Creative Non-Halakhic Readings

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Last week, a homosexual rabbi ordained by an Orthodox institution, Steven Greenberg, wrote an Op-Ed demanding greater acceptance of homosexuals in the Orthodox community and advocating on behalf of the Statement of Principles (link). In light of his once again claiming the mantle of Orthodoxy, I thought it would be worthwhile to examine some of his writings.

In his Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition, Greenberg struggles with the explicit biblical prohibition against male homosexual intercourse. It is hard to get around an explicit verse (Lev. 18:22) but he manages to reinterpret it. He suggests that the biblical term for male intercourse – mishkevei ishah – means coercive intercourse. He writes (pp. 205-206):

Mishkeve is the word for intercourse used when the motive is not love but a demonstration of virile power, not connection but disconnection, not tenderness but humiliation and violence.

According to this rationale the verse prohibits the kind of sex between men that is designed to effect the power and mastery of the perpetrator. Sex for the conquest, for shoring up the ego, for self-aggrandizement, or worse, for the perverse pleasure of demeaning another man is prohibited. This is an abomination.

According to this reading, the biblical prohibition does not apply to loving homosexual intercourse. Unmentioned is the Talmudic explanation of this term. In multiple places (Kiddushin 22b; Gittin 85a; Sanhedrin 54a), the Talmud understands it to mean an alternate to normal intercourse that men can have with women, i.e. anal intercourse. In proposing his alternate explanation, Greenberg is contradicting multiple explicit Talmudic passages.

However, he adds, this is not a sufficient halakhic argument for technical reasons. He writes (p. 212):

However valuable it might be to prod some people and to comfort others with a creative rereading of Leviticus, it does not finish our task. Most Orthodox rabbis will not be open to the reinterprerations of this chapter for jurisprudential reasons. The interpretive tools available to the sages of antiquity have been significantly narrowed over the centuries. For better or for worse, Orthodox halakhic methodology today is much less fluid than it was for its founding sages. Leaving aside the question of whether and how these interpretive methodologies might indeed be revived for the sake of renewing halakhic creativity and responsiveness, we must engage in a different sort of conversation if we are to achieve any tangible improvement in the circumstances of lesbian and gay Orthodox Jews.

The question that remains is why, if his creative and radical readings are not halakhically valid, homosexuals can find comfort in them. Is he claiming that male homosexual intercourse is permitted or forbidden? It seems to me that he is suggesting that the rabbis of the Talmud read the verse wrong and God really allows homosexual intercourse. However, for halakhic purposes, we must follow the mistaken Talmudic interpretation.

The Mishnah in Megillah (25a) states (Kehati English translation – link):

If one modifies regarding the types of incest, they silence him. If one says, “And you shall not give any of your seed to set them apart to Molech, and you shall not give any of your seed to conceive with an Aramite woman,” they silence him with a rebuke.

Why does the Mishnah state that they silence him with a rebuke in the latter case but not in the former? After all, in both cases the person explains a verse contrary to the halakhic interpretation — not as a simple peshat explanation but on an halakhic level. Tosefos Yom Tov (ad loc. sv. ha-omerlink) explains that in the latter case, the person implies a halakhic leniency. He seems to state that the Torah only prohibits marrying an Aramite woman but not other gentile women. Therefore, they silence him with a rebuke. In the former case, he reads the verse contrary to the halakhic interpretation but does not change halakhah. Therefore, they only silence him without a rebuke.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding Greenberg’s argument. Based on the explanation as I presented it above, it seems to fit into the Mishnah’s more lenient category, one that must be silenced but without rebuke. If he were to suggest that it has halakhic implications, then it would require silence with a rebuke.

See also this post: link.
And see this series of posts: link.

UPDATE: A commenter provided a link to this shocking article by Greenberg: “Between Intermarriage and Conversion: Finding a Middle Way” – link.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

98 comments

  1. Gil,
    The Tosfot YT notwihtstanding, there are many ways to understand this mishna. Indeed, Kehati himself there say that the latter case is a chumra, implying that bo’el aramis is chayav kares. It is furthermore not obvious what “mechaneh” means. Certainly this translation does not make the issues clear.
    Regardless, as you say, the mishna is talking about derashos lehalacha. This is explicitly not what R. Greenberg is doing. What he’s saying is that given halacha, homosexual sex is indeed a capital crime. However, he says that gays (esp. now, when beis din does not execute anyone) can take some solace in the thought that judicial practice not withstanding, what God was condemning in the verse about mishkivei isha may not have been consensual homosexual sex. They can therefore proceed with their lives without feeling that they are doing something God in fact abhors.
    Personally, I do not find his reading at all convincing on any level. However, I think that making a distinction between what the rabbis forbid and what God condemns is totally legitimate and may be comforting for some who feel they have no choice. (Note that while I say that I believe that there may be a distinction between God’s thoughts and rabbinic enactments, this does not mean that I claim that a belief that one has found such a divergence justifies any actions. We also believe that a separate commandment of God is to follow rabbinic halacha, regardless of whether we believe God intended such enactments. V. Tanur shel achai. However, we can believe this and still wonder what acts God will punish in the Olam ha-emes and how severely.)
    Note also that I do not think that an argument such as R. Greenberg’s is necessarily benign, even if, as I believe he does, he agrees that the argument has no real world halachic validity. For, undoubtedly, many will misunderstand it and conclude that the argument means homosexual sex is muttar legamrei. But that is a different claim against R. Greenberg and not the one being made here.

  2. Steve is ridiculous. To complain that people accused him of wanting to change the Torah… well, of *course* he’s trying to change the Torah.

  3. too tired – you’re absolutely ridiculous. Your comment evinces such a black-and-white view of the world where the very THOUGHT of someone doing one thing horribly wrong, and another thing mostly wrong but not as bad as the other, is too much to handle. Grow up.

  4. So, let me get this straight. Promoting a karaitic hashkafa is ok if it makes homosexuals feel better about themselves and their actions? Since when in rabbinic Judaism do we trash the Talmud or insist that the Rabbis mistakenly interpreted the verse? Or is that approach somehow acceptable and I’m misinformed? Please explain, Rabbi Student, and anyone else. I am surprised that Rabbi Student didn’t really criticize that angle of this discussion.

    I mean, he’s not trying to change halacha, so that’s a non-issue. But he is basically questioning the whole underpinning of the halacha (all of it, not just this one) by asserting that the rabbis were mixed up about it when they “made” that particular halacha. So what am I missing here?

