Torah Musings Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:45:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Daily Reyd Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:45:29 +0000
▪ Is korekh a sandwich?: An ancient matzo sandwich for Passover
A perplexing rewriting of history
▪ Non-Orthodox rabbis debate whether it is appropriate for Christians to have a seder. With so much anti-semitism in the world, why push away our friends?: Moffic: Why Christians Should Have a Passover Seder: A Rabbi Responds, Greenspoon: Christian Passover, Yes or No?: A Response to Rabbi Moffic
▪ Jewish believers in Jesus test the limits of openness: South Dakota’s Tiny Hillel Embraces Messianic Jews
Passover supplies arrive in Nepal in time for massive seder
Thousands take part in Birkat Kohanim at the Western Wall
Where the Matzo’s Made in New York

]]> 0
Audio Roundup Thu, 17 Apr 2014 01:40:17 +0000 by Joel Rich

My correspondent: Second order rule lists are very common and have yet to be well worked through in English — they include things like safek deoryata lechumra and sefaek derabanan lekula and safek brachot lehakel and even hilcheta kebartai. Some of them are in tension, also. The world is still waiting for a good work on this analytically

Me: The interaction of second order decision making rules has always
interested me. I’ve thought for a while that rather than a pure Boolean algorithmic approach which yields one and only one answer, perhaps the oral law was truly meant to be a fuzzy logic system?
Great Insight: By the way, there is no proof of aliens (The Satmar Rebbe – Ha-Rav Yoel Teitelbaum – exerted with total certitude that there was no life on the moon. If there was life on the moon, he reasoned, the Ponevizher Rav – Ha-Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, who was a most successful fundraiser for his yeshiva in Bnei Brak, would have gone there collecting! (Builders, by Chanoch Teller, p. 352).

  • הלכות צבא #25, השבת במשטרה + דברי סיום לסדרה, מאת הרב אביהוד שורץ

    Last in this excellent series. Analyzes the permissibility of various Shabbat police activities and responses. While it’s clear immediate life endangerment cases are allowed, what about non-immediate but urgent police activities? Does Orthodoxy have to worry today how an Orthodox police force (and individual policeman) would function? (me – yes, we are one body).

  • רב בן ציון מוצפי – אפשר ללמוד תורה לתועלת

    There’s no selling of heavenly reward. If you do something, do the asking after (similar to Torah reading). My comment: My Hebrew isn’t that great but I didn’t really hear a source/sevara other than “the kadmonim did it after”?

    I also did an extensive shiur on yizkor which dealt with some of the related issues. I have maareh mkomot if you like. I’m pretty sure there were those who said for learning you must bdavka say before you learn that you’re doing it for….and at least one opinion that you should give tzedaka prior to the yizkor rather than after.

    One caveat, As I always tell folks, I’m not HKB”h’s accountant and we should just focus on doing what’s right, I have full confidence that HKB”H is a better compensation consultant than I am and will reward appropriately

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 340-6

    Introduction to the melacha of Koteiv (writing).

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Ten Minute Halacha – Taking Tefillin Off Before Mussaf on Rosh Chodesh

    If you’re in a shul that doesn’t give you enough time to wrap your Tfillin before Mussaf on Rosh Chodesh, what do you do? No good choices, perhaps best is to just cover them (reviews problems with all the possible choices).
    Me – In “Nefesh Harav”, R’H Schacter says R’YBS said to just leave them on in this case (as long as davening ashkenaz and not saying Keter in Kedusha which is the original reason for taking tfillin off). In “Halachic Positions” R’Ziegler says R’YBS made the Shatz wait.

  • Paul Bloom-Moralities of Everyday Life- 1.3 – Reason vs. Emotions – 15:18

    Trolleyology focusing on traditional moral philosophical approaches (e.g., doctrine of double effect) and introducing the modern idea that it’s not necessarily an intellectual answer but rather it’s all in your gut.

  • Rabbi Joel Finkelstein -Humanism and Judaism

    Is there an ethic outside of halacha? What is the difference between those groups specifically commanded in mitzvoth and those not? Is it simply that we view Torah as a gift?

  • Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky -The Issur of Melacha on Chol Hamoed

    Practically defining davar haavud (opportunity cost?) allowance of chol hamoed activity. It was primarily left to Chazal to define which activities would not violate the spirit of Yom Tov. Issues include:
    *Is there a need for actual loss or are reduced future profits enough to trigger an allowance?
    *Is there a difference if the activity is a normal business pattern vs. a unique opportunity?
    *Do we care if the activity generates a general profit vs. a profit earmarked for Yom Tov use?
    *Does it matter if the activity involves new vs. old customers?
    *Do lost vacation days count as a davar haavud?

