Thoughts on Judaism

Friday, April 15, 2005

Igros - the challenge

In response to the proposal of Reb Ariel, shiyichye, I asked the igros as he recommends, whether his account of his "false prophecy" is true or not. Wording of my question is copied below. As I expected "the Rebbe answered me" almost immediately, as the algorithm of the website dictates. My free translation follows. My image captured only the second page for some reason, but the books are in print.

To me, the answer in all respects is completely irrelevant to the question that I asked. There is certainly no direct answer. What can be read into this? Can any of you help?

Ariel, your answer, if it is not first, will be copied and prominently displayed, if you wish.

Note: I followed the broadest method possible in interpreting igros, including two full pages to select an applicable answer.

Question as submitted to igros: "Rabbi A. Sokolovsky shyichiye of Boston claims on his website that you told him through igrot that Kerry would win the presidency. He then says that he did not really ask. Then, he says that you mislead him for valid reasons. He has published the account of what happened on his website, and on comments to others, such as my own, under "Igros - the test" and others with which you are, no doubt familiar. Surely in reading these accounts, you will see the question in my mind. He has proposed that I ask whether his account of events is true or false. So, given the apparent contradiction in his own words, I will ask straight from the source. Did you tell him that Kerry would win the election or did you not? "

Free translation: (vol6 pages 278-9)

Letter 1784
13 Menachem Av, 5712 Brooklyn
Peace and Blessing!
In answer to your letter of 7 Menachem Av, in it [you] write regarding the condition of his health, physically and specifically regarding the condition of his eye. My opinion is not favorable on this (my translation of Ain da'ati noche mi'zeh) the [you] write that since two years ago when he first felt what was in his eye, even so, he did not go to doctors. But, let's not cry about the past. And now, IMO, [you] need to ask two expert doctors' advise on the specific matter, and to try with them to do all possible procedures (to weaken the disease) before removing the eye, chas v'shalom. And he should be strong in his faith in Hashem, yisbarech, that this should not be necessary. And surely, it is unnecessary to explain to him, chas v'shalom, to be careful in kidush and havdalah, because as the Chazal say, these are connected with the light source of the eye of a person. And also, he should try to add strength in learning "inner torah" (probably he means Chabad Chasidus) fitting with his position and condition, and I await good news from him. His Pidyon Nefesh, I will read on the gravestone of my father in law (titles of respect follow), and sure great mercy will will be awakened for him. And a blessing for proper health in everything.

Letter 1785
17 Menachem Av 5712
Shalom u'bracha!
In answer to your letter of 14 and 15 Menachem Av.

I do not understand what he concluded that my answer caused alot of weakening of his health. Because, MiMaNafshach (the statement is indefensible in any way of looking at the matter), whether he is relying on me or whether he is not relying on me, there is no place to weaken at all. And my mission is not to make healthy or to bless and obviously not, chas v'shalom the opposite. And regarding his question once more regarding the treatment, that they are telling him that there is mortal danger without the treatment, my father in law did not like such exaggerations. Lay out the matter before 3 good friends, and G-d will give them the proper knowledge to teach him for his good, physically and spiritually together.

In blessing for a "rest of the soul and the body" and for serving Hashem in true prosperity.

Letter 1786
20 Menachem Av, 5712
Brooklyn, NY

Aguch in Israel, it should be rebuilt and established
Hashem Aleihem Yichyu

Peace and blessing!
I must recognize before you the hardworking, famous (titles of respect) Yitzchak Almali, Sephardi of Morocco, who has prepared to visit the Holy Land (its should be built and established) regarding an important matter connected with Sephardic children that came from North Africa to the Holy Land (T'V).

The hardworker aforementioned is amomng the important, good, hardworkers of the Sephardim in Morrocco and among our friends and establishers of Mosdos Ohalei YY Lubavitch that is there. An honored man, with a good heart, feeling and traits, given over to proper education for the children of Morrocco etc.

And I ask them to receive him with a happy countenance and with respect befitting his stature and spirit. And to help him in the extremely important matter aforementioned as much as possible, both with their positions, and with introductions in every place where that is necessary.

And please inform me what comes of this.

