Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Question & Answer With Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver - Non-Kosher Animal Toys

A Simple Jew asks:

We've all heard that the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that children should not play with toy versions of non-kosher animals and yet we see different people doing different things. What did the Rebbe actually say?

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver answers:

Let’s look at this in context. First of all, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, consistently speaks about the tremendous importance of providing Jewish children with a full and uncompromised chinuch (education). This is because their entire future, and thus the future of the entire Jewish people, depends upon the education of children being consistent with the Torah.

We find that this is a consistent theme throughout the Rebbe’s letters. Here is an example:

If the responsibility of every man and woman is far greater in the current period than before this period, then this applies all the more with respect to the youth. Every boy and girl is a seed—a fresh tree that will bear fruit in the course of time, which will in turn bear its own fruit, and generations will produce generations. Therefore [the parents] should educate their children and guard them in order that they go in the path of Torah and Mitzvos, and be permeated with the spirit of “our grandfather Yisroel.” The value of this is immeasurable, and the reward of anyone who assists is likewise infinite. (Igros Kodesh, Vol. 6, p. 3.)

In relation to this, the Rebbe regularly emphasizes the need to protect a child from even the smallest detrimental influence, since it may adversely affect his entire future:

In general, in cases where school textbooks contain material of doubtful suitability, one should err on the side of caution, for this is a matter of educating the youth, and one should avoid even a minor deficiency in this area. The analogy for this is well-known: a small scratch in a seed can ruin the entire growth of the tree, G–d forbid. This is easy to understand. (Igros Kodesh, Vol. 18, p. 484.)

Along these lines, the Rebbe emphasized in particular the need for maintaining the purity of very small children.

In particular, the Rebbe initiated the suggestion that a Shir Lamaalos be hung in the room when a baby is first born, and asked that this be widely publicized.

I have translated one of the Rebbe’s public talks on this below, as I believe it will greatly add understanding to the understanding of the Rebbe’s words concerning non-kosher animals:

In general, education begins from childbirth, as the Shulchan Aruch rules:

Still, one should not allow a child to nurse from a gentile woman ... for her milk clogs up the heart, and creates an evil nature in him. Likewise the nursing woman, even if she is a Jew, should not eat forbidden things, nor should the child, for all this will affect him in his old age.

Yoreh De’ah, 81:7.

This demonstrates that part of the parent’s responsibility in educating his child is to protect him from eating non-kosher food. Similarly, we find the Jewish custom to hang a Shir Lamaalos next to a woman who has given birth. One reason for this is as an amulet against undesirable things. However, there is another, educational reason—so that the first thing that the child sees will be something holy.

Granted, the child has only just been born, and still cannot discern between light and darkness, sweet and bitter. Still, now that he has been born and has eyes with which to see the world, one must strive that opposite his eyes there be letters of the Alef Beis, from whose combinations the entire Seder Hishtalshelus [the order of the higher spiritual worlds] was created.

As for the well-known argument that this is only a one-year-old child, who understands nothing, the “Torah of truth” (from the liturgy of the blessing on the Torah) says that as soon as a child comes forth into the world, he is affected by everything that occurs around him. This applies even when one might think that since the child knows nothing, it makes no difference.

In other words, a child is not just influenced by the food he eats and the liquid that he drinks, which would obviously be the case, since they become part of his flesh and blood. Everything that occurs around the child affects his soul, and this effect will become manifest in later years. Certainly the way the parents act affects the child’s soul greatly, even when he is very little.

Moreover, even the behavior of the parents in the nine months before the child’s birth has a recognizable effect on the child.
(Shaarei Halacha U’minhag, Vol. 2, pp. 221-222.)

Likewise, on several occasions (e.g., Sefer HaSichos 5752, p. 357) the Rebbe mentioned that lullabies used to lull a child to fall asleep should also be of a holy nature, such as the old Yiddish tune, “Torah Is Der Besteh Sechoiroh (Torah is the best merchandise).”

The Rebbe also suggests (Hisva’aduyos 5747, Vol. 2, pp. 648-649) that since the very presence of holy books in a room has a powerful impact, a Jewish child’s personal room should be a “house filled with holy books” (Midrash Tanchuma, Korach 2). This means that just as the main thing in a Jewish home should be the holy books, and all other things should be secondary, this should be felt in the child’s personal room. Thus, the child’s room should contain at least a Chumash, a Siddur, and a Haggadah Shel Pesach. It would be even better for it to contain a Tehillim and a Tzedakah pushkeh (charity box). Elsewhere the Rebbe added that each child should also own a personal Tanya (Sefer HaSichos 5752, p. 360).

This brings us to the matter you raised—the caution to ensure that a child not view images of non-kosher animals. The Yiddish version of the Rebbe’s words on this topic, which the Rebbe edited, can be found in Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 25, pp. 309, 310, 311. The Hebrew version, which is a direct translation of the Yiddish, can be found in Hisva’aduyos 5744, Vol. 2, pp. 487, 488, 489, 490. An English adaptation can be read in English online here. I encourage everyone reading this with the required language skills to study the source in the original. Below I will partly paraphrase and partly translate the sicha.

The Rebbe starts the sicha by pointing out that much Jewish literature, both for adults and children, contains illustrations of animals. The Rebbe points out that it would be proper for all such literature to make a point of only using illustrations of kosher animals, birds, and fish, for “A Jew, and especially a Jewish child, should be accustomed to pure things only ... we should strive that a Jew, and especially a Jewish child, should only come across and look at pure things.”

In the footnotes there, the Rebbe cites sources concerning the importance of only seeing images of kosher things. I will quote from these sources briefly, and explain the novelty of each source as I understand it:

The first source I present discusses the positive effect of gazing at holy images:

When a person visualizes a holy image in his mind, the holy image that he imagines in his mind will make his mind complete. ... Rebbi Abba would visualize the image of Rebbi Shimon before him, and through this he would attain great understanding. ... So did our teacher, the Arizal, write—that when one finds difficulty in grasping a Torah subject, he should imagine the form of his teacher, and this will aid him in grasping the concept. (Rabbi Chaim Yosef Dovid Azulai, the Chido, Midbar Kideimos, sec. tziur.)

The idea that visualizing a Tzaddik mentally will have a powerful effect on the person introduces the idea that even a mere image of another thing can exert a powerful spiritual impact.

The Rebbe then cites Rabbi Reuven Margoliyos, who in Toldos Adam, pp. 4, 5, 6, discusses at length the tremendous spiritual benefit of gazing at the face of one’s teacher. He quotes the above statement of the Chido, and based on it and many other sources, Rabbi Margoliyos asserts that one can also fulfill this dictum through gazing at the picture of one’s teacher. He then adds:

From this the opposite develops with respect to the image of a wicked man, at which one should not gaze (Megillah 28a), since this produces wicked character traits [in the personality of the one who gazes]. See Sanhedrin 39b, and in Rashi on ibid. 96[b]: “His [Nevuchadnetzar’s] portrait was engraved on his [Nevuzaradan’s] chariot.”