  • Paul Bloom-Moralities of Everyday Life-1.4 – The Case of Disgust – 14:10

    Disgust is a universal emotion, evolutionary psychologists would say it protects us from poisons and parasites. But then why do we find some people disgusting?
    Discussion of how feeling disgust informs on our moral judgment. Experiments showing “moral dumbfounding” where people feel something is immoral but can’t explain rationale (implication – it’s all in the gut).

  • Paul Bloom-Moralities of Everyday Life-1.5 – Cute and Sexy – 9:24

    More examples of where emotion affects moral judgments.

  • Rabbi Ezra Schwartz -Different Matza Minhagim: Are They All Equally Good

    History and halacha of Ashkenazi (flat hard) and Yemenite (pita like – which was the historical status quo) matzot plus two possible sources of the minhag not to eat gebrochst (water touched matza).

  • Rabbi Eli Belizon -C-Sections in halacha

    Review of primary sources concerning status of yotzeih dofen births (primarily C-section) focusing on brit implications.

  • Rabbi Moshe Lichtman -The Holocaust, Israel and the Metamorphosis of a Gadol

    History of the writing of Eim Habanim Smeicha (we’ve discussed this before).

  • Rabbi Michael Rosensweig -The Parameters of Semikha

    In Smicha(ordination) two elements are important: (i) the knowledge/religious persona of the someich (Rabbi); (ii) the someich’s authority/permission to give psak.
    R’Rosensweig looks at original smicha, as well as the “ntilat reshut” (authorization) given by the Exilarch and the modern Heter Horaah (permission from one’s teacher) in terms of both of these parameters.
    Issues include:
    *who can pass on authorization to the next generation?
    *can authority be limited in time or scope?
    *does the authority stem from individual’s stature?
    *is facility in all areas of Torah required for smicha?
    Philosophical take away – it’s more than just a degree!

  • Rav Asher Weiss-Tazria

    Is delaying a mitzvah a “bittul aseih” (cancelling a required commandment) or is that only when you decide you’re not going to do the mitzvah at all.
    Rambam says there’s still a mitzvah regarding leprosy after the destruction of the Temple, so why don’t we see it done? Perhaps we no longer have Cohanim Meyuchasim (certified for Temple service), only Kohanei Chazakah (those that strong armedly insist that they are so ).

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Parsha Shiur – Tazria 5774

    Discussion of yotzeih dofen (non “natural” birth) – how is this defined and what are the implications?
    Some interesting shidduch advice (look for steady and stable mate).
    Issues regarding ritual impurity (lots!) and childbirth Temple sacrifices.
    Some issues regarding nidui (being cast out) and mourning.
    Two interesting remarks which I thought could use more discussion – i) we don’t do atifa (wrapping face) any longer as part of mourning due to the fact that people would laugh [how do we know when to change rules based on this criteria?]; ii) Mechitzah – do we need it if the sexes are separated by more than five amot?

  • Paul Bloom-Moralities of Everyday Life–1.6 – Return to the Trolley Problem – 6:11

    Case study number 3 on emotion informing on moral decision making – the impact of the emotional portions of the brain on moral decisions.

  • Paul Bloom-Moralities of Everyday Life-1.7 – The Big Questions – 13:03

    Is there a single “right” moral answer (as is true in Physics)?[me-is it really true in physics]

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter =Likeutei Inyonim #5

    R’YBS on Kol d’takun (Chazal always followed Torah blueprint in their ordinances).
    Issues include: Marit Ayin (“how it looks”) in two forms – concern for people taking the wrong implication or thinking the individual did something wrong and distance to keep graves apart.

  • Paul Bloom-Moralities of Everyday Life-Week 1 Office Hours – 26:18

    Interesting issues include:
    *who do you side with on is there one, and only one, “right” moral answer?
    *why didn’t the class spend any time on virtue ethics?
    *perhaps don’t do anything in trolley case because we’re not held responsible for
    omission (me – not true for halachic man)
    *problems with demographics of participants in psychology studies (you remember WEIRD)
    *are we treating people as means (anti Kantian!) when we do psychological experiments?

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes -Parshas Shemini Semicha and Horaah in Modern Times

    Smicha (ordination) – what did/does it mean?
    *do you need to know “all” of Torah?
    *how much “on the job training” (shimush) is needed?
    *can you rule based only on book knowledge?
    *do you have to explain unusual rulings? [me – IMHO explanations should be the rule, not the exception, if you expect to raise the level of your community]
    *the longer a ruling has been around, the more deference is due it
    *”To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst then not be false to any man” (ok – that’s my summa Rabbi Dovi Fischer -Halachic Misconceptionsry of intellectual honesty)

  • Paul Bloom-Moralities of Everyday Life-2.1 – Caring About Others – 10:41

    Is compassion a native trait or is it developed through training?

  • Rabbi Netanel Wiederblank -Can God divorce us?

    Avraham was chosen based on who he was and also due to an unknowable “no reason” of HKB”H; so too the Jewish people.