With Blessings,
M. Schneersohn


  • By the grace of G-d
    To the Kvoid haRebel HaMefursam Oisek beTzorchei Tzibur Rishon leKol Dovar SheBekdusha:-)
    Shalom uBrocha!

    You write to the Rebbe King Moshiach Shlit"a "Ariel Sokolovsky said...
    "He then says that he did not really ask"
    It's incorect you base your question to the Rebbe on a false quote of what I actualy said.
    I didn't say that I said that I asked but in a bit differnt way not thru Igrot but thru asking Yes/No questions thru opening Tehilim at random which is one of the way to ask mentioned in the article here: and in the Sicha here (the original of this Sicha also states that since some have a custom not to ask questions by opening a holybook since they think it may be disrespectfull to use it this way perhaps people should ask questions thru Igros which deal with all kinds of topics and not only holy topics)
    (In this Sicha the Rebbe MH"M Shlit"a doesn't mention positive verse yes /negative no method I explain bellow directly but it's discused in the sources quoted in the article above)
    if you see a positive verse like "Ashrei yoshvei beisecha" answer is yes if you see a negative one like "lo hameisim yehalelu-ko" answer is no.
    brocha ve'hatzlocha
    Gut Shabbos!
    Ariel Sokolovsky

    Long Live our Master our Teacher and our Rebbe King Moshiach Forever and Ever!

    By Blogger Rabbi Ariel Sokolovsky, at 9:56 AM  

  • On your website, you said igros. In your answer to me you said Tehilim. In either case, you implied that the Rebbe and the holy realms wanted Kerry to win. Therefore, in my question, I simply asked if your final account was true, since you gave inconsistent accounts, as can happen when you recount something over time. I wanted it straight from the source. At any rate, the igros also did not answer as you did here, either. Nor did it refer to what you claim igros said after the election.

    And let's not forget, your method, whatever it was, YIELDED THE WRONG ANSWER!!! You had certainty, at the time that you made the prediction based on whatever method you used. You said that we could bet on it, an inside sure thing. You even "bavarned" in case anyone question using "prophecy" (your very word) to profit monetarily. Now you are backtracking, saying that it wasn't the Rebbe (which you said only here April 05, not on your site Nov 04). Then you challenged in your own response to ask igros the direct question if you were telling the truth. (I truly believe that you are not intending to be deceptive, to anyone else, that is.)

    After all of the shakla v'tarya so far, these magic methods have failed to yield anything meaningful. They cannot yield a dependable reliable result before the facts are known. They can only be apologized for afterwards. And that is fine, if your goal is simply to defend this nonsense as not provably false. However, it is USELESS in real practical decision making.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 4:38 PM  

  • BTW

    If you called me for an aliyah the way that opened this response, they would throw you out, even in a litvishe shul. :-D

    Shabbat Shalom.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 4:49 PM  

  • I'll concede to the side issue of the CR and others supporting the igros asking method, if it is a sticking point. I simply never believed that HE ever made decisions this way. It is rarely difficult to pull a quote out of somewhere to support a particular notion. I never saw that this was a "derech". I still maintain that it is not a good way to make decisions, nor even a good gambling strategy, as you have proven conclusively. If one is so enamored of his Rebbe, as you seem to be, one should base his actions on the Rebbe's teachings, not on imagined answers following some magic formula.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 9:17 PM  

  • An emailer signing himself / herself "Chabadnik" offers this interpretation of the 2nd letter, supporting that Ariel is giving a true account of events. (BTW, I never doubted that Ariel was telling us anything but the truth, as he perceives it.)

    I submit it without further comment.

    Letter 1785
    17 Menachem Av 5712
    Shalom u'bracha!
    In answer to your letter of 14 and 15 Menachem Av.

