Monday, May 14, 2018

Fake Chazals

Here is a fascinating and disturbing exposé of a Fake Chazal, and an explanation of how it comes into being.

As you may recall, a few years ago I e-published a study entitled "What Can One Do For Someone Who Has Passed Away?" In that study, I discussed the popular notion that a person can learn Torah and designate the spiritual rewards for any deceased person, by declaring that they are learning l'iluy nishmasam. I argued that this notion is of extremely recent origin - no more than 150 years old. Traditionally, there was only a concept that your Torah and mitzvos can benefit your ancestors (and teachers), because your good deeds only exist as a result of them. There's just no mechanism for your Torah study to benefit a person who had no formative influence on you.

Recently I was looking at the website of Chevra Lomdei Mishna, the institution which takes your funds in order to support kollel students studying l'iluy nishmas your loved one. (This is the institution which published the popular book The Neshama Should Have An Aliyah.) On their website, accompanying some bold claims - "Imagine the merits that can be amassed for your dearly departed loved ones, as well as for yourself and your family, by tapping into the merit of Torah learning by dedicated, serious Torah scholars!" - there is a page of sources to back up their claims. It's a pretty slim list; just four sources are cited, of which three are contemporary works! The only pre-modern source that they provide is a second-hand citation from a contemporary work called P’nei Boruch, which they report as saying the following:
“Our Sages have said that Asher, son of the Patriarch Jacob, sits at the entrance to Gehinnom (Purgatory), and saves [from entering therein] anyone on whose behalf Mishnah is being studied."
That indeed seems very explicit. Chazal themselves said that anyone who is having Mishnah studied on their behalf, will be saved from Gehinnom. Better get out your checkbook!

When I came across this, I was very taken aback. If true, it would completely disprove my thesis.

However, over the years, I have learned not to trust citations of sources. (Remember when Dialogue journal published a critique of my kezayis article by Dovid Kornreich, which quoted websites as stating that the Romans cultivated and exported olives in northern Europe, and these quotes turned out to be completely fabricated?)

So I decided to look into this citation from Chazal. And, lo and behold, I discovered that no such source exists.

First of all, you have to wonder: If Chazal did indeed say such a thing, why didn't Chevra Lomdei Mishnah cites the source from Chazal directly, instead of citing a second-hand attribution from the contemporary work P’nei Boruch? The reason is that no such source in Chazal can be found. Not in Bavli, not in Yerushalmi, not in Midrash. The earliest reference I was able to find is the Chida, attributing it to earlier authorities (Chazal?), yet he too does not provide any source.

But here's the kicker. Even if one were to find it in some long-lost Midrash, this alleged statement from Chazal does not at all say what Chevra Lomdei Mishnah cite it as saying! What it actually says, as quoted both by Chida and in Pnei Baruch, is that Asher son of Yaakov saves anyone who studies Mishnah - not anyone on whose behalf Mishnah is being studied!

Now, Pnei Baruch does follow this quote with a claim that this would also apply to anyone on whose behalf Mishnah is being studied. However, he provides absolutely no support for this claim - and it's certainly not part of the alleged citation from Chazal!

On the website of Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah, it states that "we strive to address any and all questions, concerns and issues that you may have. If at any time you need to reach us, please do not hesitate to contact us via phone or email, any time!" Well, I wrote to them twice, pointing out this distortion of the alleged source from Chazal, but they did not respond. Feel free to check out the sources yourself, by following the links above. Then you can write to info@chevrahlomdeimishnah.org, and ask them why did they change the source, and why they are presenting all this as normative, traditional Judaism when there is in fact no source in Chazal or the Rishonim for this concept.

Perhaps you're wondering why I am making such a fuss about this. Well, it's because if there's one thing that bothers me more than people manipulating sources (and you'd hope for better from people who market their services as "serious Torah scholars"), it's people manipulating sources so that they can manipulate people for money.


Coming up soon: an inspirational post about a very different new initiative for commemorating the deceased. Don't forget that you can subscribe to this blog, using the form on the right of the page.


65 comments:

  1. I agree with what you are saying. But everyone now says "this or that will be a Z'chus for...". Those lines are like a meaningless opening sales pitch. Not that you are wrong, but IDK that people are so silly as to believe it. Hopefully I'm wrong.

