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New York - Halachic Analysis: YouTube Clip Mocking The Avos and the Mitzvos

Published on: November 24, 2010 10:25 AM
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New York - There is a YouTube video (see below) that is circling the frum blogosphere, which, in a rather deprecating manner, makes light of the Gemorah in Yuma 28b (and the Midrashim as well) that Avrohom our forefather and the Avos fulfilled the entire Torah (see e.g. Bereishis Rabbah 82:14). 

Often, people who wish to impugn the positions of others create a “strawman” espousing the opposite viewpoint, and then knock it down to the cheers and laughter of their fellow cynics.  An analysis of the video reveals that the agenda of the Youtube video producer was to push some of the left-of-center aspects of the Yeshiva University Hashkafa and to undermine the lessons taught in the more Yeshivesh circles.  It also mocks one of the Gedolei HaDor- Rav Elyashiv Shlita – and does so in a very unbecoming manner.

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There are three approaches that can be found among the Meforshim when dealing with this Gemorah and others similar to it.  They range from what we can term the maximalist position, to the minimalist position, to the mid-level position.

The maximalist position of course is the most well known and, much to the chagrin of the producer of the Youtube video, was espoused in its literal form by the greatest sages of Israel.  Thus, for example the Radbaz in a responsa (Vol. II #696) explains that Yaakov was able to marry two sisters because he converted them and they were like a child just born from a halachic standpoint.  This explanation is the most common manner in which the Meforshim deal with such halachic questions and is the standard approach to the Gemorah in Yuma.  No less an authority than the Maharsha (Bava Basra 16b) understands the Gemorah in its most literal form.  Rashi in numerous places understands the Gemorah in this manner, often in places where the other two positions simply would not fit in well.  Indeed, Rabbi Yechezkel Landau (Tzlach Chulin 91a) writes explicitly that there is not even an opinion that learns any other way!

The minimalist position believes that this Gemorah should be understood in a somewhat allegorical sense – in other words we should and must look and view the Avos and their children in the sense that they actually did perform all of the Mitzvos.  Why so?  There might be a tendency among the masses to view the patriarchs of Klal Yisroel in a somewhat lesser light because they did not have the sophisticated and more developed aspects of Avodas Hashem that we might have.  “For Avrohom Avinu – a Bris Milah was a nisayon – for me – it is a spiritual experience that I look forward to..” – might be an example of such thinking.

According to this view, the Gemorah in Yuma is instructing us not to view things in such a manner.  Just like the Gemorah elsewhere tells us that whomsoever embarrasses someone it is as if he killed him ( Bava Metziah 58b) – the Gemorah is educating us to view things in such a manner in order to develop the proper outlook on such things.  The same argument could be made for Bikkur Cholim and escorting a guest.  In other words Chazal will sometimes make an extreme statement to make a point (Tosfos actually says this position).  The minimalist position will extend that thought to our Gemorah here in Yuma 28b.

Below is the video clip that has generated more then 29K hits since it was posted a few days ago.

The Avos – the Patriarchs were the founders of who we are as a people – the trials and tribulations that they experienced formed who we are as a nation.  Whomsoever is merciful, shy and performs acts of lovingkindness demonstrates a sign that they descend from the patriarchs (See Yevamos 79a). We must therefore look at the Avos, according to this view, with the perspective that they fulfilled every Mitzvah – even the Rabbinic ones.  Why?  So that no one will Heaven forbid think less of them than they should. [And let’s not think for a second that people will not do so.  The agenda lately of historians and pseudo-historians trying to paint the founders of the United States in a very negative light, lehavdil, is proof positive that this view exists and affects people’s perceptions.]

The main proponents of the minimalist position can possibly be found on the verse in Bereishis 26L5 where Hashem says that Avrohom observed Hashem’s Mitzvos, Chukim and Torah laws.  The RaDaK and other commentators go to great lengths to identify the specific incidents in Avrohom Avinu’s life that refer and fit into these words.  The RaDak indicates that the words refer to the ethical Mitzvos.  If the RaDak held to a maximalist position why is there a need to provide these alternative readings to Rashi?  Also, even though the RaDaK prefers the Gemorah in Yuma’s explanation, his citation of the Gemorah as an alternative explanation shows that there is a minimalist view too.

The Ramban’s suggests an explanation that is counter to the maximalist position in his comments to this verse which he introduces with the words “And according to the manner of Pshat.”  Clearly, he too allows for a minimalist position.  Other Rishonim on the verse that propose alternatives to the maximalist pshat are Seforno, Chezkuni, and the Ibn Ezra.

The Ramah (responsa Siman 10), seems to indicate that he held of a minimalist position.  Certainly, he learns that Yaakov Avinu did not observe the Mitzvos in this manner.  The Kesef Mishna (Hilchos Malachim 9:1) seems to understand that Avrohom Avinu did not keep the Mitzvah of Maaser and only Yitzchok innovated it.  Tosfos (Chulin 91a) deals with the possibility that the sons of Yaakov, in fact, did not fully observe the Mitzvos and this position could fit into the minimalist view as well.  The Shirei Taharah cited in the Sdei Chemed [Letter Hay #1] writes that the Gemorah in Yuma refers only to Avrohom Avinu and not to the other Avos or the Shevatim.

The minimalist view also seems to be the understanding of first explanation in the Shla’s introduction (end of point zayin).  The Avos, are viewed as the Merkavah itself according to the Zohar.  They certainly observed the roots of the Mitzvos, but not actively bepoel until later (see point ches through tes in the Shlah).  His understanding of the Gemorah in Yuma according to what he writes in the introduction would fit nicely with what we have written here.  Even so, however, later on in Parshas Toldos, he reverts back to the maximalist position.

Another view that is somewhat related to the minimalist view is that the Torah specifically wanted us to view the Avos as having fulfilled every aspect of Torah and of Rabbinic law as a tool to assist in the exposition of Torah law.

[Rabbeinu Bachya (Bereishis 26:5) espouses the view that the Avos only kept the entire Torah while in Eretz Yisroel.  This view is also somewhat related to a minimalist position.]

