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Jewish Children About to be Placed for Adoption in Non-Jewish Homes
Orthodox Jewish Group Asks MTA to Remove Inappropriate Subway Ads
Rabbis boycott grooms with cell phones

More than kashrut
High cost of observance opens conference
ACLU aays judge’s action argues for new Rubashkin trial
Is brain death enough? RCA says maybe
Civility: What the Sages Had to Say
R. Mordechai Willig: The Path of Hashem
There’s no more room under the rug
SALT Friday
What’s so Jewish about blood libels and ghettos
Rabbi Sherlo: Don’t probe leftist organizations
A lesson from King Saul on exposing child molesters
The perils of TMI
Continued angst over day school tuition

The Blood Libel of Blood Libels


Eruv suit in Hamptons fueling new tensions

SALT Thursday
Benjamin Franklin, Mussar Maven
Sen. Joseph Lieberman to retire

From New Year to Arbor Day


Rabbi: Lower marriage age to 15

the Ethicist on Stealing from a Thief (not allowed but you don’t have to pay an additional fine – Bava Kamma 7a)
Tamir Goodman, the Jewish Jordan
Englewood district concerned about impact of new Hebrew charter school

McFalafel arrives in Israel

About All Of A Kind Family
SALT Wednesday
Tunisian Jews safe, but anxious for quiet to return
The Status of Jewish Men
in the Conservative / Masorti Movement

Science, Faith, and Biblical Archeology
Israeli Bochur Convicted in Japan Is Released
Yated takes a stand against blogs (like Matzav)
R. Natan Slifkin responds
SALT Tuesday
Being Jewish Like Me? The Answer Varies
Sarah Palin and the State of Halachic Discourse
RYGB: Chazal, Brain Death, and Rabbi Natan Slifkin
Rabbis claim new powers in divorces of couples married in civil unions
Whirling Along The Borders Of Israeli Life
Yated metes out cautious criticism at Rabbi Yosef, Amar
State approves all IDF conversions
SALT Monday
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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.

185 comments

  1. Is there a predent in the history of the Israeli chief rabbinate whereby a chief rabbi is not sovereign in his psak?

  2. hirhurim: if you are posting rygb’s criticism of r’ slifkin (flippant regard towards chazal) tou should also post r’ slifkin’s response on his blog:
    http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/

  3. I can’t believe you posted RYGB’s pathetic non-response. Do you really think it’s feasible to wave away R. Slifkin’s research with the wave of a hand, two sources and a series of ad hominems?

  4. Thank you, R’ Ruvie and R’ Jon Brooklyn, for linking us to R. Slifkin’s reponse to RYGB. [Parenthetically, I note that I have great hakarat hatov for R. Slifkin, from whom (lihavdil ani hakatan) I have merited to learn much – and I even once enjoyed the privilege to correspond with him regarding the jumping elephant Tosafot in Kiddushin 26a. More importantly than any accolade I can offer him, R. Slifkin’s scholarship is specifically praised as “informative” by R. Bleich in Tradition 38:4, p. 102.]

    R. Slifkin invokes the example of the fact that today we halakhically treat an 8-month-gestated newborn as alive, even though in the time of Chazal such a newborn was stillborn. Here is how RSZA anticipates R. Slifkin’s argument (Shulchan Shelomoh, Erkei Refu’ah II, p. 34):

    “However, with respect to the words of Chatam Sofer, it seems to me that just as the law is regarding an 8-month-gestated newborn that he is a stone and we do not desecrate the Shabbat [to care for the newborn, for the gemara considers the baby to be dead], for sure the law has changed in our times and Heaven forbid that we should pasken as such, and based on what I have heard even a fetus who is only gestated after 5 or 6 months, and also he does not yet possess fingernails or hair, even so he can stay alive through an incubator. And therefore you are forced to say that only in the time of Chazal they gave him the status of a stone, because they didn’t know then how to resuscitate him, as opposed to our era.

    [RSZA adds a footnote here: I am in doubt regarding a calf where we know for sure it wasn’t gestated sufficiently, such that according to the Halakhah {of the gemara} his law is that he is stillborn and shechitah will not help, what would be the help if the calf was resuscitated through an incubator, if it will be permissible in consumption {following shechitah} after eight days, and I don’t have room to discuss this now.]

    And likewise we find regarding one who kills a treifah, that it is clarified in Rambam, Hilkhot Rotze’ah 2:8 that it does not depend upon the laws of animal treifot which is a matter of ritual permission & prohibition, rather it depends upon the decision of the physicians whether the injury will heal or not. And thus it is clear that the law of one who kills a treifah evolves with time and depends upon the development of medical science. Likewise it seems to me clear that in our time it it impossible to decide that a person is dead except with the mpst up-to-date discoveries which determine the line between life and death. And Heaven forbid to rely in our time only on the signs of respiration and the like more than other investigations [of the patient] and to pasken that if an avalanche fell upon a person on Shabbat that if his respiration ceased and his heart stopped beating that they will leave him under the stones and not desecrate the Shabbat. And Heaven forbid to quickly bury a person who is not breathing, when we know methods of rescue by breathing from mouth to mouth, and the like. And therefore so long as according to medical science there is still a doubt that it is possible to resuscitate and restore his vitality, this is regarded as doubtful fainting.”