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    1. There are certainly many, many people who believe it!

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    2. Even if no one believes it, one has to wonder how anyone can claim a Mesorah stretching back over 2000 years when stuff like this goes on. I think it's safe to assume that CLM are not the first to fabricate quotes from earlier sources.

      (e.g. the Zohar)

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    3. Thank You,

      Natan Slifkin made some erroneous assertions. Notwithstanding the fact that any manipulation and tempering of our sacred writings is deplorable, and there are some bad apples among our people who use the Torah for their personal benefit and they won't be deterred to even manipulate texts in order to gain money, prestige or power, what Mr Natan did here is a mistake.

      His first assertion: "I argued that this notion is of extremely recent origin - no more than 150 years old. Traditionally, there was only a concept that your Torah and mitzvos can benefit your ancestors (and teachers), because your good deeds only exist as a result of them".

      His second assertion: "There's just no mechanism for your Torah study to benefit a person who had no formative influence on you".

      Both are categorically wrong as I should prove.

      We Jews have an ancient source for a direct benefit of our learning of Torah to the deceased. We find this in בכורות לא ע"ב:

      רבי אידי סרסיה דרב ששת הוה שמעה מיניה, אזל אמרה בי מדרשא ולא אמרה משמיה, שמע רב ששת איקפד, אמר: מאן דעקיץ - ליעקציה עקרבא! ורב ששת מאי נפקא ליה מינה? דאמר רב יהודה אמר רב: מאי דכתיב תהלים ס"א אגורה באהלך עולמים וכי איפשר לאדם לגור בשני עולמים? אלא אמר דוד: רבונו של עולם, יאמרו דבר שמועה מפי בעולם הזה! דאמר ר' יוחנן משום ר' שמעון בן יוחי: כל תלמיד חכם שאומרים דבר שמועה מפיו בעולם הזה שפתותיו דובבות בקבר, ואמר רבי יצחק בר זעירי: מאי קראה שיר השירים ז' וחכך כיין הטוב הולך לדודי למישרים דובב שפתי ישנים - ככומר של ענבים, מה כומר של ענבים כיון דאדם נוגע בו דובב, אף תלמידי חכמים - כיון שאדם אומר דבר שמועה מפיו דובבות שפתיו בקבר. מאי ברייתא? דתניא..."
      ֿ
      This Gemerah clearly demonstrates that any Jew who is learning Torah and mentions the name of the Rabbi that authored that statement that he is currently learning has a direct positive influence on the deceased author of that statement. So the idea of a Jew learning Torah in Chicago or New York on 2018 can have a positive effect on an ancient scholar that was deceased even though he never met that scholar, never spoken to him, had no relationship with him, in short just by mentioning the name of that Scholar causes a positive effect on him to the extend that his lips are moving in the grave, which of course is allegorical to spiritual benefit in the higher world, so the first assertion of such a precedence only existing no longer then 150 years withers.


      Another example: סוטה י ב where King David raises up his deceased son Avshalom from the seven levels of hell each time he mentions the word 'Bni' my son:כה אמר בלכתו בני אבשלום בני בני [אבשלום] מי יתן מותי אני תחתיך אבשלום בני בני והמלך לאט את פניו ויזעק המלך קול גדול בני אבשלום אבשלום בני בני הני תמניא בני למה שבעה דאסקיה משבעה מדורי גיהנם


      His second assertion that there is no mechanism in Judaism to benefit a person who 'had no formative influence on you' is wrong because of number of reasons:

      1. Pirki Avut says: "The world stands on three things, On Torah, on Avodah, And acts of kindness". Meaning the idea that a Jew can benefit another Jew directly through his Torah even though he has never met him is achieved simply by the act of learning Torah.

      2. In פסחים סח ב it says the following: " הא"ר אלעזר אילמלא תורה לא נתקיימו שמים וארץ שנאמר (ירמיהו לג, כה) אם לא בריתי יומם ולילה חקות שמים וארץ לא שמתי ". Which basically says that the exitence of the universe depends on the Torah, so its study guarantees the continued existence of the universe as amply demonstrated in the Pirki Avot that renders Torah as one of the Pillars of the world.

      So not only the idea that a Jew that studies Torah influences the entire world and anything within is an ancient idea, its also widespread and prevalent.