Rabbi Margoliyos cites two sources in the Gemara as proof. Let’s analyze them:

Sanhedrin 39b describes how Queen Izevel made two pictures of harlots and put them on her husband King Achav’s chariot, in order to arouse him. The Toldos Adam is suggesting that just as Izevel fashioned lascivious images and so enticed her husband to forbidden thoughts despite the fact that these were not actual harlots, so does the image of a wicked person have an adverse effect, despite the fact that one is not gazing upon the person himself.

Sanhedrin 96b describes how the image of Nevuchadnetzar was engraved on Nevuzaradan’s chariot as he travelled to destroy Yerushalayim:

“A servant [honors] his master” (Malachi 1:6): [This is exemplified by Nuvazraden, as it is written:] “In the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nevuchadnetzar, king of Babylonia, Nevuzaradan, captain of the executioners, came. He stood before the king of Babylonia in Yerushalayim, and he burned the House of Hashem and the house of the king.” (Yirmiyahu 52:12-13).

But had Nevuchadnetzar gone up to Yerushalayim? Is it not written [of the time of the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash], “They carried him [Tzidkiyahu] up unto the King of Babylon to Rivlah,” (II Melochim 25:6) and R. Abahu said that this [Rivlah] was [the city of] Antioch [which is in what is today southern Turkey]? [Doesn’t this imply that Nevuchadnetzar was in the city of Antioch, not in Yerushalayim?]

R. Chisda and R. Yitzchak b. Avdimi [each offered a solution]. One answered: His [Nevuchadnetzar’s] portrait was engraved on his [Nevuzaradan's] chariot, and the other explained: He [Nevuzaradan] stood in such awe of him [Nevuchadnetzar] that it is as though he were in his presence.

Rashi there explains the opinion that holds that Nevuchadnetzar’s portrait was engraved on Nevuzaradan's chariot:

It seemed to him [Nuvazraden] as if he was standing before him [Nevuchadnetzar when he gazed at his portrait]. Therefore it is written, “Nevuchadnetzar came,” for this refers to his glory [that was manifest to everyone through the image of him on the chariot].

Moreover, the Maharsha explains that this also answers the first verse in that chapter: “Nevuchadnetzar the king of Babylonia came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and he encamped by it.” When did Nevuchadnetzar come to Yerushalayim? He did not; rather, his portrait was present, and it was as if he went to Yerushalayim.

What a tremendous impact! Nevuzaradan was “inspired” to destroy the Beis Hamikdash by regularly gazing at the image of his evil master, Nevuchadnetzar. The image of Nevuchadnetzar influenced him so much that it is considered as if Nevuchadnetzar was actually there. This establishes very powerfully the concept that impure images have a very detrimental spiritual impact.

It should be noted that gazing at the face of a wicked Jew also has an adverse spiritual effect. Thus, the Rebbe of Slonim (the Divrei Shmuel) wrote in a letter to parents that “It endangers one’s soul even to gaze at the face of a teacher in the ‘improved chadorim’ [of the Haskalah] for the fear of Heaven cannot be recognized on his face” (Kuntres Uma’ayan p. 16).

In any case, we have established that holy images have a tremendous power to sensitize a Jew to holiness, while unholy, impure images, have the opposite impact, may Hashem save us.

These sources also demonstrate that a detrimental spiritual effect extends to representations of the original thing.

Now let us see how this extends to the non-kosher animals in particular:

... You should know that every sin has a cause that brings one to it indirectly. There is also an indirect cause that brings one to gaze upon forbidden women. The first cause is gazing at impure things, until one’s eye is satiated with his gazing.

It is true that one has permission to see unusual creatures brought from distant countries, and for this our sages established the blessing, “Blessed is the One Who makes unusual creatures.” Nevertheless, one should not satisfy his eyes in gazing at them, and should only look at them in a cursory manner [derech aray]. For one’s eyesight perceives via four colors that correspond to the divine Name of Havayeh [which contains four letters], and if the person sees impure creatures, he elicits a spirit of impurity, which hovers over him in this aspect. This then causes him to gaze at something even worse that brings the person to stumble [in sin]. ...

Therefore our sages, of blessed memory, also said that it is forbidden to gaze upon the countenance of a wicked person (Megillah 28a). Rather, one should accustom one’s eyes to gaze at holy things, and in this way he draws holiness upon himself, and brings great illumination to the four colors within his eyes. ...
(Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Kaidanover, Kav HaYashar, ch. 2, 1-2.)

Kav HaYashar states this idea unequivocally: Simply staring at a forbidden object contaminates the soul.

Several other points deserve to be made in light of this quote.

1. We see that a dispensation is given for one who wishes to look at exotic non-kosher animals for the purpose of marveling at Hashem’s creation, along the lines of King David’s exclamations: “How numerous is Your handiwork, G–d!” (Tehillim 104:24) and “How great is Your handiwork, G–d!” (ibid., 92:6). In the sicha, the Rebbe quotes Kav HaYashar and says that therefore it is acceptable to go to a zoo. Later in the sicha the Rebbe refers to the section entitled “The Gate of Analysis” (Shaar Habechina) in the mussar classic “Duties of the Heart” (Chovos Halevavos). This section discusses at great length the importance of recognizing Hashem’s greatness through the wonders of nature.

Likewise, the Rebbe considers it acceptable to allow children to look at books that contain images of exotic animals and the like, if one’s stated purpose is to bring them to recognize Hashem’s greatness more profoundly. Thus, “Talks and Tales,” a publication that the Rebbe organized for children, included a section called “In Nature’s Wonderland,” which displayed images of exotic non-kosher animals.

2. It appears clear from the way the Kav HaYashar explains his statement that the exceptions to the rule, i.e., the situations in which it is legitimate for one to see impure images, or to allow one’s children to see them (more of which will be discussed below), come with two stipulations. These are: a. One should only look at such images from time to time, not regularly; b. even when one looks at the impure image, one should not gaze upon it, but just look at it quickly and move on.

3. It seems clear from the way that this practice is explained that it is derived from the more general concept of “Sanctify yourself in that which is permitted to you” (kadesh atzmecha b’mutar lach) (Yevamos 30a; Sifri, Re’ei, sec. 104). This is the idea that indulgence in permitted pleasures leads one to indulge in forbidden pleasures. In the Rebbe Rashab’s Kuntres Uma’ayan (p. 66), he explains how the evil inclination brings a Jew to sin, based on the rabbinic statement: “Such is the craft of the evil inclination. Today he tells a person ‘Do this.’ Tomorrow he tells him, ‘Do that.’ Until he tells him, ‘Go and worship idols,’ and the person goes and worships them (Shabbos 105b).” Kuntres Uma’ayan explains: First the evil inclination makes the person coarse and desensitized to holiness by enticing him to indulge in permitted pleasures repeatedly. This makes the person’s desires so coarse and brazen that he craves forbidden pleasures, and then the temptation is so great that he gives in to it.

