Sunday, August 31, 2008

Interesting Posts and Articles #67

  1. Cows point North

  2. And a 2D Flash version of Portal. Interesting online game, and video walkthroughs of the solution to each level on YouTube.

  3. Women locked inside Breslov shul -- that women should leave before Aleinu, or else be locked in the shul for 15 minutes. The street it narrow, and they did not want mingling. But they should have asked the women if they were amenable, and at least have told them of it before springing this upon them.

  4. Aussie Echo has a post where he comments on an article about moshiach.

  5. Over at DovBear, a guest commentator notes the famous story of lashon hara and collecting the feathers scattered from a pillowcase to the wind is told about the 16th century Philip Neri, and illustrates the Catholic concept of Detraction. Interesting, especially as this was one of the books Madonna authored for the Kabbalah Center, Mr. Peabody's Apples.

  6. At Emes veEmunah, a question at why people were outraged over the Monsey chicken scandal but indifferent over Agriprocessors, and come up with excuses. For various reasons, I think the reaction to the Monsey chicken scandal was overblown. But regardless, there are a few factors I can come up with off the top of my head for the difference in reactions. First, it may be a difference of bein adam lachavero vs. bein adam laMakom, as these often attract different reactions. Further, in the Monsey case, Jewish people found out about it, how Jewish customers were hoodwinked. Here, with PETA being against slaughter in general; and among those attacking it being FailedMessiah, who is against Orthodox Judaism in general; and secular Jewish papers making a scandal out of it; and threats of bringing in the government; and the Conservative movement trying to make inroads into their own competing brand of hashgacha -- well, that fosters an us vs. them reaction.

  7. The Washington Post reports on the Japanese shidduch crisis, and blames it on the men who are childish, and that Japanese women do not want to look after children of either type.

  8. LifeInIsrael notes how Beitar Illit is fighting against Internet access, or else "protecting" children from other children who grow up in a home with Internet.

  9. An old post of mine, defending the Lubavitcher Rebbe by saying that he is not a navi sheker, because he is not a prophet, is drawing some ire.

  10. An interesting article about a new discovery -- of how half-lives can depend upon distance to the Sun, and thus varies depending upon time of year. (See here and here.) This should presumably not affect carbon dating because its half-life is a bit more than 5 millennia, and across any year, the average distance to the Sun will be the same. But on the other hand, I wonder if it would affect calibration of half-life of carbon part the 5740 or whatever it is, such that it could have an impact. And of course, this opens up possibilities for Creationists to say that the extreme age comes from being closer to the Sun, or being exposed to more intense rays, or even bringing in Velekovsky, or some such idea -- perhaps citing a midrash about the greater light during the time of maaseh Bereishit, before Hashem hid it away for tzaddikim.

  11. ADDeRabbi has two posts on the content of "shul rags."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Re`eh: Would Hashem Empower A False Prophet?

There is a curious group of verses in the middle of Re`eh. (See here in Mikraot Gedolot.) In Devarim 13, we read:
ב כִּי-יָקוּם בְּקִרְבְּךָ נָבִיא, אוֹ חֹלֵם חֲלוֹם; וְנָתַן אֵלֶיךָ אוֹת, אוֹ מוֹפֵת. 2 If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams--and he give thee a sign or a wonder,
ג וּבָא הָאוֹת וְהַמּוֹפֵת, אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר אֵלֶיךָ לֵאמֹר: נֵלְכָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יְדַעְתָּם--וְנָעָבְדֵם. 3 and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke unto thee--saying: 'Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them';
ד לֹא תִשְׁמַע, אֶל-דִּבְרֵי הַנָּבִיא הַהוּא, אוֹ אֶל-חוֹלֵם הַחֲלוֹם, הַהוּא: כִּי מְנַסֶּה ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, אֶתְכֶם, לָדַעַת הֲיִשְׁכֶם אֹהֲבִים אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, בְּכָל-לְבַבְכֶם וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁכֶם. 4 thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God putteth you to proof, to know whether ye do love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
The implication is that Hashem actually grants the power to this false prophet, as a means of testing you. This is difficult on a theological level. Since when do prophets for other gods have powers; and if God is empowering him, is this not entrapment of some sort?

But it does have an important point to make -- do not just heed the miraculous signs, but also carefully consider the message, in evaluating whether a prophet is false or not.

How do the various meforshim deal with this issue? Rashi cites a Sifrei, or the gemara in Sanhedrin, that the false prophet can do it, because he is empowered by Hashem to do it, as a means of testing the Israelites. Thus, וּבָא הָאוֹת וְהַמּוֹפֵת in pasuk 3 is connected with כִּי מְנַסֶּה ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֶתְכֶם in pasuk 4.
or a wonder on the earth, as is written, “If there will be dew on the fleece only, and upon all the ground, dry” [Jud. 6:39]). Even so, you shall not listen to him. But if you say, “Why then does the Holy One, blessed is He, give him the power to perform a sign? [Scripture replies,] ”for the Lord, your God, is testing you [… whether you really love the Lord your God]" (verse 4). - [Sifrei; San. 90a]
There is an alternative in the gemara in Sanhedrin:
It has been taught: R. Jose the Galilean said: The Torah understood the extreme depths [of depravity inherent in] idolatry, therefore the Torah gave him [the false prophet] power therein, that should he even cause the sun to stand still in the middle of the heavens, thou must not hearken to him. R. Akiba said; God forbid that the Almighty should cause the sun to stand still at the behest of those who transgressed His will, but [the Torah refers to one] as Hananiah the son of Azur, who was originally a true prophet and [only] subsequently became a false prophet.
Thus, the sign or wonder is only done on behalf of a true prophet of Hashem. But as Rambam writes, the prophet need not perform miracles and wonders time after time. Rather, he gets a chazaka. But if suddenly an established prophet, who has set a sign or wonder which came true, turns around and becomes a false prophet, one still should not believe him, but rather should judge based on the content of his message.

In Mikraos Gedolos, we see how other meforshim explain the matter.

Thus Ramban (bottom left of the page, on ki menaseh) draws the same connection as Rashi, that the testing you is because Hashem has made the ot umofet appear, or let him know about it in a dream.

On the next page, Rashbam assumes that some sign comes about. He explains about the ot umofet that the false prophet knows about it via ruach hatumah, like the Ov and Yidoni. And the "testing" that Hashem did is that, in general, He invested power in the dark arts to know what would come to be. This is not, then, power to perform wonders, but rather power to know the future, which this false prophet is utilizing to convince people he is a real prophet.

Avi Ezer, a supercommentary on Ibn Ezra, makes his own diyuk. He claims that the wonders performed by the false prophet are natural, along the lines of derech hateva. And that is why it is ot umofet in the singular -- he can only do one trick. Meanwhile, the trustworthy prophets of Hashem can perform all manner of wonders. Though, he notes, even if someone can perform all manner of tricks, we still do not listen to him if his message is a wrong message.

Ibn Ezra gives various positions on the matter. Thus, some explain that the false prophet is "stealing" the word of Hashem -- that is, the true prophet gives a sign, and the false prophet hears and uses the sign himself, to bolster his own words. Some say that even if the sign or wonder occurs, one should not listen because it is against shikkul hadaat. (This might refer to Rashi, Ramban.)

Then he gives his own opinion that os and mofes are identical, and that it means a "siman," perhaps to be translated as a mark. He notes that Yeshaya says that he and his sons will be for an os umofes, and this is by showing what will happen with an significant action, such as having his servants go naked, or in his sons' case, with their names, for it was a mark of what terrible things would happen in their lifetimes.

Robert Alter (in The Five Books of Moses, page 636) mentions Ibn Ezra and critiques his position:
This clause creates a certain theological problem because it suggests that the false prophet may have supernatural powers. Abraham ibn Ezra tries to solve the difficulty by proposing that the "sign" is merely a demonstrative gesture on the part of the prophet, as when Isaiah has his servants go naked and barefoot and gives his sons symbolic names. But the term "come about" argues for the fulfillment of some prediction. The idea stated in the next verse that God is "trying" Israel may intimate that He has allowed the fulfillment of the prediction as an element of the trial: even if the false prophet can show you a portent, the falsehood of his message should be evident in his urging you to worship other gods.
To attempt to defend Ibn Ezra, even though I don't really agree with Ibn Ezra's reading of the pesukim -- Ibn Ezra surely knows the next pasuk, that the ot umofet comes about! If Ibn Ezra is really only saying it is a demonstrative gesture, then we could read the next verse -- וּבָא הָאוֹת וְהַמּוֹפֵת, אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר אֵלֶיךָ לֵאמֹר: נֵלְכָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים as that the demonstrative gesture which he conveys to you comes in order to say to you this message to worship idols.

