Tidbits (Spotlight on Rav Dr. Michael Avraham)

[Note: I don’t necessarily agree with what’s said in the articles below. They are presented merely to challenge the mind – aiwac]

Is Halacha Pluralistic? – An incisive analysis of the question of ‘elu va-elu’ that dissents from most popular perceptions on the subject (both left and right).

Applying ‘Lifnei Iver’ for non-observant Jews – a radical and controversial argument that allowing or facilitating non-observant Jews committing averot (such as letting them drive to shul on Shabbat) does not constitute lifnei iver or being an accomplice to sin. The reason is that since they are not committed and do not hold by the principles of Orthodox Judaism (Binding Torah from Sinai, binding Oral Torah, a personal God &c), the concepts of reward and punishment (and Jewish-specific sin) do not apply to them. This sparked two rounds of discussion: Round One and Round Two.

An article that summarizes one of the main arguments of ‘Two Carraiges and a Hot Air Balloon‘.

Another controversial article, arguing that the connecting hyphen of religious Zionism be dropped (i.e. one should be a religious Jew and a secular Zionist).

A discussion of the logic of the 13 Midot through which the Torah is expounded.

Shabbat Shalom



Hi, my name is Avi Woolf. I'm an American-Israeli MO Jew living in Israel. I have a background in Israeli (as in Land of Israel) and Jewish History and an insatiable need for knowledge. I also have professional experience as an editor, translator and indexer. Enjoy the ride! If you are interested in using my services or just want to drop me a line, contact me at: opdycke1861NOSPAM@yahoo.com
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7 Responses to Tidbits (Spotlight on Rav Dr. Michael Avraham)

  1. Shlomo says:

    That’s a lot of Hebrew. Any translators around? 🙂

    Sounds interesting though.

    • AIWAC says:

      I’d prefer to get paid for it…but if there’s any particular article you and anyone else would like done, I’ll consider it (but only if you ask really nicely) :).


      • Shlomo says:

        No, I wouldn’t appreciate if someone asked me to do some work in MY specialty without pay.

        When I next get some free time I’ll give the articles a try.

      • AIWAC says:

        Ok. 🙂

        Trust me, agree or disagree, you’ll still come away enriched and enlightened from his work.

  2. Pingback: Apropos Rabbi Dr. Michael Avraham… | QED

  3. Shlomo says:

    Re “Avraham Avinu and his hat”:

    1) Obviously most people believe in SOMETHING. But it’s not enough if they believe in Christianity, or Sabbatean or Reform Judaism. The kind of behavioral evidence R’ Avraham discusses testified to faith in a broad sense, but does not indicate the details of that faith. The faith he thinks exists inside all of us is only part of what Orthodox Judaism requires. To clarify further details, I think you must involve the kind of systematic intellectual approach that R’ Avraham gets away from.

    R’ Aharon Lichtenstein, I believe in one of the essays in “Leaves of Faith”, mentions how one’s religious growth must proceed along “intellectual, affective, and conative” axes (possibly not an exact quote). It seems he values R’ Avraham’s behavioral approach but thinks it must be paired with other considerations.

    2) What should you do if you investigate yourself and find that you DON’T believe? Perhaps the power of a proof, if successful, is that it can change your psychology. Alternatively, it can show that axioms you will never abandon (such as the ability to trust your senses) actually lead to the conclusion of theism, rather than the conclusion of atheism. Either way, a proof would be very useful for someone who HAS investigated themself and found themself lacking. R’ Avraham tells us to do this investigation consciously, but perhaps it already occurs unconsciously or less systematically.

    Re “The third way”:

    Yet another Modern Orthodox rabbi trying in vain to convince the DL world that not everything R’ Tzvi Yehudah said is min hashayim. Maybe R’ Avraham could join up with Jeffrey Woolf and whoever else is trying to promote “MO in Israel”?

    “Regarding inducing a secular person to sin”

    1) If chilonim are incapable of doing mitzvot or averot, would it be forbidden to cook for them on yom tov (i.e. invite them to your seder)? Would it be permitted to save their lives on Shabbat? The kulas of this approach may lead to gigantic chumras!
    2) I’m surprised R’ Avraham does not mention the approach, of the kabbalists and others, that the main point of mitzvot is the cosmic consequences that result from performing them. For anyone who takes that approach, it’s absolutely clear that an evil person’s deeds do affect the world, contradicting what R’ Avraham says throughout the article.
    3) Why does God punish chilonim, if they can’t do averot? Do only religious people get punished? Really, there are so many “common sense” points like this on which his arguments seems to fall down.

    I wonder if R’ Avraham really believes in this approach, or if he thinks forced arguments and readings are justified here in order to achieve an important practical goal. (Something I wouldn’t necessarily say is always illegitimate)

    Re “The logical standing of ways of drash”

    Either conclusions from the 13 midot agree with conclusions from logic, or they disagree. Where they agree, (R’ Avraham argues) what is the point of having them? Where they disagree, are they not the sort of “secret code” for the Torah he thinks is unreasonable? He does a good job of presenting the dilemma, but I don’t think he escapes it. He asserts that the 13 middot can provide the same precision in results as deductive logic, but I’ll wait for a demonstration before accepting that. Interesting article though.


    Re “Is halacha pluralistic?”

    Nice article.

    I wonder if his proof (p. 13-14) from the suyga in Sukkah is valid. When in R’ Nachman’s house, perhaps the two rabbis were bound by R’ Nachman’s kulot, and you cannot make inferences about the general validity of lifnei iver between people with different psakim.

  4. AIWAC says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed the articles. I’m also glad to see I was right in my assumption that even when you disagreed, they clearly made you think (the same happened to me, BTW). Let me see if I can help you with some of your queries:

    Re: The “Avraham Avinu and his hat”

    You are absolutely right that the “epistmological proof” (or any other general proof of God or argument for him, for that matter) is necesarry but not sufficient vis-avis Orthodox Judaism. In any event, I don’t think Rav Avraham was aiming to prove every tenet of Orthodox Judaism in a single article (THAT would be rather presumptuous), merely to show one (very important, IMHO) method, for starting the process. Its purpose (as well as the book) is to provide the tools for the journey, not necesarily answer every single question.

    His book goes into far more detail, and includes much of the systematic intellectual discussion you mentioned. I am almost finished with it, and I hope to write a detailed review after I do. Stay Tuned.

    Re: The Third Way

    >>Yet another Modern Orthodox rabbi trying in vain to convince the DL world that not everything R’ Tzvi Yehudah said is min hashayim. Maybe R’ Avraham could join up with Jeffrey Woolf and whoever else is trying to promote “MO in Israel”?<<

    Rav Avraham is not really definable in terms of Orthodox sub-groups. In some things he's more Charedi, in other matters he's more modern. I actually got the impression that the position he espouses in this article is more a Rav Cahanman/Poalei Agudat Israel approach. But maybe that's just me.

    BTW, you do know that you're talking about my father (Woolf), right? I happen to support that particular cause. Don't knock it – not on this blog at least.

    Re: Secular Jews

    I'm afraid I can't really help here; I had a lot of trouble following the line of argument of both him and his detractors. I'd suggest talking to the author himself.

    Re: Darchei Hadrash

    He recently came out with a long, detailed (collaborative) article discussing Talmudic "inductive" logic in BDD 23. My gut tells me he elaborates on what he says there. Check it out.

    Kol Tuv


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