Monday, October 26, 2015

Torah Against Terror?

In the wake of the recent spate of terror attacks in Israel, there have been calls for people to take action to prevent these attacks. Some of the specific actions being sought are for people to learn Torah. Thus, for example, in the US there is a "Shmira Project" - organizing people to learn Torah as a way to "do their part" to protect people in Israel.

But at the other end of the scale, Rav Uri Sherky, of the dati-leumi Machon Meir, told his class that the calls to strengthen Torah and prayer are "utter nonsense." He clarified that “it is obvious that we must always strengthen the study of Torah and fear of Heaven, but it’s beside the point.” Rav Sherky stated that what needs to be done is to empower the nation on both a national level, via enforcing Israeli sovereignty, and on an individual level, with people learning how to defend themselves in combat. He argued, "Don’t hide behind slack-handed religious activity, which has nothing to do with what’s happening.” Predictably, this triggered a furious response from others, such as former Shas minister Shlomo Benizri, who described Rav Sherky as being the "partner of Amalek."

Before analyzing this topic, let's first scale down the rhetoric. It's clear that Rav Sherky is not opposing increasing the study of Torah, just as it's clear that his opponents are not opposing increasing military enforcement and individuals learning self-defense. Rather, the dispute is primarily over emphasis. But I would like to add that there is also crucial relevance to rationalist vs. non-rationalist worldviews.

Let us first note that if we look at traditional sources, we certainly do not see that Torah study is prescribed as the primary response to security threats. In Tanach, of course, there is no mention whatsoever of learning Torah as protection against danger - instead, it is military action that is described, along with prayer. In the writings of Chazal and classical Torah authorities, we likewise see that with regard to spiritual efforts to ward off danger, the primary emphasis is on prayer, not Torah study. Yaakov, when meeting Eisav, is said to have prepared himself for prayer, appeasement and battle - there is no mention of studying Torah. Traditionally, if Jews were in danger, other Jews sought to spiritually assist them by praying for them, not learning on their behalf.

Still, Torah study is also traditionally stated to have protective value. The Gemara (Sotah 21a and Makkos 10a) says that the study of Torah protects a person from certain types of harm. In addition, the Gemara (Bava Metzia 108a and Bava Basra 7b) rules that Torah scholars are exempt from the expense of building protective walls for the city, since they are protected by virtue of the Torah they learn.

Previously, I have noted that the extent and parameters of this protection are classically (and logically and practically) understood very differently from how contemporary charedi apologists explain it. And of course, it's hard to say that such notions have significant empirical value for us - just think of the Torah scholars who have been murdered in terror attacks, sometimes on their way to perform mitzvos. But in this post, I would like to return to a different angle, that I have discussed previously - the very nature of this protection.

As we have discussed before, the mystical and rationalist schools of thought have very different ideas regarding what mitzvos actually do. According to the rationalist approach, mitzvos improve our characters, our intellect, and society - and do nothing else. According to the mystical approach, on the other hand, mitzvos primarily serve to create and manipulate various metaphysical energies. To pick one example, according to the rationalist approach, mezuzah serves to remind us of our duties, whereas according to the mystical approach, mezuzos create a metaphysical force-field that protects our homes.

The same is true for Torah. According the rationalist approach, learning Torah imparts valuable knowledge, improves our character, and teaches us how to improve society (see my post on The Rishonim on Torah Study.) That is it, and that is all. Which is not, of course, to trivialize these functions - from a rationalist perspective, these are of immense importance! With the rise of mysticism, on the other hand, came a new and primary function of Torah study. As expressed by R. Chaim of Volozhin in Nefesh HaChaim, the primary function of Torah study was now seen as being to create spiritual energies and thereby metaphysically influence the universe. (See my post on The Goal of Torah Study.)

The difference between rationalist and mystical approaches with regard to the relevance of Torah study to providing protection is similar to the topic that I discussed in my essay "What Can One Do For Someone Who Has Passed Away?" According to the mystical/ charedi approach, you can benefit anyone who has passed away via learning Torah and transferring "spiritual currency." According to the classical/ rationalist approach, on the other hand, there is simply no mechanism for such a thing. Instead, only the descendants and disciples of the dead can benefit them, via creating a merit for them.

Likewise, in this case, the mystical/ charedi approach is that Torah study creates metaphysical protective forces. These can be set up to protect one's own city. But they can also be exported, via declarations of designation, to other places.

The rationalist approach to the notion of Torah providing protection would be very different. (I am not talking here about extreme rationalist interpretations of Maimonides, but rather about mainstream rationalist approaches that reflect Chazal's understanding in this area.) It relates to the idea of the personal merit of the person studying Torah, rather than a metaphysical protection provided by the Torah study itself. This personal merit can perhaps also be effective for one's community, but it is not an entity or commodity that can be transferred.

It seems that the rationalist approach has stronger support from classical sources. The Gemara in Sotah speaks about the zechus, the merit, of Torah, rather than speaking of the “protective power” of Torah. And the Gemara speaking about Torah scholars not requiring protection does not phrase it as "Torah study protects" but rather "Torah scholars are protected." It refers to the person who has performed the act rather than the act itself. Just as Sodom could have been saved in the merit of righteous people, so too righteous people can create a merit which leads to the machinations of enemy forces being divinely repressed.

In summary: According to classical Judaism, the primary way of defending ourselves against our enemies is with military means. The primary spiritual defensive tool is prayer. You can also create a merit for yourself by learning Torah, and you can pray on behalf of anyone. But you can't export the merit of your Torah to other people.

82 comments:

  1. I suppose both sides point to these verses from Psalm 81, which we say every Thursday:
    81:14 Oh that My people would hearken unto Me, that Israel would walk in My ways!
    81:15 I would soon subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against their adversaries.

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  2. R. Slifkin -

    We're still waiting for the full historical analysis on the development of the idea of the importance of learning Torah, which basically doesn't appear anywhere in Tanach (maybe Tehilim). I think this will be the most important topic in your next book.

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    1. Assuming you accept the Mishna/Midrashim/Gemara and Rambam/Shulchan Aruch as authoritative, you don't have to look very far.

      See the commentaries on the first paragraph of the shema, as well as the rambam hilchot Talmud Torah for the straight forward obligationa of Torah study, importance of teaching and obligation of knowledge.

