The Israeli Health Ministry and the Rehabilitation of Daniel Chwolson

letter-447577_1280

[thanks to Rabbi Dr. David Fox, LA, for the lead]

The story has been told for well over a century. The Israeli Health Ministry just added a new twist to it.

Daniel Abramovich Chwolson (1819-1911) left many Jews confused. The distinguished Orientalist and professor at the University of St. Petersburg achieved a remarkable position of prominence in Czarist Russia. The price of entry into those circles was conversion, and the ex-yeshiva bochur from Vilna paid it. Unlike many other meshumadim, however, Chwolson remained fiercely committed to Jewish causes. He led battles against both blood libels and the denunciation of the Talmud. His assistance was solicited and gained for a variety of causes by stellar figures in the Torah world.

In the version I heard, someone asked the Netziv how to relate to such a person, who did so much good for the Jewish people, and yet was guilty of the ultimate treason. Do we see anything positive in him?

The Netziv replied with a story about a frum Yid who took sick, and was instructed by his physician to eat pork. He refused, and his condition worsened. “I never ate treif my entire life. I will die rather than do so!” The rov of the town was called in, who ordered the patient to eat. He responded, “Very well, I cannot disobey my rov. But I am not going to eat from an animal that was not shechted properly!”

It took much prodding, but the rov got the shochet to go along with the charade. The shochet dutifully slaughtered the pig, using perfect shechitah form. The patient was still uneasy. “Ask the shochet if he checked the knife before shechitah.” The shochet was called in, and assured the patient that he had indeed done the required pre-shechitah inspection of the blade.

“Fine. But did the shochet check the lungs to see that there were no adhesions?” Once more, the shochet was called in. This time he admitted that there was an issue. He had checked the lungs, and there was a bit of a suspicious growth on one lobe of the lung.

Attention then shifted to the rov, who had to decide whether the growth was a real adhesion, or some innocuous tissue. It took the rov several hours to pore over seforim, finding the right answer. He finally emerged, and said, “If the lungs had come from a cow, I could find an argument to call it kosher. But how do you expect me to pronounce the word ‘kosher’ on a pig?

“How then,” asked the Netziv, “do you expect me to use the word kosher in regard to Chwolson.”

And there the story rested – until the Israeli Health Ministry weighed in on any swine flu dangers associated with eating pork. As printed in Maariv, this is what they said:

האם קיים איסור על אכילת בשר חזיר?
לא. במשרד הבריאות מבהירים כי אין כל חשש מאכילת מזונות וכי “המחלה איננה מועברת במזון”. בארגון הבריאות העולמי מדגישים כי

    אין חשש מאכילת בשר חזיר שבושל כהלכה

.

Is there a prohibition to eat pork? No! The Ministry of Health clarifies that there is no danger in food consumption. The disease is not transmitted through food. The WHO emphasizes that

    there is nothing to be concerned about in eating pork that is cooked according to Halacha

.

The modern Israeli reader will understand that “kehalachah” has nothing to do with Shulchan Aruch. It means “properly” – in this case, cooked to the proper temperature. Similarly, “issur” does not imply to that reader a violation of Hashem’s Torah. The phrase simply means “no problem.”

Oh, the advantages of modernity! Had the Netziv only lived in our enlightened times, he could have let go of his wallowing in negativity, of looking for mud to sling at another human being, of the insistence on porcine references. Rather than the put-down, a modern liberated Netziv could have hammed up a comedic description of Chwolson that would have left the audience squealing in delight. I bet he could have been good enough that people would have paid to listen, thus bringing home the bacon for Volozhin.

More seriously, perhaps we should mourn that words so dear to us could morph into something so different in the space of a generation, that words have evolved (devolved, really) to get us to this point

We pay a dear price for this, on several levels. Next week, Muslims students at UC Irvine will run an anti-Israel hate fest. Nothing unusual there. Unfortunately, there is nothing so unusual in its star presenter being Gidon Levy of Haaretz. Not so long ago, a single Jewish turncoat could inspire stories that lasted decades. Today, journalists and university faculty galore work to undermine the legitimacy of Israel – quite the opposite of Chwolson.

Somehow, that is not too kosher.

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43 Responses

  1. Chardal says:

    >We really have no common ground for discussion here.

    We have the writings of the Rambam and an ability to discuss things calmly and rationaly. What other common ground do we need?

  2. Chardal says:

    Let us start with the last first:

    “WADR, I am sorry, but this statement of yours: “Therefore, the adoption of Torah study and Prayer in the face of a military enemy would be anathema to the Rambam’s way of thinking” is therefore just totally inconsistent with the Rambam.”

    I was not intending to say that the Rambam’s position is “don’t pray when you are in trouble.” What I was saying (and what I thought was clear from the context of that sentence) is that to the Rambam, Torah study and Prayer can never be a primary response. They could be a commanded action which instills in the nation the proper ideas and the proper understanding of the world – but they can never be seen as directly resulting in victory in any sense. Such an assertion regarding the Rambam’s position on hashgacha would not fit into many parts of the Moreh.

