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Note to young Evangelicals [& Jews]: You can’t all be elite
Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox welfare kings
Federations find youth outreach tricky terrain at yearly meeting
Jewish women lag behind men in promotion and pay
R. Slifkin: Monograph: The Sun’s Path at Night: The Revolution in Rabbinic Perspectives on the Ptolemaic Revolution
RCA paper on brain death (PDF)
Rabbi Daniel Feldman co-edits new YU anthology on weekly
Sperber: Less modern, more Orthodox
The American Jewish Museum: Oy Vey or Mazel Tov?
Anti-Semitic themes found in mainstream British circles
SALT Friday
Yeshiva in Brooklyn evicted
Video: Orthodox and Gay
Women need support for technological careers
R. Aharon Frazer: Why to protest mosque vandalism
Shas encourages followers to earn degrees
SALT Thursday
Feuerstein and Madoff
Rapper finds order in Orthodox Judaism in Israel
Jay Feinberg wins Jewish Community Hero contest
Today’s Jeremiad
For Jewish federations, decline in donors dwarfs recession woes
SALT Wednesday
Midwood is NYC’s safest neighborhood
Anti-Orthodox Stereotypes
Haredi gender segregation is spreading
Jewish Quarter of Damascus blooms again
What Makes a Belief ‘Traditional’? The Case of Bittahon
Mishneh Torah manuscript online
SALT Tuesday
Historian Simon Dubnow
Rabbis on stamps
Global Hasidic Rabbis Gather At Chabad-Lubavitch Conference
More than half of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox living in poverty
Avi Chai report on influential websites and blogs (Hirhurim not mentioned) – PDF
SALT Monday
Last week’s news & links
Rules: link
Rapper finds order in Orthodox Judaism in Israel

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

74 comments

  1. Who bears moral responsibility for the number of Charedi children growing up in dire poverty? Under what moral theory is it justifiable to conduct a lifestyle that inevitably makes you dependent on other people’s tax money?

  2. MiMedinat HaYam

    hirhurim is not mentioned cause its studying (anecdotally; the stats and colrful graphs just justify the anecdotes) the “social web”, not the “torah web”, i.e., social aspects of the web, not the torah discussions aspects of the web. get some ads from MASA or discussions justifing intermarriage, and you’ll get in.

    yes. i’m surprised avi chai put this out.

  3. I recently mentioned that I was looking forward to reading “Trials of the Diaspora” by Anthony Julius. I am in the middle of this amazing book . This book is a searing history of the various forms of anti Semitism in England , ranging from the expulsion of the Jews of Emgland in 1290, the strong strains of anti Semistim in many of the “greatest” writers of English literature, the long tradition of insult and partial exclusion and contemporary anti Zionism which views both Zionism and the State of Israel as illegitimate Jewish enterprises. I cannot recommend this book strongly for those interested in seeing how “anti Semitism with the boots off” has been a national pastime in England for centuries.

    During our discussions of the Rubashkin case and the role of PETA, I mentioned the anti Semitic origins and basis of those in favor of “humane slaughter”. Mr. Julius provides much detail in this regard at Pages 341-344 of his searing and well documented work.

  4. Mishne Torah Manuscript article is not a link/is not working as a link

  5. Fixed

  6. With respect to the Mishne Torah manuscript, my brother-in-law, Prof. Jordan Penkower, pointed out to us in his email sending us this link that it

    “leads to a digitized photo of the famous manuscript, Oxford, Bodleiana Huntington 80,
    which contains the first “two books” of M’s Mishneh Torah.

    at the end of the two books, this is a line, written by M:
    “huga misifri, ani moshe beribi maimon z’tzl” –
    = “copied (or corrected) from my book [i.e. the copy that i myself wrote], me, Moses ben Rabbi Maimon of blessed memory”.

    in other words, Maimonides is stating that the present copy was checked against his own personal copy
    and therefore this is an accurate copy.”

  7. It’s magnificent that they’ve put it online.

    Just to make it clear, though, this isn’t a new discovery. I believe Feldheim published it with a translation some years back, and it’s used as the basis (or one of them) for many if not all of the new editions of Rambam.

  8. Of course it’s not a new discovery. It’s the most famous Mishne Torah manuscript. That’s why it gets a web site.

    I actually thought the Bodleian’s little intro, which Gil did not link to http://www.harambam.org/, explaining how they feel they are fulfilling the ethical will of an original owner of the ms to make it available to all (and its Hebraica collection in general) to be quite beautiful – and true.

