by Joel Rich
Dr. Benny Brown’s paper (link – PDF) concerning the Chofetz Chaim’s “halachasizing” approach to lashon hara resonated with some of my lay person’s musings on the subject. My Hirhurim comment prior to reading the paper was “llimud v’lo lmaaseh I always go back to the same question – why was there no real compendium on lashon hara rules until the C”C? My unsubstantiated theory is that it was taught mimetically and that the “here are the rules” approach which basically are taught in a way that tells people that just about anything they say about anyone is lashon hara needs to be analyzed. I wonder about the impact of the cognitive dissonance reinforced by a machsom lfi that says to pick 2 hours not to speak lashon hara -it reminds me of the matir of “nicht on shabbos geret(my yiddish is poor)”. I wonder if people just (subconsciously?) say (a la what R’YBS taught about a rabbi not being too distant from his congregants) look, no one can really do this so let’s pay lip service but not differentiate between hard core dangerous lashon hara and passing the time of day lashon hara lite?”
When friends ask me why one is not allowed to discuss their children with their spouses, I generally try to change the subject (except for my closest friends who I hope won’t turn me in).
That being said, I thought my understanding of some insights from R’YBS concerning pirkei avot (from the 1964 notes of R’Avraham Farmer as quoted by R’HS in Divrei Harav Page 99ff) might be worth sharing:
1) The Bartenura explains in his first comment on Pirkei Avot that this tractate isn’t based on the explanation of a Torah Mitzvah as are other tractates but rather it’s all mussar and middot. R’YBS says there must be more to it, what about vhalachta b’drachav (imitato dei) or zeh keili v’anveihur? (me – or kedoshim tehiyu)
2) Thus the Bartenura must mean that in certain actions and mussar it’s more individually subjective (i.e. can say everyone must pick up lulav/etrog; can’t say that by mussar). Similar to learning torah and Tzedaka which are individually based.
3) By these items (Midot/mussar) (i) we never say the halacha is like Rabbi x ; (ii) they aren’t taught intellectually but by shimush (observation of role models); (iii) they are a mesorah of action that sefarim aren’t written about (except, as is known, in recent generations). That’s why names are named in Pirkei Avot – These Rabbis represented the statements by living them.
I can’t say whether R’YBS would have extended this analysis to lashon hara, but I thought it worth sharing to get your opinion.
Fascinating shiur on a number of levels – the srarah issue in the title will really be in his next shiur, here the discussion is on inheritance.
1. Fact: The torah prescribes an order of inheritance that favors certain subgroups (e.g. first born vs.younger siblings, children vs. mother, etc.)
2. Fact: Unequal treatment of family members causes family feuds.
3. Result: We use legal technicalities to circumvent 1. to achieve equal distributions to avoid 2.
Why don’t we do these circumventions in similar circumstances elsewhere? Rabbis haven’t found way. (If you listen to the shiur, let me know if you felt this was a convincing response and also if you understand why we choose to circumvent the torah’s wisdom here rather than educate people).
Discussion of the technical methods and appropriate documents to accomplish 3. I was struck by how there were still “surprise” issues that came up with the documents that R’Willig felt would need review.
I’d especially love input (it’s a sometimes source of debate) on his advice on child finance treatment. Summary: [post death – complete equality; pre death – to each by need but do it quietly?].
Final session in series – Here focus on priorities in medical treatment. No magical answers as to why the priorities listed in Horiyot seem to be all but ignored in practice but at least the quest was attempted!
A familiar theme for R’MT – balancing the universalist and particularist elements in Judaism. We need to exhibit some humility in trying to explain why things happen in this world the way they do and think about the fragility of life, as well as how quickly things can change (in the blink of an eye).
Panelists discuss their experiences and the relationship of social justice, their own torah personalities and the greater Orthodox community. How involved in social justice is the Orthodox community (are social justice advocates lonely folks of faith?). Interesting thoughts on how acts of chesed are sometimes in place of acts of justice (e.g. a store owner doesn’t pay minimum wage and then hands out some free turkeys to his employees). Focus should be on eliminating corruption and lack of justice in our midst (some specifics discussed).
Discussion of how to move forward with a social justice agenda. [me – key issue – how do we allocate resources amongst competing demands?; as a community?; as individuals? R’YBS on ger V’Toshav anochi imachem]
Why on a simple reading does it seem there was no prayer and no mention of HKB”H in Esther? Why no trace of the Book of Esther in the Dead Sea scrolls? Why don’t chazal ascribe the same level of Kedusha (holiness) to Esther as other books of Tanach?
Medrashim try to bridge some of these gaps, so does Septagenuat by adding in extra “translation” (me – chasurei mechsara?!) and even chapters with much more detail.
Another explanation (me – similar to R’Leibtag) – the megilah is written as a parody to those Jews comfortable in galut and not focused on HKB”H (me – hmmm – any current parallels?).
A very quick summary of 5 halachic approaches to mesirah (handing over suspects to government today) ranging from totally forbidden to totally required.
Interesting approach from R’HS on damages if you turn in your neighbor for building code violations without warning
Eli’s sons vs. Shmuel sons. Message is not to view temple service (avodah) as a magical intervention (which makes it like avodah zarah) but as part of a broader process (tshuvah/repentance).
Moreh Nevuchim is complicated. Did the Rambam view karbanot as simply anti-idol worship or as eternal? There are apparently contradictory implications in the moreh (no surprise – he himself said he wrote like this so only those [the student he wrote to?] who were worthy would understand). Are there reasons for the details of mitzvot? (not according to the Rambam – other than to do the will of HKB”H).
Specifics (in Israel) concerning lineage issues – when do you have to check into the family tree and how far up (and differences between psulim [e.g. illegitimacy] and not being Jewish). Also, some interesting discussion of the cherem of Rabbeinu Gershom, as well as a non bat brit marrying Cohain.
Focus on oratory (classical) prophets vs. court prophets. Classical often use esoteric language communicating complex messages which are painful.
Role of prophet isn’t communicating unchangeable results but to tell the people what actions on their part will change the outcome.
King needs counter balances. Navi is a vessel to communicate HKB”H feeling our pain, we become one with him.
Description of how YU smicha program focuses on producing those who can spread torah, give psak, motivationally speak and be gomlei chesed (and dribble with their left hands?).
Did Esther convert to marry Achashveirosh (no). Did she hide her practices? Transitions to discussion of practices in how to formalize (if at all) returnees to Judaism.
Specific application to Shaalvim of rules concerning proper day to celebrate Purim if there is some doubt as to whether the area qualifies as a walled city. (no, but maybe eat more on Shushan Purim!)
Discussion of fish/meat “prohibition”. What is the reason and extent of the “prohibition” and the implications when compared to rules for milk/meat violations and corrections? And what is the deal with Worcestershire sauce? And why don’t we trust the Magen Avraham on whether the danger still exists? (OK – R’Aryeh didn’t have time to go into that).
Kuzari vs. Rambam! Tradition vs. Philosophy! – which is right? which is better? which will less likely lead to OTD?
Is ritual handwashing and drying before eating due to link to ritual impurity or more prosaic reasons? Implications for how much water to use, number of washings, when need to dry (if at all)…
Practical application for year round and an explanation of our practice at the seder.
An introductory review of the traditional “philosophical” proofs of Judaism. Cosmological, ontogil.logical and theological defined and explained. So why wouldn’t someone believe? 1) didn’t work hard enough at understanding the proof; 2) he didn’t want to listen; 3) [I’m not telling – I don’t want your lack of belief on my conscience!]