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June 24, 1988 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-06-24

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Tetragrammaton Responsum: A Codified Enrichment


Editor Emeritus


n the cultural and spiritual
treasures of our people, there
are codes that provide definitions
for the practices and procedures that
guide our lives.
They are the accumulating "respon-
sa," the simple reference to acquiring
knowledge and to an understanding
that leads to commitment.
"Responsa" are directions toward
the definitive in analyzing our codes of
law. They are the Hebrew she'elot
u'teshuvot — questions and answers.
Many of our senior citizens will
recall that in the shtetl they were often
spoken of in a Yiddishized form as
shayles un tshuves. A literary an-
thology, with distinguished scholars
and revered rabbis as contributors and
codifiers, accumulated through the cen-
turies under the collective title of
responsa is an exchange of questions
and answers and commences in the
Talmud. Inquiries are usually on
halachic matters.
A lengthy and extensively infor-
mative essay on Responsa and deci-
sions, in Universal Jewish En-
cyclopedia, commences with these in-
structive guidelines:
The major part of Jewish
law is contained in codes and
compendiums, and in books of
responsa, which are the
answers by rabbis to queries o
n points in the law.
These responsa often con-
tain answers to questions in
philosophy, ethics, history and
chronology. As Jewish law
covers almost all of human ac-
tions, these responsa are
valuable sources for a
knowledge of the social,
economic and political condi-
tions of the Jews in various
countries. The Jews of the Mid-

dle Ages did not write many
histories, and therefore these
responsa are often the only
record of the history of the Jews
in some community, their rela-
tions to the non-Jews, their
sects, education, social life and
We are privileged to be able to share
with our readers and the Jewish com-
munities a valuable responsum on the
Tetragramatton and resort to the term
and its published form in the original
Hebrew mentioning the Almighty. This
responsum was prepared for us by Rab-
bi Zebulun Charlop, dean of the Rabbi
Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary,
affiliated with Yeshiva University. I am
indebted to Dr. Norman Lamm, presi-
dent of Yeshiva University, for having
entrusted the scholarly task to Rabbi
Charlop for this notable contribution to
A Detroit Jewish experience must
be recalled in publishing the Charlop
necessitated my writing the following
to Dr. Lamm with the request for a
responsum on the subject:

I turn to you for an
authoritative opinion on an oc-
currence here.
Nine years ago I used an il-
lustration for The Jewish News
Shavuot front page that includ-
ed in the original the term for
HaShem. It is something I have
been doing all my life when
quoting Scriptures and prayers.
The occurrence that inspires
this resort to your scholarship
was occasioned by my Tetra-
grammaton. Either on that
Shavuot or the Sabbath after it,
a prominent Orthodox rabbi, in
his sermon in a Young Israel
synagogue, criticized my front
page illustration and accused
me of breaking a strictly Jewish

religious legalism with the use
of the HaShem in a newspaper
that he apparently concluded
led to uncleanliness, or
something of the sort. He then
called upon all who have that
copy of The Detroit Jewish
News to burn it as ritualistical-
ly unclean.
A Detroit News reporter was
in the synagogue at the time and
the next day there was a front
page story in his newspaper
about the rabbi who called for

r . i:rtzy4 nail,

Questions and answers.

the burning of the community's
Jewish newspaper.
Thereupon a campaign of
villification was conducted and
I must have received more than
100 letters with threats and con-
demnations. Only one very pro-
minent Orthodox rabbi refuted
the charge, and came to my
defense in a dispute in which I
did not remain totally silent.
It's a pity that the Detroit
News article disappeared from
my Tetragrammaton file. But the
enclosed copy of a letter I
received from the Council of Or-
thodox Rabbis is explanatory.
The reason for recalling the
1979 experience is the enclosed
clipping of my column on Page
2 of the May 13 issue of our
paper. Here, again, I included
the first portion of a Psalm (121)
with the Tetragrammaton.
Again, calls with villifications.
Apparently those who were in
the Young Israel synagogue
nine years ago remember.
It is not the dispute affecting
me personally and my

