to rate the quality of a prophecy anyway. All I assumed was that let's say that each of the 1.2 million prophets experienced 5 minutes of prophecy each in their lifetimes. I think that that's reasonable (it was probably much more). Then we are talking about, collectively, over a decade's worth of Divine communication which didn't make it into Tanach. Chazal explain that only prophecies which are needed for the generations were included in Tanach.

      I heard from a great Torah sage that the 1.2 million do not include the יוצאי מצרים, as is indicated from the Gemara's term כפלים כיוצאי מצרים, implying that the יוצאי מצרים themselves are not under discussion. But it doesn't really make a difference to our discussion.

    30. By the way, I once heard in the name of RAL that אלו ואלו דברי אלקים חיים does not mean "the words of the living G-d" but rather "the living words of G-d". This sounds nice, but I think that the Shabbos morning davenning indicates otherwise. There we say "דברי אלקים חיים ומלך עולם"; acc. to RAL, it should read "דברי אלקים ומלך עולם חיים".

    31. Eddie - your most recent post has reverted to those daft flights of fancy characteristic of your usual self. It seems the Purim wine has finally worn off - I enjoyed your פנימות better. It was nice while it lasted...

      "but it does demolish the claim that learning Torah can protect Jews" - that is, the claim of Chazal in umpteen places, based on Pesukim etc. I won't even bother citing them - you can find them yourself, or in Slifkin's article.

      Bumper sticker idea: "When you have nothing worthwhile to say - poke fun at Chassidim!"

    32. @Chaim "Wouldn't it be nice if you would sometimes methodically address my points as I do yours?" It would be nice but I do not have time to write 5 commentaries on each of your posts, so i pick some of your better points and deal with them.

      You use the term "lies" lightly. The statements of Chazal are perhaps moshul. The example I gave was the sweet water fountain coming from the walls of the red sea. Is it a "lie" to say this if it didnt actually happen? Is it a lie to suggest that maybe there was also a Coke fountain?
      When you speak of Olam Haba, we have no inkling of what the type of existence is there. So Chazal can only communicate in moshlim. A moshul isn't a lie.
      You ask for concrete proof, and I give the rambam's statements. I have also cited his halachic statement at the bottom of this page. Do you also deny the rishonim,?

      You are claiming that the big Neviim (known to us in Kitvei Kodesh) were small time, and that rambam didn't really know his gemara that well. You reach for the 1.2 million who did have some kind of nevua, and then you theorise that they knew everything else, and that Yeshayahu, Yirmiyahu, Eliyahu, Moshe, etc etc were second rate. This is slightly problematic for your olam haba, since one of the 13 ikkarim is that Moses was the greatest prophet, and his prophecy was not and will not be superceded by anyone. Perhaps you have been finishing off your whiskey and vodka too quickly, but you claim that the unknown prophets knew more than Moses! So while you may beleive in a literal olam haba, you may have some trouble in getting there if you claim that every second-rate navi, or person who had some kind of prophetic experience, was privy to more ultimate knowledge than Moses! (in their 5 minutes of fame). What a joke.

    33. Regarding your bumper sticker, Chaim - there is a debate between Slifkin and the others, and he publishes a new angle on this every day. You can make claims about Chazal statements but he is showing it differently.

      In any case, these claims have to be looked at empirically.

      Did Rabbi Akiva know how to learn better than, say 1000 boys in Ponovezh today? You are claiming that he didn't. because, Rabbi Akiva was the predecessor of R' Yehuda haNassi. R Akiva backed Bar Kochba. His learning did nor protect the jews. They were massacred and exiled.
      However, you comments about nittel are even more ridiculous. The rabbis themselves who do not learn, by their own admission, hold that learning cannot protect them. You obviously cannot think logically.
      If the claim that Torah or yeshiva learning protects is valid today, then it must have been valid 200 years ago. But many hareidim (who protest and organize asifot) themselves do not beleive that their learning can protect, and nor did that of their predecessors. You can interpret the gemara however you wish, but the fact is that those rabbis who do not learn on nittel are denying their own claim that torah protects.
      So please stop with your magical claims, when the majority of the protestors (who protesteth too much) do not beleive int eh claim themselves.