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    2. It's not a matter of accepting Chazal as authoritative as not. I didn't say learning is not important. I merely stated that there's nothing in Tanach about this importance. Commentaries made by Chazal are still just that. They don't change the words, just how we're supposed to act. The question is what the source of and the reason behind those commentaries are.

      Do you not find it astounding that there's so much clear emphasis on the importance of being good people, serving G-d and Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, but literally nothing (pre-interpretation) about the importance of learning? Yet learning is the one thing that we're supposed to believe will save us all, that justifies not contributing to the economy and that justifies letting others die to protect you? All for something with no reference in Tanach?

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    3. It's not quite true to say there's nothing. Open up your book of Psalms and start reading:

      1. Happy is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful.

      2. But his delight is in the law [= Torah] of the LORD; and in His law doth he meditate day and night.

      3. And he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season, and whose leaf doth not wither; and in whatsoever he doeth he shall prosper.

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    4. As far as i'm aware we don't take our religious guidance from Tanach outside of the way it has been taught by the Mishna, Midrash, Tosefta, Braita and then gemara and rishonim.

      Clearly there are many primary sources extolling the virtues of Torah study, and halachic authorities that tell us that whenever one is 'able' one should be studying Torah .

      It seems though that you just have a thing against the charedi lifestyle, and disregard the halachic autonomy of the the authorities in such communities. Now I wonder if we can find primary sources for sinat chinam in Tanach...

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    5. Anon - I acknowledged in my first post that there might be something in Tehilim. That hardly explains how learning became what it came.

      Dave - So I'm critical of people who misinterpret some ma'amarei chazal to allow them to not contribute to the economy, to let others die protecting them, to badmouth and curse people who try to get them to pull their weight etc. - and that's sinat chinam? It's not sina and it's not l'chinam.

      Yes, there are primary sources in Chazal. The question I ask is why don't they receive the coverage in psukim meforashim that other important fundamentals of Judaism receive. I think this is something worth addressing, preferably without the ad hominem attacks.

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    6. While this is speculative in my part - I think you'll find the emphasis on Torah study correlates with the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem. Without the Temple service, which I'm sure you know is a major component of the Pentateuch, the rabbis focused on Torah study as a way of preserving the knowledge and traditions that were part of the priestly service that might have been lost otherwise.

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    7. Ma Ohavti Soraseicha Kol Hayom Hi sichasi.
      Where is the coverage of Olam Habah in the chumash?
      Where is the coverage the ikkarim of ano Guf in Chumash?
      B"H We were zoche (ashreinu) to torah Shbaal peh. That is, along with its interpretation of tanach the way in which Jews live (and have always lived) their lives.

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    8. Iyov 36:12, Tehillim 1:2 Mishlei 5:23, Mishlei 10:21, Hoshea 4:6 all speak of studying Torah or of consequence of lack of knowledge. Since Yisrael obviously did not perish because they lacked knowledge of moon phases or soil bacteria, and it is difficult to believe that Hashem had them carted into captivity for not knowing Greek philosophy, what is it that you think this Wisdom and Knowledge constantly mentioned refer to? Torah. As we see in hilchot hager, converts are told "there is no such thing as a truly righteous person other than he who is a possessor of knowledge who keeps the laws and understands them (Code of Laws concerning prohibitions of intercourse Chapter 14, Law 3)."

      As the Torah makes clear, we are to hear and to obey the words of Hashem. How can we hope to do such a thing without study? The importance of hearing and obeying is stressed twice in the Torah, by none other than Hashem Himself. "Behold I will reveal myself to you in the thickness of the cloud in order that the nation shall hear when I speak with you and also in you will they believe forever (Shemot 19:9)É" Also, "The day that you stood before your God in Horeb when God said to me gather for me the nation and I will let them hear my words in order that they shall learn to fear me all the days that they live on the land and unto their children will they teach (Devarim 4:10)."

      The very words of the Shema make clear the importance of knowing the words and commands of the Torah. Read Devarim 11 and Mishlei 7. "Keep my commandments... inscribe them upon the tablet of your heart". How can one hope to do such a thing without studying them and learning them.

      One really needn't look far in the Tanakh at all to see the importance of learning the commandments of ribono shel olam, and keeping them. One cannot learn without study. Studying the commands is the very foundation of keeping them.

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    9. I apologize for making ad hominem remarks, perhaps I read too much into what you wrote.

      It seems I also skirted your question, indeed so have some of the other responses above. But let's take

      וְשִׁנַּנְתָּ֣ם לְבָנֶ֔יךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ֖ בָּ֑ם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ֤ בְּבֵיתֶ֙ךָ֙ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ֣ בַדֶּ֔רֶךְ וּֽבְשָׁכְבְּךָ֖ וּבְקוּמֶֽךָ׃

      The most basic implication of this passuk is to actually study the whole time, they are the talk of the house, the word on the street, the first thing you think of when you wake up and the last thing on your mind when you go to sleep.

      Of course we have other obligations, chessed, building a family, but at the end of the day, the backdrop and the context of our lives is the words of Torah.

      Does that make study the solution to all our problems, no. Does it make study THE most important part of Judaism, probably not either. But answering the way you posed the question in your second post above, it's an all encompassing obligation that is always there when everything else is done, and is thus the easiest to forsake.

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    10. Dave - The pasuk in Shma refers הדברים האלה אשר אשר אנכי מצווך היום. While it may not be entirely clear what those דברים are, they obviously refer to something specific and it's a stretch to infer that they refer to anything like what we call 'learning Torah' today, which includes basically any sefer.

      Theo - Same goes for the oft-quoted והגית בו יומם ולילה, which was a ציווי to Yehoshua regarding a certain ספר תורה and the purpose of the commandment, according to the pasuk, is למען תשמור לעשות. Again, it's a stretch to get from there to learning things that have no practical application whatsoever.

      Again, I'm not saying that Chazal didn't have the authority to do what they did and that we aren't bound by what they legislated, but I think something along the lines of what ahg wrote might be more accurate, from a historical perspective.

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    11. לֹא-יָמוּשׁ סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה הַזֶּה מִפִּיךָ, וְהָגִיתָ בּוֹ יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה

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  3. Seeing the comments directed against Rav Sherky and those we heard during the campaign against IDF conscription for Haredim, I have come to the conclusion that the gulf between our views and theirs is unbridgeable. We are simply talking past one another. I once asked a prominent Rav at Yeshivat Har Etzion during the period of the conflict over conscription and the harsh attacks on Naftali Bennet and the Bayit Yehudi party if his people had much contact with the Haredi leadership. He said they do talk on a "technical level" (i.e. halacha) but there wasn't much beyond that. It is time we simply come to accept this situation and Dati Leumi people should be confident in their own beliefs and stop worrying about getting the acceptance of others who don't think in the same terms.