  9. On what page is the Rambam’s line?

  10. If you go to the home page, http://www.harambam.org/, you can find the line Joseph Kaplan is talking about. It is at the front of Sefer Ahava, not the Hakdama, or even Sefer Hamadah. Does that mean that only the second was copied exactly.

    Interestingly, when I was looking on the last page (185), I saw a line which seemed to indicate Rambam passed away at some point during or after the finished copy. I am not sure exactly when that was written, or what such a line would signify.

    מניח מרבינו משה הגאון ז’ל מן קול חננאל בן כראתה

  11. Actually, it’s at the end of Sefer Ahava, before the siddur.

  12. R Gil-how about a link to Leon Wieseltier’s critique of the Steinsalz Talmud, which R D Allan Brill provided a link for at his blog?

  13. Har Nof Academic

    In addition to it being the most authoritative Maddah and Ahavah, the significance of the Huntington 80 Manuscript is that it holds the key to the question of the Rambam’s relationship with the Aleppo Codex.

    See Moshe H. Goshen-Gottstein, “The Authority of the Aleppo Codex.” Textus: Annual of the Hebrew University Bible Project 1 (1960) and his student, J. S. Penkower, “Maimonides and the Aleppo Codex.” Textus 9 (1981.

    Of course, the Yemenites had the correct manuscript all along, see Mishneh Torah Hil. Sefer Torah Chap. 8, R. Yosef Qafih edition. His comments on the corruption in the text (Shirat Ha’azinu in 70 lines vs. the correct 67) are most harsh!

    (We Ashkenazim can only be comforted in knowing that a source for the practice of writing Shirat Ha’azinu in 70 lines is Mas. Soferim, Chap. 12).

  14. I left a comment on the article regarding belief, but I am curious how the charachter of Nachum ish Gamzu fits into the whole discussion of ancient vs new ideas regarding bitachon.

  15. If anyone knows the people involved with the Mishna Torah website, you should let them know that many of the pages are very buggy in Chrome. I zoom in and I see a different page than the zoomed out version.

  16. Steve,
    The Weiseltier article is over 10 years old. Hardly “News”

  17. >(We Ashkenazim can only be comforted in knowing that a source for the practice of writing Shirat Ha’azinu in 70 lines is Mas. Soferim, Chap. 12).

    Not only Ashkenazim. Also, how did the Rambam know which was best? Answer: he didn’t. He trusted the best manuscript’s ruling. It’s not really such a big deal that we follow Soferim rather than Ben Asher, although of course the printed Rambams should be corrected to his original reading.

  18. MDJ-I agree that the Wieseltier article is not “news”, but it certainly offers a POV that is worth reading by anyone interested in the subject.

  19. Why? It’s a most silly review.

    The reason for 67 vs. 70 seems clear: Six half-lines are somewhat long and got split.

  20. Har Nof Academic

    Nachum I agree with you regarding aesthetics – but which tradition is correct? The orientation of the shirot determines the kashrut of the Torah.

    Obviously, at some point there developed two traditions as how to write Shirat Ha’azinu. Both traditions are recorded in sources from the Geonic period: The Aleppo Codex & Mas. Soferim.

  21. And very likely, these traditions existed from the time they began writing the shira in two lines, or at least from the time they started counting said lines. And neither started at the time the shira was written.

  22. Lawrence Kaplan

    That is, both traditions are correct!

  23. I attended R’ Lau’s shiurim on which this book is based. With all due respect, he reaches a bit, for example when he tries (as he does with other periods in Sefer Melachim) to compare calls to surrender to enemies back then with calls to give land to the Arabs today. The Babylonians and the like weren’t looking to kill and exile every Jew. The Muslims are.

  24. For those interested, I thought that the Wieseltier article should be read and compared with the long standing Charedi critiques of both the ArtScroll and Steinsalz editions of the Talmud. The common thread is that one cannot become a Talmid Chacham by simply readig the text of the Talmud and the expository notes in Hebrew and English and somehow emerge as a Talmid Chacham.

  25. Steve,

    If you look at R. Aaron Shechter’s “haskama” in the Artscroll, you will see that he makes precisely the same points as Wieseltier. Indeed, it’s hard to describe it as an haskama at all — it’s a little surprising that the editors at Artscroll published what was essentially a criticism of their whole project.