  5. A Joe Schmo,
    Please explain why saying that the rabbis did not know what God intended undermines the “whole underpinning of halacha”, in particular in light of the story of tanur shel achnai. It is your understanding, I would say, that undermines things, in as much as it relies on the claim of an unbroken chain of rabbis who can correctly intuit God will, rather than a system of halacha that was given to rabbi to develop, regardless of whether God would have made the same decision.

  6. This is not the place to discuss a person’s character and religiosity. I had to delete some comments, not because I disagree with them but because they are inappropriate for this forum.

  7. a joe schmo – see midrash tanhuma beresheit vayetze 8 for a “trashing” of a mishnah- no reinterpreting here just saying the misnah is wrong on an halacha.
    there seems to be 2 views in judaism – one that advocates an uncritical halachic compliance based on a perfect system of law from a perfect god, another stream in this religion, equally insistent, believes in a constant moral rethinking that it attributes to all involved including the system’s source of its authority. think about the change of status of a deaf mute, women etc . this is not a karaite haskafa.

  8. The link by one commenter to an article of Rabbi Greenberg’s whereby he used his experience of the past few years arguing for the innovation of commitment ceremonies for homosexual relationships between Jews (which is surely closely linked to the subject of this post) as a springboard for the innovation of commitment ceremonies for intermarried heterosexual (and homosexual?) couples seemed to me to be quite relevant and the link, at the least, should not have been removed.

    I would ask the following based on your interpretation of the Mishnah in Megillah (25a): Whether one agrees with the innovations and the arguments thereto proposed by R’ Greenberg or not, how is a person not trying to change halacha if they are arguing for a new tradition to be adopted for a practice expressing communal acceptance of activities that were previously considered halachically (and sociologically) unacceptable?

  9. If there were a Sanhedrin today, they could uproot the mishna’s drasha on a pasuk if they saw it differently (R’HS quotes this frequently and iirc gives nisuch in bayait sheni as an example where this happened) Question-given there is no new revelation, what would cause a later sanhedrin to read differently? Couls it be circumstances, changes in the outside world……
    KT

  10. Gil,

    this post is so outside our faith that it does not deserve its place here.

  11. I meant Greenberg is outside our faith.

  12. HAGTBG: You are right. I cannot let the comment remain but I added the article link to the post.

  13. MDJ: The Tosefos Yom Tov is a highly influential work in halakhah. Kehati is a modern commentary by a gifted banker. The Tosefos Yom Tov is also cited in Responsa Kol Mevaser 2:23.

    ruvie: see midrash tanhuma beresheit vayetze 8 for a “trashing” of a mishnah- no reinterpreting here just saying the misnah is wrong on an halacha.

    That is an Amora disagreeing with a Mishnah on an aggadic matter.

    HAGTBG: how is a person not trying to change halacha if they are arguing for a new tradition to be adopted for a practice expressing communal acceptance of activities that were previously considered halachically (and sociologically) unacceptable?

    He is only offering this explanation in order to comfort homosexuals, not to advocate for a change in practice. The advocacy for change is in a later chapter, based on the concept of oness.

  14. gil – tanhuma is a late 8th century palestinian midrashic compilation – after i think the close of the germera. and its disputes a tanna but attributesthe saying to an amora (which is typical of later written works to put attribution to earlier generations). its interesting in this midrash the hashem defers to leah’s moral attitude and says that she is right as oppose to hashem’s own moral code- that hashem can be corrected on moral grounds (admitting to a mistake) is quite unusual.

  15. gil – “In proposing his alternate explanation, Greenberg is contradicting multiple explicit Talmudic passages.”

    since when is the talmud the end all be all of biblical interpretation? that is a novel idea isn’t it?

  16. ruvie: tanhuma is a late 8th century palestinian midrashic compilation

    Quoting an Amora.

    since when is the talmud the end all be all of biblical interpretation?

    On an halakhic level, it is.

  17. joel rich – “If there were a Sanhedrin today, they could uproot the mishna’s drasha on a pasuk if they saw it differentl”

    same question – why do you think you need a sanhedrin to uproot biblical interpretation? halacha – yes in certain circumstances (unless you declare all changes impossible- which isn’t halachically correct).
    are all mishnaic interpretation final meaning of the torah? don’t many meforshim offer their own understanding in the verses (sometimes in disagreement with chazal)? the intepretation should stand on its own logic and proofs (in general).

  18. IIUC L’halacha once the gemara was sealed so were drashot/halacha (i.e. if there were no opinion in the Talmud that said “et hashem elokecha tirah” the et is to include people over 6″4″; one could not posit that as amito shel torah thereafter)
    KT

  19. Michael Rogovin

    To the extent that he supports commitment ceremonies or a relaxation/change in halachot regarding certain consensual acts, he is certainly beyond the margins of normative orthodoxy. His article, on the other hand contained his recounting of a conversation with an orthodox rabbi in Cincinnati who allegedly said that suicide might be the best option for a gay Jew since gay sex is a capital crime. Such an attitude is indeed shocking and even more outside normative halacha than anything Rabbi Greenberg has advocated. To the extent that such attitudes are extant in our community we need to expose them and condemn them as wrong, halachicly and morally.

    What surprised me in his article in the Jewish Week was R Greenberg’s “disappointment” that mainstream orthodox groups did not join in a condemnation of bullying and violence against gays sponsored by Keshet. This is silly. Had such a statement been sponsored by UJA or JCRC or any other neutral party, that is one thing. But given that its sponsor has other gay advocacy agenda items that cannot be condoned by orthodox groups, of course they would not sign on.

  20. Michael: The rabbi in Cincinnati is not alleged to have said it. His rabbi, presumably some rosh yeshiva, is supposed to have said it. I suspect he said it after repeated nudging, as a way to dismiss Greenberg. Not something I would say but certainly a yeshivish way of saying “leave me alone already”.

  21. >The Tosefos Yom Tov is a highly influential work in halakhah. Kehati is a modern commentary by a gifted banker.

    Aside for the fact that Kehati wasn’t really written by Kehati, whatever happened to kabel es haemes? Fine, say you don’t think its the emes, but the idea that we must reject or accept an interpretation based solely on the relative stature of its author? Seriously?

  22. >Not something I would say but certainly a yeshivish way of saying “leave me alone already”.

    If this is true, that’s really sick.

  23. Gil, I know the difference between the Tosfos YT and Kehati. I also know that kehati didn’t introduce his own interpretation of hte mishna. When he gives a pshat, it is generally an established one. It is true that I didn’t open up a Yachin u’Voaz (or the gemara) to figure out where he got it from, but insulting Kehati is not a response to my point. Come to think of it, this is become a habit of yours. Last week you responded to a substantive point of mine by saying “That is so 19th century”. If you don’t want to respond to my posts, that’s fine, but please don’t insult me with these inane responses.
    Also, if you feel so strongly about R. Greenbergs approach here, how do you feel about the habit of rishonim such as the Bartenura to explain the mishna against the gemara. (And please don’t respond that R. Greenberg is not a rishon, or for that matter that chumash is not mishna.

