Sunday, January 31, 2016

Why Risk Your Kids?

As many people pointed out, Avishai Ben-Chaim's article entitled "The Charedim: Disintegration," translated in the previous post, was strange and deficient in several ways. For example, among the statistics claimed in the article was that the dropout rate from charedi to secular is 10%, and from national-religious to secular is 25%. Both of these figures seem suspect.

However, at least for the purposes of this post, let us accept that the dropout rate from the national-religious community is significantly higher than that from the charedi community (which I think is quite likely to be true, at least for now). Recently, I had a discussion with a neighbor who pointed to this fact in order to explain why he was raising his children in the charedi framework rather than the national-religious framework. In fact, he couldn't understand how anyone could reason otherwise. Surely the most important thing is to raise your kids to be religious, so how can you raise them in a framework in which the chances of them going "off the derech" are greater?

While I was sympathetic to his viewpoint, there are (at least) two responses to be made to this. One is that if you believe a certain framework to be correct and another to be deficient, then you might choose to raise your children in the correct framework even if it contains risks greater than those in the deficient framework.

The second point to note is that this reflects two very different worldviews. The charedi worldview is that the most important priority to consider is one's own (or, extension, one's childrens') religious growth and security. Accordingly, one would never choose a path in which that is more likely to be threatened.

The national-religious worldview, on other hand, is that the top priority is not oneself (or one's children), but the nation. It is indeed true that your child is more likely to suffer spiritual harm if they go to the army and college. Yet they are also a good deal more likely to suffer physical harm, but this is not a reason not to send them on that path! We have all kinds of responsibilities to the nation - not only in the religious sphere, but also in the material realm, such as with national security and the economy. Raising our children on this path, with its greater physical and spiritual risks, is part of our responsibility to the nation, and in turn reflects the values that we wish to inculcate within our children.

Some will denounce this as false and defamatory. But I think that it's self-evident. The national-religious community is, by its very nature, more focused on national responsibilities. That's why it's called the national-religious movement.

(See too this post: The Difference Between Charedi and Dati-Leumi Rabbonim)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Guest Post: The Charedi Spring?

Here is part one of a series from Avishai Ben-Chaim, entitled "The Charedim: Disintegration," translated by Marty Bluke

According to estimates, one out of ten charedim have become non-religious - and Charedi society is in a crisis that it has never experienced before. Some become part of the romanticized group, those that represent freedom, but also many of the sons and daughters of baalei teshuva are leaving the path in great numbers. "This is like the Arab Spring, the same influences," says Yehuda Moses, the son of MK Rabbi Eliezer Moses. "In the past what blocked Charedim from the world was the failure to bring in the outside media. Today anyone who wants has it in his pocket."

Is it possible that for the first time since the masses left the yeshivas on the winds of the haskala and and later with the charm of Zionism that we are looking at a revolution? Is it possible that today there are more people leaving Charedi Judaism then joining?

"Today Charedi society is facing its biggest challenge in its history" says Avishalom Shiloach a former Charedi. "Thousands of young people are leaving. This is no longer just teens in trouble, or families in distress, this is from the cream of Charedi society. There is no house that doesn't have someone leaving."

Moshe Shenfeld, a former Charedi from the organization "Making a Change," says, "In the past few years, about 1/10 of the Charedi population leaves every year. The Central Bureau of Statistics has a poll about society. Among other things that it asks, it asks about the persons level of religiosity now and asks what was your level of religiosity when you were 15. 10% have become non-Charedim."

These astounding numbers are backed up by the Central Bureau of Statistics. Out of 157,000 people polled who said that they grew up in a Charedi household at the age of 15, more then 12,000 defined themselves as no longer Charedim. "Given a few more years and the Charedi mother will be giving birth to more Chiloni children then the Chiloni mother", says Shenfeld.

Since the poll a few years has passed and the phenomenon of "yotzim bisheila", becoming non-religious, in the Charedi world is only growing and getting bigger and bigger, the estimate is that 1 in 10 Charedim are leaving. To these, one must add the even larger number leaving the National Religious world, according to some estimates 25%.

For many years there has been talk in Israel about successful Charedi demographics, but it seems that the Chilonim may be able to ultimately win in this historic battle, and the number of Charedim leaving today is more then the number of Chilonim joining the Charedi world. Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi, an important kiruv Rabbi, states: " The number of religious people in the world is not growing. Many Charedim are leaving the fold. Someone told me that there are more people leaving religion then joining".

