by Joel Rich
The Minchat Chinuch discusses from time to time whether a mitzvah is applicable to Bnai Noach or not. If it is not one of the classic seven, might it be subsumed under dinim (laws)? If not, where is its force grounded? Does the Bnai Noach king have unlimited power to make his own law as long as it doesn’t contradict the seven? Who would be eligible to be on a Bnai Noach court and how much interpretive independence would they have?
Rashi (Bamidbar 27:13) states that the Torah’s continual pointing to Moshe’s and Aaron’s punishment (an earlier demise) for not being mkadish sheim shamayim (sanctifying HKB”H’s name) was at Moshe’s request so that no one think they were punished for not being believers but rather the lack of Kiddush hashem was their only sin. Rashi compares it to ( see Yoma 86b ) two sinners being lashed, one for adultery and one for eating unripened shivit fruits.[the exact nature of the sins and lashes is subject to debate]
Two questions: (1) How does this analogy (or the statement of sin) ensure that repetition would communicate that this was their only sin? (2) If the punishment for two sins is equal, why is one considered worse?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Ten Minute Halacha – Covers for Tefillin Shel Yad and Kisuyad
Do you need to use the newfangled tfillin shel yad (arm) protectors? Probably not, but it can’t hurt. New chumrah I never heard before—take off your oldfangled tfillin cover for making the bracha on your tfillin shel yad. (Me – is this common in your community?)
- Rabbi Jonathan Ziring-Jews and Disaster Relief – What is Our Responsibility?
Is the national duty of chesed to non bnai brit simply the sum total of the citizen’s responsibilities? (Me – sounds the classis poli-sci question.) What is the individual chesed responsibility? Is there a national responsibility of Lo Taamod (don’t stand idly by) nation to nation? Is the responsibility a reflection of imitato dei (ma hu af atah)? How do we allocate resources to chesed? (My ongoing search for the algorithm!) Had me thinking of social psychology research that shows we use our rational faculties to support what our gut already decided.
- Shmuel Reichman-Medical Halacha Chabura-12: Triage: As a 3rd Party- Choosing Who to Save (Part 4)
Mostly a focus on third-party triage—primarily trading off of chayei olam (longer life) for chayei shaa (short-term survival).
- Rabbi Ari Yablok-Galus or Geulah – Which is better?
Life in this world is about effort not necessarily about results. The world to come is a destination, not a goal.
- Rabbi Yitzchak Blau-How Does A Covenant of Ancestors Obligate Descendants?
How can a covenant bind participants not yet born? Does a covenant have to have a quid pro quo? (e.g., we pledge allegiance and get Eretz Yisrael). Maybe it’s about collective identity and maybe that’s the point of the medrash of all our souls being at Har Sinai. [Me – whatever philosophical approach you take, we’re still all bound for glory if we keep our part.]
- Rav Nissan Kaplan-Techeiles
R’Kaplan discusses the history and science of the tcheilet debate (pro & con). If you are convinced, you probably should wear them! He explains why he’s not convinced. (Me – would be an interesting discussion of what level of historical proof one could ever be totally convincing.)
- Rabbi Yehuda Gilad-Contemporary Moral Struggles In Light of Akeidat Yitzhak
Avarham historically had both rational and moral emunah. HKB”H tested him one time only, at the akeidah, to be sure it wasn’t a humanist emunah. We must obey even though we can argue.
- Rabbi Mordechai I. Willig-Halachos of Kiddush
Quick summary of Shabbat Kiddush rules including: who, what, how much, when . . . There are multiple minhagim on a number of issues!
- Rabbi Larry Rothwachs-Who Says Bilaam was So Bad?
Understanding the difference between Bilaam vs. Yossi Ben Kisma as well as Avraham vs. Bilaam.
- Rabbi Baruch Simon-Hilchos Milah (29): Wearing Tefilin During the Bris Milah
Does wearing tfillin (or not) during a brit have to do with the brit being in a Beit Knesset, needing another ot, or kedusha sometimes having keter in it?
- Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky–Matana al-M’nas L’Hachzir — Part 1
Shiur is mislabeled – Deals with practical psak on Shabbat use of solid or liquid soap as well as hand sanitizers and toothpaste.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Yom Tov 506-2
Yom tov baking rules concerning dough jointly owned with a non ben brit as well as baking bread of lesser quality versus bread of higher quality on Yom Tov.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Yom Tov 506-5
Discussion of the legality of using an oven for the first time on Yom Tov. Follows on with issues regarding muktzeh status of fallen tree branches on Yom Tov.
- Rabbi Shay Schachter-The Life and Times of the Vilna Gaon
Intellectual biography of the Vilna Gaon and why he was sui generis.
Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Shiur Pesicha – Is a Sevara D’oraysa?