  24. Guest: Aside for the fact that Kehati wasn’t really written by Kehati, whatever happened to kabel es haemes?

    Halakhah is decided by and from authoritative sources, not anyone who ever said anything on the subject.

  25. MDJ: It is not an inane response! You might think I am inane and that is your prerogative. But this is a valid response.

  26. >Halakhah is decided by and from authoritative sources, not anyone who ever said anything on the subject.

    Do you think it’s impossible for a posek to consider something in Kehati a correct explanation and incorporate it in a teshuva?

  27. Halakhah is decided by and from authoritative sources, not anyone who ever said anything on the subject.
    ==================
    so R’HSish 🙂
    KT

  28. Gil,
    Will it still be a valid response when I go home tonight and find the original source for Kehati’s explanation. Or have you never learned Kehati and are completely unfamiliar with his methodology. AFAIK he (virtually) never inserts his own pshat, and certainly wouldn’t give a pshat _against_ a major commentator like the TYT without a strong source. That is why an ad hominem attack on the source that I quoted (assuming you knew that it wasn’t his own), is inane. Although I am currently learning kelim, I will gladly take a break tonight to look at megillah so that we can continue this.
    However, given that you are responding to me, how about some reponses to the other substantive comments I’ve made.

  29. joel rich – iiuc you are mixing halacha and darashot (biblical interpretation) together. i think that is incorrect. also, it doesn’t preclude one (a posek) to reinterpret existing text to a different meaning. otherwise, al the final conclusions of all the gemeras would have to be observed – and they are not (for other reasons).

  30. I just looked at Kehati AND HE FOLLOWS THE TOSEFOS YOM TOV!

    But, to your point, my assumption is that Kehati only follows an established interpretation when he quotes it. Otherwise, it could be a basic interpretation that doesn’t need citation or something new. Maybe he has a different system. I don’t pay too much attention because I try to use classical commentaries.

  31. ruvie,
    we will agree to disagree.
    KT

  32. Well, gil, I won’t have to take anytime off tonight from my regular seder. A click on the link to kehati above indicates, and trip to Hebrewbooks.org demonstrates, Kehati’s source for this is none other than Rashi al hadaf. Looking inside, I see that I somewhat misinterpreted kehati/rashi. The point isn’t (I now think) that one is being machmir inappropriately but simply that one is substituting one act (bo’el aramis) for another (actually passing one’s child through the fire). Now, had you pointed _that_ out, it wouldn’t have been an inane response. However, it still doesn’t change the fact that since R. Greenberg is not speaking in a judicial context, that is to say, he is not stating what the halacha is, this mishna would not seem to be relevant. IOW, my point did not depend on whether I was reading kehati (Rashi!) correctly.

  33. The Tosefos Yom Tov is based on both Rashi and the Arukh, ayen sham. Kehati clearly was basing himself on the Tosefos Yom Tov’s explanations.

  34. re: “UPDATE: A commenter provided a link to this shocking article by Greenberg: “Between Intermarriage and Conversion: Finding a Middle Way” – link. ”

    Why “shocking”? Novel, thoughtful, honest are all adjectives that come to mind. By refusing to grapple with the issues he raises, we may be missing an opportunity. But no, better to fiddle while Rome burns…

    The all-or-nothing approach to intermarriage reminds me of the practice of sitting shiva for a child who married out. I think we can all agree that strategy didn’t have much of an effect on the larger picture.

  35. Gil, Kehati quotes both Rashi and TYT, and understands them as giving different peshatim in the mishna. First Rashi, and then, (quoting the English you have linked to) “According to another interpretation” the TYT. I don’t have the TYT in front of me, but I do have Rashi, and I find it difficult to reconcile Rashi with the TYT as you have rendered him above.
    Finally, as you have (admittedly) little familiarity with Kehati, it behooves you not to dismiss the man or references to his work. In particular, be aware that the next time someone quotes kehati, it is either the pashut peshat or a citation from someone else (whom the quoter cannot recall), but never (AIUI, and I have learned mishna with both kehati and other meforshim extensively) the personal interpretation of a 20th c. businessman from Alon Shevut.

  36. “joel rich on October 20, 2010 at 8:45 am

    If there were a Sanhedrin today, they could uproot the mishna’s drasha on a pasuk if they saw it differently (R’HS quotes this frequently and iirc gives nisuch in bayait sheni as an example where this happened) ”

    Are we, or rabbis today, supposed to function as a Sanhedrin before we have reached that time where there is an actual Sanhedrin? And would attempting to function as such be a karaitic approach?

    MDJ, your comment is not helpful. There is no reason to attack me – I’m nobody. I’m not a neighborhood bully or part of any vast conspiracy to “undermine things.” I’m an everyday Jew trying to learn more. I readily admit that I’m not an expert; that is quite evident by my comment and the way I phrased it. I was looking for explanation, clarification and help to understand the issue. I was not saying I have the gospel and why does anyone dare think differently. I wanted to know, if I’m thinking incorrectly, someone show me please so that I can fix my mistake. That would involve demonstrating why I should/could think differently – not accusing me of destroying Judaism.

    As to your question: “Please explain why saying that the rabbis did not know what God intended undermines the “whole underpinning of halacha”,”

    You’re saying that Greenberg does know what God intended?

    If chazal didn’t know, no one does, and our religion functions on what chazal explained. As far as I know, anyway.

  37. “The all-or-nothing approach to intermarriage reminds me of the practice of sitting shiva for a child who married out. I think we can all agree that strategy didn’t have much of an effect on the larger picture.”

    Was that meant to be a “strategy?”

  38. A Joe Schmo,
    I’m not sure where you saw a personal attack, rather than a response, in my words. You made an assertion, and I asked you to explain it and said that I disagreed. As for R. Greenberg, of course I don’t think he knows what God thinks. But I don’t think that chazal (always) did either, and I don’t think that undermines halacha at all.

  39. At 7:47 a.m., a distinguished poster wrote:

    “there seems to be 2 views in judaism – one that advocates an uncritical halachic compliance based on a perfect system of law from a perfect god (sic), another stream in this religion, equally insistent, believes in a constant moral rethinking that it attributes to all involved including the system’s source of its authority (sic). think about the change of status of a deaf mute, women etc . this is not a karaite haskafa.”