    For example, take a look at Moreh 2:29 where he discusses nevuot that seem to contradict his philosophy regarding the Teva and his assertion that Teva NEVER changes (even when something seems like a change in Teva, according to the Rambam, that “shift” in nature is part and parcel of Maase Bereishit). To the Rambam, the understanding of how things works IN NATURE is of fundumental importance. No nation which seeks to contradict teva can have success and no ideology which pushes willfully ignoring the natural order can be called a Torah ideology.

    Mitzvot and Prayer, to the Rambam, are never to generate an ontological response from the heavens – to think such would undermine his entire philosophy. Mitzvot and Prayer, to the Rambam, are in order to instill proper ideas and actions in man (תיקון הנפש ותיקון הגוף) as he writes in Moreh 3:27. This idea of the Rambam is why so many of his contemporaries (who wanted to see mitzvot as a theurgic tool) took such offence to his taamei haMitzvot.

    Therefore, your quotations from hilchot taanit are misplaced. Nobody is saying that the Rambam did not pasken that Jews should fast and pray. But rather I am saying that the Rambam sees no Theurgic or ontological consequence to such actions. The Rambam says this explicitly in Moreh 3:44:

    המצוות אשר כללתן הקבוצה התשיעית:
    הם המצוות אשר מנינום בספר אהבה, וכולם סיבתם ברורה וטעמם גלוי, כלומר: שתכלית אותן העבודות זכירת ה’ תמיד ואהבתו ויראתו וקבלת המצוות באופן כללי, ושנאמין בו יתעלה מה שהכרחי לכל דתי להאמין, והם התפילה וקריאת שמע וברכת המזון וכל הנספח להן, וברכת כוהנים ותפילין ומזוזה וציציות ורכישת ספר תורה והקריאה בו בעתים

    כל אלה מעשים המקנים השקפות מועילות, וזה פשוט וברור אין צורך לומר בו דבר נוסף, כי זה כפילות ולא יותר

    In other words, the purpose of fasting and prayer (in a time of war or not) is to instill the proper ideas (which are more necessary in a time of war when a person may get so frightened they start preaching quietism and pasivity in the fact of a military foe). Nowhere does the Rambam write that prayer is the “Jewish response to war.” Rather, he seems to say that prayer is an essential component of any Jewish army.

    Now, back to the previous comment:

    “The letter to Marseilles is discussing studying GARBAGE, not prayer”

    That was not what I was pointing out in my comment. I was saying that in the letter in Marseilles the Rambam does not say “they studies garbage instead of studying Torah so they were punished.” He says “they studies garbage and therefore thought that they could avoid the natural order of the world, they neglected knowledge of statecraft and military might and therefore the natural consequences were defeat and exile.” Again, the punishment is not some Divine reflexive lightning bolt that sends them into exile but rather the natural consequences of bad ideas and bad actions. These consequences are build into natural creation by Hashem – they are not, according to the Rambam, supernatural punishments for idol worship.

    Now to the first comment:

    >He does NOT reject that cause and effect are more than what meets the eye in the physical realm.

    This is a bit tricky – the term physical is a bit misleading in this context. I would certainly agree that the Rambam was no Epicurean and therefore saw cause and effect as being deeper than the physical realm. He did, afterall believe in many areas of classical aristotalean metaphysics. But this is misleading because almost every greek philosopher other than epicurus believed the same thing. The real quesion is: what is our understanding of a ‘non-physical realm’?

    To the Rambam, the natural world which includes physical and metaphysical components, is at its base lawful. And any understanding of Divinity that undermines the lawfulness of the world is problamatic (hence his understanding of miracles as events built into nature and not above it).

    Therefore, you are right, but not in the way you initially stated. Cause and effect – including their metaphysical componenets are understandable to the average person. The acceptance of the ikkarim by that same person is not done in contradition to that cause and effect (including its metaphysical components).

  3. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    Or even more clearly, in Taaniyos 2:3.

    ג על הצרת שונאי ישראל לישראל כיצד: גויים שבאו לערוך מלחמה עם ישראל, או ליטול מהם מס, או ליקח מידם ארץ, או לגזור עליהם שמד אפילו במצוה קלה–הרי אלו מתענין ומתריעין, עד שירוחמו. וכל הערים שסביבותיהם, מתענין;

    WADR, I am sorry, but this statement of yours: “Therefore, the adoption of Torah study and Prayer in the face of a military enemy would be anathema to the Rambam’s way of thinking” is therefore just totally inconsistent with the Rambam.

  4. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    I got cut off there. The Rambam does NOT reject prayer in the face of war. The letter to Marseilles is discussing studying GARBAGE, not prayer. The Rambam does NOT deny the open Passuk of ןכי תבאו מלחמה בארצכם על הצר הצורר אתכם והרעותם בחצצרות – see Hilchos Taanis 1:6.

    Like I said, we really have no common ground here.

  5. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    Look, I’ve read good swaths of the Moreh. Neither of your quotes contradict anything the Chazon Ish said. I suspect the difference may be in which Rebbe we learned it with.

    >> Knowledge is the key to everything. correct ideas are rewarded and bad ideas and actions are punished. This is not something that occurs through a mystical mechanism but rather is it build into the nature of a Divine and created world.