  26. >Indeed, it’s hard to describe it as an haskama at all — it’s a little surprising that the editors at Artscroll published what was essentially a criticism of their whole project.

    Not so surprising. The vast majority of people 1) don’t read haskamos (or hakdamos), and 2) certainly most people who are even capable of easily reading a haskama are quite simply not the most likely audience for purchasing the Gemara. On a quick flip through you see the name anyway, and that is what matters. There’s a long history of haskamos that don’t say anything so nice about the work or author, yet people continue to print them in their works mostly because of the first reason.

  27. Michael Rogovin

    Of course Haaretz did not accept my comment on the gender separation article, but I’ll say it here. While I am generally sympathetic to the anti-gender separation cause, it is really not a matter of do we favor or oppose gender separation (nearly everyone does in some places) but where to draw the line. The problem as I see it is that, yes, there are extremists in the haredi world who demand separation where it is not required or desirable and many in that world feel they cannot protest against the extremists. But what about secular extremists who push nudity or near nudity into the public sphere, who make sexuality and sexual identity the primary means of interaction. If extreme tzniut is wrong, isn’t extreme vulgarity equally wrong? What kind of a society makes one’s sexuality (and sexual attractiveness) the primary means by which a person male or female is to be judged? As much as I feel the hareidi community may be wrong on some issues, the emphasis on deeds rather than looks is a positive midda. Public morality of the 1930s-1960s was certainly more compatible with orthodox sensibilities and the changes are likely responsible for the over-reaction of some.

    Gender separation has its place. I know of one place where demands were made that single sex restrooms be replaced (not just supplemented) by unisex since single sex toilets reinforce gender stereotypes and stigmatize those with non-traditional gender identities. Single sex restrooms are, to them, no different than whites-only and “coloreds”-only restrooms of the early and mid-1900s. We have to accept that different groups will draw the line in different places and need to accept that in private areas and perhaps gated communities that are privately owned, communities can set their own standards, up to a point. The public sphere is different and all communities need to find the derech yishara – the moderate middle ground – where extremists on both sides have to compromise for the greater good. Perhaps a return to mid-20th Century public morality with the addition of equality for all races and genders would be a worthy goal.

  28. While the Shottenstein Babylonian talmud is useful for many sugyot where there are uncommon technical terms, its format is off-putting and leads to excessive cost. Each volume of the full-sized edition costs $45 or more or some $3000 for the full set (there is a discount of some $500 currently available). These volumes are too expensive and their inflated size (due to repeated printings of the talmud pages) leads to an excessive number of volumes. I own some individual volumes, but highly doubt that I will ever own a complete hardcover set (the currently published ‘travel’ softcover set sells for $10 a volume, however).

    Mesorah publications also sells the corresponding Jerusalem Talmud at a lower price per volume. Does anyone care to render a judgement on the quality of the translation and commentary?

  29. “And because he was deeply rooted in a lifetime of Jewish practice, worship, study, and prayer, the notion of doing what was easy and self-serving – simply pocketing the insurance payments – never even occurred to him. As Feuerstein remarked when a reporter asked about the money, “And what would I do with it? Eat more? Buy another suit? Retire and die? No, that did not go into my mind.”

    Full disclosure-I was the beneficiary decades ago of a few meals eaten at the Feuerstein’s -they would invite students for Shabbos/Yom tov meals. Aaron Feurstein- who BTW was an excellent Baal Tekiah- was influenced and acted much more MO than Moses Feuerstein. Unlike Moses Feuerstein who no one would not have categorized as LWMO-Aaron Feurstein could be categorized as LWMO-a very moral LWMO. He was a very nice person.

  30. “Mesorah publications also sells the corresponding Jerusalem Talmud at a lower price per volume.”

    Supply and demand?

  31. R’ Gil –

    A suggestion for inclusion in your links. Whatever your take on the issue, this video is incredible:

  32. The article on the rapper Shyne was very strange. Except for the part where the usual publicity seeking rabbis join his posse.

    Can Someone explain why only went through “giyur lchumra”? Also, has anyone introduce him to the concept of Naval B’reshut Hatorah?

    “There’s nothing in the Chumash that says I can’t drive a Lamborghini,” and “nothing in the Halacha about driving the cars I like, about the lifestyle I live.”