The midlevel position is espoused by Rav Tzadok haKohain in Pri Tzaddik - Dvarim leRosh Chodesh Elul (#3).  He clearly learns that Avrohom’s Ruach HaKodesh did not extend to the point where he was aware of the future Mitzvos and future Rabbinic enactments.  Rather, he derived them from sheer logic and the analysis of the behavior of the animal kingdom.  He indicates this position by use of the words “uMehaichan lamad?”  His conclusion is that he learned it from the Briah – creation.  In other words there was a philosophical derivation of the Torah’s Mitzvos and that may be the intent of the Gemorah.

The viewpoints of saintly Torah authorities should never ever be subjected to ridicule. It is wrong and unbecoming of members of a Torah nation.  This is especially true in regard to a Youtube video done with sarcasm, cynicism and an openly mocking, deprecating tone.

We should also bear in mind, of course, backing up the maximalist position, that there always existed a pre-Sinaitic Torah.  Noach was told to take both Tameh and pure animals.  This is clearly from the perspective of Kashrus.  This demonstrably indicates that at least some aspects of Torah were known before Har Sinai.  The Hammurabi Code also has many elements of Torah law, however miscommunicated those sections may be through the “Telephone Game” of those times.

There were also Mitzvos that existed in different forms in pre-Sinaitic times.  For example, the Ramban tells us that the Mitzvah of Yibum prior to Har Sinai was different.  Then the essential Mitzvah was on the father of the household.  The Mitzvah of Bris Milah was also different during Avrohom Avinu’s time.  He did not perform Priyah as the Gemorah (Yevamos 71b) informs us.  We, however, do.  In response to the specific issues brought up in the video – there is no question that this notion of Mitzvos in a different form was observed.  So, no, Yaakov could not look ahead and read what it said about Mechiras Yoseph and saved him all that aggravation because even in the maximalist position, this Mitzvah was in a different form.

The overwhelming majority of Torah authorities, however, clearly and completely hold of the maximalist position, and this is the general position that should be taught in our Torah institutions. When one is involved in Kiruv or deals with people that have been raised in secular environments, it is the opinion of this author that all three positions should be presented.  None of the positions, however, should ever be mocked or derided.  This is not the Torah way.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com  


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Read Comments (69)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Nov 24, 2010 at 10:38 AM BuckyinWisconsin Says:

Very nice article. Chazal have dealt with all these issues many times over, and it only takes some minimal research to find them. So, some amoratzim make a video. No big whup. If it was not in VIN I never would have even heard nor cared about it.

2

 Nov 24, 2010 at 10:46 AM Anonymous Says:

It's an excellent little cartoon.

3

 Nov 24, 2010 at 10:49 AM DavidMoshe Says:

"Noach was told to take both Tameh and pure animals. This is clearly from the perspective of Kashrus. This demonstrably indicates that at least some aspects of Torah were known before Har Sinai."

Alternately, it demonstrates that the guy who wrote down the Noah story was not only familiar with various flood legends from local mythology, but was also familiar with other aspects of Jewish ritual. That makes a great deal more sense, in light of all the available evidence.

The idea mocked in the video-- that the avos kept all the mitzvoth-- is pretty much ridiculous on its face, and, notwithstanding the author's efforts, I find it difficult to imagine taking it all that seriously. But then, this is about belief, and not reason. As the saying goes, for believers there are no questions, and for unbelievers there are no answers.

8

 Nov 24, 2010 at 10:51 AM nyfunnyman Says:

Rabbi Hoffman, i respect your analysis, not just this article, but all of yours. but saying that "he agenda of the Youtube video producer was to push some of the left-of-center aspects of the Yeshiva University Hashkafa " is like saying that the unabomber represents harvard and george w. bush represents Yale.

9

 Nov 24, 2010 at 10:51 AM Barzilai Says:

As Rabbi Hoffman says, there's a difference between respectful disagreement and Letizanus. Sincere argument is the foundation of our method of analysis. Without a good chavrusa to argue with, you really don't get anywhere. Leitzanus, on the other hand, delegitimizes the other side, and is what Chazal refer to in Perek Chelek as being mevazeh torah. I'm very sad for the person/people who put up that video. It's so very hard to be chozer biteshuva for an aveira of that magnitude.

10

 Nov 24, 2010 at 11:04 AM Askupeh Says:

I cannot see the video, as YouTube is blocked on my computer; but this is a well written article, showing a lot of knowledge and a Talmid Chochom. Thanks Rabbi Hoffman.

11

 Nov 24, 2010 at 11:20 AM Anonymous Says:

why the gratuitous attack on Yeshiva University?? (Ironic considering that the author's central argument is his anger over a gratuitous attack.)

12

 Nov 24, 2010 at 11:22 AM charliehall Says:

"he converted them"

And that is actually proof that Yaakov Avinu did NOT keep all the mitzvot, as the gemara in Yevamot explicitly requires a beit din of three for a conversion. Alternatively, it proves that contrary to the opinion of all acharonim, a beit din is not necessary for a kosher conversion. (The Radvaz was a rishon so presumably he trumps acharonim, and this would be a legimate position.)

The gemara in Sanhedrin 58 clearly treats the Avot as Noachides, permitting them to marry paternal relatives l'chatchila. To say that this constitutes "keeping all the mitzvot" is very misleading.

"The overwhelming majority of Torah authorities, however, clearly and completely hold of the maximalist position"

And those who do so they go against an explicit, unopposed, gemara, referenced above.

"push some of the left-of-center aspects of the Yeshiva University Hashkafa "
"None of the positions, however, should ever be mocked or derided."

And that is precisely what Rabbi Hoffman is doing with his gratuitous slander at YU.

13

 Nov 24, 2010 at 11:25 AM charliehall Says:

The video does not mock the Avot or the Mitzvot, chas v'shalom. It mocks instead the tendency in much of Judaism to insist on the most outlandish farfetched interpretations, some of which are clearly inconsistent with explicit statements from Chazal as I noted in my previous comment. There is absolutely NO chiyuv to accept the maximalist interpretation here and there are a lot of reasons not to.

