Monday, March 02, 2009

What Do You Think? Are The Comments Poison?

Received via e-mail from a reader:

I really don't understand: There's no mitzvah in Torah of free speech. But there IS an issur of kefirah. One commenter to this posting has managed to speak pejoratively of almost all Gedolei Yisroel: Gedolei HaChassidus, Musar, Kaballah, Acharonim, Rishonim, and Chazal. He has quoted as authoritative "Shadal", one of the early maskilim, the ones whom all Gedolei Yisroel fought tooth and nail.

He even references translations of maskilim sources of his own rendering, so everyone can learn themselves what the maskilim said, and be "cooled off" from emunah in Pnimiyus HaTorah, or stop believing in it altogether, as he has R"l. This is such a disgrace! And certainly the exact opposite of the apparent purpose of your site: to strengthen the emunah in Torah and Chazal in general, and Toras HaBaal Shem Tov in particular.

Please, please, delete all these posts of poison, of amalek-type coldness against Pnimiyus HaTorah.


At March 2, 2009 at 11:11:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To bring everyone together and to achieve true achdus, a very good recent review of this topic can be found in...R. Slifkin's book Man and Beast. He discusses the source in Shaloh and other sources.

At March 2, 2009 at 11:39:00 AM EST, Blogger Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

without comments you can close down the blog.

At March 2, 2009 at 11:42:00 AM EST, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Are they poison? No, not any more than the chemical under my kitchen sink.

One of the positive aspects of blogs is that they give a platform for different points of view. Deleting certain comments doesn't really change anything after the said comments have been read. Most of us know what the Emes regarding what we read, just like we know not to add a toxic cleaning agent to our pitcher of Crystal Light.

At March 2, 2009 at 11:49:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A blog like this one (but not just any blog) seems to be a good place to argue successfully in comments against the few anti-halachic comments that come up from time to time.

Sometimes, the anti-halachic comments are self-contradictory or absurd enough to knock their writers out of the box without the help of others.

Those who feel that reading bad comments will injure them spiritually should not read them.

At March 2, 2009 at 11:53:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

My first observation is: my sefardic tendency to accept all sides render the argument sort of irrelevant to me.

I have great respect for the intellectual abilities of both sides (JW & CA) of this discussion and though I may have my own leaning towards one side or the other, Rebbe Nachman explains that this bias is based on the relative roots of our souls rather than on intellectual grounds. (and in this case i believe his wisdom definitely applies)

A word to ASJ, perhaps since this accusation of apikorsoot addresses a new form of danger that perhaps wasn't adequately addressed till now, it's really a question for the Sudilkover Rebbe, whether comments should be allowed and whether the risks are worth the rewards.

I believe comments are an important part of the blogging experience, but in a way they are less useful than quoting and referencing posts in other blogs. In other words, I think it's more blog-friendly to comment on another blog's post in one's own blog with a link back to that blog -- this method alleviates part of the inherent problems raised by the email commenter. The major downside here is that those without blogs lose a voice in such a world.

As to the allegation, I trust Josh Waxman's intellectual integrity to answer a simple question honestly: Would the Rambam classify you as an apikores? why or why not? (he of course doesn't have to answer the question, nor do I expect him to take the time. but I simply believe his thinking and intellectual honesty is rational enough to provide a true well-reasoned answer.)

Now that I've said all that, I will make only one (okay, maybe two) more point that I think I've made before, in different words: I _think_ a choice to rely on one's own intellectual prowess is fundamentally flawed and it is for this reason that so many sources (in Chazal) were anti-philosophy and anti-chakirah.

It's an interesting aside to note that those most strongly anti-chakirah/philosophy were also those most supportive of Kabbalah. (at least as far as I know from my genuinely limited learning)

At March 2, 2009 at 11:59:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

My other observation is this: Purim is the celebration of our acceptance of Torah she'b'al'peh .. so it isn't surprising that this discussion and the disagreement over what is/isn't torah she'b'al'peh is coming up now :)

At March 2, 2009 at 12:15:00 PM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

yitz, that poster also speaks in a denigrating way of Sefardim, specifically Rav Yosef Karo zatzal.

At March 2, 2009 at 12:35:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

perhaps I will have opportunity to comment about the substance of this later, and answer yitz's question, which is a good one. The short of it is I don't think the Rambam would, but the why is interesting.

however, in terms of Rav Yosef Karo, in reference to the comment "that poster also speaks in a denigrating way of Sefardim, specifically Rav Yosef Karo zatzal"
I have to wonder where that comes from. If it was to my comment on the previous post, I want to clarify that I was saying there Rav Yosef Karo considered kapparot to be a minhag shtus (as opposed to Rema who bolstered the minhag). See here for more details about it.

As such, that was not an attack on Rav Yosef Karo, zatzal, ch"v, but rather an appeal to authority that not every practice which becomes popular is beyond questioning and challenging.

If it was some other posting, perhaps when we find out which one that is I will be able to clarify what I meant.

That said, it is the decision of the owner of the blog whether he finds such comments as I offered welcome or not, and if it is indeed offensive to him, or what he does not want present, he has my full permission (with no hard feelings) to delete them.


At March 2, 2009 at 12:49:00 PM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

You denigrate all practices based on kabbolo "superstition"--and you refer to those taught by Rishonim: "What you have here is a few kabbalistically-inspired rishonim", apparently in reference to the Shulchan Aruch (though technically I think Rav Yosef Karo was an early Acharon). Moreover, Rav Yosef Karo clearly studied Kabbolo, as we see in his sefer Maggid Meisharim.

At March 2, 2009 at 12:52:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In terms of whether the Rambam would consider me an apikores for challenging the authenticity of kabbalah, I don't believe he would. And here is the interesting reason: he himself appears to have challenged the same, and would then himself be labeled an apikores. To cite Shadal's citation of Moreh Nevuchim:

"And I {= the author} took the sefer Moreh {Nevuchim}, and the man read before me in the first volume {chelek}, chapter 61, like these words: "And it should not enter your thoughts the craziness of the writers of amulets and what you hear from them or that you find in their various books; and of the Names which they compose they do not refer to anything in any fashion, and they call them Names, and they think that they {=these purported Divine Names} require holiness and purity, and that they do wondrous things. All these matters are not proper for a complete individual to hear, all the more so to believe in them."

He read further before me in the chapter which followed it, and this is its language: "And when these evil, simple men found these words, they expanded for themselves the falsehood and the saying, which they could collect whatever letters they wished and say that this was a "Name," which one could do and perform when one writes or utters this appellation. And afterwards they wrote these lies which the original simpletons invented of their own hearts, and these books were copied to the good people, soft of heart, the fools, who did not have by them balances by which to know the truth from the falsehood, and they hid them and they were found where they were abandoned, and it was thought about them that they were truth. And in the end, a simple person will believe anything."

Thus, Rambam himself talks about falsification of kabbalah and it being established as tradition.

Shadal is not authoritative, but the many on-the-spot points of this scholar, who took exception to kabbalah because from a *frum* standpoint, should perhaps be considered.

I would also like to clarify that my comments are not intended as "anti-halachic." Rather, I am pro-halacha. The question here is whether kabbalah should be an input into halacha. For a number of different reasons, various Acharonim have discussed a separation between halacha and kabbalah, to various degrees. And I don't think I have spoken pejoratively of Chazal. (In terms of the Rishonim and Acharonim, I don't consider my comments pejorative. I have respect for the people and their Torah knowledge even as I think that they may have been misled in terms of certain superstitious matters.)