  33. The reference to “Chumash” was itself a bit off by itself.

  34. MJ wrote:
    “The article on the rapper Shyne was very strange. Except for the part where the usual publicity seeking rabbis join his posse.

    Can Someone explain why only went through “giyur lchumra”? Also, has anyone introduce him to the concept of Naval B’reshut Hatorah?

    “There’s nothing in the Chumash that says I can’t drive a Lamborghini,” and “nothing in the Halacha about driving the cars I like, about the lifestyle I live.”

    MJ-Yes, Naval Breshus HaTorah is important, but I am not sure that is one of the halachos that a potential Ger Tzedek is taught. IIRC, the Talmud tells us that anything that is prohibited to us by the Torah is permitted in a different manner. As far as the “publicity seeking rabbis”,I only saw a reference to R Jeff Seidel who has been conducting tours near the Kotel and arranging for Shabbos meals for those interested for years.

  35. “But what about secular extremists who push nudity or near nudity into the public sphere, who make sexuality and sexual identity the primary means of interaction. If extreme tzniut is wrong, isn’t extreme vulgarity equally wrong?”

    We might as well admit that Hedonism has won. We now have a member of the United States Senate (a Republican!) whose career got a boost from his having posed nude for *Cosmopolitan* — and who said he would not object if a daughter were to do the same thing.

    “I know of one place where demands were made that single sex restrooms be replaced (not just supplemented) by unisex since single sex toilets reinforce gender stereotypes and stigmatize those with non-traditional gender identities”

    The Hartford Civic Center now has unofficially co-ed public restrooms. This happened because even having three womens’ restrooms for every mens’ restroom did not eliminate the long lines women faced.

  36. I thought the video from JQY was quite silly. Of course, I’m not a JQY, so maybe it would have helped me to hear something like that in high school if I was. But everyone gets made fun of in high school, for just about anything. Does this really have anything to do with being gay?

  37. re: yeshiva closing. (only) ~$5000 in tuition! no wonder it closed!

  38. Jon,
    they were not only talking about bullying (which not everyone suffers) but also the feeling that they were not what they were supposed to be, both personally and religiously. This is not something that fat kids (e.g.) have to deal with. Furthermore, I suspect that the incidnece of suicide and attempted suicide is much higher among gay teens than among teens in general, so their problems in HS go beyond “routine” bullying. (Which, i should emphasize, I do not agree is so routine. I certainly didn’t see much of it in my HS).

  39. re. yeshivah closing: the headline shouldn’t be “yeshivah evicted,” but rather “yeshivah stiffs landlord for 2 years”

  40. Jon_Brooklyn,

    Not everyone gets made fun of to the same degree. And not everyone suffers depression to the same degree. Consider the possibility that certain groups of people suffer disproportionately and show a higher incidence of suicide.

  41. MDJ: I disagree. The whole reason bullying is unpleasant is because of the impression that you’re not something you’re supposed to be. If anything, that is davka what fat kids have to deal with! My guess is that the higher rates of suicide are due to the lack of support that they’re supposed to get from the rest of the world, outside their peer group. Again – the parts about bullying (which was a lot of the video) really belong to a video encouraging schools to do a better job teaching kids to have midos.

  42. After reading about the unfortunate eviction of the school in Brooklyn, I am surprised that there was not more support for The Rent Is Too Damn High Party in the recent election. The frum community is wasting its time courting mainstream parties.

    On a more serious note, I’m trying to figure out how the administration of a school let things come to this. Are they that inept that they could not have raised funds for the past year with an eviction notice in hand to raise half a million?

  43. “Are they that inept that they could not have raised funds for the past year with an eviction notice in hand to raise half a million?”

    I know nothing about that Yeshiva -is it a closely held family business or is it a commmunity one with administrators not having equity interest in school?

  44. How is it that the RCA document on brain death doesn’t mention Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef’s support of brain death?

  45. Judaism without PC

    The homosexual film is a piece of propaganda, just like the trembling movie of a few years ago, designed to create sympathy for the homosexuals and thereby lessen opposition to them and their agenda.

    Just like the trembling sham movie (which was put out by a Conservative guy, posing as orthodox by the way), was rejected as a piece of propaganda, so too should this be thought of.