The Talmud has several examples of Torah laws which are generated by sevara (logic). Is this an absolute rule (logical derivation=torah law status)or is some logic more equal than others (i.e.,certain results won’t be given Torah law state)?
- Rabbi Gil Perl-Netziv: Forefather of Contemporary Hareidi Ideology
The Netziv was a great lover of Zion. He also wrote about how Torah learning protects the nation.
- Rabbi Jonathan Ziring -קירה על מנהגים 2
Can minhag override halacha? Certainly it can in commercial transactions as parties generally can agree to mutually accepted conditions. In other areas common practice may testify to what early authorities had accepted as halachic result, even if we don’t understand why this result was accepted.
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Ten Minute Halacha – Eating Meat in the Nine Days at a Woman’s Siyum
Starts with a general discussion of women’s learning status as it impacts their chiyuv (requirement) in any learning mitzvoth. If yediat hatorah (knowledge of Torah) on a collective basis is siyumable, then a woman’s siyum should be as well.
- Rabbi Francis Nataf -Explorations in the Political Thought of the Netziv
The Netziv’s writings on natural governance (he was open to some flexibility) and interfaith relations (Esav might not always hate Jacob) shows he may have been somewhat open to new ideas (enlightenment); of course filtered through the traditional Torah lens.
- Rabbi Eli Gersten -Kashrut in the Workplace
Discussion of all the usual suspects: microwaves, toaster ovens, hot water, plain water, coffee makers, refrigerators, and going into non kosher establishments (the key is to look different!) Starbuck’s issues thrown in for free!
- Rabbi Reuven Brand -The Three Weeks: Contemporary Perspectives
The three weeks is about historical memory (R’YBS – aveilut yeshana) and shifting our focus from the physical to spiritual in our relationship with HKB”H.
- Rabbi Daniel Hartstein – What is Really Prohibbited on the 3 Weeks?
Discusses three weeks issues starting with does Shiva Assar B’tamuz really start at night? Moves on to wedding restrictions, shechiyanu, haircuts, and shaving.
- Rabbi Shay Schachter- Tefillin That Are Found to be Pasul – Did I Recite a Bracha Levatalah All Those Years?
Short discussion (shiur cuts off before the end) of whether a bracha is l’vatala (in vain) if the intended action or result isn’t carried out?
- Rabbi Nachman Levine-Chariots of Fire: The Ascent of Eliyahu
Shiur compares Eliyahu’s and Elisha’s styles and the recognition of their special relationship.
- Rabbi Jonathan Ziring-reating or Eating Genetically Modified Organisms and Foods
Different GMO methods are discussed with a focus on their halachic issues and general spirit of the law. Current psak surveyed as well.
- Rabbi Hershel Schachter-Making a B’racha before performing a Mitzvah
Are birchot hamitzvot similar to birchat hanehenin (benefit) in that as a matir (permission) we make the bracha prior to the benefit? How close to the action must a bracha be made and are there exceptions to the rule (before and/or after the fact)? Includes discussion of mitzvah kiyumit (voluntary mitzvah), ikkar and tafel, examples, exceptions, and explanations.
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Halachos of the Three Weeks – An Overview
Discusses details of our 3 weeks observances. Interesting points include:
• It’s tougher to be lenient on shaving for a college intern than for a regular employee (Me – I think this is a real facts and circumstances test since, for some professions, the internship is the key entry point
• We should be more stringent on music during the three weeks than during sfirah
• It’s unclear why the debate concerning the appropriateness of weddings on the eve of the 17th of Tammuz doesn’t extend to other observances of the three weeks
• Children’s observance of three-week restrictions may be based on agmat nefesh (causing observers’ distress) or chinuch (education). There may be practical differences based on which theory applies.
- Rabbi Dani Rapp-Medical Ethics 1- Individual Rights and Societal Needs
A shortened discussion of medical resource allocation including the usual sources in Chazal and recent poskim. The government has a rationing function, Rabbi Rapp feels the proper allocation is to benefit the greatest number of people. The individual Doctor/patient resource may be allocated differently. IMHO the deeper questions of how the medical care system should allocate resources and what percentage of the GNP should go to medical care were not fully addressed.
- Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner-Introduction to Eichah 1: When the Messenger is the Message
First in a series. Sometimes the prophet (Jeremiah) is the message. The message of Eicha that we sinned, HKB”H punishes us, now how do we respond to pain?
- Rav Asher Weiss-יין נכרים בזמן הזה
The prohibition of staam yeinam is based on chasnus (marriage) concerns but nissuch (libations) also playe some role. How do we weight those concerns and does the probability of interactions lending to chasnus get factored in to possible leniencies? Interesting insights include why staam yeinam is different (assur b’hanna – prohibited to benefit from) from bishul akum (and why bishul Akum may not be applicable in a microwave in a crunch).
Please direct any informal comments to [email protected].