Friday, July 25, 2014

The Soldiers Are Really Doing Stuff

There's a disturbing anti-rationalist approach that is spreading in the current war. It is taking hold even amongst people of a more rationalist persuasion, apparently due to their not realizing that it is not necessarily the Torah approach.

I am referring to the question of whether the soldiers and weapons of the IDF are actually doing anything. There is an extreme but pervasive anti-rationalist approach, which I was taught in yeshivah, that physical endeavor is of no real significance. Instead, it is simply a charade that we must go through in order for God to operate. (And to the extent that we recognize God as being the One actually doing things, we can minimize this charade). According to this approach, hishtadlus doesn't actually have anything to do with parnassah (and the fact that people who go to college and to work tend to earn more money than people in kollel is some sort of unexplained quirk of providence.) Following this approach, Iron Dome and the IDF soldiers are not really doing anything; it is just a charade that we have to go through - and which some people lose their lives for.

The late Rabbi Dr. Menachem-Martin Gordon, whose excellent studies of mezuzah and netilas yadayim can be found linked on the side of this website, criticizes this approach in Modern Orthodox Judaism (p. 31). He blames the spread of this approach on Rav Dessler:
Rav Dessler’s book, Mikhtav me-Eliyahu, whose impact on the yeshiva world in recent years has been enormous, represents a radical departure from the Talmudic position (Hullin 105a, Niddah 70b), as well as the medieval philosophic tradition (Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim, 3:17), in its denial of the reality of natural law and the cause-and-effect nexus of human initiative (Mikhtav, I, pp. 177-206). For Rav Dessler, the study of the sciences - even medicine, for that matter - is pointless, since the exclusive determinate of human welfare is the providential hand of God responding to religious virtue. Similarly, serious financial initiative is unnecessary. The diagnostic skill of the physician (Mikhtav, III, p. 172), the financier’s business acumen (Mikhtav, I, p. 188), ostensibly critical factors in the effectiveness of their efforts, are only illusory causes, argues Rav Dessler. Admittedly, he concedes, one must “go through the motions” of practical activity (the notion of hishtadlut, Mikhtav, I, pp. 187-88) - visiting a physician, making a phone call for financial support - but such is necessary only as a “cover” for the direct Divine conduct of human affairs, which men of faith are challenged to discern. Recognizing the immediacy of the Divine hand behind the facade of human initiative is the ultimate test of faith. One should be engaged in practical effort only for the purpose, paradoxically, of discovering its pointlessness! Therefore, asserts Rav Dessler, to the degree that a man has already proved his spiritual mettle, his acknowledgment of Divine control, could the extensiveness of his “cover” be reduced. Or, alternatively, to the degree that a man is not yet sufficiently spiritually perceptive - wherefore pragmatic initiative might “blind” him to Divine control - should he limit such recourse. Accordingly, b'nei yeshiva are implicitly discouraged from any serious financial initiative - or involvement across the board in any area of resourceful effort, be it technological, political, etc. - since the circumstances of life are, in reality, a spontaneous Divine miracle. (Note Rav Dessler’s necessarily strained interpretation of Hullin, ad loc. and Niddah, ad loc., where one is advised by Harzal to survey one’s property with regularity, and to “abound in business.” in the pursuit of wealth! — Mikhtav, I, pp. 200-01).
Rav Dessler’s position cannot draw support from the doctrine of Ramban, although he
assumes such an identification (ibid., III, pp. 170-73). While Ramban defines the ultimate providential relationship of God to Israel as one of ongoing miracle, he essentially never denies the reality of natural law. Israel, Ramban argues, through its fulfillment of mitzvot, is ideally able to transcend nature and engage God in the special faith—miracle association. In actuality, Ramban in fact concedes, such a relationship with the Divine does not generally prevail today, so that one must live, as a rule, in response to natural law. Thus he legitimates medical practice - he himself, after all, was a physician - not as a “cover” for some outright miracle deceptively operative behind the scenes, as Rav Dessler would have it, but as a genuine recourse to an efficacious discipline. (See Ramban, Commentary, Lev. 26:11; Torat ha-Adam, in Kitvei Ramban, II, pp. 42-43.) For Rav Dessler, the “natural agency” of medical treatment (III, p. 172), which, admittedly, those of low—faith level must necessarily pursue, is not an effect of natural law as Ramban recognizes it, but, once again, a deceptive expression at every moment of the spontaneous Divine will (see his own reference [ad loc., p. 173] to his basic definition of “nature” in I, pp. 177-206).
The anti-rationalist position is often thought of as being unequivocally fundamental to Judaism. It seems that it is believed to be the straightforward meaning of Devarim 8:17, which condemns those who say "kochi v'otzem yadi, my strength and the power of my hand made for me these spoils." People presume that this teaches us that human endeavor is not actually of any innate value at all. However, the rationalist approach understands this passuk as criticizing those who attribute their successes solely to their own efforts. The rationalist approach maintains that physical endeavor is of genuine value and significance.

Over at The Jewish Worker, there is a discussion of the possible reasons as to why people adopt the anti-rationalist approach. On another occasion, I will suggest an additional reason as to why people want to minimize the significance of what the IDF is doing; for now, I would merely like to assert very strongly that according to the rationalist tradition in Judaism (and, I would argue, according to Chazal), the young men of the IDF really are fighting the war - and deserve to be credited as such.

May Hashem help them succeed.

(Note to readers in Seattle - This Shabbos, I am speaking at BCMH, and on Sunday morning, I am speaking at SBH.)