    In summary, RSZA regarded contemporary medical science as enabling us to resuscitate patients for longer than previously possible. It seems to me (S. Spira) that what RSZA is saying is that “yardah chulshah la’olam” – weakness has descended into the world. It used to be that people were so strong that they kept breathing until they died (defined as irreversible circulatory arrest, or – according to RSZA – death of all brain cells. As noted, RSZA’s latter assumption is based on his reading of Eli Hakohen, which is seemingly controversial*). Today, we are weaker, and people stop breathing even before they die, and those people can be heroically kept alive with medical technology. Thus, the definition of life given to us by Chazal is eternally true, but the opportunities to sustain life have been enhanced by the developments of medical science (cardiopulmonary resuscitation, advanced cardiac life support, etc.). This suggests that a brain dead patient is doubtfully dead, doubtfully alive.

    *=As discussed in the “Death by Neurological Criteria” forum, comments on Dec. 27 at 5:53 p.m., 9:04 p.m. and 9:32 p.m. In the interests of intellectual honesty, I must add that it becomes apparent that Shu”t Avnei Nezer, Yoreh De’ah 399, who says (in sec. 3) that the “the essence of the human being is his cranial unit” because that is where the intelligence resides, must have presumably agreed with those poskim (including RSZA) who controversially regarded Eli Hakohen as a template for the concept of physiological decapitation.

  5. RYGB’s implicit premise is that any breach in considering halakhah to be an autonomous system will have problematic results. Or more specifically, it will have the result of legitimizing a “Conservative” approach to halakhah.

    Well, that train left the station. So why not focus on the actual question at hand which is a matter of life and death, and forget about these ideological bugaboos.

  6. From clarifying comments RHM has made in response to my criticism, I gather the RYGB post was more about facilitating a public disassociation from the man he once defended than a substantive point of discussion.

    I think the post was a mistake which reflects poorly on both RHM and RYGB, but I see nothing of value in discussing it further. It added no light to the debate.

  7. Clarification to my above post of 11:146 a.m.:

    When I employ the expression “yardah chulshah la’olam”, the more technically correct expression for me to articulate would be “yarad choli la’olam”, for that is the official term as coined by the gemara in Megillah 21a. [It is true that we also find the term “yardah chulshah la’olam” subsequently used in halakhic literature, but – ironically – its source appears to be from a specific context where one of the Rishonim *refused* to acknowledge an evolution in nature. Namely, Chiddushei HaRan to Sanhedrin 69b writes that we *cannot* claim “yardah chulshah la’olam” to believe that our ancestors bore progeny at earlier ages of development than we do today. So, the more correct way for me to elucidate RSZA’s halakhic ruling would be “yarad choli la’olam”.] Thank you.

  8. The latest summary by Slifkin brings the issues into stark relief.

    Slifkin believes strongly that Chazal would allow killing one who has lost his ability to choose between good and evil to preserve the life of one who has not.

    This is not true. There is no source that מאי חזית does not apply to a שוטה

    Slifkin believes that any analysis not addressing Chazal’s view of the heart as the seat of free will is fundamentally flawed.

    This is wrong. It is simply irrelevant, and even if it were relevant, it wouldn’t matter according to the Chazon Ish, espoused by Rav Schachter, that the principles of TSB”P are set in stone and will not shift based on current science. Not to mention the Rivash 447:

    ובדבר השאלה ידע האדון שאין לנו לדון בדיני תורותנו ומצותיה ע”פ חכמי הטבע והרפו’ שאם נאמין לדבריהם אין תורה מן השמים חלילה כי כן הניחו הם במופתיהם הכוזבים, ואם תדין בדיני הטריפות ע”פ חכמי הרפואה שכר הרבה תטול מן הקצבים כי באמת יהפכו רובם ממות לחיים ומחיים למות ויחליפו חי במת וכו’, ואנחנו על חז”ל נסמוך אפילו יאמרו לנו על ימין שהוא שמאל שהם קבלו האמת ופרושי המצוה איש מפי איש עד משרע”ה, לא נאמין אל חכמי היוונים והישמעאלים שלא דברו רק מסברתם וע”פ איזה נסיון מבלי שישגיחו על כמה ספיקות יפלו בנסיון וכו’ עיין שם, והדברים מדברים בעדם ומלמדים אותנו בינה להבין קושט אמרי אמת הן מבחינת אמונתנו שהכתוב בחז”ל בענינים אלו מקובלים איש מפי איש עד משרע”ה

    Slfkin equates 8 month old fetuses and killing lice on Shabbos to this issue.