Kol Tuv,

At March 2, 2009 at 12:54:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it is questioning that is fine, otherwise I would say it is apikorses coming from one who is learned. Maybe not in the literal sense but defiantly because it's like Amelek, it cools people off (including myself) from respect of tzadikim. We're not talking about just anyone here but the likes of the Rashbi and Arizal, who were accepted by everyone, including the tzadikim of Lita, non-chassidim of Hungary, Chassidim, Syrians, Morrocans, Egyptians, Yemenites (except for a small portion which were put in cherem. While they didn't "believe" in kabala they would quote from seforim of apikorsim. Rashash was a Yeminite and one of the greatest mekubalim). Klal Yisroel has lived with the Torah of kabala. By some it's reserved for the elite but no one denies the legitimacy. If one has the eyes to see, Kabala is found in the Written and Oral Torah. I'm no expert but I've seen many examples of this. Just look at the first 15 or so Torahs in Likutei Mohoran on the sayings of Rabbah bar bar Chama. There are kabalistic secrets hidden in all of them. The Rambam says you can't take all the stories literally. Reb Nachman agrees with him, as you can see by the way they are interpreted. (Rabbah bar bar Chamah gave these explanations to him)

I don't know who the commentators are but of the “simple Jews” I know, the ones who always espouse views such as the one we are talking about (anti-kabala), not one would be categorized by anyone as an “ehrliche Yid” (and many of these look chareidi) (I could go on about this for another hour) The “simple Jews”that are too “simple” and “believe” all this “Yiddishkeit” the way our grandparents did, not all of them may be considered “ehrlich” but a large portion of them would be considered “ehrlich” (and many of these would be classified as “modern” by others). It's alright to ask questions but to say or imply that tzadikim of the like of the Arizal....

After all the acceptance he had after his time, saying things like this is apikorses.

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

@Rabbi Oliver,

I meant as a Sefaradi I don't think cutting someone off is the right response, I believe discussion and education is a better response.

I'm familiar with the commenter and his style, I believe there is more for him to learn, and I am confident that in time he will learn it -- this is something I believe is true about every one of us. (myself and you included)

(I believe the Alter Rebbe's comments re: the way the Hassidim were expected to treat the mitnagdim in the Tanya support my view.)

I also believe his pursuit of HaShem is a genuine pursuit and I believe he has yirat shamayim which is my guiding light in determining these types of questions. (where there is yirat shamayim, there is hope.)

The fact that some comments are disrespectful is more a testament to the society in which he was raised and in which he lives (and the level of chutzpah in the world right now) than to his apikorsoot, in my humble (as humble as I can make myself) opinion.

At March 2, 2009 at 1:01:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You denigrate all practices based on kabbolo "superstition"--and you refer to those taught by Rishonim: "What you have here is a few kabbalistically-inspired rishonim", apparently in reference to the Shulchan Aruch (though technically I think Rav Yosef Karo was an early Acharon). Moreover, Rav Yosef Karo clearly studied Kabbolo, as we see in his sefer Maggid Meisharim."

Sorry, I think that is a mischaracterization of my words and opinion. This may well be my fault, since it is a complex matter (with many digressions) and difficult to capture precisely in short comments.

To clarify the above quote, the "few kabbalistically-inspired rishonim" are the Rokeach, Shaarei Dura, and Kol bo, who wrote what they wrote. I did not mean Rav Yosef Karo. Indeed, Rav Yosef Karo did not, as far as I can tell, cite them. It is *Rema* who cites them in his gloss on that siman.

Disagreeing with kabbalah and thinking it inauthentic does not mean that I denigrate those Rishonim who studied it. We disagree about something very important, that is true. Just as there were great Rishonim who may have held things that we nowadays consider heretical, e.g. the corporeality of Hashem. Chazal were great despite being mistaken about spontaneous generation. To some extent, we are all products of our environment, and limited by it, and yet, people can still be great and worthy of our respect.

Kol Tuv,

At March 2, 2009 at 1:02:00 PM EST, Blogger Long Beach Chasid said...

"Without comments you can close down the blog"

Is the blog really about the comments? Or is it that the comments or about the blog?

Hirshel, your blog couldnt survive without comments, because that is how your blog survives. Its not that your posts are anything worthy of reading, its the reaction your readers get and the 30+ posts of arguing back and forth that make your blog successful.

You get more visitors to your blog in a month than I have since my blog was created. The purpose of my blog is to write my own life experiences with hope that a few people might agree or disagree. Im not looking for big traffic, simply an outlet of communication.

A Simple Jews blog is in a completely different classification. His blog is special as it could be a publication. He could publish a monthly magazine and it would be read and very successful. I personally would read his blog as frequently as I do now if all comments were disabled.

With that all said, the comments shouldnt be deleted. They are what they are and I didnt actually find the comments that are being refered too, but I can say they probably arent as bad as the things said on other blogs right Hirshel?

A Simple Jew's blog has a pretty stable group of posters and although we all dont always agree we are all searching for the Emes and we all have Ahavas Yisroel for eachother. So when a few randoms come and post hateful things, its on their heads. There is nothing new under the sun and these hateful things were said publicly before the internet became a public tool.

Poison is not always bad. In fact something poison can save your life. When you get a snake bite C'VS you are given the same snake venom in the treatment. We can take something even from these seemingly harmful words.

At March 2, 2009 at 1:29:00 PM EST, Blogger Shmerl said...

without comments you can close down the blog.

At March 2, 2009 at 1:33:00 PM EST, Blogger Shmerl said...

josh waxman: You sound like one of the Qapachists, who quote mostly Rambam and deny Kabolo.

At March 2, 2009 at 1:56:00 PM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

Josh, you’ve denigrated the Kabbalah of Chazal, Rishonim, Acharonim, Mekubolim, and Chasidishe Rebbes. They accepted kabbala, but you don’t—you know better than all of them what’s part of Hashem’s Torah. And your source for your arguments is—one of the maskilim. This is beyond the pale.

At March 2, 2009 at 2:21:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear its a hard moachloket. On the one hand, the vast majority of Jewish leaders have accpeted kabbalah. On the other hand it seems the Rambam did not.

Since when is Shadal a Maskil? who argued on him?

At March 2, 2009 at 2:27:00 PM EST, Blogger Shmerl said...

On the other hand it seems the Rambam did not.

Seems to some, doesn't seem to others. This is not clear cut.

At March 2, 2009 at 2:45:00 PM EST, Blogger joshwaxman said...

"You sound like one of the Qapachists, who quote mostly Rambam and deny Kabolo."
I was responding in terms of Rambam because that was how it was posed. Let me reassure you that I don't idolize the Rambam, to the exclusion of other rishonim and acharonim.

One famous statement from Rambam, however, is שמע האמת ממי שאמרה.

Shadal's Vikuach is *useful* because he presents the argument from both sides. And he tries to be honest on both sides. That is why certain arguments raised were handily answered by referring to the relevant page, because he anticipated many of these arguments. Certain other Vikuachs do not argue the other side as strongly.