That statement was written in a general way. However, Kav HaYashar applies this principle to the faculty of sight in general, and gazing at forbidden objects in particular. The more we do it, the coarser our faculty of sight becomes, until one’s desire for inappropriate sights can become so strong that one is tempted to gaze at forbidden things.

It is noteworthy that that this idea of sanctifying one’s sight extends to gazing at anything that is disgusting):

One’s eyes should not gaze at anything disgusting at all. (Rabbi Avraham Azulai, Chessed L’Avraham, Breichas Avraham, sec. 18.)

In this vein, I was once told that one should not look at one’s feces and urine.

4. It should be noted that when one studies the sources provided in the sicha, one sees that this practice applies to any image that is impure, and it seems clear to me that that is the Rebbe’s message. The Rebbe apparently chooses to focus on images of impure animals since they are more prevalent (“dibru chachomim be’hoveh”).

5. This brings us to another point that should be abundantly clear already, but since some people may need to hear it, it deserves to be stated unequivocally.

Part 2 continued here.


At February 25, 2009 at 8:27:00 AM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Woo-hoo! Yasher koach.

At February 25, 2009 at 8:58:00 AM EST, Anonymous babysitter said...

This approach might be very problematic. I happen to know a lubavitch boy who is very interested in wildlife. He owns a wildlife atlas, and this is his favorite book. At age 6 his passion is to know that there are lions in Athopia and Gorillas in Kongo and uganda, he knows to tell a siberian tiger from a bengali tiger. His play revolves mainly around animals and where they live and how they could meet, etc.

He has a kipa with a lion on it, that says "Az ke arie", his little brother has one with "ratz kanamer".
Would you want to take all this from him?

When playing with religious-orthodox children, I had to learn that they often refuse "religious" themes, simply because they are over-stuffed with it and like to do something else, just for a change.

This parallels what you can read on OTD blogs: too much of the same...

So you have to be very, very careful not to over-censor a child. What interests you does not have to interest him. A child is a child and has to live through many different experiences in order to thrive. Monoculture can be very dangerous (=can put the child off).

So: do not forbid unless it is really necessary, go light on chumres.

At February 25, 2009 at 10:11:00 AM EST, Blogger Micha said...

What about names?

Dov, Behr, Aryeh, Leib... (Bear [Heb], Bear [Yid], Lion [Heb], Lion [Yid]...)

And the traditions of having lions on the paroches (Torah ark curtain) are also quite widespread.

Should someone named Dan not have his namesake's banner (with a symbol of a snake) or Judah (lion), Yissachar (donkey), Binyamin (wolf)? And if so, how did people of these tribes Dan raise their children back then? Moreover, why would Yaaqov have created the association altogether?

What if one wants to hang in their child's bedroom pictures and quotes from pereq Shirah? Would including a non-kosher animal as an example still be a negative influence? Why? And what if it's a child who has a hard time getting up in the morning, and you hang a poster that includes ben Teima's words in Pirqei Avos 5:12 (and quoted in Tur O"Ch 1:1 in relation to waking up) and pictures of the four animals named in it? "Be brazen as a leopard, light as an eagle, quick as a gazelle and strong as a lion in performing the will of your Father in heaven." Would the effect be positive or negative?

While everything the L rebbe is logical, I don't see how it reflects everything that went on before him.


At February 25, 2009 at 10:26:00 AM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

One should definitely use their brains and apply the very important rule of “chanoch lenaar al pi darko” – so, it goes without saying that individual cases should be judged based on the specific circumstances. However, I assure you that nobody has ever left the derech because they were deprived of a teddy bear as a child, and were tragically forced to live with a stuffed giraffe or sheep. I would go so far as to say that nobody ever “left the derech” for any other similar deprivations either.
Chazal are busy with statements along these lines that some people in today’s society may feel uncomfortable with, such as the statement that a certain Tanna became the great tzaddik that he was, primarily because his mother who would take him as an infant to the beis medresh (as the Gemara applies the term “ashrei yeladato”), but even if some feel this is “hocus pocus” it remains a theme that exists in Yiddishkeit – especially among Chassidim, who are not so uncomfortable relating to the idea of the effects of ruchnius.
So, just to clarify the point: The Lubavitcher Rebbe was merely reinforcing the concept of purity vs impurity. Although these concepts are foreign in secular society, Judaism takes them seriously, and Rebbe’s message was that we should be sensitive to these issues. Therefore, a mouse, dog, cat, bear, etc, is something that we should replace with a kosher – pure – species. The idea being that our children should relate to those animals, rather than “impure” ones. This can easily be over-applied (and sometimes it is), for example I seriously don’t think that the Rebbe meant that children should never go to the zoo.
I’m sorry, but it really drives me nuts when people point to anything and imply that it causes kids to leave the derech. Arrrrgh! People leave the derech for much more complex reasons than such things, and the #1 reason is bechira.
Like all such things, the problem is in how we go about it, not the matter itself. For example, if we go about these things in a positive way, we are more likely to see success; but if I yell at my kids and basically create a negative atmosphere around minhagim, mitzvos, halachos, etc – then I blew it.

At February 25, 2009 at 10:59:00 AM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

R’ Micha,
You’re overcomplicating the matter – which, for some reason, I find that so many people do. The idea here is a simple one (and if I may be so bold as to say that it was directly referring to Disney), which was triggered by “Mendel the Mouse” -- the choice of which, the Rebbe didn’t like. Obviously the (rhetorical) question of names and simanei hashvatim is not the issue, and do to my personal limitations I find it annoying every time people throw it out there.

Simply stated:
Nobody is making you do anything; you can do whatever you like – but this concept is a simple one: It is preferable to use a kosher animal instead of a non-kosher one whenever possible, especially with younger children. This promotes the idea of purity which should be important. That’s all there is to it.

Now, I’ll attempt to provide a theory that might help people that like things black & white (bekitzur nimratz):
#1) We are told that King Chizkia was lauded for hiding the sifrei refuah so that people should trust in Hashem instead of the book of medicines, while at the same time we have a mitzvah of ushmartem es nafshoseichem (taking care of our health), which would seem to be violated if we throw out the doctors guide. So, which is it? Pray or go to the doctor?
#2) Yehoshua is told to run a full military campaign on the city of Ai, while Gideon is told that he should take only a small group in his battle plan to show that victory is from G-d. Isn’t Yehoshua’s victory also from G-d? Which is it – do we wage battle as a normal general, or do we wage war and pray to G-d to deliver us? Again, why the 2 contradictory approaches?

The answer is a little obvious, but Rav Kook explains it nicely: It depends on time and place. When klal Yisroel’s emuna was strong, and they recognized the hand of G-d, they were told to encounter the physical on its terms, but when the emuna was low, we were told to strengthen the emuna and be less dependent on the ways of the world. Balance.