    I do not understand what he concluded that my answer (i.e. the incorrect prediction) caused alot of weakening of his health (i.e his faith in the Rebbe)
    Because, MiMaNafshach (the statement is indefensible in any way of looking at the matter), whether he is relying on me or whether he is not relying on me (i.e. whether you believe I answered him or not), there is no place to weaken at all (i.e. in faith in the Rebbe. Faith in the Rebbe is not based on whether he answers or not). And my mission is not to make healthy or to bless and obviously not, chas v'shalom the opposite (meaning the Rebbe's mission is not to be a prophet and win bets for people, nor obvioulsy to lose them). And regarding his question once more regarding the treatment, that they are telling him that there is mortal danger without the treatment (i.e. abandoniing faith in the effacy of contacting the Rebbe through igros), my father in law did not like such exaggerations (i.e. it is too exaggerated to say that igros is ineffective). Lay out the matter before 3 good friends, and G-d will give them the proper knowledge to teach him for his good, physically and spiritually together (This is a reference to the second answer received by Ariel, that he should not despair).

    In blessing for a "rest of the soul and the body" and for serving Hashem in true prosperity (This is a reference to the second answer taht Ariel received as well).

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 7:17 AM  

  • By the grace of G-d
    Shalom uBrocha!
    "(meaning the Rebbe's mission is not to be a prophet and win bets for people, nor obvioulsy to lose them). "
    I placed bets to show my confidence inthe Rebbe's answer it wasn't my main purpose to win money,I placed them after asking the Rebbe if I should do that.
    Part of the Rebbe's mission is to be a prophet see Sicha parshas Shoftim 5751 (Hebrew) , (English) and prophet unlike simply a Torah scholar answer not only to questions about Torah but, parnosa health and other things too.
    So we see that the Rebbe said prophecies about

    buisenes and other issues.
    RebelJew it says here that Previous Rebbe asked a question by opening book of Shmuel at random (since this was 1st book that was brought to him) when he was inprisoned in Shpalerka by communists with a death sentence hanging over his head and he recieved a reply that he interpreted that he will be saved. Se paragraph aleph "Hanhogas Gdolei Yisroel" It also says there that Tanoim and Amoroim used to do something similar.I read in a biography of Rav Chaim Soloveichik that he also asked questions this way from time to time.It mentions that he chose a way to travel to Eretz Yisroel that logicly was seen as more dangerous at the time by opening Psalms at random and it was later discovered that the other way was in fact deadly.Law of probability like any "law of nature" is not realy a law it's how things seem to work most of the time. (paraphrasing the Rebbe)The Rebbe the Previous Rebbe Rabbi Soloveichik, Holy Tanoim and Amoroim were probably aware of the "law of probability" yet they used a goral to ask for guidance from above and succeeded because they realized that tyhere is "hashgocha protis"-personal supervision of G-d of the details of the events in this world and it can transcend and override "law of probability" or any other "law of nature" for that matter.

    brocha ve'hatzlocha
    Ariel Sokolovsky

    Long Live our Master our Teacher and our Rebbe King Moshiach Forever and Ever!

    By Blogger Rabbi Ariel Sokolovsky, at 9:20 PM  

  • The issue was a side point for me, whether or not CR, Solvetchik or others thought that this was a valid method, though I appreciate your enlightening me on these sources. More knowledge of Torah issues is a very good thing, in and of itself. To your credit, you argue like a scholar, rather than like a zealot.

    As far as the FR using the book of Shmuel, I am glad that he had better fortune with it than you did. :)

    I still do not get how the CR told you that Kerry would win, that he advised you to bet on it, that you consider this "prophecy" and yet in all, IT WAS JUST FLAT UNREDEEMABLY WRONG! Even if he told you not to be depressed or that it would not affect your popularity, how does this speak to the issue that it was wrong? Again, see my Infallibility post below and the $100 promise analogy, about the redefinition of truth, post facto, and explain, if you would, how "false" becomes "true".

    A freilichen Yom Tov.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 2:42 PM  

  • By the grace of G-d
    Shalom uBrocha!
    There is a number of ways to look at it.
    #1 It was a negative prophecy that can be nullified.
    (My personal logic dictated that Bush would more likely win.And that he was the lesser of two evils since how can one trust Kerry who changes his opinions all the time despite his pro-Israel record as a senator and a promise not to take sides.
    On the other hand based on the Rebbe's past statements about voting I felt that one can't vote for Bush since he pushed Israel to road-map while in office especialy after winning the war knowing about it a year in advance due to the Rebbe's prophecy mentioned to him.
    So I got a reply to publicize Kery will win and people should vote for him.
    In the hindsight this reply was clearly for my benifit since most Orthodox and Chabad Rabbis in particular endorsed Bush and seemed to be extreemly euphoric over Bush seemingly ignoring his presure to Israel to go ahead with the Road-Map.
    Besides that one could say that it was a negative prophecy since Kerry is worse than Bush overall on other issues that the Rebbe King Moshiach Shlit"a encouraged US Goverment to pursue school prayer, vouchers etc.

