Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Some Bechhofen/Bechhofer Trivia

From: Ralf Rossmeissl
To: Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer


Bechhofers had to take a surname by law in 1813.
They took the name Bechhoefer, because living in
the village of Bechhofen since 1682. Before the
family lived since 1604 in the little town of Herrieden
and before probably in Gunzenhausen.


Shalom, Ralf


"Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer" schrieb:

> Thank you for the information. How old is the town of Bechhofen itself?

> By the 1930's were there any Jews in Herrieden or Gunzenhausen?

The Jews of Herrieden were thrown out in 1682 and setteled back to Bechhofen.In Gunzenhausen was a pogrom 1933 (first antisemitic killings in Germany), 1934, 1938. Last Jews of the congregation fled end of 1938. All in all nearly 120 Gunzenhausen born Jews were killed and about 50 Jews from Bechhofen.

Ralf

"Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer" schrieb:

> If I recall correctly, I am the person who first made the connection

> between you and my uncle, Jerry Bechhofer, a few years ago.

Exactly - I visited Jerry last week for dinner. Every time its wonderful to see the candles of Bechhofen still burning and also that there are Bechhoefers out in the world! Meanwhile the old bet olam in Bechhofen is closed to the public, so its very quiet around your common ancistors, who founded theplace in 1603.

Bechhofen:

1. explanation of the word Pech = pitch; Hofen = pot; place were pitch was poiled

2. explanation Bechthold = German tribes man named Bechthold; Hofen = homestead Homestead of the free Franconian German tribesman Bechthold In Franconian slang, since 1806 part of Bavaria, P = B, T = D, ..


Rav Herzog zt"l and the Doomsday Essay

A lot of noise is being made about the Benny Morris "Doomsday" essay. See, for example, RHM's blog on the matter.

To worry this worry is a sheer and utter lack of Bitachon:




שאלה: שלום,
אני בת למשפחה ניצולת שואה. סבי וסבתי שרדו את המלחמה אך רוב משפחתם נספתה שם. אני קוראת הרבה על השואה, שומעת ומתעניינת בנושא.
לאחרונה יש לי סיוטים שכל העסק הזה יחזור שוב, אבל הפעם זה יהיה הסוף שלנו.
איך אנחנו יכולים להיות בטוחים שלא זה מה שיקרה? גם אם קרו דברים טובים לעם ישראל בעשרות השנים האחרונות, אבל הרי שום דבר אינו בטוח, אנו מוקפים באויבים שמנסים להשמיד אותנו ושנאת ישראל בעולם מתגברת. מי אמר לנו שהסוף לא יהיה רע ומר? כמו שקרתה שואה אחת, למה לא תתכן שתקרה שואה שניה והפעם החורבן יהיה מוחלט?
בתודה
תמר
תשובה: שלום תמר,
ראשית, יישר כוחך שאינך מהססת להביע את אשר בליבך. אדרבה: שוחחי עם הורייך, חברותייך ומורייך ויקל לך. לא טוב לַשֶאת מצוקה כזו לבד. "דאגה בלב איש ישיחנה". בדיוק בשביל זה יש חברים, לא?

את שואלת שאלה תיאורטית, אך האמת שלפני שנים לא רבות, הפחד מפני "חורבן שלישי", היה מוחשי מאד. בשנת תש"א (1941) באמצע מלחמת העולם השניה, כאשר עוד נדמה היה שהחיה הנאצית הולכת לדרוס את העולם ושום דבר לא יוכל לעצור את היטלר ימ"ש, עמד בפני יהודי ארץ ישראל בדיוק החשש הזה. צבאותיו של המצביא הגרמני רומל שטפו בסערה את צפון אפריקה וכבשו מדינה אחר מדינה. היעד הברור היה ארץ ישראל. ביישוב היהודי הקטן והחלש בארץ השתררה בהלה. הבריטים כבר העבירו מכאן את מוסדותיהם, וההגנה תכננה 'מצדה' שניה על הכרמל.
הרב הראשי יצחק הלוי הרצוג שהה אז בארה"ב לצורך איסוף תרומות וחיזוק עולם הישיבות בארץ. כששמע על חומרת המצב הודיע למארחיו חד משמעית שהוא עוזב הכל וחוזר מייד לארץ. שגריר בריטניה בארה"ב שנפגש עימו באותה תקופה ניסה להניא אותו מכך: "כבוד הרב, אל תחזור לשם. הרי זה פיקוח נפש! מי יודע מה יקרה בארץ ישראל?!"
אך הרב הרצוג עמד איתן בדעתו: "אני חוזר לארץ. חורבן שלישי לא יהיה!!!"
את הדברים הללו שמע ממנו גם נשיא ארה"ב, רוזוולט, כמה ימים לאחר מכן, בפגישה בארבע עיניים שנערכה ביניהם, ושאב ממנו ביטחון ואמונה. מארחיו של הרב הרצוג בארה"ב, ביניהם רבנים ואישי ציבור חשובים, ניסוח לשכנע אותו שיוותר על הרעיון 'המטורף' ולא יסכן את חייו בשיבה לארץ, אך הוא סירב להקשיב להם.
אנחנו כבר יודעים מה היה הסוף. הרב הרצוג חזר לארץ, וצבאותיו של רומל נבלמו בדרכם לשערי הארץ. שנה לאחר מכן הובסו סופית בקרב אל עלמיין המפורסם (על הניסים שהיו שם יש צורך לספר בנפרד, ולא נעשה זאת עכשיו).


מניין שאב הרב הרצוג את ביטחונו? מניין ידע לקבוע בוודאות כזו ש"חורבן שלישי לא יהיה"?

