Vol. I, No. 2

You can also read previous studies on this site.

Let's Learn! is an exploration of Judaism, Zionism, the Jewish People, and God's world, guided by Yaakov Fogelman, who lectures on Torah and Religious Zionism; sets and disks of these studies, which include all the Torah readings and holidays, as well as his audio and video tapes, are available at TOP. See In the Service of God, by Shalom Freedman (Jason Aronson, $30 from TOP), for his views, together with those of 20 other teachers of Torah, on Judaism, Zionism and the Jewish People today.

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I. Beyond the Torah.
II. Fathers know best.
III. Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot?
IV. Torah Today.


In Let's Learn! No. 1, we discussed the order of the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible, the Tanach, the O.T. (Only Testament), and their tripartite division into the Pentateuch (Tora), Prophets (Neviim) and Writings (K'suvim)-- this may reflect their decreasing levels of holiness (see Shabat 16:1); Both Talmuds (Babylonian, Megila 7a; Jerusalem, Meg. 1:8) imply that the 5 Megillot may be considered an addition to the Torah itself-- they are the only other biblical books read in public in their entirety (see E.J. 4:822).

Now we'll explore the composition and essence of the 3 parts of Tanach, to define the unique nature of each. The distinction between The Torah, the dictated Word of God, transcribed by Moshe, and The Prophets and The Writings, only Divinely inspired, written in the style and language of their authors, is indeed clear in Jewish tradition. But, a few hundred years ago, non-Jewish Western European academic Bible Critics, perhaps inspired by wicked old Baruch Spinoza, denied both the Divine origin and unity even of the Torah itself. German Bible Critcs, e.g. Wellhausen, tried to destroy and belittle the Jewish Scriptures, to stifle Israel's spiritual message to Mankind, long before before their political successors, the Nazis, did so by destroying the Jews physically. The clones of Amalek, a descendant of our Jewish uncle Esav, both Jews and non-Jews, try to silence us both ways, in every age.

These heretical views were later adopted by the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative Jewish movements, each at its own pace-- they gradually abandoned the basic traditional Jewish concepts, "Torah from Heaven" or "Torah From Sinai"; they replaced them with The Documentary Hypothesis, the claim that the Torah was a hodgepodge of old unrelated documents, assembled by an ancient redactor, e.g. Ezra. Many such self-styled "scientific" scholars, e.g. H.U. (Heretical University) professors Zachowitz & Talmon, consistantly deny and/or debunk the moral and inspirational value of Tanach, striving to attribute it's messages to social, political and economic motivations; others, e.g. Moshe Greenberg and Louis Jacobs, respect Tanach and its didactic and inspirational value, on the whole, amidst their critical rejection of its Divine origin and unity. Greenberg indeed spoke today at the trendy, open and mystical modern Orthodox Yakar Institute on: "Is a Religious, Yet Critical. Study of the Bible Possible?" The answer was "No!", unless, like Greenberg, you take "religious" to mean subjectively inspiring, rather than experiencing the authoritative scientific word of God Himself. We'll explore Greenberg's position further, and what's terribly wrong with it, in a future issue, God willing. Rav Micky Rosen urged Greenberg to go beyond his academic intellectual preoccupation to enter the spiritual world of God's torah; Greenberg replied that he had no energy left for such endeavors, happy with his search for alleged original, tho altered, biblical texts of human origin; Rosen closed by wishing him renewed strength so that he could broaden and deepen his life in Torah.