newspaper that matters here in
any degree. In the few years I
have to my record as a Jewish
newspaperman I have been
tested many times. What con-
cerns is whether the interpreta-
tion given to my actions is ge-
nuinely and truly Jewish in
spirit. This was not fully con-
doned nine years ago. I believe
it will arouse as much resent-
ment if publicized now as it did
in 1979. What I would like to
have established is whether
Jewish law would demand bur-
ning of anything printed that
refers to the HaShem. I could
point to a variety of printed ex-
amples if this is truly halachic.
I am anxious for the affirma-
tion or refutation of the idea in
the accusation that happened to
be leveled at me. I need a
response from you. Then we
shall judge whether it is
something to be adhered to as a
basic principle in our duties as
I am turning to you for an
answer and because I respect
you and your views as most
knowledgeable and

The following is the letter from Rab-
bi Leizer Levin referred to in my ex-
planatory message. it was dated May 7,
We bring to your attention a
matter of grave concern to the
sanctity of our religion, about
which there is some
It is a rule that the name of
the A-mighty may not be erased
or placed in a place where it is
subject to undignified destruc-
tion. It is because of this that
when the name of G-d is written,
it is only abbreviated.
Continued on Page 38

Tisha B'Av Clarified in UAHC Adventure Quiz


Reform Jewish publishing pro-
ject continues to provide com-
mendable learning material
encouraging study of history. The "Do
It Yourself Jewish Adventure Series" of
the Union of American Hebrew Con-
gregations continues to earn endorse-
ment from educational media of all
Jewish factions.
"The Tenth of Av" is the latest in
the series and is valuable in its explana-
tion and the texts about historical oc-
currences in the year 70.
The first question that immediate-
ly arises, since the events dealt with are
about Tisha B'Av, which is the Ninth of
Av, is about the title of the book. On
that score there is this important ex-
planation by Kenneth Roseman who
authored the book and provided the
The Second Temple in
Jerusalem was destroyed by the
conquering Romans on Av 10 in


FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 1988

the year 70. Later tradition set
back the date to Av 9 because
the Talmud speaks of Av 9 as a
day "disasters recurred again
and again to the Jewish people?'
Thus, Av 9, Tisha B'Av, has come
to be a day of mourning.

History is supplemented in the facts
provided in this 128-page book. The
reader is informed about Yochanan ben
Zakkai, who escaped from Jerusalem
while the Holy City was burning, and
established the Jewish Academy for
Learning in Yavne, an act credited with
having rescued and perpetuated
Judaism in defiance of Roman aims to
destroy Jews as well as Judaism. Then
the questions begin and the young stu-
dent is given the opportunity to write
his or her own history.
The questions deal with the issues
that evolved, the testing of the student,
how he or she would act in time of need,

would he or she remain in Jerusalem
and fight the Romans or would he or
she emulate Yochanan and establish a
Jewish academy.
Every conceivable question relating
to the challenges of that time, and ap-
plicable to tests of history, are includ-
ed here.
There are even questions whether
the person under the tests of time would
abandon the Jewish faith.
Every conceivable challenge is in-
troduced while the student under the
guidance of this book learns history as
outlined in question forms.
This is how "The Tenth of Av"
emerges as a notable history text. The
UAHC publications department has
earned gratitude for providing such ex-
cellent material for our schools and
With Tisha B'Av due to be observ-
ed on July 24, publication of "The 'Tenth
of Av" lest is appropriately timed.

Despite His Jeremiad,
Prophet Bought Land
In Holy Jerusalem

UAHC publications include many
intended for the younger readers. Bible
stories have served a special purpose in
books produced for the classroom to be
shared with the home.
Publication of the third volume of
revised editions of "Bible Stories for Lit-
tle Children" merits special recogni-
tion. Betty R. Hollander, who narrates
these stories, has devoted 30 years to
this task.
It is the simplicity of her style that
is note worthy. In this newly-revised
65-page paper back are included Elijah,
Jeremiah, King David, the Prophet
Samuel and many others. The events in
which they were involved are related
Continued on Page 38

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