WIth Hashem's help, I intend to return to a more regular schedule of posting. I apologize for the prolonged furlough and hope that you will find what I post to be useful, and above all, educational and uplifting.
WIth Hashem's help!
For many years it has been scholarly dogma that Esrog did not grow in Eretz Yisrael in Bilbical times and, therefore, the identification of "goodly fruit" with Ethrog was post-biblical. Now comes evidence that Esrog was grown in Judea during the First Temple period, here.
See here on Ethrog in Josephus.
This reminds me of the "camel" controversy. It was similarly claimed for many years that the story of Abraham and his camels msut be an anachronism because camels were not yet domesticated in the Bronze Age. This also turned out to be incorrect. See also here.
The lesson is that we must approach scholary dogmas with a good measure of scepticism.
I seem to write about chumros every Pesach because every Pesach brings with it additonal insights into this subject. Chumros on Pesach are a prominent feature of the Pesach landscape and partake of many related and important ideas in spirituality and Avodas Hashem.
Why is even a tiny piece of Chametz forbidden on Pesach? Radvaz (Rabbi David ben Zimra, 1479-1573) askes this question in She'elot uTeshuvot Radvaz, 3:546 (977). After finding that there is no other halacha that makes quite such stringent demands, he concludes that this is because chametz symbolizes the yetzer hara (evil inclination). One place where this idea is expressed is in Brochos 17a, where it says that when Rabbi Alexandari finished saying the amidah, he would add a tefillah: "Master of the Universe, You know full well that it is our desire to act according to Your will; but what prevents us from doing so? The se’or in the dough..."
However, Chido in Simchas Haregel extends this idea from searching for chometz to Pesach in general. He writes(Machazik Bracha 457): "It is well known that every person accepts on himself stringencies, adding fences and barriers because of the severity of the prohibition of chomets, as Radvaz explained in a teshuva". He adds that there is no prohibiton of appearing super-punctillious but it should be done in private and the rabbi who rules for others should not follow only the letter of the law. The Minchas Eleizer writes similarly in Machazil Bracha 457 that on other ares of halcha "the power to permit is preferable" but our tradition regarding chometz is to rule according to strict opinons. He attributes this approach "our rabbis, ZTZ'L". This, unlike Chido, he directs even the rabbis to rule strictly, even for others. This approach finds its expression in the the Chabad saying, "Pesach is andersh(different)" and in the practice of Ismach Moshe to accept any possible chumra found is seforim, as documentd in Tehila L'Dovid, a sefer written by his grandson. This remains the prevailing approach in Satmar as documented in the article in the Pesach issue of Mishpacha about the Williamsburg Matza bakery, the only bakery in the world in which, based on R. Yoel's directive, every possible chumra is being kept.
The Mei HaShiloach quotes Reb Bunim MiParshischa who said that all the stringencies that the Jewish People adopt on Pesach are adornments to holiness, and this is alluded to in the verse that states (Shir HaShirim 1:!0) tzavareich bacharuzim, your neck with necklaces. This means that every limb of a person’s body has a corresponding ornament or garment, whereas the neck can be adorned with an ornament that is not unique to the neck. A precious stone is not designed to clothe someone. Rather, it is intended to be suspended from a person’s neck. Similarly, the stringencies that have been adopted by the Jewish People on Pesach is due to the fact that the neck is the vehicle through which the food enters, and it is specifically regarding food matters that all the stringencies on Pesach apply.
Here is how I understand this concept. Generally, a chumra is praiseworthy thing and an expression of loving G-d, except that a person should not take on stringencies that are far above his or her current level of observance. Doing so exposes his other deficiencies and represents Kefitsas Hamadreigos which is not the right way in serving Hashem. However on Pesach even chumros that are far above the observance level are fully legitimate. Pesach is the time of mortal combat with Yetser Hara and in a fight to the last, any weapon is acceptable. It is no dishonor to a warrior in the midst of the battle to slay his enemy with a tree trunk, should a sword not be available. Similalry, Pesach is a "time-out" during which the usual considerations in Derech Hoavoda do not apply.