  • Rabbi Dovi Fischer -Halachic Misconceptions

    Cases include:
    *Kiddush levana – saying Shalom Aleichem – should be 3 times to one other person (good luck finding a partner)
    *Must sit when drinking Kiddush wine
    *Examples where “tadir” (more frequent takes precedence) is overridden
    *Don’t need to wear a suit on Chol Hamoed
    *Don’t eat before davening maariv
    *Taking off Tfillin – Rosh Chodesh and Chol Hamoed issues
    *Keep on Tfillin during a brit (yes)
    *Send some “real food” for Shalach Manot
    *Don’t say Harav in misheberach, just the individual’s name
    *You can write and say God
    *Maareh Mkomot without pasuk from chumash or Sheim Hashem don’t need geniza

  • Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky -The Haggadah in Halacha and Machshava

    R’Chaim’s insight as to how sippur (telling the story) differs from zechira (remembering) of leaving Egypt.
    Differences in 4 questions over time.
    What are the main points of the story that must be told.
    Why go past the formal halachic end time for telling the Passover story.

  • Rabbi Ami Merzel -Chizuk for Going Back to America

    “Coming To America” (apologies to Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall) after the gap year(s) is fraught with danger due to different value systems than the Israeli Yeshiva that nurtured you (me – that’s an understatement).
    Remember what’s important, be ready to sacrifice, watch out for technology, hang out with good people and avoid parties [me – in another era The Big D would always exhort us – “Those Sweet 16’s will come back to haunt you!].

  • Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner -Bankruptcy and the Jewish Client

    Exploring Jewish law’s requirement to repay debts and the interaction with secular bankruptcy laws. The secular law may apply based on a number of theories including Jewish law’s allowance for: compromise settlements, accepted business practices, or local law provision. There can be issues with going to secular court and you may need to structure the agreement carefully to be sure that the result will be enforceable in Jewish court.

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes -Parshas Tazria May One Eat Fish With Meat With Dairy

    Goes through the whole not cooking (later eating) meat with fish “danger”. Beit Yosef said something about milk and fish but most think it was a misprint.

  • Rabbi Michoel Zylberman-Melacha Before Havdalah

    Can you do work after just saying “hamavdil bein Kodesh l’chol” without having been mavdil in shmoneh esrai? It may depend on whether havdalah is directly related to Shabbat or a separate rule.

  • Paul Bloom-Moralities of Everyday Life-2.2 – How Do We Treat Strangers? – 22:15

    How we deal with people shows our natural empathy. Interesting differences in how we deal with those close vs. far. We do sometimes use moral arguments to overcome natural self interest.

  • Paul Bloom-Moralities of Everyday Life-2.3 – Empathy and Concern – 27:04

    Why do we act compassionately? Is it self-serving? due to belief systems? rational analysis? or just how we are wired?
    Perhaps based on empathy; that is being able to put oneself in others’ shoes. We mirror others’ expressions, etc.
    Empathy dissolves the boundaries between us and we feel how other’s feel. This explains the identifiable victim syndrome (one individual suffering grabs our attention vs. many victims are just statistisc).
    Fiction can break these boundaries as well. Psycopaths just don’t care.

  • Please direct any informal comments to

    ]]> 0 Daily Reyd Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:55:26 +0000
    ▪ Simply no words: Three dead, teenager critical after shootings at Jewish facilities
    ▪ Looks very promising: The Tikvah Yeshiva Fellowships – Exciting New Program
    Lipman: The Moment of Truth for the Haredi Political Leadership and Media
    Sanzer Rebbe Says No Point In Visiting Graves Of Tzadikim
    ▪ An OU rabbi advocates for workers: Quinoa Is More Kosher Than the Labor Practices That Produce It
    Passover 1864
    How Do We Compare? The Jewish Intellectual Experience Beyond YU
    ▪ A growing Jewish community: A miracle in Uganda
    ▪ Interesting thoughts on “continuity” in the Greek Orthodox church, with obvious parallels to Judaism: Losing our Religion: On “Retaining” Young People in the Orthodox Church (h/t FT)
    For some Jews, even pets must observe Passover rules
    Private equity thinks that kosher could be the new organic
    Rejoicing at the Presence of the Wicked Son at the Seder Table
    Did Sandy Koufax Put on Tefillin During the 1965 World Series?

    ]]> 1
    If the Social Orthodox Had Been in Egypt, Would They Have Been Redeemed? Mon, 14 Apr 2014 01:45:54 +0000 by R. Gidon Rothstein

    Jay Lefkowitz‘s vivid description of Social Orthodoxy in Commentary is both beautiful and troubling. On the one hand, he highlights a remarkable aspect of the Modern Orthodox community. However, his unabashed theological admissions demand changes in how we make communal decisions. (Disclosure: I have met him socially but I doubt either of us would recognize the other without another introduction).