Similarly, I think we can understand the reinforcement for this sensitivity towards purity in our time and place, more than perhaps it was in the past, because society was different.

At February 25, 2009 at 11:01:00 AM EST, Blogger Micha said...

More kids have gone off the derekh by learning from example this need perpetually to find things to attack than any other one cause. (Except perhaps abuse, I don't have solid stats on how common abuse is and how many kids who are off the derekh experienced something they felt was abusive that they won't talk about. But to get back on point...)

Looking for reasons to belittle this hanhagah or that as silly, which also belittles on people's eyes those who support them and consequently all of their other Torah is far more damaging. Everyone should have hanagos "beyond the line of the law" that helps get them there. (It's the topic of a famous Ramban on Qedoshim tihyu.) If this one is not for you, nu go find something else. Don't tear down yenem's.

OTOH, a respectful question is the usual shaqla vetarya (roughly: give-n-take) of the gemara. Asking without attacking can be constructive, a way to learn more about the Torah from someone else's perspective.


At February 25, 2009 at 12:45:00 PM EST, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

Historically Jews have used horses, donkeys, camels, dogs, etc., for essential purposes, even mitzvah purposes, even though we obviously couldn't eat them.

Check out Perek Shira, too.

At February 25, 2009 at 1:13:00 PM EST, Blogger joshwaxman said...

"Historically Jews have used horses, donkeys, camels, dogs, etc., for essential purposes, even mitzvah purposes, even though we obviously couldn't eat them."

Indeed. For example, Avraham and Yitzchak on the way to the akeida rode there on a *chamor*. Surely they could have ridden on oxen, though it would have been more awkward.

Eliezer took Rivkah back on a gamal, and she was only 3! If merely looking at a picture of a camel would be problematic, how can she ride on it?! Especially since the avos all kept the entire Torah!

Moshe when returning to Egypt put his wife and children on the *chamor*. And this was even though he was careful not to drink from an Egyptian nursemaid, so we see that he was machmir about such things. Shaul was looking for his father's donkeys. And so on and so forth.

Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair worked with a donkey, and both were quite the chassid. The Torah says not to harness an ox and donkey together, under the assumption that Jews would own and work with these animals.

Also, while all these connections are being made by analogy (to pornographic pictures, or pictures of evildoers), can you find me a gemara or a rishon which even *suggests* that one cannot look at a non-kosher animal. This is an innovation founded on kabbalistic grounds, and tied in to these other sources as a rationalization.


At February 25, 2009 at 6:52:00 PM EST, Anonymous eli said...

Josh, Bob & Micha,
Weren't the points you raised addressed in posts or comments here already? Am I missing something?

At February 26, 2009 at 7:37:00 AM EST, Anonymous josh waxman said...

"Weren't the points you raised addressed in posts or comments here already? Am I missing something?"

No, how were they addressed? I wrote my comment *after* reading the present post and the comments.

E.g. The proofs are non-proofs. Looking at an image of a harlot naturally incites, because it excites the body. Looking at evildoers, one might say that there are evil aspects to that item. But something is *not* necessarily forbidden because it has evil attributes, but because this is the chukat HaBorei. (See Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai about this point as it relates to tumah and tahara, here.) Perhaps one can compare: "Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel said 'A person should not say, 'I do not like meat and milk mixtures'... rather, he should say, 'I would like it but what can I do? My Father in heaven has decreed upon me (not to partake of it).'"

Of course, one can make an argument the other way. That does not make the argument compelling. *Anything* can be rationalized based on existing sources.

And we see that historically, the Torah, and Chazal, certainly did make use of these animals, even though other animals were available. Why is there no mention in Gemara and Rishonim about this? That is not to say that certain kabbalistically-oriented Acharonim might develop this idea. But the question is, is it born out from the standpoint of the text and by Jewish history.

Thus, similarly, in terms of the "prohibition" of marrying someone with the same name as one's parent, a practice based on the tzavaah of Rabbi Yehuda haChassid, the Noda Biyehuda famously points out cases in the gemara of e.g Rami whose father-in-law was Rami. This is a valid question, and a valid methodology for questioning newfangled "halacha".

How has anything I said been answered?


At February 26, 2009 at 8:10:00 AM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Because the Father in Heaven has decreed it to be forbidden — that decree alone makes it un-G-dly (it’s a better term than “evil”, because it’s more direct). Jewish children, being G-dly people, should not be exposed to un-G-dliness.

Now, the fact that unkosher animals are used for means other than eating means nothing. Children’s souls and bodies are more sensitive and thus we are more careful. What is allowed for an adult should not be allowed for a child.

For instance, for the purposes of making parnasah or spreading Yiddishkeit “outwards”, a person may have to deal with people who have undesirable qualities. In fact, it may be hashgacha protis that he deals specifically with these people, since he may influence and refine them (bearing in mind, at the same time, the danger to himself.)

At the same time, under no circumstances should we expose children to such people. The balance is shifted much more towards cauition when we deal with children.

Finally, what the Rebbe says comes from the point of view of looking at material through the lens of spiritual — as explained in the teachings of Judaism that talk about the spiritual “anatomy and physiology” of the universe. Thus, although from physical point of view, something may look harmless and even cute, from the spiritual point of view, it may be dangerous. Just like a candy that tastes good but may be bad for a child. (How to “take a candy away” from the child without inducing psychological trauma, etc., is another issue.)

At February 26, 2009 at 8:12:00 AM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Josh, re: forbidden vs. allowed, etc., read Ch-s 6 through 8 of Tanya, which explain the inner spiritual nature of halachically forbidden things — even forbidden by Chazal.

At February 26, 2009 at 9:32:00 AM EST, Blogger Micha said...

Here's another way of putting what I said that would make what I thought I was trying to add more clear.

Chabad is in a number of ways closer to Modern Orthodoxy than to Chareidi. They embrace new technology, using cable and satellite TV link-ups before the rest of us. The seventh rebbe took a position on those who park around the corner for shul or a Shabbos meal that is to the left (on the "Open Orthodoxy" scale) of even Chovevei Torah. They certainly fully participate in this world, in whatever way is mutar. Chabad is far from trying to insulate.

Given that basic orientation, let's revisit the question of treif animals and why I have trouble understanding the LR's position within the context of Chabad as a whole.

I'm not just arguing that the idea of avoiding images of treif animals, or Mendy the Mouse as a bit of a role model, as new. What are Chassidus, Mussar, TIDE, yeshivish, MO, if not ideologies that have practices that were at one point in time new? The question I have is how this new hanhagah fits the general picture.

There are many instances where we are told to learn from the animals how to behave. Not just the kosher animals. Tzeni'us from watching a cat, fiscal scrupulousness from the ants, the correct approach to sexuality from the propriety of doves and the care for one's mate of roosters.

This is also the underlying message of Pereq Shirah, the reason why we name after animals, the lions on the paroches and (to be timely, but not in my original post) the eagles and lions on the paroches of the mishkan and the the point of the opening words of the Tur.