    34. Eddie,

      I am no doctor, so I can't give a definitive diagnosis of adult ADD, but your jumping from baseless attack to nonsensical statement and back to another baseless and unintelligible attack against someone else is definitive indicative of something.

      Maybe we should try to just focus on one point. I asked you to provide any example of a Rishon saying that Chazal made a statement about a subject which they COULD NOT have known about, and THEREFORE we have to interpret their words in a non-literal manner. Do not cite Rishonim such as the Rambam who write that we do not need to believe every statement of Chazal, because some statements are their opinion and not based on Mesora from Sinai. That is not what I am asking for. I am asking, to repeat myself, for one example of Chazal making a statement, eg about the seating arrangements in Olam HaBo, and a Rishon or classical Acharon advancing the argument that since Chazal were never there, they cannot possibly know what it is like, and we therefore interpret their words differently. This approach is anti-Torah, because it assumes that Chazal had no access to information which we do not.

      I already explained why Rambam's statement in Mishneh Torah has very limited applicability to most statements of Chazal about the next world, including all their descriptions of Gehinom (which the Gra also corroborated based on visions which he had). RAL. who is coming to explain why the MO likes to ignore the full gamut of other-worldly statements, can therefore not be based on the Rambam. Besides which, he himself doesn't advance your argument, but rather cites Hamlet!

      You had some good points, Eddie, but your stubborn failure to ever be מודה על האמת is proving to be an impediment to expanding your horizons.

      Have a good Shabbos, Eddie

    35. Chaim,

      I already suggested RAL's argument is based on rambam, who says the prophets didn't prophesy about OH. So whether they knew, didn't knwo or couldn't have known is a discussion in itself but also evading the issue.

      If they COULD have known, then you have a problem of being kofer the Neviim, who didnt know.

      If you say there was an alternate Mesora that Moses and Joshua and Isaiah etc didn't know, then you are Koifer on the Mesora. It means you are "hareidi" but not Orthodox - you have created your own religion.

      What was made known to the Gra, the Arizal the Ramchal through Kabalah is a discussion on its own, and probably not suitable for this or any other blog.
      BTW, The Gra was himself skeptical of visions he had, and messages given to him by his maggid.

      But I will give other cases - some where Chazal could have known and some where maybe they didnt.

      Rambam attacks - amulets, even though they were mentioned in the Talmud. he says they come from AZ.
      He attacks astrology, and in his letter to marseilles (on astrology) he tells his student to ignore comments of Chazal in astrology, because it is false.
      I don't know if you count geonim to be great or not, but they were the next generation after Chazal. Rambam attacks statements of the Geonim, eg on separation after birth. He claims these views were derived form Tsedukim!

      Saadia gaon - he rejects reincarnation. If , as a hareidi , you hold Kabbalah to be from sinai, and Gilgul to be a sinaitic tradition, then you have a problem. You have to choose between your emunah in gilgul and the saadia gaon.

      More recently, the Hatam Sofer rejected the views of Hazal on human anatomy. So again, an authority rejects knwoledge of Chazal. whether they could have known or not is moot.

      Have a good Shabbas.

    36. @ Chaim " that surely only refers to the Halachos of the Torah. But I wasn't talking about Halachos. Nobody was talking about Halachos. We were discussing quasi-mystical information given to Tzadikim, some of which is recorded in the Gemara. I compared this to prophecy, which also is information received supernaturally from Hashem. Who says Moshe knew all this information?"

      Oh really? Do you think Moses was not taught Torah on Sinai? Do you claim that he did not know what "kareth" is for example? Perhaps he also did not know theology either? Are you suggesting he didn't know what the Unity of God is? Perhaps he didnt know the Oral Law either? Did he know the Gemara? if you are saying that Moses was not privy to the Talmud (contents) which clearly you are implying, then you are making effectively the opposite of what the Kuzari claims. The Kuzari says that the Torah is not clear without the Oral law. You are saying that Moses did not have the oral law. That this was only revealed afterwards to Chazal, or unspecified "neviim". Now I am not a big fan of the Kuzari, but your statements are very odd. My view is that all torah knowledge was known to Moses. Perhaps not where my missing goats went, but there is no Torah knowledge that wasn't given to Moses. What the parameters are - i do not know. But please do not start up your own religion. We don't need another new testament.