77 comments:

  1. Even more so, the torah says outright that we do the work. When the torah warns about כחי ועוצם ידי, the answer is וזכרת את יהוה אלהיך כי הוא הנותן לך כח לעשות חיל. God gives us the ability to fight wars, plant crops, etc. We do the work, but the potential comes from God. Missile batteries stop missiles and soldiers fight wars. Neither prayer nor God does those things. What is incumbent upon us is to recognize that God gives us the ability to do this and not to say כחי ועוצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה, or that it's all me, and God has no part in it.

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  2. Support from the Rambam via Menachem Kellner:

    "This is what led the the loss of our kingdom, the destruction of our Sanctuary, and extended the duration [of our exile] to the present day: our forefathers sinned and are no longer, in that they found many books concerning these matters of those who gaze at the stars--these things being the essence of idolatry, was we explained in "Laws of Idolatry"--they erred and were attracted to them, thinking that they were splendid sciences, having great utility and thus neglected the study of war and conquest, thinking rather that those [sciences] would be of use to to them; for this reason did the prophets call them ignoramuses and fools. They were surely ignoramuses, going after vain things which cannot profit (1 Sam. 12:21)." (emphasis mine).

    Not only is effort spent in defending the nation very important, but neglect of these concerns actually caused the destruction of the Temple and the continued exile! One could argue that, based on the Rambam's reasoning, the IDF is thus hastening the arrival of the Mashiach!

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    1. Rambam, feh! Obviously not a frummer yid.

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    2. Yes David, but whenever one of us ventures to criticise orthodox Jews who go after "vain things which cannot profit", perhaps even suggesting that they may be "ignoramouses and fools", you give us a lecture about how there are more important things in the world, like ... well I forget.

      Also I thought you were against us engaging in the "study of ... conquest".

      Also I thought "the Rambam cannot help you".

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  3. "He blames" not "He blame"

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  4. I agree with Joseph Novetsky above. The rationalist (and logical) way to view the pasuk "kochi v'otzem yadi" is not about whose hand we're talking about - ours or Hashem's. No, it's always OUR hand that does the work. We're just supposed to chalk up our successes to Hashem - i.e. say that Hashem gave us the strength and the providence to make it happen.

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  5. Extremely important post, R. Natan. When my wife was in the hospital, a roommate was a Satmar chasid. He claimed that education was unnecessary to devise an MRI machine. "Even a carpenter could do it," for it is Hashem who really builds it.

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  6. I belive chovos halevovos in bitochon would support rabbi dessler. I do not have the exact source. anybody prepared to comment

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    1. The Chovos Halevavos says very clearly that every person has a job or profession which he is best suited for and he should do that job or follow that profession. If he makes a fortune or just enough to survive it is all from Hashem and no credit or blame goes to the job you chose.

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  7. First of all, I strongly protest the use of the word "blame" regarding Rav Dessler. He was a major talmid chacham and this is extremely inappropriate. Having said that, I would like to present Rav Aviner's elucidation of a middle way. Sometimes Hashem makes an absolute decree and human effort is meaningless (see Taanit 25a regarding Rabbi Eliezer ben Pedat's poverty, Yoma 38a-b regarding two fmailies who did not want ot reveal their secretformulae and Moed Katan 28a regarding parnassa, children and length of life as well as Tehillim 127:1). On the other hand, sometimes He makes a conditional decree. If a person will do a certain amount of hishtadlut he will get something. if not, not. I would like to add that we, of course, cannot know. So we must both do histhadlut and pray (seeRashi, Bereisheet 32:9 d"h v'hiya lamachaneh).

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    1. The Chaim Berliner's don't accept Rav Dessler.

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    2. This would be the R' Dessler who, as the Holocaust was going on, wrote a preemptive piece defending the failure of the gedolim. Give him points for seeing it coming, but that's it.

      This would be the R' Dessler who admitted he'd rather lose 999 yeshiva bochrim to find one gadol. Give him points for honesty, but that's it.

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  8. Rabbenu Yonah on Mishlei 21:31 says something similar to Rav Dessler, although insisting that one is obligated to perform the proper hishtadlus (Rabbenu Bachya in the beginning of Shlach expands on this idea.)

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  9. Given that the two hypotheses are defined to give rise to exactly the same observables neither is more rational than the other - isn't this all just pointless sophistry?

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    1. LOL! Comprehension 101, my knuckle-dragging Manekin friend. If everything will happen to you or for you regardless, there's no need for you (the believing person) to engage in any of the preparations for that yourself. The clearer this is to you, the less you actually have to do (i.e., melachtan na'aseit bidei acherim). If, on the other hand, you have a greater role in determining your own set-up, you should actually go and do some of that preparation: spend more time learning a trade, get better job; invest more energy into building house, get better house.

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    2. Is it more rational to suppose that, say, your friends and family are human or that they are really robots that are perfect replicas of humans?

      You would observe the same things either way.

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  10. Personal and group effort is necessary and can be an outright mitzvah, and is not a sham, but any success we enjoy comes from HaShem. He has the big picture and we don't.

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  11. We are in control of our choices. Our choices matter, and we are tasked with understanding the natural world, and making the best choice in any given situation.

    G-d is in control of outcomes. Even if we make the best choices, according to our limited capacity to know what the best choice is, in any given situation; we don't always experience the outcome that we might prefer.

    Conversely, one can make terrible choices in those same situations, and one doesn't always end up suffering because of those poor choices.

    Even the most "rationalist" approach to halacha must humbly admit that G-d is in control of all outcomes. Any position which holds that G-d is not Omniscient or Omnipotent, is outside the scope of halachic observance.


    That being the case, what is the Baal HaBlog coming to point out?

    There are ulterior motives for the Charedim to downplay the importance of the IDF.

