by Joel Rich
I recently heard from a well-respected talmid chacham that in Lita when the Maariv minyan was before tzeit but after shkia and there was no later Maariv minyan available except for one in the later hours of the night, it was the practice of well-respected talmidei chachamim to say only shmoneh esrai with the earlier Maariv minyan (to get tefila btzibbur). They would recite kriat shma later with brachot byechidut (no minyan) before eating dinner (but after tzeit). Is anyone aware of this practice as a general psak? Is it only for certain individuals?
This is my comment to a post discussing the impact of the perceived rightward drift in Modern Orthodox girls’ shidduch desires:
As one who is way out of the parsha (kids married, grandkids not old enough), I’d say the market will clear itself over time and there is nothing wrong with being machshiv learning as a goal. If the couple can afford lifetime learning for the husband and think that’s a goal, I would disagree because I really do believe that the Modern Orthodox should see the value in all of HKB”H’s creation. If they see working and learning night seder instead of watching the good wife, it’s hard to argue that the good wife (other than one’s own) takes precedence. If the Modern Orthodox can’t get its act together to get enough institutions and teachers (and let’s be frank, parents) who live the vida dialectic in a real way that attracts their kids, then we get what we deserve.
- Benjamin Bratton – New perspectives – what’s wrong with TED talks?
[Me – TED talks are like most seminars – you have to listen to hours and maybe if you’re lucky you’ll get one nugget of insight]
Problems with TED include:
1) Everything is oversimplified
2) Speeches whose goal is to provide an epiphany and personal testimony are a placebo for complex problems
3) Technology doesn’t address the human element
In the end, it’s a liberal feel-good fest.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich – Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 325-7
This shiur covers things done by a non-ben-brit specifically for himself, specifically for a Jew, and things in between. Discussion of examples and exceptions to the rules.
- Rav Asher Weiss-Beshalach
Discusses the well-known difference of opinion between the Beit HaLevi (BH) and Chazon Ish (CI) on the nature of shomeiah k’oneh (hearing is like saying). Does it mean that (BH) the saying person was the listener’s agent or is it as if (CI) the listener himself had actually said it? (An example of a difference in application is if something must be said in one breath). R. Weiss understands it as hearing and saying are intertwined in creation. Perhaps this is what CI meant and why R. Moshe Feinstein & CI might allow a telephone havdalah (because it’s real time and “totally similar” to the speaker’s voice). [Lulai dmistifina I’d explain that the voice and hearing are propagated sound wave transmissions which communicate brain to brain and thus artificial assistance isn’t problematic – e.g. prosthetic larynx, false teeth, hearing aid.] Money quote – R. David Lifshitz quoting R. Shimon Shkop – “Sometimes a new svara is like a new suit – you have to wear it for a while to get used to it!”
- Rabbi Daniel Cooper – Proofs for G-d’s Existence
What level of proof do you need for HKB”H’s existence? Presents the whirlwind going through a junkyard and resulting in a 747 argument (i.e. chaos to order is not explainable through natural explanations). Then the Mark Twain argument (Jews continued existence is proof enough) updated for Shivat Tzion (return to Zion).
- Rabbi Avishai David – How to be a Ben Torah in the Workplace
R. David is right in that work issues are complex and not susceptible to hard and fast rules. The guest speaker if I understand correctly used a 7-week internship as the source of his expertise on the workplace. Important advice from R. Ahron Soloveitchik, similar to R. Yosef Dov Soloveichik, on being both a ger and a toshav (stranger and citizen) – be normal and engage in fellowship (friendship).
Is shaking hands when initiated by a women really a “big kulah (leniency)”?
Is it not “ideal” to work in an office with women?
In my humble opinion, this area is a great example of what R. Ezra Schwartz (in his war series) stressed about needing to understand and have a feel for the culture (in this case the workplace) in order to give a proper psak.
- Prof Tamar Gendler,-phil 181: Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature–Lecture 5 – The Well-Ordered Soul: Happiness and Harmony
Some laws are descriptive, such as a vehicular speed limit, and some are prescriptive, such as the speed of light.
Aristotle discusses how to turn one’s current state into what it ought to be. One might act as if what ought to be actually is! [i.e. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy]. We often act on conditional associated responses, so in order to change habits you can either break the old (habit) or reinforce the new (e.g. lock the fridge or have everyone clap when you lose a pound) or both.
- Rabbi Moshe Taragin – Sunday Night Mussar @ the Gush : B’shalach
Wide ranging mussar to the students in the Gush yeshiva. Follow Moshe Rabbeinu’s example of taking responsibility to do what needs to be done. Don’t confuse being busy with having meaning in your life. Do chesed with a smile and get married before you leave (physically or intellectually) the environs of a supportive Jewish community. You have to accept that there are chukim which you won’t understand!