I always thought that the statement of Ramo in in Orach Chaim 443:6 contradicts this approach. Ramo writes that those who scour and wash the walls before Pesach have what to rely on and shold not be ridiculed. Mishan Berura points out that they rely on a Yerushalmi. Doesn't this indicate that chumros even on Pesach must have something on which to rely, something at least of the gravity of Yerushalmi?
There is also found in the traditional sources an approach that is against all chumros on Pesach. Not surprisingly it comes from Breslov. Sichos HaRan #235 says:
"The Rebbe was also very much against all the special stringencies that are observed on Pesach. Many people went so far in observing many fine points of custom that they were literally depressed by the holiday. He spoke about this at length. One of his followers once asked the Rebbe exactly how to act with regard to an ultra-stringent observance. The Rebbe made a joke of it.
The Rebbe spoke about this quite often. He said that these ultra-strict practices are nothing more than confused foolishness. He told us that he had also been caught up in this and would waste much time thinking up all sorts of unnecessary restrictions. Once he worried about the drinking water used during Pesach. He was afraid that a small amount of leaven might have fallen into the well from which they drew water. The only alternative would be to prepare water in advance for the entire Pesach week, as some people do. But this was also not good enough, for the water had to be carefully safeguarded from leaven from the day before Pesach, and this was very difficult."
Here is how the RCA put it in a statement issued in 1997. " The promulgation of stringencies were condemned because they add additional financial burdens on the Jewish consumer. Unnecessary stringencies are divisive........they foster an atmosphere of cynicism that no standards are ever good enough."
However, there is also a middle approach, one that says that some chumros are good and some are bad.The good ones keep you out of trouble because they bring with them zechus avos.
Inyan this year, the magazine of Hamodia, contains an interesting interview with the Squarer Rebbe. In it he quotes this Ramo as an indication that chumros IN GENERAL, not only on Pesach, must have something on which to rely. "This is how the Rav of Ostrow interpreted this Ramo. This something should be a received tradition from our forefathers."This is a gevaldige message", the Rebber enthuses. "If one relies on his ancestros, it is their responsibility to ensure that he does not stumble. On the other hand, if their way does not find favor in his eyes,then it is as if he has forged a new path, and in that case ancestors bear no responsibility and one is dependent on his own zchyos". He goes on to share a story of a certain machmir who would not eat of the Magid of Chernobyl's shirayim because of the minhag of not to "mish" (eat other people's food on Pesach). The Maggid told him to check his water barrel and he found there a piece of floating chometz.
It is important to point out that this is not the kind of oppositon to chumros that one sometimes finds in the "modern" sector. The argument here is for the authority of traditional minhagim, not their dismissal as not somehow relevant to our 21st centruy lives. What the Squarer Rebbe says is that raditional chumros are to be mantained but new ones should not be manufactured by individuals.
I end with a quote from Shelah, Beis Chochma, vol1.
We find that as generations unfold more and more halachic stringencies are enacted. During days of Moshe Rabbeinu only those prohibitions that were explicitly received on Sinai were proscribed. Moshe Rabbeinu enacted a nubmer of stringencies based on his perception of the spiritual needs of the nation. In later generations, be it at the time of the prophets or the Tannaim, the prevailing spiritual leadership instituted additional halachic stringencies and guidelines.
Korn GENTILES, THE WORLD TO COME, AND JUDAISM: THE ODYSSEY OF A RABBINIC TEXT
Modern Judaism.1994; 14: 265-287
Michel S. Nehorai, “Righteous Gentiles have a portion in the World-to-Come, Tarbitz 61 (1992), pp.465-487
Steven S. Schwarzschild, "Do Noachites have to Believe in Revelation?" JQR, 57,.