  46. For those interested , see Edward Rothstein’s review in today’s NY Times of the new Jewish museum in Philadelphia. Rothstein criticizes the museum as essentially providing much about RJ and Jewish contributions to the present day US, but provides precious little in the way of info re Orthodoxy, and other heterodox movements.

  47. GIL:

    can you please exaplain the statement on the cover page of the RCA statement. is the rca in the process of coming up with its general psak, or are they saying that constituent members should use the material in the paper to derive their own respective psaks.

  48. My understanding is that the RCA is not planning on issuing a pesak. They are leaving that up to individual rabbis. This document, I believe, is supposed to be a tool used by rabbis.

  49. The linked article in the J Post about anti Semitism in the UK should be no surprise, especially to anyone who has read “The Trials of the Diaspora.”

  50. When we previously discussed the new museum in Philadelphia and the debate over whether it should be open on Shabbos, some posters saw the same as a form of “Jewish continuity” that might lead someone to become interested in Judaism. Based on the linked review as well as the NY Times, as well as the fact that the museum soft pedals a complete view of Judaism in the US, as opposed to how Jewish Americans contributed to the present day US from an obviously liberal/left perspective with a lot of historical and kitschy artifacts, I really can’t see how visiting this museum on any day of the week would necesarily inspire anyone to become seriously interested in exploring their Jewish roots and background.

  51. ” I really can’t see how visiting this museum on any day of the week would necesarily inspire anyone to become seriously interested in exploring their Jewish roots and background.”

    As a potential waste of Jewish money it is far less than that spent on AECOM.

  52. “I really can’t see how visiting this museum on any day of the week would necesarily inspire anyone to become seriously interested in exploring their Jewish roots and background.”

    It couldn’t do any harm visiting the museum. If I were nearby-eg visiting the Liberty Bell-I would visit the museum. I’m not about to travel there just for the museum. My personal viewpoint.

  53. The RCA document is a strong indictment of HODS, which clams to not have a position, but whose website perpetuates as fact many assertions that according to the RCA document are dubious if not outright false.

  54. The RCA document is BEYOND frustrating. The maskana seems to be that brain death is not death, but that donation under other circumstances may be permissible/meritorious/obligatory.

    So should we have donor cards, or not?

  55. Lawrence Kaplan

    Mycroft; The swipe against AECOM was gratuitous and completely out of left field.

  56. As a follow up:

    1) None of the authors are organ donor card holders as far as I can tell from the HODS website. If this is true, perhaps it would have been wiser for the Va’ad – at least from a practical, consensus-building perspective, which the authors themselves seem to value – to include a halachic authority WITH a card amongst the research team. Glancing at the list of those with cards, there should be no shortage of such people (coming immediately to mind: Rav Broyde, Rav Adler, Rav Dratch, etc.).

    2) I noticed that some of the authorities whose works and opinions are discussed and evaluated by the Va’ad are still alive, yet do not seem to have been consulted by the Va’ad regarding possible arguments against them presented by the authors (e.g. of the two authorities cited in the Intro as supporting brain death, Rav Tendler seems to have been consulted extensively, but there is no sign that Rav Rabinovitch was consulted at all, notwithstanding that, as far as I know, he is still active). It is possible that such communication took place, and the authors only noted this when relevant. Does anyone have further info on this?

  57. 3) Re: Former YU – I don’t know what you’re referring to, but I certainly noticed that the Va’ad’s research on Rav Moshe Feinstein seems to conflict with the section on Rav Moshe Feinstein on the HODS website.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say, however, that the report is an “indictment” of HODS. First of all, the HODS website is pretty explicit and up-front about allowing members/card-holders to pick and choose the circumstances under which one would be determined halachically dead. On its website it lists authorities who subscribe to “brain death = death” and those who do not.

    Also, as to those authorities whom HODS claims supported brain death, and whom the report authors claim did not support brain death/would not given current info: the report authors seem to make it pretty clear at various points in the report that different interpretations of the various authorities exist, and that they are simply trying to arrive at the conclusion that they find most convincing. I don’t think this equals an “indictment” of HODS.

  58. “Lawrence Kaplan on November 14, 2010 at 3:31 pm
    Mycroft; The swipe against AECOM was gratuitous and completely out of left field.”