14

 Nov 24, 2010 at 11:25 AM Aryeh Says:

The Avos are the only ones who fully performed the 613 mitzvot. Our mitzvot are only a reflection of theirs.

15

 Nov 24, 2010 at 11:33 AM Anonymous Says:

"None of the positions, however, should ever be mocked or derided. " - This may in fact be true, but then why is the title of this article - " YouTube Clip Mocking The Avos and the Mitzvos". Once again this is a misleading article title. The point was to refer to the difference between the minimalist view vs the maximum view, not to mock avos or mitzvos. In my opinion, while it is disrespectful to call out a specific Rav in this manner, the rest of it does not strike me as a problem. It is no different than a purim shpiel which takes on political opinions. I think people need to lighten up. I even think G-d has more of a sense of humor than some of His followers do.

16

 Nov 24, 2010 at 11:49 AM charliehall Says:

Following up on my previous comments, the minimalist position is also problematic as Chazal often use the actions of the avot to derive halachah. The reality is much more complex than indicated here.

"for believers there are no questions, and for unbelievers there are no answers."

I don't know where that is from, but it is certainly not a Jewish philosophy. We are trained to question! And we don't have to know all the answers before we follow in the Torah path -- in fact it is impossible for a mere mortal to know all the answers. In Judiasm, for believers there are MANY questions, and we understand that we will NOT get answers to every question.

17

 Nov 24, 2010 at 11:52 AM Jersey Yid Says:

I don't where the author gets the nerve to call this Yeshiva University hashkafa. I believe the Roshei Yeshiva there know all the sources cited by the author and then some. I've read some his articles before and they are pretty brazen, I hope he has the credentials to back it up. I know very big talmidai chachomim that would never talk this way. Also, there are many Roshei Yeshiva at YU and they may have different views on the subject, all of which, mind you are respected by one another, if they are in accordance any of the many mesorah traditions.

18

 Nov 24, 2010 at 11:53 AM Shlomo2 Says:

The video does not mock the idea that the Avos kept the mitzvos. It only points out the mindlessness of those who accept this as absolutely literal history.

It also does not mock Rav Elyashiv.
For you to say that as a given and then associate this with a particular group of Orthodox Jews is a far worse aveira than the leitzanus of posting this video on YouTube.

19

 Nov 24, 2010 at 11:55 AM bni47 Says:

Reply to #3  
DavidMoshe Says:

"Noach was told to take both Tameh and pure animals. This is clearly from the perspective of Kashrus. This demonstrably indicates that at least some aspects of Torah were known before Har Sinai."

Alternately, it demonstrates that the guy who wrote down the Noah story was not only familiar with various flood legends from local mythology, but was also familiar with other aspects of Jewish ritual. That makes a great deal more sense, in light of all the available evidence.

The idea mocked in the video-- that the avos kept all the mitzvoth-- is pretty much ridiculous on its face, and, notwithstanding the author's efforts, I find it difficult to imagine taking it all that seriously. But then, this is about belief, and not reason. As the saying goes, for believers there are no questions, and for unbelievers there are no answers.

You are an Apikorius. Don't ever mock rabbonim.

20

 Nov 24, 2010 at 12:02 PM DavidMoshe Says:

"The viewpoints of saintly Torah authorities should never ever be subjected to ridicule."

Because ridicule might lead people to actually think about those views, rather than accept them blindly based on their having been espoused by "saintly Torah authorities." The ultimate denigration of an opinion is to place it above criticism-- it's nothing more than an admission that the opinion is not capable of surviving on its own merits. If a "saintly" authority's views can't stand a little humor, then one has to seriously question our views of sainthood.

21

 Nov 24, 2010 at 12:12 PM Barzilai Says:

To CharlieHall and all the defenders of YU: Yes, certainly every yeshiva comprises people with a range of opinions, just as every ethnic group a range of people of differing character. Still, the unfortunate truth is that in real life, we go bassar rov when there's a safek; you define a group on the basis of the median. I don't think anyone has done a study yet, and YU people always jump up and say "That's anecdotal!" but on the basis of my experience, I would say that the attitude expressed, albeit crassly and disrespectfully, by the video maker, could fairly be attributed to the assumptive YU alumnus. One certainly couldn't say that about Telz, or Chaim Berlin, or Torah Va'Daas, or Lakewood, or Philly, or Staten Island. So what's your complaint?

22

 Nov 24, 2010 at 12:50 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #19  
bni47 Says:

You are an Apikorius. Don't ever mock rabbonim.

"You are an Apikorius. Don't ever mock rabbonim.”

Sorry, but rabbonim are human like anyone else and are fair game for satire, especially when they make statements that Avrham avinu and the other avos were somehow mekayem taryag mitzvos. Beyond the simple absurdity of the statement in either an historical or allegorical context, the statement implies a level of perfection that only exists with the ebeshter himself/herself (so as not to upset our egalitarian readers). Thus, whatever mocking might have been implicit in the video, which I didn't really see, is entirely appropriate and proper.

23

 Nov 24, 2010 at 12:50 PM Reb Yid Says:

The video doesn't mock the avos or the mitzvos. It addresses certainly logical problems with certain hashkafic opinions. The only thing it does mock is narrowmindedness--the tendency to "pasken" hashkafa definitively and to be machria between gedolei harishonim on hashkafic issues.

24

 Nov 24, 2010 at 12:46 PM Miguel Says:

First off, the title of this article is (intentionally?) misleading. This clip does not mock the avos or the mitzvos in any way. Nor does it mock any rishonim. Any open-minded person watching this understands it for what it is. It mocks the tendency some people have of grabbing on to the most extreme explanations and holding that up as the only truth. And again, the YU mention in this clip does not mean this a YU viewpoint. It's again mocking those who call things YU because it doesn't jive with what they learned in cheder.

