by Joel Rich
Words to live by (kach mkublani mbeit avi abba)
Maimonides repeatedly emphasized that a bad composition is long on words an short on content. One should be more sparing of his speech than of his money; he should not augment speech and diminish subject matter. When Maimonides wants to denigrate the value of the few existing works on a given halakic subject, he affirms that they are simultaneously verbose and unedifying. His own ongoing stylistic revisions demonstrate his quest for the marriage of precision and substance.
Marc Shapiro recently had a post on the Seforim Blog which included the following, I am disappointed that this does not seem a topic of serious discussion at MO HQ:
“I have no doubt that many of the non-Orthodox admire the Modern Orthodox lifestyle, and would be willing to try it out, before learning the cost. Many non-Orthodox would also be happy to send their kids to Modern Orthodox schools, but they are not going to sacrifice a middle class lifestyle for this. Those who grow up Modern Orthodox and remain in the community are prepared to make the financial sacrifices (as well as limiting how many children they have). But for those who are not part of the community, the entry fee is simply too high. Needless to say, there are also those among the Modern Orthodox who drift away because of the financial cost, and this drifting often begin when the first child is enrolled in public school. As I see it, the financial burden is the great Achilles’ heel of Modern Orthodoxy, and what prevents it from any real growth. By the same token, those of us in the Modern Orthodox world must recognize that one of the great strengths of the haredi community is that there is room in it for everyone, from the wealthy real estate developer to the blue-collar worker. If, as so many predict, the future of American Orthodoxy is with the haredim, money (or lack of it) will play an important role in this story.”
- Jonathan Ziring -How the Notion of Chumra can Unite or Divide a Community: Rabbi Moshe Feinstein on Chalav Yisrael
Analysis of R’Moshe’s famous “threading the needle” Chalav Yisrael tshuva – how he creatively satisfied all his constituencies (I would have thrown in R’Amital’s famous baal nefesh definition – in the words of Bob Dylan – “it ain’t me (and likely ain’t you either) Babe”).
- Rabbi Ari Kahn -Moshe’s (Suicidal?) Depression
Why was Moshe Rabbeinu so distraught at the Kivrot Hataavah (graves of lust) incident? ?R’YBS’s famous drasha answer (found here http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/751363/Rabbi_Joseph_B_Soloveitchik/Behaalotcha_-_Leadership – he had me at “like a buzzing bee”) as well as other explanations explored.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Tzitzis 11-7
Tzitzit rules concerning situations where tzitzit holding tears get closer to the garment’s edge as well as the impact of additional material on garment edge in terms of placement of tzitzit.
- רב אשר וייס-פ׳ שלח – התכלת החדש
Why R’Asher doesn’t wear tcheilet but is cool with those who do.
- Rav Binyamin Zimmerman -Shemita’s Inner Message 2: The Need for Preparation for Shemita,
The question is not mah inyan shmitah etzel Har Sinai (why juxtapose the sabbatical year with the story of Mount Sinai) but man inyan Shabbat etzel Har Sinai because Shmitah is really about Shabbat Haaretz (resting of the land). Then a review of the meaning of the preparatory steps for Shmita – it’s all about our relationship with HKB”H!
- Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff -The Status of the Torah Civilization- A Charge to the Rabbis
Interesting Yerushalmi indicating the reason for destruction of the second Temple was the “love of money” (ok – my quote is from a source you might not like). Key is to teach with sweetness and infuse your life with Torah. Some thoughts on mussar and Chabad/chassidut plus the classic R’YBS “ger v’toshav anochi imachem” (we are citizens and strangers!).
- מחלקות הרמב”ם והרמב”ן #1, חשיבות העימות, מאת הרב מיכאל אדרעי
Series comparing Rambam and Ramban. Review of a number of their works. Rambam believed in truth from logic, Ramban more on gut feel (sechel vs. lev).
- Rabbi Azarya Berzon -The status of a creature created by man
Talmudic and sh”ut sources on status of a Golem as a human? Perhaps they qualify as a cheireish (mute)?
- Peter Singer-Practical Ethics—=Ethics and Rationality (14:29)
Why act ethically? Kant, selfishness and evolutionary forces examined. (IMHO not very convincing)
- Peter Singer-Practical Ethics—Ethics and Self-Interest (12:28)
Maybe it’s in our best interest to be ethical – we’ll be happier if we are, based on some happiness research.
- Peter Singer-Practical Ethics—Ethics and Moral Saints (14:22)
How close to moral sainthood do you have to aim for in your life? For those who don’t believe in a creator, how do they give meaning to life? Is it about feeling good? [IMHO there is no real answer provided)
- Peter Singer-Practical Ethics—Office Hours 5 (37:20)
1. How do utilitarians take into account impact of actions on future generations? (me – better answer would have been to ask an actuary).
2. How do true utilitarians explain favoring friends and family over anyone else? Answer similar to how to explain spending any free time with them rather than learning Torah.