So, given Chabad's basic orientation of "take from the world whatever can be made holy", I found it paradoxical that the rebbe chose to prohibit the negative qabbalah effects of the influence of a representation of a tamei species. I would have though it more consistent to teach the full gamut of lessens Chazal tell us are available from them.


At February 26, 2009 at 10:21:00 AM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Chabad is modern Orthodoxy. :)

At February 26, 2009 at 12:10:00 PM EST, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Josh: I don’t understand. All those issues were addressed.

R' Micha: I would have to disagree with your understanding of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe was an extremely conservative and fundamentalist leader – and as a Chassidic leader he was very loyal to the tenets of chassidisim. Things like ruchnius, tuma vtahara and kedusha inyanim were all primary. Your portrayal of him as a neo-chassidic left winger is off base and simply incorrect.

The Rebbe’s approach may differ from other “enclaveists,” as he saw a need to bring more yidden “tachas kanfei hashchina” as it were, but at no point did he slightly endorse lowering standards or disregard for spiritual damage. His constant refrain was to “bend people to Torah, not to bend Torah to people.” Obviosuly, the Rebbe did not give a hechsher for people to drive to shul on Shabbos, rather he wanted Yiddishkeit to reach everyone – thus, if Joe drove to shul on Shabbos, the Rebbe would not endorse sending the man away (as the Rebbe often said, “our job is not to send away”), and it was certainly better that Joe attend a frum shul than a non-frum shul. (Although, I feel stupid saying this because these are obvious points – devarim hapshutim beyoser, mamash).

EVERY minhag Chassidim was precious to him (perhaps to a fault), and this attitude towards animals is quite consistent with his views on everything from the age of the universe and the acceptance of Chazals that some may reject, to the importance of the impact of the smallest action on the world.

At February 26, 2009 at 3:34:00 PM EST, Blogger Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver said...

micha, I'm surprised that you make your comments regarding the beginning of Shulchan Aruch, the degalim, etc., when the Rebbe clearly addresses these issues in the sicha. Which means that you never learnt the sicha, and you are basing your "assessment" of what the Rebbe said on secondary sources (like my essay). You didn't even wait to see part 2 of the essay. That's not very scholarly, if I may say. Or fair.

As for your claim that the Rebbe supports contact with the secular world or leniency (ch"v), nothing could be further from the truth. The Rebbe supports INFLUENCING those who have strayed, and says that modern technology is a tool that should be used to do that.

Likewise, when dealing with those who have strayed, the Rebbe said that a more kind and friendly approach is necessary in order to be effective. These are necessary methods of dealing with the "strayed sheep".

None of these things imply any endorsement of secular culture ch"v or desire not to be less insular as far *as frum Jews themselves are concerned*, in respect to which the Rebbe always advocated unswerving, uncompromising adherence to halocho and minhogei Yisroel.

It's really not rocket science.

"can you find me a gemara or a rishon which even *suggests* that one cannot look at a non-kosher animal"

Yes, see part 2 of my essay concerning a woman who leaves the mikveh.

At February 26, 2009 at 5:03:00 PM EST, Blogger Micha said...

R' Oliver, the bit that's not fair is that you ignore that I asked a question that repeatedly self-identifies as just that, a meisivei, not a iba'ei lehu -- a request for information, not a challenge.

I repeated myself after the error was made the first time, and in between I even defended L against the very attack you accuse me of (see comment made on February 25, 2009 11:01:00 AM EST).

So it would seem that the lack of actual reading is on the other side. At least this time around.

You are correct, though, that I invest far more time understandings others' philosophies than understanding their practices.


At February 26, 2009 at 8:36:00 PM EST, Anonymous josh waxman said...

"Josh: I don’t understand. All those issues were addressed."

Perhaps you only *think* they were addressed. Why not take what I ask, and what he wrote, and put them one under another in a comment. Then I can see what you mean by "addressed."

"Josh, re: forbidden vs. allowed, etc., read Ch-s 6 through 8 of Tanya, which explain the inner spiritual nature of halachically forbidden things — even forbidden by Chazal."
Yes, that is perhaps the crux of it. This comes down to a chassidic perspective on these things.

Kol Tuv,

At February 27, 2009 at 8:00:00 AM EST, Anonymous josh waxman said...

"Yes, see part 2 of my essay concerning a woman who leaves the mikveh."

True, that is probably the most spot-on source. And it is based in Kol Bo, Rokeach, and Shaarei Dura. And this is based on mystical beliefs, rather than any explicit gemara (but read on, because I can identify a gemara.) The implication there is that if she meets anything on the way from mikveh it will affect her such that the children she has from intercourse after returning will have the traits of that which she sees. E.g. if she sees an Am HaAretz, a gentile, or a (actual) non-kosher animal. Meanwhile, seeing a horse, a non-kosher animal, is not problematic, and may even be a positive thing.

However, there are limits here.

1) Even for the woman, it is not *always*, but only when returning from the mikveh.
2) And even for the woman returning from mikveh, it is the *first* thing she sees that has this impact. So the suggestion there is to arrange that her friend meet her afterward *first*. And then if she sees a donkey or other non-kosher animal first instead, or person, she should go back to "reset" herself.
3) That means that she can see as many non-kosher animals as she likes even on the way back, with no harmful effect, so long as she first saw her friend.
4) These sources do *not* mention either a recommendation or a prohibition in the general case, for a person in general, or a developing child in particular, not to see non-kosher animals.

In the general case, it is in fact contradicted by pesukim and gemaras that have people of all sorts interacting with non-kosher animals.

What you have here is a few kabbalistically-inspired rishonim, for a particular, very limited case, with evidence that even *they* limit the reach of this, even for a woman on her way home from a mikveh; and no basis for this general prohibition in the gemara at all.

This is then just as I said: it is setting up new halacha by extension and by analogy, where the classic sources do not encode such a prohibition, and indeed assumed (or state) the opposite.

As analogies go, I will grant you that is it a good one. And in terms of gemaras, we do have the gemara that Rabbi Yochanan would sit by the mikveh so that women would see him and have children as beautiful as him, as a partial basis for the belief that seeing something by the mikveh can influence in this matter.


At February 27, 2009 at 8:11:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Here is a related posting to that topic.

At February 27, 2009 at 8:30:00 AM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Based on mystical beliefs? The whole Torah is based on mystical beliefs. Unless…

At February 27, 2009 at 9:08:00 AM EST, Blogger Micha said...

There is nothing unusual about adding a hanhagah (meaningful practice) based on something mystical. (Although, to forestall Crawling Axe's comment, I would have said, "based on something that can't be understood rationally", so as to include the majority of Torah which works on both levels.)

How do you wash neigl vasr in the morning? Halakhah only requires one use a cup. Which hand one washes first, the number of times each is washed, the order, etc... is all based on the Zohar's depiction of the sefiros. It's minhag Yisrael (outside of Teiman), but it was once a new practice based "only" on mysticism.

