The second issue of Dialogue (Winter 5772) was published:
- When Tzedek Isn’t: The Conservative Movement Finds a Cause by R. Avi Shafran (link – R. Shafran confusingly offers multiple critiques of Magen Tzedek but I believe his main point is that this enterprise emerges from a secular rather than religious impulse. I suspect he is correct but don’t find any of his specific arguments convincing. For example, Magen Tzedek presumably currently only certifies food company because Jews have a long tradition of buying food based on religious concerns. And they do not certify traditional kashrus or government regulations because there is no point to duplicating what others already do well. The idea of Magen Tzedek is worthy, if done properly, but I find suspicious the Conservative Movement’s championing of this rather than traditional ritual.
- Is Metzitza bePeh Dangerous? by Dr. Daniel S. Berman – I am not qualified to evaluate this article but, as a layman, I’m not convinced that there is no conclusive evidence of Herpes transmission through metzitzah be-feh. Dr. Berman seems to merely dismiss any evidence that fails to meet the DNA standard or about which he raises other questions. Questions are not disproofs. This is especially so since he admits that the NYC case in 2003 lacked DNA proof because the mohel refused to provide DNA under the city’s terms (under what terms would he have agreed?). On the only issue on which I am qualified to opine, Dr. Berman is in error. I refer to his description of probability and statistics on page 22, which is a common misunderstanding. However, his point that the danger is minimal seems accurate, to this layman. Again, I’m just a layman and would appreciate the evaluation of a medical professional.
- Experience, Heredity and Yaakov Avinu’s Sheep by Yoram Bogacz – A defense of Rashi’s commentary to Gen. 30:38 and critique of overreliance on science. Lamarckism, the “idea that an organism can pass on characteristics that it acquired during its lifetime to its offspring,” fell out of favor for many decades but was recently revived. This example of the shifting sands of science is intended as a cautionary note.
- “Before We Call Out to You, Answer Us”: The Essence of Prayer by R. Menachem Zupnik – A lomdishe vort on the nature of prayer and its application to explain the passage under question. Very nicely done.
- While the Kohanim Chant by R. Eliyahu Wolf – An historical study of the prayer recited during the third, final passage of Birkas Kohanim, the Priestly Benediction. R. Wolf shows that the practice is to recite the same prayer (“Ribbono Shel Olam“) as for the prior two times and how the “Yehi Ratzon” came to be introduced by R. Nosson Nota Hanover’s Sha’arei Tziyon and R. Wolf Heidenheim’s siddurim and machzorim.
- Reb Zeeshe the Sandlor by B.D. Da’ehu – A fictional story of the true repentance of a wealthy man by adopting a life of simple poverty.
- Letters to the Editor – 1) A request for a halakhic treatment of women in the rabbinate, which the editors say is in the works. 2) Challenges to R. Moshe Meiselman who responds that allegorizing the Bible is complex and that he rejects the Maharal’s approach. 3) A little back-and-forth about R. Broyde’s article, including the refusal to publish R. Broyde’s full response. 4) Brief discussion of the Tiferes Yisrael‘s approach to righteous gentiles.