בתורה ישנן שתי פרשוית המתארות חורבן. "בחוקותיי" ו"כי תבוא". המתבונן בפסוקים, מצד אחד, וקורא בספרי ההיסטוריה, מצד שני, יגלה שהן מקבילות בדיוק (עד לפרטי פרטים) לְמַה שקרה בחורבן בית ראשון ובחורבן בית שני.
אין בתורה תיאור של חורבן שלישי!
נביאי ישראל ואחריהם חז"ל קבעו לנו ברורות שלא יהיה עוד חורבן! מרגע שתתחיל הגאולה ועם ישראל ישוב לארצו לא יהיה עוד חורבן או גלות נוספת (הרחבה בנושא בספר "בנתיבי הגאולה" מאת הרב ערן טמיר, עמ' 190. בין המקורות המובאים שם: מכילתא, מדרש רבה, מדרש תנחומא, מדרש הנעלם על הזוהר ועוד. עייני שם).
אולי שמעת בחופש חלק מההפטרות הנקראות בשבתות 'שבע דנחמתא'. קראי בזמנך החופשי מעט מפרקי ישעיהו מפרק מ' ואילך, יחזקאל פרק לו' או נבואות נחמה אחרות, ותיווכחי לדעת כי ה'מוטציה' ההיסטורית של תחיית ישראל בארצו, היא התגשמות מדויקת של חזון הנביאים. דבר אחד מדבריהם לא ישוב ריקם. עייני למשל בהפטרת 'פרשת ויגש' וסיפרי כמה פעמים מבטיח הנביא שהגאולה תהיה 'לעולם'.

אנחנו עם למוד נסיון - ואופטימי. אפילו במצרים המשכנו להוליד ילדים למרות שלא היה כל כך ברור כיצד ישרוד עם שכל בניו מומתים. עברנו את פרעה, נעבור גם את זה, בקל וחומר עצום. יש לי קרובה שלוחשת הודיה לקב"ה בכל פעם שהיא שומעת מסוק, כיוון שהמסוק הוא בוודאות שלנו. זה לא מובן מאליו...

הביטחון והאמונה שמפעמים בנו, יש להם כמובן גם בסיס מוצק: "לו חפץ ה' המיתנו - לא הראנו כל זאת". הצלתנו המופלאה במלחמת יום כיפור, ששת הימים, מלחמת השחרור, ואף לפני כן...
הרי גם לפני מלחמת ששת הימים הסתובבו אצל כמה אנשים פסימיים בדיחות שחורות בנוסח 'מי שעוזב אחרון שיכבה את האור אחרון בנמל התעופה לוד'. והסוף ידוע.
כדי לקיים 'בינו שנות דור ודור' יש להתבונן בתהליכים במבט רחב, ולא ברגע קשה אחד. 50 שנה הם לפעמים רק פסוק אחד בספר שופטים, אולם קשה מאוד לדחוס את כל חסדי ה' עמנו ב- 50 השנים האחרונות לפסוק אחד. וכי חולל ה' את כל ניסי הגאולה רק על מנת להחריב הכל שוב?! יו-יו היסטורי?!
אומנם, מקובלים אנו שיהיו שלבים בגאולה.


לעיתים אפילו יהיה נדמה שיש נסיגה. המדרש מזכיר ש'דומה דודי לצבי - נכסה ונגלה'. נזכור את מה שקרה בימי שיעבוד מצרים כשבא משה לראשונה לדרוש 'שלח את עמי'. היתה רק התדרדרות במצב והיו אנשים שהאשימו את משה ואהרון בסיבוך הענינים, וגם שם - הסוף ידוע...

לכן, גם אם יש קשיים וחששות לא ניבהל. לא נאבד את המבט הכולל והרחב הצופה בגאולה ההולכת ומפציעה כשחר העולה,

גם כנגד הסיכויים והסברות האנושיות, וכמו שהבטיח לנו ריבונו של עולם על ידי נביאיו.
וכימי צאתנו מארץ מצריים יראנו נפלאות במהרה בימינו, והמיצר בצרתם של ישראל ישמח בגאולתם השלמה. כן יהי רצון.
בציפייה לישועה
יעקב, חברים מקשיבים


















Monday, January 15, 2007

HZL

YGB:
...
Do you have any thoughts on dealing with issur and challenge of Hotzaat Zera LeVatala with high school/ yeshiva boys (either individual counselling or on the agenda of mussar-work a rebbe might do with his shiur)?


Yes. What I did was to use the piece in Shiurei HaRav that RYBS has about Negi'ah (I used to have the book, but lost it several years ago - it is a remarkably accessible piece about how Judaism is not meant to make you happy but heroic - it is a great segue into Misnagdus vs.. Chassidus, which can also be incorporated into this discussion - see further).


I then used the MME Kuntres HaChesed on Ahavat HaMin - but in requires contextualizing - i.e., framing the whole conversation of the tachlis of the Beriah and of Man specifically (Tzelem Elokim, V'Halachta B'Derachav). I then explained how being a Ba'al Chesed is meant to lead to Happiness, and that Chassidus does believe the goal is Happiness.


I then explained how HZL is the ultimate act of selfishness, and contrary to the idea of Chesed that is at the core of our existence and the purpose of sexuality.


My experience is that boys generally accept the logic (they find it refreshingly profound relative to what they usually hear), and that on occasion they will even tell you they have decreased their HZL. I think that is the best outcome to which one can aspire.


This even works with lower levels...


KT,

YGB

The First Post in the Digest is Prof. Lev's Response to Rav Dessler's Dichotomy

Avodah Mailing List

Volume 04 : Number 239

Friday, December 31 1999

< Previous Next >
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Fri, 31 Dec 1999 08:13:34 -0600
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Subject:
Fwd: R' Dessler (from atwood@netvision.net.il)