I was suprised by the choice of avoiding more rather than trying to be maqdish more, particularly since the gemara advises the latter.

But I wouldn't question someone adding meaningful practices beyond the 613. After all, I'm in a glass house on that one. (And not just neigl vasr and netilas yadayim... I follow a number of less common "shtik" as well.)


At February 27, 2009 at 9:26:00 AM EST, Anonymous josh waxman said...

"Based on mystical beliefs? The whole Torah is based on mystical beliefs. Unless…"

What are you insinuating here? That those who don't subscribe to the more superstitious beliefs don't believe in Torah?

I should have said "based on late, kabbalistic inventions which Chazal clearly did not subscribe to." Thus, it is a quasi-superstitious practice from certain rishonim, rather than something found in gemara.

"There is nothing unusual about adding a hanhagah (meaningful practice) based on something mystical."
Indeed, there are many such examples of this. (Whether this encroachment is good or not is debatable.) But if it is clearly an innovation only clearly sourced at best in a source from the 1700s (and a kvetch based on earlier sources), and where it goes contrary to what seems fairly clear from Torah and Chazal, then it is fair game for criticism for others who will declare it ridiculous and unsourced.

See how Nodah BeYehuda said that it was forbidden to impose new law post-Talmudically, such that his teshuva about naming is a defense of Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid why he is not an evildoer. And see how various YU Roshei Yeshiva had criticisms of the tzavaah (as questionable or heretical), based in part on divergences from the gemara. Also see the idea developed in Shemesh Tzedaka on the idea of not imposing kabbalistically-based innovations upon the tzibbur at large, and establishing it as halacha.

My aim here is really just that with all these sources, it seemed like this was a strong basis in halacha and midrash for these concepts. It made it seem like this was the view of Chazal. In fact, it is rather simply stretches and analogies to find rationalization for a fairly recent innovation. And that innovation is not one I see as positive.

At February 27, 2009 at 9:52:00 AM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Josh, yes, what you are saying is clearly appikorsis (I am not attacking you personally, just expressing an objective opinion about the opinion). Chazal did not subscribe to Kabbala? It was received by Moshe Rabbeinu together with the rest of Torah (albeit remaining nistar).

The same way that you can prove necessity of Oral Torah, you can prove necessity of Kabbala in Judaism. I don’t have time, unfortunately, to go into details; I am sure there are others who can explain better.

What I meant specifically is that Judaism is based on belief in G-d. G-d is a mystical concept (so to speak). It is possible to look at Judaism as a bunch of communal practice, a legal system, etc. — but that’s not the Jewish view, and objectively, it does not make sense. It is also possible to believe in G-d and that He gave Torah, but have the “G-d” part be, “Yes, of course G-d gave Torah, but I don’t care about that, I care about Torah.” In other words, on the surface, this view is OK, but in essence it’s no different from the “communal practice” view.

Once you have G-d creating the Universe, you can’t go any more mystical than that. Unless, as I said, you brush this off and focus on Torah as a sociological phenomenon.

At February 27, 2009 at 9:59:00 AM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

And that innovation is not one I see as positive.

Do you find the innovation of writing down Oral Torah as positive. It may be negative, but it’s necessary.

Focus on Kabbala is focus on G-d. Specifically G-d, behind the oxen and cows and lost talleisim. Back in the day, as you say, there may not have been such an obvious focus on mystical, because G-d was obvious. Just like back in the day, Oral Torah was obvious (and later, the meaning of Talmud was obvious). With passage of time, however, as certain things become less obvious through oral transmission, and there is a danger that they will be lost, they are written down and emphasized.

We see this happening (and you can look at it as a string of sociological events or hasgacha protis) throughout Jewish history: certain things pass from oral tradition into written form when there is a danger they will be lost.

This is precisely why Chassidus (which makes emphasis on G-d behind Torah) was revealed when it was revealed. Considering what happened almost immediately (and during) its revelation — people totally lost sight of Hashem in Torah and eventually abandoned Torah itself, except as an academic pursuit — it was proper time.

At February 27, 2009 at 10:00:00 AM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Do you find the innovation of writing down Oral Torah as positive.

Sorry, that was supposed to be a question.

At February 27, 2009 at 10:28:00 AM EST, Anonymous josh waxman said...

(I am not attacking you personally, just expressing an objective opinion about the opinion)
rather, a subjective opinion about the opinion.

"Josh, yes, what you are saying is clearly appikorsis ... Chazal did not subscribe to Kabbala? It was received by Moshe Rabbeinu together with the rest of Torah (albeit remaining nistar).

The same way that you can prove necessity of Oral Torah, you can prove necessity of Kabbala in Judaism. I don’t have time, unfortunately, to go into details; I am sure there are others who can explain better."

I have seen such proofs. Have you read through Shadal's Vikuach al Chochmas Hakabbalah, where he dismantles these arguments, and where he demonstrates that is not apikorsus to question this and to maintain a contrary opinion? I've posted the majority in translation on my blog,

Chazal clearly had *a* mysticism. Whether it is the same mysticism as what we nowadays call kabbalah, or whether that is a more recent innovation that was read into earlier sources against their true meaning, is another story.

"G-d is a mystical concept"
Yes, but at some point, there is a distinction between mysticism and superstitious. For me, it is believing in totem animals. Rambam believed in God but he was against superstitious trends in Judaism, even those which became encoded in various ways. (And even some of Chazal's superstitious mysticism might be rejected, and has been.)

"This is precisely why Chassidus (which makes emphasis on G-d behind Torah) was revealed when it was revealed."
And I would maintain that Chassidus was not "revealed." Rather, it was an innovation on Lurianic kabbalah, which was an innovation on Zohar's kabbalah, which was an innovation of early rishonim's kabbalah, which was an innovation distinct from Chazal's kabbalah. Calling it revelation lets one pretend that this is kabbalah, received wisdom, when really it is introduction of new concepts and beliefs. The Vilna Gaon did not consider Chassidut to be a mere revelation of what was before. And in laying the groundwork for arguing about it, he was not going to even take Lurianic kabbalah as axiomatic? Why not?

"Do you find the innovation of writing down Oral Torah as positive. It may be negative, but it’s necessary."
Yes, I find that particular innovation as positive. What I wrote was "And that innovation is not one I see as positive." I should have stressed "that" in the original. Sure, people innovate things all the time. And religion, and politics, and values, all change over time. The question is whether a particular one is positive or negative. I don't think that this particular one is positive, as it moves us in a more superstitious direction, closes us to experiencing the world, and conflates prohibition with value judgment as to the moral worth of the item. Not to mention that the practice is (subjectively) ridiculous.


At February 27, 2009 at 11:01:00 AM EST, Anonymous josh waxman said...