Tho the rabbis of the talmud and their successors to our day clearly affirmed both the Divine Dictation of the Torah and the Divine inspirational value and the unity of the entire Tanach, they too explored its chronology and authorship, but to better understand and apply its important and authoritative teachings, not to minimalize its impact on their lives. Rebbe Yishmael and Rebbe Akiva ardently debate whether the Torah was given gradually during the desert trek, book after book, or at one shot on Sinai, whether God speaks in common human discourse, or whether He speaks in a Divine Code, with deductions to be made from even the flourishes on each letter. Some rabbis thought that Moshe authored Job and The Book of Bilaam, that Joshua authored his book and the last 8 verses of the Torah, Samuel his book, Judges, and Ruth; David wrote Psalms in consultation with 10 elders; Jeremiah wrote his own book, Kings, and Lamantations; Hezekiah & Co. edited Isaiah, Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiasties. The men of the Great Assembly produced Ezekial, The 12 Minor Prophets, Daniel, and Esther. Ezra wrote his book and part of Chronicles, completed by Nechemia (B.B. 15a). Eliezer and Pinchas completed Joshua after Joshua's death, as did Gad and Natan with Samuel. Some rabbis said that Job lived in the time of Achashvarus, others that he was a mythical figure. The talmud discusses chronology of the prophets and the composition of The Writings in B.B. 14b ff.

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II. A TASTE OF TALMUD-- FATHERS KNOW BEST (Mothers weren't involved much in Talmud, which may have limited its experience and insights)

We began our overview of the talmud (Let's Learn No. 1) with selections from Everyman's Talmud by Abraham Cohen. His Introduction is divided into Historical Antecedents of the Talmud, The Mishna, and Gemara and Midrash. Cohen also sought to help others form an unbaised conception of what the religious guides of the Jews believed and taught, in the critical period before and after the fall of Temple and State. He quotes G. Moore (Judaism, i, p. 3): "In the light of subsequent history, the great achievement of these centuries was the creation of a normative type of Judaism, and its establishment in undisputed supremacy, thruout the wide Jewish world" (cf. the wild age of the Judges, followed by unified monarchy). The Rabbis' influence upon the Judaism of the past 2000 years has been decisive. Countless millions of men and women, during more than 40 generations, found in them inspiring guides, whose teachings proved intellectualy illuminating and spiritually refreshing. Thus they do not deserve to be lightly dismissed or contemptuously ignored. But, Cohen warns, it is wrong to judge them by modern standards, rather than those of the age in which they lived. Their fundamental theses must be understood, and their aims appreciated, before their system of thought can be rightly appraised.

Unfortunately, most traditional yeshiva students are never given an overview of the Talmud's history, worldview, and structure, leave alone the differences between the two talmuds. They simply plunge into the text, with little knowledge of the overall views of each of the rabbis quoted, when and where they lived, what were their own views and knowledge, and what were those of their time and place; their own teachers themselves often lack such knowledge and most never get to it, just as they never get to intensive studies of the Prophets and Writings, or even reading the entire O.T.

Adin Steinsaltz's essential work, The Essential Talmud, should be required reading for every student of talmud. Part One, History, describes the development of the Talmud. Here's a taste of its 11 chapters:

1. What is the Talmud?: "If the Bible is the cornerstone of Judaism, then the Talmud is the central pillar, soaring up from its foundations and supporting the entire spiritual and intellectual edifice. In many ways the Talmud is the most important book in Jewish culture, the backbone of creativity and national life. No other work has had a comparable influence on the theory and practice of Jewish life."

2. The Oral Law-- The First Generations: "We know very little of the origins and early development of the oral law, since information on the cultural and spiritual life in the First Temple Era is generally sparse. But, from various hints in the Bible, we can ascertain how the oral law evolved to interpret and complement written legislation. It is clear in principle that every written code of law must be accompanied by an oral tradition ...".

3. The Oral Law-- The Era of the Zugot (Pairs of chief rabbis): "The era of the zugot corresponds, to a large extent, to the period of Greek rule in Palestine (332-140 Before The Common Error-- Vendyl Jones) and the subsequent era of the Hasmonean dynasty (140-37 BCE). Culturally speaking, this was a time of conflict ...".

4. The Tannaim: "The period of the tannaim (Pharisees) may be strictlly defined as beginning with Hillel and Shammai in the early days of Herod's rule. The name tanna means one who studies, repeating and handing down what he has learned from his teachers".