Rabbi Yehoshafat Oliver:
Frankly, this entire above email, and the attacks directed at me, at Shadal, etc., strike me as ad hominem attacks. Rather than address the points, you attack the person.

"you’ve denigrated the Kabbalah of Chazal"
No, I have said that this was *not* the kabbalah of Chazal. There is a difference.

"They accepted kabbala, but you don’t—you know better than all of them what’s part of Hashem’s Torah."
People in different situations have different, and sometimes more correct, perspectives, yes. And by the way, I have Rambam and Saadia Gaon about certain kabbalistic concepts you accept, I have Rav Yaakov Emden about Tikkunei Zohar, and so on. But that is beside the point.

Was Rambam a kofer because he "knew better" than Chazal about the reality, or lack thereof, of sheidim?

Are you an apikores because you "know better" than Chazal who believed in spontaneous generation, and who reinterpreted Torah in that light? (Indeed, in terms of apikorsus, certain of your beliefs I would quite possibly consider minus in turn, but you don't hear me yelling here that you should not speak because your ideas are minus.)

We are all, however, human, and limited by our cultural beliefs. This applies to me as much as it applies to you, and it applied to some degree to Rishonim and Acharonim as well.


At March 2, 2009 at 3:02:00 PM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

Let's get this straight: Chazal's kabbolo, which you admit existed, you accept and don't dismiss as superstition, but that of all the rishonim and acharonim you do dismiss as superstition, because of the oh-so-compelling arguments you take from the maskil shadal, arguments that somehow escaped all the rishonim and acharonim, but which you argue should be accepted over the opinion of all the rishonim and acharonim because you think they make more sense. Correct?

You (or rather Shadal, your apparent mentor) have not quoted any solid source concerning the Rambam's opinion on Kabbolo, only concerning specific things like sheidim or kameyos, which does not prove his rejection of Kabbolo as a whole, which is what you claim.

At March 2, 2009 at 3:08:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

please do not summarize my statements, because you are not doing them justice.


At March 2, 2009 at 3:08:00 PM EST, Blogger Long Beach Chasid said...

Blogger bahaltener said...

without comments you can close down the blog.

How is this 100%? Its not that I disagree with the statement, I just dont think that a blog is only valued in the comments to the articles.

Maybe 50%?

At March 2, 2009 at 3:36:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that comments do not make a blog.

However, it seems like on more than one occasion, comments do make it on to the main page. And more than that, giving people the *feeling* that they can contribute and are part of the discussion draws them to a blog. Less people might visit.

At March 2, 2009 at 3:56:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once we establish that "Let's get this straight" is not really a summary, but rather "let me cast your words in the most negative light without the caveats and context you typically provide," I can answer the following, though off the cuff.

It is not about personalities. It is not the blessed Rishonim vs. the wicked Shadal. It is about their respective ideas.

Shadal is not my apparent mentor, though your worldview may demand that everyone is the chassid of someone else. I disagree with Shadal on many things, including many things he writes in the Vikuach. (Those are in other posts on my blog.)

Did Chazal have a mysticism? It certainly would seem so, from references to Maaseh Merkava and Maaseh Bereishit. Do I agree with it? Perhaps. I don't know, because I do not think I know its contents. At the same time, yes, there are certain things Chazal believed in that I do not. Some of these are scientific beliefs, and some of them might be what I would term superstition, but were perfectly rational to believe in Chazal's time. And I am not the first to argue with them on these things. I could cite you Rishonim on disagreeing with Chazal on even some religious matters. Shedim is one example. The existence of practical witchcraft is another. These do not really touch on the core theology, however.

Could it be that all these rishonim and acharonim were wrong?? They were such tzadikim and geonim?! Well, we have a masechta called Horayot, based on psukim in the Torah about what to do if all of the Sanhedrin err, so it clearly is at least a theoretical possibility. And it is not all the rishonim and acharonim. Many things in kabbalah, such as the Zohar when it first came out, and chassidut, were subject to bitter debate. And even where things were quiet, some rishonim and acharonim simply *ignored* kabbalah, such that they did not take a positive or negative stance towards it. (Digression: I would view the decree not to study kabbalah until 40 in a related light.)

It is not worship of the individual that makes me question all this. It is the ideas Shadal presents, and the compelling proofs he brings. Which is why in places I argue with him. Because I am evaluating the ideas, rather than the individual. This is apparently something you are incapable of doing, needing to bring in ad hominems such as that I should be disregarded because I disparage Sefardim, namely Rav Yosef Karo -- something I pointed out was not correct. Why not engage the ideas rather than the individual?

I would point out you could say the same about Galileo, with his challenge on the geocentric model of the universe, or anyone who followed him. How can you say that generations of scientists (and rabbis, and the Church) were wrong about this?! Are you saying you are smarter than them?! And you are going to listen to Galileo, who himself admitted to being a heretic?!

It is not because I am a great chacham, or that I think myself greater than the rishonim, that I think this. I believe I already made that clear in terms of the respect I have for the rishonim and acharonim (though I may disagree with specific beliefs they held). Rather, as the famous saying goes, it is the case of standing on the shoulders of giants. Science and methods of inquiry improve over the generations. And arguing with those before us does not mean we think ourselves better than they.

Maybe I should let a Tosaphist say it instead. Maybe you would accept it from him. From R' Yeshaya di Trani:

"Should Joshua the son of Nun endorse a mistaken position, I would reject it out of hand, I do not hesitate to express my opinion, regarding such mattersm in accordance with the modicum of intelligence alloted to me. I was never arrogant claiming "My Wisdom served me well". Instead I applied to myself the parable of the philosophers. For I heard the following from the philosophers, The wisest of the philosophers asked: "We admit that our predecessors were wiser than we. At the same time we criticize their comments, often rejecting them and claiming that the truth rests with us. How is this possible?" The wise philosopher responded: "Who sees further a dwarf or a giant? Surely a giant for his eyes are situated at a higher level than those of the dwarf. But if the dwarf is placed on the shoulders of the giant who sees further? ... So too we are dwarfs astride the shoulders of giants. We master their wisdom and move beyond it. Due their wisdom we grow wise and are able to say all that we say, but not because we are greater than they"

Kol Tuv,

At March 2, 2009 at 4:02:00 PM EST, Blogger yitz said...


only from your continuous mention of the disproof of abiogenesis did i realize that the same science that showed that abiogenesis doesn't take place is trying to convince us that all of life evolved.. out of nothing.

that's a beautiful irony i never realized, thanks :)

(boy am i slow)

At March 2, 2009 at 4:08:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At March 2, 2009 at 4:18:00 PM EST, Blogger yitz said...


one more important point:

as the tosafist quoted the "philosopher" ? what was the term used in hebrew/aramaic? pilosoph?
"we master their wisdom" <- the honus lies with you to prove you mastered their wisdom before you can move beyond it.

and since their wisdom is fully integrated-- when they made one halachic ruling, they took into account all others they had previously made -- to rigorously prove you have mastered their wisdom is quite a feat.

I think this is the point of contention -- whether you've earned the right to dissent with achronim, let alone rishonim ;)

(not whether it is permissible or forbidden in abstract)

At March 2, 2009 at 4:24:00 PM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

So whatever makes sense to you--from Chazal, Rishonim, and Acharonim--you accept, but if it doesn't, you have no qualms about rejecting out of hand as "superstition" (a favorite epithet of the maskilim, by the way), no matter who said it, all in the name of truth. What sheer arrogance towards our gedolei Yisroel shemiphihem onu chayim u'meimeihem onu shosim.