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  4. Rav Hai Gaon has a beautiful teshuva about this issue in תשובות הגאונים החדשות סימן קמז quoted in חבל נחלתו

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  5. Actually, according to classical Judaism, both are on equal footing. Rather famous Rashi on Bereishis 32:9, no? And speaking of Rationalists, what about the Rambam, Hilkhos Taanios 1:3?

    אבל אם לא יזעקו ולא יריעו אלא יאמרו דבר זה ממנהג העולם אירע לנו וצרה זו נקרה נקרית. הרי זו דרך אכזריות וגורמת להם להדבק במעשיהם הרעים. ותוסיף הצרה צרות אחרות. הוא שכתוב בתורה והלכתם עמי בקרי והלכתי גם אני עמכם בחמת קרי. כלומר כשאביא עליכם צרה כדי שתשובו אם תאמרו שהיא קרי אוסיף לכם חמת אותו קרי.

    But if they do not cry out and do not sound the trumpets, but instead say, “This is a natural event which befell us, and this affliction is a chance occurrence” - behold, this is a derech achzarius (way of cruelty), and will cause them to cling to their evil conduct, and [this] affliction and others will increase. This is what is written in the Torah ...

    If R' Uri Sheky were really calling for some kind of balance, in reaction to those calling only for prayer and learning, why would he consider such calls "stupidity in tomato juice"?

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  6. But at the other end of the scale, Rav Uri Sherky, of the dati-leumi Machon Meir, told his class that the calls to strengthen Torah and prayer are "utter nonsense."

    Unfortunately, Rav Sherky substitutes one impractical idealism for another: If there are attacks, we should be strengthened [...] in imposing Israeli sovereignty [in Judea and Samaria].” In the end, each side is conveniently saying "let's stop the attacks by fulfilling what was already my #1 priority before the attacks started".

    I would be much more impressed if he said: "We should support whatever measures are necessary to increase security. If it is helpful, this might include the building of barriers in Jerusalem and further separating ourselves from the Palestinians, even if it turns out that we appear to defer our dream of complete sovereignty over the land. We need to do show our devotion to God by acting rationally to protect our people; only then do we merit the fulfillment of our ideals".

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    1. I agree with David. Instead of some dichotomy between rationalism and mysticism, a third component should be added - nationalism such as that exhibited by the rabbi in question. Insisting that Jewish sovereignty be established, especially under current circumstances, is hardly a rational suggestion. To what could he be referring; the temple mount, the west bank? That's like throwing gasoline on a fire. Nor does he use temperate language in denouncing other views. We need more well considered and rational views rather than more extremism.

      Y. Aharon

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    2. What exactly is mystical or otherwise un-rational about striving for full Jewish sovereignty in Erets Yisrael? It seems to me to be a rather rationalist viewpoint, in contrast to the haredi viewpoint that the Geulah will be achieved through supernatural means.

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    3. It is rational to use real strategy; what is irrational is to expect that "reasserting sovereignty" is a solution. He doesn't think that this is a good strategy because he's made a study of politics and warfare and has evidence and argument that this is a good strategy; he thinks it is a good strategy because it matches his ideology. So it is Charedism shifted to a different ideal.

      In fact, this idealism vs. realism splits the RZ. The fault line showed in the evacuation of Gush Katif. Some of the RZ (in fact, some of the greatest Rabbis at a much higher level than I can dream of being) felt that it was worth encouraging widespread refusal of lawful orders within the IDF to prevent the evacuation. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed, IMO.

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    4. Yeah thank heavens for all hundreds of dead soldiers you superduperawesome ultramegatotally pragmatic Realpolitik has brought us sir genius. In every day and in every way I am overwhelmed by the keen grasp of military strategy you exhibit in your call to capitulate before poorly armed, backwards adversaries and hide in rocket shelters like idiots.

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    5. Gavriel M: Thanks for noticing my heresy! And that of pretty much everyone else in the world who doesn't think that it is an Yehareg Val Yaavor to give up an inch of land.

      You, on the other hand, apparently join with the view of Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin who fretted over the possible bloodshed that would result from the creation of the State. Look at all the deaths that came after that event. Obviously, they must be all attributed exclusively to it since the event occurred before the deaths.

      Let "Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc" be our motto!

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  7. From Maimonides' Letter on Astrology:

    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.

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  8. "Let us first note that if we look at traditional sources, we certainly do not see that Torah study is prescribed as the primary response to security threats. In Tanach, of course, there is no mention whatsoever of learning Torah as protection against danger - instead, it is military action that is described, along with prayer. In the writings of Chazal and classical Torah authorities, we likewise see that with regard to spiritual efforts to ward off danger, the primary emphasis is on prayer, not Torah study. Yaakov, when meeting Eisav, is said to have prepared himself for prayer, appeasement and battle - there is no mention of studying Torah. Traditionally, if Jews were in danger, other Jews sought to spiritually assist them by praying for them, not learning on their behalf."

    That is where Rav Sherky, and you, are completely wrong.

    The Netziv, in at least seven places in his commentary on Chumash, states explicitly that THE primary weapon that Bnei Yisrael have at their disposal in the face of war is toiling in Torah. And the stronger the battle, the more toil necessary. It is all based on Chazal in numerous places, such as ברפידים - שרפו ידיהם מן התורה.

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    1. To the honorable Mr. Shtuyot Indeed,

      Sir,

      If you follow this blog regularly you ought to know that the standard response to comments such as yours is to note that what we might call the mystical approach to Judaism is well grounded in many traditional sources, especially among the Acharonim, the Netziv being a very good and prominent example. R' Slifkin's point is that when surveying the older sources and actual contemporary historical accounts of the behavior of the Jews in practice, one arrives at the conclusions quoted in your comment. Your appeal to the authority of the Netziv in this matter is undoubtedly based on the premise that there is one, completely consistent approach to Hashkafa which all of the traditional authoritative sources coherently espouse. Thus it follows in your mind that quoting one such source wherein there is an explicit rejection of R' Slifkin's conclusions is sufficient to demonstrate that they are at odds with Torah. This begs the question, however, as the veracity of the aforementioned premise is precisely what is at issue between you, honorable sir, and R' Slifkin. Your comment, therefore, fails to make contact with R' Slifkin's arguments.