      Best Wishes,

      Saul

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    4. These are different ideas:

      1) A person is rewareded for his Chiddushei Torah which benefit posterity.

      2) David Hamelech is praying.

      3) Torah is important to the world.

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    5. They are not that different, the topic is not only who is getting the benefit and why but that it has an ancient precedence.
      King David is praying correct, but this goes in the category of all Mitvoth that a person may do for the sake of others can greatly benefit the deceased individual, things like praying, giving charity, doing acts of kindness, you really believe that the Torah who is cornered Keneged Koolam be out side of this category? it would seem highly unlikely.

      3. Yes indeed Torah is important to the world and not only to the world but also to the people who live in the world and those people who departed from this world, as demonstrated by Dovev Siftei Yeshenim.

      But again, no sane believing orthodox Jew will be for manipulation of texts in order to promise people some benefits that are not based in Judaism and are not rooted in our traditions. But again the assertion Mr. Slifkin has made I believe to be false he said: "There's just no mechanism for your Torah study to benefit a person who had no formative influence on you." Well what about the Jewish concept of 'Shaliach Adam Kemoto'? a messenger of a person is like that person. When you send someone to do a certain thing and you give him the authority to act on your behalf through payment then whatever that messenger does is like the sender had done, its the same thing. We find it in Hilchot Gitin, Kidushin, Mamonos, and many many other things. Our Torah is a living Torah, a vibrant one, one doesn't need to find exact precedences in antiquity in order to validate that which we are doing today. If that was the case, we would not be permitted to use electricity on Shabbat because we never encounter a Jew using a switch light some 3000 years ago. So how to do we arrive to contemporary conclusion? by finding similar occurrences and by using the methods that were given to us to arrive to conclusions.

      The entire premise of 'since this is not found in its precise form in antiquity therefore must be pasul' is intellectually disingenuous. Cause in Halacha we use extrapolation, and inference. The points I have listed above granted are not the precise forms of what this website is doing by promoting the idea of benefitting the deceased by learning Mishnayot for a payment, but nevertheless they contain some similarities and therefore one can't claim that this practice is baseless and without precedence in ancient Jewish history.

      Regards

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    6. you really believe that the Torah who is cornered Keneged Koolam be out side of this category?

      The Torah is a thing, not a person. The correct word is that, not who.

      But more seriously, the משנה which states that תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם states that after enumerating a specific list of מצות. Using that as a source for ת׳׳ת equalling all מצות is taking the statement completely out of context. Additionally, the list is specifically referring to מצות whose primary reward is earned in עולם הבא. In this context, ת׳׳ת כנגד כולם because all of its reward is reserved for עולם הבא.

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    7. Not all the reward is kept for Olam Haba some of it the Perot the fruits he gets in this world and its not out of context. Acts of kindness and charity we do understand but the most important commandment is not a legitimate medium to elicit merit on behalf of the deceased? that doesn't make any sense. Plus look at the Rambam's commentary on the Mishnah of keneged kulam...

      Regards,

      Saul

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    8. What does sh'lucho shel adam k'moso have to do with this? When a maggid shiur says at the beginning of a talk that tonight's learning should be in merit of Mrs. Bluma Goldenshmutz, who passed away on this date eleventeen years ago, what sh'lichus exists that connects this nice lady with the audience? Did she call everyone up and request their presence at this shiur?

      Does it change if Mrs. Goldenshmutz' grandson sponsored the shiur? The best we probably can say is that the grandson gets merit for being marbitz Torah and for getting the people in the audience to now learn for 45 minutes. Is this merit transferrable?

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    9. Anyway, Saul, your collecting these sources is impressive. But it seems that David Ohsie is correct, that despite your claim that they have some sort of distance-otherperson-benefit, they are different enough to be considered an entirely unrelated thing.

      Especially the King David example: Davening for someone specifically, making a request that so-and-so get some benefit, whether it is refuah sheleimah, having children, or (in this case) being pulled out of Gehennom, is a direct request to HKBH. He can then choose to grant such a request or not. It is different from sitting and learning or giving tzedakah and telling HKBH to "earmark" the zechus of this mitzvah for said so-and-so's benefit. God is not Congress.