    With all due respect, the second stream appears to be outlawed by Rambam in Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:8, regarding “mak’chish maggideha”. It is precisely and exclusively the first stream which can be termed Orthodox Judaism (with the added provision that “god” should be rewritten as “G-d”).
    The question of the status of the deaf-mute is a good one. See R. J. David Bleich’s chapter on this subject in Contemporary Halakhic Problems Vol. 2. Regarding the status of ladies, this is also a good question, which is multi-faceted and to which many of R. Student’s posts have been devoted. I do not think either of those two cases serve as a basis to overturn Rambam’s ruling regarding “mak’chish maggideha”. They are examples of legitimate Chiddushei Torah, and not a revisionist attitude to talmudic exegesis.
    Orthodox Judaism professes (as I myself sincerely believe) that the Talmud is true. This is why to interpret the verses of the Torah contrary to the Talmud would be called “migaleh panim baTorah shelo ka-Halakhah”, as per the gemara in Sanhedrin 99b. However, as an important limmud zekhut to R. Greenberg, I would like to note that the Gadol Hador who endeavoured to comprehensively address the problem of gay marriage, viz. R. J. David Bleich, in his illuminating discussion in Bioethical Dilemmas Vol. 1, pp. 131-142, slightly misquoted the Akeidat Yitzchak on Parashat Va’yeira regarding gay marriage. [I’m sure he did so “lichadudei”, to test the audience if it is watching carefully, as per the gemara in Berakhot 33b.] In that 1998 publication, R. Bleich writes that Sodom was destroyed because the Sodomites officially legislated gay marriage. No, with all due reverence manifest before R. Bleich, I must submit (kitalmid ha’yoshev bakarka vidan lifnei rabbo) that that is not what Akeidat Yitzchak writes. Au contraire, Akeidat Yitzchak writes that the reason Sodom was destroyed was because they legislated a prohibition on giving charity to strangers. Akeidat Yitzchak says that although there was gay marriage in Sodom, Sodom was not officially destroyed for this because it never officially legislated gay marriage. It is the crime which society officially legislates which is most deserving of censure through fire and brimstone, explains Akeidat Yitzchak. Accordingly, let the record note that R. Bleich’s misquotation has now been corrected, but in every other respect R. Bleich’s treatment of gay marriage is entirely cogent. I think R. Bleich’s discussion (as now corrected by this student – sorry to tout my own horn) will satisfy all of R. Greenberg’s important concerns.

  40. MDJ – I specifically highlighted the phrase “undermining things.”

    You said that my understanding is “undermining things.” Whatever that means, how is that not supposed to be perceived as a personal attack?

    And no, the context of my comment reveals that I did not “make an assertion” – I posed a question. Big difference.

  41. Joe Schmo – perhaps not a strategy, but as a communal attitude it arguably failed to stem the tide of intermarriage, and our current stance is similar. It is fair to examine this attitude from a strategic perspective. Greenberg is saying that a different sort of attitude may be better suited to advance our agenda of strengthening the Jewish community and avodat hashem in general. It’s an argument that should be grappled with rather than dismissed.

  42. I haven’t read all the comments, so I may be repeating what’s been said. From the snippet, it would seem that Greenberg is not “suggesting that the rabbis of the Talmud read the verse wrong and God really allows homosexual intercourse,” but rather that what God really wants is unknowable. What we have is a verse (even, arguendo, of divine origin) and an interpretation of that verse, but the verse is open to many interpretations. The rabbis of the Talmud settled on one interpretation, but אין לדיין אלא מה שעיניו רואות, and they may have been open to other interpretations had they lived in another era with other prevailing mores. Orthodox Judaism is something of a Scalia in its revisionist originalism (note the jursiprudential charges), and steadfastly refuses to allow any interpretation other than a talmudic one, regardless of how compelling a contemporary understanding might be.

    Needless to say I think he’s wrong, but it isn’t at all creative. It relies on simply changing the premise and/or denying Mesorah. I imagine I would view Catholic decision making likewise — e.g., to answer such questions as: when was it decided that priests couldn’t marry and why?

  43. shalom spira – i only question whether the first option – uncritical halachic compliance based on a perfect system of law from a perfect Hashem – is the only view of traditional judaism;certainly in the talmud and midrashim its not the only view. please see the yerushalmi – horayot 45d – commenting on devarim 17.11 on deviating from the sentence i give thee – right or left [‏עַל־פִּ֨י הַתֹּורָ֜ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר יֹור֗וּךָ וְעַל־הַמִּשְׁפָּ֛ט אֲשֶׁר־יֹאמְר֥וּ לְךָ֖ תַּעֲשֶׂ֑ה לֹ֣א תָס֗וּר מִן־הַדָּבָ֛ר אֲשֶׁר־יַגִּ֥ידֽוּ לְךָ֖ יָמִ֥ין וּשְׂמֹֽאל׃]..accordingly, the yerushalmi believes if one believes the court to have ruled mistakenly one’s religious obligation is not to comply. the sifre has a different viewpoint. my point is that in traditional judaism there are two views and its not kefirah.

  44. perhaps not a strategy, but as a communal attitude it arguably failed to stem the tide of intermarriage, and our current stance is similar. It is fair to examine this attitude from a strategic perspective.

    The Orthodox are the only Jewish group in American for which intermarriage is not a dominant social development. Since the Orthodox strongly oppose intermarriage, in what sense are you arguing the current Orthodox tactic is not working?

  45. shalom spira – one can see in our traditional sources an attitude of lo bashaymayim hee – in regards to hashem’s ratzon. there are gemeras and midrashim that challenge hashem’s morality or judgement – see the tanchuma i qouted earlier on bereshit 30 (leah’s petition to turn a son- during pregnancy – into a girl. see also bemidbar rabbah on 19:20 where moshe disregard’s hashem’s command to make war and sends peace messengers. elu v’elu.

  46. R’ Ruvie,
    Thank you for your kind response, as well as the intriguing point from the Yerushalmi vs. Sifrei. My understanding of the Yerushalmi vs. Sifrei dichotomy is that there is a corpus of Oral Torah which is already established and which transcends the authority of the Sanhedrin. If the Sanhedrin were to contradict this, one must disobey the Sanhedrin. And it is in these types of cases where those who obsequiously listen to the Sanhedrin cause the need for a “par ha’alem davar shel tzibbur”. Then there are other areas of Oral Torah that are within the purview of the Sanhedrin (e.g. to decide when Rosh Chodesh is); even if the Sanhedrin renders a seemingly absurd decision, one must listen to the Sanhedrin.

  47. He is not exactly an objective investigator in this subject area, which is reason to seriously suspect any conclusion he reaches in his writings on this topic.