Uri Zohar, in a publicity video for the organisation "Maaneh", adds, "We are in a very unique generation. There is a phenomenon that has never happened is such numbers, there were many people who left the Torah world at the time of Haskala and reform ... but that was due to ideological reasons."

Avi Tapilinksy
Avi Tapilinsky, once Rabbi Avraham Tapilinsky, lives in an old building in Nachlaot and was joined by a group of people who left the Charedi world. "The Charedi world does not understand the depth of the crisis that it is in", he says. Shiloach adds "They say that we have [lives with] no meaning, a soul, spirituality. [However,] we have God and also the Sabbath and also girls. We have both this world and the next world". Others add "We are like a big population of immigrants. In our view, the Charedi world has lost the war. Charedim is a new phenomenon, 60, 70 years old - they keep everything in the Torah except in reverse."

This is the spring for former Charedim. Suddenly even those who disappeared years ago are revealing themselves. Yehuda Moses, son of MK Eliezer Moses, left the Charedi world. Why did no one speak of him, only the daughter [of MK Moses]? "Because I am shy" he explains. "I didn't publicize it because I didn't want publicity".

It is hard to describe how bewildered the Charedi leadership is in response to these powerful stories, and how these stories are so painful and dealt with great care. Rabbi Eliezer Moses "Why do you say my children, I have my daughter Chaya Heidi, who I am very close to and she is very close to me, my grandchildren, an accident happened to her in her life as they say. What can I tell you, it really hurts me. It hurts me but I am not sitting shiva. I asked the Gedolei Hador and they told me there is nothing like Kiruv, to have any chance of making things better".

Yehuda Moses: "This is like the Arab Spring. In my opinion it happened for the same reasons. In the past what blocked Charedim from knowledge of the world was the inability to bring in any media. Today, everyone who wants has all the information in their pocket. Someone who is an idiot, better he stays that way, someone who has the ability to understand and the curiosity to want to know, knows. This is the Charedi Spring".

Rabbi Lazer Moses, the father, has a great soul. There is much pain and longing hiding behind the historic drama that the two opposing sectors of society provide, those who leave religion and those who return. "Today I went to a monastery, that is anthropology" says Yehuda. "When you see other religions, you see either how pathetic your religion is or how similar they all are."

The romanticized group of leavers from mainstream Charedi society that have turned into a symbol of freedom are only part of the crisis. Charedi society at its high point produced many returnees, but now their children are leaving the path in great numbers. With them it is not ideological, even if the pain and disappointment sound much the same.

Shiloach: "We are part of a crusade to to kill God, 'the threatening God,' the 'strict God,' the 'God of texts and rituals.' We are looking for a God who is much greater and much more loving. Every day we need to kill the old God so that we can love the new God and ourselves."

Given the large numbers of leavers, it seems that the non-religious and Zionists are going to win this historic battle and even to offer an alternative Sabbath experience. Later, we will see how the non-religious help the extremist Charedim win out over the moderate Charedim and come out on top in the struggle to define the face of Israel and no less important, Judaism.

[A reminder, because, incredibly, there are always people who do not read the title or first paragraph: This is a guest post. That means that I didn't write it. N.S.]

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My, What Little Teeth You Have!

Last week I acquired something extraordinary to add to the exhibits at The Biblical Museum of Natural History:

These are the jaws of the biggest fish in the world, the whale shark. Whale sharks can reach forty to fifty feet in length, with jaws five feet wide! This set, at only three-and-a-half feet wide, is from an immature specimen.

What are the theological ramifications, if any, of this leviathan? Well, there are a few interesting things to consider.

One: Could this be the fish that swallowed Jonah? Even the jaws of this juvenile specimen are more than big enough to swallow me whole. But surviving in the belly of a fish (or a whale) is not possible within the ordinary realm of nature. So it would either have been accomplished via supernatural means, or one can adopt the approach which was held by Rambam (according to some) and others that the story of the Jonah is not historical. (See Marc Shapiro's latest book for some fascinating discussion on how that view went down.)

Two: Is it kosher? No. It doesn't have scales.

Three: Is it the largest non-kosher fish? Not if we are using the biblical definition of fish. The largest non-kosher fish is the blue whale.

The fourth theologically-relevant (according to some) aspect of the whale shark, which will not be discussed at the museum, is the significance of its teeth.  