    If you read my post predicting that Kery will win.I don't say that the situation in Israel will improve because of Kery himself, it's implied there and I explained it to people that G-d would cause cause events to improve inspite of what he might want to do.So maybe one can say that the positive prophecy is what's going to happen in Ertz Yisroel and in the world based this year 5765 and the next one on Ishaiah 65-66 see but that it should happen with Kery being the US president would be a negative so it could be annulled.

    PS. According to the article about prophecy by Gil Student (quoting various rishonim and acharonim) however one can find even more excuses.

    brocha ve'hatzlocha
    Ariel Sokolovsky
    Long Live our Master our Teacher and our Rebbe King Moshiach Forever and Ever!

    By Blogger Rabbi Ariel Sokolovsky, at 12:40 AM  

  • By the grace of G-d
    Shalom ubrocha!
    Another quote about using holy books as a goral:
    scroll down to the word random highlighted in yellow

    brocha ve'hatzlocha

    Ariel Sokolovsky

    Long Live our Master our Teacher and our Rebbe King Moshiach Forever and Ever!

    By Blogger Rabbi Ariel Sokolovsky, at 4:25 AM  

  • Well, the "negative prophecy" answer at least takes the bull by the horns as it were. IOW, if a prophet predicts a disaster and it does not come to pass, it may be that the people did Tshuva and averted the catastrophe. G-d told us to warn us.

    To me, that does not seem the nature of this, that G-d was warning us of the disaster of a Kerry victory. Otherwise, you should have told us in these terms. If that were so, then prophecy would be useless, because everything has both positive and negative qualities, and you could always get an excuse from the "negative side", and no prophecy of the future would be reliable. That is my point. When you apologize for the failure of prophecy, you nullify the meaning of "truth" by redefining it.

    I think that the whole logic of disqualifying Bush for his "pressure" on Israel is wrong headed as well. In the case of the wall, for instance, he attacked Israel from the right, saying, terrorists cannot be walled, they must be destroyed. I think we need more pressure like that. If you think Kerry would have supported a more right wing solution on Israel, just look at his supporters, consider his leadership abilities and strength of his personal convictions on any subject, and "Dy l'maiven".

    As for the gedolim using goral to make decisions, you have come up with some good sources, proving that they did occasionally use these methods to make decisions. In my mind, this does not make it any better a method of making decisions, just one with a history. I still maintain that this method will amount to answers consistent with random results. Anecdotes and chasidic stories are hardly hard evidence for efficacy.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 7:16 AM  

  • Ariel

    I would rarely advise a Jewish person to read books about by a Christian evangelist, but you should read the "The Late Great Planet Earth" and its sequel (Sorry, forgot the name) by Hal Lindsay. It is his vision of how the "end of days" will play out, based on Chrisitan biblical prophecy. He wrote it in the 70s and the sequel in the early 80s and for all I know he wrote another when these did not come to pass.

    My point? Trying to apply vague prophecy to specific events is a slippery slope and the post facto apologetics make the matter meaningless. You will see how Hal evolves his "prophecies" and predictions based on the radical changes in current events between the two books.

    Whatever you would say to discredit Lindsay's wild statements (which were plausible at the time, but have since shown to be WRONG), I would say that you are vulnerable to the same argument.

    The same is true of magic medicine. Whatever you would say to disqualify faith healings, the Lourdes pool etc. in the non Jewish world, I would say that magic medicine is vulnerable to the same arguments.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 7:36 AM  

    We have seen, beyond a doubt, that the Rebbe, a true shepherd, continues to guide and direct in areas both large and small. In the four years since the Third of Tamuz, many people have written to the Rebbe. After "randomly" inserting the letter into one of the many volumes of the Rebbe's letters ("Igros Kodesh"), they have read the letters on that page and found their answer--often startlingly to the point.