5. The Compilation of the Mishnah: "As the oral law was transmitted from teacher to disciple over the centuries, thru oral instruction, the need fpor some form of arrangement and editing of the material became evident. The reasons were mostly mnemonic, since the vast quantity of oral material could no longer be committed to memory ...".

6. The Amoraim in Babylonia: "The codification of the Mishna and the death of Rav Yehudah marked the beginning of a new era, the period of the amoraim (from the verb amar, to speak or interpret), interpreters of the Mishneh".

7. The Amoraim in Palestine: "The period of the blossoming of the Talmud in Palestine is associated with ... R. Yochanan ... who lived to a venerable age, knew R. Yehuda HaNasi in his youth, and was one of the youngest of his disciples ... His private life was marked by tragedy, considerable sacrifice, and great perseverance for the sake of his studies".

8. The Redaction of the Babylonian Talmud: "The method of redaction of the Talmud reflects its nature and the ways in which it differs from the Mishneh ... basically a book of law ... a kind of summarized sketch of the debates of the Sages. Its main significance lies not in its halachic conclusions, but in the methods of research and analysis by which the conclusions are drawn".

9. Talmudic Exegesis: "Even before the talmud was completed, it was evident that this work was to become the basic text and primary source for Jewish law ... the works that followed were, to a large extent, based on it, derived their authority from it, and consulted it whenever necessary for elucidation of theoretical and practical problems".

10. The Printing of the Talmud: "One has only to recall that the Talmud contains about 2.5 million words to understand why copies were few and far between, even at times when there were no stringent restrictions on its distribution, or when the economic conditions of the Jews permitted widespread copying of texts".

11. The Persecution and banning of the Talmud: ... the sages emphasized the importance of the oral law as proof of Israel's singularity, as the definition of true Judaism. The view ... was prevelant in the non-Jewish world as well, particularly among Christians. Attempts were made as early as the 7th and 8th centuries to prohibit study of the talmud ...".. In our next issue, God willing, I'll let u sample Part 2, Structure and Content, and Part 3, Method, of this work of great wisdom.


This page is devoted to reviving the lives and events of Jewish History. In our first issue, we explored the importance of the serious study of history, both jewish and universal, for Torah-true Jews, and explored some early pre-scientific, but pious, attempts to do Jewish history. We'll now explore modern heretical ventures into Jewish history, taken from EDWARD ZIPPERSTEIN's Jewish Historians and Their View of Jewish History, in Essays in Jewish Thought.

Isaac Marcus Jost, a pioneer in the field of scientific Jewish history and the father of modern historiography, was the first person to undertake the writing of Jewish history on a large scale. His setting, early 19th Century Germany, was a climate of revolt, reformation and restoration. He also established public educational and charitable institutions. His style was objective and unemotional, but his liberal Reform beliefs permeate his work. As a pioneer, his works contain many errors and omissions. He lacked imagination and analytical penetration of the subject matter, to coordinate facts into a unity. He had no appreciation for Jewish nationalism or Jewish religious feeling; tho a theist, he was only concerned with universal "rational" ethical ideals. Also an apologist for Judaism, he stressed the Jewish contribution to humanity.

Leopold (Yom Tov Lipman) Zunz was Jost's friend and fellow student, the assimilationist founder of the modern alleged "science" of Judaism, who considered conversion. He received a broad Jewish and general education and, as Rav Yisroel Salanter, advocated the introduction of Jewish studies in German universities. With Heinrich Heine and others, he tried to bring Jews into the general culture. He was non-Orthodox and opposed traditional Jewish learning; but he was equally suspicious of the new Reform establishment and ignorant Christian teachers of Judaism. The antiquarian, collector of notes, is essential to, and precedes, the historian, in Zunz's view. The Jewish external history of suffering led to their extensive creation of ideas and literary works, per Zunz; his Hegalian notion was that Judaism was a sublime religion overtaken by history, whose remaining task was only to depart from the world with honor!