The jaws of the whale shark contain over three thousand teeth. But they are really, really tiny; not even big enough to snag my clothing when I sawed the jaws in half to fit them in my duffel bag. The teeth certainly don't play in role in the whale shark's life. It swims with its mouth wide open, vacuuming in tiny plankton. It doesn't need teeth and it doesn't use them.

So why does it have them? Well, it makes sense if they are simply the vestigial remnants of the larger teeth that its ancestors possessed and which they used to eat fish and people at Amity Beach.

For some strange reason, many people find that religiously threatening. Others, however, see it as being a wonderful testimony to the creative wisdom used in the development of life:
[If evolution were to ever be accepted as scientific fact,] ...Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus, and one single law of “adaptation and heredity” in order to bring forth, from what seemed chaos but was in fact a very definite order, the infinite variety of species we know today, each with its unique characteristics that sets it apart from all other creatures. (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, “The Educational Value of Judaism,” Collected Writings, vol. VII, p. 264)
Creating whale sharks and great white sharks and bamboo sharks and nurse sharks and lemon sharks and hammerhead sharks and goblin sharks and mako sharks is amazing. But creating one shark that becomes all these different sharks is even more amazing!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Amazing Manna Segula!

"Manna manna."
Were you inundated today with emails about the amazing segulah of saying parashas ha-man, shnayim Mikra v'echod Targum, because it is Tuesday of the week of parashas Beshalach? I was.

It's quite bizarre. Here is something that was proposed by one chassidishe rebbe, R. Menachem Mendel of Rimanov, two hundred years ago. All of a sudden, it is considered to be something that all Jews should do! (Though you don't even need to say it yourself - the Gedolim say that you can pay others to do it for you, for even better results!) This is especially odd in light of the fact that this is entirely inconsistent with the approach of the Mishnah Berurah, surely a much more mainstream work, as we shall see. (I am indebted to Rabbi Josh Waxman of the excellent Parshablog, from whose post on this topic much of the following was taken, with his permission.)

Some claim that the source for this is the Yerushalmi, but that's not quite accurate. The given source says כל האומר פרשת המן מובטח לו שלא יתמעטו מזונותיו, "Whoever recites parashas ha-man, is assured that his sustenance will not decrease." Early sources, such as Seder Rav Amram Gaon, explained that it was recited every day, along with korbanos and a host of other things. However, only select people do so; most do not, because they are too busy working! To quote:
זה המנהג הנכון לנהג היחידים אנשי מעשה. והצבור אין נוהגין כן, שלא יתבטל איש איש ממלאכתו אשר המה עושים, ומקצרין ואומר אחר סיום, קדיש. חזק.

Meanwhile, the Mishnah Berurah gives an interesting explanation of the daily recital of parashas ha-man:
פרשת העקידה - קודם פרשת הקרבנות. ויכול לומר פרשת העקידה ופרשת המן אפילו בשבת. ואין די באמירה אלא שיתבונן מה שהוא אומר ויכיר נפלאות ד' וכן מה שאמרו בגמרא כל האומר תהלה לדוד ג' פעמים בכל יום מובטח לו שהוא בן עוה"ב ג"כ באופן זה. וטעם לאמירת כ"ז כי פרשת עקידה כדי לזכור זכות אבות בכל יום וגם כדי להכניע יצרו כמו שמסר יצחק נפשו ופרשת המן כדי שיאמין שכל מזונותיו באין בהשגחה פרטית וכדכתיב המרבה לא העדיף והממעיט לא החסיר להורות שאין ריבוי ההשתדלות מועיל מאומה ואיתא בירושלמי ברכות כל האומר פרשת המן מובטח לו שלא יתמעטו מזונותיו ועשרת הדברות כדי שיזכור בכל יום מעמד הר סיני ויתחזק אמונתו בה' ופרשת הקרבנות דאמרינן במנחות זאת תורת החטאת כל העוסק בתורת חטאת כאלו הקריב חטאת וכו':
משנה ברורה סימן א ס"ק יג
 "The parsha of the Binding {of Yitzchak} -- before the parsha of the sacrifices. And one is able to say the parsha of the Binding and the parsha of the Manna even on Shabbat. And it is not sufficient with mere saying, but rather he must understand what he is saying and and recognize the wonders of Hashem. And so too that which they say in the gemara that anyone who says Ashrei three times every day is guaranteed that he will be a resident of the world to come, in this manner {that is, not an incantation, but understanding and appreciating this}. And the reason for the saying of all this is as follows: the parsha of the Binding is in order to recall the merit of the forefathers every day, and also to humble his yetzer, just as Yitzchak was moser nefesh. And the parsha of the Manna is such that he will believe that all his food {/livelihood} comes through special Divine direction {hashgacha pratis}, as it is written {and understood midrashically} "and the one who took more did not end up with more and the one who took less did not end up with less," to teach that increasing effort does not help at all. And it is found in Yerushalmi Berachot that anyone who says the parsha of the Manna {others have here: every day} he is guaranteed that his livelihood will not decrease. And the {saying of the} Ten Commandments is in order to recall every day the standing by Mt. Sinai, and his faith in Hashem will be strengthened. And {the reason for reciting} the parsha of the sacrifices is because of what we say in Menachot: "Zot Torat HaChatat -- Anyone who engages in the {learning of} Torah of the Chatat is as if he sacrificed a Chatat {sin offering}, etc."
Thus, this is not a magic incantation, but rather a mechanism by which one realizes certain facts about the world and reinforces his emuna. The repercussions of such an internalization of these ideas will be all these great things. Note too that none of these sources speak about reciting it shnayim Mikra v'echod Targum.