    Defining the Social Orthodox

    Mr. Lefkowitz uses himself as a representative example to tell us that Social Orthodox Jews engage in the bulk of the observances of Modern Orthodoxy, but as a way of staying connected to the segment of world Jewry with which they find themselves most in concert. It is, in his telling, observance as tribal marker, not connection to God. In his catchy opening, he recalls explaining to his future mother-in-law that he keeps kosher because he’s a “Jet.” Judaism as a gang, with observance the key to being part of the club.

    What such Jews don’t do, according to Mr. Lefkowitz, is engage with or ruminate about the religion’s theological claims. As he says, after listing ways in which he and his family are connected to Modern Orthodox practices and affiliations, “But I also pick and choose from the menu of Jewish rituals without fear of divine retribution. And I root my identity much more in Jewish culture, history, and nationality than in faith and commandments.” (His picking and choosing raises questions about his observance itself; I ignore that here in the name of the more crucial issues I intend to address).

    Let’s be sure we are clear about how far he has gone. Mr. Lefkowitz himself notes (as did Prof. Jeffrey Woolf, in a blog post dated April 8, 2014 that includes a moving cri de coeur at this phenomenon) that his commitment to observance as a way of affiliating with a particular group is pretty much the same as Reconstructionist Judaism. Mr. Lefkowitz does add the important caveat that Reconstructionists believe belonging comes before religious behavior, whereas he and other Social Orthodox Jews see observance as itself the belonging they seek. They don’t want to be Reconstructionist, they want to be and think of themselves as Orthodox. Another word for this is Orthopraxy, keeping Jewish law (mostly), just sidestepping or ignoring the faith component.

    Belonging, According to Whom?

    What Mr. Lefkowitz, private citizen, does in his personal religious life isn’t my concern or interest, nor do I want it to be. Moreover, if he shows up where I am praying, in today’s world, I feel no need to check his faith commitments.

    I first note, though, that he ignores the history of the definition of Jewish belonging, which most definitely was not practice based. We have become accustomed to praying with all sorts of Jews, observant or not, believers or not. Nonetheless, it behooves us to remember that this is relatively recent, and was decidedly not the original practice of normative Judaism.

    The Talmudic view (adhered to for hundreds of years) was that we could not and should not pray with nonbelievers, especially when this disbelief translated into even occasional halachic deviation. Only over time, and especially after the rise of Reform in the nineteenth century, did rabbis find ways to justify treating deviant Jews with less than the full opprobrium halachic practice until then required. (Some of those leniencies are questionable, so it’s not even obvious that we are allowed always to ignore disbelief or nonobservance).

    We can agree with those eased strictures without losing sight of the fact that Judaism, for most of its existence, saw the abandoning of faith as itself removing one from belonging to the Jewish community. When Mr. Lefkowitz speaks of belonging by virtue of his practice, he is essentially warping the religion to which he claims to belong.

    His mistake highlights one of the great successes of Modern Orthodoxy. As Hazon Ish has said, today’s mission must be to draw disbelievers closer to Torah with love. We have managed to create welcoming communities, where even non-believers feel comfortable attending synagogue, participating in religious activities and sending their children to day school. With thousands of Jews assimilating into the mainstream culture and disappearing, we have still succeeded in keeping others–too few but not insubstantial–within the community, even if only as partial participants.

    The Greatness of Private Partially Observant Jews

    Keeping people within the world of observance, even if they are missing what I see as essential elements of that observance, is an important success of today’s Jewry. If someone keeps Shabbat solely because it will improve family relations, they are still keeping Shabbat. The mitzvot that the Social Orthodox keep are still mitzvot, and Hashem can judge how to evaluate them.

    More than that, we have a long tradition of welcoming less-than-optimal observance, recognizing that it can lead to growth. Yerushalmi Chagigah 1:7 speaks of Hashem bemoaning the Jews’ failure to keep mitzvot, ready even for the Jews’ to have abandoned Hashem if only they’d have kept the mitzvot (הלוואי אותי עזבו ומצוותי שמרו, would that they had abandoned Me and observed my mitzvot), and Bavli Pesachim 50b famously adjures us to be involved in Torah for less than proper reasons, since it will lead us to the proper reasons.

    There would seem to be some limitations, as Tosafot notes. Based on Berachot 17a’s saying that it is preferable never to have been born to being involved in Torah for improper reasons, Tosafot assumes that a negative motivation would be unacceptable—less than perfect motivations are fine, but negative ones are not.

    Even at a personal level, then, we might have some question about how confident we can be that it’s fine for the Social Orthodox to tread their path towards full observance (as we all do). But I stress that that’s not for me to judge, and I don’t want to be seen as judging it. Where it becomes necessary to take up the call is when it is brought into the public realm.