  48. U state here that you are “shocked” by rabbi greenbergs writing,my question is why are you so shocked, that a man that god created with homosexual feelings, is trying to understand WHY he was created like that, and how he can find a correct way to live his life according to halacha, there isnt anything “shocking” about questioning what “mishkav” applies to,in fact for a homosexual man its necessary.

    is it controversial? yes, does it bother a lot of frum people? yes, although i dont understnad why a str8 frum person should care either way, since this whole topic really doesnt apply to him,

    but its definitely not “shocking”, and its in fact very understandable.

  49. R’ Ruvie,
    Okay, you are absolutely correct; I apologize for previously misconstruing your excellent remarks. When it comes to “lo bashamayim hi”, the Ratzon Hashem is that the Sanhedrin which takes a vote on a matter of paskening Halakhah should not listen to a bat kol, as per the gemara in Bava Metzi’a 59a. At the same time, like the Rambam writes in his introduction to Peirush Hamishnah, there are issues (like the identity of “pri etz hadar” as being an etrog) that were never subject to dispute, and so it could not have “gone either way except for the coincidence of history that the rabbis happened to vote this way”. No, Hashem directly showed Mosheh Rabbeinu that “pri etz hadar” means an etrog. And likewise, I think it’s clear (though not explicitly bespoken by that introduction of Rambam) that Hashem directly showed Mosheh Rabbeinu that the only legitimate definition of marriage is between a lady and a gentleman. [I think this dovetails with my attempt to resolve the Yerushalmi vs. Sifrei dichotomy.]

  50. Just to clarify theologically what I am saying: “lo bashamayim hi” means that on an issue where the Sanhedrin possesses the authority to pasken (e.g. to decide when Rosh Chodesh is), the Ratzon Hashem is to disobey prophetic commands from any post-Mosaic prophet. But if it is an issue where the Sanhedrin does not possess the authority to pasken (e.g. those issues which are undisputed in the Talmud, such as the identity of “pri etz hadar” or the definition of marriage), the Rambam’s ruling of “mak’chish maggideha” applies.

  51. R’ Steve Greenberg’s reinterpretation of the verse in Lev. is both unhalachic, and a self-serving and implausible spin on a rather clear torah prohibition. ‘Mishkevei’ doesn’t carry the implication of a non-consensual sex act. If it did, then the verses in Deut. dealing with incest, “Cursed be he who lies (‘shocheiv’) with..” would also be taken to imply only non-consensual sex acts.

    I note parenthetically that R’ Greenberg’s rabbinic school is not mentioned – nor should it be since a school is not responsible for the direction taken by some graduates. I would hope that the same attitude would be taken towards competing Orthodox rabbinic schools.

  52. More on “lo bashamayim hi” – it is not a deficiency (chas vichalilah) in the perfection of the morality and judgment of HKB”H. Rather, it itself is “gezeirah hi milifanai, vi’ein likha reshut liharher achareha”. There is a divine decree that in certain aspects of Torah law, when it is a situation of “ki yapalei mimkha davar” (i.e. an ambiguous situation, where it could go either way; e.g. is Rosh Chodesh the 30th or the 31st?), then the Ratzon Hashem is to follow what the Sanhedrin.

  53. …says. [Thanks]

  54. R’ SE,
    Thank you for your insight. I think we agree that “ein lidayan ela mah she’einav ro’ot” (Bava Batra 131a) means that a particular moreh hora’ah may not have considered all aspects of the issue, and so if he passed away and his disciples discover a reason to overturn the pesak halakhah, then they are obligated to be intellectually honest and do so. That concerns a particular moreh hora’ah. By contradistinction, the corpus of Oral Torah is divinely revealed and is perfectly true, not subject to revision.

  55. Shalom – I hijacked it for the concept that there are no objective truths, just interpretations, and therefore “what God really wants” is unknowable. I believe that is what the position is. As a religious concept, it’s hard to argue with it (akin to “how do you know you have flies in your eyes if you have flies in your eyes”), but it is a deeply unsatisfying premise, and begs the ultimate question.

  56. Michael Rogovin

    Responding to Hirhurim on 10/20/10 11:16 am.

    I stand corrected – it was the Rabbi’s Rabbi. Be that as it may, I find that your willingness to excuse the statement that suggested suicide as a viable option coming from a rosh yeshiva as a yeshivish way of dismissing someone to be more shocking than anything Rabbi Greenberg has written (not to be confused with my agreeing with Rabbi Greenberg, which I do not).

    Some things are not to be taken lightly or joked about. People in pain or seeking halachic clarification are not to be dismissed cavalierly, ever. And certainly not by a prominent rosh yeshiva who should be an exemplar of the highest moral and ethical behavior. In my book, there is no excusing statements like this (or for that matter, joking off the cuff about killing another Jew, especially a sitting Prime Minister). That our leaders can make such statements, privately or publicly, tells me that some or much of our yeshiva leadership is morally and spiritually bankrupt. A statement like this from a prominent rabbi could easily send someone over the edge, as we have seen in several recent cases.

    There are many challenges that a gay person faces when trying to live as an orthodox Jew. Under no circumstance does the violation of any of the issurim require or even allow a person to take their own life rather than violate them. Barring a Jew from praying in a synagogue (as opposed to granting him honors) because he advocates things that one feels are wrong, even seriously wrong (albeit I don’t think heretical), is very offensive. We are supposed to be in the business of maximizing mitzvot observance, even (especially?) for sinners.

    This rosh yeshiva does not need you to rationalize his egregious behavior — he needs to do tshuvah.

  57. R’ SE,
    On account of R. Soloveitchik’s essay “Confrontation” (and similar sentiments expressed by R. Moshe Feinstein in Iggerot Mosheh YD 3:43), we cannot compare the divinely revealed Oral Torah to (by contradistinction) the decisions reached by the church. At the same time, it is of interest to note that R. Bleich submits in an oral lecture ( http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/710199/Rabbi_Dr._J._David_Bleich/Contemporary_Bioethical_Issues_ ) that the church possesses its mesorah regarding the laws of abortion from Chazal. [18:30-26:00 into the lecture] Thus, in this one (very exceptional) case, where the church has assumed the role of an institution that perpetuates the values of the Noahide Code promulgated by the Torah (-and thus, in effect, the church has become a Torah institution), a comparison would be permitted.

  58. Shalom – you would have to first accept that the Oral Torah was divinely revealed. Judging by the quotes in the main post, it seems clear that Greenberg would say otherwise. So yes, I would probably be as skeptical of church mesorah as Greenberg is of Jewish mesorah (except I don’t really think often about church mesorah).