    37. Eddie - a Mazeldike Voch.

      "What the parameters are - i do not know"

      A modest and honest admission, one which I fully endorse. The little snag is that parameters are indeed important. If you admit that Tanach is Torah, then are you saying that Moshe knew every detail of Tanach - the concubine in Givaah, Delila's betrayal of Shimshon, when Dovid HaMelech would sin, how many kings the Northern kingdom had etc? What is your source for this major Chidush?

      Perhaps "Torah" is a bit of a misnomer. Is everything in the Talmud "Torah"? Are the anatomical discussions which you claim (perhaps correctly - please provide a source) that the Chasam Sofer proves as mistaken also "Torah"? Did Moshe Rabbeinu know this mistaken "Torah"? Chas VeSholom! So if we accept - acc. to your definition of Torah as "something that Moshe knew" - that not every piece of information in the Talmud is Torah - then why should we say that there are not other statements in the Talmud which do not fall into this category but are still true? Did Moshe know that Biblically monet can acquire movable objects, like R. Yochanan, or that Meshicha is necessary, like Reish Lakish? Did you even look up the Tosfos Yom Tov which I cited? Sigh.

      "But please do not start up your own religion."

      OK then.

      I also agree with you that if you twist my words until they are heretical, then you will indeed arrive at heretical conclusions. Since, however, it is you who is doing the twisting, I will lose no sleep. In fact, your book of heretics contains plenty of Rishonim, as well as almost every single Acharon, who accepted the Zohar and Kabbala. This includes the Chasam Sofer, who you praise in another post. Is that just lip-service? And do you reject Kabala because of a wily-nily preference for RAV Saadia Gaon, regardless of how sidelined his opinion is by the overwhelming majority of Jewish tradition - maybe his name sounds nice - or do you endorse him because he happens to agree with your position on the subject?

      Finally, how do you manage to derail every discussion until it becomes about Rav Saadia Gaon and Kabbala? Are you protestething a little too much?

      Maybe we should stop the conversation here. Your outrageous comments used to make my blood boil, but now they are just - boring.

    38. I said I do not know the parameters. Do you think you know what Moses was given on Sinai? Probably you do, since you had visions or was told about someone in yeshiva who did.

      Whatever was given to Moses on Sinai and in the Sinai, is the Torah, to which we cannot add. This includes mystical knowledge, theological knowledge and legal knowledge. However, you are making the fallacious claim that perhaps since Moses did not know about disputes on this blog, then he also didn't know of the Zohar and its teachings; perhaps the Arizal had revealed to hm things that Moses didn't know etc. That is what you are essentially claiming. I do not know who the thousands of Acharonim are who make this claim? Has any great rabbi claimed they have access to Torah knowledge not known to Moses? Your use of machlokes as examples is not really proving anything. A machlokes is based on lack of true knowledge. Rambam says that anything which is subject of machlokes was not revealed on Sinai!
      Do I choose gedolim who agree with me? I think we all do. That is why Hareidim generally avoid the philosophical statements of the Rambam, or the Zionistic statements of Rav Kook. It is self serving bias we are all prone to.

    39. The Ninth Fundamental Principle is the authenticity of the Torah, i.e., that this
      Torah was precisely transcribed from God and no one else. To the Torah, oral and written, nothing must be added nor anything taken from it, as is said, “You must neither add nor detract”(Deut. 13:1).We have already sufficiently explained this principle in our introduction to this Commentary on the Mishnah.

      This is from Rambam's commentary on Chelek.

      My point is that if you claim there are neviim or mystics who see new visions, and add to what was given to MOses, then you are violating this ikkar.
      It doesnt really matter whether you know 1 rabbi or 1000 who have violated this ikkar. there are also rabbis who have violated other ikkarim, eg those who deny Yetziat Mitzrayim.