    In other words, the wise one sees the order of the natural world as a revelation of Divine wisdom. To go against the natural order is, for the Rambam, to go against Divine wisdom. <> Therefore, the adoption of Torah study and Prayer in the face of a military enemy would be anathema to the Rambam’s way of thinking (as he wrote in his letter to Marseilles). <> The Rambam was a ontological and theological monist – he rejects the kind of tension the CI describes between Divine knowledge and physical knowledge of the world. <<

    He does NOT reject that cause and effect are more than what meets the eye in the physical realm.

    We really have no common ground for discussion here.

  6. Chardal says:

    Binyomin,

    I am sorry, but you are quoting out of context. one reading your quote of the Moreh will attribute to the Rambam more modern conceptions of “will of God” and reward and punishment. The Rambam is pretty clear in his intro to the Moreh that the book needs to be studies as a whole.

    For example later on in 3:17 he writes:

    והבן השקפתי עד סופה, כי איני סובר שהוא יתעלה נעלם ממנו דבר, או שאני מייחס לו אי יכולת, אלא אני בדעה כי ההשגחה נספחת לשכל וחיובית לו, כיון שההשגחה אינה אלא ממשכיל , ואשר הוא שכל שלם שלמות שאין שלמות אחריה, והרי כל מי שנצמד בו משהו מאותו השפע כפי ערך מה שהגיע לו מן השכל יגיע לו מן ההשגחה . זוהי ההשקפה התואמת לדעתי את המושכל ולשונות התורה.

    Hashgacha (and here he is talking about hashgacha davka in the context of reward and punishment) is an attribute of the intelect. According to the Rambam, to the extent that one understands Divine wisdom as it is revealed through a proper understanding of the physical world as well as how it is understood through the study of Divine revelation, to THAT extent a person has hashgacha. Further, punishment is a natural consequence of of being far from Divine wisdom.

    See further down in 3:18 as well:

    ולפי העיון הזה מתחייב בהחלט שתהא השגחתו יתעלה בנביאים גדולה יותר וכפי מעלותיהם בנבואה , ותהיה השגחתו בחסידים ובצדיקים כפי חסידותם וצדקתם, כי אותו הערך משפע השכל האלוהי הוא אשר ניבא את הנביאים, ויישר מעשי הצדיקים, והביא לשלמות מדעי החסידים במה שידעו.

    Notice what a Hasid is for the Rambam. He is by defintion a person of knowledge. Knowledge is the key to everything. correct ideas are rewarded and bad ideas and actions are punished. This is not something that occurs through a mystical mechanism but rather is it build into the nature of a Divine and created world.

    In other words, the wise one sees the order of the natural world as a revelation of Divine wisdom. To go against the natural order is, for the Rambam, to go against Divine wisdom. Therefore, the adoption of Torah study and Prayer in the face of a military enemy would be anathema to the Rambam’s way of thinking (as he wrote in his letter to Marseilles). The Rambam was a ontological and theological monist – he rejects the kind of tension the CI describes between Divine knowledge and physical knowledge of the world.

  7. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    >> In short, the Rambam denies there being a mystical metaphysical mechanism that is the engine for a cause/effect mechanism between sin and punishment <<

    I don’t know what you mean by “mystical metaphysical”.

    The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim 3:17 writes:

    “It may be by mere chance
    that a ship goes down with all her contents, as in the
    above-mentioned instance, or the roof of a house falls upon those
    within; but it is not due to chance, according to our view, that in
    the one instance the men went into the ship, or remained in the
    house in the other instance: it is due to the will of God, and is in accordance with the justice of His judgments, the method of which
    our mind is incapable of understanding.”

    This means that the cause and effect of someone dying under a collapsed roof is not, essentially, because he was there at the time due to some sequence of natural events, but because G-d wanted him to be there and die because he deserved it. This is the principle of Reward and Punishment, number 11 of the 13, and despite the method being something our mind is incapable of understanding, is nevertheless true, and an expression of that Ikkar.

  8. Chardal says:

    >The Rambam does not deny that the Temple was destroyed due to שנאת חנם. See e.g. הלכות תעניות א:ג

    ואידך פירושא זיל גמור.

    I am sorry. But much ink has been spilt on understanding the Rambam’s position on this topic – all taking into account Hilchot Taanit AS WELL AS his writings in the Moreh and his letters.

    In short, the Rambam denies there being a mystical metaphysical mechanism that is the engine for a cause/effect mechanism between sin and punishment. Punishment for the Rambam is the natural consequence of bad action as well as the natural consequence of neutral action guided by wrong/bad ideas. To the Rambam, human conception of a mystical metaphysical mechanism is the root of idol worship even if we substitute Torah and Mitzvot for the magical acts. As is clear from his letter to Marseilles, the temple (and he was – I think talking about the first temple – not the second in this instance) was destroyed due to a NATURAL consequence of idol worship – that is the neglect of the proper understanding of how the natural world operates and how nations operate within it.

  9. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    We are speaking past each other. The Rambam does not deny that the Temple was destroyed due to שנאת חנם. See e.g. הלכות תעניות א:ג

    ואידך פירושא זיל גמור.