Meanwhile, the saying of parshat HaMan once a year, on a specific day, shnayim Mikra v'echod Targum, is most certainly presented as a segula, and thus is not in consonance with the Mishna Berura's explanation.

But can any of this reconcile with Rambam's rationalist approach? That will have to be the topic of another post. Meanwhile, with regard to the nature of the manna itself, see the post Manna and Maimonides.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

There Ain't No Such Thing!

"There ain't no such thing!"

This is a familiar sentiment to Orthodox Jews with rationalist leanings who have spent a long time in yeshivah. Whether the rebbe is telling you about mermaids, humanoids growing from the ground via a cord attached to their navel, or impossibly large animals, the modern and educated student has a hard time believing that such things exist.

"An albino cyclops shark?! There ain't no such thing!"
Yet the question itself is often rebuffed as an act of heresy. Sometimes, this is directly because of the prestige of the authority that is being challenged. In other cases, it is because of the prestige being given to science that is considered unwarranted. In those cases, the questioner is often rebuffed with phrases such as "scientists don't know everything," "scientists don't know anything," or "you can't prove a negative - you can't prove that something doesn't exist!"

It is therefore valuable to see the following comments of R. Yom Tov ben Avraham Asevilli, better known by his acronym Ritva. The subject is a mysterious fish in the Gemara, Avodah Zarah 39b, named a kilbit. Rashi identifies it as a fish that is spontaneously generated inside vats of fish-juice - but Rashi notes that it is only generated from the juice of kosher fish, and if there is juice of non-kosher fish mixed in, the kilbit will not appear. Ritva objects to this:
"This explanation is exceedingly difficult - first, it is not logical that there is such a thing, and it does not exist in nature."
This is a perfect expression of the rationalist inclination. The existence of such a creature does not make sense, and furthermore there does not appear to be empirical evidence of such a creature.

(At first, I was bothered by this comment of Ritva. After all, belief in spontaneous generation was perfectly normative throughout the medieval period. But there are two possibilities. First, we see that Rambam, while insisting on the reality of spontaneously generating insects, was skeptical of the possibility of spontaneously generating mice, presumably because it is a larger and more complex creature. Second, it could be that Ritva is not objecting to the spontaneous generation of this fish per se, but rather to the aspect of it only spontaneously generating from the juice of kosher fish.)

So would Ritva's comment be good ammunition for those seeking to defend the rationalist approach to their non-rationalist teachers? Of course not. The inevitable rejoinder would be "But you're not Ritva! He could say it, but you cannot!"

(Reminder: I am travelling to New York tonight, then to LA next week. If you would like to meet or join parlor meetings in support of the Biblical Museum of Natural History, please be in touch!)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Rebbe is Coming! Miracles and Yeshuos!

What do you think of this advertisement?