But I don't think we need necessarily go that far. I believe that Robert Alter quite possibly misunderstood Ibn Ezra.

One point Ibn Ezra was trying to establish, to my reading at least, was that there is no distinction between os and mofes. If not for this, I might think like Rashi that the os is a sign in the heavens while the mofes is some miraculous wonder on earth. Or related, as I usually read it, based on the translation of "sign" and "wonder" respectively, the os is some prediction about the future, while mofes is an immediate magical wonder.

Ibn Ezra does not need to say that it is only the demonstrative gesture, with no subsequent fulfillment. Rather, he notes that the names of the children are a demonstrative gesture of an event which will happen in their lifetimes. Thus, this gives itself over to fulfillment.

Ibn Ezra can then be saying that the predicted event actually comes to pass. But that is not necessarily so impressive. For example, someone can predict that Bavel will attack and eventually, indeed, Bavel attacks. And with enough false prophets, one can get lucky with a prediction like this.

If so, it is entirely within the realm of nature. For the os is not some wonder in the sky. And it is not stopping the sun in the sky, like Joshua. And the mofes is not turning the Nile red. With such actions, one could ask how God is empowering the false prophet. With the demonstrative gestures showing future events, fulfillment can just be luck, within the natural order.

Finally, Shadal has an interesting take on this. He writes:
ובא האות וגו ': אות הוא בהגדת העתידות , שידיעתן ראיה על נבואתו , ומופת מעשה נסים

and then

כי מנסה ה ' אלקיכם אתכם : לא שה' יעשה אות ומופת לקיים השקר , אבל הוא מנסה אתכם על ידי שהניח לנביא השקר שיצליח בכזביו . והנה גלוי וידעו לפני המקום שלא ייתכן לשום אדם לעשות אותות ומופתים אמיתיים בזולת שליחותו יתברך , אבל גלוי וידוע לפניו גם כן כי ייתכן לרשעים להתעות את העם בדברים מזוייפים , לכך הקדים לתקן המעוות שיוכל להימשך מהם

Thus, he makes the ot into the declaration of future events and the mofet into a miraculous act. But of course the prophet is not actually doing it. Magic does not exist, and Hashem is not granting him miraculous powers. The idea mentioned in pasuk 4 that "Hashem is testing you" is by letting the false prophet succeed in his tricking of you. Evildoers can mislead the nation with faked things.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Shadal on Tithes

Shadal has an innovative reading of Devarim 14:28, in parshat Reeh, which overturns our usual understanding of the laws of maaser. And he claims the trup supports him. The pasuk, pictured to the right, reads:
כח מִקְצֵה שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים, תּוֹצִיא אֶת-כָּל-מַעְשַׂר תְּבוּאָתְךָ, בַּשָּׁנָה, הַהִוא; וְהִנַּחְתָּ, בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ. 28 At the end of every three years, even in the same year, thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase, and shall lay it up within thy gates.

Shadal writes:

כח ] מקצה שלש שנים תוציא את כל מעשר תבואתך בשנה ההיא : בשנה ההיא אינו חוזר אל "תבואתך" אלא אל "מקצה ג ' שנים" ( וכן דעת בעל הטעמים ), כלומר מקצה ג ' שנים בשנה ההיא בעצמה תוציא את כל מעשה תבואתך והנחת בשעריך ; ולפי הפשט הוא הנשאר ממעשר שני שלא הספיק לאכלו בירושלים , מצווה לבערו בכל שנה שלישית ולתיתו ללוי ולעני . המתינה לו תורה עד ג ' שנים , שיאכלהו הוא עצמו בירושלם , ומה שנשאר בשנה השלישית יצטרך לבערו ולא ימתין עוד . וזה טעם סמיכות והלוי אשר בשעריך לא תעזבנו , כי אע " פ שהמצוות לאכול מעשר שני בירושלם , מכל מקום אין רע שישאיר ממנו להאכיל ללוי שבעירו עם שאר העניים . ועיין מה שכתבתי על כי תכלה לעשר ( למטה כ"ו י"ב ).

That is, the words בַּשָּׁנָה הַהִוא, "in that year," could theoretically bind to one of two others parts of that verse. It could bind to "your produce," in which case it would refer to the produce of that year. Thus, only in the third year does maaser ani apply. Alternatively, it could bind to "at the end of three years," in which case it would refer to your actions during that year, but to the tithes of the produce of all three years.

For various peshat considerations, Shadal believes the latter is the correct binding. And he claims that the trup supports him in this. I generated a trup chart based on this pasuk, and the result is to the right. See how bashana hahi branches off first, rather than within some branch of maasar tevuasecha. This is presumably what Shadal means.

Shadal's idea is thus as follows. There is only one maaser. And that is supposed to be eaten in Yerushalayim. But it is possible that one did not get to Yerushalayim, or consume all of it there. There will then be left-overs, and at the end of the third year is a type of biur maaser. And that food goes to the Levite and to the pauper.

There are many differences here from traditional halacha. First, it empowers one to give the maaser food of every year to the Levite and pauper, albeit only at the end of a period of time. Second, there is no special maaser to the Levi and pauper, but rather it is what is supposed to be eaten in Yerushalayim. (Thus, people living in Yerushalayim could give no maaser.) And so on. How will he square this with halachic practice? We will see below how he brings his peshat and halachic practice closer together.

He makes reference to his explanation in Devarim 26:12, in parshat Ki Tavo, where there is a biur maaser.
יב כִּי תְכַלֶּה לַעְשֵׂר אֶת-כָּל-מַעְשַׂר תְּבוּאָתְךָ, בַּשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁלִישִׁת--שְׁנַת הַמַּעֲשֵׂר: וְנָתַתָּה לַלֵּוִי, לַגֵּר לַיָּתוֹם וְלָאַלְמָנָה, וְאָכְלוּ בִשְׁעָרֶיךָ, וְשָׂבֵעוּ. 12 When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithe of thine increase in the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, to the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be satisfied,
יג וְאָמַרְתָּ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בִּעַרְתִּי הַקֹּדֶשׁ מִן-הַבַּיִת, וְגַם נְתַתִּיו לַלֵּוִי וְלַגֵּר לַיָּתוֹם וְלָאַלְמָנָה, כְּכָל-מִצְוָתְךָ, אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתָנִי: לֹא-עָבַרְתִּי מִמִּצְו‍ֹתֶיךָ, וְלֹא שָׁכָחְתִּי. 13 then thou shalt say before the LORD thy God: 'I have put away the hallowed things out of my house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all Thy commandment which Thou hast commanded me; I have not transgressed any of Thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them.
יד לֹא-אָכַלְתִּי בְאֹנִי מִמֶּנּוּ, וְלֹא-בִעַרְתִּי מִמֶּנּוּ בְּטָמֵא, וְלֹא-נָתַתִּי מִמֶּנּוּ, לְמֵת; שָׁמַעְתִּי, בְּקוֹל יְהוָה אֱלֹהָי--עָשִׂיתִי, כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתָנִי. 14 I have not eaten thereof in my mourning, neither have I put away thereof, being unclean, nor given thereof for the dead; I have hearkened to the voice of the LORD my God, I have done according to all that Thou hast commanded me.
Shadal writes:

