Responses to Comments and Elaborations of Previous Posts III
by Marc B. Shapiro
This post is dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Chaim Flom, late rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Ohr David in Jerusalem. I first met Rabbi Flom thirty years ago when he became my teacher at the Hebrew Youth Academy of Essex County (now known as the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy; unfortunately, another one of my teachers from those years also passed away much too young, Rabbi Yaakov Appel). When he first started teaching he was known as Mr. Flom, because he hadn't yet received semikhah (Actually, he had some sort of semikhah but he told me that he didn't think it was adequate to be called "Rabbi" by the students.) He was only at the school a couple of years and then decided to move to Israel to open his yeshiva. I still remember his first parlor meeting which was held at my house. Rabbi Flom was a very special man. Just to give some idea of this, ten years after leaving the United States he was still in touch with many of the students and even attended our weddings. He would always call me when he came to the U.S. and was genuinely interested to hear about my family and what I was working on. He will be greatly missed.
1. In a previous post I showed a picture of the hashgachah given by the OU to toilet bowl cleaner. This led to much discussion, and as I indicated, at a future time I hope to say more about the kashrut industry from a historical perspective. I have to thank Stanley Emerson who sent me the following picture.
It is toilet bowl cleaner in Israel that also has a hashgachah. Until Stanley called my attention to this, I was bothered that the kashrut standards in the U.S. had surpassed those of Israel. I am happy to see that this is not the case. (In fact, only in Israel can one buy a package of lettuce with no less than six (!) different hashgachot. See here)
But in all seriousness, I think we must all be happy at the high level of kashrut standards provided by the OU and the other organizations. This, of course, doesn't mean that we have to be happy with what has been going on at Agriprocessors. I realize that this is a huge contract, but it was very disappointing to see that the first response of the OU to the numerous Agriprocessors scandals, beginning with the PETA video, has been to circle the wagons and put out the spin. Any changes from the OU only came after public outrage, and if the hashgachah is eventually removed from Agriprocessors, it will once again be due to this outrage. To be sure, we no longer can imagine cases of meat producers locking the mashgiach in the freezer, but it does seem that the company was being given pretty free reign in areas where the hashgachah could have been using more of its influence. (Let's not forget that Agriprocessors needs the OU more than the reverse.) At the very least, we need some competition in the glatt kosher meat business. Agriprocessors has a near monopoly and as we all know, competition is what forces businesses to operate at a higher standard.
In fact, the entire glatt kosher "standard" should be done away with and turned into an option for those who wish to be stringent. This has recently been tried in Los Angeles, with the support of local rabbis, but I don't know how successful it has been. The only way this can happen on a large scale is if the OU once again starts certifying non-glatt. The masses have been so brainwashed in the last twenty years that they will not eat regular kosher unless it has an OU hashgachah. There is no good reason – there are reasons, but they aren't good – why the OU does not certify non-glatt. As is the case with the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, the OU should certify both mehadrin (glatt) and non-mehadrin.
It might be that people in Teaneck and the Five Towns don't feel the bad economic times. Yet there are many people who are having difficulty making ends meet. It is simply not fair to create a system where people are being forced to pay more money for meat than they should have to. The biggest problem Orthodoxy faces, and the factor that makes it an impossible lifestyle for many who would otherwise be drawn to it, is the enormous costs entailed. Anything we can do to lower this burden, even if it is only a couple of hundred dollars a year--obviously significantly more for communal institutions--should be done.
Returning to Agriprocessors, while the current issue focuses on the treatment of workers, the problem of a couple of years ago focused on the treatment of animals. Yet the two should not necessarily be seen as so far apart. According to R. Joseph Ibn Caspi (Mishneh Kesef [Pressburg, 1905], vol. 1, p. 36), the reason the Torah forbids inflicting pain on animals is "because we humans are very close to them and we both have one father"! This outlook is surprising enough (and very un-Maimonidean), but then he continues with the following incredible statement: "We and the vegetables, such as the cabbage and the horseradish, are brothers, with one father"! He ties this in with the command not to cut down a fruit tree (Deut. 20:19), which is followed by the words כי האדם עץ השדה. This is usually understood as a question: "for is the tree of the field man [that it should be besieged of thee?] Yet Caspi understands it as a statement, and adds the following, which together with what I have already quoted from him will make the Jewish eco-crowd very happy.