At March 2, 2009 at 4:38:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is too bad you see pursuit of truth as arrogance (and see fit to crudely summarize my position, where even I feel I cannot summarize my position in this concise manner).

yes, certain things I see as superstition. no, I don't believe in witchcraft. And I make no apologies for that. Do you believe in witchcraft? Hey, I don't believe in Zugos either.

and at the same time, I know I have my own limitations, as I am bound by my society's beliefs. And I do not think that it denigrates someone to say that they were partially the product of their time.

I am sorry you feel disdain for me.

True, I realized as I was copying it over that R' Yeshaya di Trani used the "shoulders of giants" in a slightly different way than I used it.

In this case, the "giants" I am standing on is the development of scientific methods of inquiry, a better and easier organization of chronology, and the years and years of scholarship that went into the research into the development of kabbalah.


At March 2, 2009 at 4:48:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have it in front of me. It is in a Teshuva in teshuvot harid, as well as in the hakdama to שבלי הלקט, so you can look it up if you want and get back to me.


At March 2, 2009 at 4:51:00 PM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

Earlier you spoke in a way that implied denigration and dismissal of all Kabbolo (except for that of Chazal--sorry, I misunderstood you on that one) as "superstition" because of the "proofs" from shadal shr"y. Now you backtrack and claim that you only reject certain individual practices. Care to clarify?

At March 2, 2009 at 5:23:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry if I have been unclear. There have been many commenters, on many different but closely related topics, and that will naturally lead to confusion on my part and on the parts of others.

This is off the cuff, so I apologize for any roughness of it.

Shadal's Vikuach is in some large part sparked by how he felt that modern kabbalah (in his time) was avodah zarah (e.g. Sefirot), heresy, and (in his opinion the traif and also false) philosophy. He also does not feel that it is authentic kabbalah from Chazal, in part because it contradicts Chazal in various places, and in part because of various evidences of late authorship (e.g. Esnoga as a derasha and a derasha on the orthography of trup in the Zohar) and mistakes in chronology. It is too much to summarize here.

Shadal indeed claims that certain beliefs in modern kabbalah are drawn from foreign and superstitious sources. For example, gilgul from some pagan religion, Sefirot rather than "Hashem is One" from elsewhere, and so on.

I think that if all or much of kabbalah does draw from these other sources rather than from Chazal, than it demonstrates that all sorts of superstitious beliefs and practices can creep in, based on the surrounding culture. They are then incorporated part of the primary kabbalah, rationalized into the overall world-view, and not able to be questioned. But it is possible that this was not part of the core theology -- with whether the core theology is legit as a separate though important question.

(Kabbalists as mystics are more likely than others, in general, to regard as legit what I would label as superstitious beliefs and practices, because they already adopt a non-rationalist (e.g. Maimonidean) worldview. How many modern kabbalists fell for the Rochel Imeinu in Gaza story that we can readily see that R' Lazer Brody accidentally made up?)

I would thus regard looking at animals impacting a pregnant woman, so long as it is the first thing she looks at, as a type of almost Darkei Emori that unfortunately got swept into kabbalah. Just as there is a "segulah" to float flat bread to find corpses, based on incorrect science and beliefs of the time. And that there is a separate and yet important question about the core theology.

I think these superstitions exist independent of the core theology in whatever version of mysticism you want to discuss.

And I think that practices rooted firmly in a theological system of whatever sort (including kabbalah) much is better than random unexplained popular segulos, which amount to excused witchcraft.

Kol Tuv,

At March 2, 2009 at 5:33:00 PM EST, Blogger Shmerl said...

How is this 100%? Its not that I disagree with the statement, I just dont think that a blog is only valued in the comments to the articles.

What I mean, that if visitors will not be able to participate in discussions, it will severely diminish the value of the blog.

At March 2, 2009 at 6:44:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know of any Gadol BiYisroel that subscribes to an "ant-kabbala" view?

At March 2, 2009 at 6:56:00 PM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

I'm really not interested in contaminating my mind with the details of shadal's foul kefira. You didn't address my question directly, but it definitely seems clear that you do not only reject certain specific practices (and thus your repeated referencing of disagreements amongst true gedolei Yisroel concerning such practices is disingenuous). In fact you reject the kabbala of the Rishonim and Acharonim as a whole, accepting shadal's "brilliant" arguments that leads one to dismiss the words of the Rishonim and Acharonim as superstition ch"v--a disgraceful bizayon of our gedolei Yisroel.

At March 2, 2009 at 7:18:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do think I addressed your question directly, but my position is not as simplistic as you would like to pigeonhole it.

To put it crudely in a few sentences: No, I was not calling all kabbalah superstition. I was calling specific beliefs and practices superstitious. And even certain rishonim and acharonim realize this, in terms of specific practices. The severing of kabbalistic tradition was brought in not to say that all of kabbalah is superstition (indeed, it might or might not be a developed theology based on understandings of various Jewish sources, for instance) but rather merely as evidence that not everything one finds from a kabbalist must be the belief of Chazal. As in the case under discussion, where it remains fairly clear that Chazal did not eschew non-kosher animals.

You can call it a "bizayon" if you like. Frankly, I don't care, though I do not think it is, as I have laid out at length. But from where I stand, I regard it as taking offense as a defensive mechanism to a challenge to your own beliefs, and rather put me on the defensive.


At March 2, 2009 at 7:53:00 PM EST, Blogger Long Beach Chasid said...

Talk about Bittul Torah.

What a waste of time all this is. If we spent as much time truly learning as we do trying to convince others how our way is the emes, Moshiach would be here.

At March 2, 2009 at 8:44:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Josh once wrote elswhere:

"I am sitting in the NYU library, across from Washington Sq Park, and all I hear is the infernal noise of the glam rocking Lubobs playing "ashreinu" at noon. Would that they had the modesty of the Toldos Aharon Hasidim, I would be able to study. Unfortunately, they are too consumed in their mission of being loud and obnoxious to let anyone enjoy the verdant beauty of Washington Sq Park, or the contemplative silence of the library."

To which I reply:

I come to the ASJ blog for my daily inspiration, and all and all I hear is the infernal noise of Josh screaming “superstition”. Would that he had the modesty of the quiet MO academic, I would be able to enjoy the blog. Unfortunately, he is too consumed with his mission of being arrogant and obnoxious to let anyone enjoy the contemplative and inspirational venue that is “A Simple Jew” blog.

At March 2, 2009 at 8:50:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Josh once wrote elswhere..."

No, I did not.

From a Google search, I just discovered that that is "chakira." I am not chakira. I don't know why you think I am, and why you are attributing these words to me.

Kol Tuv,

At March 2, 2009 at 9:00:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Josh, Josh, gezeira shova. My apologies. But I think my the sentiments I expressed sill stand!

At March 2, 2009 at 9:28:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the difference, though, is that I don't do this out of despising Lubavitcher chassidim, such that I need not be painted as such. (I don't know anything about chakira, to tell you where he stands.)

