Tuesday, February 27, 2007

some gems from R' Avraham Shapira

Some gems from the transcripts of R’ Avraham Shapira shlit”a’s shiurim on the Merkaz haRav website:

When asked if interrupting a woman's study of Torah is an issur of bittul Torah, R’ Shapira did not see why it should not be – a woman’s Torah study is no less significant than that of a man.

In response to a question of how to balance the study of gemara with that of hashkafa, R' Shapira retorted that “ain etzleinu hashkafa – yesh emunah” – we do not study hashkafa [outlook], we study emunah [belief]. Citing R’ Kook, he explained that emunah can be studied, developed, and reflected upon – it is not just simple faith that you inherit from your grandparents.

This story was offered in response to advice on choosing a yeshiva: In Volozhin, even though the Roshei Yeshiva were the gedolei hador, the Netzi”v and R’ Chaim, there were students of true geniuses who chose to spend the day in independent study rather than attend any lecture. One of these brilliant students was R’ Shimon Shkop, who went on to become a great Rosh Yeshiva in his own right. On one occasion, as the Netziv emerged from his room, R’ Shimon asked him about a Rashbam in Baba Basra which he could not understand. The Netziv replied that he too many times had struggled with this same Rashbam and had already twice gone to the grave of R’ Chaim Volozhiner to daven for Hashem’s help in understanding it, but he too was still stuck R’ Shimon said: the next day I chose to enter the Netziv’s shiur.

The moral of the story is that a teacher is not someone who has answers, but someone who is engaged in the struggle with questions. When I told the story to my wife Ariella she noted that people daven for refuah, for parnasa, for shidduchim, but how rare is the Netziv’s type of tefilah, a prayer for Hashem’s help in understanding Torah. That is true gadlus.

17 comments:

  1. When asked if interrupting a woman's study of Torah is an issur of bittul Torah, R’ Shapira did not see why it should not be – a woman’s Torah study is no less significant than that of a man.

    Interesting. This would seem to imply that bittul Torah is not a din in the lomeid (and the attached chiyyuv), but rather is a quality of the Torah itself. Any other cases that could be used to test this idea? (Or any other ways of looking at it?)

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  2. What about bittul torah for ketanim? - If a rebbe is in aveilus (issur of learning), he still is required to teach ktanim so as not to cause bittul torah for them.

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  3. Yehuda R12:17 PM

    The gem says 'aschara'comes for bittul torah.It then asks so why do women get it?and answers they are (possibly) mevatel their husbands.Taht implies that there is no concept of bittul torah for herself.

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  4. No, it implies that before the moden era it would have been so uncommon for women to have been engaged in T"T that any discussion of bittul torah would have been nonsensical.
    To quote R' Shapira - "mah hasheila kan?! Torah shayechet l'kulam"

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  5. yehuda r2:47 PM

    Thats not the way the rishonim or achronim learn the gem.Its Shabbos 33b see Rashi and the maharso etc. there.

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  6. Bob Miller3:17 PM

    "When I told the story to my wife Ariella she noted...how rare is the Netziv’s type of tefilah, a prayer for Hashem’s help in understanding Torah. That is true gadlus."

    This tefilah concept can be found in the Breslover literature (I don't have the references, but I've seen it more than once).

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  7. Anonymous6:11 AM

    "No, it implies that before the moden era it would have been so uncommon for women to have been engaged in T"T that any discussion of bittul torah would have been nonsensical."

    is this how you understand women's schar for talmud torah per sotah 21 also?
    How can you have an issur of bitul torah on something women are not metzuve on?
    I appreciate the sentiment, but perhaps he meant that it's wrong to interrupt a woman learning, as she is still doing a mitzva, just as it would be wrong to tell her to leave a sukah for no purpose (or perhaps worse since there are potentially other mitzvos involved, eg vhalachta bdrochav for agada or ahavas hashem etc).
    If bitul torah is an issur for women, then someone should tell the haredi world, as most of their communal principles are based on the notion that women do not have obligation in tt or issur bitul torah while men do.
    Also, there goes the heter for women to study other disciplines.