    I have nothing against AECOM-it is a medical school which serves a good purpose BUT there is no reason why parochial Jewish money should be used for it. I was responding to Steve Brizel who stated ” I really can’t see how visiting this museum on any day of the week would necesarily inspire anyone to become seriously interested in exploring their Jewish roots and background.”
    I agreed with Steves sentiments but not to the extentthat Ste4ve wrote and certainly see no harm in a museum except for the resources expended which are minimal comparedto an AECOM.

  59. “there is no reason why parochial Jewish money should be used for
    it.”

    There aren’t very many medical schools where the cafeteria is kosher, there are no classes on Shabat or Yom Tov, one automatically is excused from clinical rotations on Shabat and Yom Tov, and there is a strong resident Orthodox student community with lots of minyanim and shiurim.

    And there are a few frum faculty too ;).

  60. Two years ago I attended a neurology conference in Europe where one of the sessions was a report from a committee that was trying to create a Europe-wide standard for a definition of death. Two things stood out:

    (1) All of Europe was moving towards adopting brain death as the legal definition of death. I think Denmark may have been the only holdout. I think most of the rest of the world is also headed that way.

    (2) The committee was having a great deal if difficulty in coming up with an operational definition.

  61. The HODS website also presents RSZA and RYBS opinions in a manner totally inconsistent with the RCA. R’Moshe, RSZA and RYBS are in IMHO hands down the three most relevant poskim for the MO community over the last 50 years. HODS presents it as if all 3 agreed that brain death = death and the RCA document presents in painstaking detail that this claim is dubious if not false. Every single “big name” talmid of RYBS and even R’ MD tendler reject claims that he believed in brain death. Furthermore, RSZA in his own lifetime rejected the claims that he accepted brain death.
    Those are indictments of HODS and sows how they will skew the truth for their agenda. Additionally, on the issue of accepting organs by those who reject brain death they only quote R’ Elyashiv, whereas almost all other poskim in the RCA document say that you can accept donated organs.

    It seems like HODS is more than happy to present a single opinion as absolute truth even when the vast majority disagree with the veracity of their claims.

  62. “the RCA document presents in painstaking detail that this claim is dubious if not false.”

    Dubious yes, false no. As I said, I think the RCA report presents a convincing argument – over and against what is presented on the HODS site – but the report itself acknowledges that there are differences of opinion, and HODS relies heavily on those differences. Again, while the RCA authors may believe that the HODS interpretation is wrong (and I found their case fair and persuasive), that doesn’t constitute an “indictment.”

    “Every single “big name” talmid of RYBS and even R’ MD tendler reject claims that he believed in brain death.”

    This is false, as the RCA report itself notes on numerous occasions. Of course, you can still make this argument by claiming that all the authorities who disagree with you are not “big name” talmidim – you know…the whole “No True Scotsman” thing.

    “Those are indictments of HODS and sows how they will skew the truth for their agenda.”

    As Jon Stewart so poignantly noted in a recent interview with Rachel Maddown, “skewing the truth” is usually the inaccurate, hyper-partisan version of what normal people would call “interpreting in good faith (even if ultimately incorrect).” I think that’s what’s going on here…

    “Additionally, on the issue of accepting organs by those who reject brain death they only quote R’ Elyashiv, whereas almost all other poskim in the RCA document say that you can accept donated organs.”

    As for this: if you think it’s acceptable to take but not give, then you’re a horrible person. Furthermore, if you’re a posek who thinks it’s acceptable to take but not give, then you’re worse than horrible (approaching pure rish’us) because you should know better. If HODS has chosen to only represent R. Elyashiv’s view on this, to the exclusion of those who believe it is okay to take but not give, then I assume this is because to do otherwise would be a bizzayon to Torah and would make a mockery of Halacha. Good for them.

  63. It would have been helpful, I think, if the RCA statement would have given us some guidance on how we can wrap our minds around the idea that, OTOH, we are supposed to be an ohr lagoyim while, OTOH, we gladly take, but refuse to give, heart donations. What was it Hillel said anyway?

  64. “It would have been helpful, I think, if the RCA statement would have given us some guidance on how we can wrap our minds around the idea that, OTOH, we are supposed to be an ohr lagoyim while, OTOH, we gladly take, but refuse to give, heart donations. What was it Hillel said anyway?”

    It’s quite likely that I missed other references, but the only places I could find where the authors engaged this issue were in sections discussing R. Aharon Soloveichik and R. Elyashiv. Both are cited – each with an accompanying one and a half line footnote providing the barest semblance of an explanation – as ruling that one may accept organ donations from brain dead donors even if one does not accept brain death as death.