25

 Nov 24, 2010 at 12:37 PM kollelfaker Says:

this was great it isnt picking on torah or torah true jews but the chumrah society we have become whether you like it or not the questions are good and as usual the kollel or chareidie had no answers the reason most are upset angry or incensed is that they cant answer this as well

26

 Nov 24, 2010 at 12:31 PM Askupeh Says:

Reply to #20  
DavidMoshe Says:

"The viewpoints of saintly Torah authorities should never ever be subjected to ridicule."

Because ridicule might lead people to actually think about those views, rather than accept them blindly based on their having been espoused by "saintly Torah authorities." The ultimate denigration of an opinion is to place it above criticism-- it's nothing more than an admission that the opinion is not capable of surviving on its own merits. If a "saintly" authority's views can't stand a little humor, then one has to seriously question our views of sainthood.

You obviously think that you have a monopoly on thinking, that you are the thinker who questions, but everyone else is dumb and accepts everything blindly.

Regarding Litzanus a good example is that the "Litzonei Hador Hoyo Oimrim MeAvimelech Nisabreh Sorah", so the question is why the "Litzonei Hador", why not the "Reshiyei Hador"? The answer is because if anyone would stand up and say seriously that "MeAvimelech Nisabreh Sorah" they would have been charged with slander and put to death, but when a Letz is confronted on "how can you say such a thing", he answers I just made a joke. That’s why it was the "Litzonei" Hador who were the ones saying MeAvimelech Nisabreh Sorah.

Litzoness of the Torah never leads to a better understanding as you claim, but it always leads to Kefira, hence the point Rabbi Hoffman makes.

27

 Nov 24, 2010 at 12:17 PM Anonymous Says:

Get a life (and a sense of humor). If the big rabbonim cannot laugh at themselves occasionally, than thats just too bad. This video is cute, funny and educational...not somthing one typically would associate with any of Elyashiv's seforim or writings. Yidden have always survived in part because of their ability to laugh through both good times and bad. The chareidi influence is quickly squeezing out any degree of lightness and humor from yiddeshkeit with their obcessive focus on chumrahs and inability to laugh at themselves and their leaders.

28

 Nov 24, 2010 at 12:18 PM charliehall Says:

'The overwhelming majority of Torah authorities, however, clearly and completely hold of the maximalist position'

The essay, however, brings down far more sources that disagree with the maximalist position.

29

 Nov 24, 2010 at 12:25 PM Kanaim Says:

Reply to #20  
DavidMoshe Says:

"The viewpoints of saintly Torah authorities should never ever be subjected to ridicule."

Because ridicule might lead people to actually think about those views, rather than accept them blindly based on their having been espoused by "saintly Torah authorities." The ultimate denigration of an opinion is to place it above criticism-- it's nothing more than an admission that the opinion is not capable of surviving on its own merits. If a "saintly" authority's views can't stand a little humor, then one has to seriously question our views of sainthood.

Mamesh apikorsus & kefira. If a Gadol says it, it is true just by virtue of his saying it. He doesn't have to prove squat to you. He didn't become a recognized Gadol by making up things. He has already earned his authority. If he says day is night, then you daven maariv. The end.

30

 Nov 24, 2010 at 12:28 PM Y.U.Man Says:

As a proud graduate of Y.U. and Talmud of the Rav, I take great exception to R. Hoffman's callous denunciation of Y.U. I did not see the video and have no intention to. Unless it was produced by Y.U., you have no right to associate Y.U. with its production and, further, accuse Y.U of having hashkofos that are inferior to those you purportedly abide by. You certainly are not careful with being "motzi shem ra."
For all you know, it was produced by some kids at risk from some chassidishe Boro Park Yeshivos.

31

 Nov 24, 2010 at 12:28 PM BenZvi Says:

Very simplistic article. Why is it not ok to simply acknowledge that"we don't know" instead of wrapping it all up in a neat little package with a bow on top? I think the cartoonists tongue in cheek video merely pointed out these inconsistencies in a lighthearted way. The reason so many of our generation think this way is because of the behavior of our so called "gedolim". Rebbes who are brothers fight, go to court, and behave in a manner that betrays the inner meaning and reasons of the Torah. Litvishe rosh yeshivos are no better. Young people ask: what is the meaning of Kashrus? According to the Rishonim it's designed to cause people to think and not to be an achzor. The same with "oso v'es b'no" says RMbN etc. Instead, we see today a huge uproar when someone sells treif meat to an entire community and no one says "maybe we don't DESERVE kosher meat"...... Maybe Hashem is sending us a message that if we behave with achzorios toward children applying to our "maximalist" exalted mosdos, then the whole Kosher thing is one big joke? Have we put way too much emphasis on "maximalism" to the detriment of the beauty of Torah? How do we look at our cycle of life in our "heimishe" Community starting with the "baalebatishkeit" in everything We do, including our chinuch, shidduchim etc..? Are we afraid to look in the mirror? Is that why we're drawn to create some smokey hocus pokus "hashkofos" We truly know NOTHING about, like when the RaMbM says that the three visiting Avrohom Ovinu was a dream..... And the RaMbaN strenuously disagrees.....? What REALLY happened? Do we have any real "view"??? View what? Were you there? Can't we get back to basics at the expense of the metaphysics?

35

 Nov 24, 2010 at 01:08 PM raykaufm Says:

The issue goes beyond whether or not one subscribes to a particular rishon's pshat, the minimalist view or the maximalist view. None of the questions raised is particularly new and, as R' Hoffmann poits out, have been delt with over the years. I believe that the point of the cartoon is not to make fun of chazal, CV. The point I see is that the cartoon protagonist does not deal with the perfectly legitimate questions asked ,as does R' Hoffmann . Instead he calls the questioner an kofer. It is a great problem in many yeshivas that asking real questions is discouraged and, worst case, is called kefirah.

36

 Nov 24, 2010 at 01:08 PM Yerachmiel Says:

N writes, among other things:

The video was not addressing the Gemara, but rather one particular maximalist interpretation of the Gemara, which is that the Avos actually kept all the mitzvos as given on Sinai, such as writing a Sefer Torah. It was not mocking the minimalist interpretation, which explains the Gemara to mean that the Avos were outstanding people, in a way that today would be expressed by keeping the entire Torah.