As an additional point of interest, see Aruch HaShulchan:

where he endorses this idea of the woman going home from the mikveh within the particular parameters, but is dismissive of the idea as it continues to develop and extend, of some women adopting a practice of going back even after they saw someone else initially. And how he explains how it is based on the initial machshava, and how with his final statement he might be undoing it all, including that of Kol bo, as after all, arranging to meet a friend after mikveh is a flaw in the tznius of not revealing to anyone the night of mikveh, which is the initial idea in the seif.


At February 27, 2009 at 11:20:00 AM EST, Blogger Micha said...

Don't attack L accepting a new practice until you're willing to give up Qabbalas Shabbos. We all adopt new practices; and many of them are about pulling lofty ideas from qabbalah into our lives.

This is just attacking in order to attack.

As for calling him a kofer... Since when does a lack of belief in something other than the 13 Ikkarei Emunah, and even those by a very blurry margin, ever merit such titles?

Until you truly pasqen that one may not drink uncooked wine that a person handled, we really don't need such divisions. There are too few shomerei Shabbos as it.


At March 1, 2009 at 12:39:00 AM EST, Anonymous josh waxman said...

"Don't attack L accepting a new practice until you're willing to give up Qabbalas Shabbos. We all adopt new practices; and many of them are about pulling lofty ideas from qabbalah into our lives.

This is just attacking in order to attack."

This digressed from the original discussion. So let me clarify.

I don't mind kabbalas Shabbos. It is a nice hanhaga, and has various positive elements. On the other hand, I don't think this particular prohibition is a positive one, but rather a silly one. Though to each his own.

My complaint was not that it was not based on gemaras, such that the only things we may practice are based on gemaras. Had the statement been merely that this is a kabbalistic practice based on kabbalistic concepts, and since we are chassidim, we find it meaningful to adopt this practice.

There were three things that bother me about this, besides that personally I think the practice itself is ridiculous.
(1) By linking it to timtum halev, this effectively promotes the belief that all non-Lubavitchers, who do not hold by this chumra, have timtum halev, and are on a lower spiritual level. But OK, they are entitled to their own beliefs.

(2) A prohibition is different from an optional positive practice.

(3) Is this just "not encouraged" or a prohibition? From the end of the second post (which I did not read in full before I started posting comments), it is good that he casts it as a chumra. However, by bringing down all these gemaras, midrashim, Rashis, etc., which don't really state this but only something which could be considered analogous, the impression is that this was practiced halacha by Chazal as well, who surely agreed with this chumra. So too in the second post, by explaining past actions, that the only reason that they had cats, or rode non-kosher animals, or had degalim with non-kosher animals, was that there was really no other way, but of course in general otherwise they would hold by that practice of not looking at animals -- that strikes me as historical revisionism. And similarly, according to Crawling Axe that Chazal held by all our kabbalah, surely Chazal held by this chumra, and that strikes me as historical revisionism.

Do we indeed see that Jews in general refrained from looking at non-kosher animals, throughout the ages? If so, why does the gemara not mention it? Why don't we see it mentioned in earlier works by kabbalists? Why don't Kol bo, Rokeach, and Shaarei Dura mention this, and not just the extremely limited case of what a woman *first* sees on the way home from the mikveh? Why don't we find it in the writings of the rishonim, in the Rosh, in the Rif, in the Rambam, in the Tur? Why do we not find it in Shulchan Aruch, in Rema, in Shach, in Taz?

Why do we first see this idea and advice in a sefer first printed in 1705? And then suggest to me that this idea is really propounded by all these earlier sources?

Tell me, do you really think that Abaye and Rava thought that since horses were impure, they should not look at them unless absolutely necessary?

That was what was really bugging me, that this was being cast as something old, rather than a recent (and therefore debatable) innovation. That not all the sources brought do not entirely (IMHO) fit what is trying to be proved is beside the point.

It is certainly possible that I misread all of this, in which case, I apologize. I definitely see where I could have been over-reading. But please read my previous comments in this light, and see my questions about sources in the gemara and rishonim in that light.


At March 1, 2009 at 1:02:00 AM EST, Anonymous josh waxman said...

oops. I left off the end of a sentence:

"Had the statement been merely that this is a kabbalistic practice based on kabbalistic concepts, and since we are chassidim, we find it meaningful to adopt this practice, I would not have objected as I did."

At March 1, 2009 at 11:25:00 PM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Chazal clearly had *a* mysticism. Whether it is the same mysticism as what we nowadays call kabbalah, or whether that is a more recent innovation that was read into earlier sources against their true meaning, is another story.

It’s the same as saying that the generations before writing down of Mishna clearly had an Oral Torah — whether it’s the same Oral Torah as in Talmud, or whether is an invention and a more recent innovation (you can also add here some sociological nonsence about patriarchal society, customs being interpreted as laws, etc.) is another question.

Well, the logic is equally flawed in both cases, since it doesn’t take into account Divine Providence (a concept that is strongly coupled to the idea of Torah being received from G-d) and, more superficially, the process of oral transmission.

And I would maintain that Chassidus was not "revealed." Rather, it was an innovation on Lurianic kabbalah, which was an innovation on Zohar's kabbalah, which was an innovation of early rishonim's kabbalah, which was an innovation distinct from Chazal's kabbalah.

Any innovation in Judaism is a revelation. Judaism is like a rolled parchment. Before parts of it are unrolled, they are hidden and only the unrolled parts are visible. Later, whoever unrolls the parchment reveals the hidden parts.

Two inhibitory neurons fire tonically while isolated — when connected to each other they start firing in bursts. One could say that burst firing is an emergent property of a system, unobservable when neurons were in isolation. I.e., this property was an innovation on the nature of neurons. In fact, however, ability to fire in bursts was always the property of each individual neurons (otherwise, as the second Rebbe of Chabad would say, where did it come from?), but it was hidden and became revealed only in specific circumstances, under influence of the outside. (The same theme is seen in genetics and molecular biology; in fact, throughout science.)

Calling it revelation lets one pretend that this is kabbalah, received wisdom, when really it is introduction of new concepts and beliefs. The Vilna Gaon did not consider Chassidut to be a mere revelation of what was before. And in laying the groundwork for arguing about it, he was not going to even take Lurianic kabbalah as axiomatic? Why not?

I think this is rather one-sided approach to the question. Chassidus accentuates and analyzes already existing information. The story with Vilna Gaon was not so clear and simple — but he clearly considered it a requirement to study Kabbala, especially for a posek.

I don’t know what superstitions you talk about somewhere else. If this is a matter of kabbalistic superstitions present in many communities, e.g., sefardic (i.e., davka superstitions, not based on any ideas found in kabbalistic teachings, but loosely based on some kabbalistic or pseudo-kabbalistic concepts), then the same is the case for nigleh: in many Russian-born Jewish families, for instance, many superstitions are based on Halacha and Gemara.

But I don’t see what this has to do with a very simple reason which the Rebbe talks about: everything which is forbidden derives from the forces of klipah (as is explained in Tanya, Ch’s 6–8, I believe) and has a certain spiritually impure aspect to it. Since a child’s neshama is more delicate, it is preferable not to expose it to such things — as a last measure of perfection in the child’s education and upbringing.