    Challenging and Required Reactions

    While we certainly do not wish to chase Lefkowitz or anyone away, when he chooses to make a public issue of his version of Judaism, he obligates us to respond for three central reasons. First, his articulating this category of Orthodoxy will lead others to assume it is a religiously valid option, that this is one more version of Orthodox Judaism.

    I believe all Orthodox Jews should be vocally denying this possibility; I do it here to fulfill my personal duty to do so.  When people assert new falsehoods about Judaism, we have to stand and be counted, not repeat the error of our forefathers at Mount Carmel, who stayed silent when challenged by Elijah to choose between Ba’al and Hashem.

    Nor do I feel that I am being overly sensitive, because his article received wide and celebratory attention. Additionally, the term seems to be entering the common lexicon. In a recent conversation, I assumed the obvious impossibility of an Orthodox Jew who didn’t believe in God, and the man with whom I was speaking, a practicing Orthodox rabbi, said, “What do you mean? There are the Social Orthodox.”

    Jay Lefkowitz may be giving voice to a percentage, large or small, of self-identifying Orthodox Jews, but the rest of Orthodoxy, especially those of us proud to be Modern Orthodox, need to make clear that this is not a credible version of Orthodoxy.

    Muddying the Waters, Keeping Halachah?

    The second reason the article needs to be highlighted and decried is that people like Jay Lefkowitz—he is far from the only one—weigh in on communal questions of Modern Orthodoxy and how we should walk into the future.  While, as I said, I have no need to exclude people whose faith commitments aren’t what seem to me necessary, we all should recognize that we do have to exclude their views about Orthodoxy, or at least approach those views with great caution.  Once we know they don’t share Orthodox faith commitments, and hence an Orthodox worldview, we have to recognize the likelihood that their perspectives will not be Orthodox ones.

    One way to show this is through Mr. Lefkowitz’ claim to practice halachah. He ignores the many simple halachot that require belief; for example, the first obligation in Maimonides’ Book of the Commandments is to believe in God, the foundation of all existence.  For Ramban (and the simplest reading of Exodus 20;2), that faith has to explicitly include that He took us out of Egypt.

    The wearing of tefillin Mr. Lefkowitz celebrates as part of his daily life is explicitly connected in the Torah to an awareness of God’s having taken us out of Egypt and of all of the Torah, including all its many faith statements.  The Seder we are all about to enact is a statement of our belief in simple propositions about God and how God acted for and towards us in Egypt.

    A person who does not subscribe to the faith claims of the religion isn’t just lacking in his or her relationship with God—that’s between that person and God—but rather, ip so facto, he or she cannot claim to be practicing Orthodoxy. Halacha without God is culture, not religion. In which case, their views of what does or doesn’t (or should or shouldn’t) fit the Orthodox future are less than valuable.

    He No Play-a Da Game…

    One simple demonstration of my point comes when Mr. Lefkowitz raises partnership minyanim, which he suggests will grow and flourish within the Orthodox world. I am on record, in a Tradition article from 2005, as rejecting the sufficiency of the halachic arguments offered to justify such services.

    Whether I am right or wrong, Mr. Lefkowitz’s article makes clear that he and all those like him don’t engage the halachic system, since that system builds off of faith connections to God as part of the way halachic decisions are made. The question in halachah is always “what would God want of us, to the best of our ability, to figure that out?”

    Social Orthodox Jews, in ignoring or rejecting that question, take themselves out of the conversation. In order to “play the game” of deciding halachah or any legal system (and certainly any legal/religious system), one has to be a full member.  We wouldn’t accept the legal arguments of a foreigner who has no sense of how American life works, unless and until they fully absorbed the ethos of American law as a whole.

    So if Social Orthodox people speak up about what they see as the right way to handle any of the issues of the day—Mr. Lefkowitz also names women’s issues and homosexual rights, two important examples—those who are Orthodox in the fuller sense of the word have to evaluate their views with the constant recognition that these people approach the question without the central component of how we approach it.  And then see whatever their opinion is worth.

    Questions of Fact

    Finally, two quick debatable points in his presentation. Least important, he refers to “half Shabbos,” the rumored practice of some teens, who will text on Shabbat, but will otherwise keep Shabbat fully. My daughter and other teens I know (who socialize in crowds that include putative “half-Shabbos” Jews) all swear there is no such thing, that those teens who text aren’t committed to any Shabbat observance, whether or not they happen to act on their lack of commitment.  Just to mention what I have heard repeatedly from those likely to know.

    Second, and more importantly, Mr. Lefkowitz argues that the Jews’ saying na’aseh ve-nishma, we will do and we will hear, could be read to mean that they would act first, and work on their faith later. Sources do read this statement as saying the Jews committed to obedience even without full understanding of the commandments, but none I know of that imply it would be acceptable to act without faith.

