Thursday, September 22, 2011


As some of you may know, I recently went an extended period without Internet in my home. I enjoyed it greatly. It was also very difficult. I have always been very sympathetic towards those who are machmir on the Internet (especially since they have always provided some room for leniency when there is real need) but I have increasingly come to feel that the tzibur is simply unable to abide by a sweeping prohibition. I feel that a more accommodating approach will be able to achieve more results.

R. Eidensohn at Daas Torah ( has pointed out the following article from, translated by Google with some input by me (not exactly an all-star team):

In recent months Skulen Hasidic leaders worked on a historic gathering organization - headed by Admor M'Skulen and Mashgiach HaGaon Rav M. Salomon - during which the rabbis from all ultra-Orthodox circles will discuss effects of the Internet on the haredi public in America.

The conference, which will be held today (Wednesday) at 15:00 (PST) at Newark, New Jersey, would reach hundreds of rabbis, judges, community leaders and Poskim.

Invitations which were sent to hundreds of rabbis wrote that the conference will address the spiritual dangers inherent in mobile devices and the dangers of the Internet.

The rabbis at the conference are expected to formulate an outline which would provide a solution to people who need the Internet for their work and for other purposes

One of the initiators of the conference say to B'Chadrei Haredim: "at the conference it will be decided [by] Hasidim and Lithuanian [authorities] when permission is to be given officially for Internet use, and allow anyone who needs Electronic tools to use them in a kosher and secure way. At the conference a limited operative committee will be established which will follow the dissemination of rules and establishment.

This conference is historic, because until now all the Chasidic or Haredi movements acted separately. Some allowed and others prohibited. Policies will be formulated at the conference will be accordign to all opinions. Today in modern times Hasidic and religious scholars have come to understand fully that to prohibit the Internet - this is a decree that the public is not able to stand for so it was decided to convene together the religious authorities and to formulate regulations

In New Jersey USA yesterday (Wednesday) a historic gathering was held, which rabbis from all circles participated in.

The purpose of this meeting was the establishment of "the United Congregations for the Purity of the Camp", to monitor and find solutions to the dangers posed by contemporary technological development headed by non-supervised Internet.

Leading the conference were Rebbe M'Skulen and Rabbi Matityahu Solomon, Mashgiach of the Lakewood Yeshiva, and was attended and addressed, among others, Rebbe M'Novminsk, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, Rosh Yeshiva of Philadelphia, Rabbi Moshe Green, Rosh Yeshiva of Monsey, Rabbi Eliyahu Rodney and more .

The conference decided to hold a global informational conference, in a few months, with thousands of participants from Orthodox communities

This sounds like an approach that will prove much more effective in not just pointing out the problems, but b'ezras Hashem, find solutions.

We should all be mispallel that they have hatzlachah in finding a truly middle path for Chareidi sensitivities.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Although I have certainly made these points here already, I submitted this comment over at Hirhurim but it didn't post (but still flags it as a duplicate when I tried again):

I believe that it is worth pointing out that the Rambam pointed out that one may not choose a strictly allegorical interpretation just because it is "possible" but the circumstances must be such that an allegorical interpretation is better. Furthermore he points out that not every difficulty is resolved by allegorical interpretations.

Sa'adiah Gaon is another authority well known for allowing for strictly allegorical interpretations at times, but he was very critical of the practice in general and I believe that the threshold for allegorizing non-metephorical language is very difficult to reach.

I can't help but feel that for many people allegorical interpretation is seen as l'chatchilla, not b'diavad.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

י~ה ~ ו~ה

Recently I involved myself in a discussion over at Hirhurim regarding the pronunciation of the Divine name of G-d, י~ה~ו~ה. Coming from a background where I was involved with groups who did pronounce G-d's name as it is spelled, or an approximation thereof, this has long been a topic of interest to me, and it was the subject of a Geocities page of mine many years ago. Going toe to toe with Hirhurim commenters is still a daunting task.