Akiva Atwood <atwood@netvision.net.il> sent me the following (with reshus to forward to the chevrah. Hopefully I made sense of the formatting mark-up tags.  -mi  --  Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 30-Dec-99: Chamishi, Shemos micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H  http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 91b For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.           Some remarks on a letter of Rabbi E. E. Dessler William Z. Low  ABSTRACT: IN A LETTER written in B'nei B'rak a few years before his death Rabbi Dessler discusses the relative merits of the Torah im Derech Eretz and Lithuanian yeshivah systems of education. William Low investigates the points Rabbi Dessler makes, and considers the fundamental question of how Gedolei Torah are nurtured.  Bio: WILLIAM Z. LOW (or Ze'ev Lev as he is called in Ivrit) has been Professor of Experimental Physics at the Hebrew University since 1961, having joined the staff when he emigrated to Israel in 1950. He has had a distinguished research career, having been awarded the Israel Prize in Science in 1956, when he was only thirty-four years old, for his work on paramagnetic resonance, and the Rothschild Prize for Exact Sciences in 1963. But he is best known in Torah circles for his part in establishing the Jerusalem College of Technology (popularly known as Machon Lev) which enables young men to combine Torah study with a career in technology. For ten years he served both as Rector and President while the College increased in strength and numbers. In addition to his numerous scientific publications, Professor Low has published halachic articles of importance, particularly relating to halachah and modern technology. He is the author of a book in this area, Beirur MusagimKoach Kocho V'koach Sheni B'halachah, published by Mossad Harav Kook.  1. Introduction  I HAD THE privilege of knowing the late revered Rabbi Dessler during the period when he lived in Israel, and I often attended his mussar talks given to professionals, and in particular to physicians, in private homes in Jerusalem. Many of those invited were of German-Jewish or Anglo-Jewish background, or had studied Torah in Lithuanian Yeshivot, and had later studied in academic institutions. In addition, I had many private conversations with Rabbi Dessler in Jerusalem and in B'nei B'rak, and he mentioned to me during the later years of his life when he was living in B'nei B'rak that he had changed some of the ideas that he had formed in England. When one studies Rabbi Dessler's writings, one should be careful to note during which period of his life the discourse referred to was delivered. It is possible that this change in his ideas was due partly to repercussions of the Holocaust, and partly to the effect of life in B'nei B'rak. The letter to which I wish to refer was written in 5711 in B'nei B'rak a few years before his death (in 5714), and is reproduced in vol. 3 of Michtav Me-Eliyahu (p. 356). In it Rabbi Dessler discusses the relative advantages and disadvantages of the religious educational systems of Frankfurt, commonly referred to as Torah im Derech Eretz, and that of the yeshivot in Lithuania and Poland. His argument can be summarized as follows:  The Frankfurt school supported an educational system in which the students were exposed to the study of secular subjects[1] and later went on to Universities. At the same time it paid attention to the strict observance of all the mitzvot. The advantage of the system was that the vast majority of its adherents stayed Orthodox and carefully observed the ordinances of the Shulchan Aruch, despite the fact that they were exposed to a general non-Jewish intellectual environment. The price paid for this was that few, if any, Gedolei Torah emerged from such an educational system. In addition, exposure to non-Torah ideas affected to some extent the purity of their faith in the absolute truth of Torah, resulting in strange compromises. The Lithuanian Rashei Yeshivah, on the other hand, set as their main objective to educate Gedolei Torah, discouraging all contact with the intellectual world outside the yeshivah. The price they paidalbeit willinglywas also heavy, since many of the yeshivah students strayed from such an austere and difficult path, and became irreligious in their encounter with the Haskalah and other revolutionary movements.[2] Those who left the yeshivah world were advised to take simple non-professional jobs, for example as small businessmen, rather than study for an academic career.[3] Those yeshivah students who did go on to study at University were therefore disregarded. The connection between Rashei Yeshivah and these Orthodox university students was severed in order to prevent their exercising a detrimental influence on the the rest of the yeshivah students.[4] The heavy price, the sacrifice of many for the sake of a few potential Gedolei Torah, was based possibly on a midrash in Vayikra Rabbah 2:1, One thousand students enter to study Mikra [Bible]...and only one emerges to hora'ah [halachic decision-making].[5]  The question discussed by Rabbi Dessler is of great interest to all who are concerned with Torah education. There will be general agreement that it is of paramount importance to create the conditions that enable the Gedolei Chachmei Yisrael (great Sages of Israel) to develop and flourish. This elite is the backbone of the Jewish people in each generation, and any deterioration in the level of Torah learning, or any significant decrease in the number of this elite group, has serious repercussions for that particular generation, and probably even for future generations.  We have used the term Gedolei Chachmei Yisrael following Rambam (Hilchot Lulav 8:14), who clearly differentiates between Gedolei Chachmei Yisrael and Rashei Yeshivah or members of the Sanhedrin. The first category is the top of the elite structure and takes priority over all other categories. In his introduction to the Mishneh Torah, Rambam lists the names of Rabbis in successive generations until Rav Ashi and calls them Gedolei Chachmei Yisrael. Thousands of others, according to Rambam, studied in the yeshivot during that period.  The emergence of a genius is a matter of chance, but it is possible to create conditions which enable him to flourish. It is obligatory in each generation to foster an atmosphere in which such a genius, should he emerge, can develop his full potentiality. In a sense any assistance which can be given to such personalities should be classified as pikuach nefesh ruchani, spiritual salvation of the Jewish people.  Over thirty years have elapsed since Rabbi Dessler wrote this letter. We now have more information available about the two systems of education so clearly outlined by Rabbi Dessler, and their results, and we can suggest a number of pertinent questions which need objective examination.  Is it true that the Lithuanian yeshivot constituted the main cradle of outstanding Gedolei Torah? What are the precise conditions needed to foster and nurture such personalities? Is there a correlation between the decline of Torah scholarship and the methodology of Torah im Derech Eretz? What is the influence of general surroundings on yeshivah students? Do yeshivah students also harbor two sets of cultural attitudes? What lessons can be learned from the experience of the systems of education which can serve as a guide to the current situation in the Torah world?  An exhaustive treatment of these questions is clearly beyond the scope of a short article. But I do hope to make a number of points which may stimulate others to think more deeply about these vital matters.    