    The two problems with this (that I can imagine) – a) this basically turns Jews into organ donor parasites, and b) one is essentially requesting and profiting from the murder of others – are not really grappled with at all, except in two footnotes: one supplying R. Aharon’s reasoning (“the prohibition to be מחזיק ידי עוברי עבירה, including רוצחים, does not apply in a case of פיקוח נפש”), and the other noting that R. Elyashiv’s position only applies under limited circumstances (details of which the reader is directed to find in the cited source).

    R. Aharon’s opinion is shocking, to say the least.

  65. Regarding RYBS I am not sure what you refer to when you reject my statement regarding the “big talmidim”. All reports on RYBS accepting brain death come from a single talmid who I have never heard of. That is not to say he is not a talmid chacham and was not an important figure in the RCA, but as someone who learned in YU for 5 years and has semicha from there I have heard of most of the “big talmidim” and never heard R’ Walfish mentioned.

    I do not believe this is a “no true scotsman” issue. It is hard to believe that R’ Walfish is correct on RYBS and all the other talmidim (who are all more prominently known as talmidim) on the record reject that view. Acc to the RCA document, R’ Herschel Schachter, Ahron Soloveichik, Hayyim Soleveichik, Marc Angel, MD tendler, Mayer twersky, isadore twersky & Yitzie lichtenstein all agree that RYBS never accepted brain death. (quite an impressive list).
    Some other big talmidim who personally reject brain death are also mentioned in the RCA document. R Ahron lichtenstein personally rejects brain death and says he never discussed it with the Rav. Also R’ Willig and R’ Rosensweig reject brain death. Finally, R’ Walfish claims that RYBS said he accepts brain death b/c he deferred to R’MD Tendler, while R’ Tendler himself states that RYBS did not accept his opinion re: brain death.

    I think HODS should be clear that they have an agenda to push brain death criteria (which should be obvious to anyone who has heard their presentation). An therefore they are willing to accept a single opinion about what certain gedolim said (specifically RYBS and RSZA). They also therefore osbscure what the poskim hold regarding the acceptance of organs.

    I am not challenging there right to present the opinions they desire, just that it is disingenuous and perhaps geneivas daas to present their website as an objective presentation of the issues, when they ignore what most hold as the positions of RSZA and RYBS, only quote R’ Elyashiv on the issue of acceptance of organs, and grossly simplify the great controversy around R’ Moshe’s opinion.

  66. Charlie Hall on November 14, 2010 at 6:24 pm
    “there is no reason why parochial Jewish money should be used for
    it.”

    “There aren’t very many medical schools where the cafeteria is kosher, there are no classes on Shabat or Yom Tov, one automatically is excused from clinical rotations on Shabat and Yom Tov, and there is a strong resident Orthodox student community with lots of minyanim and shiurim.

    And there are a few frum faculty too ;).”

    Not one of those reasons is good enough to justify the expense to the Jewish community. Brandeis has a kosher cafeteria, many campuses have a kosher kitchen. I have attended schools with classes on Shabat and yom Tov naturally I ddin’t attend. Some of the non YU schools had shiurim and minyanim-including one outside NY with a daily shacharit minyan in a classroom that I attended.
    There are frum medical faculty in other medical schools, including at least one biostatistician.
    Even without my response and assuming there was not that available-with the money that that Einstein costs the Jewish community one could support many Jewish activities from Yeshivot to day schools to museums which are way down in my priorities. Even a JCC does more to keep people Jewish than a medical school. BTW when I was a grad student outside of NY I once walked by the Undergrad counselling office and they listed various schoolsto apply-practically all listed the name of the University. AECOM was listed wo any mention of YU.

  67. “R Ahron lichtenstein personally rejects brain death”

    When Gush student Yoni Jesner was brain dead after a suicide bombing in 2002, his family consulted Gush rabbis (I don’t know for sure that it was RAL) who refused to give him a psak on whether his organs could be donated, but rather left the decision to the family, who chose to donate.

    RAL himself is reported to be uncertain about whether brain death can be relied on, but if forced to choose one way or another in practice, would probably opt for “shev veal taaseh”.

    This info comes from a shiur I heard as a student there a few years back.