I am sorry that you consider my comment(s) arrogant and obnoxious. (And I can see how painting me as the author of that other statement allowed you to cast this as such.) I commented in terms of my feelings on a specific point, and only expanded on this point when challenged, asked to clarify, accused of being an apikores, etc. It is not like I am hounding every post on this blog screaming "superstition!" I am just not shutting up when certain other people want to be closed-minded, and want to label me. It seems you want an echo chamber. I don't find that so inspirational, but to each his own, I suppose.

Kol Tuv,

At March 2, 2009 at 10:36:00 PM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

I'm still not clear on this. Tell us, Josh, do you only reject those kabbalistic practices that some gedolei Yisroel objected to way back as "supersition", or do you reject all, or at least many other, kabbalistic practices that your mind (or shadal's mind) doesn't understand as superstition?

At March 2, 2009 at 10:49:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will let you remain unclear on this, because I have had enough of this conversation, and it seems that others here have also had enough of the conversation.

If anyone truly wants clarification of this or any point, rather than an excuse to attack while thinking they are putting me on the defensive, they may email me privately, or post a comment on my blog. As it stands, continuing this thread is unfair to the blogmaster.

A Simple Jew, I apologize for the intrusion. Blog on!

Kol Tuv,

At March 2, 2009 at 10:53:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From an occasional glance at his blog, I got the feeling Josh Waxman is not a Torah-true Jew. I never go into that blog anymore. Yes, I think his comments should be deleted!

At March 2, 2009 at 11:11:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

from an occasional glance at your comment, I got the feeling that you are a jerk who likes to take potshots at people and being malshin other people while remaining Anonymous. I am glad you will not go to my blog. Jerks are not welcome.

If I am going to leave, please don't take advantage of the situation to insult me.

At March 2, 2009 at 11:43:00 PM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

I find it quite telling that Josh refuses to answer the core question: Whether he dismisses as superstition kabbalistic practices in general, even those not disputed amongst Rishonim, etc.--and is merely hiding behind the fig leaf of those disputes--or whether he only dismisses those for which he has a source in Rishonim or the like. It would be nice to get a straight answer about Josh's position on this.

At March 2, 2009 at 11:53:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please, I said I would answer on my blog or in email. I see you want to take advantage of this to declare victory. This is rather crude of you.

In this rather lengthy conversation, have I ever held back? Why do you suddenly assume that I am being shy?? I do not like your tactics, and so I am pointing them out for just what they are, tactics.

If anyone has any complaints, now, please do not blame me. Blame Rabbi Yehoishofot Oliver, not Rabbi Joshua Waxman.

To answer, I do not restrict what I consider superstition to be solely those found in earlier gedolim, such as Aruch HaShulchan or Noda Biyhuda, even though such examples are readily found for many cases. And neither did those Gedolim restrict themselves to what had been said before. We would have to come up with concrete examples to see what I would say. My point was that there is a path already established of regarding some practices as superstition, even those with rationalizations based on kabbalah.

However, I do not consider every kabbalistic practice "superstitious." For example, do I consider not wearing Tefillin on Chol HaMoed to be superstitious, even though it is (in at least some strong part) rooted in Zohar? No, and in fact I don't wear tefillin on Chol HaMoed.

Now that I have answered that, can we both just decide to be quiet?

At March 2, 2009 at 11:58:00 PM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

So you have no inherent qualms in choosing to dismiss as superstition a minhag based on kabbala even if there is no such criticism found in an earlier source; it's just that you are selective about which minhagim you choose to reject. Thanks for the clarification.

At March 3, 2009 at 12:13:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"it's just that you are selective about which minhagim you choose to reject"

it is just that I am selective at what I would consider superstition, just like any other human being. It is called using one's mind together with a perception of reality and a perception of Torah sources.

also, whether considering something rooted in superstition is enough to not perform it is another story entirely. thought admittedly does not often translate into action.

At March 3, 2009 at 12:48:00 AM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

And aside from the kabbalistic practices, let's not forget your opinion on the teachings of Kabbolo taught by all the mekubolim concerning the Sefiros, e.g., by the Ramak, the Arizal, etc.--you've made it clear that your position follows shadal's on that (R"l).

At March 3, 2009 at 1:33:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"taught by all the mekubolim"
taught by *many* of the mekubalim. so? yes, I disagree that this was the theology of Chazal, and would not direct my tefillot to any one sefirah.

is maintaining that Hashem is solely one, and not maintaining a kabbalistic hierarchy of Sefirot -- is that one of the 13 ikkarei emunah all of a sudden?

You are writing this in an accusatory manner. I say there is nothing that I feel guilty for, and that disagreement does not equal disparagement.


At March 3, 2009 at 7:25:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rabbi Waxman: G-d forbid to pray to any sefirah! This is not the opinion of any true mekubalim. Please see "A Call to the Infinite" (from page 216) where Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan gives a few of the numerous sources on this matter. (I quote an English book so anyone can see that this kefirah irrelevant to kabalah.)
I know academics gleefully proclaim such nonsense but that doesn't mean we should take their word on it. After all, kabalah is all about yiras Shamayim something which most academics lack.
I did not wish to comment on this forum but now that I have, I would like to point out that I have no idea how I would attain or maintain a vital emunah without the path of the deeper teachings of the Maharal, Ramchal, Gra, Ba'al Shem Tov and students and of course Breslov. I know of many other people who feel the same. Sadly, I have met many in the rationalist camp who have a dry emunah. Hashem yishmoreinu! This type of emunah is unable to sustain one in difficulty and very difficult to meaningfully give over to children.
Hashem should help us attain true emunah and truly fulfill the verse, "Shivisi Hashem l'negdi samid" k'peshuto!

At March 3, 2009 at 7:31:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if it were true that "buying in" to philosophical beliefs is kefirah, bear in mind that people who believe them are at least be treated with dignity. They were most often taught this by respected Rabbis and teachers and do not deserve censure for following what they were always taught.

At March 3, 2009 at 10:13:00 AM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

"My point was that there is a path already established of regarding some practices as superstition"

There is no such "derech". Certain Rishonim did not accept certain practices. That's all. They did not mean to imply that all practices that have kabbalistic origins are not legit. They certainly did not mean to endorse your heretical rationalism.

Josh, you keep referring to what Chazal thought, but that's not the issue. The issue (in order for us to determine how to treat you) is whether you hold that the mekubolim were teaching Torah from Hashem, or making up their own ideas (CHAS VESHOLOM). You clearly believe the latter, and that is the core of all your derision towards minhogim asher yosodosom beharerei kodesh.

"is maintaining that Hashem is solely one, and not maintaining a kabbalistic hierarchy of Sefirot -- is that one of the 13 ikkarei emunah all of a sudden?"

Again, you build a straw man. Kabbolo (and Chassidus) comes to strengthen the emunah that Hashem is one, not the opposite, chas vesholom! But really, in your unsurpassed greatness you know better than all of the mekubolim, etc., so why bother?

At March 3, 2009 at 11:09:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The issue (in order for us to determine how to treat you)"

and that is your problem. that was never the issue, and I am not under judgment by you. you may have consistently tried to cast it this way, in order to attempt to put me on the defensive, but it is not the case. I was explaining my world view, and I could not care less what an ignorant and simplistic person such as you thinks of me.