Rabbi Hoffman himself acknowledges that various versions of the minimalist interpretation are proposed by Radak, Ramban, Ramah, Tosafos, Seforno, Chezkuni, Ibn Ezra, and R. Yosef Karo. To this list can be added Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam and Meiri (in his introduction to Pirkei Avos), and there can be little doubt that Rambam subscribed to the same view. Despite the illustrious list of prominent Rishonim presenting the minimalist view, Rabbi Hoffman claims that "the overwhelming majority of Torah authorities, however, clearly and completely hold of the maximalist position, and this is the general position that should be taught in our Torah institutions." How on earth can he simply dismiss the views of so many prominent Rishonim as not even worthy of being taught in Torah institutions. This is an astonishing show of disrespect towards these Rishonim which leads to people reacting with mockery.

Rabbi Hoffman's essay is an appalling demonstration of disrespect towards Rishonim.

37

 Nov 24, 2010 at 01:08 PM charliehall Says:

Rabbi Natan Slifkin has commented on the video and Rabbi Hoffman's essay. Here is the link:

http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2010/11/another-reformation-of-judaism.html

38

 Nov 24, 2010 at 01:06 PM Askupeh Says:

Reply to #22  
Anonymous Says:

"You are an Apikorius. Don't ever mock rabbonim.”

Sorry, but rabbonim are human like anyone else and are fair game for satire, especially when they make statements that Avrham avinu and the other avos were somehow mekayem taryag mitzvos. Beyond the simple absurdity of the statement in either an historical or allegorical context, the statement implies a level of perfection that only exists with the ebeshter himself/herself (so as not to upset our egalitarian readers). Thus, whatever mocking might have been implicit in the video, which I didn't really see, is entirely appropriate and proper.

So the Talmud is absurd is essentially what you saying. A satirical mocking of Abaye and Rova would be perfectly fine with you. Fair game you say.

39

 Nov 24, 2010 at 01:22 PM Askupeh Says:

Reply to #36  
Yerachmiel Says:

N writes, among other things:

The video was not addressing the Gemara, but rather one particular maximalist interpretation of the Gemara, which is that the Avos actually kept all the mitzvos as given on Sinai, such as writing a Sefer Torah. It was not mocking the minimalist interpretation, which explains the Gemara to mean that the Avos were outstanding people, in a way that today would be expressed by keeping the entire Torah.

Rabbi Hoffman himself acknowledges that various versions of the minimalist interpretation are proposed by Radak, Ramban, Ramah, Tosafos, Seforno, Chezkuni, Ibn Ezra, and R. Yosef Karo. To this list can be added Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam and Meiri (in his introduction to Pirkei Avos), and there can be little doubt that Rambam subscribed to the same view. Despite the illustrious list of prominent Rishonim presenting the minimalist view, Rabbi Hoffman claims that "the overwhelming majority of Torah authorities, however, clearly and completely hold of the maximalist position, and this is the general position that should be taught in our Torah institutions." How on earth can he simply dismiss the views of so many prominent Rishonim as not even worthy of being taught in Torah institutions. This is an astonishing show of disrespect towards these Rishonim which leads to people reacting with mockery.

Rabbi Hoffman's essay is an appalling demonstration of disrespect towards Rishonim.

The answer is that most if not all the Rishoinim and Achroinim you mention, they themselves taught the maximalist way to their Talmidim.

40

 Nov 24, 2010 at 01:44 PM Kanaim Says:

OK I watched this video. Pretty funny if you like apikorsus.

41

 Nov 24, 2010 at 01:50 PM DavidMoshe Says:

Reply to #19  
bni47 Says:

You are an Apikorius. Don't ever mock rabbonim.

Or else what? You'll call me more names?

42

 Nov 24, 2010 at 01:56 PM DavidMoshe Says:

Reply to #26  
Askupeh Says:

You obviously think that you have a monopoly on thinking, that you are the thinker who questions, but everyone else is dumb and accepts everything blindly.

Regarding Litzanus a good example is that the "Litzonei Hador Hoyo Oimrim MeAvimelech Nisabreh Sorah", so the question is why the "Litzonei Hador", why not the "Reshiyei Hador"? The answer is because if anyone would stand up and say seriously that "MeAvimelech Nisabreh Sorah" they would have been charged with slander and put to death, but when a Letz is confronted on "how can you say such a thing", he answers I just made a joke. That’s why it was the "Litzonei" Hador who were the ones saying MeAvimelech Nisabreh Sorah.

Litzoness of the Torah never leads to a better understanding as you claim, but it always leads to Kefira, hence the point Rabbi Hoffman makes.

How do you know that what you call "kefira" isn't really a better understanding? Your argument is that refusing to treat opinions as so sacred that they are above criticism leads one to doubt the validity of those opinions. That's almost certainly true; so what? If the only way an opinion can be sustained is to put it beyond question, then it's probably not a very sound opinion. One whose faith is so weak that he can't permit others to question his views is not only a kofer (since he knows that his beliefs won't survive scrutiny), but a hypocrite as well.

43

 Nov 24, 2010 at 02:04 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #30  
Y.U.Man Says:

As a proud graduate of Y.U. and Talmud of the Rav, I take great exception to R. Hoffman's callous denunciation of Y.U. I did not see the video and have no intention to. Unless it was produced by Y.U., you have no right to associate Y.U. with its production and, further, accuse Y.U of having hashkofos that are inferior to those you purportedly abide by. You certainly are not careful with being "motzi shem ra."
For all you know, it was produced by some kids at risk from some chassidishe Boro Park Yeshivos.

You're right about the author unjustifiably associating this video with Y.U. But I think you can agree that it was probably created by a Y.U. alumni, definitely not by at-risk kids from BP. "Halevai" they should challenge the frum establishment with something semi intelligent like this, however disrespectful it may be !!!!

44

 Nov 24, 2010 at 02:05 PM NeveAliza Says:

I understood the video to mock people who regurgitate what they might've heard in shiur without thinking it through or questioning whether it is consistent with other Torah principles. I don't see it as making fun of Rishonim or the Gemorah.
However, I did find Rabbi Hoffman's tone and comments about YU deplorable.