    Kfar Chabad is a quiet village located near Tel Aviv, comprised of Lubavitcher chasidim. Stories of miracles of the Rebbe are not a new phenomenon to Kfar Chabad's residents. But recently a miracle took place there that not only deeply affected every resident of the Kfar, but made headlines all over Israel.

    Mrs. Shaindy Schechter, a lifelong resident of the Kfar, woke up one morning feeling ill. As the day wore on she became increasingly weak and had a severe headache. She visited her doctor who instructed her to check into the hospital. For three days she lay in the hospital, drifting in and out of consciousness. The doctors determined that she was suffering from a severe virus.

    When she finally regained consciousness, a doctor asked if she could see him. "If you turn on the lights, I'll be able to see you," she told him. But the lights were on; the virus had made her blind.

    The doctors explained to her that a virus was attacking the nerve that controlled her sight, and there was a possibility that she would remain blind permanently. They did not know of a cure.

    As she listened to the doctor's ominous prognosis, a voice screamed inside her head: "I will see! I will see!" She would not accept the condition.

    As the days went by, she began to see dark and light and some shadows; she had regained 25% of her vision. She was sent home as the doctors said there was nothing more they could do for her.

    When Shaindy got home, she and her husband composed a letter to the Rebbe for a blessing for her condition. They randomly opened one of the many volumes of Igros Kodesh.

    The letter that they had opened to contained the blessing, "and G-d will light up his eyes." After hearing these words, Shaindy felt strengthened. She was absolutely certain that she would see someday soon. She was confident that the Rebbe's blessing would be fulfilled, and each day she told her children that today could be the day.

    Shaindy exuded such confidence in the Rebbe's blessing that her husband bought a huge bottle of vodka in anticipation of the celebration they would hold with family and friends when her eyesight returned.

    In the Igros Kodesh it also said that one must make a vessel to receive G-d's blessing. So Shaindy visited a neurologist a number of times. The neurologist was not optimistic, but was not entirely discouraging either. Shaindy told the doctor of her blessing from the Rebbe and her belief in its fulfillment. The doctor refused to make any promises, but told Shaindy that she was welcome to continue hoping.

    Shaindy visited the doctor on Wednesday, May 6, and was told her vision might improve slowly, but it would take one to two years, perhaps longer. Even then, it might never fully return.

    The doctor's prognosis didn't upset Shaindy. When her husband inquired about the examination, she told him what the doctor had said, but added that it made no difference to her because she had the Rebbe's blessing.

    The following Friday afternoon there was a knock at the Schechter's door. Shaindy opened the door, and asked who it was. A woman responded, "It doesn't matter who I am. I just came to give you a dollar that the Rebbe gave to a friend for me when I was very ill. At the time, the doctors told me only a miracle could cure me. When the Rebbe gave the dollar, he said, 'For a miraculous recovery above nature.' I hope this dollar will help you."

    As the mysterious woman was about to leave, Shaindy asked her, "How can I return this to you if you don't tell me your name?" The woman replied that she would return to take it from her.

    Shaindy immediately gave charity as the Rebbe instructed people to redeem the dollars intended for charity in this manner. She recited Psalm 97, corresponding to the Rebbe's 97th year. She held the dollar to her heart then put it in her bedroom.

    On Shabbat morning Shaindy was sitting with her baby when suddenly she felt chills through her body. She looked up and saw the clock on the wall. It was 11:40 a.m. Perhaps she was having the same dream she had dreamt each night since her illness, that she could see again. Then she realized that she could see her baby in her arms.

    "I can see!" she cried and called her eldest daughter. At that moment she felt the Rebbe's presence very strongly. She felt extreme joy and she begged G-d "to open our eyes so we can see the Rebbe and to end this exile."