      Signed,

      Shai Landesman, someone who really needed to write something just now.

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    2. If it is well-grounded in many traditional sources (and Netziv is actually not a very good example of a mystical approach, but never mind), then Rav Sherky calling it Shtuyot Bemitz Agvaniyot is ignorant, at best.
      Besides, as I said, Netziv's approach is rooted in Chazal.


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    3. I've already registered my disagreement with Rav Sherky's prefered solution.

      But his point is well taken, and doesn't depend on the sources. If you are hungry, you don't just pray that you should be satisfied. You do pray and learn as you always do, and then go to the refrigerator to get some food. When there is a new terrorism problem, you should continue to learn, include it in your prayers, AND go out and find a solution to the problem and implement it. Simply learning more will not get the food from the refrigerator to your mouth. That is nonsense upon stilts.

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    4. I was saying the Netziv is a good example of a mystic because of his approach to reasons for Mitzvos as quoted in the post linked to above. I said that your point fails to make contact with R' Slifkin. As to R' Sherky, his statement just reflects his staunch endorsement of the rationalist approach for this matter (R' Sherky is interesting as he embraces Kabbalah but has a very rationalist attitude toward it too, until it comes to things such as Nevuah and Eretz Yisrael Bazman Hazeh. He is a R' Kooknik). The thing is, that if you have even a little bit of trust in empirical observation (one of the main differences between the approaches) it is just blindingly howlingly obvious that Torah study is not particularly effective in protecting people from bodily harm (e.g. holocaust, eastern European Torah countries hit much harder than western European Maskil countries) or bringing people Parnassah (e.g. Kollelniks got no money). It really doesn't matter if the Netziv or anyone else thinks it does. The mystical approach does deal with these empirical issues, but generally needs to resort to informal fallacies such as the ad-hoc, no true scotsman, self-fulfillingness, and appeal to ignorance (The Holocaust case was different because the Tzaddikim in Poland needed to die for a special Kappara, it is Muvhar Lemafreah that it wasn't REAL Torah, the Torah didn't work because we all have Aveiras that block the protection such as not learning REAL Torah, you don't know Cheshbonos Shamayim). The point we are all making is that the mystical approach in these matters is on thin ice, and just miserably, miserably fails the common sense test, as well as the rigorous observation test.

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    5. But this is not a personal issue. If the NATION is at war, then the nation at large must increase its dedication to Torah learning. For a particular individual to take Krav Maga lessons (as Rav Sherky suggested) and miss quite a few Sedarim (or even an extra Shiur) - and then stay fresh on the Krav Maga - when the chance of being confronted by an Arab is indeed far less than being involved in a car accident - is completely wrongheaded. Shtuyot Bemitz Agvaniyot.

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    6. Shai, you're not challenging the mystical approach, you're simply challenging the veracity of Divrei Chazal. The debate is not over whether people who are immersed in Torah merit greater protection.

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    7. There's a lot of learning on an ongoing basis, but very little teaching to most Jews. Increasing the learning on its own will do nothing.

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  9. The linked article states that R' Sherky's son was killed in a terror attack several months ago.

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  10. "the Gemara rules that Torah scholars are exempt from the expense of building protective walls for the city..."

    Not surprising, given that the Gemara was written by Torah scholars. Gemaras like this (and there are plenty similar things) don't sit well with people.

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    1. Yes but the real issue here is what is a "talmud chacham". Can you measure it? How would you seperate who really qualifies? Is a novice who picks up a sefer considered a talmud chacham?

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    2. Well, the literal meaning, which still was in usage at the time the Gemara was written, was basically anyone who learns, hence "talmid."

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    3. Rav Solivetchik (yosha Ber) said explained the Rambam's word's in Hilchos teshuva that one of the people who is classified as an Apikores is a "Machish umagideha". Rav Solivetchik said that this means people who claim that the torchbearers and leaders of how Mesorah were motivated by anything other than a search for the truth and claim that CH"V they were motivated by there own monetary and other needs.

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    4. "Anyone who points out problem X is an apikores". I got a lot of that in grade school. I'd like to think that adults could move beyond that. Why shouldn't we assume that, great as they were (and they most assuredly were great scholars and legal figures), Chazal were humans and thus subject to the same self-serving impulses as everyone else? What argument is there against the claim that it's self-serving, other than calling the person who said so a heretic (which is a non-argument in my eyes)?

      -Anon Apikorsi

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  11. Crucial to this discussion, I think, is the Rambam's comment that the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because the Jews were busy with astrology rather than studying warfare.

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  12. If saying Kaddish helps the souls of the departed, then there is a precedent for transferring merit to others. In essence, or praise of Hashem on their behalf is benefiting them.

    Giving tzedakah on another's behalf is an age-old practice that accomplishes the same thing.

    So why not learn Torah in somone else's merit?

    I agree the primary focus should be on military means and prayer, but it seems that other activities could legitimately have a role, even under a rationalist approach.

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  13. Does not Sanhedrin 49a say that if not David’s Torah study, Yoav would not have succeeded in war?

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    1. Rav Aaron Lichtenstein ztz"l addresses that Gemara as follows:

      "First, the Gemara introduces this comment with the observation that it runs counter to the prevalent thrust of the preceding discourse. Second, the engagement in Torah of which it speaks does not refer to purely contemplative study alone but to implementation as well through the molding of a just and fair society. Above all, however, this source is of little use to our critics on the right because of its very protagonist. If indeed they wish to posit David, the heroic and sensitive soldierscholar-poet-Notary whom Hazal have so graphically portrayed in
      numerous contexts, as the prototype of the contemporary Israeli ben torah, I shall have litte quarrel with them."

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    2. To add to the above. David was not stam a person. He was the king. The point of the verse quoted in the Gemara is that David was running the nation according to principles of righteousness. It's a merit of the nation as led by David, not David exporting his Torah credits.

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    3. The point is the Torah study does have positive effect to the well being of the nation. Not comparing a today's ben Torah with King David, but maybe tens of thousands studying can have the same effect as David alone.