כי תכלה לעשר : ענין הפרשה הזאת מבולבל מאד לשיטת רז"ל , שהרי לדבריהם ( מעשר שני פרק ה ' משנה י '; ספרי כי תבוא פיסקא ג ') היא מדברת בשלושה מיני מעשרות , אע"פ שהכתוב לא הבדיל ביניהם כלל ; כי הנה לדבריהם ונתת ללוי - מעשר ראשון , ולגר ליתום ולאלמנה - מעשה עני , לא אכלתי באוני - מעשר שני ; והנה הכתוב מזכירו תמיד בלשון יחיד , כאילו אינו אלא אחד : וגם נתתיו , לא אכלתי באוני ממנו וגו ', נראה שאינו אלא אחד . לפיכך נראה לי שאין הכתוב מדבר אלא במעשר אחד , והוא מעשר שני הנאכל לבעלים בירושלים , ומפני שהיה קרוב הדבר , שלא יספיקו הבעלים לאכלו כולו בירושלם , ציותה תורה שיוציאו אותו בעירם וייתנוהו ללוי ולעני . והנה בכל שנה שלישית היה בעל הבית לוקח עמו מה שהיה יכול לאכול בירושלים , והשאר היה מניח בעירו ומוציאו לעניים , ובהיותו בירושלים היה אומר : עתה השלמתי לבערו מביתי , כי קצתו אכלתי כמשפט וקצתו נתתי לעניים ; והיה המאמר הזה כדברי רשב " ם לבלתי יעכבם לעצמו בביתו , כי כשהוא צריך להתודות על זה לפני ה ' בהיכלו , לא ימלאהו לבו לשקר ; ועיין מה שכתבתי למעלה י"ד כ"ח . ונראה כי אחר שרבו הרמאים הגוזלים מתנות עניים והיו אומרים לעניים : אין לנו שום מותר מעשר שני לתת לכם , כי כבר אכלנוהו בירושלם - גזרו חכמים כי בשנה השלישית לא יפרישו מעשר שני , אבל המעשר שמפרישים יהיה כולו לעניים .
His point is that in this vidui maaser, only a single maaser is referred to, throughout.

He then takes steps to establish, practically, our halacha. He makes it into a Rabbinic institution not to bring maasar to Yerushalayim in the third year, because people were being dishonest to paupers and telling them that they did not have any left over, for it was already consumed in Jerusalem. Therefore, they instituted that none would be eaten in Yerushalayim and all would be given to paupers, as one was empowered to do Biblically. And the Biblical vidui maaser mentioned in Ki Tavo, that all was disposed of properly, was for similar purpose -- so he won't come to lie.

Does Rabbi Falk Threaten Girls Who Do Not Dress As He Would Like With Cancer?

On page 327 in Oz veHadar Levushah, we have the text pictured to the right. He is speaking about "eye-catching belts."

In the course of his condemnation of these belts, Rabbi Falk cites Shabbos 62b,
"where Chazal bring a verse in Yeshaya 3:24 warning transgressors that ותחת חגורה נקפה, -- Where the highly decorative belts (called צלצול were worn the flesh shall become cancerous and develop holes.' "
The pasuk in question, on a peshat level, may be translated as follows:
כד וְהָיָה תַחַת בֹּשֶׂם מַק יִהְיֶה, וְתַחַת חֲגוֹרָה נִקְפָּה וְתַחַת מַעֲשֶׂה מִקְשֶׁה קָרְחָה, וְתַחַת פְּתִיגִיל, מַחֲגֹרֶת שָׂק: כִּי-תַחַת, יֹפִי. 24 And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet spices there shall be rottenness; and instead of a girdle rags; and instead of curled hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; branding instead of beauty.
Thus, נקפה means rags, which will be a replacement for this girdle. But Chazal interpret it to mean נקפים נקפים. We will turn to the definition of this phrase in a minute.

Rabbi Falk is being careful with his language here. He writes that Chazal bring a verse warning transgressors. What is the nature of these transgressions? He does not elaborate here, but as a result, it reads as if the transgression was the mere wearing of the belt, and this is the punishment Chazal are echoing -- that in their days, whoever wears a belt will receive this punishment. But the gemara is addressing specifically the women in Yeshaya's day, who were doing all these various things specifically in order to entice men to engage in sex with them, and presumably subsequently actually engaging in sex with them. Read the context above, in the gemara, and what the transgressions specifically were. That does not mean that they are establishing wearing of belts Rabbi Falk considers gaudy to be, in and of itself, a transgression. (In fact, peshat in the pasuk, and gemara, could possibly be that the earlier pesukim describe the transgressions and the later pesukim, such as this one, merely describe the punishment in which beauty turns to ulcers. Just as well-set or braided hair turning to baldness does not have to mean that the well-set or braided hair was a violation of tznius. But we need not go there, but rather understand the belt within the context Yeshaya and the gemara specifically lay out.)

Regardless, I wonder at his definition of נקפים נקפים as "the flesh shall become cancerous and develop holes." A translation of "holes" is perhaps better for the word נקבים, with a bet. Perhaps we can assume he means "lesion," which is somewhat like a hole. נקפים, at least in modern Hebrew, means lesion.

Rashi translates it as parallel to המנקף רגלו, which I think means one who bruises his leg. And Rashi refers to Yeshaya 10:34. Elsewhere in the gemara, in Chullin 7b, we have "No man bruises his finger below {=this world} unless it has been decreed above {in Heaven}."
ואמר ר' חנינא אין אדם נוקף אצבעו מלמטה אלא א"כ מכריזין עליו מלמעלה
Point by Point Summary translates it as "full of wounds." Soncino translates as "full of bruises." And Jastrow translates it as bruise.

Regardless, the gemara just says נקפים נקפים. It does not explain how it became bruised, or full of wounds (if one must translate like this). Even if going against Rashi, Rabbi Falk should just say "the flesh shall develop holes." The gemara does not appear to mention cancer as the cause of these bruises, wounds, or holes. And if Rabbi Falk has a source for this (rather than it being his own innovation), he should cite it explicitly, rather than presenting it as the plain meaning of the gemara to women who likely do not learn gemara.

Meanwhile, to me, this seems like a way of scaring girls into conforming with these specific standards of modesty, because "Chazal say that if you don't, you will develop cancer!"

Rabbi Falk continues:
"The Maharsha quotes the Gemara in Sotah (8b) where it is mentioned that a zonah would gird herself with a belt called a צלצול to attract the attention of men to herself."

I do not believe this is a totally accurate portrayal of either the Maharsha or the gemara in Sotah.

The Maharsha says שדרך נשים זונות חוגרות בו להתנאות כדאמרינן בסוטא היא חגרה לו בצלצול וכו' ובסוף מנחות חגרו בצלצול וכו' ע"ש.

Firstly, zonot as Rabbi Falk uses it implies prostitutes. The gemara in Sotah is talking about a Sotah, an adulteress, rather than a prostitute. And Maharsha says נשים זונות, women who are engaging in infidelity, rather than prostitution. It is possible that Rabbi Falk misunderstood Maharsha's phrase, but the gemara certainly does not mean a prostitute, that he could say "the gemara in Sotah where it is mentioned that a zonah would gird herself."

Secondly, the gemara in Sotah is saying that she did this to beautify herself for her adulterous lover. And Maharsha says להתנאות. This is not the same as "to attract the attention of men to herself." This idea of attracting the attention of men to herself is not in the gemara in Sotah, but is part of Rabbi Falk's thesis he is attempting to develop here. (It is perhaps readable into the gemara in Shabbos, that they dressed like this in order to provoke, but even there, and even according to Maharsha, it is not the only reading.)

Maharsha's suggestion is an interesting one. Since צלצול is used here, for the women in Yeshaya, and it is used by Sotah, we can understand in context that this צלצול was used by women engaging in zenut when they wanted to adorn themselves, and so too was its function here in Shabbos.

But Maharal's suggestion is not the only possibility, nor necessarily the most compelling one. The צלצול is mentioned among other things in Sotah 8b-9a that a women did to beautify themselves for their adulterous lovers. One such thing is applying stibium -- "she painted her eyes for him, therefore her eyes protrude." If painting the eyes before going out something which is awful? The gemara in Shabbat 80a says that the reason carrying out of stibium is enough for one eye is that the tzenuot only painted one eye. This was because back then, for a specific subset of women, "tznuot," only one eye was visible, while the other was concealed by a veil. (Though now, in our country, women do not go out with veils.) But the point is that these methods of adornment are not in-and-of-themselves bad. Rather, the gemara in Sotah 9a is speaking specifically based on intent. She painted her eye for him. And she girded herself with the tziltzol for him, her adulterous lover. But it is quite possible that simply putting on a tziltzol, just in general as an adornment, would present no problem.