    They are incomparable. Those are misapplications are principles. Cardiac death determining death is a possibly Sinaitic principle of הדם הוא הנפש, and, if so, is as inviolable as פיקוח נפש דוחה כל התורה כולה חוץ מג’ חמורות

  9. The above should read “those are misapplications of principles.”

  10. Akiva,

    1) Please refer to him as Rav Slifkin. Taking away the title of those you disagree with does not help your case.

    2)
    “Slifkin believes strongly that Chazal would allow killing one who has lost his ability to choose between good and evil to preserve the life of one who has not.

    This is not true. There is no source that מאי חזית does not apply to a שוטה”

    May I suggest you look up Rav Michael Avraham’s article on the subject in Tehumin 29, where he argues that “hayei tzemach” (the life of a vegetable) is even less than “hayei sha’a” and thus the entire debate is irrelevant. BTW, he’s not MO, so he has a right to an opinion even according to you.

    2) The Chazon Ish is not the only posek in the world, simply one side in a serious argument. That is unless you hold to the view that only people in the Charedi world (or those who submit to their view) have the right to an halachic opinion. In that case, I don’t see any point in further debate.

    BTW, what’s your response to the Chatam Sofer disagreeing with Rashi on a matter of medical science, as quoted by R. Slifkin.

    You can’t just quote people who agree with you and agrue that that’s the final position.

    3) “They are incomparable. Those are misapplications are principles. Cardiac death determining death is a possibly Sinaitic principle of הדם הוא הנפש, and, if so, is as inviolable as פיקוח נפש דוחה כל התורה כולה חוץ מג’ חמורות”

    This is the first time I have heard this. Prove it. “Possibly” doesn’t cut it.

  11. “Cardiac death determining death is a possibly Sinaitic principle ”

    Then a heart transplant is “possibly” murder. Only beating hearts can be transplanted.

  12. Please refer to him as Rav Slifkin. Taking away the title of those you disagree with does not help your case.

    I apologize, but I believe he has crossed the line into Conservative Halachah. It is viscerally difficult for me to do so. I will try to call him Rabbi Slifkin.

    May I suggest you look up Rav Michael Avraham’s article on the subject in Tehumin 29, where he argues that “hayei tzemach” (the life of a vegetable) is even less than “hayei sha’a” and thus the entire debate is irrelevant.

    1) Based on what?
    2) Does he support harvesting organs from PVS patients?

    BTW, he’s not MO, so he has a right to an opinion even according to you.

    I believe I cited Rav Schachter, or is he not MO enough as the Rosh Kollel of RIETS?

    2) The Chazon Ish is not the only posek in the world, simply one side in a serious argument.

    So the Chazon Ish would hold that it is murder. Big deal.
    (I will not descend to the “even though he is Charedi” puerile stuff.)

    BTW, what’s your response to the Chatam Sofer disagreeing with Rashi on a matter of medical science, as quoted by R. Slifkin.

    Doesn’t bother me at all. Rashi’s explanation of the female anatomy is hardly a principle of Torah Sheb’al Peh.

    This is the first time I have heard this. Prove it. “Possibly” doesn’t cut it.

    See Rav Schachter’s article, citing:
    The Passuk
    תוס’ כתובות ה: ד”ה דם שהחובל בשבת חייב משום נטילת נשמה
    ירושלמי פרק כלל גדול
    סנהדרין פד: מה מכה בהמה עד דעביד בה חבורה, דכתיב בה נפש [ונפש משמע דם – רש”י]

    See there for further discussion.

  13. possibly Sinaitic principle
    =======================================
    Which (sorry, I have to say this at least once a quarter on any of the manifold debates on definiton of death, srarrah…) is the bottom line – we have a amalgam of “possiblies” on most difficult questions, especially on new technologies, and someone/some group has to make a judgement call (e.g. R’ Mayer Twersky’s discussion of Beit Yaakov) as to what chazal/Hkb”h thought/meant. The rest is imvho peripheral.
    KT

  14. Thank you, and yi’yasher kochakha, R’ Akiva, for your support.

    In the spirit of teaching the opposition’s lomdut as well as our own lomdut, apropos the gemara in Eruvin 13b: In all fairness to R. Slifkin, RSZA’s responsum (which counters R. Slifkin) is a bit confusing, because (in a portion of the responsum I didn’t yet cite, on p. 35 of the same volume of Shulchan Shelomoh), RSZA goes on to say that when a patient finally enters irreversible cardiac arrest, we will envisage the patient as having retroactively been dead from the moment he stopped breathing. With all due reverence manifest before the great luminary RSZA, I do not see how such a theological proposition can be seriously entertained. At any given moment in the space-time continuum of our universe, either a body has a neshamah and is alive, or a body does not have a neshamah and is dead. How can RSZA claim that a person was still alive from the moment he stopped breathing until his circulation ceased irreversibly, but then – once his circulation ceased irreversibly – he was retroactively dead commencing the moment he stopped breathing? It sounds impossible.