2. Factual Analysis of the Emergence of Gedolei Torah in Different Jewish    Centers of Population  Although no detailed analysis has ever been undertaken of the conditions needed for Gedolei Torah to develop to their full capacity, some tentative conclusions can be drawn from a careful study of Jewish history. The Almighty has in His wisdom looked after the spiritual welfare of our nation. In several periods of our history, when there was a decline in the level of Torah study and its deeper understanding in some existing major centers, new powerful centers emerged in other locations. For example, at the end of the Geonic period in Babylonia, the yeshivot there were in considerable disarray. New centers of Torah leadership emerged in North Africa, Spain and Italycountries that had no previous tradition of yeshivot or Torah centers. (The story of the four captives who were redeemed, each of whom established a new Torah center, is well known.)  When the Jewish centers of learning in Southern Germany and Northern France were destroyed during the Crusades, Torah scholarship began to decline. A single person, R. Yaakov Polak (together with his son-in-law R. Shalom Shachna), established a new center in Lublin. Poland at that time (the early sixteenth century) had a population of amei ha'aretz (people ignorant of Torah) and no yeshivah. Within two generations, Poland had become the main center of Jewish learning, producing giants of the caliber of Rabbi Shlomo Luria (the Maharshal) and Rabbi Moshe Isserles (the Rama). Torah study spread from this center to all Eastern Europe, where it remained until the twentieth century. Recently, when all centers of Torah study were annihilated during the Holocaust, and there was a danger that serious Torah study would cease within a short time, new centers emerged in the U.S.A. and Israel.  The growth of yeshivah students in Israel during the past twenty years is quite remarkable. If we take all types of yeshivot and kollelim into account, the number of full-time yeshivah students in Israel is about four or five times that in the U.S.A. The Jewish population in Israel is only half that of the U.S.A., and the relative standard of living is much lower. On the other hand, the number of shomrei Shabbat in Israel is about twenty-five percent of the population or over 800,000 as compared with a few percent in the U.S.A. and Canada. These facts should be borne in mind when assessing the current Torah situation. It is of particular importance in our generation and the next generation to strengthen these centers which are so vital to the future of our people.  Let us focus attention on Western Europe. Rabbi Dessler is undoubtedly correct in stating that for several generations it had not produced any Geonim (Torah geniuses) of the stature of R. Aryeh Leib ben Asher (the Sha'agat Aryeh), R. Aryeh Leib HaCohen (the Ketzot), R. Yitzchak Babad (the Minchat Chinnuch), R. Meir Simchah (the Ohr Sameach) or R. Yosef Rosen (the Rogatchover). However, to conclude that Torah im Derech Eretz was the main factor contributing to this decline may well be simplistic.  For many generations before R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, Western Europe had to import Gedolei Torah from Eastern Europe. Examples are R. Yaakov Yehoshua Horowitz (the P'nei Yehoshua), Rabbi of Frankfurt, who came from Galicia; R. Aryeh Leib (the Sha'agat Aryeh), Rabbi of Metz, who came from Russia; R. Yechezkel Landau (the Noda BiYehudah), Rabbi of Prague, who came from Galicia.[6] The number of Geonim in Western Europe has decreased steadily during the past 400-500 years. The decrease was accelerated after the French Revolution by the breakdown of ghettos and the impact of Emancipation. Religious society was ill-prepared to cope with the confrontation with Western civilization.  It was only much later, with the advent of R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, that this trend of assimilation was partially halted. The impact of Torah im Derech Eretz was not limited to his Austrittsgemeinde (independent Orthodox community), but had an important influence on Orthodox and non-Orthodox society within the general Jewish communities. These included many of the Eastern European immigrants to Western Europe before and after World War I, including many Chasidic adherents who could not, and probably did not wish to, be integrated in the Austrittsgemeinde. Such communities, while not adhering to the philosophy of Torah im Derech Eretz, practiced it pragmatically as businessmen or semi-professionals.[7]  Hence, although it is factually correct to say that the educational methods of the Frankfurt school in its German-Jewish setting did not produce Gedolei Torah, there is no proof that it might not be more successful in another setting. One can infer that the method was not successful in the framework of Western Europe where the vast majority of Jews had become assimilated. In Western Europe before World War I, there were no advanced centers of Torah study of the quality of Lithuanian yeshivot, and in the time span of one hundred years no exceptional Gedolei Torah appeared.[8] Although some Gedolim moved to Western Europe, their influence was not very significant.  An exception seems to have been R. Yechiel Weinberg, who taught at the Rabbiner-Seminar in Berlin. Rabbi Weinberg's influence on Orthodox Jewry in Germany was profound, and possibly in time a much higher level of rabbi might have emerged from this seminary. Rabbi Weinberg himself was favorably disposed to the method of Torah im Derech Eretz, and even had a high respect for German culture. Also German yeshivah students who went to study at the Mir Yeshivah might have changed the pattern of the Frankfurt school considerably. But the Holocaust put an end to such possibilities.  There was one experiment in Lithuania involving the establishment of a yeshivah high school which included secular studies, and which nevertheless produced Gedolei Torah. R. Simchah Zissel Ziv (Broide) of Kelm, the leading disciple of R. Yisrael Salanter, established this school, and although the idea was attacked by a number of contemporary rabbis, the school lasted for twenty years, and was an outstanding educational success (for details see R. Dov Katz, Tenuat Hamussar, vol. 2, p. 68, 192). Among its pupils were leading Rashei Yeshivah of the last generation including the father of Rabbi E. E. Dessler, R. Natan Zvi Finkel (the Alter of Slabodka), R. Moshe Mordechai Epstein (of Slabodka and later Hevron), R. Naftali Tropp and others.  The inference by some people that, since R. Yisrael Salanter did not visit the school, he disapproved of it, can be discounted. It is inconceiv-able that R. Simchah Zissel, who adhered to all the teachings of his mentor, would establish something of which his rebbe disapproved. In any case R. Dov Katz quotes the personal evidence of Rabbi E. E. Dessler in the name of his father that when the possibility arose that the school might have to close, R. Simchah Zissel sent to ask advice of R. Yisrael Salanter and was told that its closure would represent a type of churban Bet Hamikdash. There is evidence that R. Yisrael himself, after his visit to Germany, was not averse to some aspects of Torah im Derech Eretz (see R. Yechiel Weinberg, Seridei Esh, vol. 4, p. 294).  The reasons for the eventual closure of the school were not educational but personal and individual, and are described in detail by R. Dov Katz. We can infer from this experiment and another abortive experiment by R. Yaakov Reines in Lida that some Rashei Yeshivah and rabbanim in Lithuania were sympathetic to educational programmes that included secular subjects.  It is clear that Torah im Derech Eretz was helpful in stopping the inroads of assimilation in Western Europe. On the other hand, the effect of general assimilation, the impact of socialism, the Bund, secular Zionists, in addition to the mass exodus to the U.S.A, were beginning to have a disastrous effect on Jewry in Eastern Europe despite the existence of Gedolei Torah. Despite the growth of yeshivot in Lithuania, religious society on the whole in Eastern Europe was ill-prepared to cope with the onslaught of Western culture and civilization. In the long run it is doubtful whether even these yeshivot would have stood their ground and attracted the elite element from which Gedolim can emerge. The Holocaust in Europe stopped this development.