Perhaps it’s a matter of the Rebbe growing up in Russia. In my family, we don’t let kids pick up things from the floor and stuff in their mouth, while Americans seem to be much more relaxed about this. :)

At March 1, 2009 at 11:33:00 PM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

You didn’t answer my question: why is a recent innovation debatable? It was a “recent” innovation to memorize mesoira, rather than let a specific rav unroll the scroll of Torah and decide by himself. It was a “recent” innovation to write down Oral Torah. It was a “recent” innovation to codify it — and to go to the codified texts rather than to Talmud (which some people were clearly against). It was a “recent” innovation to reveal kabbalistic concepts to masses. It was a “recent” innovation to mekarev non-religious Jews (although there was in fact a precedent in Spain).

Any chiddush in conduct or philosophy takes place because it is required. Time, tradition, and success (or lack of thereof) of a certain innovation shows its importance. For instance (in the mood of upcoming holiday), the custom of a dressing up for Purim was clearly an innovation — borrowed from goyim, furthermore. But since by hashgacha protis it remained in Judaism, we know it wasn’t something negative. (I know that this is different from the topic discussed, but the theme is similar.)

This is all regardless of whether your thesis about this being innovation is right or wrong.

At March 1, 2009 at 11:34:00 PM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

I looked at your link. Wow. I really wish I had more time. Maybe later. :)

At March 2, 2009 at 12:35:00 AM EST, Anonymous josh waxman said...

"It’s the same as saying that the generations before writing down of Mishna clearly had an Oral Torah"

off the cuff, so disorganized. I apologize for this:
perhaps. except that we do indeed have positive evidence of this Oral Torah -- a consistency within the text of generations of Tannaim, and shittot. And beside the point, e.g. the MMT scroll of Qumran contains positions we see later as disputes between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel. And we have no sudden "discovery," in that no one claims this was a hidden transmission.

meanwhile, in terms of kabbalah, we have text which show major disputes in the very essence of kabbalah; we have claims about the shalshelet hakabbalah which can be shown to be chronologically impossible; we have inconsistencies within Zohar of rabbis who could not have spoken to one another; inconsistencies (to say the least) between Chazal's statements and the mysticism attributed to them, and more. And we have all of this suddenly *thrust* upon klal Yisrael as a chain of tradition, a tradition which was not known until this time, but was suddenly "discovered"; or else delivered to the beginning of the recent chain not through the chain of tradition but from Eliyahu Hanavi.

Here is some of where Shadal addresses the question of whether one may question the authenticity of kabbalah and nor be an apikores:

And where he explicitly makes the distinction between believing in the authenticity of Oral Law and in kabbalah:

These just off the cuff, and if you want to limit yourself because of lack of time. But it is a great sefer to read.

As a thought experiment: There is someone who claims to be an Abir Warrior, with an ancient kabbalistic martial art, passed down through the generations. He is obviously not legit, as I am sure you will agree if you look at his materials. How will you dismiss him, in a way that can not be used against kabbalah in general?

So you agree this practice is a recent innovation? (I don't agree that every practice which has been accepted by klal yisrael is beyond criticism. There is an idea of a widespread minhag shtus, as e.g. Rav Yosef Karo felt kapparot were. If it had basis in Chazal, it would be within mainstream Jewish theology and resultant practice. Rav Kanievsky apparently did not think peyos in an up position were optimal, despite it being existing and established Jewish practice. I am sure we can find many more examples.) And at the least, can't people at approximately the time of the widespread innovation contest it as silly, or as an unfounded innovation?

Kol Tuv,

At March 2, 2009 at 12:10:00 PM EST, Blogger bahaltener said...

Those who deny mystical essence of Toyro in our day an age are simply materialists, even if they close themselves in cloak of "believers". They believe in "man on cloud" or something the like, because they megashem Elokus.

At March 2, 2009 at 12:56:00 PM EST, Blogger Micha said...

IMHO, and I have no maqor, the evolution of qabbalah is much like the evolution of lomdus -- both of which are like (I repeat "like", similar to in a mashal sort of way) the formulation of scientific theory in light of experiment.

The Ari's qabbalah explains Chazal's qabalah using far fewer postulates. Chassidus is one way of understanding Lurianic Qabbalah with even fewer postulates and more tools for relating to day-to-day personal avodas Hashem.

Much like the way lomdus tries to explain the halakhos of Chazal by using fewer fundamental ideas that reoccur in a broad range of locations (eg gavra vs cheftzah or pe'ulah vs chalos). Not that one has to believe that Chazal were consciously aware of these ideas; they could very well be 18th or 19th cent chiddushim (in these examples, R' Chaim's). But they are inherent in the truth they gave us in a way much like the way a unified theory of gravity is inherent in the many examples of gravity measured before General Relativity.


At March 2, 2009 at 1:21:00 PM EST, Blogger Crawling Axe said...

Micha, which is why it is objectively difficult to imagine that these things would be developed exclusively through human mind, as a result of social evolution and mythmaking.

At March 2, 2009 at 1:37:00 PM EST, Blogger Micha said...

RJW: Problem is that Shadal is out of his league on this. He is saying that he can perceive a truth that students of the Ramban did not. That in itself is not compelling.

(That said, I personally gravitate toward a derekh which does not require taking a stance on the qabbalah issue.)

As for whether being wrong in this case consistutes kefirah, I request someone actually cite a source. Kefirah is a halachic category, with impact on who may handle my wine, who a beis din would accept as a conversion candidate, etc... If you can find a responsum that requires beliefs not implied in shemiras Shabbos, or goes beyond a loose Ani Maamin / Yigdal version of the Rambam's articles, please site it.

Otherwise, the label is just unnecessary division-making.


At April 26, 2009 at 3:42:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Shevon said...

"...I believe it will greatly add understanding to the understanding of the Rebbe’s should not allow a child to nurse from a gentile woman ... for her milk clogs up the heart, and creates an evil nature in him."

Well, it has greatly added to the understanding of *this* non-Jew of how repulsive Orthodox Judaism is.

At January 20, 2012 at 1:07:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very belated response to Shevon:

Are you upset by the fact that if human infants drink pure cow's milk they will be malnourished?

Just as humans and bovines have different physical makeups, and therefore what is good for a cow is not necessarily healthy for a human; the same is true of the different spiritual nature of a Jew and gentile. A Gentile is not in possession of a Jewish soul, and therefore there will be some spiritual harm involved. Not harm based on looking down on others, but harm based on differing spiritual needs.

If you are looking for reasons to consider Judaism racist et al, you will certainly find them. If you are looking for true Jewish perspectives, you can find them too.

At February 3, 2014 at 2:47:00 PM EST, Anonymous Chaim said...

From my simple understanding it doesn't apply to non kosher animals in the context of Torah.


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