  59. if one believes the court to have ruled mistakenly one’s religious obligation is not to comply
    ——————–
    not so simple, iirc it’s not if one believes but rather if one “knows” – which I never was able to get a good definition of (e.g. is it only if you heard clearly from the prior rosh sanhedrin that they had a clear mesorah from Moshe rabbeinu…. and the new sanhedrin paskined differently)

    of course rosh chodesh is different because there it was clearly given to man to decide.

    KT

  60. The question remains after reading this article as well as the article in last week’s Jewish Week-does anyone who supports the SOP view the two articles in question as merely demanding tolerance of a diverse lifestyle or full and unquestioned acceptance of a way of life that the Torah and TSBP clearly view as deviant and wrong? Having seen R S Greenberg in the film “Trembling Before God” and having read these two and other articles posted here and elsewhere, I think that it obvious that dubious interpretations of the Torah, etc cannot serve as a basis for tolerance of the unacceptable, anymore that we would “tolerate” the presence of Mchallei Shabbos, Boalei Nidah and Ochelei Treifos Unevelos.

  61. But Steve, we tolerate all of those.

  62. “does anyone who supports the SOP view the two articles in question as merely demanding tolerance of a diverse lifestyle or full and unquestioned acceptance of a way of life that the Torah and TSBP clearly view as deviant and wrong?”

    What difference does it make how those who support the SOP view R. Greenberg’s articles? The articles say what they say and the SOP says what it says? The two are unrelated.

  63. Gil,
    The Tos. YT is responding to a question he has on Rashi. He is not based on Rashi. But furthermore, did you read to the end? It seems that what he says about Tanna d’vei R. yishmael is more relevant to this context than what you cited.

  64. I was referring to the end of the Tos. YT

  65. shalom – please do not refer to me as a rabbi because i am not – but am an avowed am haaretz. i was just trying to point out to gil and others that in matters of biblical interpretation – creative or not – one is not bound by chazal to the meaning they espoused in the talmud and midresei aggadah – hence the title of gil’s post – creative non- halachic readings. i was also trying to point out that in matters of halacha there are 2 viewpoints with regards one’s obedience. everyone knows of naseah v’nishmah. also, less known in our society are instances in the gemera and midrashim – hashem defers to man’s (in one case woman – leah) moral judgement over His own with no rebuke from the petitioner or questioner (moshe sending messengers for peace instead of listening to hashem and going to war [bamidbar rabbah19:20] and midrash tahuma beresheit vatetzee 8 [ leah petition to have a girl as to benefit rachel and hashem listem and changed the boy in her womb to a girl].

    please do not misunderstand – there are many cases in the talmud e.g. when moshe questions hashem “reward” to r’ akiva for his torah learning – tortured to death – where hashem rebukes the questioner -moshe-in not knowing the ways of hashem – does not accept man’s tinkering/questioning of His acts. i think orthodoxy today has forgotten that strain which would help it deal better with modernity and the issues that come with it.

    some other time for a discussion/understanding of halacha moshe m’sinai and undisputed halachot vs machlokots and its originations.

  66. shachar haamim

    he’s been watching too much of Spartacus

  67. Joseph Kaplan wrote in part:
    “What difference does it make how those who support the SOP view R. Greenberg’s articles? The articles say what they say and the SOP says what it says? The two are unrelated”

    If you read R Greenberg’s articles, he views the SOP as supporting his agenda.

  68. R’ SE and R’ Joel Rich,
    Thank you for your pointers, which are much appreciated.
    R’ Ruvie,
    Thank you for your learned response. I appreciate and applaud that you wish to be milamed zekhut on R. Greenberg. Indeed, I do, too, and I automatically assume that R. Greenberg is a tzaddik gammur, as the rule “ein adam marshi’a et atzmo” prohibits me from believing the claim that he is married to another gentleman. Also I think there is a positive aspect to his writing, particularly the moving story he relates regarding his meeting with R. Eliashiv (exerpted on R. Greenberg’s Wikipedia page).
    At the same time, I have a responsibility as an Orthodox Jew to “remove thorns from the vineyard” (to borrow the phrase from the gemara in Bava Metzi’a 83b) i.e., to ensure the spiritual safety of fellow Jews by outlining what is normative Orthodox Jewish theology. There is no way that a human being could ever possess superior judgment (chas vichalilah) to HKB”H, Who is Omniscient and perfect. In the case of Mosheh Rabbeinu sending messengers of peace, it is presumably an instance of the Ribbono Shel Olam demonstrating “humility” (kivi’yakhol) by consulting with inferiors before taking action (just as He did before creating Adam, before expelling Adam from Bavel or before dispersing the builders of the Tower of Bavel). HKB”H knows the answer in advance, but he teaches by example in manifesting the humility to consult His inferiors. In the case of Leah, this is indeed a problem with which the gemara grapples in Berakhot 60a. In context, the gemara asks how to reconcile Leah’s prayer with the rule in the mishnah that it is forbidden to pray for the impossible. There are two answers: (a) Le’ah’s case was a miracle (which I assume means that Le’ah had ru’ach hakodesh and she realized that the Ribbono Shel Olam was consulting her whether she was satisfied with bearing a son); (b) Le’ah’s case was within the first 40 days of gestation, wherein the fetal gender has not yet been determined. If the latter is the case, then we can simply say that Le’ah was demonstrating the power of prayer. [I.e. when someone prays, he/she becomes a changed individual and so is deserving of different treatment from HKB”H.]

  69. (correction: “before expelling Adam from Gan Eden”. Thank you.)

  70. “If you read R Greenberg’s articles, he views the SOP as supporting his agenda.”

    I’m not surprised that he’d like that to be the case. But anyone who actually reads the SOP will realize that it’s not.

  71. “My understanding of the Yerushalmi vs. Sifrei dichotomy is that there is a corpus of Oral Torah which is already established and which transcends the authority of the Sanhedrin. ”

    That sounds anachronistic.

  72. lawrence kaplan

    R. Spira: There is an entire list of rishonim and aharonim on how to reconcile the Yerushlami wth the Sifre– or not. Why don’t you start with the Hassagot of the Ramban on the first shoresh of the Rambam’s Sefer-Ha-Mitzvot? No one takes your approach. For secondary surveys, see Yaakov Blidstein’s article on the subject, my Hebrew essay on Daas Torah, and much more.

    Steve: Do YOU view the SOP as supporting R. Greenberg’s position?