    This is also a particularly unconvincing reading given that these Jews witnessed the plagues, the Exodus, the Splitting of the Sea, and were about to see God speak to Moses in front of the entire congregation; even if Mr. Lefkowitz doesn’t think the text is historically accurate, as I suspect he doesn’t, the text’s own assumptions are that the people have seen these events, which would make it impossible not to believe. Their statement means a lot, but it can’t mean that.

    Had He Been There, Would He Have Been Redeemed?

    Seder night, we speak of the complications of raising children, and some ideas for how to manage or address different types of challenges in passing along the tradition of our view of history, starting with the Exodus. One of those children is the wicked one, about whom the Haggadah opines, “had he been there, he would not have been redeemed.” I think Mr. Lefkowitz’ article, and the version of Orthodoxy he suggests as reasonable, runs the risk of fitting into that category.

    In one sense, they most obviously are not similar to the Haggadah’s wicked child. The wicked child challenges the work around the Passover holiday (including, especially, the sacrifice we do not yet have the privilege of offering), but the Social Orthodox are happy to join in the Passover preparations, because that’s part of being a “Jet.”

    But the answer the Haggadah tells us to give is more of a problem. We are told to cite the verse that says, “Because of this (the Paschal sacrifice), Hashem took me out of Egypt.” We explicitly recognize that the practices we do now stem from the eternal obligation God placed on us by taking us out of Egypt.  Without our recognition of not just the practices but the underlying history of those practices, the Haggadah seems to believe a person would not have qualified for redemption (and recall that the Haggadah likely means this seriously—traditional thought assumed that twenty percent or fewer of the Jewish population actually left Egypt).

    As I said, I take no pleasure in pointing fingers, excluding people, or seeing them as outside the proverbial big tent.  But Mr. Lefkowitz has thrown down a gauntlet that needs to be taken up.  He has asserted as plausible that which is not, and has made clear that our Modern Orthodox communities host members whose opinions are not Orthodox and should not be taken into account when the issues and the vision of the future of Orthodoxy come to the fore.

    This is a troubling and problematic situation, and bears careful consideration for how we can move forward, maintaining as much unity as possible while ensuring we do not mistakenly accept as Orthodox that which is not. Everyone, even the wicked child, is welcome at the seder. But only those committed to Jewish faith and practice have a voice in how to tell the story of God redeeming us from Egypt.

    ]]> 16
    Karpas Mon, 14 Apr 2014 01:15:58 +0000 by R. Ari Enkin

    After Kiddush has been recited at the start of the Seder, the hands are washed in preparation for karpas. Karpas is the “station” in the Seder when a vegetable is dipped into salt water1 or vinegar.2 There is actually an opinion that the karpas should be dipped into charoset,3 though common custom is not in accordance with this view.4 The word “karpas” is said to be an acronym for the words “samech perech“, meaning “600,000 suffered in backbreaking labor”.5

    There are a number of interpretations as to what the salt water represents. The most well-known interpretation is that it represents the tears of slavery. There are also those who teach that the salt water represents tears that are shed over the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. Some suggest that it also represents the waters of the Red Sea through which the Jewish people crossed.

    There is an opinion that one should wash one’s hands for karpas specifically at the Seder table, and not in another location, such as the kitchen sink6 though common practice is not to be particular about this. According to most customs, celery, potatoes, parsley, or radishes are used for karpas7 though ultimately any vegetable is acceptable.8 However, it is best not to use a type of vegetable for karpas that could theoretically be used for marror. One must be sure not to use the same vegetable for both karpas and marror.9 There is a view that the vegetable used for karpas must be raw, or at least a vegetable that can be eaten raw. According to this approach, the widespread use of a potato –which is cooked beforehand and cannot be eaten raw– would be disqualified. Common custom, however, is not to be concerned about this.10

    The karpas should be dipped into the salt water in its entirety; not merely a small portion of it. One should also dip it with one’s hands rather than with a fork.11 According to many authorities one should eat less than an ounce of karpas in order that one not be obligated to recite a bracha achrona.12 Nevertheless, one who did eat a large amount of karpas should not recite the bracha achrona afterwards.13 Most people do not recline when eating the karpas though some have the custom to recline.14

    There are a number of reasons why karpas is eaten at the Seder and what it represents.15 We are taught that merely having the ability to enjoy a meal that includes vegetables and dip is in itself a sign of freedom, as slaves are not provided with such luxuries. The karpas also serves as an appetizer to suppress one’s hunger thereby allowing one to enjoy the Seder without any stomach grumblings. Some sources suggest that the karpas is actually a “warm-up” to the dipping of the marror.16

    The karpas also serves to recall the fancy coat that Yaakov Avinu gave to Yosef, which ultimately led to our descent to Egypt and the subsequent slavery.17 Indeed, fine linens, such as those that comprised Yosef’s elaborate coat are referred to in Scripture as “karpas“.18 Finally, the dipping of the karpas is intended to arouse the children’s curiosity so that they should ask questions as to why this night is different from all other nights.19