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    10. The commenter above claims lips moving in the grave is "of course, allegorical to spiritual benefit in future world." No, it isn't. It's a poetic expression of the common idea that creating works that are read or enjoyed after one's death gives one a measure of immortality. Nothing to do with "spiritual benefit."

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    11. If we apply the same strict demands for Elui Nishmat that it can't be legitimate as long as we find the same precise thing in Chazal some thousands years back then that a recipe to destroy Judaism all together. Many of the things we do today are a result of halachic deductions through inference and extrapolation. Again and I must stress it one more time, that if we follow this strict dogma then we should all be permitted to use electricity on Shabbat, cause in the time of the Talmud they didn't have electricity in their houses, so if thats the case we should all use it and there is nothing wrong with that. Well no one in his right mind will permit such a thing because of its absurd nature. We don't need precise precedence but some form of similarity in order to come to a new reality. For example, what is the one thing that is found in the Torah that is similar to electricity? that is fire. We are forbidden to light up fire on Shabbat, by way of inference and extrapolation we deduct that since our electricity is similar to the concept of fire and its faculties, therefore we are not permitted to use electricity on shabbat. By the same token, since there are many similar ideas and precedences scattered around Chazal with regards the possibility of one jew benefitting another jew through by doing acts of kindness like giving charity, and there is also found the idea of doing chesed with the deceased and the entire concept of a messenger been the representative of the sender, then the torah gives are the tools and the possibility to deduct from all these to come to new realities. And this is a very legitimate medium in Judaism, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

      Regards,

      Saul

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    12. But there is something in Chazal specifically *against* it. That Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was not able to help the person suffering in the afterlife - only the person's son could do so. Furthermore, there is explicit discussion in the Geonim/ Rishonim about the impossibility of transferring the reward for mitzvos to other people.

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    13. Almost everything in Chazal is a Machloket, a disagreement. Thats the beauty of Judaism, respect the opinion of others. There is no need to belittle or question the spiritual sincerity of an organization when they are giving a service to those who would be very happy to donate for this cause. Unless you have irrefutable evidence to support such a claim, one can't base on sheer speculation. As I have demonstrated with clarity, the entire premise of demanding precision in precedence is erroneous to the core. Most of Judaism is not built this way, even our own Services of prayer are not based on precision precedence but on similarities with the Korbanot. By this token and line of thinking that you have elicited above we then should go away with prayers all together since they are not based on precision precedence but on similarities and inference primarily with the use of Drush and Remez. The Torah gives the Jewish people many tools in order to derive new and unfounded realities from within the Torah, and precision is not required at all. As long as one uses the permissible methods that the Torah gives us then whatever we arrive to is absolutely legitimate. 70 Panim LaTorah.

      Best Wishes

      Saul

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    14. Saul,

      You seem to think this is a matter of Halacha. It isn't. Halacha works on a common-law system, in which some Halachot are explicit, and the rest derived.

      The idea of transferring merit to dead people is not an issue of Halachah. It either happens or it doesn't. No one can "passken" that it works.

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    15. I have used only Halacha as an example surely it is not limited to that.
      Minhagim are found in that category as well.

      Regards

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    16. הגם שאול בצ**ים?!? :)May 15, 2018 at 6:55 PM

      what sh'lichus exists ?


      זכייה מטעם שליחות

      או אינו מטעם שליחות ועל כל פנים יש המושג של זכייה



      "The idea of transferring merit to dead people is not an issue of Halachah. It either happens or it doesn't. No one can "passken" that it works."

      Those who accept the story behind the Chafetz Chaim's near-immediate resignation from the rabbinate of Radin will have to disagree.

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    17. Those who accept the story behind the Chafetz Chaim's near-immediate resignation from the rabbinate of Radin will have to disagree.

      I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

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    18. I have used only Halacha as an example surely it is not limited to that.
      Minhagim are found in that category as well.


      But examples only work as analogies if they are analogous. What does Minhag have to do with this? Minhagim are habits formed over generations. They, too, speak nothing about any underlying reality.

      Halachah has to work based on inference, or it cannot cope with changes in reality. As you noted, electricity was not used as a utility even 250 years ago (exaggerated because I don't care to look up first use of electricity), never mind 2500 years ago.