Moritz Steinschneider, the 3rd malevolent Muskateer in 19th Century Jewish historiography, was reared in a period of the German Jewish rationalists, followers of Mendelssohn, who deemed Jewish history a trivial pursuit. He rejected them and became both a truly great scholar, especially in historic bibliography, and a dropout from traditional Judaism. At a ripe old age, he freely admitted that he regarded it as the function of The Science of Judaism to provide a decent burial for this important, but declining, phenomenon (Judaism; cf. H.U.'s mostly heretical dying Bible Department). "Surely M.S. was the first authority in this field who was admittedly an agnostic and, possibly, even an atheist ... I reflected quite a bit about this group of scholarly liquidators, and, in 1921, I planned to write an article about the suicide of Judaism being carried out by the so-called Science of Judaism"-- Gershom Scholem, below, who was in his grandson Gustav S.'s army platoon in 1917, and who later got him a job, thru Zalman Shazar, as a T.A. streetsweeper at night, that he could be a roaming philospher by day.

Heinrich Graetz, whose son taught physics at Munich, became the all-encompassing Jewish Historian of the late 19th century; he started out Orthodox, a learned and enthusiastic pupil of S. R. Hirsch, but left Hirsch to join the German conservative JTS. Due to gross bias, he ignored Eastern Europe, hassidism and kabbala; Simon Dubnow become their historian, as well as and an ardent advocate of Jewish nationalism. Salo Barron and others consolidated 18th-19th century Jewish historiography in his 20th century works.

Gershom Scholem, a very assimilated German Jew, born in Berlin in 1897, later became intensely involved in Jewish matters-- he became the world's first serious academic scholar of kabbala and an ardent Zionist; he aroused the Jewishness and Zionism of many Germans, tho he never became observant. He tells his own tale in From Berlin to Jerusalem-- Memoirs of My Youth, including his close frienships with Agnon, then non-Orthodox, and Zalman Shazar-- the latter accompanied him to his German army induction at 5AM and gave him a book of Tehilim, with a prayer that God guard his soul from all evil. Scholem writes: "The first impetus for my Jewish consciousness was provided by my interest in history ... One day in Summer 1911, he (his boring teacher, Moses Borel) showed us the 3 fat volumes that constituted the popular edition of Heinrich Graetz's 11 volume History of the Jews, indisputably one of the most important works of Jewish historiography. When I asked Dr. Borel where I could read this work, he referred me to the very important library of The Jewish Community Council on Oranienburger Strasse, where adolescents like myself could get a card if they brought a note from their father or mother (my mother readily gave me one), vouching for their offspring. For years, I was among the mostr zealous users of this library, which was later destroyed by the Nazis. It was thus that I came to read this voluminous work, which was not only exceedingly rich in often dramatic information, but also was written in an impressive, vivid and readable style.

"I devoured these volumes with great interest, and then requested them as a bar mitzvah (at 14!) present from my parents and my uncle, along with Theodor Mommsen's 4 volume History of Rome ... The profound impression which Graetz's work had made upon me instilled in me the desire to learn Hebrew ... At that time, I began to attend the Berlin synagogues regularly ... The strictly Orthodox services at the Alte Synagogue attracted me even more than the organ synagogue ... In particular (1919-1923), I quickly established amicable relations with Fritz Yitzchak Baer, possibly the most outstanding and most profound historian of my generation ...."

In our next issue, we'll explore, God willing, the re-emerging interface of authentic Torah and Jewish history in the works of modern Orthodox Jewish historians.


This page is dedicated to responses to today's situations, and depictions of folks and facts from the last hundred years or so.