    Indeed, RSZA himself acknowledges the incredible nature of his claim. But RSZA defends his curious thesis with a proof: the fact that Rema to Shulchan Arukh Orach Chaim 330:5 does not allow perform a post-mortem C-section to rescue the fetus on the grounds that we are incompetent to diagnose maternal death with precision. Asks RSZA: at the split second that we are finally certain that the mother is dead, why don’t we then perform the C-section to try to save the fetus? It must be, argues RSZA, that once we are absolutely certain that the mother is dead, we retroactively deem her to be dead from the moment she stopped breathing, and thus the fetus has long since perished.

    RSZA concludes that his “retroactive death” chiddush is “tzarikh iyun”.

    It’s hubris for me to challenge RSZA, but since RSZA himself concluded that his “retroactive death” thesis is “tzarikh iyun”, I feel license has been granted to replace it with a more intuitive analysis. RSZA’s whole proof from the Rema can easily be countered as follows: although it takes a long time for us to be certain the mother has died, the fetus is far more delicate and vulnerable than the mother, and thus by the time we diagnose the mother’s death with certainty, we know that the fetus is also definitely dead. So it’s not the peshat the mother retroactively died from the time she stopped breathing. No: the mother was alive until her circulation ceased irreversibly, but by the time we can diagnose irreversible circulatory arrest with certainty, the fetus is long gone.

    All of that is to say, that because this responsum of RSZA contained a “tzarikh iyun” element and is one regarding which “makom hinichu li avotai lihitgader bo” (as per the gemara in Chullin 7a), I can understand how R. Slifkin wrote the halakhic analysis that he wrote, and it was a valuable contribution to the shakla-vitarya process leading to our present conclusion (if one is to agree with RYGB, which I do) that a brain dead patient is doubtfully alive, doubtfully dead.

  15. I apologize, but I believe he has crossed the line into Conservative Halachah. ==================================================
    and that line is defined by what?
    KT

  16. “So the Chazon Ish would hold that it is murder. Big deal.”

    And others, like Rav Avraham Shapira and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, disagree. Big deal.

    “BTW, he’s not MO, so he has a right to an opinion even according to you.”

    “I believe I cited Rav Schachter, or is he not MO enough as the Rosh Kollel of RIETS?”

    RHS is a great Talmid Chacham, but he is not MO by any stretch of the imagination. His formal position is irrelevant. What matters is his stance on critical issues, which today are largely a carbon copy of the Charedi-Litvish position (on giyur, for instance, his position is indistinguishable from that of Rav Elyashiv).

    “May I suggest you look up Rav Michael Avraham’s article on the subject in Tehumin 29, where he argues that “hayei tzemach” (the life of a vegetable) is even less than “hayei sha’a” and thus the entire debate is irrelevant.

    1) Based on what?
    2) Does he support harvesting organs from PVS patients?”

    Read the article. Then we’ll talk.

    “(I will not descend to the “even though he is Charedi” puerile stuff.)”

    You opened that door by calling Rav Slifkin conservative and selectively quoting only Charedi authorities, i.e. those you agree with while ignoring the many authorities who disagree.

    An honest response would at least acknowledge the Rabbinic authorities who hold the opposite on matters of science, brain death &c.

    Learn to treat the other side with respect and drop the ignoring/name-calling that is so prevalent in the RW debating tactical arsenal.

    “See there for further discussion.”

    You first (Rav Avraham’s article; the material on HODS &c).

  17. How can RSZA claim that a person was still alive from the moment he stopped breathing until his circulation ceased irreversibly, but then – once his circulation ceased irreversibly – he was retroactively dead commencing the moment he stopped breathing? It sounds impossible.
    =======================================
    IIUC you are assuming that halachic reality and reality reality are one in the same, yet in halacha we often see a future event informing on a status at an earlier time (e.g the 3 pieces of meat one of which is treif conundrum)
    KT
    KT

  18. Joel:

    Rabbi Slifkin wrote: “the very act of analyzing different passages in the Gemara in order to determine whether Chazal considered life to fundamentally depend upon respiratory, circulatory, or neurological activity, misses the point entirely.”

    Espousing a position that the very act of deciding what Halachah considers to be murder by analyzing different passages in Chazal is “missing the point entirely”, is just not how Orthodox Halachah, in Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein parlance, ‘is done’.

    But I don’t want to focus on that. After all, it’s just my opinion. I would like to focus on my critique of Rabbi Slifkin’s position.