Finally, even if the tziltzol itself is problematic, perhaps it is not talking about simply a belt, or even an attractive belt. Indeed, Jastrow defines the tziltzol as a "belt of net work (to support the bosom; considered indecent)." Though specifically in translating the gemara in Sotah as "she put on a fine belt for his sake," where possibly he is thinking of a different belt (but perhaps not). If so, this would be different from the belts Rabbi Falk is talking about.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oz VeHadar Levushah and Covering One's Calves

Let me preface this with the statement that this is not intended halacha lemaaseh.

In this segment, on page 329, Rabbi Falk gives two reasons for covering the leg. (He applies similar reasoning to feet.) In terms of the first reason, I did not look into detail into the sources and how he uses them, but a surface read of the paragraph raises no red flags.

In terms of the second reason, it gets a bit hairier. The idea that they could be considered limbs which are generally covered, and therefore one should not look at them for hanaah, or look at them while saying Shema, is well established. And the extension to require a woman to cover that area because of tznius is not a difficult leap at all. However, I have a few issues with this. And perhaps they are valid complaints, and perhaps not.

He states that "it is fully-accepted Orthodox practice... and as such it is an obligation of everyone not to deviate from this practice." This makes it seem (to me) that he is stating that this is universal practice, for Orthodox people, and so in every place one must conform to this. Especially since he does not mention or stress that there is legitimate basis for not doing so. And by saying that Mishna Berura, Salmas Chaim, and Igros Moshe give this reason, it seems that they are giving this reason in general, for all groups. On closer reading, one can see that the text in Oz VeHadar Levushah can mean that these sources give this as a reason specifically where those are usually covered, but not to endorse the idea that it is therefore a universal requirement. If so, it is a misleading phrasing, and it is quite possible that this was done unintentionally -- but it fits into the general trend of the book to present material in a way that stresses chumra and ignores kullah, and presents sources in a slanted way so that one thinks that this, in its entirety, is what the sources say.

(On further reflection, it is also possible that this statement he makes about a "fully-accepted Orthodox practice" is true for his target audience, which is the more chareidi communities. If so, one should be careful about applying the dictates in the book to other communities, where the assumptions may not hold.)

We should go through each of these sources and see what they do say, and what they do not say.

Mishna Berura basically states that shok is the thigh, not the calf. But in places where it is the derech to go with it covered, it has the law of something which is generally covered, so that, in terms of Shema, a tefach exposed would prevent saying Shema. He does not actually address an "obligation for covering the lower part of the legs." Though it is certainly not a farfetched extension.

The specific Shu"t Salmas Chaim, from Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld, zatzal, is available from Hebrew Books here and on the next page, here. It is actually pretty short, so it pays to read the next teshuva as well, siman 67, to get a better picture. After reading this, my take is that he indeed agrees that the reason for covering is not because it is shok but because it is an area usually covered (see in the question portion of siman 66). But at the same time, he does not say it is a universal requirement. Rather, in the question portion, it is stated that it is dependent upon the minhag hamakom, and the question then was what the specific minhag was in the chareidi community in Yerushalayim at that time. And in the teshuva, he does not deny that. Thus, he certainly leaves it as something dependent upon local customs. He does not say it is universal Orthodox Jewish practice, and therefore incumbent upon everyone, which is either stated, or strongly implied, in Oz veHadar Levushah. If that is what Oz veHadar is stating, then it would seem to be Rabbi Falk's own supposition.

In terms of that Teshuva in Igros Moshe, a while back, for other reasons, I posted it with a translation here at parshablog. (Read it there.) And the disconnect between the teshuva and the summary in Oz veHadar Levushah was jarring to me.

Firstly, Rav Moshe Feinstein appears to be giving a reason for the strange hakpada of certain individuals, that they insist that their wives and daughters go out in stockings, but do not insist that the stockings are not see-through (he redefines this to be flesh-colored; see inside). That does not mean that he necessarily endorses this requirement upon all individuals. He ends it that "perhaps this is their intent." The intent would either be that they consider it ervah but without hirhur, and therefore a mere covering would suffice; or perhaps, even though it is not ervah, it is more tznius in that it is, after all covered. Therefore, I don't see any reason to assume that Rav Moshe was endorsing this as a universal requirement.

Furthermore, Rav Moshe says that there is some tznius fulfillment in this, because it after all covers. It is certainly possible, and plausible, that he is saying that this is because it is, for them, a place which is usually covered. But other things are possible, such as that within this group, they choose to be more modest, and this is a covering. Thus, Rav Moshe Feinstein never explicitly says that it is because it is an אבר שדרכו להיות מכוסה, and it is (IMHO more than) possible that he is not in fact talking about it -- let alone stating that this is a universal requirement.

But perhaps I am reading the teshuva incorrectly. Read it for yourself inside. Perhaps we can hammer it out in the comment section.

At any rate, I asked an Orthodox Jewish woman about calf-coverings in New York City, since I know nothing about fashion. She told me that there certainly are plenty of Orthodox Jewish women in NYC who do not cover their calves with hosiery.

They would then not be doing something wrong. The fact that they do this would make the calf an אבר whose derech is not to be covered. Therefore, there is no problem saying Shema opposite an uncovered calf. And similarly, it is not required based on tznius. And we could rely on the Mishna Berurah and Rav Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld for this, that it is based on the specific practice of the women in that locale. (And as stated above, perhaps Rabbi Falk was addressing only the communities where this is not the case. Though if so, declaring it a "fully-accepted Orthodox practice" is unintentionally misleading.)

Aside from any of this, something about this declaration feels circular to me. And I think the question comes down to whether אבר שדרכו להיות מכוסה comes from the bottom up or is dictated from the top down. The fact is that women's clothing styles change organically over time. I would posit that if suddenly a group of religious Jewish women started revealing a specific non-erva area, such as the calf, (and in the secular realm, that area is often not covered) then that would quickly become, by definition, an area on the body which is not usually covered, such that it would be permitted for them not to cover it. This is because it is specifically because it is usually a covered area that it causes hirhur when a man looks at it.

Instead, Oz veHadar Levushah is dictating, from the top down, what appropriate garb should be, based on present styles of women. And it may be true -- since they dress like this, they must cover. But the function of a book like Oz veHadar Levushah is to dictate, from on-high, the appropriate dress. And so people will be dressing like this because Oz VeHadar says it is required, and Oz VeHadar says it is required, (in part) because they are dressing like this. Further, on page 335 (and 336), he decries the pritzus of the legs (including regarding tights) as something which has arisen in the past few decades, and so he is coming to correct this problem. But if this is in fact the way that women's dress has evolved, then this would not seem to be something in need of correcting.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is Believing The Dead Tzaddik Is Watching You Through His Picture Justified Based On Yosef HaTzaddik?

How can I critique of the video embedded over at Avakesh about "Ayin Roeh" when we seem to have precedent in Yosef ha-Tzaddik? (See the video first, to see what this is about.)

I think the answer is that there is a difference between stopping an action because you meet eyes with a picture of a deceased tzaddik and feel that the tzaddik is watching and judging you, on the one hand, and the story with Yosef about to sin with the wife of Potifar, on the other.

The gemara in Sotah 36b reads:
בראשית לט) ותתפשהו בבגדו לאמר וגו' באותה שעה באתה דיוקנו של אביו ונראתה לו בחלון אמר לו יוסף עתידין אחיך שיכתבו על אבני אפוד ואתה ביניהם רצונך שימחה שמך מביניהם ותקרא רועה זונות
And she caught him by his garment, saying etc. At that moment his father's image came and appeared to him through the window and said: 'Joseph, thy brothers will have their names inscribed upon the stones of the ephod and thine amongst theirs; is it thy wish to have thy name expunged from amongst theirs and be called an associate of harlots?'
We can read this midrash literally or figuratively. (I would prefer figurative as the intended meaning, not because of reluctance to believe in miracles or that Chazal believed in miracles, but rather because, among other reasons the figurative, metaphorical meaning is so readily apparent from within the text.) Literally, this would seem to be a supernatural occurrence in which his live father's image literally appeared to him and spoke to him. If so, this would have no bearing on imagining that a picture of a dead person can see you and judge you.