- Rabbi Efrem Goldberg – 10 Mins. of She’arim B’Tefilla: Calling Out to God By Name
Using HKB”H’s name in prayer allows us to connect with a close and unique relationship (like calling out Abba) and the higher likelihood of a positive response. (me – Is it because thinking about the relationship changes us?)./li>
- Rabbi Ephraim Kanarfogel – Davening for Personal Needs on Shabbos
Understanding the scope of the prohibition on personal requests in Shabbat prayer. Does it apply only to individual requests? How do we understand the practice of saying misheberachs on Shabbat for those not in mortal danger? [maybe “melizog ” says it’s not a forbidden zaakah (crying out) and saying “btoch shaar cholei” makes it not an individual request]. [Me – and maybe the rank and file need an outlet for their emotions?]
- Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg – Bruriah and Talmud Personalities
How do we reconcile the negative story brought in Rashi (about how R’ Meir tested Bruriah’s willpower and she failed) with other positive stories in the Talmud itself which show her learning and strength of character?
Includes some long distance psycho analysis of the parties and their marriage. Perhaps some of the interpretations are based on projection (but then again, isn’t that what homiletics is really about?).+
- Prof Tamar Gendler,-phil 181: Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature–Lecture 8 – Flourishing and Detachment
“Stoic” detachment as a way to deal with the vicissitudes of life. The Stoic view is that there is order and meaning in the universe, so “deal with it” [my summary – “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” or “make his will your will”]. Serenity prayer is based on this. Then a inspirational story of Admiral Stockdale in the Hanoi Hilton.
- Prof Tamar Gendler,-phil 181: Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature–Lecture 9 – Virtue and Habit I
Plato – Justice as both an intrinsic (in and of itself) and instrumental (to an ends) good. Just as physical health is both an intrinsic and instrumental good, so is spiritual health. It is a higher order pleasure, and it’s better to contemplate spiritual values than more mundane earthly ones. This comports with recent studies on the greater satisfaction being attained in the process of achieving the goal than the achievement of the goal itself. Also, you are on a hedonistic treadmill if “toys” in olam hazeh is your goal (increasingly great material accomplishments are needed over time to keep the same happiness level). [Me – isn’t that part of the definition of an addiction?] Introduction to Aristotle – focus on being the best we can be, for humans that means elevating reason.
- Rabbi David Hirsch -Misaseik
Technical discussion of mitaseik (actions done without conscience awareness) in regards to Shabbat and other Torah prohibitions. Then some discussion of Brit Milah.
- Rabbi Ephraim Kanarfogel -The Requirement to Honor Grandparents
Key issue – is the relative silence of the Gemara concerning the mitzvah of respect for grandparents indicative of it being an obvious requirement or is it not at a mitzvah? Why did the Gemara say “et” is to include an older brother instead of using it to include grandparents? (Me – perhaps they had a mesorah?)
- Rabbi Nosson Rich – Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 325-8
Continuation of usage of specific items brought to you by a non-ben-brit on Shabbat. The rules will depend on which items and from what type of areas it was brought through. Then on to use of water heated before Shabbat.
- Rabbi Eli Belizon – Pidyon Haben and its Effects on Stock Orders on Shabbos
Begins with a general discussion of the timing of Pidyon Haben and then moves to whether you could have a Pidyon on Shabbat with the funds transfer being before Shabbat to be effective on Shabbat. Is the money paid to the Cohen like any other debt or is it something different? Then on to applications for other transactions (e.g. market pre-Shabbat entered transactions which will be completed on Shabbat).
- Rabbi Nosson Rich – Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 326-2
Rules for warm and hot water on Shabbat – usage for bathing and in general.
- Rav Nissan Kaplan-Bitachon
Bitachon (trust) must be in HKB”H and not in others (i.e. you must have bitachon directly in HKB”H, not because you saw someone else whose bitachon was rewarded).
If you have real bitachon, you wouldn’t need hishtadlut (effort), and the best time to work on it is in Yeshiva, before real life sets in [me – my teeth firmly planted in my tongue].
- Rabbi Yonason Sacks – Hiddur Mitzvah
Is hiddur (beautifying) mitzvah a Torah or Rabbinic requirement? What is the scope of hiddur mitzvah? We see it in objects (e.g. a beautiful Sukkah) and in actions (e.g. we eat Matzah heartily) and by doing mitzvot yourself vs. having an agent do them. These actions change you!
Is doing mitzvot in a way that takes into account all opinions appropriate? Yes, but you need a rebbi to tell you which opinions “count”.
To succeed in learning you must be passionate about it, make your best effort, and pray a lot.
- Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Success in Learning
Success in learning isn’t just brilliant novel insights but knowing simple meaning of Tanach, Mishnayot and Talmud. It’s important to know what the actual halacha is! The Steipler told R. Schachter that brachot don’t help for learning; only learning does!