  10. Chardal says:

    Binyomin,

    I think we are spearking past one another.

    Acceptance of the ikkarim is something that the Rambam saw as both achievable by the average person AND something that does not contradict the normal cause and effect of the observed world.

    The Rambam is not the address for attributing hidden esoteric mechanisms to things that are part of the natural order of the world. In fact, when writing to the wise men of marseilles, he attributed the distruction of the temple NOT to a esoteric metaphysical cause but rather as a worldly natural consequence of idol worship:

    וזו היא שאבדה מלכותנו והחריבה בית מקדשנו והאריכה גלותינו והגיעתנו עד הלום. שאבותינו חטאו ואינם, לפי שמצאו ספרים רבים באלה הדברים של דברי החוזים בכוכבים, שדברים אלו הם עיקר עבודה זרה, כמו שביארנו בהלכות עבודה זרה, טעו ונהו אחריהן, ודימו שהם חכמות מפוארות ויש בהן תועלת גדולה, ולא נתעסקו בלמידת מלחמה ולא בכיבוש ארצות, אלא דמו שאותן הדברים יועילו להם. ולפיכך קראו אותם הנביאים סכלים ואווילים.

    In other words, the distruction of the temple was a natural consequence of the loss of the knowledge of war and statecraft among the Jews which happened due to the ideas they borrowed from idolotrous religions. The Rambam does not say: “they studies idol worship instead of the Torah and therefore were destroyed.” There is no mystical component to the Rambam’s view of these matters. To the Rambam, a Torah ideology that proscribes prayer as a substitute to understanding the natural world and how it works is not a Torah ideology at all!

    Further, you have – through a back door – brought up a discussion of a particular view of the mechanism of providence. This is a very interesting topic – but is really a very seperate topic from the statement of the CI. The Rambam’s view of providence are well known – and he certainly never meant the 13 principles to be a means by which people knock down positions that he took himself.

  11. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    >> The Rambam’s goal was to formulate 13 principles that can be taught to average non-philosophers and readily accepted as a reasonable understanding of the world – and through this, the masses would gain entry to the eternal world.

    This goal of the Rambam and his formulation is therefore in direct opposition to the CI’s understanding of the relationship between the ikkarim and our simple perception of the world. <<

    I don’t see any opposition at all. You don’t have to be a great philosopher to understand the 13 Ikkarim, and you don’t have to be a great philosopher to understand that what you see as apparent cause and effect in the world is not necessarily the real cause and effect.

    You don’t have to be an Aristotle to understand that the world is round – but that doesn’t mean that you are standing right-side up and the guy on the other side of the world is upside down – despite common sense dictating such a thing.

    And you don’t have to be a Plato to understand that while G-d may act in natural ways without gross manipulation of natural cause and effect to acheive what He wants, and therefore wars have been won with armies, the ultimate cause and effect is spiritual. Anyone reading Tanach understands this.

  12. Chardal says:

    >You are confusing “reason” with apparent cause and effect. Scientists know better than that.

    Not sure what you mean.

    The Rambam’s conception of “reason” was – like all the other thinkers of his time – philosophical/deductive and most certainly not experimental/inductive. Science as we understand it today is an anachronism when we discuss the Rambam. In the Moreh 1:31, the Rambam approvingly quotes Alexander’s three falicies that lead people to disagree regarding the correct understanding of the world:

    אמר אלאסכנדר אלאפרודיסי, כי גורמי המחלוקות בעניינים שלשה:
    האחד אהבת ההתנשאות והניצוח המטים את האדם מהשיג את האמת כפי שהוא;
    והשני עדינות הדבר המושג כשלעצמו ועמקו וקושי השגתו;
    והשלישי סכלות המשיג וקוצר יכולתו להשיג מה שאפשר להשיג.

    Now, why am I quoting this? It seems to agree with the CI’s contention that the 13 ikkarim are in contradiction to the “apparent cause and effect” of the world (at least that seems to be how you understand the CI). But there is the rub. The Rambam formulated the ikkarim precisely FOR the masses – in order for them to be able to achieve eternal life in the next world (which according to the Rambam is only achievable through having the correct ideas. The Rambam’s goal was to formulate 13 principles that can be taught to average non-philosophers and readily accepted as a reasonable understanding of the world – and through this, the masses would gain entry to the eternal world.

    This goal of the Rambam and his formulation is therefore in direct opposition to the CI’s understanding of the relationship between the ikkarim and our simple perception of the world. It also explains why in the Moreh, the Rambam sometimes seems to contradict his very own formulations in the ikkarim – simply put – in the Moreh, he was writing to a different audience.

  13. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    >> The problem with the CI’s perspective on this is that it is in direct contradiction to the view of he who formulated the 13 ikkarim. To the Rambam, the ikkarim must be born from a reason-based view of the world. Further, they could never be in contradition to it. <<

    You are confusing “reason” with apparent cause and effect. Scientists know better than that.

  14. dovid says:

    I want to clarify my comment posted on May 14. My unit wasn’t activated when I went to Reb Mordechai. Had I been mobilized, there would have been no שאלה to ask.