Since the image appeared in a window, it seems quite possible that the idea of the midrash was that Yosef was looking at his own reflection, and Yosef looked like his father. While they did not have glass windows in ancient Egypt, the Roman's did include glass windows in their architecture about 100 CE, which would be in time for this midrash to be created. (If it is from the academy of Rabbi Yishmael, where Rabbi Yishmael lived about that time.) And that would be why he saw his father's image in the chalon.

Or it does not have to even be a reflection, but just an apparition worked up by his own psyche, reminding him of something important.

Regardless, this image of his father did not "tell" him: "I am looking at you! Feel guilty, and imagine that my picture is looking at you."

Rather, his father's image told him: "Joseph, thy brothers will have their names inscribed upon the stones of the ephod and thine amongst theirs; is it thy wish to have thy name expunged from amongst theirs and be called an associate of harlots?"

This can perhaps be understood as introspection, and realizing exactly who he was. Here was a prince, one of the shivtei kah, who had been reduced to slavery. And in this lowly position, he was being tempted to do a lowly act, of adultery. He now sees his father's image, and recalls where he comes from and who he is. With whom should he associate? He is an associate of the other brothers, whose names will be inscribed on the ephod. He is not an associate of harlots.

This is different from hanging up a picture and then believing that the deceased person in the picture, rather than Hashem, is looking at you and judging you.

I agree that there are similarities between the midrash about Yosef and the message of the video. Yosef's father's image shocked him, and reminded him not to sin. And here, in the video, as I wrote in my comment, "the fellow was reminded by the presence of the saintly individual what he should be doing." And the video was very cute in this regard, and in its presentation.

But at the same time, there was a theologically troubling undercurrent, which was brought to the fore, and stressed, in the message in the video. If one really believes that the Rabbi in a picture is somehow present and watching, and that the Rabbi watching is more important that the Omnipresent watching, then Rebbe pictures seem to me more problematic to me than a having a doll for children, where some of the same people deface the doll's face.

As I wrote in my comment there:

"But at the same time, that picture of a basar vadam was hanging in his room, and he felt like the tzaddik was actually there, in some sense, able to see him and judge him. But in Tehillim, we read: פֶּה-לָהֶם, וְלֹא יְדַבֵּרוּ; עֵינַיִם לָהֶם, וְלֹא יִרְאוּ.

They have eyes, but they do not see. Yet this video is called "Ayin Roeh." Yes, there is a concept of ayin roeh in Judaism, but it is specifically that Hashem is watching. Thus, we have in Pirkei Avos:

הסתכל בשלושה דברים ואין אתה בא לידי עבירה דע מה למעלה ממך עין רואה ואוזן שומעת וכל מעשיך בספר נכתבין.

This refers to the watchful eye of God, not the watchful eye of Baba Sali."

One response given there that Rambam is wrong, superstition is good, and the tzaddik as well as all sorts of angels and demons actually are in the room -- make me even more concerned that the picture could have some sort of pesel status. A dismissive response --that this was all not intended literally, or highlighted a psychological effect which does not accord with theological reality -- would have had more of a quieting effect on me.

That is my take on it. But others are certainly free to have their own take.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Interesting Posts and Articles #66

  1. Let me preface this with the fact that most neighborhoods in Israel, and Jerusalem, are not like this. But there are one or two neighborhoods in which there are some extremists. Arrests of the mishmeres hatznius suspects spark protests, including one in which a police car is (temporarily) flipped over (here and here). But are they protesting in favor of the purported actions? It would seem not. Rather, there are claims that the accused are innocent:
    “If the demand is not accepted, at least partially,” said Edah Hachareidit sources tonight, “the Beis Din itself will call upon its public to take to the streets and demonstrate until the police succumb and free the innocent arrestees.”
    The haredi community accused the police of "deciding to destroy the chastity squad," according to a prominent community member, who said that the "modesty guard" had nothing to do with the violent incidents.

    "The chastity squad members are doing the work the police should have done. Instead of thanking us for putting things in order, they are acting against us and trying to destroy the guard," he added.
    I am not sure what actions they mean by "doing the work the police should have done." It seems they believe that the police made up these charges, or charged innocent people for the crimes of others, because they do not want the "chastity squad" in operation. But the specific actions, they do not think they did. Or at least they claim as much.

  2. has seen Obama's birth certificate:
    Recently FactCheck representatives got a chance to spend some time with the birth certificate, and we can attest to the fact that it is real and three-dimensional and resides at the Obama headquarters in Chicago. We can assure readers that the certificate does bear a raised seal, and that it's stamped on the back by Hawaii state registrar Alvin T. Onaka (who uses a signature stamp rather than signing individual birth certificates). We even brought home a few photographs.
  3. The New York Times reports on a study conducted by two teenagers in which they purchased 60 samples of sushi and discovered that in 1/4 of the cases, the advertised fish was not what they got -- rather, they got cheaper fish, or endangered species. They used genetic barcoding, which tests only a single gene, in order to distinguish one species from the other. Meanwhile, in another NY Times article, they get the responses of owners of high-end sushi restaurants, who say they would never do such a thing, because their customers (or a restaurant reviewer) would be able to taste the difference, and besides, they would not run the risk to their reputations.

    This is not so surprising. It is not clear that the teenagers tested these particular restaurants -- they tested 4 restaurants and 10 grocery stores, and 2 of the restaurants and 6 of the grocery stores were selling mislabeled fish.

    It is a good illustration of the need for the kosher consumer to rely on some sort of certification. Those who say they eat fish out (disregarding issues of beliot) should perhaps consider the possibility that they might not even be getting a kosher species.

  4. This "User Friendly" comic strip speaks to me. And this Bizarro is just funny.

  5. In Turkey, people are easing the fast of Ramadan by using an appetite suppressant patch. It would seem that we could do the same for Tisha BeAv and Yom Kippur.

  6. Avakesh embeds a video of why we need tzaddikim. But I find the message of the video potentially theologically hazardous. See the video, and then my comment, over there.

  7. I don't know if I buy it, but a documentary claiming that Obama stole the election from Hillary.

  8. Don't forget that I've been blogging the Rif on daf yomi over at my Rif blog.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Would Rashi Forbid Long Skirts, Just As He "Forbids" Veils In Sefer Yeshaya, As It Seems In Oz VeHadar Levushah?

On page 307 in Oz veHadar Levushah, Rabbi Falk has an objection to very long skirts (see image to the right), and it is based on a Rashi on Yeshaya 3:19. You can see the Rashi in full in Mikraos Gedolos here. (samech aleph aleph means sefarim acheirim omerim. We should really see how the different girsaot in different manuscripts of Rashi resolve themselves.

I have a few problems with this. Firstly, Rashi does not offer "the answer." He actually offers two answers. In the first, which is the one Rabbi Falk cites, Rashi assumes that this veil is the correct translation of רעלה. But in the context, the assumption is that Yeshaya is criticizing the women for wearing these things. (This need not be so, on a peshat level, at this stage in the perek.) Therefore, Rashi explains that they are using this particular item for the purpose of seduction.

But Rashi also offers another explanation. Perhaps (and this is my own suggestion) this was because Rashi saw the difficulty of claiming that this garment of modesty is something used for seduction. Therefore, he suggests that it means colorful scarves.

Thus, Judaica Press translates Rashi:
and the veils Heb. וְהָרְעָלוֹת. A veil with which they envelop their entire countenance except the eyeball, so that a man will desire to satisfy himself by gazing at the cheeks. Another explanation is that they are types of pretty shawls, with which to enwrap themselves, and in the language of the Mishnah, there is an instance: “Shawled (רְעוּלוֹת) Arabian women,” in Tractate Shabbath (65a).
My one objection to this translation is that they render ובלשון משנה יש ערביות רעולות as they did. The Mishna in question is actually, according to Rashi, referring to Jewish women in Arabian countries. And we do not know that this means "shawled" rather than "veiled," since this last phrase could bind here to either the first or the second explanation. And especially given Rashi's explanation on that Mishna in Shabbos, as we will get to in a bit.

Thus, perhaps it could be argued that even Rashi is not so sure of this diyyuk.

My second problem is that Rabbi Falk adds a whole "midrash" of his own invention to explain the problem of the veils. He writes:
"As a result of this, when the kerchief would lift a bit due to the wind, the appearance of the cheeks presented an enticement to those who saw it."
This fits in well with an idea Rabbi Falk wants to develop, that concealing and then seeing of an otherwise allowed body part is problematic. But this is not found in Rashi. All we really have is that since her face is concealed, men will have a desire to see her cheeks. But nothing about wind, nothing about the wind lifting the kercheif, and nothing about the men actually seeing her cheeks.