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    4. @Lazar: [palm-to-head] You have completely missed the point. It was through practical application of King David's Torah knowledge - e.g. following the Torah rules of engagement in enabled Yoav to succeed. Had David not studied the Torah, he would not have known the divine wisdom contained within to lead the nation and Yoav to victory. Neither Learning in a vacuum by David nor an army of learners divorced from the realities of the battlefield would have helped in the past or today.

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    5. Lazar-when you state that Torah study has a positive effect, are you referring to this in some practical way, or rather some sort of metaphysical influence? If you mean the first, it should be noted that the Lita'i scholarly elite found in places like Benei Braq, Netivot, Kiryat Sefer and the like have very little contact if any with Israeli different than themselves, and I believe they would be hard-put to explain to a non-religious Israeli Jew why the Torah is important and why it is beneficial both on a personal and national level for everyone to observe its precepts.

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    6. David went with the army as commander until Yoav told him not to come anymore due to his extreme valor (foolhardiness) which endangered the troops who would follow him on his berserker attacks.

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    7. Trust- all of a sudden people do not want to learn Pshat in Gemorah and say Drush instead. Until now, drush on Chumash was frowned upon in these circles and only pshat was tolerated.

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    8. @Anon Charedi,

      That Gemara is Midrash, which makes it useless from the perspective of this discussion. We already know some people believe ridiculous things about the power of Torah Study. Relating a Gemara doesn't add to the conversation.

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  14. I would like to suggest as resolution of the problem of transferring merit for learning. If a terror attack will perforce cause harm to someone who has the merit of learning on his side Hashem will scuttle the whole plan. See Sanhedrin 49a regarding the symbiotic relationship between military action and Tora learning.

    Moreover, Rav Sherki stated that the hashgacha in this matter is national and not individual and that we must strengthen ourselves in our connection to Eretz Yisrael. This, of course, comes through learning - as .Rav Sherki stated.

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  15. Look, agree or disagree, the idea that strengthening the Jewish hold over Israel, the Har HaBayit, and the West Bank will help is a supremely rationalist one if one views the conflict through a certain perspective- these aren't just random stabbings but an attempt to diminish and ultimately eliminate Jewish sovereignty, c"v. Strong actions may well discourage such acts of terror by demonstrating their pointlessness.

    Now, you may think that it will have the exact opposite effect. Maybe. But it's not a mystical view.

    And self-defense (and, of course, good responses by the Police and IDF) is the most immediate rationalist response.

    I know YU is running, or participating in, this learning project. I was a bit offended at the assumption myself, but my wise wife said, "Look they don't live in Israel. They can't do anything else, so at least this demonstrates solidarity."

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    1. Look, agree or disagree, the idea that strengthening the Jewish hold over Israel, the Har HaBayit, and the West Bank will help is a supremely rationalist one if one views the conflict through a certain perspective- these aren't just random stabbings but an attempt to diminish and ultimately eliminate Jewish sovereignty, c"v. Strong actions may well discourage such acts of terror by demonstrating their pointlessness.

      Now, you may think that it will have the exact opposite effect. Maybe. But it's not a mystical view.


      I didn't say it was mystical; I said that it was driven by ideology and not facts. His position is that we should assert our God-given rights to all of the land, and if we go down fighting for what God promised, then that is God's business (or else that we can't lose because we are doing God's will). Even the most right wing of the policy experts (as expert as you can get in such ad uncertain field) don't think that reoccupying the West Bank is a good idea. And as I've mentioned before, whatever you think of the military withdrawal from Gaza, maintaining civilian settlements in the middle of enemy territory is not rational.

      I'll add then when people are willing to kill themselves in commission of terrorism, it is hard to demonstrate pointlessness by killing them.

      I don't argue the need for self-defense and I understand the desire for those outside of Israel to "do something" to demonstrate solidarity. Leading up to Cast Lead, I sent a message to my Israeli coworkers who were getting called up to let them know that there were people outside the country who understood what was going and and supported them, and they did appreciate the message. Which is to say that I did absolutely nothing in the US while my brothers and sisters in Israel fought for me, but there was still some small value in the solidarity expressed.

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    2. "whatever you think of the military withdrawal from Gaza, maintaining civilian settlements in the middle of enemy territory is not rational"
      if we are going to pretend to have opinions based on facts and not ideology (as if that is even possible for a human being) then you would have to account for the following "facts".
      1. since the jews were expelled from gaza the financial cost of security operations meant to protect Israeli citizens from gaza based violence has gone up dramatically.
      2. the political cost of security operations meant to protect Israeli citizens from gaza based violence has gone up dramatically (UN condemnations, goldstone report etc.).
      3. the number of Israelis that have died and been injured as a result of gaza based violence has skyrocketed.
      based on these facts (all of which are easily demonstrated and not subject to "opinions"), it seems to me that we would have to conclude that either:
      a. since maintaining civilian settlements in the middle of enemy territory saves lives and money, while benefiting israel's international relations, doing so is eminently rational.
      or
      b. in the natural order of the world the civilian settlements should not have had the positive effect that they had, and in fact their doing so was supra rational (miraculous), in which case we would have to concede that what is "rational" is not always wise or beneficial.

      there was a legitimate halachik/hashkafic disagreement re the civilian settlements in the middle of enemy territory, that relates to one's overall view of the significance of the return to e"y of large numbers of jews. that has nothing to do with what is rational or not, and is beyond the purview of this blog.

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    3. I'm not sure what point you're trying to make. Just because you disagree with someone's conclusion- and although I agree fully with, doesn't mean I don't think it can't be argued with logically- doesn't entitle you to say that he's not being driven by facts. (Of course, he may *also* be driven by ideology, and of course his ideology may color his- and my- interpretation of those facts. But I think that's true of almost everyone.)

      Let me take issue with two other points:

      "whatever you think of the military withdrawal from Gaza, maintaining civilian settlements in the middle of enemy territory is not rational."

      For the record, almost all the Israeli settlements hugged either the northern or southern edges of the Strip and were technically not in the "middle" of enemy territory. At the very least, withdrawing from the northern bloc can be chalked up to actual ideology. There were two (or one-and-a-half) settlements right in the middle of the Strip, and a good case can be made that they had their place as well, splitting the area in half.

      "I'll add then when people are willing to kill themselves in commission of terrorism, it is hard to demonstrate pointlessness by killing them."

      Do you mean the actual perpetrators of the violence? If so:

      1. Who cares about "demonstrating pointlessness"? If you have to kill them to stop them, then of course you do, no matter what it demonstrates. And note that they never just "kill themselves" but try to take down Jews along the way. If you can eliminate them with no Jews harmed, then you've have indeed made it "pointless" and got a twofer.