  73. r’ spira – my learned friend i am perplexed to how you think that you are authorize – or have the right – to “to ensure the spiritual safety of fellow Jews by outlining what is normative Orthodox Jewish theology. ” its good to be the king but who appointed you? i hope you take this as a friendly ribbing(not an obnoxious retort that it sounds like).
    i am not here to defend r’ greenberg’s viewpoint but to defend anyone who wants to interpret biblical verses as they wish- non-halachic of course (obviously their has to be proofs etc). i am not agree with that person based on their logic or proofs and thereby dismiiss their interpretation but it should be able to stands on its own. there are multiple readings possible of biblical texts, none are deemed obligatory – one may choose chazal,rashi,ranban,ib ezra, maam loaz, malbim arbarbenel, etc for their understanding.

  74. r’ spira – on moshe and the messengers.
    i am not looking to darshan what is written in the torah to fit one’s hashkafa. i was only interested in what banidbar rabbah has to say as opposed to devarim rabbah which explains moshe’s insubordination differently (and probably more to your liking). the fact is that it says (roughly translated) – you have spoken well!! you have taught Me something! and i shall thereby cancel My words and adopt yours….” it is plain and obvious that moshe did not follow Hashem’s words on moral grounds. Hashem does not demand obedience rather the torah ends up instructing differently because of moshe’s objection.
    if you try to fit square pegs into round circles they may not fit no matter how hard you try. not everything in chazal can be harmonize – personal belief. it all depends on when, where and by whom different rabbinic writings were redacted – there are just different viewpoints in chazal.

  75. Larry Kaplan-First of all, on an utterly unrelated topic, Yasher Koach on a very thoughtful letter to the editor in the Jewish Press. With respect to your query, I think that the SOP, while not supporting R S Greenberg’s position, is capable of and was distorted by R Greenberg in his article in last week’s Jewish Week, as providing support for acceptance of a deviant lifestyle as opposed to mere tolerance. See the letters to last week’s Jewish Week in which Joseph Kaplan took issue with the JW’s presentation as to the contents of the SOP.

  76. MDJ wrote:

    “But Steve, we tolerate all of those.”

    AFAIK, we donot tolerate any subsection of Baalei Averah as separate groups demanding acceptance within the Torah community.

  77. Steve,
    We were talking about toleration (your word, and the one I responded to). Toleration does not mean accepting as a preferred class. You said we do not tolerate these types of ba’alei aveira. Inasmuch as we do nothing to personally stigmatize such people or shun them (and, if they choose to daven in ORthodox shuls, we don’t) the we tolerate them. We should do no less for homosexuals.

  78. R’ Ruvie,
    Thank you for your kind words. Yes, they are appreciated as friendly insights.
    When HKB”H says to Mosheh Rabbeinu in the Midrash (as you excellently translated): “You have spoken well!! you have taught Me something! and i shall thereby cancel My words and adopt yours”, this is an anthropomorphism. Everyone understands it is halakhically forbidden to take such a Midrash literally. HKB”H is setting an example in humility, but He did not actually need Mosheh Rabbeinu to teach Him anything. As my teacher R. Joshua Shmidman of blessed memory used to say: “G-d, thank G-d, is totally self-sufficient.” [It’s exactly like the gemara in Berakhot 6a that HKB”H dons tefillin, or like the gemara in Rosh Hashanah 17b that HKB”H wrapped Himself in a cloak like a cantor. Those are obvious anthropomorphisms, and cannot be taken literally.]

  79. MDJ wrote :

    “We were talking about toleration (your word, and the one I responded to). Toleration does not mean accepting as a preferred class. You said we do not tolerate these types of ba’alei aveira. Inasmuch as we do nothing to personally stigmatize such people or shun them (and, if they choose to daven in ORthodox shuls, we don’t) the we tolerate them. We should do no less for homosexuals.”

    AFAIK, a Mchalel Shabbos can daven in any shul in the world, but is still Pasul L’Edus. We hope that all other Baalei Aveirah who really are what R Riskin called “not yet observant” will become BTs and become observant. Why should any other class of Baalei Aveirah, whose transgressions are viewed by the Torah in such severe fashion, be accorded special treatment as if Teshuvah R”L, is beyond their personality?

  80. I thank Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan for pointing me to the Ramban. I see the Torah Temimah faced the same difficulty, and answers that the Ramban should be reinterpreted as I have suggested, even though it is “bidochak”:
    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14082&st=&pgnum=225
    I emphasize that I agree – kitalmid ha’yoshev bakarka vidan lifnei rabbo – with everything Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan has written on the subject of Da’at Torah (-not that he would require my endorsement). Here the issue is distinct from the issue of Da’at Torah; here the question is: is any objective material within the Oral Torah that is beyond the authority of the Sanhedrin, or is everything in the Oral Torah only so because a Sanhedrin at one point in history coincidentally happenned to say it? I believe the answer is in accordance with the former option, and this is what Torah Temimah is indicating. Even if we had a Sanhedrin of the top 71 scholars and they all said that “pri etz hadar” means a coconut, we would have to disobey and insist that “pri etz hadar” means an etrog. This is why sometimes a Sanhedrin brings a “par ha’alem davar shel tzibbur”, because the judges of the Sanhedrin cannot contradict the corpus of Oral Torah information which transcends their own interpretive authority.

  81. [Sorry, just a clarification: The question in my previous post was asked for purely rhetorical purposes, but it was never an actual doubt in my heart, as I regard it to be subsumed within ikkarei emunah (viz. that at least some of the specific information of the Oral Torah, like the identity of “pri etz hadar” was already revealed to Mosheh Rabbeinu, and cannot be contradicted by a Sanhedrin). Thank you for your kind understanding.]

  82. Steve
    “be accorded special treatment as if Teshuvah R”L, is beyond their personality” is not what “tolerance” means. As is your wont, you have changed things fundamentally mid-discussion.

  83. r’ spira – i actually do not read the midrash the same way – not literally. i look for what the editor (or the original author if they are the same) is trying to convey through the midrash. i am pretty sure that hashem is self sufficient but chazal seems to indicate that we have this thing going on with Him. it would seem from the midrash that moshe change hashem’s mind in what to write in the torah – that moshe’s words were better. it may be an act of humility on hashem’s part to accept man’s idea but there is no rebuke here in questioning hashem as there are in other midrashim.

    on “Everyone understands it is halakhically forbidden to take such a Midrash literally.”
    which midrashim are to be taken literally? and which not? i have never seen a list anywhere. there are those that believe you must take midrashic facts literally but i do not subscribe to that.