45

 Nov 24, 2010 at 02:12 PM NeveAliza Says:

Reply to #40  
Kanaim Says:

OK I watched this video. Pretty funny if you like apikorsus.

Come on Kannaim, you really didn't watch the video. After all, in your comment #29 you said that what a Gadol dictates you need to blindly follow. You probably are well aware that Rav Eliyashiv is against using the internet and watching these types of videos. So under whose authority did you watch?

46

 Nov 24, 2010 at 02:13 PM stevenberger Says:

The overwhelming majority of Torah authorities, however, clearly and completely hold of the maximalist position, and this is the general position that should be taught in our Torah institutions. When one is involved in Kiruv or deals with people that have been raised in secular environments, it is the opinion of this author that all three positions should be presented.

I don't understand this. You should hide the shitas of a lot of the rishonim from ffbs? What?

47

 Nov 24, 2010 at 02:17 PM ngbkny Says:

part of being jewish is asking questions,one who learns would understand this. every sefer that we have is because someone was asking questions and those questions needed answers. this clip is the same its asking questions and not the easy questions. I understand the questions that are being asked in this clip, and they do make sense. If someone lived in the past how can he know whats in the furture, just as today i dont know what will happen tomorrow. understanding this. if this person had knowedlege of the future why didnt he stop certain events and why did he do certain actions and not other actions. its not a bad question it just has to be answered by someone who knows the right answers. calling the people who made this clip different derogertore names does not help at all. they have to be guided to people who can really answer their questions. also these questions are not questions that every jew thinks about everyday why ? because your beleif in gd is stronger then others which is great but not everyone is so strong and putting them down does not help at all.

48

 Nov 24, 2010 at 02:25 PM mythoughts Says:

Reply to #40  
Kanaim Says:

OK I watched this video. Pretty funny if you like apikorsus.

Disagreeing with one opinion of this controversial issue doesn't make it apikorsus. The entire Torah is about discussion and argument. Fanatics with the holier than thou attitude, such as yourself, lead to the burning of the Rambam's seforim in the 1200's.

49

 Nov 24, 2010 at 02:46 PM Y.U.man Says:

Reply to #43  
Anonymous Says:

You're right about the author unjustifiably associating this video with Y.U. But I think you can agree that it was probably created by a Y.U. alumni, definitely not by at-risk kids from BP. "Halevai" they should challenge the frum establishment with something semi intelligent like this, however disrespectful it may be !!!!

My point is that if an alumnus of a right wing Yeshiva was convicted of a ponzi scheme, you would not denigrate his Yeshiva for it. The question then is why did R. Hoffman accuse Y.U. of being, if not the source, then the cause of the cartoon.

50

 Nov 24, 2010 at 02:48 PM antihypocricy Says:

Reply to #43  
Anonymous Says:

You're right about the author unjustifiably associating this video with Y.U. But I think you can agree that it was probably created by a Y.U. alumni, definitely not by at-risk kids from BP. "Halevai" they should challenge the frum establishment with something semi intelligent like this, however disrespectful it may be !!!!

Why doesn't R. Hoffman direct his ire at the chareidi boys that made the "Ich Vil Zein A Rebbe" song? Perhaps their chasidishe Yeshivos cause such sacrilege.

51

 Nov 24, 2010 at 02:53 PM Kanaim Says:

Reply to #47  
ngbkny Says:

part of being jewish is asking questions,one who learns would understand this. every sefer that we have is because someone was asking questions and those questions needed answers. this clip is the same its asking questions and not the easy questions. I understand the questions that are being asked in this clip, and they do make sense. If someone lived in the past how can he know whats in the furture, just as today i dont know what will happen tomorrow. understanding this. if this person had knowedlege of the future why didnt he stop certain events and why did he do certain actions and not other actions. its not a bad question it just has to be answered by someone who knows the right answers. calling the people who made this clip different derogertore names does not help at all. they have to be guided to people who can really answer their questions. also these questions are not questions that every jew thinks about everyday why ? because your beleif in gd is stronger then others which is great but not everyone is so strong and putting them down does not help at all.

They didn't stop or change any events to come because it was not in their power to do so. They were presented with a set of laws, 613 of them to be exact, and they followed them because they know this is what they had to do. Perhaps they cried or were upset over the foretold events, but they were not changeable. It is even said that Avrahom had tefillin by virtue of a clear understanding of tefillin, not because of the mitzva. He knew that this world required such a thing called tefillin.

52

 Nov 24, 2010 at 02:55 PM Kanaim Says:

Just learn and do and stop asking so much about why. Why is easy. God said so.

53

 Nov 24, 2010 at 03:08 PM Nothing changes Says:

Another overly-judgmental orthodox rabbi responds, in a hyper-critical, condescending way, to a nice Jewish young person, with some talent, who tried to do something a little bit differently. I hear echoes of the Kuzari here, and the Rambam's letter to the Yemenite community, but no matter - feh, pooh, its always the same. Ho-hum. And people wonder why Jews of all ages run away from orthodoxy. You can't open your mouth without some rabbi, somewhere, somehow, jumping down it, and criticizing your style, your content, and even a Yeshiva University to which you may have absolutely no connection. Is this the same Rabbi Hoffman who took Rabbi Avi Sharfan of Aguda to task for his weird column about Captain Sully and Bernie Madoff? Remember that doozy? Sully, bad, Madoff, good. Now its Rabbi Hoffman's turn to write a column I hope he regrets. Rabbi Hoffman, please reflect on what you wrote. Jews who produce attention-grabbing videos which make people think are also "saintly".

54

 Nov 24, 2010 at 03:14 PM bni47 Says:

Reply to #3  
DavidMoshe Says:

"Noach was told to take both Tameh and pure animals. This is clearly from the perspective of Kashrus. This demonstrably indicates that at least some aspects of Torah were known before Har Sinai."

Alternately, it demonstrates that the guy who wrote down the Noah story was not only familiar with various flood legends from local mythology, but was also familiar with other aspects of Jewish ritual. That makes a great deal more sense, in light of all the available evidence.