      2. Who cares what they feel? Maybe they're right and are better off dead. Defending ourselves shouldn't depend on others' definitions. What if they said something ridiculous like "The survival of Israel proves we're right!" Should Israel then fold us shop in response?

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    4. 1. since the jews were expelled from gaza the financial cost of security operations meant to protect Israeli citizens from gaza based violence has gone up dramatically.

      Post hoc reasoning + endpoint bias. Costs were increasing before the withdrawal. Continuing the Gaza civilian settlements would make the costs much higher and didn't do anything to protect. You can make an argument that continued military occupuation was warranted (I don't agree), but the Gaza settlements were based on ideology.

      Also if you have stats on the costs, I'd like to see them. I'm not denying what you say, but can you supply a reference?

      2. the political cost of security operations meant to protect Israeli citizens from gaza based violence has gone up dramatically (UN condemnations, goldstone report etc.).

      The Gaza withdrawal rendered and continues to render diplomatic benefits in the EU listing of Hamas as a terrorist group. And more settlements would make it even easier for Hamas to force us into battle and increase the criticism.

      3. the number of Israelis that have died and been injured as a result of gaza based violence has skyrocketed.

      Same faulty reasoning as above. Settlements in enemy territory mean more injuries, not less.

      Based on your reasoning, the British should not have evacuated Dunkirk, since they suffered greater costs and casualties after that.

      I'm not sure what point you're trying to make. Just because you disagree with someone's conclusion- and although I agree fully with, doesn't mean I don't think it can't be argued with logically- doesn't entitle you to say that he's not being driven by facts. (Of course, he may *also* be driven by ideology, and of course his ideology may color his- and my- interpretation of those facts. But I think that's true of almost everyone.)

      You are correct that I may be misreading Rav Sherky. Let me quote Rav Avraham Shapira on this. It is clearly ideological and not strategic:

      "According to Torah law, it is completely forbidden to give land in Israel to a non-Jew, due to the prohibition of lo tehanem (“Do not give them a foothold in the Land,” Deut. 7:2) and due to the nullification of the commandment to settle the land of Israel that is incumbent
      upon every individual of Israel. This prohibition applies to every Jew, soldier and civilian alike. An order to take part in the evacuation of Jews from their homes in order to give over the land to non-Jews is an order that is against the religion of our holy Torah and forbidden to fulfill."

      I believe that Rav Sherky wrote in the same vein, but if not, then my apologies.

      Who cares what they feel? Maybe they're right and are better off dead.

      I was responding to this: "Strong actions may well discourage such acts of terror by demonstrating their pointlessness." This a prediction about how the other side will react to "strong actions" which in turn is a prediction about how they will feel about such actions.

      Of course preventing successful acts of terrorism may discourage them. But he was arguing for a reoccupation of the West Bank or something like that. Which, as I said, was conveniently his view all along regardless of the recent new terrorism vector.

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    5. there was a legitimate halachik/hashkafic disagreement re the civilian settlements in the middle of enemy territory, that relates to one's overall view of the significance of the return to e"y of large numbers of jews.

      @Anonymous: I just noticed that you are actually agreeing with me :). You are saying that the opposition to Gush Katif was based on ideology, not practical considerations on how to protect Jews best. The overall significance of the return of a large number of Jews to Israel has no impact on whether it is better for Jewish welfare based on empirical or (dare I say it) rational considerations to have Gush Katif or not.

      I should add that this doesn't meant that they people there didn't suffer a great loss as a result of the abrupt change in Israeli policy.

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    6. David Ohsie - you claim certain assertions as facts, but if you try some self-analysis you might realize they are almost entirely opinions or ideology, not facts. The following two points are FACTS. The CONCLUSION one draws from them is colored by numerous matters of opinion, including one's view of Judaism, the State of Israel, the United Nations, Arabs, and many other things. By switching around a few Pronouns, the same facts and conclusions apply to the Shomron area. Both conclusions are rational, the question is which one is smart? And there is no way you or I will ever convince anyone else of our opinion, because you and I are smarter than everyone else.

      FACT - there's Lord knows how many Arabs living in Gaza.
      FACT - Israelis were safer when Gush Katif was there and thriving.

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    7. DF, I disagree with your second fact.

      Sharon a"h did two things that ended the Second Intifadeh -- he put up the Security "Fence" and unilaterally retreated from Gaza. Shifted the fighting from guerilla warfare from within to defending well defined borders, a kind of fighting the IDF knows how to prosecute.

      And all the murder that has happened since -- the rockets, the more recent driving incidents, even the past month of stabbings -- none of it has been nearly as deadly as what we were facing in 2005.

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    8. @DF: I don't know what your first fact means. The second one, besides being debatable, is meaningless on its as I discussed above.

      I don't claim to know what the best path is. My claim is only that the approach of the RZ right wing that "no inch of land may be given up no matter what" is Haredism shifted to a new ideal. So for example, I don't agree with Rav Ovadiah Yosef ztl's political position at the end of his life, but I agree with his approach: do what it takes, including giving over control of "greater Israel", if that will help. If it won't, or it will make things worse, then don't.

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  16. "But you can't export the merit of your Torah to other people." Please explain. What about Yissacher and Zevulun?

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    1. There are an enormous amount of misunderstandings about Yissacher and Zevulun. But to address the aspect you are raising - Zevulun does not receive the reward for learning Torah. He receives the reward for *supporting* Torah.

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  17. The gemara -- both talmuds -- is quite unequivocal... "Learning Torah for its own sake" means to learn in order to follow it, or to teach others.

    "Following it" doesn't mean only the technical know-how of halakhah, being able not only to "observe and do" but also to "fulfill" it in our lives. (To quote Brikhas Ahavah.)

    Since people are judged "ba'asher hu sham" and punishments are "chai gever al chava'av", ie because the mitzvah creates its own rewarding outcome but shaping the person performing it, the whole idea of reward as a fungible is not only a lack of Divine Justice, it's also illogical.

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  18. Can you give me a "quite unequivocal" source for you assertion? Obviously, Rav Chaim Voloziner was unable to read both talmuds as well as you.