  15. dovid says:

    “He may have done more for the Jewish people as an irreligious Christian than he ever would have been in position to do as a Jew.”

    Wrong. Very wrong. The entire world, Jewish and non-Jewish, would have benefited considerably more if Disraeli had remained Jewish. Both in this world and עולם האמת, your Disraeli stands no chance against the humblest of Jews, in terms of contribution to the advancement of truth and decency, if this Jew is עוסק בתורה ומצות.

  16. Chardal says:

    >כל יסודי האמונה, י”ג העיקרים, והמסתעפים, המה תמיד בסתירה נמרצה עם המושכלות הקלות ושטף החיים המפותחות תחת השמש

    The problem with the CI’s perspective on this is that it is in direct contradiction to the view of he who formulated the 13 ikkarim. To the Rambam, the ikkarim must be born from a reason-based view of the world. Further, they could never be in contradition to it.

  17. Charlie Hall says:

    “how to relate to such a person, who did so much good for the Jewish people, and yet was guilty of the ultimate treason”

    An even better example would be Benjamin Disraeli. He may have done more for the Jewish people as an irreligious Christian than he ever would have been in position to do as a Jew.

  18. dovid says:

    “an attitude that downplays the importance of hishtadlus in favor of tefila”
    Chardal, read my comment again. I said: No question, self defense is a mitzva. That’s not downplaying hishtadlus. Placing undue faith in IDF and Mossad, however, is wrong. Yaakov Avinu prepared for war (one kind of hishtadlus), carried out diplomacy (sweet-talked and bribed the enemy), which is another kind of hishdadlus, and davened. I lived in Monsey, when the First Gulf War broke out. I rushed to the home of Rabbi Mordechai Schwab זצ”ל (aka the Tzadik of Monsey) to ask him what to do, to fly to Israel or stay put. At the time, I was still a miluimnik (IDF soldier in reserves). Mind you, on the night when the war was announced, all we knew was that Saddam Hussein threatened to bomb Israel if the Americans attacked him, which many thought would force Israel to respond. Reb Mordechai told me to stay put. He wasn’t trivializing hishtadlus. He went with the Mir Yeshiva across the USSR to Japan and afterwards to Shanghai. That’s a hishtadlus. A lot of it.

  19. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    As for the discussion of whether Torah and visible signs of religiosity and ritual observance of mitzvot is more valuable than work for Israel in the fields of economics, military, science, agriculture and communications, I think that we need both. Rav Kook zt”l points out in many places that the normal virtue of a healthy soul in a healthy body is magnified in E”Y because it has its implications for the community and the land as well as for the individual. What would be a secular activity in hutz l’aretz has a holy dimension when done here. This is even more so when science is developed in the service of Halacha for the public good, such as in the service of kashrut or shemittah or Jewish fertility and taharat hamishpacha. Saving Jewish lives was always and is now a great mitzvah exclusive of whatever the person does the rest of the time. If Jews who learn Torah are seen as participating in the development and defense of the Jewish nation, that can bring more Jews to Torah as well by creating a kiddush hashem. Similarly those who live in exclusively religious surroundings and spend their days in the beit midrash should be careful to REALLY be amailim ba-Torah and not “ke-illu” and be cognizant of the fact that people are watching them and behave in an exemplary manner. Honesty and hesed should be the earmarks of Torah Jews. The person who is hiding from the world in kollel and not really putting in his hours learning energetically perhaps needs a change. SOME (not all) Jews who work eight hours a day and learn another four are learning qualitatively and quantitatively better than SOME (not all) other Jews who are marking time and not really making the most of their learning hours. May the learning and mitzvot of all Jews be blessed and fruitful.

  20. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    >> I mean no disrespect to anybody here, but I really think that the problem with some of the views expressed here, is that they lack common sense, a sense of the everyday reality of the real world. <<

    אגרות חזון איש חלק ג סימן סא

    כל יסודי האמונה, י”ג העיקרים, והמסתעפים, המה תמיד בסתירה נמרצה עם המושכלות הקלות ושטף החיים המפותחות תחת השמש

    “All the fundamentals of faith, the 13 principles, and their derivatives, are always in vigorous contradiction to easily grasped concepts (i.e. “common sense”) and the ebb and flow of life developed under the sun (i.e. “the everyday reality of the real world”).”