    However; the Dati Leumi community who support the IDF, as well as most of the soldiers themselves, will readily admit that they are only making the most rational choice, as commanded by halacha. They have no control over the outcome.

    Psalm 107:1

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    1. Sorry Adam,
      See the Ralbag's Milchamot Hashem for an approach that denies the extent of God's oniscience. In any case, most argue that there is no halacha in most theological matters...
      Moshe (from Mitspe)

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  12. The fool who made such a comment is now leading the criminal Shas party.
    According to current reports, R' Shteinman shlita , who is a real Torah leader, has called for prayers for Israeli soldiers.
    Those who claim there is no value to the IDF actions, have their predecessors in Europe, who thought that they would be protected also.

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  13. Moshe Dick writes:

    The quotations from Rav Dessler's sefer and its interpretation by Rabbi Gordon put many of us into a quandary. Rav Dessler's approach is so divorced from reality that it brings one inevitably to question all of our beliefs. Can you even understand the chossids' argument (see Sjnafeld's comment) that'even a carpenter could build a MRI machine? Can you give any credence to some of the ideas swirling now in israel that the army is useless and that the irom Dome is superfluous and the army not needed? (Rav Cohen of Shas, Chaim Cohen in Kikar Hashabat). These are such outlandish ideas and incomprehensible that, if this was indeed the foundation of our emumah, count me out.
    The worse part is that the proponents of this approach themselves do no practice this! I am pretty sure that Rav Dessler went to doctors. Certainly, today, every chareidi and every so-called godol takes advantage of medical science, police protection, etc..In Israel, i know that some chareidi yeshivos fled the south, not trusting their own learnrig to protect them,
    Yes, the Almighty is omnipotent and, ultilamately, everything is in His hands but HKBH gave us,mere mortals, the means to work, invent, pursue professions and I am pretty sure that He decreed that we could profit from from our endeavors. Anything else creates havoc with Jewish beliefs.

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  14. Mesilas Yesharim, Chapter 21, towards the end:
    "But this does not imply that one's effort leads to results. Rather, the effort is a prerequisite. Once one makes the effort his obligation is fulfilled and it becomes possible for the Heavenly blessings to rest upon him. He has no need to spend his days in diligence and effort, as David HaMelech, may peace be upon him, said..."

    At best this is a machlokes. Once again, you seem to use the rationalist vs the so called ANTI rationalist distinction to make the "ANTI" rationalist sound preposterous. (I wish your one article explaining the distinction was referenced more often so that people could understand what the true distinctions are). This is like any other machlokes and the Rabbi's are free to 'paskin' one way or the other, including the Rabbi's of the Charedi community.

    As a side point, who is to say that this approach was only widely accepted with Rabbi Dessler? That's an utterly baseless assertion.

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    1. > This is like any other machlokes and the Rabbi's are free to 'paskin' one way or the other, including the Rabbi's of the Charedi community.

      Are you suggesting that reality changes to conform to psak? And that reality can be different for different communities? This isn't a matter of what one is supposed to do, like kashrus, but of how the world functions.

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    2. Are you suggesting that reality changes to conform to psak?

      No. I'm not sure why you would think I am.

      And that reality can be different for different communities?

      It's an interesting idea and I have heard of such ideas (A story about the Chazon Ish comes to mind.) But again, no I am not suggesting that.

      This isn't a matter of what one is supposed to do, like kashrus, but of how the world functions.

      I understand that you feel there is a distinction but fail to understand why you feel that way. Just because this isn't a kashrus question and it's more fundamental to a Jews perspective (which does end up affecting his actions) so what? Rabbi's or communities can't decide on those? I have no idea what you're getting at.

      (If you choose to respond, I would love for you to address, out of all the points I made, why you think this can't be decided upon just because it's not a kashrus question.)

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  15. Meanwhile, a beautiful letter is circulating around the web:

    A Letter from Gaza Soldier:

    An Israeli soldier on the border writes:

    What's happening here in the staging area [area where soldiers prepare to enter Gaza] is beyond comprehension, not rationally, not emotionally and beggars the imagination.

    Almost every hour a car shows up overflowing with food, snacks, cold drinks, socks, underwear, undershirts, hygiene supplies, wipes, cigarettes, backgammon and more. They're coming from the North and the Center, from manufacturers, from companies and private businesses, from prisons, Chareidim and Settlers, from Tel Aviv and even Saviyon.

    Every intersection on they way down here we get stopped, not by the police, but be residents giving out food. What is amazing is that the entire situation wasn't organized and everyone is coming on their own without coordination between the folks coming.

    They're writing letters and blessings, how they're thinking of us all the time. There are those who spent hours making sandwiches, so they're as perfect and comforting as possible.

    Of course representatives of Chabad are here to help soldiers put on Tefillin and distributing Cha'Ta'Ts (Chumash, Tehillim, Tanya) for every troop transport and Breslov are showing up to the border and dancing with the soldiers with great joy.

    The Chareidim are coming from their yeshivot to ask the names of the soldiers with their mothers' names so that the whole yeshiva can pray for them. It should be mentioned that all of this is done under the threat of the terrorist tunnels and rockets in the area.
    Soroka Hospital (in Be'er Sheva) today looks like a 5 star hotel. A wounded friend who was recently discharged told us how the MasterChef truck is parked outside and is preparing food for the wounded.