  19. Just heard a barnburner of a speech from R’ Tendler here in Yerushalayim. Full house and a great presentation. No surprises, really, but he’s convinced me that most people involved here don’t really know what they’re talking about. (But we knew that.)

  20. Nachum,

    Could you elaborate? 🙂

  21. And others, like Rav Avraham Shapira and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, disagree. Big deal.

    Their opinion is firmly based on their acceptance of their understanding of Chazal’s definition of death (respiratory), not its rejection.
    Let us be clear. I am not advocating nor rejecting brainstem death as a valid criteria, just as Rabbi Slifkin is, by his own statement, doing neither. I am focused solely on his article.

    Read the article. Then we’ll talk.

    I have never heard of Rav Avraham and would like an outline of his basic position before I spend the time doing so.

    < and selectively quoting only Charedi authorities, i.e. those you agree with while ignoring the many authorities who disagree.
    They were just not relevant to my critique of Rabbi Slifkin’s article. I have enormous respect for Rabbanim Eliyahu, Yisraeli, Shapira zt”l, et al.

    An honest response would at least acknowledge the Rabbinic authorities who hold the opposite on matters of science, brain death

    I am unaware of a posek who decided the issue of brain death based on a rejection of Chazal’s criteria of death.

  22. R’ Aiwac,

    Yi’yasher kochakha and thank you for the reference to R. Michael Avraham’s article. I didn’t know about it and will definitely look for it to read it. My first impression is that R. Avraham’s position to sacrifice a PVS patient to save a neurologically functional patient is incompatible the normative consensus of poskim. It is precisely for this reason that RMF wrote in the introduction to IM YD 2:174 regarding harvesting the heart of a PVS patient to save the life of a neurologically normal patient: “I do not want to elongate with proofs, rationales and pilpul, for I say that anyone who adds to perform pilpul and bring proofs is like detracting, for it sounds as though one needs proofs because it is not so simple, and people will come to be lenient to save – well maybe there’s a rejounder – and even if the rejoinder is specious, people will say “look the rabbis are debating, and therefore one can be lenient”.” I.e., we can never kill a PVS patient, even to save another patient.

    See also Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 18:19, who describes the case of a husband who has been in a state of PVS for 10 years, leaving an agunah. The husband finally goes into cardiac arrest. Should the physicians resuscitate, or should they have mercy on the agunah and passively let the PVS husband die? Answers Tzitz Eliezer: we are obligated to resuscitate, and as for the agunah “she should accept the judgment of Heaven with love”.

  23. “Slifkin believes strongly that Chazal would allow killing one who has lost his ability to choose between good and evil to preserve the life of one who has not.”

    Akiva, please do not misrepresent my position. Note to general public: Please do not believe reports about my positions from other people. Read (carefully) what I write instead.

  24. Akiva – The Chasam Sofer was able to get away with changing Chazal’s criteria of death – he was the first posek to add circulation which was only incorporated into halachic discourse as a result of scientific advances, even if it was not admitted as such. The Maharetz Chayes added decomposition, clearly also as a result of scientific advances merging with traditional critera. Rav Yehuda Leib Margolius, who took part in the whole controversy regarding delaying burials in the 18th century paskened that “one is required by halakha to comply with the physician’s diagnosis of
    particular patient as living or dead”.
    See Panitz, Michael E. Modernity and Mortality: The Transformation of Central European Jewish Responses to Death, 1750-1850. Diss. The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1989, p.163.

  25. Doron Beckerman

    R’ Spira (or anyone else),

    Perhaps you can help we with something, regarding the sheep experiment. The premise of the experiment is that a decapitated sheep is dead. However, the Mishnah in Chullin 9:1 states:

    השוחט בהמה טמאה לנכרי ומפרכסת מטמאה טומאת אוכלין אבל לא טומאת
    נבלות
    עד שתמות או עד שיתיז את ראשה

    Based on this split between תמות and יתיז את ראשה, Rabbi Blidstein in an article in Hadarom asserted that a beheaded animal was metamei, but not Halachically dead. But this understanding was rejected in Rav Mordechai Halperin’s article on the sheep experiment:

    בניגוד לדעתו החריגה של הרב י. בלידשטיין, הדרום לג (תשל”א), 75-73, המבדיל בין מצב של מיתה גמורה לבין מצב של התזת הראש שאמנם מטמאה מחיים, אך אין זו מיתה. לשיטת הרב בלידשטיין כמובן אסור להשתמש בלב של מותז ראש, שהוא נחשב כחי למרות שבאותה שעה הוא כבר מטמא טומאת מת. אמנם אין דבריו מסתברים כלל, שכן משמעות המשנה שהותז ראשו כלול בגדר המוזכר בראש המשנה: שיצאה נפשו, וא”כ דינו כמת לכל דבר. וכן מבואר באגרות משה יו”ד ח”ב, קע”ד ענף א’. ולשון המשנה בחולין ט, א, עד שתמות או עד שיתיז את ראשה, הכוונה עד שתידום ללא כל תנועה (עפ”י הכתוב “וימת לבו” – ש”א כה, לז), או עד שיתיז את ראשה, אף שאיננה דוממת אלא מפרכסת כזנב הלטאה שכבר יצאה נפשה.