      In contrast, statements about reality, whether in the spiritual domain or the physical, cannot be inferred from. There's no basis to say that if fish can swim in water, they must be able to swim in oil. You can't just say that both are liquids, therefore it must work. Similarly, if CHaZaL never wrote that the merit for a Mitzvah can be transferred to someone else, there's no basis to infer such from any other statements.

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    19. The Chofetz Chaim was never a Rabbi in Radin, or anywhere else. He had a grocery store in Radin and he had a Yeshiva in Radin.

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    20. Avi,

      You know the Hassidim have a minhag to east from their Rebbe's tish, directly from the Rebbe's hand. I was wondering about this minhag, and I asked a few people and this is what I heard. There is a Gemera In Baba Metzia that says no eat from a left over of rat cause its not good. The Hassidim then made an interesting inference they said if the talmud says that eating from a leftovers of a dirty and impure animal is bad for the Jew, then eating from a righteous man must be beneficial. Are you now ready to say that they too have made up a 'Fake Chazal'? And I can give you many many such examples if youre interested. And this is not only with Hassidim, its true with Sephardic and ashkenazi minhagim as well, but we don't dare to call these minhagim as fake chazal, rather Chazal Inspired.

      Regards

      Saul

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    21. הגם שאול בצ**ים?!? :)May 17, 2018 at 10:18 PM

      AviMay 16, 2018 at 9:09 AM
      "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."

      My comment apparently was only for those who believe the story. I won't waste time recording it on the chance your conviction that no one can pasken for the dead is too strong to believe it.

      Zichron, someone who spends 75 years in a town might have done other things there besides the famous ones, especially if, as I wrote, he resigns from it almost immediately. I am also astounded that you didn't check Wikipedia Israel_Meir_Kagan on that.

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    22. Saul, it's definitely fake chazal.
      It's also a really stupid concept.

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    23. Zichron: the grocery store was made up by rav eliezer silver to get his (CC) obituary into the NYTimes

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  2. As you are sometimes wont to do ,you overstate your argument there by weakening it.The organization misquoting the "chazal" is agrecous and terrible .However it is totally legitimate to qoute something "only" found in the Chida as being in Chazal.I am sure that no on in their target clientele would have any issue with that.It is really clueless to think otherwise.

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    1. Chida is not Chazal! Chazal is Tannaim and Amora'im!

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    2. That would be the most ridiculous definition of Chazal that I have ever heard. One could claim that certain midrashim compiled in the post-Chazal era are from Chazal, but that I statement made by a rabbi pf 200 years ago is Chazal is just ludicrous. I do not know of any learned person who would agree with that.

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  3. I apologise,I thought the Chida was saying it in the name of chazal.my bad

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    1. He is. But since what they quote the Chida as quoting Chazal as saying is not what the Chida actually claims Chazal is saying, then it is wrong to claim a source in Chazal.

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  4. The Rema in y'd 249:16 says it "helps the souls" to give tzedakah on behalf of the deceased. He also refers to it as ancient custom. You seem to be uncomofortable with the idea generally so you're looking for a basis to attack it (they claim the custom is x years old but it's really only 1/2 x years old!). Does it really surprise/bother you that the frum world has a practice that certainly has some basis in the Rema?


    (Worth nothing that the Taz explains the reasoning that it helps the souls because we are reminding HKBH that the deceased would have given the tzedakah had he been alive. Personally I use this formula for a close family member that passed away. I do a mitzvah in his merit that he would do if he were alive. If the Rema says "it helps their souls" I trust him.)

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    1. I discussed this in my essay. It is the exception that proves the rule. It is specifically and only charity and prayer that are mentioned as being done in order to atone for those who passed away. No other mitzvos are said to be of benefit in this regard.

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    2. I skimmed through your essay but did not see any mention of the Rema. Apologies if I missed it.

      As a rationalist, isn't it important to understand the underlying reason behind the Rema? If the Taz's reasoning (which, if my memory serves me correctly actually comes from the Rokeach) would apply equally to another mitzvah, then why wouldn't we apply it?

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    3. Yes, it comes from Rokeach. It's a suggested explanation for the custom of pledging charity on behalf of the deceased on Yom Kippur. You can't just apply to other things, because (A) it's a very speculative explanation, and (B) the custom was very specifically for charity. See my recent post about the absence of evidence.