    It goes without saying the amount of prayer services that are going on. On the religious front as well, there are lectures and Torah classes, all the food is obviously Kosher. Shachrit, Mincha, and Maariv with Sifrei Torah. They're giving out tzitzit and Tehilim by the hundreds. It's become the new fashion! The Rabbi of Maglan [Special Forces unit] told me that almost the entire unit has started wearing them, because the Army Rabbinate has been giving out tzitzit that wick away sweat. They're gaining both a Mitzva and a high quality undershirt. We've started calling them "Shachpatzitzti" (a portmanteau of the Hebrew term for body armor and tzitzit). We're having deep conversations late into the night without arguments, without fights and we find ourselves agreeing on most stuff.

    We're making lots of jokes at Hamas's expensive and without politics. There's lots more to add but my battery is running low and the staff has been requesting someone give a class on Likutei MoharaN (Breslov).

    How happy is the nation that is like this

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    1. Michael, thank you for sharing the letter. It is the only "comment" worth reading.

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  16. OF COURSE we need an army, and contra your claim, that nonsense is not spreading at all. There are always going to be fatalists among Jews, just as there is among every other religious group. It is part of the inherent contradiction that men of all religious faiths must balance: the belief that God is in control and does what He will, with the fact that God helps those who help themselves.

    This is no different than the inherent contradiction which somehow we all live with: הכל צפוי והרשות נתונה. You can call him a fool, but the rabbi and that writer are really just extreme (too extreme) examples of what all religious Jews believe.

    God bless the army and the people of Israel, and give them strength.

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    1. This comment is right on the mark.

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  17. MonikerJuly 25, 2014 at 3:29 PM
    Given that the two hypotheses are defined to give rise to exactly the same observables neither is more rational than the other - isn't this all just pointless sophistry?


    They don't give rise to exactly the same set of observables. According to the Hishtadlus theory, the money invested in Iron Dome should have been spent on child stipends and the people designing and building the system should have been in the Beis Midrash, because this would have gotten the same result (or an even better result). I don't need to state the implications for those who sacrificed their lives.

    If, for the sake of argument, they had the same results, then "hishstadlus" just becomes a different way of saying that your efforts do make a difference and it is the concept of "hishstadlus" which becomes the sophistry.

    gershonJuly 25, 2014 at 12:22 PM
    I belive chovos halevovos in bitochon would support rabbi dessler. I do not have the exact source. anybody prepared to comment


    Need to look inside, but Rabbeinu Bachya actually went so far as to doubt whether free will is possible, so his perspective is going to be off the mainstream, I think.

    At best this is a machlokes. Once again, you seem to use the rationalist vs the so called ANTI rationalist distinction to make the "ANTI" rationalist sound preposterous. (I wish your one article explaining the distinction was referenced more often so that people could understand what the true distinctions are). This is like any other machlokes and the Rabbi's are free to 'paskin' one way or the other, including the Rabbi's of the Charedi community.

    The is an abuse of the notion of P'sak. For one community, Iron Dome was a waste of effort and money and for another community it saved lives?

    Even the most "rationalist" approach to halacha must humbly admit that G-d is in control of all outcomes. Any position which holds that G-d is not Omniscient or Omnipotent, is outside the scope of halachic observance.

    That being the case, what is the Baal HaBlog coming to point out?


    Maybe that every one of the soldiers who either volunteered or who was drafted, who are either putting their lives on the line or providing other support, directly in the field or in technology like Iron Dome is to be given some credit for the small number of Israeli civilian casualties in this conflict? And that without their efforts, the same result might not have been achieved?

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    1. Mystically InclinedJuly 25, 2014 at 10:34 PM

      Interestingly, the talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov explain this dichotomy differently. Hishtadlus is necessary wherever bitachon is incomplete. So yes, theoretically, if one had perfect bitachon, then hishtadlus would be unnecessary.

      Each person knows what they intrinsically believe to be "enough". (For example, one person might believe that without a Phd he will never make the money that he wants to, while another will open up a business, confident that his efforts are enough) As our faith grows, that "enough" can shrink and shrink. It's not magic, just cause and effect. It's exactly like The Matrix. It's as real as we experience it. So if we think of the world in a totally naturalistic way, then that is what it is for us. The more and more we recognize Divinity embedded in each thing, the less "natural" the world is, actually. Miracles are simply markers (hence, 'nes' - a banner) saying "here is a place where someone removed the mask completely".

      The greatest mystic would tell someone who believed that only a naturalistic solution will work that they must do everything within their power to reach that solution, because for that person, there is no other way. For a different person, they might need something totally different. (Hence the world of segulos - for some they can be more than enough hishtadlus, for others an irresponsible approach.)

      So yes, for two different people, any given hishtadlus can mean different things. Just like for one person walking to shul on Shabbos but carrying (with no eruv) can be a 'Mitzvah', if the week before they drove to the beach. Yet for someone else, that carrying would be a terrible sin worthy of punishment.

      From the mystical approach, the spiritual world is as real as a person is able to relate to it.

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    2. "According to the Hishtadlus theory, the money invested in Iron Dome should have been spent on child stipends and the people designing and building the system should have been in the Beis Midrash, because this would have gotten the same result (or an even better result)."

      That's a gross assertion. Where have you seen any source who subscribes to this shita draw such a conclusion? I have quoted from the Ramcha above and from the Alshich and Ohr HaChaim below and you do not see your assertion. Quite the opposite, from the Ohr Hachaim we clearly see that Yaakov still did the necessary hishtadlus! What's your source?

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    3. "If, for the sake of argument, they had the same results, then "hishstadlus" just becomes a different way of saying that your efforts do make a difference and it is the concept of "hishstadlus" which becomes the sophistry."

      You assert that the same result equals your particular (worldy) efforts is what caused the outcome and made the difference. Could you please explain your assertion and back it up?