Thirdly, just because Rashi offered this as one of two ideas for explaining a difficult pasuk in Tanach does not mean that this is normative Jewish law or a concern that Jewish women in general must have as a function of their tnzius. Show me, rather, where this idea appears in Shas and poskim. Otherwise, it is quite easy to cull all of Jewish Rabbinic literature and find support far any idea, no matter how extreme, in any direction. Midrashim are often not sources for practical halacha.

Fourthly, even if there is a basis for this idea, this extension to very long skirts appears to be the innovation of Rabbi Falk. We do not know that Rashi would extend it this far. Nor do we know that he, or we, would necessarily agree with Rabbi Falk's assessment that this is the actual effect, or the intended effect, of these very long skirts. Rather, this is Rabbi Falk's personal taste and opinion on the matter, but presented in a way such that it almost seems as if Rashi is saying it.

Fifthly, Rashi does not even seem to prohibit the aforementioned veil. If we look at Rashi on that Mishna in Shabbos 65a which Rashi refers to here (see the daf with Rashi here). We see something interesting. The Mishna says that "Arabian women" can go out reulot. Rashi explains that this means Jewish women in Arabia. Thus, these women are following the style of their country. And for reulot, Rashi defines it exactly as he defined it here, that their entire face is covered but there are holes for their eyes. And then he refers to the pasuk in Yeshayahu, saying that this is the same word. And Rashi is saying this on a Mishna which states that it is permitted for women to go out wearing this clothing.

If Rashi would permit even these veils, how are we to assume that he would prohibit this extension of Rabbi Falk, the very long skirts?

As a sixth and final point, if you will pardon the rhetoric, Rabbi Falk is acting like a Karaite, or a Christian. We do not decide for ourselves based on a pasuk in Torah or Navi what practical halacha should be. Rather, at least in terms of halacha, we view Mikra through the eyes of Chazal. And what they discuss lehalacha in the gemara we act upon, and what they do not we do not act upon. In several places, Rabbi Falk sets up the prophet Isaiah as a source of practice, when it truly seems that Chazal consider it differently.

Thus, he cites these verses in Isaiah as a basis that women should not wear excessive perfume outside the home. (Chazal in masechet Shabbos 62b talk about permitting women to go out with a flask of perfume hanging from their necks.) He cites these verses as a reason to prohibit modern wigs. He cites Rashi -- which is really Rashi after offering his own interpretation of a phrase then offering an explanation of Targum Yonatan's translation of a phrase -- that the women would go out binding foreign peices of hair to their own hair, giving it a larger look. Yet Rashi does not say that this is forbidden for women to do. Perhaps it was a criticism of these particular women, or perhaps a (neutral) example of the tachshitim which would be replaced (see in context). But in gemara Shabbos, 64b, the Mishna states that women can go out with peah nachris, and Rashi defines it exactly the same. So women in Chazal's time -- frum women -- wore this peah nachris. And in this case, of the face veil, the Mishna, and Rashi in interpreting the Mishna, allows Jewish women to go out reulot, veiled. Yet the implication is that Rabbi Falk would forbid it (and by extension, long skirts), because of the verse in Isaiah.

Yes, it is a pasuk in Yeshayah, but I am referring to it as Isaiah to make this point. Show me a gemara that actually darshens these pesukim and applies it in this way to women's tznius, such that these items were forbidden. Rather than these of these women actions -- e.g., of kicking one's feet to spray myrrh and balsam on a bachur in order to entice them to sin. And he is interpreting these verses these ways, to prohibit these items, without clear direction from Chazal, and in cases in which it is clear that Chazal allowed these items. (He cites and interprets various Rashis or other sources in a way that bolsters this position, but they are pretty weak diyukkim, in my opinion.) I believe that taking this "Karaitic" approach towards practical halacha is quite troubling, and that this is not a valid methodology.

I may leave off this topic for a while now, because the semester is about to start, and because I have been neglecting other topics I want to cover on parshablog. Perhaps one more post on tznius and covering one's feet -- in the literal sense -- since someone recently searched parshablog for this topic.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Interesting Posts and Articles #65

  1. Tzaddik Gozer veHakadosh Baruch Hu Mekayem?
    To be honest, I'm not that bright, but the Chairman of the Board of the firm I represent likes my performance, so He fulfills almost any promise I make to people.
  2. Emes veEmunah on alcohol abuse.

  3. Refs may favor the team wearing red:
    "Competitors dressed in red are awarded more points than competitors dressed in blue, even when their performance is identical."
  4. SesameStreet.Org. Great site. One video there: Leslie Feist sings "Counting to Four"

  5. Making red blood cells from stem cells

  6. Vos Iz Neias about how the Israeli police are going after the tznius patrols.

  7. Via PaleoJudaica, at the Speculist, undoing the collapse of a quantum particle caused by measurements, and the implications this may have.

  8. Sumarai Mohel claims I've been wasting my time arguing with Oz VeHadar Levushah.

  9. Non-profit distributes a Chick tract -- propaganda for the music industry.

  10. Joe Leiberman as a McCain running mate? I think it would be a good choice. Both are good at breaking from their respective party's line as a result of their convictions.

  11. Meanwhile, this Obama quote annoys me:
    “We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies,” Obama told a crowd of supporters in Virginia. “They can’t charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point.”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ekev: Did The Israelites' Clothing Stay Fresh Naturally?

There is a pasuk which suggests that the Israelites' clothing did not wear out. Devarim 8:4:
ד שִׂמְלָתְךָ לֹא בָלְתָה, מֵעָלֶיךָ, וְרַגְלְךָ, לֹא בָצֵקָה--זֶה, אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה. 4 Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.
And sometimes this verse and associated midrash is cited to explain the lack of archaeological evidence found in the midbar of the Israelites' stay.

But what exactly does this pasuk mean? Rashi says:
Your clothing did not wear out The clouds of glory would rub their [the Israelites’] clothes and clean them so that they looked like freshly laundered clothes. And also their children, as they grew, their clothes grew along with them, like a snail’s shell, which grows along with it- [Pesikta d’Rav Kahana p. 92a]
Thus, it was the same clothing, and it did not wear out as clothing usually does. And this, Rashi cites the midrash, namely the pesikta derav kahana, was due to the actions of the ananei hakavod.

In contrast, Shadal writes:
ד ] שמלתך לא בלתה מעליך : לא חסרת חליפות שמלות עד שתבלה שמלתך על בשרך מבלי להחליפה , וכן רגלך לא בצקה מבלי מנעלים , כי ה ' זימן לך כל צרכך . לפי זה תבת מעליך מדוייקת , כי לא היה שלא בלו השמלות דרך נס , אבל לא בלו בהיותן על בשרם , עד שיצטרכו ללבוש בלואים , והנה "מעליך" פירושו בהיותן עליך , כמו עורי שחר מעלי ( איוב ל ' ל '), בעודו עלי

Thus, this was not a miracle, that their clothing, supernaturally, did not wear out. Rather, they had plenty of changes of clothing, such that they did not need to continue wearing the same clothing until it wore out. And they did not have to go without shoes, for Hashem prepared all their needs.

Ibn Ezra sort of dances between the two. He brings down the option that they brought many changes of clothing out of Egypt with them, but also suggests that it is possible that the mon which they ate did not produce sweat. This fits in well with Greek science. Theophrastus maintained (see here) that "when food is taken in, some of the matter is suited to the nature of flesh and some is not. The former is what is sweetest and lightest; it is assimilated and becomes flesh. The latter is salty; it cannot be assimilated and therefore must be secreted."

If the manna was such optimal, heavenly food, then it could perhaps have none of the non-optimal matter. As such, they would not have sweated, and their clothing would have lasted better.

This idea could also fit in with the midrash on the manna as lechem hakilokel, in that they did not have to use the bathroom, and so feared they would eventually burst.

See Ibn Ezra inside, and Ramban's reaction to his position, here in mikraot gedolot.

Would Rashi Necessarily Condemn Pants Because They Show The Split of the Legs, As It Seems From Oz veHadar Levushah?