Same quote as R’Sacks above, remember it’s a lifelong effort which requires fear of HKB”H (which gives you and any poseik the “right” answer and good ethical attributes.
- Prof Tamar Gendler,-phil 181: Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature–Lecture 10 – Virtue and Habit I
Aristotle – Doing moral/ethical actions themselves is not enough – they must be l’shma (for the right reason), tocho k’boro (internalized) and enjoyable. He felt you must be what we now call “in the flow” or have internal harmony.
Some current thinking is that your reaction to a situation is more a function of the specifics of the situation rather than your ethical character.
- Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky – Resting and Refraining from Work on Shabbos
Part of a series on defining mikraei kodesh. Here the focus is on the performance of Shabbat mitzvot (and avoiding prohibitions) with specific “Shabbos” intent. R. Yosef Dov Soloveitchik saw the halacha of women’s chiyuv in kiddush as evidence of this entanglement of shamor/zachor and the positive and negative commandments.
- Rabbi Shay Schachter – Kiddush Levanah Before Havdalah
Introduction to the rule of tadir v’sheino tadir (the more frequent obligation comes first) and whether it’s a straight count or what seems more frequent to us (e.g. L’David in Elul vs. Barchi Nafshi on Rosh Chodesh).
So why do we do Kiddush Levana before Havdalah if Kiddush Levana is more frequent? Possible reasons include: (i) better to have rov am (large gathering) for Kiddush Levana; (ii) Kiddush Levana presents itself first (as you leave shul); (iii) we prefer to push off ending Shabbat; (iv) it might get cloudy later
- Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 326-3
Putting a utensil with heated water on your stomach – there’s concern for this during the week and also specific to Shabbat.
When washing in the river on Shabbat (we’ve generally accepted not to do this any longer) – what must you do afterwards to avoid carrying concerns and why don’t we have the same concerns when you walk in the rain? What about for mikveh use?
- Rabbi Jesse Horn – Gemara Methodology: Maaseh / Totzah
Looking at examples of mitzvot that could be categorized as focusing either on process or results.
- Prof Tamar Gendler,-phil 181: Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature–Lecture 11 – Weakness of the Will and Procrastination
Obviously our character contributes to our actions (it’s not just the situation).
Detailed discussion of self-regulation and Systems 1 and 2 (rational vs. emotional) effects. Our deep discounting of future rewards compared to present ones (me – I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today) is emotional (me – behavioral economics).
We can deal with this irrationality by either imposing external constraints (e.g., lock up your cell phone on Shabbat), reducing the utility (e.g., buy less tasty dessert) of the reward, or by establishing personal principles with no exceptions.
- Rabbi Moshe D. Tendler – Contraception Issues in Halacha
A 1980 lecture – Depo Provera had just been approved and IVF was in its infancy (pardon the pun). While a bit dated, many of the biology and halachic insights still apply. Of particular interest was a study supporting having a caregiver go with you to the hospital (better results of hospitalization), even on Shabbat.
- Prof Tamar Gendler,-phil 181: Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature–Lecture 12 – Utilitarianism and its Critiques
Moral philosophy seeks systemic answers to: 1) why should one be moral? 2) what one should do to be moral? 3) why did we pick those specific things to do?
One set of answers for Question 1 is that it’s in our self-interest, either because things will run more smoothly for us/society or to avoid punishment or because we’ll get good stuff (me – olam haba).
Another set of answers is “kacha” (because) – it’s just the way it is, either for evolutionary or “whatever” reasons.
Altruism also provides a possible explanation.
Four general approaches to moral philosophy: 1) consequentialist (here we’ll look at a utilitarian version of Mill) focuses on result of act; 2) deontological (here we’ll look at Kantian version) focuses on the act itself (do the right thing); 3) virtue based (Aristotle version) focuses on the actor; 4) because I’m G-D and I said so.
This lecture focuses on measuring utility and how people react in real life.
- Rabbi Reuven Brand – The 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address
What is the Torah’s view on slavery – is it a matter of choice, preferred, or barely tolerated? Quotes a number of opinions more congruent with current thinking.
One important haarah to the speaker, actuaries can be very creative, artistic extroverts (I do stare at your shoes rather than my own!).
- Rabbi Yaakov B. Neuburger – End of Life Issues: A Halachik Perspective
R. Neuberger prefers the Agudah advanced directive with a side letter rather than the RCA version (this yields greater flexibility). Discussion of a number of end of life issues including what treatments must be given and what can be withheld. R. Hershel Schachter leans towards individual autonomy in decision making.
Interesting quote from R. Shlomo Zalman Aurbach on pain being an atonement (me – don’t we generally reject this for women in childbirth?).
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