    It’s almost as if he read your comment and responded. :)

  21. Chardal says:

    Dovid,

    The gemara in Nidda 70b sees worldly effort as a necessecarry component for success in worldly endeavors. It is a component that must be employed in paralel to prayer. prayer and spritiual pursuits alone are insufficient as the gemara states clearly. Therefore, an attitude that downplays the importance of hishtadlus in favor of tefila seems a bit wrong:

    מה יעשה אדם ויחכם אמר להן ירבה בישיבה וימעט בסחורה אמרו הרבה עשו כן ולא הועיל להם אלא יבקשו רחמים ממי שהחכמה שלו שנאמר כי ה’ יתן חכמה מפיו דעת ותבונה תני ר’ חייא משל למלך בשר ודם שעשה סעודה לעבדיו ומשגר לאוהביו ממה שלפניו מאי קמ”ל דהא בלא הא לא סגיא מה יעשה אדם ויתעשר אמר להן ירבה בסחורה וישא ויתן באמונה אמרו לו הרבה עשו כן ולא הועילו אלא יבקש רחמים ממי שהעושר שלו שנאמר לי הכסף ולי הזהב מאי קמ”ל דהא בלא הא לא סגי מה יעשה אדם ויהיו לו בנים זכרים אמר להם ישא אשה ההוגנת לו
    ויקדש עצמו בשעת תשמיש אמרו הרבה עשו כן ולא הועילו אלא יבקש רחמים ממי שהבנים שלו שנאמר הנה נחלת ה’ בנים שכר פרי הבטן מאי קא משמע לן דהא בלא הא לא סגי

  22. dovid says:

    Raymond:”some of the views expressed here …..lack common sense,”

    You are in good company. Rabbi Avigdor Miller said: Common sense is not so common.

    Raymond, just like you, I don’t mean to be disrespectful of you, but I don’t agree with the substance of your comment. No question, self defense is a mitzva, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that the IDF and the Mossad will tilt the balance, notwithstanding their bravery, ingenuity, military genius, superior manpower, technology, etc. etc. Our strength and destiny do not rest in military power. הקול קול יעקב. Our strength is in our prayers and learning, in knowing our purpose in this world and exerting ourselves to fulfill that purpose. That’s the way we have been programmed from the beginning of our history. When we excel in these endeavors, the savages of the world stand no chance against us, notwithstanding their savagery, money, oil, and the encouragement they get from the entire world.

  23. Raymond says:

    I mean no disrespect to anybody here, but I really think that the problem with some of the views expressed here, is that they lack common sense, a sense of the everyday reality of the real world.

    Being religious does not make one iota of impact on how the antisemites of this world relate to us. In fact, the very opposite may be true: my understanding of the Holocaust is that while the nazis aim was to murder all Jews, that they focused more of their efforts on Rabbis and similarly righteous members of the Jewish community.

    I think of the Jewish ideal of the ultimate way for a Jew to represent him/herself worthy of being one of G-d’s Chosen People, to be somebody who combines wisdom/intellectual brilliance, with kindness and compassion. In other words, the ideal Jew has both a fine mind and a good heart. He or she is a gentle soul. His name may even be Aryeh Levin.

    This is a wonderful goal to strive for, especially if we live amongst ourselves in a civilized world. But the antisemites of this world do not really give us such a choice. On the contrary, savages such as the islamofascists and the nazis and crusaders before them, take such subtle gentleness as a sign of weakness, as something that can be easily attacked. The nicer we are, the more aggressive they get toward us. Only when we fight back, when we have the military genius and strength of the Israeli Defense Force and the Mossad, do our enemies ever show any signs of shrinking back in fear.

    Because we live in such an uncivilized world filled with rotten excuses for human beings, our ideal must instead by that of King David, who was both a sensitive soul who wrote most of the Psalms, and yet was a mighty military warrior.

  24. Loberstein says:

    Comment # 19 makes a very important point. Notzarti in this case is a play on words of notzri- a Nazarene, which is the Hebrew term for a Christian. Chwolson was learned enough to use terminology of chazal as found in our machzor to refer to his becoming a nominal Christian.
    To me, this shows the terrible pressure that Jews faced in Czarist Russia. People cracked under the pressure because opportunity was so limited and the temptation was so great. If one understands Jewish History, one can appreciate how miraculous our survival is. That is why we have to do more than offer feel good moralisms in lieu of serious study of our past.

  25. Barzilai says:

    My father zatza’l told me that Chwolson, after a failed attempt to defend the Jews in some matter of importance, met with a Rav my father named but I don’t remember. At that meeting, he lamented his failure with a poignant recasting of the words of the tefilla of the Yamim Nora’im:
    “Elokai, ahd shelo notzarti eini kedai, ve’achshav shenotzarti, ke’ilu lo notzarti. Afar ani bechayai, kal vachomer bemisasi.”
    I can’t figure out how to underline things, so I need to point out that the word “notzarti’ has more than one meaning.

  26. Michoel says:

    Re R. Oberstein in comment 9 responding to comment 6:
    I do not see where Rabbi Oberstein sees that Nathan was calling for lying and falsifying our history. He simply stated that he wanted to read stories that make a kiddush Hashem and not stories that do the opposite. It is not “a lot of the frum world” that follows this approach. It is actually the entire frum world that does so. Witness the recent book of actual conversations wiht Rav Soloveitchik that was criticized in MO quaters as voyerism. It is not voyerism but actual history. Eleh mai, we all understand that actual history shouldn’t always be presented “as is”. Where, exactly, to draw the lines is a legitimate subject for debate. And drawing the line more toward the side of absolute, objective history will certainly also have down points, just as the overly cheery history will.

  27. Yehoshua says:

    If you use Hebrew as your everyday language, you will end up using words originally associated with kodesh for chulin.