Yes, I still maintain that you hold superstitious beliefs, and the fact that you can construct religious arguments that cast others as heretics for questioning your nonsense does nothing to change this.


At March 3, 2009 at 11:48:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...


i'm curious if you've ever met or spent any length of time with some of the gedolim who hold views opposite your own re: kabbalah?

for my purposes i mean those people who are gedolim in Torah as well as in Kabbalah, though truth be told i believe it's very hard to be a gadol in just one of the two.

I don't mean peers, but rather people far beyond your own level in the whole spectrum of PaRDeS.

(which leads to one other question: are there any gedolim in all of PaRDeS today, by your definition of Sod?)

sorry i'm not letting the thread lie dead, but i haven't had the opportunity to ask you all these questions before .. if you prefer to continue this in mail, i didn't see your email on parshablog,(so feel free to continue in a special mail address which i will dispose of later to avoid spam:)

At March 3, 2009 at 2:10:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

rabbi Yhoishophot,

i agree with your worldview which i believe is the traditional worldview, but please if it is true why not debate on subject matter and not on who this person holds by etc. If he raises a question, please find me an answer that answers the question and not by replying that it is a bad question because it comes from a bad person.

At March 3, 2009 at 2:28:00 PM EST, Blogger Shmerl said...

Does anyone know of any Gadol BiYisroel that subscribes to an "ant-kabbala" view?

Ba"kh (Rabbi Yoel Sirkes ztz"l) renders such ones as deserving niduy.

At March 3, 2009 at 2:33:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rabbi Oliver: There are thousands of "M.O." Jews out there who are rationalists and hold like Rabbi Waxman. Many are adherents of "the Rav" and were trained in modern schools often culminating their Torah education at Y.U. Why in the world would such people not be considered an "ones," much like a tinok shenishba, despite their learning? Are you really saying that you would not daven in a minyan with someone who has questions about pnimius because of his religious training? Many Chabadnikim do.

At March 3, 2009 at 2:34:00 PM EST, Blogger Shmerl said...

Sadly, I have met many in the rationalist camp who have a dry emunah. Hashem yishmoreinu!

I would say it's worse. By rejecting pnimius haToyro rationalists are falling into hagshomas Elokus.

At March 3, 2009 at 2:57:00 PM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

Josh, thank you for calling me "simplistic" for my unswerving support for the words of great Tzaddikim. This makes me comparable to Moshe Rabenu, of whom it's written "pesi yaamin lechol dovor."

I don't care if you think I hold "superstitious" beliefs. What bothers me is that you publicly dismiss the teachings of Kabbolo.

"i agree with your worldview which i believe is the traditional worldview, but please if it is true why not debate on subject matter and not on who this person holds by etc. If he raises a question, please find me an answer that answers the question and not by replying that it is a bad question because it comes from a bad person."

Exactly which question are you referring to? And he didn't raise questions, which is fine, he made dismissive statements. I have no problem answering questions asked respectfully in order to understand the words of gedolei Yisroel, to the best of my ability.

Reb Micha: I don't know what Josh's halachic status is. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear. My point is that since he is clearly learned, people are more likely to learn from him when he expresses his opinion, and therefore it ought to be condemned in no uncertain terms, and not patiently tolerated. To carry your analogy: A Chabad House rabbi might allow such a person to davven in his minyan, but he would object if he saw him preaching disdain for great Tzaddikim to the members of the congregation. For then that person is actively undermining the goal of the Chabad House, which is to promote ahavas haTorah and emunas chachomim.

At March 3, 2009 at 3:55:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did not call you simplistic for that reason. I called you simplistic for other reasons, such as your consistent misinterpretation and simplification of my words and your apparent unwillingness to consider ideas, but rather to dismiss them out of hand based on character assassination.

I don't care a whit what you consider me. Just like it does not bother me at all that Christians consider me "unsaved." You are not someone I deem on the level to judge me. Just as I am certain that you do not deem me as someone on the level to judge you.

I don't care if you think I hold "superstitious" beliefs. What bothers me is that you publicly dismiss the teachings of Kabbolo.
well neener, neener, neener, I'm doing it. I don't care that you get upset by this, or that within your worldview one is not permitted to do it.

"Exactly which question are you referring to?"
perhaps he was referring to your dismissal of the many points / questions in Shadal, saying you were not even going to bother reading them, because they came from a maskil. (Who, BTW, argued on Shadal? Can you give me names?)

from another poster:
Does anyone know of any Gadol BiYisroel that subscribes to an "ant-kabbala" view?
Unlikely, because people determine who is a Gadol. And anyone who would hold such a position, and the associated positions, would be deemed to be off the derech, and therefore by definition not a Gadol. (I do know at least one tremendous talmid chacham who maintains this, however. He shall remain nameless in present company.)

Truth is not determined by which popular rabbi propounds it, though.

I'll try to shoot you an email.


At March 3, 2009 at 9:31:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know of any Gadol BiYisroel that subscribes to an "ant-kabbala" view?

Josh answered: Unlikely, because people determine who is a Gadol. And anyone who would hold such a position, and the associated positions, would be deemed to be off the derech, and therefore by definition not a Gadol. (I do know at least one tremendous talmid chacham who maintains this, however. He shall remain nameless in present company.)

So there is only one talmid chochom you know of that believes as you do. And every other Rav it would seem does not support your views.

At March 3, 2009 at 9:38:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Micha Golshevsky said...
Rabbi Oliver: There are thousands of "M.O." Jews out there who are rationalists and hold like Rabbi Waxman. Many are adherents of "the Rav" and were trained in modern schools often culminating their Torah education at Y.U.

Rav Moshe Weinberger of Aish Kodesh speaking in YU said that the Rav took a lot of material from Chabad seforim. He also said that the Rav complained bitterly that "people only want Soloveitchik's brain and not his heart". So the Rav didn't teach the type of rationalist Judaism that is being discussed.

At March 3, 2009 at 10:12:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous: I never meant to say that they absolutely follow the Rav or are exactly as the Rav would have wished them to be. All I said is that they view themselves as his adherents.(By the way; did the Rav ever bring any kabalistic thought or indicate how he felt regarding kabalistic customs? I ask because I do not know.)
Since so many yidden "buy in" to the rationalist approach, one should be careful not to dismiss even what he feels certain are poisonous words in a manner in which many people may feel is inappropriate.
Such extreme steps usually weaken one's credibility while accomplishing little.

At March 3, 2009 at 10:28:00 PM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

And what of those who have not fallen into this heresy, who are liable to be led astray if such people are given free rein to speak?

At March 3, 2009 at 11:04:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rabbi Oliver: I am merely making a point. Perhaps in this case the good outweighed the bad. (I did not intend to make this point outright but anonymous forced my hand when he implied that I was somehow impugning the Rav.)
You raise an important issue and the truth is that I am not sure. It probably depends on each individual situation.
I do think that at the very least after any personal seeming attack, one should apologize and sincerely explain that it was not personally motivated and that if he had seen a less aggressive option he would have used it. The other party will hopefully not take offense since in truth no offense was meant. Perhaps another possible tactic is to be in contact by email and sort things out that way. It really depends who the commenter is.
Hashem should help us be marbeh shalom.

At March 4, 2009 at 3:27:00 AM EST, Blogger Unknown said...