I digressed a bit to discuss whether Rabbi Falk's portrayal of Rus, and his presentation of the Taz's position. But now we return to where we left off, in this post. On page 309 of Oz veHadar Levushah, in the very next paragraphs, we have what is pictured to the right.

His first point is that slacks and trousers are forbidden because "they display the general outline of the upper sections of the legs (the point mentioned in the previous paragraph)." But, as we pointed out in an earlier post in this series, this was not the standard explanation of that gemara in Nedarim. Rather, that gemara was talking about looking at a woman's naked vagina. And even according to Meiri, it was talking about looking at a woman's clad buttocks, rather than the upper sections of the legs. Further, it seems from a plain reading of that Meiri that the woman was doing nothing wrong dressing as she was dressing, but it was solely the man's fault, and the punishment was for his being a pervert. And in an even earlier post, we discussed whether Ibn Ezra, and Rashi on Moed Katan, and Moed Katan, actually interpreted the pasuk in Shir HaShirim to require extreme covering for the thigh area. (I do not think it does.) So this first point he makes is somewhat questionable, to my mind.

At least based on the sources he presented. There might well be other sources.

But his second point is that
"they exhibit and emphasize the full shape of those limbs -- see Rashi Pesochim 3a s.v. b'Zov and Responsa Shevet HaLevi 6:118.2 about the pritzus of פיסוק רגלים -- displaying the division of the upper sections of the legs."
The strong implication of this is that Rashi there is assuring pants, and that when he talks about pisuk raglayim, he is talking about "displaying the division of the upper sections of the legs." Thus, it is not just Rav Shmuel Wosner, shlita, in Shevet HaLevi, who forbids pants because of this pritzus, but Rashi, a Rishon, says this as well, in explanation of the gemara. Which would then position it more as a requirement across the Orthodox spectrum.

But here is the actual gemara, and actual Rashi, pictured to the right. You may wish to click on the image, especially to be able to read Rabbenu Chananel.

The gemara says that the Torah used a pristine language, by referring to "riding" for a man but "sitting" for a woman. Rashi explains that even though they refer to the same thing, in terms of tumah for a zav and a zava, it is not proper to mention rechiva and pisuk raglayim by a woman.

Looking up this source with Rabbi Falk's definition of pisuk raglayim in mind, it would then seem that Rashi is saying that the Torah did not refer to women riding because it is not fitting to mention riding and thus the place of the division of their body into their two legs. And by extension, if one should not even mention the activity which has to do with this place of division of the upper sections of their legs, certainly it is an extreme violation of tznius if a woman wore pants, such that people could see that a woman had two legs, and that her body divided at that point! Thus, Rashi would prohibit pants because it is pritzus.

However, Rashi is not saying that. If so, the Torah would also never mention a woman walking, because walking involves the fact that the woman has two legs which divide at the upper section. At this point, please step away from the computer screen and try the following exercise. Pretend you are riding a horse or a donkey. Keep your back straight, but spread your legs widely apart and bring your pelvis down, as if you are sitting on a horse. Take away the horse, and you are left in a pretty crude and non-tzniusdik pose.

That was what Rashi was talking about. Pisuk Raglayim does not mean the place, or displaying the place, of the division of the upper sections of the legs. Rather, it means the spreading, or splaying of the legs. Read Rashi again and see that that is what he is saying. And then read Rabbenu Chananel, who says the same thing, in slightly different words -- shehamerkav hu bipisuk raglayim -- that riding is done by the spreading of the legs.

And so does Rashi use it in his commentary on Yirmiyahu 3:13:
יג אַךְ דְּעִי עֲו‍ֹנֵךְ, כִּי בַּה אֱלֹהַיִךְ פָּשָׁעַתְּ; וַתְּפַזְּרִי אֶת-דְּרָכַיִךְ לַזָּרִים, תַּחַת כָּל-עֵץ רַעֲנָן, וּבְקוֹלִי לֹא-שְׁמַעְתֶּם, נְאֻם-ה. 13 Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every leafy tree, and ye have not hearkened to My voice, saith the LORD.

And Rashi writes:
and you have scattered your ways This is an expression of harlotry, spreading the legs to the woman’s private parts.
And in Hebrew, Rashi uses the term pisuk raglayim: ותפזרי את דרכיך - ל' זנות פיסוק רגלים למשכבי אשה: Thus scattered your ways = spread your legs.

So we find in the midrash sechel tov:
שכל טוב (בובר) שמות פרק יב
תנא דבי ר' ישמעאל לעולם יספר אדם בלשון כבוד, שהרי בזב קראו מרכב, משום דדרכו של איש לרכוב, ובאשה קראו מושב, דכתיב וכל אשר תשב עליו יטמא (ויקרא טו כ), לפי שמרכב הוא פיסוק רגלים, ודרך גנאי הוא להזכיר פיסוק הרגלים גבי אשה במקום שאפשר להזכיר בלשון כבוד
And in Yalkut Shimoni:
ילקוט שמעוני יחזקאל רמז שנו
תמן תנינן המפתה נותן שלשה דברים, האונס ארבעה, המפתה - נותן בושת ופגם וקנס, מוסיף עליו אונס - שנותן את הצער, צער דמאי? אמר רב נחמן אמר רבה בר אבוה צער של פיסוק רגלים, וכן הוא אומר ותפשקי את רגליך לכל עובר:
which makes it clear it means "spread your legs." This Yalkut Shimoni was actually citing a gemara in Ketubot daf 39:
אמרו לו: אינו דומה נבעלת באונס לנבעלת ברצון!

אלא אמר רב נחמן אמר רבה בר אבוה: צער של פיסוק הרגלים, וכן הוא אומר (יחזקאל טז כה: אל כל ראש דרך בנית רמתך ותתעבי את יפיך) וַתְּפַשְׂקִי את רגליך לכל עובר [ותרבי את תזנותך]
Where the payment for "pain" in the case of rape is for pisuk haraglayim, the spreading of her legs.

And the phrase is also used in Igros Moshe to mean the same thing:
שו"ת אגרות משה אבן העזר חלק ד סימן מא
וא"כ אף אם נימא שהמאנס שאינו חושש לה כלל עושה גם בפסוק רגליה אבל מי שחושש לה יכול לבעול גם בלא פסוק רגלים כל כך אלא אף בפחות מזה שיכניס רק מקצת אבל ודאי מסתבר שא"א בלא פסוק רגלים כלל, וכ"ש שא"א כלל בדחקה ודבקה רגליה זה לזה שליכא אף פרוד כלל ליכא מציאות לכניסת ראש האבר לשם אפילו לנשיקה
So Rashi was not talking about pants, or tznius, or even the issue of a woman standing straight up in pants, when one can see that (forfend!) she has two legs, which separate from her pelvic region into two separate entities, just as human beings tend to do. He is talking about discussing a woman in a specific pose, which is necessary for riding a horse -- which is to have her legs splayed widely apart.

But someone just reading Oz veHadar Levushah without carefully looking up all the sources in context could quite readily walk away with the impression that Rashi, a rishon, says that it is pritzus for a woman to wear clothing which shows the form of her two legs, all the way to where they split apart.

I am not sure if this is deliberate misdirection; or an error in which Rabbi Falk mistook the meaning of the words because it is a homonym for what Rav Wosner discusses; or an extension which Rabbi Falk feels is obvious and justified. Regardless, it would have been nice had this been made clear.

Rav Wosner, in Shevet HaLevi, chelek 6, siman 118, ot 2, writes (click here to read online):

The portion cited seems, at first glance, to consider the issue of pissuk raglayim to be a problem because of that which Rabbi Falk wrote in the paragraph beginning "some Poskim." That is, it is tikkunei digavrei. Because in previous generations, women did not wear it because of the etzem pritzusa of pissuk raglayim. So even now that it is not considered by the public at large to be problematic, the qualities which make it beged ish still exist, he is asserting. This is

But along with this is the assumption that it is in fact etzem pritzusa. And we will see that Rav Wosner says this elsewhere. So Rabbi Falk would certainly seem to be correct in asserting that Rav Wosner holds this.