[9]  The discussion of Gedolei Torah and their origin at the beginning of this section inevitably leads to the confirmation of the thesis implicit in Rabbi Dessler's remarks (that Gedolei Torah were concentrated in places where Torah study abounded). The majority of Rashei Yeshivah did originate in Lithuania, and to a smaller extent in Russia and Poland. As a result of this, the Lithuanian method of study has conquered the majority of yeshivot both in Israel and the U.S.A.    3. Does the Yeshivah System Produce Gedolei Torah?  This question has never been raised previously, to the best of my knowledge. Rabbi Dessler takes it as axiomatic that there is a direct relationship between Gedolei Torah and yeshivot. There is indeed a definite correlation; in the communities that had many talmidei chachamim who had studied in yeshivot one would be likely to find Gedolei Torah. However, a deeper analysis shows that the majority of real Geonim had not received their important training in yeshivot. If we look at the outstanding scholars of the last generation, we see that the Chazon Ish, R. Yitzchak Halevy Herzog, the Rogatchover, R. Meir Simchah, R. Yosef Engel, R. Chaim Brisker, and the majority of Gedolim of Galicia and Poland, had spent little time studying in educational institutions like Lithuanian yeshivot.  I have discussed this fact with many Rashei Yeshivah of the last generation, and the general consensus was that yeshivot served the good and very good student, but not the brilliant student. The brilliant students went their own way. This was best clarified for me by the late R. Chazkel Sarna, Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivat Hevron in Jerusalem. His policy was not to limit the exceptional students in any way. He let them study anywhere they wished, in any bet midrash (not necessarily the yeshivah's), at their own pace, according to their own timetable, and with anyone they wanted, having to report to him only once a week. He felt that even Yeshivat Hevron would hinder their progress. A genius is usually restricted by a structured atmosphere.  R. Dessler does not actually state that the yeshivot produce Gedolei Torah, but says that it is their stated goal to do so. The inference that the yeshivot actually produce Gedolim does not seem to be borne out by the facts. Yeshivot produce, at best, Rashei Yeshivah of the same pattern as the yeshivot in which they studied. However, it is possible that in order to produce Gedolim a total environment is required that puts great value on our elite system, and this environment is undoubtedly produced by yeshivot. The graduates who are talmidei chachamim appreciate and revere a Gadol baTorah and hence encourage a latent genius to achieve his potentiality. One can therefore perhaps interpret the midrash that a thousand enter Mikra, a hundred Mishnah, ten Talmud, and only one emerges to be a Ba'al Hora'ah as saying that statistics show that only one out of a thousand has the potentiality for genius, and the atmosphere of the many is needed to nurture the one. However, to base on this midrash an ideology that it may be necessary to sacrifice hundreds if not thousands of students for the sake of one, is far-fetched and dangerous, and probably not in accord with Chazal and halachah. Rabbinical and lay leadership have to be as watchful over the thousands as over the one genius, and should be held responsible for failure to do so.  We can also learn a good deal from the growth of Torah learning in the U.S.A. during the present century. The Lithuanian rabbis, graduates of Slabodka and Telshe, who emigrated to the U.S.A. before World War II, were not very successful. They established hardly any yeshivot, and the communities which they established assimilated rapidly to the American way of life.  Even after World War II, the main organized Jewish communities in the U.S.A. were the German Jewish community in Washington Heights, New York, and the various Hungarian communities. These communities established the main framework of Jewish communal life, kosher products, mikvaot, etc.  The greatest architect and builder of Torah learning was a Hungarian Rabbi, Mr. Shraga Mendlovitz. He founded Yeshivat Torah Vodaath and took on Lithuanian Rashei Yeshivot to head his institution, even though he may have disagreed with some of their philosophies. It is doubtful whether the growth of Lithuanian-type yeshivot and kollelim would have been possible without the background of strong integrated Orthodox communities.  It seems reasonable to conclude that it has yet to be proven that the present yeshivah system produces Gedolei Torah. What does seem to be true is that the yeshivah system produces many new competent Rashei Yeshivah, and an environment that can support a Gadol baTorah, should one emerge.    4. The Influence of Non-Jewish Culture on Torah Study and Observance of Mitzvot  Rabbi Dessler states, It is true that they [the Frankfurt School] benefited in that the number of defectors from mitzvah observance was small. On the other hand, their weltanschauung was somewhat imperfect as far as complete acceptance of the Torah point of view is concerned. Whenever there was a conflict between sciences (Wissenschaften) and Torah, they resorted to a strange combination of the two, as if the two systems can be combined as a unity (free translation).  Rabbi Dessler essentially states that German Orthodox Jewry lived in two worlds of culture. On the one hand they strictly observed the mitzvot, and in that sense the ethical principles underlying them, and on the other hand they culturally assimilated to their surroundings. The conflicts were compartmentalized.  Even nowadays, there is more than a grain of truth in this statement. It is probably valid for many Orthodox Jewish scientists, and even more so for Jewish sociologists, psychologists, economists and lawyers. (It has been difficult for me to understand how an Orthodox Jew can become a lawyer or a judge; he practices law according to a system based on a non-Jewish philosophy of justice, and I am doubtful whether this is permitted by halachah.)  Only a few religious scientists have created a viable synthesis. Many thinking professionals who were formerly yeshivah students find themselves struggling with problems at different times. Their doubts and questions have not been resolved even after discussions with their Rashei Yeshivah, who often do not appreciate the depths of the problems. In my view there is nothing wrong with this as long as these people stay within the Orthodox fold and maintain the basic tenets of our faith. No one dies from honest questions and the search for solutions to real problems, as long as his basic faith in the eternal validity of Torah remains unshaken. It is only the naive, the ignorant, or the person who consciously closes his eyes and ears to his surroundings who has not at some stage of his life experienced problems with belief.[10] It is only when a person stops believing in Torah min haShamayim that questioning becomes biased and skeptical, and even though he may still observe mitzvot technically, his attachment to the Torah community has been severed.  It should also be noted that the above criticism by R. Dessler may apply to many yeshivah students today. It is virtually impossible even for a cloistered person not to be aware of the multicultural surroundings in the State of Israel or the Western World. The secular radio, the newspapers, even contact and conversation with people who are not religious or do not have a yeshivah background, must exercise an influence. This can easily be seen, for example, in an American yeshivah student when he is put in a different setting, say in a yeshivah in Israel. His cultural attitudes from eating to reading are American, and his homeland in a deep sense is the U.S.A. He feels at home there, whether because of baseball or business, food or newspapers or politics. In a sense he is an American who is an Orthodox Jew and a budding talmid chacham, and is not basically different from the prewar German Orthodox Jew, except (and this is important) that he is far more of a yeshivah student and has far more desire to increase his Torah learning. However, deep inside, he does not consider the U.S.A. as galut, and in this sense he is strongly culturally assimilated. Although studying in a yeshivah, he combines two different sets of values. Some of the consequences can be seen today in the advent of the women's liberation movement in Orthodox circles, and the rapid increase in the divorce rate even among yeshivah graduates. Because of the permeating influence of the outside world, educational methods which were applicable in the yeshivot of Lithuania and Poland may not be sufficient for the second or third generation of American or Israeli yeshivah students and graduates.  