    Then Shaindy sent her daughter to shul to call her husband. Rabbi Schechter soon ran back to shul with the bottle of vodka they had purchased for this day. (Parts of Kfar Chabad are enclosed in a way that permits carrying on Shabbat.) As a crowd gathered, he told of his wife's miraculous cure. Soon people from all over Kfar Chabad had gathered to thank G-d for fulfilling the Rebbe's blessing. The women gathered in Shaindy's home to hear the story straight from her.

    At the close of Shabbat, reporters from the Israeli media converged on Kfar Chabad and Sunday's headlines told the story of how the Rebbe's blessing had restored Shaindy's eyesight.

    On Monday afternoon when the phone rang in the Schechter home, a woman's voice asked, "Shaindy, do you know who I am?"

    Shaindy recognized the voice as that of the woman who had brought her the Rebbe's dollar. The woman explained that she was sending a messenger to pick up the dollar. She was giving the messenger a "password" that Shaindy should ask for before handing over the dollar. When the messenger arrived she assured Shaindy that she herself did not know the identity of the woman but that she is "a simple woman like you and me."

    May we merit to achieve Shaindy's level of faith in the Rebbe and his prophecy that "The time of the Redemption has arrived" and "Behold, Moshiach is coming, and is already here."

    * * *

    Many might be inclined to brush off these episodes as mere chance or coincidence. As a professor of mathematics whose specialty is probability, Dr. Yaakov Reich is well qualified to discuss the statistical probability of thousands of people receiving answers in this manner.

    "Fundamentally, what is happening here is that you have thousands of people who are independently doing this 'experiment,' known in mathematics as independent trials. The probability in independent trials is multiplied each time an additional trial is performed. For instance, if the probability of my trial coming up with the desired response is 50%, and the probability of your trial coming up with the desired response is 50%, then the probability of both of us coming up with the desired response is 25%," explains Dr. Reich.

    "Thus, if all of the letters any one person could have gotten that relate to their particular question is compared to the total number of letters, this kind of probability is less than 5%, even less than 1%. But let's be very conservative and say that one could somehow relate every tenth letter to his or her question. If there are thousands of people writing letters to the Rebbe to ask for his guidance and blessings, and only 50% get answers, the probability on such a large scale is extremely remote. And, of course, much more than 50% of the people who write to the Rebbe receive answers in this manner. One simply cannot attest this to a matter of interpretation anymore. Also, as happens often, specific details of the question such as a date, place or name appear in the answer. This reduces the probability of a chance many times.

    "We constantly hear of answers to specific questions, as has happened in our family(4) in a most incredible way. These responses are not random and cannot be attributed to chance. One can only conclude that the Rebbe is truly here with us.

    "I would like to emphasize that the mathematical explanation given above, far from being a proof of the miraculous nature of the Rebbe's answers, is rather an illustration--for mathematics, though the most abstract field in science, is finite and limited and therefore in essence cannot prove G-d Who is unlimited and infinite."

    On a non-statistical note, Dr. Yaakov Reich comments, "Looking back through Jewish history, there were times when selected, righteous individuals were able to receive guidance by opening a Bible or other holy book. Now an amazing phenomenon is happening. The Rebbe is accessible to everyone, anywhere, anytime. And the Rebbe answers immediately." In today's day of immediate gratification, an immediate answer is especially appreciated.

    Dr. Reich concludes: "As the Rambam explains, the occurrence of myriad of miracles 'while the world continues to operate in the usual manner' is a fundamental innovation of the messianic era, where the miracles will be the domain of everyone, not just a select few. As the Rebbe said in 5752/1992, 'Especially in these days, the days of Moshiach in which we find ourselves, all that is necessary is that we open our eyes.'"

    Miracles and Mathematics

    Brocha veHatzlocha!
    Ariel Sokolovsky

    Long Live our Master our Teacher and our Rebbe King Moshiach Forever and Ever!

    By Blogger Rabbi Ariel Sokolovsky, at 2:33 AM  

  • B"H
    Shalom uBrocha!
    Another article mentioning the use of holy books for Goral to determine Halocha according to Rav Scheinberg it would be allowed in some cases but not in others, interesting...:
    Jason from Baltimore asked:

    I read that genetic testing was used to identify some of the people killed in the Tel Aviv Bus bombing. Does genetic testing have Halachic validity?


