Thursday, October 26, 2006

highlights from previous R' Tzadok chaburah - this Friday @ 8:30 in 5T

Some highlights from last week's chaburah in R' Tzadok:
We began with the teaching of the Mei haShiloach (R' Tzadok's rebbe, the Ishbitza) on "VaYapel Elokim tardeima al haAdam", the deep sleep Hashem placed man into in order to create woman. The Ishbitza sees this state of "tardeima" as an existential condition; man lives in a state of unawareness to the true greatness of G-d that fills the universe. The Ishbitza explains that this state of spiritual sleep is to man's benefit. Were we fully attuned to G-d's presence we would be compelled to obey his command, but all spiritual benefit resulting from that obediance would be "nahama d'kisufa", unearned reward. Because man is asleep and unaware of G-d while in this world, he is granted the opporunity for choice and free will. (As an aside, the letters of the root of tardeima, R-D-M, can be rearranged to spell M-R-D, mered, the capacity to rebel.) This nefila, the fall into slumber, is ultimately l'tzorech aliya, for the positive good of coming to a self-awakening, a self-realization of G-d's presence, leading ultimately to the benefit of our rewards being earned. This introduction captures in a nutshell the essence of Ishbitz and R' Tzadok - the challenge to reveal light from darkness, to make the effrot to lift the veil from the world of tardeima and become more aware of the "true" reality of G-d's infinite presence.
R' Tzadok opens Kedushas Shabbos asking why the Torah prefaces every mention of Shabbos with the instruction to work for six days and then rest on the seventh - surely the mitzvah is observing the seventh day of rest, not the work of the six preceding days?! R' Tzadok's answer focuses on the description of man as "b'tzelem Elokim", created in G-d's image. G-d appears in Braishis in the role of Creator; man who is created in G-d's image is also endowed with the creative capacity to influence and change the world around him, which he does by exercising his free will. Just as G-d first engaged in six days of creation before arriving at the day of Shabbos, man as tzelem Elokim must first work and exercise his bechira through the six weekdays as prerequisite to experiencing the day of Shabbos. This is why in the Torah always forumulates the mitzvah of Shabbos in the context of "sheishes yamim ta'avod". Much like the Ishbitza's teaching that the existential state of tardeima calls on man to toil to come to G-d, R' Tzadok's sees the tzelem Elokim as calling man to avodah in order to come to the experience of yom haShabbos.
This week IY"H we will talk more about the avodah of the tzelem Elokim that leads to Shabbos, and specifically how and why talmud Torah may be the highest fulfillment of that role.
If you live in 5T, feel free to join us at 8:30, Tiferes Tzvi Yeshiva Minyan, 26 Columbia Ave. in Cedarhurst (time will change next weel after we move the clock).


  1. Sounds fascinating. So are you going to extend the shiur to include women?

  2. When you say "man" you do mean a person or human being, don't you? You know what grammar books say about avoiding sexist language today. ;-) However, it is possible that the writers in question were thinking of man in the exclusive sense. That is why R' Bechaye feels compelled to point out that women also have tzelem Elokim and are not "tfeylos legamre" [deliberately msitranslated as "at all" by a teacher of mine who was very intellectually dishonest in these matters], as he says in his comment on Miriam Hanevia.

  3. In answer to #1, my guess is that it would depend on whether women show interest in attending and what the policy in that regard of our host bais medrash is, but so far the issue is moot. Note as well that the shiur was never advertised as for men only.

    As to the second point, if you read this blog regularly you will note that I usually do write he/she or opt for sentences that can be constructed using 'one' or 'person' instead of a gender specific pronoun. That being said, it seems to me that standard English usage certainly has a long history of support for the use of 'man' as a shorthand way of referring to mankind, and I feel justified in using it where it serves the greater interest of keeping a post short or stating a point more clearly and directly than could be done by reconstructing the sentence in a gender-neutral fashion. Had I been conscious of it I would have perhaps used 'humankind' in this post. In defense of my unconscious editing, let me just note that no less an authority than William Strunk Jr. of 'Strunk and White's Elements of Style' fame was a staunch advocate of using 'he' for pronouns embracing both genders, so certainly yesh al mi lismoch b'dieved.

  4. According to Wikipeda the book first came out in 1918 ws revised several times and then:

    By the time the fourth edition of "Strunk and White" appeared in 1999, its second author had died, and the manuscript rights were acquired by Longman, who added a foreword by White's stepson, Roger Angell, an afterword by Charles Osgood, a glossary, and an index. An anonymous editor modified the text of this 1999 edition. Among other changes, he or she removed White's spirited defense of "he" for nouns embracing both genders. See the "they" entry in Chapter IV and also gender-specific pronouns.

  5. Bill Selliger1:32 PM

    I think R. Yosef Engel discusses this issue in Beis Ha'otzer (check under "Ish" or "Adam"). Do you have one of those?

  6. R' Yosef Engel discussed gender neutral pronouns!? (In seriousness, I don't have a copy).

    The Wall Street Journal notes
    "White also hated politicized writing; in 1979, he added a new rule to "Elements" to explain just why "gender-neutral writing" is ridiculous. "The use of he as a pronoun for nouns embracing both genders is a simple, practical convention rooted in the beginnings of the English language. He has lost all suggestion of maleness in these circumstances." But the 1999 revision slips an extra sentence into White's rule, like an assassin slipping a stiletto into someone's back: "Currently, however, many writers find the use of the generic he or his to rename indefinite antecedents limiting or offensive." But White never minded offending people. He rejected the trendy and glitzy. He admired good craftsmanship. He didn't mind being called old-fashioned."
    Sounds like my blog - rejecting the trendy and glitzy, don't mind offending, and good quality craftsmanship : )

  7. White would probably have referred to black or Afrian-Americans as negros. That was perfectly acceptable in those days. In Mark Twain's books, you find a term for the same people that is considered very offensive today. Language standards do change. Jews do not call themselves "Israelites" anymore, and "Hebrew" can be considered downright offensive. We don't call any female Jews "Jewess" today, just as we don't say "poetess," "authoress" or even "aviatrix," but in the 19th cent. you would have encountered such terms. And by now, we would probably just use the title "Doctor" for a woman without attempting to add something to indicate her gender. That would likely not have been the case a hundred years ago. I remember reading of a woman denied the opportunity to become a doctor because, it was argued, there was no feminine form of the word in her country's language!

  8. White did not write his defense of the use of 'he' in the 19th century - he wrote it in 1979! The op-ed bemoaning the newer "politically correct" edition of Elements of Style printed after White's death concludes as only the WSJ would dare write, "Feminist language, pseudointellectual literary criticism, an elite cultural establishment at odds with plain old middle-American patriotism, a politically corrected version of "The Elements of Style"--they are all connected." Indeed.

  9. So what if he wrote it in 1979? He had spent most of his adult life in another era. Though I haven't checked them all, the large number of handbooks I have seen (and you know that the number is larger than for most people) now include section on avoiding sexist language, and have done so for more than a decade. It is not considered far out left like writing "womyn" instead of "women"; it is considered as mainstream as calling a woman Mrs. Mary Smith rather than Mrs. John Smith, which, technically would be her name according to the rules of taking on one's husband's surname.
    Do you think your wife expects to be addressed as Mrs. Chaim Brown?;-)