But I would point out that modern trousers were a late innovation. Though Persians had them in the 4th century at least. I don't know the real source for this assertion, but:
In the fourth century, women in the Western world wore pants, which they adapted from the Persians. At that time, pants were considered unmanly.
Perhaps, they wore some other clothing on top of where the legs connected, like Rav Wosner discusses in terms of the precedent of pants by the Teimanim (in the source we will discuss next). And general early European attitudes of women wearing pants may not have an impact on whether it is pritzus according to halacha, much as Victorian-era prudishness should not compel us to put diapers on all our horses.

At any rate, in Shevet HaLevi, chelek 2, siman 63, available online here, we have the following selected paragraphs from his teshuva (but the entire teshuva is there). He makes clear that the issue is whether this is a problem of cross-dressing, as described above (see first paragraph). But in the second paragraph, he expands upon the pritzus issue as a separate reason.

And Rav Wosner is certainly entitled to his opinion on whether pants for ladies is pritzus. But I will be so bold as to state that it is more than possible that if I disagree with him, it is not a matter of my own insensitivity to tznius and kedusha, but rather a difference driven by a sociological disparity. Rav Wosner is a member of the Eidah Chareidis, and lives in Benei Berak. And Bnei Brak and chareidi standards and conceptions of tznius are very different from my own.

But see this recent post at Hirhurim, where he discusses the specific issue of women wearing pants. And it seems that more than just Rav Wosner see a tznius problem with pants. But not everybody holds that pisuk raglayim is the problem. But see also the comment section there, for a good discussion on the matter. There does seem room to navigate.

One comment in the Hirhurim thread, which quoted a post on a mailing list, goes as follows (some spelling errors corrected):
One of the writers questioned whether there were halachic authorities that permitted the wearing of slacks by women. For sources that permit the wearing of slacks by women, see Shut Bena Baim vol 2, at page 211, where Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin is quoted by his grandson, also a well known posek, as permitting loose- fitting slacks. So too, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein is quoted in Dov Frimer's dissertation on tziniut as permitting loose fitting pants. Even my own rebbi, Rav Bleich, in his article in Contemporary Halachic Problems II 144-147 is very ambivalent about the issur and states "While there is little doubt that in many instances the type of slacks currently in vogue do not conform with halakhic norms of modest dress, it is difficult to agree that this must necessarily always be the case." He concludes that wearing pants is something that wives of talmidai chachamim, and others who represent torah, should not do. As with all postings of this type, people have to be careful when they post about unanimous opinions of halachic authorities.
Michael Broyde
{Update: But see bion's comment about Rav Bleich's position in his article, which may demonstrate that Rav Bleich considers mekom pisuk raglayim to be a problem. I have to check that article out, and see what he says in context.}

At any rate, Rav Wosner is perfectly entitled to hold that pants are not tznius for women because they show the mekom pisuk raglayim, and Rabbi Falk is perfectly entitled to hold like him. I just wish that a work such as this would not present this opinion about pisuk raglayim as if it were universally accepted. Furthermore, Rav Wosner's problem is with mekom pisuk raglayim, which is really just a near homonym to pisuk raglayim, and so it does not seem correct to conflate the two, as seems to be done in Oz veHadar Levushah. (Perhaps Rabbi Falk is relying on some other place I have not seen in which Rav Wosner equates the two. Regardless, I think it is not correct to conflate them.)

As a final note, Rabbi Falk does not list those who argue with the position that it is a problem of beged ish for the reason above. Instead, he avoids mention of meikil positions by noting that those who argue are listed in a footnote in another book geared towards Jewish women, Halichos Bas Yisroel, by Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Fuchs. That book is available via Google Books, but unfortunately that particular note seems to be not part of the limited preview they provide. But see the aforementioned Hirhurim post.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Does Oz VeHadar Levushah Accurately Characterize the Taz On Thighs, And Is Taz The Only Position On The Matter?

I will state up front that I do not own a copy of Oz veHadar Levushah. (If someone would like to lend or donate their copy to me, that would be appreciated.) I have been relying upon the online version of the book. And so, there is a section missing from the beginning of the chapter in which Rabbi Falk may have addressed some of what I mention here. (Or you can tell me if this material is there.) But the text in the image at the right is found on page 300-301.

The part I want to focus on it the text in brackets, where he presents his Makor. He writes
"[See Taz O:C 75:1 who stresses how extremely harmful it is when any part of the upper section of the legs is uncovered.]"
Thus, short skirts and mini-skirts are terrible. As it continues from the sources he cites, he the problem is where even less than a tefach of thigh is showing. And read the whole section here.

I have two problems with this.

1) The first is that this seems to me to be somewhat of a mischaracterization of the Taz. The phrasing of the above, and the context in which it is placed, is that the Taz is talking about the spiritual dangers of pritzus. And thus, in warning people about this threat, he stresses the problem of parts of the thigh any part of the upper section of the legs is uncovered. And further, as part of this warning and stressing, he notes that this exposure is extremely harmful.

In fact, the context is explaining some interesting language in the Tur. You can see the Tur here, and you can see the Shulchan Aruch with the commentary of the Taz here.

The Tur is talking about the laws of kriat Shema, such that a man may not read the Shema opposite one tefach of exposed flesh of a woman, where that flesh is usually covered, even if it is his wife. And then he says that if her thigh is exposed, it is forbidden to read Shema opposite the exposed thigh.

This should be the same as the previous bit about a tefach of exposed flesh. So why does Tur go out of his way to mention it? Taz explains that since the exposed thigh causes hirhur, it is forbidden to read Shema opposite it even if less than a tefach is exposed.

Thus, he is not coming to stress the spiritual dangers, and warn us about it. Rather, he is coming up with a diyuk in the language of the Tur. And nowhere does Taz say it is extremely harmful. This is Rabbi Falk's extension of the position that it causes hirhur even with less than a tefach exposed. This may be a valid extension, but it mischaracterizes the tone and message of the Taz.

2) Secondly, this is by no means the only explanation of the Tur. Beis Yosef, author of the Shulchan Aruch, argues. He cites for this the Rashba, based on the Raavad. Beis Yosef maintains that the reason Tur mentions this is that the thigh is only a makom tzanua by a woman (shok beIsha erva), but not on a man. Even though other places on a woman's leg is not erva. Therefore, he is coming to tell us that this is a makom tzanua for the woman, and thus one cannot read Shema opposite an exposed thigh. But the amount of exposure for Shema would be a tefach, just like any other exposed part of the body that is usually covered. And there would be no need to claim a greater spiritual danger. And then the part about the greater harm from "any part of the upper section of the legs," implying less than a tefach, would not hold true.

(That does not mean that it lechatchila may be uncovered. The purpose of these posts, I must stress, is not halacha lemaaseh. Consult your local Orthodox rabbi for guidance.)

Indeed, the Aruch HaShulchan mentions both explanations of the Tur, and says that the latter is more persuasive, and that this was why the thigh was not listed separately in Shulchan Aruch -- it is just like any place usually covered.

Now, Rabbi Falk is free to hold like the Taz over Beis Yosef and others. And it is quite possible that those he follows hold like the Taz. But still, he is giving a one-sided citation here to bolster his message that short skirts are absolutely horrific and extremely harmful. (Others may indeed forbid short skirts, but still hold by Beis Yosef.) This may be a laudatory goal, but I like my quotes in context.

As an interesting aside -- I did not see Rabbi Falk mention this, but then I did not read the entire book. There appears to be a position, cited and discussed by Beis Yosef and Bach, that would permit short skirts and miniskirts for your average Beis Yaakov girl. That would be the position of Rashi. On the shok beIsha erva gemara, which appears on Brachot 24a, we have the set of Rashis pictured to the right.

The first Rashi in the image is discussing an exposed tefach. And he holds that this is specifically if she is a married woman. Just like head hair is only erva for a married woman. And based on the conclusion of the gemara, this is specifically his wife, for reading of Shema.

And the Rashi, dibbur hamatchil "shok" and "erva," he says that this is specifically by a married woman, that it is forbidden to look at a married woman's exposed thigh, and that one cannot read Shema opposite one's own wife's exposed thigh. (Assuming as we have so far that shok means thigh. See also this, for an elaboration of Rashi's position.)

I would venture that most girls wearing miniskirts are unmarried teenagers. Once again, this does not mean that we pasken like Rashi. And perhaps even according to Rashi we could find reasons that one should not wear miniskirts or short skirts. But it still is an interesting position.


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