    1. Taz, OC 473:3; Magen Avraham 473:5; Rema, OC 473:4; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 119:3. 

    2. Tosfot, Pesachim 114a; Beit Yosef, OC 473; Darkei Moshe, OC 473:15; OC 473:6. See also Aruch Hashulchan, OC 158:6. 

    3. Rashi, Pesachim 114a; Rambam, Hilchot Chametz U’matza 8:2; Bach, OC 473; Darkei Moshe, OC 473:15. 

    4. Beit Yosef, OC 473. 

    5. Beit Yosef, OC 473; Magen Avraham 473:4; Mishna Berura 473:19. 

    6. Rivevot Ephraim 1:300. 

    7. Regarding the various vegetables which may be used for karpas see: Magen Avraham 473:4; Machatzit Hashekel 473:4; Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 473:16; Chayei Adam 130:5; Kaf Hachaim, OC 473:49; Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 473:15; Piskei Teshuvot 473:13; Rivevot Ephraim 7:349. 

    8. OC 473:4. 

    9. Mishna Berura 473:20, 475:25. 

    10. See Mikra’ei Kodesh p. 184-187; Siddur Pesach K’hilchtato 2:5:3. 

    11. Piskei Teshuvot 473:23. 

    12. OC 473:6; Mishna Berura 473:55,55. But see Rambam, Hilchot Chametz Umatza 8:2. 

    13. Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 473:18; Mishna Berura 473:56. 

    14. Rivevot Ephraim 4:113:3; Moadim U’Zmanim 7:183. 

    15. Bach, OC 473. 

    16. See Pesachim 114b. 

    17. Shabbat 10b; Sefer Hamanoach, Hilchot Chametz U’matza 8:2; Ben Ish Chai, Tzav. 

    18. Esther 1:6; Megilla 12a; Rashi, Bereishit 37:31. 

    19. Pesachim 114b; Tur, OC 473:18. 

    ]]> 0
    Daily Reyd Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:32:04 +0000
    ▪ I’m discussed in this article: Orthodox Rabbis and Scholars Take Religious Discourse Online
    YUTorah Pesach-to-Go
    ▪ A bit overdue: Spanish village called “kill Jews” mulling name change
    So, Some Jewish Lawyers Walk Into a Room

    Rakeffet: Shabbos Hagadol & The Israeli Defense Forces

    ]]> 0
    Ten Answers For The Wise Son Fri, 11 Apr 2014 01:30:05 +0000 The Passover seder is full of fours: four questions, four cups, four sons. The midrashic reading of four sons into the biblical text is brilliant, comparing the four times the Torah refers to teaching sons. Yet the answers given within the haggadah raise many questions. Thankfully so, since the haggadah is the Jewish text most commented on.

    What follows are ten explanations of the answer to the wise son. The wise son’s text is taken from Deut, 6:20 However, the Torah’s answer is “avadim hayinu…” (Deut. 6:21-25), which appears previously in the haggadah. This clearly cannot be repeated so instead we teach the wise son “ein maftirin achar ha-Pesach afikoman.” We do not eat anything after eating the Pesach sacrifice, or today after eating the final piece of matzah that serves as its placeholder.

    How does this answer the question? Here are ten of the many explanations offered by commentators:

    #1The question is why we eat the meat of the Chagigah sacrifice before the Pesach sacrifice, if the Pesach is more important. The answer is that we may not eat after the Pesach, we may not remove the Pesach taste from our mouths. Similarly, today we eat the matzah (afikoman) as the last item of the evening to retain its taste. (Rashi)

    #2The wise son asks a smart question and thinks he is a hot shot. Therefore, you teach him all the laws of the seder, overwhelming him with information, so he is humbled and realizes that there is always more to learn. (Abarbanel)

    #3The same answer can be rephrased less cynically: Since the wise son knows so much, give him more information by teaching him the laws of the seder. (Pseudo-Maharal)

    #4The answer to the wise son is to teach him all the laws of Pesach through the final law about afikoman. Among those laws is Rabban Gamliel’s statement about the three things that must be mentioned at the seder, which consists of a brief explanation of the entire evening. (Rashbash, no. 494)

    #5The wise son asks whether Pesach is eidus (testimony), chok (divine decree) or mishpat (rational law)? The answer is that it is some of each, and the afikoman is an aspect of chok. You have to eat the Pesach sacrifice last, so you can only eat it in one place. But if it was solely eidus, it would make sense to go from house to house and eat there, like God passed over houses. (Shelah)

    #6The wise son asks two questions. First, is Pesach eidus, chok or mishpat? That was already answered with avadim hayinu: it is all three. Second, why do some people have a Chagigah and others not? The answer is that the Chagigah is so the Pesach will be eaten on a full stomach. A big group will need a Chagigah first but a small group will have enough Pesach for everyone to be full. (Gra)