The idea mocked in the video-- that the avos kept all the mitzvoth-- is pretty much ridiculous on its face, and, notwithstanding the author's efforts, I find it difficult to imagine taking it all that seriously. But then, this is about belief, and not reason. As the saying goes, for believers there are no questions, and for unbelievers there are no answers.

Additionally, "the guy" is Hashem and the Torah predates the existence of the world as we know it. You are still an Apikories.

55

 Nov 24, 2010 at 03:57 PM Askupeh Says:

Reply to #42  
DavidMoshe Says:

How do you know that what you call "kefira" isn't really a better understanding? Your argument is that refusing to treat opinions as so sacred that they are above criticism leads one to doubt the validity of those opinions. That's almost certainly true; so what? If the only way an opinion can be sustained is to put it beyond question, then it's probably not a very sound opinion. One whose faith is so weak that he can't permit others to question his views is not only a kofer (since he knows that his beliefs won't survive scrutiny), but a hypocrite as well.

Questioning is not the problem, I am all for it; it is making Litzanus which is the problem. Litzinus weakens the Emunah, questioning on the other hand sometimes strengthens it. Questioning is an intellectual pursuit, Litzanus and mocking is making a persons feelings cold to what he believes. Amoleik’s sin was Asher Korcho Baderech. It doesn't take much to make someone cold. A child of 10 seeing this might be all he needs to lose his faith. A child of 10 isn't the learned scholar; yes his faith is still weak.

If you are for a better understanding then you should be against making Litzanus of what we hold holy.

56

 Nov 24, 2010 at 04:01 PM Askupeh Says:

Reply to #50  
antihypocricy Says:

Why doesn't R. Hoffman direct his ire at the chareidi boys that made the "Ich Vil Zein A Rebbe" song? Perhaps their chasidishe Yeshivos cause such sacrilege.

That film is Eckeldig. Anyone with any decency would direct his ire against those that made it and I'm sure that Rabbi Hoffman did too.

57

 Nov 24, 2010 at 04:35 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #45  
NeveAliza Says:

Come on Kannaim, you really didn't watch the video. After all, in your comment #29 you said that what a Gadol dictates you need to blindly follow. You probably are well aware that Rav Eliyashiv is against using the internet and watching these types of videos. So under whose authority did you watch?

Kannaim doesn't read or reason since its contrary to his confused notion of daas torah. His prior posts demonstrate a clear willingness to parrot what he reads on some frum websites and paste those comments without understanding what they mean. He is funnier, however, than this video.

58

 Nov 24, 2010 at 05:12 PM Anon Ibid Opcit Says:

Reply to #55  
Askupeh Says:

Questioning is not the problem, I am all for it; it is making Litzanus which is the problem. Litzinus weakens the Emunah, questioning on the other hand sometimes strengthens it. Questioning is an intellectual pursuit, Litzanus and mocking is making a persons feelings cold to what he believes. Amoleik’s sin was Asher Korcho Baderech. It doesn't take much to make someone cold. A child of 10 seeing this might be all he needs to lose his faith. A child of 10 isn't the learned scholar; yes his faith is still weak.

If you are for a better understanding then you should be against making Litzanus of what we hold holy.

So questioning is fine as long as the answers are pre-determined? That's a remarkably dead and sterile form of inquiry. Real investigation can take you outside of what is known and come up with things nobody knew before. It's not as safe and comforting, But it's much more rewarding.

59

 Nov 24, 2010 at 05:37 PM Kanaim Says:

Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die.

60

 Nov 24, 2010 at 06:11 PM HaNavon Says:

CLASSIC!!!! I LOVE IT!!!!

This just shows how people sometimes believe in things that are irrational and are actually NOT part of our tradition of understanding.

This video is actually MCHABED the Avos!

Lesson learned: Don't be an idiot!

61

 Nov 24, 2010 at 06:24 PM Askupeh Says:

Reply to #58  
Anon Ibid Opcit Says:

So questioning is fine as long as the answers are pre-determined? That's a remarkably dead and sterile form of inquiry. Real investigation can take you outside of what is known and come up with things nobody knew before. It's not as safe and comforting, But it's much more rewarding.

"So questioning is fine as long as the answers are pre-determined"?

I didn't say that. He said that I have a problem with someone asking questions and I answered him that, no, I don't have a problem with that but with Litzanus.

62

 Nov 24, 2010 at 07:08 PM Kanaim Says:

Reply to #60  
HaNavon Says:

CLASSIC!!!! I LOVE IT!!!!

This just shows how people sometimes believe in things that are irrational and are actually NOT part of our tradition of understanding.

This video is actually MCHABED the Avos!

Lesson learned: Don't be an idiot!

But it IS part of our mesorah. The Avos kept all the mitzvos. There is no dispute.

63

 Nov 24, 2010 at 11:33 PM FactsofLife Says:

Reply to #59  
Kanaim Says:

Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die.

This is not correct. We can question anything in the Torah and there are answers for everything. However, this does not mean that an individual will find the answer which is available elsewhere.

There are all sorts of organizations that deal with any question under the sun. Arachim has large forums for non Orthodox and does not limit their questions at all.

If you listen to Rabbi Miller z"l, at the end of his tapes, he allows any type of question and answers them all. Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb deals with all sorts of issues of emuna as do myriad others.

If one sincerely searches for the truth, they will find it.

64

 Nov 25, 2010 at 12:22 AM charliehall Says:

Reply to #62  
Kanaim Says:

But it IS part of our mesorah. The Avos kept all the mitzvos. There is no dispute.

Wrong. It is a machloket that goes back at least as far as the tannaim that has never been resolved (as indicated by the many rishonim on both sides). Anyone who says otherwise is either an Am Haaretz or is deliberately falsifying Torah.

65

 Nov 24, 2010 at 10:04 PM Chatzkaleh Says:

DovBear has posted a response:
http://dovbear.blogspot.com/2010/11/avos-and-mitzvos-response-to-bit-of.html

Rabbi Hoffmann: Would be interested in your reply...