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    1. According to what you are saying in this comment, there is nothing that the individual Jew can ever learn from studying the basic sources of Judaism....the TANACH, the Talmuds, the Rishonim. All we have to do is go to our latest top scholars, and he will tell us what we are supposed to know, so we might as well close all the old sefarim we have, since looking at them directly, unfiltered, won't teach us anything. (I am NOT talking about Psak halacha, which indeed must be decided by experts...I am referring to obtaining a basic understanding of the philosophical message of the basic sources).

      A good example is Eretz Israel. The basic sources are filled with a love and yearning for Eretz Israel....e.g. the TANACH and the latter part of the the Talmud's Masechet Ketuvot.
      However, we are told in the name of recentl scholars that really we don't want it, it is "too holy" and we are better off without it.
      Another example is having Jews learn hot to defend themselves with weapons. Clearly stated in the basic sources. However, again, we are told in the name of recent scholars that the basic sources don't really mean that, that all we need to do is open a kapitel tehillim or study another blatt gemara when faced with existential danger.
      I feel we are simply talking past one another...completely divergent world-views.

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    2. Yes, he could. And if people read all four she'arim of Nefesh haChaim, they would realize that. But instead, the yeshiva world only reads one part of four, as though he didn't really mean everything he said about action and speech in the first two chalaqim, and only wrote about thought. Or for that matter, the preceding "chapters" between the 3rd and 4th sections, when he speaks of the need to refine one's middos in order to fight the yeitzer hara. After all, the author was not only the father of the Lithuanian Yeshiva was also the grandfather of the Mussar Movement.

      But to answer your question: TY Shabbos 1:2, vilna 7b, TB Sanhedrin 99b. And someone who learns for anything but to do or to teach might as well been "strangled by his umbilical cord" rather than been born.

      It pays to look at the Meshekh Chokhmah on Devarim 28:61. He explains that this is why one doesn't interrupt preparing for a shiur to perform a mitzvah, but one stops learning for oneself for even just preparation for a mitzvah (hekhsher mitzvah). And the reason for that dire statement in the Yerushalmi is that someone who learns in order to know had a better rebbe when he learned with the angel in his mother's womb, and entering this world interferes with his desired aim -- you can learn better when not in this world. We are in this world because the goal of learning is to implement.

      Or, if you trust my summaries... My essay on the Nefesh haChaim and Torah liShmah is here, and my posts on that MC are here, here and here.

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    3. Y Ben-David- Not so. I may have a question about what a gemorah means and might think of a pshat in a gemorah. But I don't say that the Gemorah is "unequivocal" when their are clearly sources and people who disagreed.

      Micha Berger- Their are clearly Mekoros both ways. And as you say in your article is that Rav Chaim Voloziner view is not a consensus. But you don't say their that "The gemara -- both talmuds -- is quite unequivocal."

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    4. Where is a source before 1801 (the founding of Volozhin) that gives another definition of Torah lishmah? I think the gemara is unequivical. It has two conversations of the topic, both say lishmah involves reaching other people.

      So does Birkhas Ahavah in Shacharis. Look at the progression: "lishmoa, lilmod, ulelameid..." And we learn that nashim are peturos from the fact that they are peturos to teach. And...

      In any case, I don't understand your second sentence. I am saying RCV's view as taught among the Yeshivish (learning for the sake of learning) is not his actual view -- it's a take on sha'ar 4 that is inconsistent with the rest of the book. Not to mention inconsistent with what R' Yitzchaq tells us his father always told him -- we learn and do mitzvos in order to be better able to be good to others.

      AND, then you add that even if it were, RCV's definition of Torah lishmah isn't the only one anyway?

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    5. Nefesh Hachaim's definition is based on the Rosh to Nedarim 62a

      עשה דברים לשם פעלם. לשמו של הקדוש ברוך הוא שפעל הכל למענהו:
      ודבר בהן לשמן. כל דבורך ומשאך בדברי תורה יהיה לשם התורה כגון לידע ולהבין ולהוסיף לקח ופלפול :

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    6. Yes, R. Chaim Volozhin's definition is based on a single source, which goes against all the other Rishonim. In addition. R. Norman Lamm in Torah Lishmah demonstrates that Rosh's explanation is based on a mistaken girsa of the Gemara.

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    7. It's not even clear that's RCV's point. As I wrote, if this were true, little of she'arim 1, 2 or the "chapters" after 3 would make sense. He repeatedly tells his son that the point of life is being good to others. In contrast to all that, could he really here be saying the ultimate mitzvah is to develop knowledge for the sake of knowledge?

      RCV is saying that we do mitzvos for the sake of bring Hashem's Vision to the world He made, whereas we learn for the sake of internalizing that Vision. But knowing is not an end in itself; as the chapter state, knowing is to be able to stand up against the yh"r.

      It's a form of lilmod al menas la'asos -- but not in order to know what to do, in order to be capable of making the right decision and actually doing it.

      And this is how RCV is the grandfather of the mussar movement. (And the talmid of the one who wrote that the entire point of a life of Torah is "sheviras hamidos hara'aos".)

      The yeshiva velt only learns one section of the book, which creates a skewed perspective on RCV's hashkafah.

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    8. The misunderstanding is in what RCV means to say. He does not mean that the ultimate purpose of Torah study is for its own sake. As you point out, that would go against the teachings of his Rebbe (and not just that quote). What RCV is talking about in that Shaar is the conscious purpose that one should have in mind while studying Torah,.It isn't deveikus, or yirah, or anything other than fully grasping and delving into the material itself. The effect that this has on the person, though, is the ultimate purpose of Torah study, albeit not its conscious focus.

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    9. Yes, Source, exactly! Not only inconsistent with his rebbe, inconsistent with how R' Itzele describes his father and the book in the introduction, inconsistent with how R' Zundel Salanter took his rebbe's teachings -- the seed he gave R' Yisrael Salanter which started the Mussar Movement -- it contradicts the rest of the book.

      Again, I wrote a blog post that made that point through providing an overview of Nefesh haChaim at http://www.aishdas.org/asp/torah-lishmah-and-nefesh-hachaim

      Although, one does need yir'ah and a preface of deveiqus in order to retain Torah. (See the "silo" metaphor in 4:4.) RCV isn't talking about knowing Torah the way one knows math or some other abstract discipline. And thus, hold that by learning in order to know, one comes to being able to do or to teach. That those are the ultimate goals of Torah, if not the ones we consciously aim for whle learning.