    #7The wise son asks for details about the different types of commandments. He wants to study these at length. So we respond to him the one does not leave the seder hungry, i.e. that this is precisely what the evening is about. (Chasam Sofer)

    #8The wise son asks about eidus (biblical text), chok (methods of interpretation) and mishpatw (analysis). Why was the Torah given in such a way that it has to be developed? The answer is complex and only offered in a hint, so as not to go off on too much of a tangent during the seder. The Pesach is eaten at the end of the meal so that throughout the evening we are concerned and involved in it. Similarly, the Torah was given in such a way that we would have to toil over it. (Netziv)

    #9The wise son’s question actually encompasses the entire Torah. However, this night we only focus on the mitzvah eating and the discussion of the Exodus. Therefore, we tell him that just like we eat nothing after the Pesach, similarly we will only discuss the Exodus and not all the commandments. (Aruch Hashulchan)

    #10The wise son asks why there are so many details to mitzvos, primarily defined in the Oral Torah. The answer is that the details emphasize the reason (ta’am, taste) for the commandments. We tell the wise son that the afikoman keeps the taste of the Pesach in our mouths. So too, the details keep the taste/reason of the commandments in our minds. (Rav Kook)

    ]]> 0
    Daily Reyd Thu, 10 Apr 2014 13:07:40 +0000
    ▪ Rabbis wisely say no to even minor synagogue reforms: Rabbis crush bid to give women a role in shul
    ▪ Rav Aviner on China’s human rights violations: Rabbi calls for protests in behalf of Falun Gong
    ▪ Disgraceful: Former officials in chief rabbinate convicted in major 300 million shekel fraud
    ▪ Calling her out on her false rhetoric: I’m Anat Hoffman’s Hero
    Israel Finds a Formula for Increasing Organ Donation
    Polish Museum Director Stresses 1,000-Year Jewish History
    OU mission seeks ‘parity’ for day schools
    ▪ Misusing Rav Kook for social justice purposes: Rothstein: R. Kook, the Seder, and Necessary Negativity
    New Shas spiritual leader: Rabbi Shalom Cohen

    ]]> 1
    Historical Revelation Thu, 10 Apr 2014 01:30:31 +0000 The wise son of the Haggadah asks: “What are the testimonies, the statutes and the laws which the Lord, our God, has commended you?” (Deut. 6:20). R. Zvi Kanotopsky (Rejoice In Your Festivals: Penetrating Insights Into Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, p. 62), a leading student of R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik (link), explains in a 1952 sermon that this was originally said to the generation of the Exodus. “The wise son is asking about צווי, the commandment. He is asking about the revelation from his father who stood at Sinai.”

    R. Kanotopsky continues, in a statement of faith that I can only assume was directed against Conservative theologians but now applies equally to some thinkers who are called Orthodox (p. 63):

    There is a fundamental religious principle that is sacred to us, a principle that is the very essence of our theology. We believe that revelation is not a continuous process. The Children of Israel were redeemed from the bondage of Egypt so that they might stand at the foot of Sinai, experience the drama of revelation and receive the Torah, which was given at that moment of revelation…

    There are Jews today who would have us abandon the fundamentals of our faith. There are Jewish intellectuals who would have us believe that revelation is a process, a continuous process — which might have begun at Sinai but which continues with the change of time — with changing concepts and with changing ideas. It is this point of view that we are obligated, by our faith, to negate and to reject. The word אתכם (to you), which is used by the wise son and which cause so much consternation, emphasizes the very essence of our faith.

    (reposted from 2011)

    ]]> 0
    Audio Roundup Wed, 09 Apr 2014 21:00:18 +0000 by Joel Rich

    From the Wall Street Journal: link

    Anyone who has felt like the odd duck of the group can take heart from new research from Harvard Business School that says sticking out in distinct ways can lend you an air of presence or influence.

    I’ve thought from time to time that wearing a yarmulke at a time when many others didn’t made people think that the wearer was smarter than he was (as in “he must be good if he has the xxxxx to wear that in corporate America”)
    A recent comment of mine:

    Unfortunately I am in shloshim for my mother Hareini kapparat mishkava and so I must watch the video without the music, however I was struck by CK’s statement “but there is no way that IDF service can be considered as Yoshvei Bais Hamedrash”. In my hesped I mentioned that Dovid Hamelech asks of HKB”H “shivti bbeit hashem kol ymei chayai” (let me sit in HKB”H’s house all the days of my life), yet when we look at his life, he clearly led an active one that included many days “on the road”. Perhaps much like imi morati hk”m, wherever he was, as long as he was actively involved in trying to execute the ratzon hashem with all his resources and abilities, he was “sitting in HKB”H’s house” (lfnei hashem is the true simcha per R’YBS). One who sits in the beit medrash when not performing his duties to his people imho recieves schar for every second serving as if he were sitting there (and never battling etc.)


    Please direct any informal comments to

    ]]> 0