  68. Former YU:

    1) Rabbi Walfish was actually the Director of the RCA at one point, if I remember. I’m not sure how long you’ve had semicha, but the fact that you don’t know about him is certainly not his fault! (Also, if you went to Gush, or have kids in Gush, then you’re likely familiar with his son who is a Ra”m).

    2) Of course HODS has an agenda, and yes they may be relying heavily on those who support their position but – and this is an important point – this does not HAVE TO BE disingenuous and does not HAVE TO BE geneivas da’as. Why can’t you just accept that they believe – in good faith – that their interpretation of Rav Moshe, Rav Shlomo Zalman and the Rav are correct? Maybe they’re wrong, and maybe the RCA document is right (I think it is), but I strenuously object to this deep-seated need amongst parts of our community (both left and right) to uncover conniving villains among those with whom they disagree. HODS’ interpretation – if it is wrong – will be just as wrong whether it’s simply wrong, or evil and wrong. Insisting on the latter is something we should be attempting to stamp out of Yiddishkeit.

    3) If you read carefully, you’ll note that the talmidim of the Rav who disputed his acceptance of brain death do not do so on DEFINITIVE grounds (except for one). Rather, the preponderance of the evidence SUGGESTS that he did not accept it (which, I should add, I find to be a convincing argument!).

    Thus, Rav Twersky and R. Yitzchak Lichtenstein both report that the Rav thought this was safek retzichah, but the latter seems to allow that the Rav may have only thought this because he doubted the testing (which might no longer be a problem). R. Lichtenstein’s argument against this seems – at least from the the document – to be HIS OWN sevara about the way his grandfather dealt with psak, rather than anything he heard from the Rav. This doesn’t mean he is wrong, just that it’s not a decisive refutation of Rav Walfish (again, I hope I have made clear the distinction between one side having a more convincing argument vs. one side having the objectively correct position).

    The Gra”ch declined to speak about this (all we have is a second hand report from Rav Schachter about what Rav Haym said that his father probably thought), and Rav Aharon Lichtenstein claims he never spoke with the Rav about this. His personal opinion, stated later on in the document, is not connected (at least in the document) to the Rav’s position.

    Of the “talmidim” of the Rav, then, we have precisely TWO people who claim to have been told by the Rav himself that he did not accept brain death. Of those two, one implies that he was ACTUALLY told that the Rav simply doubted the testing, rather than the concept – and his explanation of this is based on HIS OWN understanding of the Rav’s methodology.

    You are right, however, that the conclusion of that section in the report uses strong language indicating that “there can be no doubt” about the Rav’s opinion. All I can say is that this language is probably a little imprecise (if ultimately useful), and is simply motivated by the strong feelings that the author has for his rebbe (which are made explicit in that paragraph).

  69. Jerry,

    I think you miss my point. All I am saying is that HODS should be upfront about their agenda. The website claims to be neutral about the halachik issues. That is disingenuous and perhaps geneivas daas. They have a bias and it shows.

    No one has corroborated R’ Walfish statement regarding RYBS and R’ Walfish claims that RYBS accepted R’ tendler, which even R’ Tendler rejects. All the talmidim (excluding R’ Walfish) who claim to have spoken to RYBS have said that at best it is safek retzicha. Last I check that is not accepting brain death no matter how you spin it.

  70. Full disclosure: I am a board member of HODS.

    This discussion should not be about what HODS is or what it isn’t(although that is a perfectly legitimate topic of conversation for the proper arena and I am sure that Robby Berman will be happy to contribute and answer questions). Since the RCA paper has been posted, let us discuss exactly what it is or what it isn’t. As best as I can tell, Rabbi Bush assembled as much information as he could, medical and halachic, against the concept of brain death. He neglected to include any of the scientific information that supports brain death, he states from the outset that he will have a confrontational attitude towards brain death, and he certainly lives up to that. From a scientific point of view, aside from the very considerable amount of information that he leaves out, there are considerable inaccuracies and misstatements. I am sure others will weigh in on the halachic analysis. It should not be seen as a fair and balanced inquiry into the topic, but a paper very strongly reflecting a point of view. I would only point out that the approach he seems to favor, defining death using only circulation/respiration, leads to unresolvable problems in logic and contradicts established halacha. I have reviewed this in detail in an article published online in Meorot(mentioned a few months ago) available here:
    http://www.yctorah.org/content/view/662/10/

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