One of the Slifka Rebbe's mentors
Rav Nosson Nota of Slifka, shlita, the holy "Slifka Rebbe," is coming to New York!
Many of the Gedolei Torah have read Rav Nosson Nota's seforim, which they consider to have tremendously significant impact. It was said regarding Rav Nosson Nota by Rav Elyashiv ztz"l that "he could be one of the lamed vav tzaddikim!"
Among the many wondrous stories surrounding Rav Nosson Nota:
- A woman had been single for 24 years. She met Rav Nosson Nota, and within six weeks she was engaged!
- A man once spoke motzi shem ra on Rav Nosson Nota. Soon afterwards, he was exposed for fraud, and went to prison for many years!
- Every Rosh Hashanah, many hundreds of people visit Rav Nosson Nota's home, to get rid of their aveiros!
- Rav Nosson Nota is also known for solving fears of sheidim, and is able to remove them from existence. He also offers bleigeissen (lead pouring) kits for removing ayin hora, that you can do in your own home, for just $7.99 plus shipping, taking no money himself - enabling people to do bleigeissen for just a fraction of the price charged by others!
- Unlike certain other "holy" rebbes, Rav Nosson Nota has never been to prison, and nor have any of his lackeys ever tried to set fire to dissidents or been praised for such things!
Opportunities are available to schedule an appointment with Rav Nosson Nota. Those who support his mosdos will receive a copy of Rav Nosson Nota's sefer on Perek Shirah, the powerful segulos of which are well known. They will also receive brachos whose worth cannot be expressed in financial terms! 

I wonder - if this advertisement were to appear in the Five Towns Jewish Times, could I raise a lot more money for the Biblical Museum of Natural History than with my usual methods?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Robot

Once upon a time there was a robot.

It was superbly engineered. This robot was nothing like anything else that anyone had ever seen. It helped people in the town with all kinds of tasks. It dramatically improved the quality of people's lives.

It wasn't a very complicated robot. It didn't have a lot of bells and whistles. But this was part of its beauty. It was simple and highly effective. And everyone in the town loved it.

The robot had been designed and constructed by a phenomenal robotics engineer, the best that the town had ever seen. He had left the robot to the town, for their benefit, and then he had gone away. The designer had left them with the instruction that the robot would work perfectly and would always improve their lives, as long as they didn't tinker with it.

One day somebody had an idea. "Wouldn't it be great if the robot had some additional features?" So they brought some engineers and some tools and they added an extra arm to the robot with additional functionality. The robot wasn't quite as sleek as it was in the past, but people were too excited about the additional functionality to care.

Then somebody else thought of some further features that could be added. So the engineers came back and attached some more parts that gave the robot even more functions. This happened again and again and again.

At one point the robot changed even more dramatically. One of the engineers, Lionel, said that he had happened across some of the original designer's plans to add many more features to the robot. Some people wondered if these plans really were written by the original designer, but many (though not all) highly respected engineers were very impressed with these plans and said that they must indeed have been written by the designer. So they added a whole slew of new features to the robot.

After a long time, the robot looked nothing like its original state. It had arms and tools and lights and exhausts everywhere. Some people thought that this new look was beautiful in its complexity, though others differed. The robot now offered a myriad of different features, which many people thought was most wonderful, and they boasted about how their robot was the greatest robot in the world. But others felt that it had become less effective at many of the more basic tasks. It had become cumbersome, and some of its new abilities directly hindered some of its original abilities.

Furthermore, due to the new complexity of the robot, it now required a legion of engineers just to maintain it. Eventually almost everyone in the town was working to keep the robot operational. This seriously detracted from the other tasks that needed doing in the town, but as almost everyone agreed, there was nothing more important than keeping the wonderful robot in the best condition.

Then one day a little boy in the town was reading a book about the history of the robot. He saw how it originally looked, in its beautiful and pristine condition, and how it had improved everyone's lives, enabling them to get on with other tasks with great efficiency. He discovered reports of how, as the towns' engineers added more and more features to the robot, there were always some engineers who had protested these "improvements", arguing that they were not being true to the intent of the original designer. And so the little boy spoke up, and argued that the new features should be removed, and the robot restored to its original condition.

"How dare you?!" thundered the engineers. "What do you know about such things? You are not an engineer!" And the engineers' supporters also vociferously rebuked the little boy: "Why do you have to be so negative and so critical? Why can't you just look at the positive aspects of the robot? And don't you see that all the engineers are against you? Where is your respect for them?"

So the little boy stopped talking. Instead, he found some of the city's engineers who didn't agree with all the modifications that had been added. They left the town and moved to a new village, where they managed to build a robot that was identical to the original model. It helped them with all kinds of tasks and dramatically improved the quality of their lives, just as the robot had done originally.

The people in the first town heard about them and jeered at them, claiming that they had disrespected and lost the respect of the engineers. But the townsmen were running into a problem. There were so many people working on their robot, that they weren't able to do all the other things that need to be done to make a town survive. And so they reached out to the village and demanded that the village supply them with everything that they needed, in order for them to be able to keep on working on their robot.