    My favorite example is the association that comes with the name “Chofetz Chaim”. When I hear that name, my first thought is of a rabbi who stares down from his portrait with expression that reminds me that I have not been trying hard enough to avoid loshon hara.

    When my kids hear the name “Chofetz Chaim” they think: Water-slides!! (If you don’t get it, you need to spend more time in Israel.)

    Perhaps this should be mourned, but not without recognizing that it is the inevitable price of the modern revitalization of Hebrew. Viewed as a whole, is the revival of Hebrew as an everyday language to be mourned?

  28. Chardal says:

    >I don’t remember if he dealt with the issue of אין מגלגלין זכות אלא ע:י זכאי,

    It would not be hard since chazal teach that אפילו רשע בישראל מלא זכיות כרמון.

  29. Ruth says:

    Another point – Harav Neugerschall, in his lectures on “why bachurei yeshiva don’t serve in the IDF”, says that a religious boy who, as a result of being conscripted and being negatively influenced, stops keeping Shabbos, has done more harm to the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael than any good he may have done by shooting down any number of enemy aircraft or whatever.

  30. Ruth says:

    I think there is a difference between bedieved and lehatchila.
    In answer to nos. 11 and 12 –

    It is like the story of the fellow who came to the rescue of somebody who fell into a pit – a pit which he himself had dug.

    That is what I meant by an optical illusion.

    There is also the story (I forget the details) of someone soliciting donations for hospital beds in Eretz Yisrael, and being told that it is more worthwhile to donate for the upkeep of Torah learning. When asked why, he answered that, if more Torah was learned, there would be no need for hospital beds…..

  31. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    >> I am finding this whole discussion incomprehensible. Isn’t it obvious that, for example, a member of the Israeli Defense Force who is not formally religious, but saves many Jewish lives, may be more worthy of our admiration, than a Jew who is personally religious, but makes no discernible impact on his fellow Jews? <<

    While the following letter of the Chazon Ish relates to saving children in Israel from spiritual ruin, the idea expressed is equally valid for saving from physical harm.

    אגרות חזון איש חלק ג אגרת סב

    כמו בקנין הכסף והרכוש, אין ההשתדלות רק פרעון חוב, וחלילה לחשוב כחי ועוצם ידי, כן השתדלות הצלת נפש רק מצוה, אבל צריך לזכור שאין בכחנו לעשות מאומה, רק במעשינו אנו מעוררים שערי רחמים שמעשה ידינו יכוננו את המבוקש, ומי שמתפלל ומרבה תחנונים על ההצלה הוא פועל יותר מהמשתדל אך הדבר צריך שיקול דבמקום דההצלה פשוטה במעשה, הרי הוא עובר על לא תעמוד על דם רעך…

    וכשם שאברי האדם מתחלקין לפעולותיהן, עין רואה ואוזן שומעת וידיים עסקניות, כן העם כולו הוא כגוף אחד ואישים נפרדים בו, וכל איש צריך שימלא תעודתו. ואם היו בני תורה עמלים בתורה לאמתתה, היו מצילים ילדים הרבה ואנשים רבים מהרהורי עבירה וכפירה וכיו”ב בשפע קדשם, בהשתפך רוח טהרה בעולם. וסביבות בעל תורה אמיתי, הדבר ניכר חעיניו השפעה מרובה על אנשים הרבה, מה שכל השתדלות מעשית לא תשיגנה. וכמו כן יש רשמים על הרחוקים שאין העין הרואה מרגשת בם לדקותם.

    “Just as with acquisition of money and property, effort is but a payment of debt, and G-d forbid to think that “my strength and power etc.”. So too the effort in saving a soul is but a mitzvah, but it must be remembered that it is not in our power to accomplish anything, rather, through our actions we arouse the gates of mercy that our actions should bring about the desired result, and one who prays and supplicates alot about the salvation is doing more that the one who is putting forth the effort. But one must weigh the matter, since in a situation of a simple act of saving, one violates “You shall not stand idly over your friend’s blood…

    And just as the limbs of a person are diverse in their functions, the eye sees and the ear hears and the hands act, so too the entire nation is one body and there are diverse individuals, and each person must fulfill his mission. And if Bnei Torah would toil in Torah, in its truth, they would save many children and many people, from thoughts of sin and heresy and the like through the abundance of their sanctity, due to the outpouring of a spirit of purity in the world. And around a true Ben Torah, the matter is recognizable before our eyes – a great influence on many people, which no practical effort can achieve. And, similarly, there are impressions on the distant ones which the eye cannot discern due to their subtlety.”

    So, no, it is not at all obvious that an irreligious soldier in the IDF is more worthy of our admiration (worthy as he may be) than one who is personally religous who has no discernable impact on his fellow Jews, since it is precisely the indiscernable impact that is the more effective vehicle for saving lives.

  32. Nachum Lamm says:

    R’ Aron also pointed to an explicit pasuk in Melachim (II:12:23-29) that shows how Hashem can choose to bring deliverance through Reshaim

  33. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    A basic tenet of Judaism is that the impression that a renegade such as Chwolson, who betrayed his religion, could save Jewish lives is an optical illusion – the truth is quite the opposite ; it is exactly this behavior of his that brings suffering to the Jewish people.