כי האדם עץ השדה (דברים כ' י"ט), כלומר שהאדם הוא עץ השדה שהוא מין אחד מסוג הצמח כאמרו כל הבשר חציר (ישעיה מ' ו') ואמרו רז"ל בני אדם כעשבי השדה (עירובין נד ע"א)
Finally, in Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld's op-ed on Agriprocessors in the New York Times
) he wrote as follows: "Yisroel Salanter, the great 19th-century rabbi, is famously believed to have refused to certify a matzo factory as kosher on the grounds that the workers were being treated unfairly." Herzfeld was attacked by people who claimed that there is no historical source to justify this statement. While the story has been garbled a bit, the substance indeed has a source. I refer to Dov Katz, Tenuat ha-Mussar
, vol. 1, p. 358. Here R. Yisrael Salanter is quoted as saying that when it comes to the production of matzah, one must not only be concerned with the halakhot of Pesah, but also with the halakhot of Hoshen Mishpat, i.e., that one must have concern for the well-being of the woman making the matzah.
אין כשרות המצות שלמה בהידוריהן שבהלכות פסח לבד, כי אם עם דקדוקיהן גם בדיני חשן משפט
2. In my previous post I wrote: "With regard to false ascription of critical views vis-à-vis the Torah's authorship, I should also mention that Abarbanel, Commentary to Numbers 21:1, accuses both Ibn Ezra and Nahmanides of believing that the beginning verses of this chapter are post-Mosaic. Yet Abarbanel must have been citing from memory, since neither of them say this. In fact, Ibn Ezra specifically rejects the notion that the verses were written by Joshua." I made a similar point in Limits of Orthodox Theology, p.106 n. 102.
I looked at Abarbanel again and would like to revise what I wrote. I don't think it is correct to say that Abarbanel was citing from memory, since he quotes Nahmanides' words. With regard to Ibn Ezra, I now assume that Abarbanel thinks Ibn Ezra is being coy. In other words, although Ibn Ezra cites a view held by "many" that Joshua wrote the beginning of Numbers 21, and then goes on to reject this view, Abarbanel doesn't trust Ibn Ezra. He thinks that Ibn Ezra really accepts the "critical" view. I see absolutely no evidence for this. Ibn Ezra has ways to hint to us when he favors a critical view, and he never does so with this section. Furthermore, I am aware of no evidence that the "many" who hold the critical view are Karaites, as is alleged by Abarbanel.
What led Abarbanel to accuse Nahmanides of following Ibn Ezra in asserting that there are post-Mosaic verses in Numbers 21? As with Ibn Ezra, Abarbanel sees Nahmanides as hiding his critical view and only hinting to it. Numbers 21:3 reads: "And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities; and the name of the place was called Hormah." Yet as Nahmanides notes, it is in Judges 1:17 that we see the destruction of the Canaanites and the naming of the city Hormah. How, then, can the city be called Hormah in Deuteronomy when it won't be conquered and named for many years?
Nahmanides writes that the Torah here is relating "that Israel also laid their cities waste when they came into the land of Canaan, after the death of Joshua, in order to fulfill the vow which they had made, and they called the name of the cities Hormah." In other words, the Torah is describing an event, including the naming of a place, which will only take place a number of years later. This event is described in the book of Judges. The verse in Numbers is written in the past tense, which would seem to render Nahmanides' understanding problematic. Yet as Chavel points out in his notes to his English edition, this does not concern Nahmanides. "Since there is no difference in time for God, it is written in the past tense, for past, present, and future are all the same to Him."
This is certainly true with regard to God, but what about the Children of Israel? How are they supposed to read a section of the Torah that speaks about an event as having happened in the past but which in reality has not yet even taken place? These are problems that the traditional commentators deal with, but Abarbanel sees Nahmanides as departing from tradition and offering a heretical interpretation. He is led to this assumption because Nahmanides uses the ambiguous words "Scripture continued" and "Scripture, however, completed the account." Why didn't Nahmanides say that Moses wrote this? It must be, according to Abarbanel, that Nahmanides is hinting that this was written down after Moses' death. In Abarbanel's words:
כי הרב כסתה כלימה פניו לכתוב שיהושע כתב זה. והניח הדבר בסתם שהכתוב השלימו אבל לא זכר מי היה הכותב כיון שלא היה משה עליו השלום והדעת הזה בכללו לקחהו הראב"ע מדברי הקראים שבפירושי התורה אשר להם נמנו וגמרו שלא כתב זה מזה והרמב"ן נטה אחרי הראב"ע והתימה משלימות תורתו וקדושתו שיצא מפיו שיש בתורה דבר שלא כתב משה. והם אם כן בכלל כי דבר ה' בזה.
From here, let me return for the third time to what some would see as an aspect of biblical criticism in Radak. To recap, in his commentary to I Sam. 4:1 Radak writes:
על האבן העזר: כמו הארון הברי' והכותב אמר זה כי כשהיתה זאת המלחמה אבן נגף היתה ולא אבן עזר ועדיין לא נקראה אבן העזר כי על המלחמה האחרת שעשה שמואל עם פלשתים בין המצפה ובין השן שקרא אותה שמואל אבן העזר שעזרם האל יתברך באותה מלחמה אבל מה שנכתב הנה אבן העזר דברי הסופר הם וכן וירדף עד דן.