    Dear Jason,

    Genetic testing and its Halachic ramifications are presently the subject of much discussion in Medical Halacha journals and seminars. I'd like to try and clarify some of the issues involved.

    There are a number of cases where genetic testing could possibly be used to help determine identity, such as:

    A paternity case.
    A family who wants to bring a loved one to burial.
    A woman who wants permission to remarry.
    An inheritance dispute.
    Certainly a major concern in a case such as the horrible bus bombing is to determine who died. There is concern to verify that the person in question actually died and is brought to proper burial. A woman cannot remarry unless we have reliable evidence that her husband is in fact dead and issues of inheritance may also arise. Can we rely on the evidence provided by genetic testing to determine the Halacha in these cases?

    The present Halachic literature deals only with the topic of paternity cases. In the paternity cases the problem arises when the results of the genetic testing conflict with results of Halachic determinants prescribed by the Talmud. For instance, according to the Talmud the husband of the mother is assumed to be the father of the child. He bears the financial responsibility for him and determines his status within the Jewish Community (Kohen, Levy, etc.). What happens when the results of the genetic tests conflict with this determination?

    The available Halachic responsa rule that we must rely on the Talmudic means for determining identity and that we cannot rely on the results of genetic testing.

    I asked Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, specifically about permitting a woman to remarry solely on the basis of genetic testing and about using those tests to resolve disputes that may arise because of inheritance. He said that there is not any ground in Halacha that would permit us to do so.

    Perhaps one of the most interesting cases of using a non-Talmudic methodology for determining the identity of the dead took place at the close of the Israeli war of Independence. A group of 35 soldiers was sent to help bolster defense of the Gush Etzion Settlements, and all in the group were tragically killed. After the war the bodies were discovered in an unidentifiable condition. Through a mysterious process known as the "Goral HaGra" Rabbi Aryeh Levine zt"l identified each of the bodies, which were then all brought to proper burial. The "Goral HaGra" uses a particular format of the Chumash and involves the flipping back and forth of pages and then columns until eventually a particular verse is chosen. In each case the verse chosen clearly identified a fallen soldier with a particular body.

    When I asked Rav Scheinberg, shlita, about the use of "Goral HaGra" to permit a woman to remarry or to settle monetary disputes he said that it is not a Halachically acceptable determinant in these cases.

    This would indicate that non-Talmudic determinants are enough to satisfy the requirements of proper burial. Therefore, genetic testing would be an acceptable means of determining identity for the purpose of a proper burial.

    In conclusion, genetic testing has (at least presently) limited validity, and may not be used as the sole means for determining identity in all cases.

    Nishmat Avraham, by Dr. Abraham S. Abraham.
    Medical Ethics - Halacha Tape Series, by Rabbi Avraham Sauer (of Los Angeles), "Genetic Testing".

    Brocha veHatzlocha!
    Ariel Sokolovsky
    Long Live our Master our Teacher and our Rebbe King Moshiach Forever and Ever!

    By Blogger Rabbi Ariel Sokolovsky, at 7:49 AM  

  • The DNA issue is a different one altogether. I have no doubt that getting a random answer that one must then interpret subjectively, without any rules other than personal psychology would be as poor a way to rule on agunah as it is useless in other decision making. Better to just flip a coin and rely on hashgacha. DNA has the problem of hashkafa as well. The Mishna sages thought that the mother's seed was coagulated blood and the fathers was shite seed. Hence, all the red dark parts of the body, like blood, were from the mother and the white parts, like bones, teeth etc. were from the father. Obviously, we could not determine paternity from a blood test, if this were existential reality.

    The Rambam also rules that in halachic matters one cannot rely on dreams. If one dreams that his father tells him that there are tithe objects in a chest somewhere and gives specifics, even if he goes there and finds the chest with all the signs that he saw in the dream, the objects are still not considered tithe. The halachic determination must be made by real logical assumption, not on perceived prescience.

    As with all of these perceived prophetic methods, you perhaps can salvage them after the fact, but you cannot rely on them beforehand in matters that make a real difference, as every halachic source will contend. Perhaps some tzadik used it in a story here or there, but they simply have no general application.