Some of the people in the new village didn't want to acquiesce. But others did. Eventually the resources of the new village were all drained into the old town, in order to provide for the engineers who were working on maintaining the robot. Both the new village and the old town were threatened with ruin.

What happened in the end? I don't know, the story isn't finished yet.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

I. Iyun Tour II. Coming to America!

Tomorrow (Thursday) morning, at 10:30am, there is an extra-special in-depth tour of the Biblical Museum of Natural History! At two and a half hours, this tour is twice the length of a normal tour, which will give you an opportunity to learn about the exhibits much more thoroughly. If you'd like to sign up, write to This is a rare opportunity for a richly rewarding educational experience!

Next week, b'ezrat Hashem, I am coming to America. I will be speaking next Shabbos at Sephardic Institute in Flatbush, and I am making a presentation about the museum (and other aspects of my work) at parlor meetings in Flatbush, Bergenfield, and Woodmere, after which I will be travelling to Los Angeles. If you would like to attend any of the parlor meetings, please write to me for an invitation.

(I am also looking for rides between these places - if anyone can help me out, please let me know!)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Torah Lishmah and Reformations of Tradition

In a thoughtful article entitled "Why The Mazer Yeshiva Program Can’t Afford to Be Lakewood," Netanel Paley argues for certain changes in the yeshivah section of YU, such that it should focus less on the sort of lomdus popular in charedi yeshivos, and more on learning that is halachically-oriented. In response, Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer, the new crusader against all things that he deems against the mesorah, argues that the ideal and traditional Torah study is precisely that which is not done in order to determine the halachah:
Torah learning in a normative sense must be lishmah – for the sake of the mitzvah to study the D’var Hashem, the Word of God. Whether this means study purely for the mitzvah of Talmud Torah (Torah Study) and nothing else, or whether it means study in order to come closer to the Divine by experiencing immersion in the waters of Torah, learning lishmah is what the yeshiva experience is all about... Such immersion in the Yam Ha-Talmud (Sea of Talmud) is at the heart of our tradition of Talmud Torah Lishmah and is the only way to truly become a meaningful link in the great Mesorah of Torah.
The problem with Rabbi Gordimer's argument is that in classical and traditional Judaism, Torah Lishmah meant no such thing!

The definitive work on this topic is Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm's comprehensive Torah Lishmah - Torah for Torah's Sake: In the Works of Rabbi Hayyim of Volozhin and His Contemporaries. There one sees that the classical definition of Torah Lishmah, amongst Chazal and the Rishonim, was functional: that it referred to learning Torah in order to understand and perform the mitzvos correctly. To quote from the Gemara:
"The goal of wisdom is repentance and good deeds, so that a man should not study Torah and Mishnah and then rebel against his father and mother and teacher and his superior in wisdom and rank, as it says, 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, a good understanding is gained by all those that do them.' It does not say, 'for all who study,' but 'for all who do,' which implies, those that do them lishmah and not shelo lishmah." (Berachos 17a, Munich MS)
And from a later source:
If a man wishes to study lishmah, what shall he intend when he studies? "Whatever I study I will practice." (Sefer Chassidim 944)
The notion that Torah Lishmah refers to "study purely for the mitzvah of Talmud Torah and nothing else" was the innovation of Rav Chaim of Volozhin, which itself was a reaction to the chassidic transfer of the focus of religious life towards spirituality. Rav Chaim's proposed source for his novel definition of Torah lishmah was a rather questionable inference from a certain statement of the Rosh, in turn based on a Talmudic passage which R. Lamm demonstrates to be an errant textual version (see note 20 on pp. 247-8, pictured at right). To quote R. Lamm: "In conclusion, then, R. Hayyim's reaction to the disturbance in the study-practice (and study-prayer) equilibrium by the hasidic initiative was to endow study with a value much greater than was attributed to it before." A fundamental component of this was to give a new definition of Torah lishmah.

Previously, I demonstrated an example, regarding rabbinic authority, of how in his efforts to preserve traditional Judaism against innovation, Rabbi Gordimer innovates an entirely new feature of Judaism. Here we have yet another example of Rabbi Gordimer, in the guise of preserving the great Mesorah of Torah and opposing reform, is in fact himself endorsing a stark reform that went against the great Mesorah of Torah.

A Different Kind of Chocolate

With Covid having prevented my wife and I from celebrating a significant anniversary milestone, we finally took a long-overdue vacation - to...