    So the animal is halachically dead. But who says it is physiologically dead (which seems to be the premise of the sheep experiment)? The basis for this distinction would be the comment of the Bartenura to that Mishnah in Chullin:

    אבל לא טומאת נבילות עד שתמות – דהא וכי ימות מן הבהמה כתיב

    או עד שיתיז את ראשה – דהויא לה גיסטרא ונבילה מחיים, דחשובה מתה, ואפילו היא מפרכסת:

  26. WRT circulatory death
    The issue of the definition of death is a halachic one – but in order to understand the halachic sources, one has to understand what they were talking about….

    Thus, there is the pasuk of hadam hu hanefesh. However, using this passuk (and the cited tosfot) to argue for circulatory death suggests an utter ignorance of medical history – there is nothing in hazal or rishonim to support such a read. Indeed, there is nothing before Harvey (born 1578, published his work in 1628) in any author, either Jewish or nonJewish, that reflects an understanding of circulation. Arguing for sinaitic status for a concept that was unknown before the 17th century is problematic …(a different meaning to hahadash assur min hatorah…)

    The question of the criteria of death needs halachic definition – but if one wants to use the standards put forward by hazal – one has to understand what they meant – and it is clear that they did not mean circulation in our sense. One may be able to buid)((and other poskim have built) a different halachic case that continued circulation satisfies a hazal criteria for continued life – but not on hadam hu hanefesh…(rMF’s position understood hazal’s criteria in a way that reflects their own understanding – and then translates it into modern terms. Does not mean it is halachically right – but it makes sense..)

    this does not deny that the importance of blood (as one of the four humors) was recognized, and clearly excessive bleeding causes death – but this does not translate to circulation…

    . psak here requires not merely halachic knowledge, but knowledge of medicine (and, in order to understand hazal and rishonim, medical history….)

  27. R’ Anonymous,

    Thank you and yi’yasher kochakha for the erudite analysis. I am very impressed that such a dissertation was written, and if I had access here in Montreal, I would try to read it. [There is a halakhic question with consulting the theology of JTS, but certainly “lihaveen ulihorot” one may read one of its books, as per IM YD 2:111. Hopefully, JTS will be inspired by the Torah discussions that occur on R. Student’s wonderful website to self-transform into a fully Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva, and then we will all be able to pursue JTS books in good conscience.]

    Regarding decomposition as a criterion of diagnosing death with certainty, this is found in the gemara Niddah 69b. Accordingly, Chatam Sofer was appropriately balancing the competing sugyot of Yoma 85a and Niddah 69b. Ergo, I understand why RMF (IM YD 3:132, last sentence of first paragraph) and RSZA (Shulchan Shelomoh Erkei Refu’ah II, p. 22, first paragraph; and p. 32, final paragraph) both rule definitively that the Halakhah follows the Chatam Sofer, such that a person is alive until circulation ceases irreversibly. The only issue is that RMF and RSZA clashed regarding the interpretation of a circulation which is artificially sustained well beyond the amount of time that it is concurrently fuelled through the patient’s independent respiration. RMF held that such artificially sustained circulation does not count and according to Chatam Sofer the patient is dead (and therefore brain death=death), whereas RSZA held that such artificially sustained circulation does doubtfully count, and that the brain dead patient is doubtfully alive. Moreover, we have illustrated how the RMF vs. RSZA confrontation parallels a longstanding dispute among the poskim regarding cow lactation on Pesach. Presumably, then, we are left with a genuine safek whether the brain dead patient is dead or alive.

  28. Please forgive my error… the Shulchan Shelomoh reference should have been p. 26, first paragraph, and p. 32 final paragraph. Thank you.

  29. OK,

    Seeing as my response was erased for some reason, let me repeat: Rav Avraham’s argument has NOTHING to do with, h”v, harvesting organs from PVS’s.

    Rather his argument, briefly, is that a person has the right to voluntarily forfiet what amounts to less than a hayei sh’ah to save someone else’s hayei olam. (I’d add the snippets from the discussion, but I’m afraid of being deleted again. Those who are interested are invited to go over to the עצור! כאן חושבים forum [google it] and search for תרומת איברים.

  30. Let me pose a simple question. If a brain activity based test, administered accurately by experts, determined that given current medical technology, a patient with an artificially beating heart could not ever again have a heartbeat on their own nor can the patient ever again breathe on their own, would the halakha allow harvesting organs? That seems to me to be one currently relevant question. How would the scenario described impact the psak?