Dr. Joseph H. Berke adopts and expands David Bakan's conclusions about Freud's kabbalistic roots, tho later repudiated by Bakan himself, in Psychoanalysis and Kabbalah, Psychoanalytic Review (Vol. 83, No. 6, 12/96). Joe describes these two seemingly disparate realms as both theories about the nature of existence and "mediations", methods for restoring shattered lives, which have been separated from their source. He opens: "The particular domain of psychoanalysis is the head and the heart, the totality of an individual's mind and emotions, `the self'. In particular, I refer to a person confirmed in his subjectivity, as agent of his thoughts and feelings, and confirmed in his objectivity, the object of his own activity and focus of his consciousness. In contrast, the domain of Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition, is the soul, a person's holy timeless essence. I refer to an entity which is both elevated, that is, exists in spiritual realms, and is part of a whole, the primordial source, God.

"Needless to say, such a capsule definition is limited and limiting. It doesn't take into account many other facets of of psychoanalysis and kabbalah. Thus psychoanalysis, as currently prcticed, is not just concerned with an individual ... on the contrary, it strives to see this person in relation to his family and friends ... it considers each person to be a dynamic nucleus of relationships. Essentially, he is a center of energies, a world in and of himself, containing, and being contained by, a myriad of other swelling worlds. Kabbalah also focuses upon worlds and worlds within worlds ... these 2 disciplines aim to explore the obvious and the esoteric, the conscious and unconscious aspects of existence. But they especially aim to reveal that which is mysterious and profoundly concealed ... my introduction stresses the similarities, rather than the differences, between psychoanalysis and kabbalah ... I think that psychoanalysis may be seen as a secular branch of kabbalah or "secular kabbalah". Holy Joe, whose kippa often shocks blase psychoanalyists at confabs, goes on to explore the Jewish religious and mystical roots of the personal origins, oconcerns and methods of Freud and Melanie Klein, despite the efforts of psychoanalists to include their work in the scientific, rather than the spiritual, tradition (see Freud and Man's Soul, by Bruno Bettelheim, 1983).

Joe ends his article with Heinz Kohut's moving connection of "self" and "soul" in The Restoration of Self; in the epilogue, Kohut ponders the capacity of art and artists to depict the central dilemma of our age, how man can manage "to cure his crumbling self". Nowhere has he found a more accurate account of the yearning to restore a shattered self than in Eugene O'Neill's play, The Great God Brown. Toward the end, the central character, Brown, contemplates his wrecked life and shattered self: "Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue". So Freud concluded that Shakespere was the greatest pre-scientific psychologist. Today, Israel's gloomy leading secular writers, alleging "literary integrity", wallow in the existential despair of their false, illusory, Godless, faithless and non-committed world and society (e.g. Yehuda Amichai's The World is a Room); Israel's cheerful upbeat simplistic haredi Feldmanian, CIS and Targum writers, at the opposite extreme, portray a world of black and white clarity, of Divine Providence, of good guys and bad guys, of the pristine faith of pure selfless souls (e.g. Ruchama Shein's All For the Boss). He who is wise will see thru and sift both, while reading more subtle accounts of faith (e.g. those of S. Y. Agnon, Chaim Grade, Herman Wouk, Naomi Regan and Faye Kellerman).

Joe and Dr. Stanley Schneider of Jerusalem expands these themes in a book of the same title, soon to be published by Rutledge. Joe explored schizophrenia, together with his patient Mary Barnes, in The tyranny of malice: Exploring the dark side of character and culture (Simon & Schuster, 1988). You can contact him at 5 Shepard's Closer, London N6 5AG, O181-348-4492.

I look forward to our readers' reactions to this issue, No. 2 in our first new type of study sheet in many years. Yaakov Fogelman, 9/3/97, Elul 1, 5757 (cf. Heinz).

PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPLE ARE THE LUCKIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD (Avraham's descendant Barbara Streisand, vs. J. P. Satre who defined hell as other people and Paul Ehrlich, who prefers trees); we should all share each other's joys and sorrows and learn together, our interfacing itself enriching and enhancing all our Torah; only Jews stress studying with chaverim (from a Chabad Mayanot talk by Prof. Almut Bruckstein, based on the teachings of Levinas; the mixed audience themselves studied the relevant texts in small groups, living what they were learning.

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