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    4. If we're trying to understand the reason behind the Rema, what does he mean that we're reminding God that the deceased would have given the tzedakah himself? Did God forget? Isn't He omniscient?

      I think the celestial bank where zchusim can be traded for things like a better chelek in olam haboh is a more coherent explanation. Purely speculative, but more coherent.

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  5. Chazal is acronym for chachamim zichronam livracha wise men may their memories be blessed. The only solid criteria of earning the monicker is death and someone thinking you are wise.

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    1. That is definitely NOT the way the term is used.

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    2. Maybe in Newspeak. The meaning of words is based on how they are generally used. Chazal is used to describe the chachamim up until the redaction of the Talmud Bavli.

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  6. As a not-very-religious rationalist, it's always seemed to me that actions taken on behalf of the deceased are really for the benefit of those they leave behind - their family, friends and community.

    Studying Torah on behalf of the deceased seems to fit in perfectly here. When relatives of the deceased see that you are striving to be a better Jew (by performing additional mitzvot) on behalf of their relative, it honors them and makes their grief a little less. They can see the positive impact their relative made on the world during his life. And if more people perform mitzvot on his behalf, then the perceived impact is so much greater.

    Now, one could argue that when God sees the positive impact this person made on the world, He might choose to judge him a little more mercifully than He otherwise might. Of course, one could easily argue that God already knows the person's real impact with or without an explicit demonstration after his death.

    But either way, this logic only makes sense if it is genuine. With people who actually knew (or were personally affected by) the deceased performing mitzvot as a statement of his impact. It doesn't seem like there could be any impact if a person is doing the same mitzvot he always does and is simply keeping the deceased's name in mind at the time.

    But this is just (what I think is) a logical argument, not a well-researched opinion with sources, so I could also be wrong.

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  7. But wait, are you saying that someone alive can't be remembered?

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  8. Its a gemara in Bubbe Mayse, I think it's daf 1c

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  9. Here is Pnei Boruch's source (he cites it in an earlier footnote): אלף למטה
    R' Akiva Eiger's tzava'ah is also frequently quoted as a source for the minhag of learning mishnayos for someone.

    And here are earlier source of this "chazal" (in the sections about Asher):
    מדרש תלפיות
    מזבח יעקב

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    1. Thanks for those. So we have pushed back the origin of the dubious claim, that Asher also saves those having Mishnayos learned on their behalf, one more century.

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    2. More significant is that R' Akiva Eiger is tied to this practice. He is high enough in the pantheon to make the question of earlier sources merely academic.

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    3. First of all, his statement was apparently referring to his family and disciples, which is different from just anyone, as per the Gemara of bra mezakeh aba. Second, I would not say that he is high enough to make him equivalent to Chazal!

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    4. "First of all, his statement was apparently referring to his family and disciples."

      You are now committing the exact same offense you accuse the mishna website of doing- distorting the source. RAE asks for his STUDENTS AND FRIENDS to learn mishnayos for him and to publicize it in the newspapers!

      Clearly he did not limit this to his children because of bra mezakeh aba. Clearly he had a very different view of you as to learning liuly nishmas a deceased. Your doubling down is not a good look.

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    5. Thanks for the correction, I was relying on faulty memory. But there is still a difference between people on whom he had an influence - students and friends - and entirely unconnected people.

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    6. And if not, then he would simply be the first example in history of someone invoking such a concept.

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    7. JS, you are more learned than the heads of CLM

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    8. I apologize RNS, but I find that you are not great at this game of exposing fake sources. I recall a similar attempt at exposing the yissachar/zevulun relationship. You started out saying there's no source. Then some sources were brought and you relented by saying it's not a great source...
      If RAE does indeed say that learning mishnayos can be a merit for someone else, then that's a strong source, period. It's at least a far cry from deserving the "FAKE" label.

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    9. It's not clear that RAE says it. And even if he does, it would be wrong to present this as Chazal or even as classical/traditional Judaism.

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    10. JS, I looked into it further. The source from Elef LeMateh is not from the author of Elef LeMateh - it's from the notes appended by R. Meshulem Finkelstein. https://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%9E%D7%A9%D7%95%D7%9C%D7%9D_%D7%A4%D7%99%D7%A0%D7%A7%D7%9C%D7%A9%D7%98%D7%99%D7%99%D7%9F

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    11. Also, if people are learning for Rav Akiva Eiger because he asked them to, then obviously that is due to him! That's not the same as learning for a random person who did not ask you to!