4 (April, 1962)
I introduce Dr. Chaim Gershon, who, we hope will continue contributing to this blog. I apologize for the formatting. Formatting problems are due solely to my inability to get Typepad to handle it better.
Coca-Cola Torah by Dr. Chaim Gershon
One can learn about the interaction of Torah with the world on many levels; it is particularly enriching to do so adjacent to Matan Torah. One of the deeper explanations as to why Shavuous is one day is that it represents the Kesser/Crown of Torah. It is a general point of singularity and unity.
Afterwards when we descend from Har Sinai back to the work week, we have to see this unity even within the plurality, diversity, etc of the world.
It is said that Torah is compared to all kinds of liquids (Bava Kama 82a, Taanis 7a) as well as to other kinds of drinks: wine, milk and honey (Shir HaShirim Rabbah I: 190). Just as a man’s cup says much about him (Eiruvin 65a), so does a “national drink” tell much about the nation. According to Tom Standage in “A History of the World in Six Glasses” http://tomstandage.wordpress.com/books/a-history-of-the-world-in-six-glasses/ , the current reigning drink is Coca Cola.
Recently I read that Coca-Cola was going to come out with a Plantbottle http://www.biobased.org/node/21528. This sounded wonderful and green http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_chemistry for the world but since plastics are the objects of my profession, I was curious just how they were making such claims to achieve this goal. Another search revealed http://biopol.free.fr/?p=648 that sugar cane and molasses are going to be converted somehow into a bottle interchangeable with one based on the usual polyethylene terephthalate (PET)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyethylene_terephthalate. It seemed apparently novel that the bottle would be as sweet as the soda therein. Perhaps
Messianic times are imminent when the world will return to the perfection at creation when the vessel tasted as sweet as it’s content: “At the inception of creation it was intended that the tree have the same taste as the fruit” (Bereshis Rabbah 5:9).
"Sugar" triggered other memories concerning the Coca-Cola itself. There is the famous Coca-Cola Teshuva http://chabadlibrarybooks.com/download.aspx?req=2227 through which Coke became Kosher (also see http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/Kashering_Coke.html). Various ingredients had to be changed as one can read therein for Coca-Cola to gain hashgacha. The other halachically significant change in the history of Coke http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca-Cola#New_Coke is that since 1985, Coke has been made with high fructose corn syrup, instead of sugar glucose or fructose. This is fine except for Passover when they revert to sugar to avoid using kitniyos. Even non-Jewish Coca-Cola followers flock to buy this “original” product as well: http://www.nypost.com/seven/03192007/news/regionalnews/kosher__coke_a_big_hit_regionalnews_rita_delfiner.htm
Not only do the components of the Coca-Cola have significance in Halacha, as they need to each be kosher so that the whole product should be kosher but the liquid can also be viewed as a whole entity in Torah. One can ask the same question of Coke that is the case of wine and has been asked of beer, liquor, coffee, and tea, which are the other major beverages chronologically discussed by
Tom Standage in “A History of the World in Six Glasses”. Is Coca-Cola a chamar medinah? Can it be used for ritual purposes for which wine is used such as Kiddush? Can it be used at least for Havdala? Although Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim 2:75 267) states it is not, Goggle searches seem to indicate that times have changed:http://www.ottmall.com/mj_ht_arch/v25/mj_v25i71.html#CVB , http://www.ottmall.com/mj_ht_arch/v21/mj_v21i19.html#CEJ
From the initial description, I had thought that the new bottle was a sugar/sucrose polyester like Olestra http://www.caloriecontrol.org/olestra.html , http://www.nytimes.com/1989/06/11/magazine/nothing-to-sink-your-teeth-into.html?pagewanted=all. This might create some Kashrus issues, as the source of the sugar then must be a certified kosher one. However, as I read more in a more technical news magazine http://pubs.acs.org/cen/news/87/i21/8721notw9.html, it is clear that this is not the case. The sugar and molasses are merely being used as the feedstock to produce ethylene glycol, one of the two monomers, instead of oil. The good news for the kashrus is that there is no issue as one can probably consider the ethylene glycol as fine as it is not very good for one's health and thus is kosher via a halachic concept known as nishtana in any case. However the bottle is indeed still PET and needs to be recycled by as usual. The new Plantbottle is not like PLA polylactide which is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polylactide
biodegradable and truly environmentally friendly. Only in recent years has attention been paid http://www.star-k.org/kashrus/kk-containers-plastics.htm to the kosher status of packaging materials. A myriad of esoteric additives are used with the plastic; processing equipment shailos also exist just as they do with the food itself.