      So, getting back to where this tangent emerged from the original discussion... Regardless of RCV's definition of Torah lishmah, Torah is not the one single end-all mitzvah. Hashem wants us to have a "balanced diet" of mitzvos, and you can't single out learning as being "most effective" -- neither in personal development nor in meriting fewer national tragedies.

      In fact, odds are it's the mitzvah we don't think of right away that is the one we're neglecting and could use the most work.

      But in any case, since we cannot know G-d's calculus of reward, punishment and other forms of His Providence, all we can do is take lessons. When something scares us out of our rut, we need to look to see how we are naturally changing, and not squander that opportunity.

      If times of trouble bring us closer as a People, then maybe we should be using them to forge ties to other Jews in ways that won't fade when the problem is resolved. Use the opportunity side of this challenge.

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    10. Rav Chaim Voloziner, Rosh and other rishonim VS. Micha berger and R' Slifkin. I know which one I would base my life on. Also, who says people don't learn Laasos. There are famous stories of Rav Elyashiv learning and ever case he would speak out what he would Paskin Lmaaseh if someone asked him. In any case, what ever you believe the ultimate goal of Talmud Torah is, it doesnt change the numerous sources which say explicitly that we have to be learning Torah 24/7 (not meant literally). You can't explain that away just because you understand Talmud Torah differently than Rav Chaim Volozner.

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    11. No, it's Rav Chaim Volozhiner based on Rosh based on a mistaken manuscript vs. all the other Rishonim.

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    12. If you are so sure that this is what RCV meant, kindly explain how shaar 4 fits in his general philosophy and parenting history?

      If you wish to add that according to contemporary yeshivish understanding of what RCV is saying in the first chapters of shaar 4 is not only based on not learning the rest of the book (too much Qabbalah) but also that the position itself based on the Rosh's and his idiosyncratic girsa, fine.

      But what's with the opening "no"? Mussarists have been reading NhC in variants of the manner being dismissed by that one word since the dawn of the movement!

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    13. It's not that *we* understand TT different than you think RCV does. There are no "other rishonim". It's that everyone since the gemara, except perhaps the Rosh, does. What RCV does with the Rosh is explain that torah lishmah is to change the soul, not the world. But as he just said in the "chapters", the need to change the soul is in order to be able to change the world, despite the yeitzer hara. So even this unique definition of Torah liShma doesn't imply that Torah study is an end in itself.

      To quote R' Yitzchaq Volozhiner's testimony about what his father thought was the most important mitzvah, from the introduction to Nefesh haChaim:
      והיה רגיל להוכיח אותי על שראה שאינני משתתף בצערא דאחרינא. וכה היה דברו אלי תמיד שזה כל האדם. לא לעצמו נברא רק להועיל לאחריני ככל אשר ימצא בכחו לעשות.
      He regularly rebuked me, because he saw that I did not participate in the pain of others. And these were his constant words to me: This is the entire person: One is not created for oneself, but to benefit others to the full extent of one's potential.


      And to get back to the point about which this began: When times of trouble hit the Jewish People during a galus we attribute to sin'as chinam, perhaps a more on-spot response than learning more Torah might be to "to benefit others with the full extent of his powers". And it is quite likely RCV would agree, for all your debating about what 4:4-5 mean, because that's what he actually taught his son and the editor of NhC, in practice.

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    14. Perhaps too stark a contrast is being drawn here. Even the Rambam had his Maaseh Breishis and Maaseh Merkavah. These have no practical halachic use and they are not to be taught generally. I think that they are to be learned as part of perfecting the individual to reach the Rambam's version of Yiras and Ahavas Hashem.

      I think that the more important point is that average learning and marginal learning are being confused here. The argument that without any Torah learning (in addition to other Mitzvos), the nation would not be deserving of Providence is most likely correct. What is problematic is to assert that, therefore, in time of danger, *additional* learning must be prescribed. Instead, practical steps must be taken and t'shuvah must be done; but maybe the t'shuvah requires less learning! Here's an example:


      Honoring One's Wife

      Q: Which is preferable – eating Shabbat dinner with one's wife and kids at home, or together with one's Rabbi at the yeshiva and hearing Divrei Torah?

      A: There is no question: At home. You are obligated to make your wife happy and honor her. The Torah obligates you and you signed the Ketubah.

      http://www.ravaviner.com/2012/06/shut-sms-167.html

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  19. Isn't it is well established in Tanach and Chazal that Gd may act toward the nation as a whole based on its collective merit (or lack thereof)? So it would follow that if the nation as a whole increases torah study, that would increase Israel's collective merit, and may indeed prompt Gd to protect her.

    Why Torah study specifically? I am not familiar with all sources, but I do know I read every day regarding reward for mitzvos: "V'talmud Torah K'neged Kulam".

    So why wouldn't a rationalist stongly encourage people to increase torah study in times of trouble in order to protect the nation?

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    1. http://shaalvim.co.il/torah/maayan-article.asp?backto=&ed=%E2%EC%E9%E5%EF%20%F0%E9%F1%EF%20%FA%F9%F2%E2%20&id=720

      Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, Shabbos, Milah, Tzitzis and Chessed are all also "keneged kulam".

      And since the gemara says that talmud Torah is "in order to be able to do", there is a pragmatic reason why talmud Torah keneged kulam, a derived value, rather than insisting that Torah study is the most central mitzvah. Which is what the Rambam says on this mishnah, "because through talmud Torah he will merit to getting the rest of them, as we said at the beginning of our words, 'talmud meivi liydei ma'aseh -- study leads one to action'."

      A rationalist -- or any Jew -- should understand that we as a nation need a "balanced diet". Even if we acknowledge how healthful leafy green vegetables are, even if they really were healthier than any other food in our menu ("keneged kulam"), we would not be healthy if we ate only them, with no starches or proteins! A rationalist -- or anyone -- should be recommending that each Jew play their own strengths, and not have everyone do the same thing.

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    2. Point taken. The emphasis on Torah study may come from non-rationalist ideas.

      But my point still stands that a rationalist could react to national times of trouble by trying to increase our collective merit, in contrast to the post which only allows for military action or prayer.

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  20. Rabbi Slifkin, I see your rhetoric has vastly improved. This post was a much more respectful expression of your disagreement with Haredi hashkafa

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    1. Aharon, have you ever read In Defense of My Opponents?. Take a look and see that this is not new.

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  21. How does he demonstrate that? That's how it appears in the Vatican manuscript.

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