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    4. "The is an abuse of the notion of P'sak. For one community, Iron Dome was a waste of effort and money and for another community it saved lives?"

      Allow me to answer your question with a question. For one community it's assur to make tea on Shabbos and for the other community it's oneg Shabbos?
      I don't see the problem with different communities holding by different perspectives if both are valid.

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    5. "Maybe that every one of the soldiers who either volunteered or who was drafted, who are either putting their lives on the line or providing other support, directly in the field or in technology like Iron Dome is to be given some credit for the small number of Israeli civilian casualties in this conflict? And that without their efforts, the same result might not have been achieved?"

      According to every source that I am currently aware of (Alshich, Ohr Hachaim, Ramchal, Rav Dessler, I believe also the Chazon Ish) who holds by the shita that the hishtadlus is (solely) a prerequisite for God to act (for whatever reason, e.g. so that he does not only have the option of acting in a miraculous way) I see nowhere that this should lead to indifference (or worse) towards the ones doing the hishtadlus. It seems to me that anyone who acts otherwise either has ulterior motives (which may be valid, despite your natural disapproval) or has middos problems.

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    6. David, I don't quite follow your reasoning. The second hypothesis per se is surely agnostic about precisely which "charades" (iron dome, or child stipends and possibly even botei midrashim .) are appropriate or inappropriate, seeing as it is defined as a hypothesis which seeks to explain the observed outcomes we all see as the result of a hidden process in addition to or beyond "natural law."?

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    7. Interestingly, the talmidim of the Baal Shem Tov explain this dichotomy differently. Hishtadlus is necessary wherever bitachon is incomplete. So yes, theoretically, if one had perfect bitachon, then hishtadlus would be unnecessary.

      Without agreeing or disagreeing, it makes no difference in this case. Apparently our Bitachon is not perfect enough and the missiles and mortars are coming and killing people, so Iron Dome and sacrifice by soldiers are needed.

      "According to the Hishtadlus theory, the money invested in Iron Dome should have been spent on child stipends and the people designing and building the system should have been in the Beis Midrash, because this would have gotten the same result (or an even better result)."

      That's a gross assertion. Where have you seen any source who subscribes to this shita draw such a conclusion?

      Did you read the linked articles? Here is a quotation:

      “Do you think that the people of Israel need an army?”...“It is God almighty who fights for Israel.”

      I assume that you also disagree, based on what you wrote here.

      "If, for the sake of argument, they had the same results, then "hishstadlus" just becomes a different way of saying that your efforts do make a difference and it is the concept of "hishstadlus" which becomes the sophistry."

      You assert that the same result equals your particular (worldy) efforts is what caused the outcome and made the difference. Could you please explain your assertion and back it up?

      You are missing something. If both hypotheses are equal, that means that Iron Dome is absolutely needed (as hishtadlus). But then hishstadlus becomes a mere verbal concept. See my demon comment below.

      If you say that it is not Iron Dome and in fact, the same result would have come about without Iron Dome, then you are committing the error describe above.

      "The is an abuse of the notion of P'sak. For one community, Iron Dome was a waste of effort and money and for another community it saved lives?"

      Allow me to answer your question with a question. For one community it's assur to make tea on Shabbos and for the other community it's oneg Shabbos?
      I don't see the problem with different communities holding by different perspectives if both are valid.


      Because legal issues are decided by poskim whether or not this was what God gave us on Mt. Sinai. Legal reality is paskened because p'sak is a decision making process, not a scientific process. The actual path of the sun is not subject to p'sak.

      David, I don't quite follow your reasoning. The second hypothesis per se is surely agnostic about precisely which "charades" (iron dome, or child stipends and possibly even botei midrashim .) are appropriate or inappropriate, seeing as it is defined as a hypothesis which seeks to explain the observed outcomes we all see as the result of a hidden process in addition to or beyond "natural law."?

      See the demon example below.

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  18. In defense of the anti-rationalists: It's not as if the anti rationalists are taking the easy way out. Serving in the army is easy, compared to praying for an entire country with all one's Kavonoh, or learning from 9 to 5.

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    1. > Serving in the army is easy, compared to praying for an entire country with all one's Kavonoh, or learning from 9 to 5.

      So, how many yeshiva bochumrim have been killed by their intense kavanah?

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    2. Not me, by the way.

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  19. I did not know that Jerry Seinfeld was in the Israeli army.
    o

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  20. Mir guy says, in response to Moniker:

    "Given that the two hypotheses are defined to give rise to exactly the same observables neither is more rational than the other - isn't this all just pointless sophistry?"

    Neither is more rational? In two words -- Occam's Razor

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    1. I was hoping someone would say that. Belief in Occam's Razor is not rational. I'm not sticking up for hypothesis two - I just think the whole argument is a waste of time.

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    2. You apikores. Occam's razor is the fundamental belief of some people on this blog and your suggestion that it is not rational undermines the whole religion.

      Delete
    3. Occam's razor is a rule of thumb. It tells you to try testing simpler hypotheses first. It's not rational or irrational nor it is a belief system. It can also help you realize that there are extraneous parts of your model not actually supported by evidence.

      To take an example, when I plug my phone charger into the wall, I could say that the phone charges because it's drawing power from the local utility. I could also say that it is really drawing power from invisible demons in the wall. I can disprove the demon hypothesis by shutting off the main breaker and finding that the charger no longer works.

      However, I could also hypothesize thusly: I'm drawing power from demons in the wall. However they only provide power when the utility power is also available.

      However, I can check my bill and see that is not true; the power company is charging me for the power, so it isn't coming from the demons.