Dr. H. Norman Strickman convinced me that Radak means that the words "and pursued as far as Dan" are a later insertion, since the city was only named Dan after it was conquered in the days of Joshua (Joshua 19:47). In a comment to the post, Benny wrote:
There is no reason to assume that Radak is not referring to Moses prophetically writing the word Dan. It just means that in the time that the story took place, the name was not Dan. . . . I think that it is definitely possible that Radak understood that Moshe is the one who wrote "Et HaGilad Ad Dan".
Dr. Yitzchak Berger wrote to me as follows:
I think the commenter 'Benny' was right about Radak's view of Gen. 14:14. At I Sam 4:1 he's probably merely contrasting the author-narrator's [i.e. "sofer's"--MS] perspective with that of the players in the story, concerning the phrases in both Samuel and Genesis (in the case in Samuel there would be no reason for him to introduce a later editor)."
As is often the case in these sorts of disputes, I find myself being moved by the last argument I hear. As I noted in the earlier post, Radak elsewhere insists on complete Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Thus, it is certainly easier to read this text in a way that would not create a contradiction.
While on the subject of Mosaic authorship, let me also add the following. David Singer recently wrote an interesting article on Rabbi Emanuel Rackman. With the recent passing of Rabbi Moses Mescheloff, Rackman, born in 1910, might be the oldest living musmach of RIETS. If this is so, don't expect this to be acknowledged in any way by the powers at YU. The ideological winds have blown rightward in the last thirty years, and Rackman has moved leftward. He is thus no longer regarded as representative of RIETS or worthy of any acknowledgment.
A similar thing happened at Hebrew Theological College in Skokie. Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits (died 1992) was, in my opinion, the most significant and influential person ever to teach on its faculty. (Unfortunately, they didn't let him teach Talmud, only philosophy.) Yet not only does HTC currently have no interest in recognizing him, in 2001, some eighteen years (!) after the appearance of Not in Heaven, a very negative review appeared in the Academic Journal of Hebrew Theological College. To show how insignificant Berkovits is in Skokie, neither the author, Rabbi Chaim Twerski, nor any of the editors, realized that his last name is not spelled Berkowitz! Were he alive today, can anyone imagine that HTC would allow him to speak? (It would be interesting to create a list of people who founded or taught at institutions and today would be persona non grata there. A few come to mind, and for now let me just mention R. Zev Gold, the outstanding Mizrachi leader who was one of the founders, and first president, of Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. Gold, who was also a rabbi in Scranton, was one of the signers of Israel's declaration of independence.)
Some people pointed out that in Twerski's negative review, Berkovits is never even referred to as Rabbi, only as Dr. (A cynic might add that in his zeal to use the title "Dr." instead of "Rabbi" for those he doesn't approve of, Twerski even gives R. Judah Leib Maimon a doctorate, referring to him as Dr. Maimon.) In the following issue, Twerski apologizes for any disrespect, noting that while some people took offense at how he referred to Berkovits, others "who know [!] him well have told me that he always preferred to be addressed as 'Dr. Berkovits.'" I think this is a fair response. After all, would anyone criticize an author for referring to "Dr. Lamm"? Yet I must also say that someone reading the article will not learn that Berkovits was a great talmudic scholar, and I don't even know if Twerski recognizes this.
Returning to Singer, in his article he writes that Rackman accepted the Documentary Hypothesis. I discussed this issue with Rackman some years ago and this is definitely not what he told me. The most he would say was that he would not regard someone as a heretic if he accepted biblical criticism. Yet he personally was not a believer in the theory. In support of Singer's assertion to the contrary, he quotes the following passage from Rackman: "The most definitive record of God's encounters with man is contained in the Pentateuch. Much of it may have been written by people in different times, but at one point in history God not only made the people of Israel aware of his immediacy, but caused Moses to write the eternal evidence of the covenant between Him and His people." He also quotes another statement by Rackman: "[T]he sanctity of the Pentateuch does not derive from God's authorship of all of it, but rather from the fact that God's is the final version. The final writing by Moses has the stamp of divinity – the kiss of immortality."
Singer misunderstands Rackman. There is no Higher Criticism here, no Documentary Hypothesis. What Rackman is saying is that the stories in the Pentateuch might have been recorded by various people before Moses, but that these stories were later included in the Torah at God's command, with Moses being the final author. In both of these passages Rackman is explicit that the Torah was written by Moses. Rackman's position in these quotations is very traditional, asserting that all that appears in the Torah is Mosaic. With this conception it doesn't matter if, for example, the stories of Noah or the Patriarchs had earlier written versions passed down among the Israelites, since what makes them holy and part of the Torah is God's command to Moses that they be included in the Holy Book. This was done by Moses' "final writing." I can't see anyone, even the most traditional, finding a problem in this.