    Ask anyone who invested in Gutnik diamond mines.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 10:57 AM  

  • By the grace of G-d
    Shalom uBrocha!
    According to Rabbeinu Bechaie on (Dvorim 33:8) :There are 4 levels of prophecy: Bat Kol, Urim veTumim, Ruach haKodesh and Nevua. I have to find the book and see there or find some other source to understand what is the differnce between the levels I heard various rabbis refer to Igros Koidesh as an equvalent of Urim veTumim
    One could argue that the answer one gets at "random" is by devine providence however the interpretation one makes depends on ones level of Ruach haKodesh (the way Rambam explains ruach Hakoidesh in Hilchos Yesodei haTorah Perek 7) or lack thereof.
    Prophecy can be used in determining halocha indirectly for example a proven prophet can state that this particular sage is the wisest and others should listen to him.
    Brocha veHatzlocha!
    Ariel Sokolovsky
    Yechi haMelech haMoshiach!

    By Blogger Rabbi Ariel Sokolovsky, at 10:46 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Rabbi Ariel Sokolovsky, at 10:51 AM  

  • Miracle anecdotes are not necessarily coincidences. They are perceptions of correlation, where that correlation may or may not exist. They are perceptions of fact that may or may not exist. That is why they are useless as evidence.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 11:47 AM  

  • Hey, great website, I don't know how I didn't come across it sooner. Please do stop by my jewish reference website and let me know what you think.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:41 PM  

  • 1. We are only allowed to pray to Hashem.

    If people want to pray to anyone else, and make requests of any being other than Hakadosh Baruch Hu, they might as well join Xtianity.

    2. When Moshe prayed, he prayed to Hashem. He did not pray to any Malachim or any celestial beings. These are all the creations of Hashem.

    (Similarly, the Neilah prayer for Yom Kippur in the Ashkenazi tradition, includes direct Tefillot and requests to Malachim. They are creations of Hashem. We are not allowed to pray to any Malachim. This is completely assur and causes very great damage. The Neilah Tefillah for Yom Kippur should be amended speedily to remove all prayers and requests to Malachim.)

    • There should be NO MEDIATOR between a person’s tefillot and Hashem.

    If a person chooses to use intercession instead of praying directly to Hashem, this is completely Assur.

    If the leaders of Chabad encouraged people to use the “Igrot” - including Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, tz”l - they were wrong. Using the Igrot is using intercession. It is assur and forbidden.

    People who are using the Igrot are using intercession, which is Assur. They should stop doing this straight away. Teshuvah to Hashem should be done speedily instead.

    3. Why not choose the very greatest of all prophets, Moshe Rabbeinu?

    Why don’t you look inside the Torah - instead of letters written to other people by Rabbi Schneerson tz”l during his lifetime?

    Moshe is the greatest of all prophets, and no other prophet was equal to him.

    “Zichru Torat Moshe Avdi” we are told in Malachi (3:22)

    There simply is no comparison between Moshe Rabbeinu and Rabbi Schneerson tz”l, although Rabbi Schneerson tz”l was a Tzaddik and a very righteous and good man.

    4. Moshe Rabbeinu was the greatest of all prophets, and we do not even pray in the name of Moshe. Neither do we pray in the name of David Hamelech, whose descendent is the Mashiach.

    However, in the very first Beracha of the Amidah, the silent prayer to Hashem containing our requests, we recall the merit of the Avot: “…..Elokei Avraham, Elokei Yitzhak Velokei Yaakov….” “….The G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzhak and the G-d of Yaakov…”

    The beracha is concluded with “Magen Avraham.”

    In summary:

    (1) We pray to Hashem – at all times.

    (2) There should be no mediator between Hashem and a person’s tefillot – otherwise this is Assur.

    Therefore the practice of using the “Igrot” for requests and guidance should be stopped. The reason for this is that this is using intercession. And the use of a “mediator” or someone to “intercede on a person’s behalf” to Hashem, is assur.

    Teshuvah must be done.

    (3) Why not choose the greatest of all prophets – Moshe Rabbeinu – and look inside the Torah?

    By Anonymous Deborah Shaya, at 8:06 PM  

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