  84. R’ Ruvie,
    You are correct. Clearly certain biblical personnages were granted permission from HKB”H (in an anthropomorphic demonstration of humility, kivi’yakhol, by HKB”H) to challenge (ki’vi’yakhol) the verdict of HKB”H. A remarkable example of this astonishing phenomenon is Avraham in this week’s parashah as interpreted by Rashi. Rashi says that Avraham was engaged in “milchamah” when he bargained for Sodom. If Rashi did not write such a thing, it would be strictly forbidden for anyone to contemplate such an idea (-exactly as Rabbi Yochanan remarks in the gemara in Rosh Hashanah 17b). Yet Rashi does indeed write it, so clearly the notion is kosher (in an anthropomorphic sense). On the other hand, the mishnah in Ta’anit 19a reports that Shimon ben Shetach informed Choni Hami’agel that – in theory – the latter deserved to be placed in nidui for possessing the hubris to challenge the verdict of HKB”H. My assumption, then, is that in order to have the prerogative to challenge (kivi’yakhol) the verdict of HKB”H, one must have received a message through ru’ach hakodesh that one is authorized to do so. [I.e. it’s all a shpiel, just to teach a lesson for posterity that a superior should always consult with inferiors.]

  85. r’ spira – on “lo bashamayim hee” – bava metsia 59a
    the story focuses on 2 themes. one is chazal’s understanding of the legal process and ideas about divine authority and human interpretation in an imperfect world. secondly, and maybe more importantly, is the conclusion or the second half of the story that many do not read or know. i.e. the consequences of emotional harm and verbal wronging of a fellow sage as well as their interpersonal relationships. please remember that at the end of the story- r’ eliezar’s prayers end up killing raban gamliel. pretty fitting for our situation here with r’ greenberg – don’t you think? ithe heat of any debate its easy to reject the person personally and not what he is saying..to treat someone with hostility, and contempt in the name of the legal process (halacha) – especially when the majority feel that they are 100% correct- confident in their numbers and arrogant with their power. we can learn something from this story.
    the moral of the story could be sum up as follows: Hashem respects principles such as follow the majority and its not in the heaven – and to follow his torah. But these principles cannot be used for verbal abuse and causing pain – there will be consequences because Hashem will listen to the prayers of the anguished. therefore, a tension exists and must benegotiated between following the law while treating each other with respect.

  86. Just to theologically clarify what the above post: HKB”H knew full well with perfect Omniscience that Sodom needed to be overturned with fire and brimstone (and He already knew all possible arguments Avraham could offer in defense of Sodom). But to teach a valuable lesson in humility for posterity, He authorized Avrahama to put on a dramatic show in bargaining for Sodom.

  87. I’m not familiar with the source, but just from observing the conversation with Ruvie and Shalom Spira, I pose the following question: It seems that the scenario of Leah davening for a girl in her womb (instead of a boy) is being posed by ruvie as a challenge to the premise that God’s morality is always correct or needs to always be assumed so by man. Or that this example shows we can think God’s morality wrong. But how is that so? Is having a boy vs. having a girl a difference in morality? I would say no. Quite unrelated to a question of is a given act which God prohibits moral or immoral “just because God said so.”

    It seems to me this example with Leah is teaching something different than what Ruvie is suggesting.

  88. Also, did Leah know if it was a girl or boy at that point in time?

  89. a joe schmo – the source is the the midrash tabhuma on chapter 30 of beresheit (vayetze 8)

    http://www.tsel.org/torah/tanhuma/vayetse.html siman 8

    i suggest looking at the source

  90. a joe schmo – as you can see from the text the midrash is challenging the halacha in the mishna that claims once you are pregnant a man may not pray for a boy because its a rayer in vain. actually it says the halacha is not so (don’t forget its a late 8th century compilation). the tanhuma had a radically different approach to prayer and to the convenantal relationship with hashem (see the reference to yirmayahu and the potter who makes mistakes).

  91. a joe schmo – the relevant part is:
    וכן אתה מוצא בלאה אחר שילדה ששה בנים והיתה רואה בנבואה שי”ב שבטים עתידין לעמוד מיעקב וכבר ילדה ששה ונתעברה מן השביעי ומן שתי שפחות שנים שנים הרי עשרה, עמדה לאה והיתה מתרעמת לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא ואמרה רבש”ע י”ב שבטים עתידין לעמוד מיעקב הרי כבר בידי ששה ומעוברת משביעי וביד השפחות שנים שנים הרי עשרה אם זה זכר לא תהא רחל אחותי כאחת מן השפחות, מיד שמע הקב”ה תפלתה ונהפך העובר שבמעיה לנקבה שנאמר ואחר ילדה בת ותקרא שמה דינה ואחרת אין כתיב כאן אלא ואחר, ולמה קראה לאה דינה לפי שעמדה לאה הצדקת בדין לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא, אמר לה הקב”ה את רחמנית ואף אני מרחם עליה מיד ויזכור אלהים את רחל:

    leah had nevuah on the number of children to yaakov and the shevatim. the impression from the midrash is that hashem may have erred in giving leah another male child look at the reason for naming dinah – she stood and called to task in judgement before Hashem.

    but the midrash with moshe is more clear on going to war or send peace messengers as a moral issue.

  92. MDJ wrote:

    “Steve
    “be accorded special treatment as if Teshuvah R”L, is beyond their personality” is not what “tolerance” means. As is your wont, you have changed things fundamentally mid-discussion.”

    No-I merely challenged a premise that you assumed was beyond the pale of the discussion. That is part and parcel of the give and take of any discussion on any issue unless you either worked for CBS and viewed the WSJ as a viable source or for NPR and appeared on FOX.

  93. Steve,
    whatever.

  94. R’ Ruvie,
    Yi’yasher kochakha for the marvelous exposition of the gemara in Bava Metzi’a 59a regarding the interaction between Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Eliezer. I agree with you a thousand percent that honouring all talmidei chakhamim in a Torah debate is an absolute imperative which emerges as a key take-home message of this gemara.
    Regarding the midrash with Leah, thank you for providing the link to the text. I stand corrected and I apologize; clearly the midrash cites an opinion that disagrees with our Shas regarding whether it is possible to pray for the gender of the fetus after 40 days. But, even so, there is not attribution of error (chas vichalilah) to HKB”H. Rather, the midrash cites an opinion that prayer is always accepted regarding the fetal gender until the mother gives birth. [Obviously, contemporary embryological science believes like our Shas and not like the midrash. But that does not detract from the cogency of the midrash. Perhaps “nishtanu hateva’im”.] As such, a person who seeks a child of a particular gender can pray, and in so praying, becomes transformed into a different person who is now worthy of new treatment from HKB”H.

  95. -That said, I do wish to emphasize my thanksgiving for your illuminating my eyes with both the brilliant treatment of BM 59a and the midrash tanchuma.

  96. r’ spira .. they are not my own – i am an am haaretz… its based on what i have read and learnt over the years and believe is the correct understanding of the sugyas. there is a lot to be said for some of the academic papers on aggadata.

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