On a deeper level, we can allude to Coca-Cola and its bottle as a real world example of light and vessel, the classical mashal/analogy in Kabbalah. The next time you drink a Coke, meditate on how these atoms have been around since the creation of the world, and how they have rearranged to represent such a mundane beverage that nonetheless arouses discussions of the entire hidden and revealed Torah.
The ban against the concert in the Madison Square garden signed by thirty three roshei yeshiva and admorim and the consequent withdrawal of Lipa Schmelzer from this concert, his acceptance of the ban and disavowal of his past musical style is discussed this week in Hamodia and is accompanied by an interview with Lipa. It gives one much to think about.
Lipa has certainly chosen the only honorable path for one of his stature as a man and as a religious Jew. This ban was not only more comprehensive than the Slifkin ban, it also differs in essence. This is not about arguable points of haskafa and philosophy that is given to rational argument and where some can be found to support either side; instead it is about what touches everyone close to the heart - music. I do not believe that any Rov of stature would have supported Lipa against the rabbinical opinion expressed in the ban. I do not address the regrettable manner in which the ban was made public and the loss of money to ticket holders, singers and organizers.
The case against " Goyish Music" is well laid out in a recent pamphlet printed in Bnei Brak and entiteld "Ki Davar Hashem Boza" in the Hebrew version and "The Torah is not Hefker" in its English version. While ignoring the Chassidic literature on the subject, it starts from Plato and Aristotle on hhow music affects society and proceeds to cite many anti-rock and roll quotes from the 1950s. It then discusses the various quotes from the Torah literature and later "yeshivishe" acharonim and closes with a brief review of the effects that the author believes that "modern" music is having on the behavior and views of our youth. It is when it reaches this part that the real concern of the author becomes apparent. The issue is not whether Jewish music has historically appropriated non-Jewish melodies. Yes, it has and that's OK. The author even makes an interesting observation that the poskim in European lands tended to allow non-Jewish music, because, he explains, it was fine and elevated, whereas those in the lands of Ishmaelites tended to prohibit it- for its unrefined and animalistic nature. The issue is not what the source is of the music. Rather it is what effects it aims for and accomplishes. He posits that the strong rhythms of African music, the same rhythms that have traveled into blues, jazz and later rock and roll, stem from voodoo and idolatrous ceremonies and are spiritually destructive by their direct effects on the heartbeat and phyisiologic functions of the body. Why are they unacceptable? Because they vibrate the body and provoke lowly desires and lusts.
I believe that the ban was made in response to the observation that all those older than 40 share. It is incontrovertible that young people in America are no longer as they used to be. Family structure, pursuit of the popular, kosher indulgences, chutzpah, and inability to commit to something above and external to oneself, are playing havoc with our family and communal structure. Can it all be blamed on the music? I do not think so, although that is a part of how culture changes people; however, I believe that many people see music as driving this process.
The pamphlet mentions two instances of new music in concerts inducing yeshiva boys to throw their shirts at the singer, and one instance during a concert in Bnei Brak when the girls did the same. The behavior and congregating of the sexes during concerts is repeatedly mentioned.