    This basic tenet seems to have escaped the list that I learned. The thought has been – and continues to be – used quite toxically in denying the possibility of good things happening through bad people. It was used to deny that any good could attach to the State, since so many of its architects and founders were antagonists to Torah.

    In a classic essay decades ago, Rav Ahron Soloveitchik zt”l wrote otherwise. He pointed to the haftorah of the four metzora’im, among whom was a fellow who belongs to a very exclusive club – those explicitly named by the Mishnah as having no portion in the World to Come. Yet, R Aron wrote, the four were the vehicle for the saving of the lives of the inhabitants of Shomron, who were dying of hunger in a siege. Ben-Haddad’s army had been destroyed by Hashem’s great miracle, but no one had text messaged the king. It was their report back to the city that completed the salvation.

    I don’t remember if he dealt with the issue of אין מגלגלין זכות אלא ע:י זכאי, or whether he left it to the reader to realize that even a rasha may have some zechus that would allow him to participate in something more than an optical illusion.

  34. Ruth says:

    To number 6 – You certainly are missing the point! In fact, you understood exactly the opposite point of the story.

    A basic tenet of Judaism is that the impression that a renegade such as Chwolson, who betrayed his religion, could save Jewish lives is an optical illusion – the truth is quite the opposite ; it is exactly this behavior of his that brings suffering to the Jewish people.

    On the contrary, even one mitzva performed by a religious Jew has the inestimably greater capacity to save Jewish lives.

  35. Loberstein says:

    In response to Nathan, # 6. Your opinion is wifespread, it is reflected in the curricula of manyof our schools and in the lack of historical understanding of what happened and how we got here. I think that your opinion is wrong and counter productive to Jewishsurvival. If we lie and falsify our history by making up phony histories, then we are left unable to with real challenges, we are living in “denial”. However, a lot of the frum world follows your approach.

  36. Raymond says:

    I am finding this whole discussion incomprehensible. Isn’t it obvious that, for example, a member of the Israeli Defense Force who is not formally religious, but saves many Jewish lives, may be more worthy of our admiration, than a Jew who is personally religious, but makes no discernible impact on his fellow Jews? Or am I missing the point?

  37. Loberstein says:

    Shlom Aleichem wrote a Yiddish short story entitled “The Lottery Ticket” about a father in the shtetle who was proud of his son who went off tothe Russian high school and attempted to be accepted into the university. The son was his ticket out of poverty. One day, the chief of police of the small town came to him with a smirk on his face. He had received a letter from the capital to remove the son’s name from the list of Jews and place the name on the list of Russian orthodox Christtians. The son wrote a letter to his father explaining that this was the only way he could enter the university and he really was not a believeing Christian. The father sat shiva and remarked that his lottery ticket was a losing ticket.
    We, who live in 2009, have no idea of the trials and tribulations earlier generations endured. Only a minority of our people survived and from that small minority, today’s Jewish People grew. So it will be in the coming generations. As so many Jews leave due to apathy, not due to anti-semitism, the surviving remnant will rebuild. That is our hope and prayer. I hope we can bring along a lot of potential baalei teshuva, but ,wheter that happens or not, a remnant will rebuild.

  38. Nathan says:

    I do not want stories about traitors who converted to other religions, because their stories are a big Chillul HaShem and are best forgotten.

    I want stories about sincere Baalei Teshuvah and Gerim, because their stories are a Kiddush HaShem.

  39. mb says:

    “It’s bad enough that the top political leaders of modern Israel have nearly all been atheists. This has gone on for so long that we take it as a normal fact of life.

    Comment by Bob Miller — May 8, 2009 @ 7:00 am ”

    Atheists? Nonsense.

  40. aron feldman says:

    We pay a dear price for this, on several levels. Next week, Muslims students at UC Irvine will run an anti-Israel hate fest. Nothing unusual there. Unfortunately, there is nothing so unusual in its star presenter being Gidon Levy of Haaretz. Not so long ago, a single Jewish turncoat could inspire stories that lasted decades. Today, journalists and university faculty galore work to undermine the legitimacy of Israel – quite the opposite of Chwolson.

    Reminds me of a line my Bubbe used to say;

    One can punish himself far worse,than what his enemies will do to him

  41. S. says:

    >there is nothing to be concerned about in eating pork that is cooked according to Halacha

    You also might want to include the anecdote wherein Chwolson reportedly responded to the question of whether he converted out of conviction with a yes, “the conviction that it’s better to be the head librarian in the Oriental collection at the St Petersburg library than a poor melamed in Shklov.”

    Good shabbos!

  42. Bob Miller says:

    It’s bad enough that the top political leaders of modern Israel have nearly all been atheists. This has gone on for so long that we take it as a normal fact of life.

  43. Ori says:

    BTW, aren’t Noahides obligated to preserve their life and health? Are gentile citizens of Israel (there are plenty, including Hebrew speakers) also covered by the Ministry of Health? Wouldn’t it be Halacha for a gentile that it is permissible to eat pork, but only if it is prepared in such a way as to not present a health risk?