    (If we are only arguing about what provably means, assume 99.99999% probability and an undisputed medical record that records NO instance where someone in that state was ever again able to breathe on their own, etc.)

    I am curious if in that precise scenario anyone would argue that the halakha would disallow harvesting organs? If one still argues that organs cannot be harvested, is there some additional item that could be added to the scenario to allow organs to be harvested?

  31. “psak here requires not merely halachic knowledge, but knowledge of medicine (and, in order to understand hazal and rishonim, medical history”

    Well said.

  32. aiwac,

    Your two statements seem contradictory. If a PVS is less than hayei sha’ah, and he can volunteer to forfeit his life, he can (prior to his PVS state) volunteer to donate his organs.

  33. aiwac,

    “Your two statements seem contradictory. If a PVS is less than hayei sha’ah, and he can volunteer to forfeit his life, he can (prior to his PVS state) volunteer to donate his organs.”

    No, they are not. I understood “harvesting PVS patients” as doing so irrespective of whether they gave consent before. According to Rav Avraham, the patient must give consent (i.e. volunteer) prior to his falling into that state.

  34. Meir Shinnar,

    IIUC, even prior to Harvey there was a conception of a vital system (Galen’s?), where the heart delivers arterial blood to the body, providing the organism with heat and life.

    Chazal misunderstanding the nature of the principle of הדם הוא הנפש does not undermine the existence of this principle.

  35. BTW,

    There’s an article up at Text & Texture on this subject (where I learned that Rav Ovadia and Rav Amar also support brain-stem death):

    http://text.rcarabbis.org/the-brain-death-debate-a-methodological-analysis-part-1-yoma-passage-by-daniel-reifman/

  36. R. Shalom Spira – I came across that reference in a wonderful dissertation on the topic –
    http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/77671/1/eytansht.pdf

  37. Akiva
    IIUC, even prior to Harvey there was a conception of a vital system (Galen’s?), where the heart delivers arterial blood to the body, providing the organism with heat and life.

    the heart and blood were important – but note that relationship between venous blood and arterial blood was not understood – and hadam hu hanefesh, and issues of a habura, applies just as much to venous blood as to arterial blood. One can’t learn the importance of circulation from this – this is not what chazal meant here – even if one may derive that today’s notion of circulation satisfy some hazal notion of life. One has to understand what hazal meant – not what we would mean by some phrases.

  38. Reb Shalom, shlita,

    Your clarity and your patience are extraordinary! I am in awe.

    Yeyasher kochacha!
    YGB

  39. BTW, I would like to underline that although I may have unconsciously strayed at times in this conversation, my point was not to deal with the brain stem vs. cardiac/respiratory standards per se, but to deal with RNS’s particular mode of reaching his position on the matter.

  40. Your own isn’t any better – at least he opened a book.

  41. Thank you, R’ Aiwac, for the clarification, and I apologize for misreading R. Avraham’s important article. You are correct; this is a new venue of lomdut that R. Avraham is opening and it deserves independent consideration. R. Avraham’s position is also advanced by R. Shmuel Eliyahu in his article at http://www.hods.org/pdf/ShmuelEliyahu.pdf

    On the other hand, I see that RSZA apparently did not agree with R. Avraham, for he writes (Shulchan Shelomoh, Erkei Refu’ah II, p. 43):

    “It is true that a safek chai is overridden for the sake of a vadai chai, and likewise a treifah person is overridden for the sake of a normal person, but this is only when there is a link between the two, and they are dependent upon one another, even if there is no law of rodef. And likewise in a situation where if they do not kill the safek or the treifah they will both die, like in the episode of Ula in Tractate Nedarim 22a it is permissible to hasten a dying patient’s death in order to save oneself from being killed. However, one may not actively kill a treifah or a safek gossess for the purpose of prolonging the life of another person, just as it is unthinkable that a patient be permitted to prolong his life by killing a treifah, even according to those who permit a person to save his life at someone else’s financial expense.

    Therefore even if the patient himself gave permission and instructed in his life to remove from him his organs while he is safek chai in order to save others, we do not listen to him, for even though it is permitted for a person to endanger himself in order to rescue one who is drowning in the sea, still it seems to me that a perosn is not an owner over his life. And even according to the Sefer Chassidim [no. 698] who writes that if enemies come to kill one of two people [one of whom is a talmid chakham], that it is a mitzvah for a normal person to ask that they should kill him and not the talmid chakham, that’s when they are both in the same danger and he [the normal person] is giving his life for him [the talmid chakham], but not when one nonchalantly abandons his life [S. Spira’s liberal translation of “mafkir stam et chayav”] for every human being – where it could be even the Sefer Chassidim will not permit it, and especially since in our case it is possible that if we could ask him [the organ donor] at the last moment [when he is brain dead, and right before his organs are harvested] it could be that he would retract his previous words and he would not want it.”