      Finally, I could say something like: I am drawing power from the demons. The demons are invisible and undetectable; however, they only supply power when the utility is hooked up. In addition, they spin the wheels on the meter in accordance with the power that they supply and they also will alter any power readings that you take upstream of the demons to always make it seem that power is coming from the utility even though it isn't. Thus paying the electric bill is mere hishtadlus, as it is the demons are supplying the power.

      At this point the demon theory and "hishtadlus" is just a way of stating the usual theory using more words. The "demons" don't add anything to the model except verbally and so their existence is "real" in that the way that you state things, but in no other way. No testable hypothesis depends on their "existence", so their existence has no real meaning.

      Delete
    4. Erm... That's what I said.

      Delete
    5. You said that Occam's Razor is not rational. This is untrue. You also imply that adding extraneous demons to your model is rational. This is untrue.

      Delete
    6. You've implicitly conceded that the two hypotheses are neutral about iron dome veraus beis hamedrash. Let's not dance in the head of a pin about how you choose to define rational versus your new concept of arrational. I said "belief" in Occam's razor is irrational because I was aware of such arguments.

      I don't see anything irrational in believing in God's will as the cause of "natural law" but I don't see anything irrational in not believing that. You yourself using your demon analogy (inaccurate and insulting) used the words meaningless. Not irrational. Meaningless. That is, arrational.

      Delete
  21. Another 2 sources that state the point explicitly. (Sorry for the formatting, I couldn't figure out how to type it any better.)

    אלשיך
    מקץ שנתים - שנתווספו לו על שאמר לשר המשקים "ועשית נא עמדי" וגו'... ובא ללמדנו דעת בל יאמר איש שההשתדלות מועילה. (בראשית מא א

    אור החיים
    לך לך - עוד יכוין לומר על זה הדרך, לך לך לתועלתך, והגם שאין הטובה מסובבת מהשתדלות, כאומרו "לא ממוצא וממערב וגו' הרים" וגו', ודרשו ז"ל כל הרים שבמקרא כמשמעה חוץ מזו, שהוא לשון הרמה, אף על פי כן יש טעם בדבר לצד שינוי מקום, והוא אומרו מארצך, ואמרו ז"ל ג' דברים אף על פי שאין ניחוש יש סימן, והם בית תינוק וכו', ואמרו עוד מאן דביש ליה בהאי מתא ולא אזל למתא אחריתא צועק לפני ה' ואינו נענה. (בראשית יב א

    אם יבא עשו - ...והכל עשה יעקב בהתבוננות לבל יצטרך לנס, וה' יגמור בעדו. (שם לב ט

    And again... I don't see anywhere someone drawing the conclusion: Therefore don't do anything, or therefore do something else (don't have an army, just have yeshivos). In any approach to bitachon and hishtadlus there is a question of how much hishtadlus with more than one answer in any given shita.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Here are some additional sources which state explicitly that the histadlus (effort) is not what produces the result. Please understand though, that this does not mean the the effort is not necessary or that the effort is "simply a charade that we must go through" or is "of no real significance" as Rabbi Slifkin would want us to read into them. According to these sources, this is the way Hakadosh Baruch Hu created His world and by definition it is of no small significance. (And if Rabbi Slifkin is not giving pshat in the Rishonim and Achronim who subscribed to this shita and simply lamenting how he was taught in yeshiva, why not teach these sources the proper way instead of complaining and misleading people about the true position of these "anti" rationalists?)

    Explicit:
    Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky in Emes LeYaakov on Bechukosai- He explains the Chovos HaLevavos (4:3, 4:4) to be saying this (and that the Ramban argues).
    Rabeinu Bachye- Bereishis, Hakdamah to Mikeitz
    Malbim- Shmuel Alef 17:47
    Rav Chaim Shmulevitz- Sichos Mussar 5731 on Bitachon.

    Possible Sources:
    Mishlei 21:31
    Rabeinu Bachye- Kad HaKemach Reshus
    Bamidbar Rabbah 22:7
    Koheles 9:11

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moshe Dick writes;
      So, according to you, I can buy a lottery ticket and sit at home, waiting for it to come up trumps? This is,after all, hishtadlus! I posit that, for very few individuals throughout our history ,this might have been the case but the great bulk of people have to do real hishtadlus: Get a real job, go to a real doctor, make safety arrangements, form an army,etc....

      Delete
    2. No, no, no, no, no!
      I don't know why people keep making that assertion. Everyone discusses the amount of hishtadlus necessary and no one says that!
      The discussion here is a matter of perspective... what is the true cause. (There might be some differences caused by this perspective but no one says anything as extreme as the lottery ticket example.)

      And, by the way, why say "according to you", I have quoted many sources who say this idea. Why not stop ignoring them and address the fact that it's a true Torah approach!

      Delete
    3. No, no, no, no, no!
      I don't know why people keep making that assertion.


      Did you read the linked articles? Here is a quotation:

      “Do you think that the people of Israel need an army?”...“It is God almighty who fights for Israel.”

      I assume that you also disagree, based on what you wrote here.

      Delete
  23. "The late Rabbi Dr. Menachem-Martin Gordon, whose excellent studies of mezuzah and netilas yadayim can be found linked on the side of this website, criticizes this approach"
    Nope. He argues that Rav Dessler does not have pshat in the Ramban. (It seems that Rav Shmulevitz in the source I quoted above also understood the Ramban differently).
    In no way is this a critique of the position as a whole, he simply disagrees with Rav Desslers source and that's it (or at least that's all you quoted).
    "He BLAMES the spread of this approach on Rav Dessler"
    So what? Even if Rav Dessler made it a popular idea/talking point in no way does this demonstrate that this was not the position held by the yeshivos previously.