However, there is one significant difference between the modern yeshivah student and the Frankfurt schoolthe latter carried a banner, an ideology. The present generation of yeshivah students in the galut disavows this ideology in theory (much more than R. Dessler does), while in practice they themselves behave along similar lines.  There are at present several different attitudes towards fundamental questions when modern science seems to contradict some of our beliefs. One group, as mentioned above, strives to grapple with the problems. A second tries to compartmentalize; the deep belief in Torah min haShamayim gives one the strength to feel that the difficulties will be resolved, if not immediately perhaps later, possibly during the next generation. A third group does not wish to be aware of such problems, and a sub-category of this group pushes unresolved issues into the sub-conscious.[11] In a sense they become technocrats in learning and may be exposing themselves to a serious danger. A member of this sub-category who is exposed to tension, as in an environment which cannot support his beliefs and behaviors, may have such problems that he drifts away from the Orthodox Jewish way of life.  A story may help illustrate this last point. A well-known rabbi in Jerusalema former student of R. Shimon Shkopasked me once whether I really believed that the astronauts had reached the moon and set foot on its surface. When I answered affirmatively he said that he did not believe it; he considered that it was all propaganda since the Rambam states that the moon is a spiritual object. (Incidentally, this is a complete misunderstanding of Rambam's position.) I asked him what he would do if two deeply religious Jews would come to him and declare under oath that they had walked on the moon. He answered that this would, in his opinion, throw doubt on all the sayings of the Rambam, and this would have serious consequences for his personal religious commitments and beliefs.[12] He would not entertain the possibility that Rambam projected the knowledge of science in his time, and that if he had lived today he might have made a revision of the first four chapters of Yad Hachazakah.  It seems to me therefore, that one cannot avoid tackling such fundamental problems even in the yeshivah or in the kollel. Indeed, if one wants to preserve the purity of derech haTorah (the Torah way), if a person wants to strive to be a perfect Jew, he has only two possibilities; either to be unaware of problems and to be a tamim (a person of simple faith), something very difficult to maintain in our society, or to strengthen his belief in Torah min haShamayim so much that he can grapple with the many different problems that society imposes on us.  The implication is that the Rosh Yeshivah or Mashgiach in our generation has to combine deep emunah and yirat Shamayim (faith and reverence) with an awareness of the problems and ability to resolve them from a Torah standpoint.  [In his own approach to conflicts presented to him by his students, Rabbi Dessler was never satisfied with superficial reconciliation. By in-depth analysis both of the contemporary challenges and basic Torah principles, he showed how the challenge disappeared when viewed from a proper Torah perspective. Many examples of this approach may be found in the pages of Michtav Me-Eliyahu. A.C.]  NOTES:  1- Rabbi Dessler uses the word mada. However he did not mean Science but rather the equivalent of the term Wissenschaften. The majority of German Orthodox academicians studied humanities, such as philosophy or law. Study of fundamental science was at the time considered problematic. All of this changed after World War II in the U.S. with the emergence of Orthodox Jewish scientists.  2- Many Lithuanian yeshivah students took an active part in the Russian revolution. Some had already become irreligious before the revolution, others during and after the revolution.  3- A different attitude was taken by the venerable Rabbi Y. M. Gordon, Rosh Yeshivah of Lomza, and later of Petach Tikvah. He once told me that I was fortunate to be a salaried person and not a businessman. A modern businessman, according to him, has to transgress many sins mentioned in Choshen Mishpat nearly every day.  4- There were exceptions to this rule, but on the whole Rashei Yeshivah followed this trend during the fifty years before World War II. However, should a former yeshivah man be very successful and stay a talmid chacham he would then be considered as von unsere meaning he is one of ours.  5- Those emerging to Hora'ah should not be identified with talmidei chachamim. It refers to a ba'al Hora'ah, to a person who is a posek, whose decisions are accepted by the majority of the population. Another citation in the letter is from the introduction to Moreh Nevuchim which says, Let a thousand fools die and let only one wise man benefit. However the present writer thinks that this reference refers to the philosophical problems of the Rambam and has no relevance to the present discussion. (This quotation is not actually from Rambam but from the commentary of Rabbi Shemtov.EDS.)  6- An exception is R. Moshe Sofer (the Chatam Sofer) who came from Frankfurt in Germany to Pressburg in Hungary. However it is doubtful if Pressburg would have accepted him as Rabbi if not for his predecessor, R. Meshulam Igra, who had come from Galicia, and prepared the ground for the Chatam Sofer. Incidentally, the latter was not opposed to the ideas of pragmatic Torah im Derech Eretz and proposed the establishment of a Jewish Medical University and Hospital.  7- The interplay between Eastern European congregations in Western Europe and the older established congregations is worthy of study. The interchange of ideas and the dissonances between the two groups are of particular interest. Regarding halachic aspects of the creation of the Austrittsgemeinde, in particular the differences between Rabbi S. R. Hirsch and Rabbi S. B. Bamberger, see the letter of R. Chaim Ozer Grodzienski regarding permission to transfer from the general community to the Austrittsgemeinde (Sefer Hazikaron for R. Yechiel Weinberg, p. 10).  8- We exclude Hungarian yeshivot from this discussion since their system was very different from those of Lithuania.  9- R. Yisrael Salanter seems to have foreseen this situation developing. Initially he directed the Mussar movement towards the general Jewish population rather than to yeshivot. When he saw that he was not successful in stemming the influence of Western culture, he hoped that he could combat its influence better from outside Russia, and moved to Memel. But again, he was unsuccessful. (See Tenuat Hamussar, vol. 1.)  10- One should not conclude from this that a mashgiach has to create doubts in the minds of his yeshivah students. However, many students do have problems which are normally submerged and surface only in times of crisis.  11- I have found, incidentally, that among full-time adult kollel students, the Holocaust poses a severe religious problem, and often lurks as a major challenge to their beliefs which they are reluctant to discuss with the Rosh Kollel.  12- The conversation continued as follows: I asked him whether he believed all that is written in Rambam, and he answered yes. I asked him then whether he goes to a doctor or follows the medical advice of Rambam. He countered that he goes to a doctor because he does not understand these portions of Rambam. I pointed out that he has another portion of Rambam regarding the moon which he does not understand.  