Heresy, there's that word. Who is a heretic? Who is a non-believer, and who is an, "apokores?" I refer to the Rambam (hilchot Teshuva, Ch. 3)

Might as well get the terms definitions clear. (Rambam, Hilchot Teshuva, Ch. 3) The english translation is my own.

[ז] חמישה הן הנקראין מינים: האומר שאין שם אלוה, ואין לעולם מנהיג; והאומר שיש שם מנהיג, אבל הם שניים או יתר;והאומר שיש שם ריבון אחד, אלא שהוא גוף ובעל תמונה; וכן האומר שאינו לבדו ראשון וצור לכול; וכן העובד אלוה זולתו, כדי להיות מליץ בינו ובין ריבון העולמים. כל אחד מחמישה אלו מין.

There are three kinds of beliefs that define a person as a “min.” They are – one who denies the existence of God and claims that there is nothing running the world, one who says that there is are two or more forces (or gods) running the world, and one who claims that there is indeed one ruler of the world, but he has a body and a (visual) form. Similarly, one who says that there is no one first cause that forms all. And also, one who serves any other god as an intermediary who acts as an advocate for the welfare of the supplicant before the Master of all Worlds. Anyone who holds such beliefs is called a “min.”

טז [ח] שלושה הן הנקראין אפיקורוסים: האומר שאין שם נבואה כלל, ואין שם מדע שמגיע מהבורא ללב בני האדם; והמכחיש נבואתו של משה רבנו; והאומר שאין הבורא יודע מעשה בני האדם. כל אחד משלושה אלו אפיקורוס.

There are three beliefs that put a person in the category of an “Apikores.” They are – one who says that there is no such thing a prophecy, and God does not put knowledge in the heart of man, one who contradicts the prophecy of Moshe Rabeynu, and one who denies that God knows all of the actions of mankind. A person who holds any of these three beliefs is called an, “apikores.”

יז שלושה הן הכופרים בתורה: האומר שאין התורה מעם ה', אפילו פסוק אחד, אפילו תיבה אחת--אם אמר משה אמרו מפי עצמו, הרי זה כופר בתורה; וכן הכופר בפירושה, והיא תורה שבעל פה, והכחיש מגידיה, כגון צדוק ובייתוס; והאומר שהבורא החליף מצוה זו במצוה אחרת, וכבר בטלה תורה זו, אף על פי שהיא הייתה מעם ה', כגון הנוצריים וההגריים. כל אחד משלושה אלו כופר בתורה.

There are three beliefs that put a person in the category of a “denier” (cofer) of the Torah. They are – one who says that so much as one verse of one word of the Torah is not from God. If one says that anything in the Torah is Moshe’s own words (and not prophecy from God, he is similarly a “cofer.”) And also, one who denies the truth of the explanation of the Torah (“torah she’bal peh” such as the Talmud). … Also, one who says that God has exchanged any of the commandments of the Torah for a different commandment, and that this Torah is null and void even though it was from God, such as the belief of the Christians and the “hagrayim”, each of these three beliefs designates a person as a “cofer” (denier) of the Torah.

At March 4, 2009 at 3:45:00 AM EST, Blogger Unknown said...

What defines Jewish belief?

Not that I am a spokesman for Orthodoxy, but it seems that the thirteen principles of Maimonides have been largely accepted as the tenants of Jewish belief.

And yet ... Professor Shapiro wrote a book presenting the machlokes rishonim (opposing views of early Rabbis) on each of Maimonide's thirteen. So there were "gedolim" who saw flaws in the thirteen principles.

And yet ... Rav Yosef Albo reduced Jewish belief to three principles, (I don't know what they are)

And Yet ... The talmud (Makos 24a) says that the prophet Chabkuk (not an apikores, but you knew that) the commandments to one principle - צדיק באמונתו יחיה
the tsaddik livew on his faith ...

And yet, and yet (sorry, I sound like Elie Wiesel) even the Sanhedrin couldn't decree to take away king Shlomo's portion in the world to come for worshiping idols.
(more later, bli neder)

At March 4, 2009 at 7:28:00 AM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

You seem to be lacking understanding:
Chavakuk never said only to have faith and not to keep the Mitzvos, G-d forbid. The issue in the Gemoro there (Makkos) was what would inspire one to all the other Mitzvos.

Chazal say that Shlomo never worshiped idols; his wives did, and it was as if he did because he didn't object.

At March 4, 2009 at 8:38:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Betzalel: Emunah by definition means transcending intellect and drawing near to Hashem despite our being in this physical world that hides the spiritual. There is no need for emunah in what you know intellectually. In Slonim and Beslov we find that emunah is likened to a physical muscle. The more we work it by connecting to Hashem, the more emunah we have.
We build emunah by davening with connection, being inspired by holy words of Torah, and learning chasidus or mussar or sifrei machshavah.
It makes no difference if a rationalist can proudly proclaim that he is not a min according to the Rambam or is a tinok shenishbah. Chakirah is still a spiritual killer.
Many people have gone off the derech through philosophy. This problem is discussed in teshuvos Harashba and many other sources.
But even those who do not themselves "leave the fold" as a result of philosophy are the victims of the very insidious problem of dry emunah.
We do not build emunah through chakirah. At best this engenders a very unsatisfying and dry intellectual emunah. When emunah is dry it has not penetrated. Is it any surprise that many kids of rationalists are cooled off in frumkeit? (Unless warmed by someone with strong emunah in their formative years.) How can they convey a strong emunah to their kids when theirs is rusty and undeveloped?
I have found that many rationalists feel the same about learning Torah and secular studies. They claim that both pursuits "deepen" them in much the same way. How tragic. The moment one studies Torah in the same intellectual manner as academics do--not as a way to connect to the Nosayn Hatorah--his emunah withers. Instead of using Torah to connect to Hashem it is just a kind of Jewish cultural experience.
Chabakuk is merely discussing what to focus on and in no way contradicts the thirteen or anything else. Indeed, Chabakuk teaches that the most essential aspect of Judaism is to have a vital emunah-tzaddik b'emunasoh yichyeh, a tzaddikk lives by his emunah!
Unfortunately, discussing these matters does not build vital emunah.
Hashem should help us strive to reach the level of the avos who were a vehicle for Hashem in this world by imbuing their every thought and action with a deep connection to Hashem. As the Ramah adjures: the path of tzaddikim is to remember Hashem always (see Biur HaGra there.)

At March 4, 2009 at 6:02:00 PM EST, Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Rav Oliver,

Well, you just dised me, and all I can say is, "what do I know."

Thank you for clarifying the pshat of that Gemrara (Makos, 24)

Let me clarify your clarification.

Each generation descended, and the prophets needed to "start them off easy," in a clever way, i.e. not six hundered and thirteen, but eleven, or six, until in Chavakuk's generation, they could only deal with hearing one, "a tsaddik lives by his faith," which would inspire them in the best case scenario, to keep all the commandments (but who's perfect?)much more than if they crammed 613 down their throats. Are we cool?

Everyone believes. Secular Jews believe, christians believe (albeit in things that make one a "cofer b'Torah,") so clearly belief doesnt define one as a good Jew, nor does belief in Kabbaloh. The mark of a good Jew is yiras Hashem.

If anyone cares about my personal belief, heres my soap box.
I believe that anyone who catagorically rejects the Zohar, Arizal, or Chassidus is - rachmanus! - spiritually challenged.