While on the subject of Rackman, let me make a bibliographical point. R. Moshe Feinstein, Iggerot Moshe, Yoreh Deah IV, no. 50:2 refers to:
המאמרים של רב אחד שמחשבים אותו לרב ארטאדקאקסי שנדפסו בעיתון שבשפת אנגלית . . . והנה ראינו שכולם דברי כפירה בתורה שבעל פה המסורה לנו.
R. Moshe goes on to further attack the heresy of this unnamed rabbi, who is none other than Rackman. This can be seen by examining Ha-Pardes, May 1973, p. 7, where R. Moshe's letter first appeared. It is not a private communication but is described as coming from Agudat ha-Rabbonim of the United States and Canada, and R. Moshe signs as president of the organization. Earlier in this issue (it is the lead article) and also in the April 1973 Ha-Pardes, R. Simhah Elberg published his own attack on Rackman, referring to him as ראביי ר. Elberg refers to Rackman's articles which appeared regularly in the American Examiner, and which so agitated the haredim – and also many of the centrist Orthodox. This paper then joined with the Jewish Week, and became known as the Jewish Week and American Examiner. Rackman continued to publish in the paper until around 2001. (His article discussing my biography of Weinberg was one of the last ones he would write, and it is reprinted in the second edition of One Man's Judaism [Jerusalem, 2000], pp. 402-404.)
3. Many people were interested in the claim, quoted in an earlier post, that rabbis turned over their own children to become soldiers if these children were no longer observant. If something like this ever happened it would have been very heartless, and there were, of course, many children of gedolim who became non-religious. While in some cases the child choosing a different path led to estrangement with his father, in others, father and son remained close, and I think today everyone realizes that this is the only proper approach to take.
R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg thought that it might be a good idea for a father to attend his son's intermarriage, in order not to break ties completely. (Believe it or not, this statement was published in Yated Neeman.
) Yet to see how different things were in years past, at least among some parts of our community, consider the following responsum by the important Hungarian posek, R. Jacob Tenenbaum.
The case concerned an Orthodox shochet whose son went to the בית האון
(This means the non-Orthodox rabbinical seminary in Budapest, against which the Orthodox rabbis carried on a crusade.) The problem was that during his vacations the son came home to his parents' house. Tenenbaum was asked if this meant that the shochet was disqualified and could no longer serve the community. The father pleaded that he loved his son, and Tenenbaum replied that התנצלות זה הוא הבל
. Tenenbaum also rejected the father's claim that if he doesn't show love to his son, the latter will go even further "off the derech."
Tenenbaum demanded that the father make a complete break with his son (that is, if the father wanted to be regarded as a Jew in good standing). The choice was clear: The father had to decide between loving his son and making a living (for if chose the former he would be blacklisted throughout the country):
ואם אביו יתן לו מקום בביתו או יתמכהו באיזה דבר בזה יגלה דעתו שגם בו נזרקה מינות [!] ובזה אין חילוק בין שו"ב לאיש אחר . . . אם יחזיק ידו או יתן לו מקום בביתו הנה ידו במעל הזה אשר בנו פנה עורף לדת ה' ועל כן צא טמא יאמר לו, ושלא יוסיף עוד ראות פניו אם לא ישמע לדבריו לעזוב דרך רשע.
I know this sounds like a Hungarian extremist approach, but R. Kook had basically the same viewpoint. In Da'at Kohen no. 7, he too is asked about a shochet whose non-religious sons live at home. R. Kook replies that while technically the actions of the sons do not destroy the hezkat kashrut of the father, nevertheless, the matter is very distasteful (מכוער). Even if the father could not be blamed at all in this matter, nevertheless, it is a hillul ha-shem. Since the beit din has the power to legislate in matters beyond the strict law, "there is no migdar milta greater than this." He explains the reason for his uncompromising viewpoint:
שלא ילמדו אחרים להפקירות עוד יותר, כשרואין שבניו של השו"ב הקבוע הם מחללים ש"ק, ע"כ לע"ד ברור הדבר, שכ"ז שבניו הם סמוכין על שולחנו, ואין פוסקין מחילול ש"ק, איננו ראוי להיות שו"ב קבוע, ומה גם בעדה חרדית.
If this is said about a shochet, how much more would it apply to a rav of a community. It is therefore easy to understand why non-religious children of some well-known rabbis are no longer welcome in their parents' home. (Other well-known rabbis have a completely different outlook, and reject what they would categorize as the conditional-love approach of Rabbis Tenenbaum and Kook).
4. Since I have mentioned R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg a few times, I must call