    Quoted from the article:
    "For Rav Dessler, the “natural agency” of medical treatment (III, p. 172), which, admittedly, those of low—faith level must necessarily pursue, is not an effect of natural law as Ramban recognizes it, but, once again, a deceptive expression at every moment of the spontaneous Divine will."
    Why does it have to be deceptive?!?! He made the same mistake that you made. The alternative is NOT that effort does nothing and THEREFORE it's deceptive or meaningless or unnecessary!!!! Those are all gross assertions and misunderstandings!
    According to the shittah that effort is not the cause, the effort is still very important (why it's important is expressed differently in various sources). This is just sloppy thinking!

    ReplyDelete
  24. One day you might realise that belief in deities that think and influence events on the basis of what humans do, is totally irrational. Until then, your denunciations of these people on 'rational' grounds look rather silly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you are confusing your personal aesthetic sense of a tidy theory with rationalism. The very existence of aesthetic preference implies that you believe in underlying unity and simplicity of causation... Maimonedes didn't believe in an anthropomorphic god either.

      Delete
  25. what about 'physical endeavor is of no real significance. Instead, it is simply a charade that we must go through in order for God to operate. but God tells us the more physical endeavour the greater the result. no difference than eating. the more calories you eat the fatter you become. but calories are a charade, God make you fat.

    ReplyDelete
  26. You might enjoy this: http://www.chabad.org/therebbe/livingtorah/player_cdo/aid/353774/jewish/Torahs-Mandate-Defend-Yourselves.htm

    ReplyDelete
  27. Natan,
    The post was enlightening and educational. But I especially liked the title. Keep going, be"H, with your intellectual honesty (and fearlessness), your חתירה לאמת, and your ability to explain and elucidate difficult issues in emmunah and halacha.
    dan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "intellectual honesty"
      I have quoted many Torah sources that express what Rabbi Slifkin says is "disturbing" and "not necessarily the Torah approach".
      Simply by quoting someone who says that Rav Dessler (in his opinion) learnt the Ramban incorrectly Rabbi Slifkin feels he can deny the entire approach as a non-Torah one.
      Until he addresses the many sources I have provided that say explicitly this "disturbing" approach I don't think there is intellectual honesty here, simply a preference for what he FEELS should be true.

      Delete
  28. See the Ran in his Derashos (10) that in truth a person can say that כחי ועוצם ידי עשה לי את החיל הזה as long as he recognizes that his raw talents come from Hashem, because we see that different people have different talents and some people are truly gifted. With this approach, Hashem has given every person certain כוחות and it is up to us to use those כוחות in the world. According to this approach, Iron Dome itself is from Hashem because he gave the designers and implementers the intellect and skill to build it. However, it didn't just come down from heaven, people had to actually use their initiative and skills to make it happen.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Fascinating to see the "Rationalist" anti-chassiduss (virtual) descendants, struggling over a concept that is so lucidly accommodated in chassidic teachings based on the Arizal's (and Ramak's) kabbalah. Go learn.

    ReplyDelete
  30. !אִם ה לֹא-יִשְׁמָר-עִיר, שָׁוְא שָׁקַד שׁוֹמֵר.

    ReplyDelete
  31. funny how R Slifkin loves R Dessler when it suits him to support the age of the universe but castigates him in this instance.

    BTW - Did anyone here see the Jewish Press article by R Weiss on the protective power of Mezuzos?

    It was an excellent article. I guess you will comment that the evidence brought by R Weiss is anectdotal, not empriical, but at what point do you dismiss mounds of anecdotal evidence especially in a circumstance where empirical evidence is not possible?

    R Slfkin, unfortunately you have decided that there is a green line separating 2 strains of orthodox judaism - the rational and the mystical. the reality is that the line is blurry. mystics are also rationalists and rationalists have a mystical side as well. Your separation of the two is an injustice and leads to machlokes in instances like this. Any time you deem an approach outrageously anti-rationalist, it is mocked.

    If you would not be so stubborn about this imaginary green line, you would be able to RATIONALLY (not empirically, but rationally nonetheless) understand that it is possible for spiritual things to have an affect on our world. We all agree that we have a soul, correct? If so, we believe that the soul resides in the physical world. SO we have a soul that we can not see, touch or feel, yet any orthodox jew believes it is here. Why is it such a stretch to you to say that the soul or other non-concrete things...like "kedusha" or the power of the mezuzah can affect things in the physical world? I truly do not understand why you can not accept that as a rational idea? Not a philosophically or scientifcally provable reality, but a possible reality. I am not always inclined to some of the more extreme mystical ideas, but the idea that there are spiritual forces that affect our world or that our actions affect spiritual forces...should not be so appalling to you and this blog...unless you have an agenda.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "funny how R Slifkin loves R Dessler when it suits him to support the age of the universe but castigates him in this instance."

      Why is that funny? It is perfectly reasonable and everyone does it.

      "Why is it such a stretch to you to say that the soul or other non-concrete things...like "kedusha" or the power of the mezuzah can affect things in the physical world?"

      I simply do not see adequate reason to believe that it is true. More importantly, however, is to clarify that it does not represent the only legitimate approach in Judaism.

      "unless you have an agenda. "

      LOL. http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2013/02/an-agenda.html

      Delete
  32. David,

    Come on! you are bringing Kellner to argue on Rav Dessler?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please reread my comment. I didn't quote Kellner and I didn't argue with Rav Dessler. I quoted the Rambam to provide support for the thesis that soldiers and Iron Dome help and are very important.