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  8. Anonymous6:16 AM

    "most of their communal principles" I meant communal organization

    "To quote R' Shapira - "mah hasheila kan?! Torah shayechet l'kulam""

    Is this a full quote? If so, the interpretation above seems plausible as this doesn't address the question head on.

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  9. >>>perhaps he meant that it's wrong to interrupt a woman learning, as she is still doing a mitzva, just as it would be wrong to tell her to leave a sukah for no purpose

    I do not understand the distinction you are drawing between this idea and bitul torah. haynu hach. Of course women do not have to engage in T"T at all - Rav Shapira never said they have a chiyuv. But once they choose to do so, any interruption is bitul torah. This is why the gemara in Shabbos (aside from the fact that it is an aggadita with multiple opinions) has nothing to do with this issue.
    As for an exact quote, take a look at the shiur entitled nashim v'torah, nashim v'avodah. The exact question posed was whether interrupting the torah study of a woman was a chashash bitul torah, e.g. [this example was posed in the question] would interrupting a shiur of nechama leibowitz z'l have been bittul torah? Ayen sham.

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  10. Anonymous3:42 PM

    chaim b, if this was on any other topic, youd be railing about apologetics and distortions and not telling lies for kiruv. It's possible that there's a disgrace to torah, that it's not right to interrupt, that there's some concept there, but there's no issur bitul torah for women.

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  11. Anonymous3:57 PM

    . מה היחס לביטול תורה של נשים שלומדות, האם זה חשוב לא להפריע להם באמצע שיעור, אישה שמלמדת תורה אם יש בזה חשש ביטול תורה אם היא תפסיק באמצע, למשל נחמה ליבוביץ ז"ל אם הייתה מפסיקה שיעור באמצע, זה היה ביטול תורה?

    הרב: לכאורה מה שנשים אומרות זה תורה או לא תורה?! אם מה שאומרות זה תורה אז אם מתחזקים זה חיזוק תורה ואם מפסיקים זה ביטול תורה. מה השאלה כאן, תורה שייכת לכולם. נשים הן בכלל ישראל, נשים הן לא פחות מהגברים. נכון יש ענין של מצוות והתורה חילקה ביניהם. אבל השותפות של גברים ונשים בתורה היא אותו דבר.


    He purposefully avoids answering the halachic question. You've misread this. He is asked if there is a chshash bitul torah. He answers diplomatically - they are learning torah. If they continue, you are machzik torah, if you interrupt them, you are mevatel torah - he is taking it out of the question of bitul torah qua issur, translating to colloquial language, and saying presto: bitul torah in the colloquial sense, but not in a halachic sense, ma hasheala kan? and then discursing to talk of how women have an equal share in torah. Very diplomatic and quick on his feet, but not to be understood as anything but a way to avoid saying there's no issur. You are missing the... artistry and diplomacy here.

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  12. Anonymous4:03 PM

    נכון יש ענין של מצוות והתורה חילקה ביניהם

    that's the sentence where he says well of course there's no issur or bitul torah in the halachic sense

    אבל השותפות של גברים ונשים בתורה היא
    אותו דבר

    and here he diverts

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  13. Anonymous4:11 PM

    "youd be railing about apologetics and distortions and not telling lies for kiruv" = should be clear that this was based on your presentation, but not on what I see now that he actually said.

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  14. Anonymous, I think you completely misread the piece to fit your agenda (what that is I cannot fathom), but I that's why I provide the link. I have no idea what you mean by bittul torah in a halachic sense vs. a collequal sense. I didn't think the words "v'im mafsikim zeh bitul torah" were that hard to understand or required such an elaborate comment to parse.

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  15. It's Obvious9:50 PM

    Look, Chaim. Here is yehuda showing you a Gemara with Rishonim and Acharonim who say that there is no Issur of Bittul Torah for women. It is clear that the opposite, generally, of "Bittul Torah" is "Talmud Torah", not "Chizuk Torah".

    R' Avraham means that it is a suppresion of Torah to not allow a woman to say her Shiur, not that it is an Aveira of BT. Don't be Toleh Buki Sriki in R' Avraham.

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  16. Anonymous11:20 AM

    "but I that's why I provide the link. I have no idea what you mean by bittul torah in a halachic sense vs. a collequal sense."

    he means that if you want women to learn, you don't interrupt them.

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