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  10. Noting the above comment about tzedaka, while certainly misleading it seems that funding the learning of mishnayos albeit on false premises would fall under the category of tzedaka for the decrased which would certainly classify as a well sourced/ancient custom.

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  11. Over the past 20 years, I have discovered that Torah articles, and even published books, contain quotes with no sources or with mistaken sources.

    For example, one Rabbi quoted Baba Kamma page 100B.
    The correct source was later discovered to be Baba Batra page 100B.

    One Torah newsletter printed an article claiming that elephants can understand 70 languages. After spending hours searching for this source with computer software, and internet, and writing letters to Rabbis, the author of this quote admitted to me that he had no source, and just printed something that he heard someone say. I cancelled by subscription to that Torah newsletter, which is still being mass-distributed in synagogues every week.
    (May G*D forgive the author of this "Torah newsletter").

    Thank G*D that I researched this false quote before distributing it to others.

    ===========================================
    Rambam Rejected Childless Messiah:

    http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2016/08/rambam-rejected-childless-messiah-by-mr.html

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  12. "Traditionally, there was only a concept that your Torah and mitzvos can benefit your ancestors (and teachers), because your good deeds only exist as a result of them. There's just no mechanism for your Torah study to benefit a person who had no formative influence on you."
    Wouldn't you say that paying someone to learn torah is a good deed? If so that is what brings the merit to ones ancestors.

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  13. But don't they have a true verified unbroken mesorah lineage to allow them to claim this was the original interpretation of chazal? Jk

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  14. I would like to point out that we have an explicit source from chazal to donate to the Biblical Animal Museum: the phrase, גם זו לטובה: "Giving to the 'zoo' is also good."

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    Replies
    1. Sadly that only works for Anglo-Ashkenazim.

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  15. Es chata'ai ani mazkir hayom-
    I will admit I've seen the other side of this - being involved with a small shul based kollel (not for perpetual learners) that as part of fundraising, set up a sponsor-the-day's-learning program. I think it felt like a sort of dedicating a room in a new building scenario, which also means nothing (although that also promises nothing, I know I know) other than having ppl go into the Vandelay Auditorium instead of the Second Floor Auditorium. I'm not sure the board members or the rabbi or the rosh kollel will respond kindly to my pointing out the lack of traditional basis for this...

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    1. Yosef, please read my essay, linked in the post. You can honor anyone in this world, and that's what the building naming is. And that's what the sponsor-a-day's learning can be.

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    2. I had (and now I reviewed it), and I see your point. So that is a way to rationalize it.
      (My point was not that we WERE doing it in the "to honor" way, but that the "should have an aliyah" way seemed close to it. Anyway, this all occurred before I became aware of this issue, and I also took for granted that this practice was indeed traditional.)

      Regardless, the lashon utilized in such programs is certainly more in keeping with the glossy advertisements - "l'ilui nishmas" is certainly used, as is "for a refuah sheleimah" etc.

      Related but unrelated, and tied to the subthread above and David and Avshalom, perhaps the original intent of the aliyah version was via prayer? "God, I know You have no reason to grant my request and heal this person/take this unrelated person out of Gehennom etc, but I'm doing a mitzvah now, which gives a little more merit. In light of that merit, could You see fit to answer this request?" And that became doing a mitzvah to get a merit to benefit someone else...

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    3. Yosef's point is that, unlearned massed aside, not many truly believe their learning *actually* benefits someone, its just a fundraising gimmick. Indeed, few people even think of it all. They just do their regular learning that they would do anyway, and whoever donated is said to "receive the zchus." This is in direct contrast to prayer and tehillim, in which many do believe and feel their prayers have a direct impact on the one on whose behalf they are praying.

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    4. not many truly believe their learning *actually* benefits someone

      DF, speak only for yourself and your acquaintances. Outside of that, very many of the learned do believe it.

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  16. Fair enough. I'll accept part of that. Neither of us have polled the universe, so we certainly don't know for sure what people believe. My opinion is not based merely on my acquaintances, though, who are not homogenous in any event.

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    Replies
    1. You're from Williamsburg, or Lakewood? ;)

      Delete

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