I understand that for a non-believer, for an academic, it is probably a simpler proposition to accept that this somewhat atypical practice of not pronouncing the name of God in the manner it is spelled is easiest explained as a gradually evolving taboo, perhaps influenced by surrounding cultures encountered in the Babylonian exile.

Yet, as I believe I have said here before, I find it troubling when an Orthodox Jews' belief in God and Torah isn't reflected in how he answers such questions. Here it is particularly troubling since we are not discussing a scenario which is inherently implausible, just extending the current practice known to be observed for two thousand years back another thousand years or so. If we were to suddenly discover a first Temple period writing alluding to the practice, no one's secular worldview would be challenged (although it might prove uncomfortable for some "divine name'ers").

Let us take a look at the evidence from our Mesorah:

An altar of earth thou shalt make unto Me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt-offerings, and thy peace-offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come unto thee and bless thee. (Exodus 20:21, Soncino).

A strong connection is built between the altar, i.e. the Beis HaMikdosh, and mentioning the Divine name. Rashi elaborates that permission to pronounce the Divine Name as spelled is only given at the Beis HaMikdash:

‘In every place where I cause my name to be mentioned’ Where I give you permission to mention My Ineffable Name, there ‘I will come unto thee and bless thee’ (i.e.) I will cause My Divine Presence to rest upon thee. Hence you learn that permission was not given to mention the Ineffable Name save where the Divine Presence comes, and that is the Temple there permission was granted to the priests to mention the Ineffable Name at the ‘lifting of the hands’ to bless the people’ (Sota 38)” (Rashi on Ex. 20:21)

This really is not a surprise when we reflect on it. Most of us familiar with the T'nakh can remember that Har HaBayis is frequently referred to as the place where God would put His Name:

It shall be that the place where Hashem,your G-d, will choose to rest His Name--there shall you bring everything I command you: your burnt-offerings and your feast-offerings, your tithes... (Deuteronomy 12:11, Stone Edition).

Insofar as this dichotomy between how G-d's name is written(and spoken in the Beis HaMikdash) with how it is generally pronounced is part of the original protocol for the use of G-d's name, the general pronunciation א~ד~נ~י does not constitute a "substitute" but is itself the proper pronunciation for י~ה~ו~ה!

R. Abina opposed [two verses]: It is written: ‘this is my name’; but it is also written: ‘and this is my memorial’? The Holy One, blessed be He, said: I am not called as I am written: I am written with yod he, but I am read, alef daleth. (Kedushin 71a, Soncino,

א~ד~נ~י, while having its own nuance, is not a mere substitute but the Divine Name as it is pronounced outside of the Mikdash. Similarly the Rambam writes:

There are seven names [for G-d]: The name which is written י-ה-ו-ה. This is [referred to as][G-d's] explicit name and is [also] written א-ד-נ-י (Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 6:2, Moznaim]

Meanwhile the pronunciation of the Divine Name as it is spelled was restricted in its use, "This Sacred Name, which, as you know, was not pronounced except in the Sanctuary by the appointed priests, when they gave the sacerdotal blessing [Bircas Kohanim], and by the highpriest on the Day of Atonement" (Rambam, The Guide for the Perplexed I:LXI (Translation by Friedlander))"It was not known to everyone how the name was to be pronounced, what vowels were to be given to each consonant, and whether some of the letters capable or reduplication should receive a dagesh. Wise men successively transmitted the pronunciation of the name, it occurred only once in seven years that the pronunciation was communicated to a distinguished disciples" (Ibid LXII).

With this in mind we can better understand the opinion found in the Mishnah, "And these are the one's who have no share in the Olam HaBa...Abba Saul says, Also, he who pronounces the Divine name as it is spelled" (Mishnah, Sanhedrin 10:1). Pronouncing God's Name as י~ה~ו~ה is reserved for the Beis HaMikdash from the time of Moshe Rebbeinu, not merely as pious attempt at avoiding taking G-d's name in vain.