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

[Fwd: [Avodah] RYBS TEEM Musings]


The Emergence of Ethical Man.(Book review). Daniel Rynhold. 
        Religious Studies 42.3 (Sept 2006): p364(5). 

Full Text :COPYRIGHT 2006 Cambridge University Press

Joseph B. Soloveitchik The Emergence of Ethical Man, Michael Berger (ed.). (Jersey City NJ: Ktav Publishing House, 2005). Pp. xxii + 214. [pounds sterling]20.00 (Hbk). ISBN 088125 873 3.

Feted as the figurehead of the form of Judaism that became known as modern orthodoxy, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik (1903-1993) gained a reputation as one of the foremost Jewish thinkers of the twentieth century. This status, which transcended denominational and religious divides, was based on a relatively small number of philosophical and theological essays. Since his death, however, a number of Soloveitchik's unpublished manuscripts have entered the public domain through the MeOtzar HoRav series, under the expert stewardship of David Shatz and Joel Wolowelsky. The Emergence of Ethical Man (EEM), edited by Michael Berger from ten handwritten notebooks, is the fifth and possibly most significant volume of the series so far.

EEM focuses on Soloveitchik's abiding interest in elucidating 'religious anthropology ... within the philosophical perspective of Judaism' (xii), as he himself describes it in a letter excerpted in a helpful editor's introduction. Part 1 utilizes the opening chapters of Genesis, a text Soloveitchik returned to many times, to put forward an account of man that emphasizes his continuity with the natural world. Part 2 begins with the central question of how man emerges as a unique ethical being out of these entirely naturalistic origins and continues with an account of the corruption of the ethical personality through sin. Finally, Part 3 deals with the rehabilitation of man through a description of the various manifestations of what Soloveitchik terms the 'charismatic personality' as embodied in Abraham and Moses.

While naturalistic elements have always been present in Soloveitchik's work, they appear far more marked in EEM, and he is keen throughout Part 1 to distance himself not only from Greek and Christian views, but also from the widely held Jewish view that insists on a qualitative metaphysical distinction between man and nature. As Berger notes in his introduction, the work is 'revolutionary in that it breaks with traditional metaphysical categories that are the warp and woof of medieval Jewish commentary and philosophy, and instead bases its analysis purely on the categories of the natural and social sciences' (xxi), an observation that is entirely borne out by what follows.

The basic point in Part 1 is that' man may be the most developed form of life on the continuum of plant-animal-man, but the ontic essence remains identical' (47). Indeed, in his account of the famous biblical idea that man is made in the image of God (tzelem elohim) he explicitly rejects what he takes to be the metaphysical and transcendental Christian reading of the term tzelem. Instead, in a description that surpasses even the strongly scientific elucidation of the term in 1965's The Lonely Man of Faith, Soloveitchik insists that tzelem 'signifies man's awareness of himself as a biological being and the state of being informed of his natural drives' (75-76).


Fascinating take on "Tzelem Elokim." One wonders what the zayde (in this case, R' Chaim *Volozhiner* would have had to say about this. Is there any precedent in earlier Jewish sources for this definition?

The impression one gains that Soloveitchik's naturalism is more pronounced here than in his published writings on Genesis is probably in part down to the anthropological perspective from which he is writing. Thus, in his 1964 essay Confrontation where Soloveitchik takes his favoured typological approach, 'natural man' is derided as a hedonically minded pleasure seeker. The contrasting anthropological perspective of EEM means that 'natural man' is used as a descriptive anthropological category and thus there is no call for any such evaluative judgement. In EEM it is, for Soloveitchik, simply a true description of the nature of man.

With the naturalistic context in place, Part 2 turns to the emergence of ethical man. Firstly, in order to experience the ethical norm, external divine intervention is necessary. Only through the divine command can man transcend his natural biological self and experience the ethical. This is because the ethical imperative has to be 'experienced as both a must and as something that may be resisted or ignored' (81), and this normative pull cannot derive from nature since, as Soloveitchik notes, 'biological motivation is neutral as far as ethical standards are concerned' (87). So, on the one hand Soloveitchik retains a fact/value distinction such that an 'ought' can never arise from an 'is'. He can only conceive of value emerging from a realm beyond the natural and given the religious framework of his thinking, God is naturally the source of value. Yet Soloveitchik insists on retaining his naturalism at the human level, concluding Part 2 by saying that 'the ethical personality is not transcendent. It only reconsiders its own status in a normative light, conceiving the natural law as identical with the moral law' (144). So man remains a biological rather than metaphysical being, but man's unique ethical perspective emerges through his encounter with the divine imperative.

"Natural law" sounds to me like Rousseau. Is RYBS suggesting that  human beings are "naturally" ethical? It seems that he is saying more than that: That to be ethical is also not connected to being transcendent - viz., a person who attempts to transcend this world is a priori "unethical." Is this Ba'al Mussar's (!!!) deriding Chassidim/Mekubalim?

What is most important about this divine imperative is its role as a condition of the freedom necessary for the emergence of the ethical personality. The divine imperative does not play a Euthyphro-like role of defining the good. Instead, we find in more Kantian fashion talk of the divine imperative as a necessary condition of freewill and the normative 'must'. Indeed, the echoes of Kant are unmistakable in much of what he has to say about 'universal natural morality' (154), whether when referring to the charismatic man who 'refuses to obey an external authority ... [but] discovers the ethos himself' (153), or when writing that 'the postulate of freedom is necessary ... for the legitimation of the very essence of the ethical experience' (77, emphasis added).