      It is truly ironic how the ones who claim to be the most ultra-orthodox are the ones who do away with orthodoxy, or consider these ikkarim as irrelevant.

    40. @Eddie you are making a lot of pronouncements and judgments. Why not simply stick to the facts.

      you are assuming that the Rambam is the final word that is unanimously agreed upon. You are trashing everyone who doesn't accept the Rambam's version.

      To quote Dr. Marc Shapiro's "the ninth principle teaches tha the Torah will never be abrogated, in whole or part, and that G-d will never give another Torah. Maimonides repeats his insistence that the biblical mitzvot and the Oral Law will never be abrogated, not even in messianic days, in a few other places. While this is certainly a popular position among rabbinic authorities and has a talmudic source,it is hardly unamimously accepted.

      Dr. Shapiro then devotes 9 pages to sources that disagree with the Rambam.

      In fact Eddie it would be a good idea before you bash people for not adhering the the Rambam to read his book

      "The Limits of Orthodox Theology Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised."

    41. Eddie,

      You are absolutely right that if you accept your premise that:

      (1) The definition of Torah is what Moshe received at Sinai

      then it follows that:

      (2) Nobody can never know any more Torah than Moshe did.

      It therefore follows that:

      (3) Any information known to any person which was not known to Moshe is not Torah.

      But since you agree that the Talmud is full of information which is not Torah, ie disputes, how do you know that it does not contain more true information which is not Torah?

      Your circular logic is now: how can Chaim claim that there is true information in the Talmud which Moshe did not know? But Moshe knew the whole Torah! Well that answers itself: if Moshe didn't know it, then by definition it is not Torah! All according to your definition, of course.

      The Midrash reports that Shlomo HaMelech knew more than Moshe (see Rashi Melachim 1, 5:11). What does that mean?

      And as usual, you don't answer my question. Do you, Eddie, believe that Moshe knew the entire Tanach by heart? Either he did, or you must say that parts of Nach are not Torah. Which is it? You can't have your cake and eat it. Go on. I dare you to commit yourself to actually answering one of my questions.

      As to choosing Gedolim who agree with us - let me ask you a question. Is it acceptable, in your opinion, to adopt ANY theological opinion than ANY Gadol has ever espoused, even if everybody else argues with him? I assume you know the Ralbag's position on Hashem's foreknowledge vs. our free will. Is that acceptable? If it is, then you are saying that it is impossible to have any theological Mesora whatsoever, as all it takes is for one Tzadik to make a mistake once upon the line, and afterwards however much his false position is attacked and decried as heretical anyone can choose what they like. Is that your viewpoint? Your constant criticism of various Gedolim and factions shows that it is not. How can you ever criticise anybody if they are "laying claim to a higher authority" and adopting the position of a Gadol, if it is always acceptable to do so? Is this another Eddie contradiction rearing its mischievous head?

    42. @DT - the pronouncements are made in the context of the discussion i am having with another contributor. That contributor is fast to make "pronouncements and judgments" about anyone who does not hold to his own made up theology.
      Why is it that it is ok to make up some new theology or ikkarim, when it suits the Hareidi agenda, but as soon as someone a) goes against them or b) relies on the ubiquitously accepted 13 principles, they are called "beyond the pale"?

      Next, here is quick review of Shapiro's book - It appears that he is relying on 2 questionable figures - one is a Conservative Rabbi (which makes my case stronger), and the other is a Meshichist (which also makes my case stronger).

      A third authority quoted in that review is Rav Bleich, who is the author of With Perfect faith. It is attributed to him that consensus can convert once acceptable views to heresy. This seems to me to be a highly problematic statement. But how about its opposite - converting once heretical views into the acceptable?
      I would argue that the only basis on which this could be made is if the Rabbis made an error at some point. So an interpretation of Torah could be changed for a better one. I have great trouble in accepting that a navi could come and tell us that we have to accept Yashke or Muhamed etc.