The ban is in its essence not based on chalachic or even hashkafic imperatives. It is being driven by the despair and horror that the new type of religious Jew, as it reaches a critical mass, is having on our keen and perceptive religious and lay leadership. Herein lies the explanation for and the power of the ban.
Will it work. No, I do not think so. Culture is more than music alone and the problems that bedevil us will continue to grow, Hashem yirachem. Will it have positive effects? Yes, I think so. Eventually the concerts will be back but in manner more refined and eidel. Our singers will be forced to produce more original material and there is certainly enough talent to do so. Kiruv will not suffer and kosher outlets will remain but, perhaps, they will be a little more kosher than before.
" In 1907, Abraham Zvi Idelsohn (1882-1938), the generally acknowleged “father” of modern musicology, settled in Jerusalem. The great diversity of musical traditions he found among the Jews living in the region led to the creation of his monumental musicological collection, Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies. Idelsohn examined the traditional melodies of Hebrew music from Jewish centers throughout the world, and found recurring motives and progressions that were not found in any other national music. This suggested a common origin for these musical phrases that went back to Israel/Palestine in the first century c.e., prior to the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans and the Jewish Exile.
He found that these motives fell into three distinct tonal centers, which corresponded to the Dorian, Phrygian, and Lydian modes of the ancient Greeks. Each of these modes elicited a distinct psycho-emotional response. The Dorian Mode tetrachord was used for texts of an elevated and inspired nature; the Phrygian for sentimental texts, with their very human outbreaks of feeling, both of joy and grief; and the Lydian was used in composing music for the texts of lamenting and confessions of sins.
Idelsohn further categorized and defined these motives as ones that either prepared a musical phrase, began it, or conluded it. In the hopes of creating an echo of first-century authenticity on this recording, the melodies for the Dead Sea Scrolls text and the prayers and sayings of Jesus were carefully composed using the motives and melodic fragments collected by Idelsohn. It is very likely these sacred texts and prayers were chanted and sung, as that is the both the Jewish and Middle Eastern tradition. "
A CD based on this premise is available (caution, I have not heard it and don't know whether it involves kol isha or shirei agavim problems)
I now speak of something that troubled me for a long time. It is not, however, my way to complain or cast blame. Better to light a lamp than to fight darkness. Yet, sometimes one must of protest and one surely must join others who make their opinion known in an eidel and appropriate manner, leshem shamaim.
Two weeks ago the Americal Yated run an article by A. Biderman decrying increasing use of religious symbols in avertising. In frum communities one more and more frequently sees articles for sale advertised not for their design, price or value but based on their putative religious advantages. It might be a better hechsher, a conformance with tsnius standards or an appeal to a godol who either praised and himself used the item. At times, the ad is acompanied by a picture of the Godol with the advertised item in hand or nearby. Certain charities have become especially brazen. In my tsedaka pile (my wife has never met a tsedaka she does not like) lies an adertisement from a certain charity (claimed to be " the tsedoko of Gedolei Yisroel") that offers a blessed coin. Brocho Coin is a large medal. In the past, it was a kvittel that one of the specified four Litvishe gedolim would daven over. This time it is a large "metal" coin that is blessed by a particular Godol, whose picture holding the coin prominently graces the cover of the mailing. It says that in return for a generous donation, it will grace our home and bring the Godol's blessings with it.
The Yated article points out that extensive use of sacred symbols in advertising cheapens these symbols and will in time lead to lessening of their emotional value. In other words, and the author is careful to bring this out only by implication, the result will be a spread of cynicism and lessening of the emotonal attachment of Jews to their religious symbols.
I am sure that the gedolim who are used in these advertisements do not know to what use their images are being put. I know that the people who write this advertising copy are not aware of their eventual impact. I grant that their intent is honorable but their education and experience may be limited and it is our role to make them and the entire community aware of the dangers of this trend.
The brocho coin troubles me. For how this played out in other settings, see here.
Note: I will delete any comments that are not respectful or in good taste.