66

 Nov 25, 2010 at 12:27 AM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #59  
Kanaim Says:

Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die.

More non-Jewish hashkafah creeping into our debate.

And Tennyson's poem is about the folly of that attitude.

67

 Nov 25, 2010 at 12:29 AM Charlie Hall Says:

Reply to #48  
mythoughts Says:

Disagreeing with one opinion of this controversial issue doesn't make it apikorsus. The entire Torah is about discussion and argument. Fanatics with the holier than thou attitude, such as yourself, lead to the burning of the Rambam's seforim in the 1200's.

Hard to be an apikorus when you have this large number of rishonim on your side.

68

 Nov 25, 2010 at 10:36 AM Shlomo2 Says:

Reply to #66  
Charlie Hall Says:

More non-Jewish hashkafah creeping into our debate.

And Tennyson's poem is about the folly of that attitude.

>> “Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die"
>> And Tennyson's poem is about the folly of that attitude. ”

(I corrected the quote.)

You allow Tennyson, that menuvaldikke goy, to be kove'ah the meaning of his own aphorism?

A shanda!

69

 Nov 25, 2010 at 11:57 AM shlomozalman Says:

Reply to #29  
Kanaim Says:

Mamesh apikorsus & kefira. If a Gadol says it, it is true just by virtue of his saying it. He doesn't have to prove squat to you. He didn't become a recognized Gadol by making up things. He has already earned his authority. If he says day is night, then you daven maariv. The end.

Ah, finally someone who tells the chareidi hashkafah as it is. I will paraphrase it for those who didn't get it; "My godol says day is night. Please deposit your brain in the nearest trash can and daven maariv."
I don't buy it.

70

 Nov 25, 2010 at 06:30 PM HaNavon Says:

Am I the only one who thinks that both sides are retarded?!

First of all, the Torah is a legal work. The very word "Torah" comes from the same shorush as "horaah". Keep the laws and get over it! It doesn't matter if it was written by Moshe Rabbeinu or Moshe Rabbinowitz! The laws are what bind us as a people. Laws are the backbone of any society, and if you can understand the deeper meaning of all of the Mitzvos, then you will understand more and more about the world as you live.
The Talmud is a legal text as well. If you find an opinion that has no bearing on Halacha, then it's something to understand in your spare time when you want to do some thinking or if you want to better understand the mindset and environment of people 1,600 years ago.
That is all that there is.
Just like the Rambam writes in the Hakdamah of the Yad, "This book and a Chumash are all that you need". Keep the laws and get to the rest as you're ready to take it, with whatever hashkafah you want to have, but just keep the laws.

71

 Nov 26, 2010 at 06:46 AM curious Says:

Reply to #29  
Kanaim Says:

Mamesh apikorsus & kefira. If a Gadol says it, it is true just by virtue of his saying it. He doesn't have to prove squat to you. He didn't become a recognized Gadol by making up things. He has already earned his authority. If he says day is night, then you daven maariv. The end.

Actually, there is no one alive today who I would accept such blatant misinformation from. For every Rabbi that tells you day is night, there are others that will tell you it is indeed day. We don't have a Sanhedrin. Any halacha or hashkafa that they didn't decide on is fair game.

72

 Nov 26, 2010 at 12:30 PM Askupeh Says:

Reply to #71  
curious Says:

Actually, there is no one alive today who I would accept such blatant misinformation from. For every Rabbi that tells you day is night, there are others that will tell you it is indeed day. We don't have a Sanhedrin. Any halacha or hashkafa that they didn't decide on is fair game.

That reminds me what they say is the difference between a Lubavitcher Chosid, a Satmarer Chosid and a Bobover Chosid. The Lubavitcher Chosid if the Rebbe tells him to jump off the roof, he puts on a Gartel and jumps off the roof, no questions asked; the Bobover Chosid if the Rebbe tells him to jump off the roof, he says that maybe the Rebbe didn't actually mean to jump or didn't mean from the roof or didn’t mean him, and he doesn't jump; The Satmarer Chosid if the Rebbe tells him to jump off the roof, tells the Rebbe: you jump off the roof!

73

 Nov 26, 2010 at 12:26 PM Askupeh Says:

Reply to #70  
HaNavon Says:

Am I the only one who thinks that both sides are retarded?!

First of all, the Torah is a legal work. The very word "Torah" comes from the same shorush as "horaah". Keep the laws and get over it! It doesn't matter if it was written by Moshe Rabbeinu or Moshe Rabbinowitz! The laws are what bind us as a people. Laws are the backbone of any society, and if you can understand the deeper meaning of all of the Mitzvos, then you will understand more and more about the world as you live.
The Talmud is a legal text as well. If you find an opinion that has no bearing on Halacha, then it's something to understand in your spare time when you want to do some thinking or if you want to better understand the mindset and environment of people 1,600 years ago.
That is all that there is.
Just like the Rambam writes in the Hakdamah of the Yad, "This book and a Chumash are all that you need". Keep the laws and get to the rest as you're ready to take it, with whatever hashkafah you want to have, but just keep the laws.

It doesn't matter if it was written by Moshe Rabbeinu or Moshe Rabbinowitz? It matters very much if it is Moshe Mepi HaGvureh or Rabbinowitz Mepi Atzmoi. What are you saying?

74

 Nov 26, 2010 at 02:34 PM chanaleah Says:

Why is everyone making such a fuss over a couple of talking robot teddy bears??

75

 Nov 28, 2010 at 11:16 AM randome guy Says:

dont we say in our Torah that if one does all he can to fullfill what he can, it is considered as if he fullfilled all the Torah?

So why cant we say that for our Avos? they did all they can and everything Hashem tested them with.

76

 Nov 28, 2010 at 11:33 AM some guy Says:

i posted but i dont see it...
I do believe that our Avos had nevuah, how much I dont know. after all it was hidden from Yaacov that Yosef was still alive. then obviously there were things unknown to them.

But as far as following all the mitzvos. In our Torah we say if one does what he can to perform all that he can, it is as if they have performed all the mitzvos entrirely.
Im usre our Avos did all they can

77

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