3. Why should an ethical person have kids, given overpopulation, etc. To keep fundamentalists and unethical people from taking over the world.
4. What’s the ethics of having pets? They’re fine if they are Vegans!
Afterword – while I skipped some sections of this course, I found it interesting but did not get the answer I was looking for – how does a non-believer ground his ethics??? Why shouldn’t he just say “where’s mine?” when he becomes self-aware enough to know it’s all some kind of hard wiring or cultural stuff?
- Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Tzitzis 11-8
Tzitzit issues relating to excess strings, when should/can you cut strings plus tying instructions?
- Rabbi Chaim Twerski -Towards a Halachic Definition of Death
Some background on brain death and positions of various poskim (you’ve seen it all here before).
- Rabbi Yaakov B. Neuburger -שטרי הדיוטות
Close analysis (to be continued) of Talmudic sources (plus some sh”ut) on permitted readings (lists) on Shabbat (I wonder what percentage of Orthodox Jews are aware of these issues and Chazal’s presumed probability of error that led them to establishing this restriction).
- Rabbi Uri Orlian =Hefker Beis Din Hefker
Review of Nach and Talmudic sources on Hefker Beit Din (courts power to expropriate property). To which courts was this authority assigned, and under which circumstances does this authority apply? Is it simply power to take (and/or give) property or is it a redefinition of ownership? Mentions the Ran’s theory that it flows from dina d’malchuta plus some interesting historical self-censorship making it sound like it wasn’t applicable in some local/current place/time (so as to placate the governing authority).
- Rabbi Moshe Taragin -Blue Airplanesa>
How does Tzitzit remind us of the mitzvoth plus a reminder to keep a broader, eternal perspective.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Tzitzis 11-9 and 12-1
Continuation of string lengths (all 4 of them).
- Rabbi Dr. Richard Weiss -Fertility, IVF and What it Means to be a Parent
Introductory modern reproductive biology discussed, then on issues of halachic concerns (e.g. Yibbum) with pre-implant fertilized IVF eggs. Is there such a thing as ownership of fertilized eggs when a couple splits? How does acting with chesed inform on such situations?
- Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Tzitzis 12-2
Some more on knots and individual tzitzit string lengths. Preference for tzitzit strings to hang from side of garment, not bottom.
- Dr. Michah Goodman -The Collapse of Israel’s Secular-Religious Divide and the Emergence of a New Zionist Paradigm 6-1-14
Trends in secularism, Zionism and Jewish identity. Do radial secularists and radical believers present mirror images of each other? There is a hunger which religious Zionists can fill.
- מחלקות הרמב”ם והרמב”ן #2, תפישת העימות בעיני הרב קוק, והרב ארהן ליכטנשטיין, מאת הרב מיכאל אדרעי
Reflection on the expository styles of the Rambam and Ramban and their areas of focus – political and philosophical.
- Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff -Lecture in Honor of the Reprinting of the Biographies of Rabbi Silver and Dr. Revel
History of R’E Silver and his family. Importance of speaking to a generation in their terms, plus importance of YU Israel.
- הרב מיכאל אדרעי מחלקות הרמב”ם והרמב”ן #3, חכמה אנושית ותורה – עקרונות בפרשנות התורה שבכתב-
How did the Rambam and Ramban view the relationship between human intellect and the Torah? Are they separate or integrated?
- Rav Asher Weiss-Circumventing Mitzvot (5774)
Tzitzit are required only if we wear a four cornered garment, yet there’s an issue if we don’t wear them. Are there parallels to not learning Torah when we can, going traveling away from a sukkah on sukkot and toveiling keilim with solid state electronics? Perhaps we can differentiate mitzvoth from matirim (i.e. toveil is a matter to allow use of kli). Might we differentiate between passive and active situations? How much effort must one go to in order to fulfill a positive commandment?
- Rabbi Shay Schachter -Relationship Between Beis Hamikdash and Beis Haknesses
Discussion of the “holiness” status of the makom hamikdash (temple mount) when the temple is no longer standing. What is the nature of the holiness of a shul? R’YBS of HKB”H visiting our house (shul) vs. as visiting his (mikdash), similarly Shabbat vs. Yom Tov.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Tzitzis 12-3
More on Tzitzit strings – defining “kdei anivah” with regard to proper length and torn strings.
- Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Parsha Shiur – Shelach 5774
The usual potpouriii including:
- Mraglim (spies) – why were they sent? Where did they go wrong?
- Yehoshua’s modesty – what was Moshe’s concern?
- Why were mraglim the source of the count for minyan (perhaps because they were the only ones of their generation who had been in Israel?)
- Mitzvot that changed over time
- The function of a conversion court (representing HKB”H or the people)
- Re-establishing smicha
R’YBS on re-establishing mesorah (e.g. Tcheilet)
- Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb-Relativism Multi Culturalism
Can there be right and wrong?
- Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Tzitzis 13-1
If tzitzit is pasul, then can’t wear outside on Shabbat because you are makpid.
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