Shlomo Hamelech did, and I quote off the top of my head, "et hara b'eynei Hashem" Since when the Zohar discussed K. Shlomo it says that the secret of faith is to know good, and know evil, and scorn the evil, and choose the good, it could be that the "ra b'eynei Hashem" means that some of Shlomo's wives inticed him to worship idols. This is why the gemoroh in Sanhedrin tells us that the Sanhedrin wanted to take away Shlomo's portion in the world to come.

My intention was only to the chevre that Maimonides is not the sole arbitrator of Jewish belief.

At March 4, 2009 at 6:04:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is also known that Shlomo's relationship to the 'other side' was known, that he was a master of all forms of occult knowledge, and as anyone who knows, knows, if you are given the power, the biggest test is not using the power. Shlomo HaMelech wanted to be Mashiach, believed he was destined to be mashiach, and knew he had to conquer not only the physical world, but the spiritual world as well, and thus he summoned, with the utterance of his lips, the King of the Other Side. This was his 'sin', to make any dealings with such a being, albeit the moswt powerful being in the universe beside's Hashem and Mashiach and Shlomo, was the King of the Other Side, we do not say his name, and to have 'esek' with such a being is to invite spiritual contamination, which is Shlomo's 'chet', to attempt to bring Mashiach by conquering the Other Side. This is the 'idol worship' to believe I can bring Mashiach. No one man can bring Mashiach. G-d will bring Mashiach, according to His Wisdom, and our mesirat nefesh. I love you all. Torah Anonymous

At March 4, 2009 at 7:47:00 PM EST, Blogger Shmerl said...

My intention was only to the chevre that Maimonides is not the sole arbitrator of Jewish belief.

Somehow, deniers of Kabolo quote mostly Rambam. Especially Qapachists and the like.

At March 5, 2009 at 12:13:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again, about the interpretation of Chazal, Yeshar Coach to Reb Yehoshaphat for turning me on to this Chazal's that King Shlomo didn't really do it, but his idolatry was, "as if."

אין לנו על מי לסמוך אלא באבינו שבשמים ודברי תנאים ואמוריים
All we have to rely on is out Father in Heaven and the words of the Talmud. (double entendre)

Just from reading the verses, it is really a no-brainer that he strayed into the cowpies. (Melachim one, ch, 11) which reads:

5. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.
6. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Hashem, and went not fully after the Hashem, as did David his father.
7. Then did Solomon build a high place for Kemosh, the abomination of Moab ...

But what I love about the Talmud is that it records and often gives gives honor to diverging opinions and interpretations even when they
are not mainstream or even the halachic conclusion - "we still need (Elazar)the Modaii" (he always had a different interpretation and yet he was included and respected.

Branding anyone who is not your Rav or Rebbe's sycophant as a heretic is not in my Torah. After spending some time in the Heichal of the Arizal and the Baal Shem Tov, and being "meshamesh Talmidei Chachamim," Betzalel now questions the validity of the belief that a Jew can be close to God and spiritual well developed without cleaving to and nullifying ones self before a tsaddik. Such a devekus could spiral into that which is "evil in the sight of Hashem." in a frum Orwellian nightmare. Hashem Yishmor.

You take the blue pill, I'll take the red one.

Such is the way of Chazal and may Hashem, whom the Torah calls merciful and patient, as well as zealous and the One whose name is a consuming fire, bless all of you to follow suit.

At March 5, 2009 at 12:21:00 AM EST, Blogger Unknown said...


the big NOT

He questions the validity of the belief that one cannot be a good Jew and spiritually well developed unless he cleaves to and nullifies himself before a trus Tsaddik.

At March 5, 2009 at 12:50:00 AM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

you said it right the first time :)

It's sad to see that you seem to reject the interpretation of Chazal, who interpret the verses concerning Shlomo non-literally. That's quite an instructive demonstration of what rationalism leads to.

At March 5, 2009 at 3:27:00 AM EST, Blogger Unknown said...

I seem to have some time on my hands. Respones no. 7.

Rabbi Y. Oliver,

You say, "I seem to reject,"
and all I can say is,


My agenda, as is yours, is to accept the Torah She'ba'al pe. I generally don't hold by people I am not familiar with who quote something I never saw. As as student of Torah, I look up the sources, and come with the basic premise that it is true. Even if if flies in the face of reason my hashkofa gently tells me, "Betzalel, you just don't have the information." So I have learned from the Radziner (intro to Beis Yaakov)

Please, lets have the premise that this blog is a "relatively free" exchange of ideas among yorei Hashem of various colors, where we can even shout at each other as long as we know that we are not trying to stam prove the other wrong, but are working together in the service of the Truth. This is the derech haBaal Shem tov (sefer BeSHT on the Torah, r. "mah tovu ohaleicha.")

One of my Rabbanim, Rav Mordechai Sheinberger, Shlita, said by kiddush a few months ago that no one person has the truth, but all of clall yisrael together makes the truth. (and if I can add to his words - mustafina milhagid - zug ich - der gantze veldt veyneg der shalosh klipos chalia, but he probably would not agree)
Rav Sheinberger is someone I know and trust, and even disagree with at times. Yet I defer to his knowledge and Ruah haKodesh. A paradox? Tough luck.

Please save me some time and give me the citation of the chazal you are offering, and, if you want, explain to us why the sanhedrin wanted to take away Shlomo HaMelech's share in the world to come.

We are not the same, you seem to be more comfortable with the Charedi world, I have some legitimate issues, but it goes without saying that we are brothers and united in emuna.

AND TO ANONYMOUS "Chakira is a spiritual killer."

Not in Pshiska or Radzin, and I have, so to speak, been there.

In Pshiska, they learned both likutei Moharan and Morei nevuchim. All we want to do is to get to the truth? Rav Shetinsaltz once told me, "truth is not the corrective." (God's seal is truth, but His name is Shalom.)

At March 5, 2009 at 7:54:00 AM EST, Blogger Yehoishophot Oliver said...

Betzalel, if you wanted to confirm what I wrote you wouldn't have had to look further than the commentaries on those pesukim. Either way, you could have asked me for my source before dismissing the idea.

At March 5, 2009 at 9:58:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Betzalel: The source for the commentators which Rabbi Oliver mentioned is the gemara in Shabbos 56b which begins by stating: Anyone who claims that Sholomo sinned is mistaken...
It is true that there are various shitos about learning Moreh Nevuchim (much of which is excellent Mussar by the way. I actually quoted a bit in my earlier comment.) The problem of people falling away as a result of chaikrah is discussed in the Rishonim. Since I know someone who dropped mitzvos after being "enlightened" by the Moreh.
I commented about the dangers of chakirah after your quote that implied that one need not believe in the thirteen ikarim according to some Rishonim.
By the way, even the Rishonim who argue on the Rambam's 13 hold that one who denies one of them is an apikorus.
For a source, please see Sefer Haikrim (in Yesod Hashlishi) who explains the exact difference between someone who is a kofer because he denies one of the three Ikrei Hada'as and one who is a kofer because he denies an essential element of emunah that is not an Ikar.

At March 5, 2009 at 12:11:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

More on Shlomo HaMelech.

At January 8, 2017 at 10:33:00 PM EST, Anonymous seforim said...

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