The further stages of the emergence of the ethical similarly revolve around the 'postulate of freedom'. Thus, Soloveitchik's second stage requires that man conceive of himself as separate from nature, and through this consciousness of otherness, as a subject standing against an object, he understands that he is a free being (78). And in an interesting parallel with much contemporary Jewish thought from Buber through to Levinas, the full emergence of the free ethical personality requires the third stage of confronting the 'thou' through the creation of the other. Interestingly for Soloveitchik scholars, though Buberian elements have long been detected in Soloveitchik's writings, EEM is the first work to explicitly reference his works, albeit not in relation to this particular issue.

Soloveitchik goes on in Part 2 to give an account of 'the Fall' and consistent with the naturalism of Part I, 'Man's sin consisted in betraying nature.... Naturalness is moral, unnaturalness is sin' (141). A close reading of the Genesis text yields for Soloveitchik the idea that sin arose as a result of the seduction of humanity by pleasure, causing a split in a once harmonious personality. In what is more than a nod to Kierkegaard, Soloveitchik describes how pursuing an unbridled hedonism that respects no boundaries causes man's ethical self to split from his esthetic self. This schism in man's personality means that repentance is achieved through the ' rebirth of a harmonious personality by returning to God and eo ipso to one's own selfhood' (136-7). EEM's detailed working out of his view of sin supplies us with a natural corollary for the similarly naturalistic view of repentance familiar from Soloveitchik's other works.

Olam hafuch ra'isi. Shouldn't that be: "Morality is natural, sin is unnatural?" What is the different connotation of RYBS's formulation?

It is in Part 3 of the book, probably its most original section for those familiar with Soloveitchik's writings, that we find him return to a more typological approach in his account of the rehabilitation of the ethical personality through 'charismatic man'. The 'charismatic personality' achieves the restoration of the human personality to its original unity through realizing the covenant with God in history. Soloveitchik traces his development through an analysis of the biblical personalities of Abraham, and in particular Moses, who moves through a number of stages of development. At this point, though no less rich and suggestive, the thread of the argument becomes more difficult to follow and it seems less completely developed to this reviewer. Though this can only be pure speculation, given that we are reading a work that Soloveitchik never published, one wonders whether this section of the text had been less worked through.

Charisma: cha·ris·ma   (kə-rĭz'mə) n.   pl. cha·ris·ma·ta (-mə-tə)

    1. A rare personal quality attributed to leaders who arouse fervent popular devotion and enthusiasm.
    2. Personal magnetism or charm: a television news program famed for the charisma of its anchors.
  1. Christianity An extraordinary power, such as the ability to perform miracles, granted by the Holy Spirit.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved January 13, 2007, from Dictionary.com website.

How does this definition fit with RYBS's usage? Surely he means something else by "charisma." But what?

What is abundantly clear, though, is the characteristically Soloveitchikian conflict that we find in the attempt to realize the covenant, which is thwarted by a natural reality that does not simply yield to a covenantal teleology. In parallel to the redemption of the individual, therefore, the realization of the covenant requires that two orders, this time the natural human and the charismatic historical, are brought into harmony. And it fell to Moses, in his guise as the apostolic personality, to begin the process of redeeming the tension between the two. And again in characteristic style, we find man in this world at the centre of this covenantal history. Thus, 'God worked through Moses in order to introduce man into the sphere of historical creativeness. Let man himself attempt to realize the covenant' (184).

As a number of writers have noted, this 'this-worldly' emphasis in Soloveitchik's work meant that he did not pay much attention to eschatological questions. It is particularly striking therefore that ultimately, with its talk of covenantal realization, Part 3 is all about a lengthy historical process of messianic redemption. Nonetheless, the 'this-worldly' approach retains its hold throughout, most notably in what is his lengthiest reflection on immortality. Thus, we are told that 'Abraham did not conquer death in the metaphysical transcendent sense. His immortality is through and through historical' (169). And again 'the first concept of immortality as coined by Judaism is the continuation of a historical existence throughout the ages.... The deceased person does not lead an isolated, separate existence in a transcendental world. The identity persists on a level of concrete reality disguised as a people' (176). While he is careful to note that this is only the 'first' concept of immortality, it is the only one that he discusses. Moreover, this is all given a messianic aspect when combined with the view that 'the realization of the moral goal is not to be found within the bounds of an individual life span. The individual may contribute a great deal to the fulfilment of the ethical ideal, yet he can never attain it. A moral telos is gradually realized in a historical process' (168). In a naturalized eschatology that owes much to one of Soloveitchik's most significant philosophical influences, Hermann Cohen, what begins as a view of immortality as continued historical existence culminates in the covenantal realization of a messianic moral vision.

Is man's drive to immortality then primarily the drive to enter history? This might actually link up RYBS with Dr. Isaac Breuer - no coincedence, considering the common influences on their thought.

Of all the volumes to have seen the light of day so far in this series, this one is probably the greatest treasure trove for Soloveitchik scholars. It genuinely advances and refines themes familiar from his published works, and throws up all sorts of further questions for research, particularly regarding his intellectual influences. Though we are not informed of the dating of these manuscripts, much of the material in EEM obviously parallels that contained in the more 'existentialist' works of the 1960s. Yet we also see a continuation of his earlier fascination with Kant and Hermann Cohen, all of which should be of particular interest for Soloveitchik scholars. But in addressing general questions regarding the place of the ethical in the religious sphere and as an example of how a contemporary thinker committed to an orthodox religious tradition can attempt to make philosophical sense of it in a non-apologetic manner, it is also entirely accessible to the non-Jewish reader and would act as an excellent introduction to Soloveitchik's oeuvre.

DANIEL RYNHOLD

King's College London



Named Works: The Emergence of Ethical Man (Book) Book reviews

Source Citation: Rynhold, Daniel. "The Emergence of Ethical Man.(Book review)." Religious Studies 42.3 (Sept 2006): 364(5). Expanded Academic ASAP. Thomson Gale. Ramapo Catskill Library System. 13 Jan. 2007