      Delete
    2. seriously.... why not bring kellner to argue on rav dessler.
      they are both informed thoughtful people.

      and jokingly...I assume rav dessler is informed and thoughtful, despite hearing what people tell me he wrote. (i admit to not having read his books, so I assume he is and give him the benefit of the doubt.)

      Delete
    3. seriously.... why not bring kellner to argue on rav dessler.

      Please reread my comment. I didn't argue that one cannot bring Kellner to argue on Rav Dessler :).

      Delete
  33. Following this approach, Iron Dome and the IDF soldiers are not really doing anything; it is just a charade that we have to go through - and which some people lose their lives for.

    I think you are oversimplifying a bit. If, for some reason we have to go through the motions, the charade must be doing something. Taking this backwards, hishtadlus, where necessary, becomes a "charade" as well. Then, for all practical matters, there is no difference in what we need to do physically.

    Under comparable conditions, a charedi will have the same hishtadlus as anyone else. I do not think that he will perform differently in a job than his modern orthodox colleague. That is, given the same ability and knowledge (the development of which, in turn, may have been affected by the ideology).

    Charedim show no lack of hishtadlus when they need to find a shidduch, a good doctor or the best lawyer.

    But there is a difference in the mindset. The complete rationalist may say that feeling more detached from the task at hand can sometimes be beneficial to relieve stress, but may degrade the focus and quality of performance. The mystically inclined may say that one should focus more on Him who ultimately decides the success of the mission.

    I think most people fall somewhere in between, but usually profess to be closer to one of the extremes than they really are. It's not that they lie about themselves, more that they identify the point on the spectrum where their hashkafah tells them they should be.

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  34. Mattis,

    Please explain how chassidic teachings address this issue?

    ReplyDelete
  35. Did not go through all of the comments so apologies if this following point was mad already. It's important to look at what follows "kochi v'otzem yadi". Devarim 8:18, the immediately following passuk says. "But you must remember the L-rd your G-d, for it is He that gives you strength to make wealth, in order to establish His covenant which He swore to your forefathers, as it is this day". It says "gives you strength to make wealth", rather than simply "gives you wealth." Hashem is giving you the strength to do and accomplish, but he's not going to give you all the results in a silver platter. Once Hashem gives you the strength, you still have actually go do it. In Hebrew, it hits even a bit more close to home: "כִּי הוּא הַנֹּתֵן לְךָ כֹּחַ לַעֲשׂוֹת חָיִל"

    ReplyDelete
  36. Yeshivas cancel summer vacation

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/day-22-five-soldiers-killed-four-of-them-in-mortar-attack-idf-bombards-gaza/#liveblog-entry-1038468

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  37. support for slifkin from chofetz chaim ?

    http://elmad.pardes.org/holidays/the-inner-essence-of-mitzvat-hatzedaka/



    People are used to saying that the poor are lazy and it is more convenient for them to live off of others, who work by the sweat of their brow. But the truth is, they are not at all to blame for their sluggishness…
    Our Sages say: There is a call from above that this person will be rich and that person will be poor. According to this decree, the one destined to be wealthy is given the attribute of quickness and ambition, so that he will not rest and will not tire from his toiling until he has acquired wealth. The person whose destiny is to be poor is granted from Heaven heaviness in his limbs and a lazy spirit, until the point where he will choose to eat stale bread and sleep on the ground rather than work hard. This is a curse from above and not his own evil intention, so we must have mercy on him and sympathize with his lot.
    (Chafetz Chaim, Amud HaChesed, Peh Kadosh, p. 15)

    ReplyDelete
  38. Anybody else shocked by deaths of hundreds of civilians in prophylactic artillery attacks? Stop firing rockets, yes. But prophylactic artillery and one tonne bombs are pesik reisha the same thing.

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  39. Many of the contentious topics debated on this forum involve concepts from other religions that wound up being absorbed in Judaism, mostly during the middle ages. Let’s face it- Judaism did not just develop in a vacuum. Unfortunately, the study of the development of Judaism in the middle ages is taken up by almost no one in the contemporary Jewish world. Rambam was definitely impacted by Islam but he was not the only major figure subject to Islamic influence (Yehuda Halevy was another). The idea that the intermediary in every event is the hand of Hashem is a direct import from Islam. The result of this approach is a crippling of rational thought due to the lack of attention to actual causes and effects. The current debate is a replay of the Middle Age debate between the Mu'tazilite and Ash'arite sects of Islam. To quote a Pakistani physicist" it was not Islamic to say that hydrogen and oxygen makes water. You were supposed to say that when you bring them together then by the will of Allah water was created. “The late Farouk Ajami often lamented that the underlying factor in the Arabs failures was inability to recognize cause and effect. An excellent source regarding Islam is the recent “The closing of the Muslim Mind” by Robert Reilly. Islam is once again influencing Judaism. Do you think that Haredi woman are wearing Burkas by accident? Is it an accident that many Haredi rabbis in Israel are starting to sound like Imams? These phenomena are most prominent in Israel because it is in the Middle East (not like New York). If we could get Jews to understand that we should not be arguing about Islamic (or Christian-another story) ideas, we could perhaps move some individuals closer to reality and have more Shalom

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  40. I heard the following story once about the Hafetz Haim. He was the first to write a modern halachic work giving guidance to Jewish soldiers serving in the armies of the European countries. The sefer was called "Mahane Israel" IIRC. The story says that whenever one of the boys he knew was conscripted he would give them a copy of the book and tell them that they should not look on their military service as a punishment, but since the Geulah was fast approaching, they would be learning important skills that the Jewish army in the rebuilt Eretz Israel would need.
    If this story is true, then it seems that the Hafetz Haim certainly believed that soldiers "do stuff" and that it is important!

    ReplyDelete

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