      That is why I gave the example of Yetziat mizroyim. I am sure you could only agree that Conservative/reform position that now denies this took place is absurd - within the Torah framework. Numbers do not matter. if a majority of MO and Hareidi rabbis claimed it never happened, I would still reject that view, and stick to the minority view.

      Bottom line, even if you hold that Maimoides is not the last word, you would not daven in a shul that removed Yigdal from its siddurim.

    43. Eddie, your self-assured stupidity is stupendous. Who are these "rabbis" who deny Yetzias Mitzrayim, and why should I care 2 hoots about what they have to say, and what comparison do you see between them and all the Gedolim who have accepted the authenticity of Kabbala??? The whole of Clal Yisrael considers the Shulchan Aruch as THE primary Halacha sefer, yet you dare to call its author an Apikoros! The Magen Avraham, Shelah, Mishna Brura - all all, in your deluded mind, Apikorsim. The holy Vllna Gaon, Baal Shem Tov, Baal HaTanya, and all of their disciples, are heretics in Eddie's little fantasy world. Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav JB Soloveitchik, Rav Hereschel Schacter - are all heretics according to you. Why do you not have the humility to realise that the craziness of such a theory means that you are making a mistake? You are indeed similar to Reform, who reject our Mesora and adopt their own, based on how they interpret the sources. The last 800 years of Rabbinic tradition mean nothing to you. You condemn thousands upon thousands of great Talmidei Chachamim, whose ankles you don't reach, to being heretics, because you read somewhere that the Rambam disagrees with them - and not in Mishneh Torah, but in some other work. You accuse all the Kabbalists as being liars, even though many of them were accepted unanimously by their peers as being great Tzadikim.

      There is no religious orthodox community who accepts your views, Eddie. You are no more MO than you are Neturei Karta - and when it comes to non-acceptance of Gedolim - our Mesora, you are more extreme than NK.

      If you are so proud than you consider yourself to tower above everyone else, in this generation and the last millennium, then I fear that there is no hope for you. If there is any human being alive who you think might know a little more than you do - perhaps RAL, you seem to like him (or is that only when he argues with Rav Shach זצ"ל) - then you should go to him (or her).and ask: is this belief, that I am the first non-heretic in 800 years, acceptable?

      Tell me what they say.

    44. Eddie - the link to the the review only shows 1 paragraph. I have Dr.Shapiro's book in front of me and in this chapter he is citing mainstream sources for 9 pages

    45. "ubiquitously accepted 13 principles"?

      You claim that NO ONE accepts them, because all the Gedolim have accepted Kabbala, which you think is against them!

    46. It is fortunate that the rest of your post contains nothing of any substance which needs replying to, because I am tired and need to eat מלוה מלכה. Perhaps Rabbi Eidensohn can bring some of his psychological expertise to bear in analysing what makes Eddie tick.

  13. Rabbi Eidensohn,

    Did you receive my last post, in which I replied to Eddie? I hope so, because I never saved it.

    1. yes . I take breaks from moderating this blog and therefore the comment might appear hours later. Nonetheless comments do get lost and it is a good idea to make copies just in case

  14. Hilchot teshuva ch 8:

    Halacha 7

    How very much did David desire the life of the world to come as implied by [Psalms 27:13]: "Had I not believed that I would see the goodness of God in the land of the living!"

    The Sages of the previous generations have already informed us that man does not have the potential to appreciate the good of the world to come in a full sense nor can anyone know its greatness, beauty, and power except God, alone.

    All the beneficence which the prophets promised Israel in their visions are only physical concerns which Israel will appreciate in the Messianic age when dominion [over the world] will return to Israel. However, the good of the life of the world to come has no comparison or likeness, nor was it described by the prophets, lest with such a description, they diminish it.

    This [was implied] by [Isaiah's (64:3)] statement: "No eye has ever seen, 0 God, except for You, what You will do for those who wait for You;" i.e. the good which was not perceived by the vision of a prophet and is perceived by God alone, this was created by God for those who wait for Him.

    The Sages declared: "All the prophets only prophesied about the Messianic Age. However, regarding the world to come - `No eye has ever seen, 0 God, except for You.'


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