    This is definitely an important dispute between R. Avraham and R. Eliyahu on the one hand and RSZA on the other hand. Thank you, R’ Aiwac, for brining it to my attention, and illuminating my eyes. [I can’t comment on the merits of both distinguished sides, as I have not had a chance to study the mechanics of the dispute.]

  42. anonymous- could you post where one could obtain a copy of Panitz, Michael E. Modernity and Mortality: The Transformation of Central European Jewish Responses to Death, 1750-1850. Diss. The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1989? thanks.

    Rav Spira, we seem to have this discussion across multiple threads. As long as the advocates of defining death by the cessation of circulation cannot cogently define 1) what exactly irreversible cessation of circulation means, and stand by whatever definition comes from there, 2) exactly what is meant by a body 3) the halachic criteria for circulation and 4) how their definition applies to issues of transplants, isolated parts of the body with circulation, I do not think that it is a logically viable position and therefore in fact there may not be a safek after all. The only issue for discussion would be how to define the cessation of neurological activity, and how to achieve certainty.

  43. To further explain why RSZA rejects the story of Ulla in Nedarim 22a as a justification to harvest organs, here’s the very next responsum cited in the same volume of Shulchan Shelomoh (p. 44):

    “The episode of Ulla is no proof at all, because Ulla saved his life from a gangster who was standing next to him. And if Ulla had not told the gangster ‘go finish the killing more quickly’, the gangster would have killed Ulla, and therefore he [Ulla] was considered anoose (under force majeure) over this. By contradistinction, [if one registers for an organ] everything is being done with voluntary will [of the recipient]. This is comparable to that which Rambam rules in Hilkhot Yesodei HaTorah ch. 5 that if one transgresses a “yehareg vi’al ya’avor” under force majeure one is exempt from punishment because the transgressor did not act voluntarily, but even so Rambam rules there that if a sick patient saves his life with avodah zarah [or one of the other two yehareg vi’al ya’avor interdictions] we execute the transgressor because he acted voluntarily. [I.e. the person registers for an organ willingly; no gangster compelled the person to register. The person registered merely to escape death at the hands of illness. Therefore, the organ recipient is morally culpable for causing the “safek death” of the brain dead patient (on the side of the safek that the brain dead patient is not already dead).]

    And likewise it is in Shulchan Arukh Orach Chaim 204:8 that if a Jew was forced [by gangsters] to eat, even though he enjoyed the food, he does not recite a blessing because he was forced over this. But even so if a sick person eats non-kosher food, he is obligated to recite a blessing over the non-kosher food since he is doing so voluntarily, see Mishnah Berurah §25. And so it seems here as well. [I.e. the person registers from the organ to escape illness rather than a gangster, and so is certainly culpable.]”

    S. Spira’s observation: Although superfluous is reinforcing RSZA’s point, I would also note that in Ulla’s case, it was ultimately Rabbi Yochanan who told Ulla that he acted correctly. It may be that Rabbi Yochanan only did so because it was a situation of “Yichaduhu”, and Rabbi Yochanan personally holds that in a case of “Yichaduhu”, one may hand over the designated victim to save oneself. But Reish Lakish disagrees with Rabbi Yochanan regarding Yichaduhu, and hold that one cannot hand over the designated victim (unless the designated victim is independently chayav mitah). [Cf. Shu”t Achiezer, Yoreh De’ah no. 16 (sec. 5), where R. Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky compares the canteen case of Bava Metzi’a 62a to Yichaduhu. If that case is Yichaduhu, this case of Ulla is certainly Yichaduhu.] This is all the more reason to prohibit the organ transplant.

    [Tangentially, but quite importantly, it now appears that R. Aharon Soloveitchik’s justification for accepting organs has been refuted. R. Aharon Soloveitchik believed that a brain dead patient is definitely alive, but R. Aharon Soloveitchik paradoxically also thought that one could accept organs, following Ulla’s example in Nedarim 22a. R. Soloveitchik’s responsum is available at http://www.hods.org/pdf/ASSIA-%20The%20Journal-Death%20AÉ.pdf
    With all due reverence manifest before R. Soloveitchik, I do not see how a brain dead patient is definitely alive, given the Chatam Sofer dispute we have elucidated between RMF vs. RSZA. [After the sheep experiment, even RSZA did not claim that the life of the brain dead patient was more than a safek.] But because the brain dead patient *is* indeed safek alive (enough to trigger a mitzvah of piku’ach nefesh), and based on RSZA’s treatment of Nedarim 22a, I do not see how one can register for organs either.

  44. Oops… I’m sorry… I just reread R. Aharon Soloveitchik’s responsum, and although on p. 3 he sounds like he’s arguing that a brain dead patient is definitely alive [“without recourse to imagination it is impossible for me to assume, for argument’s sake, that the Harvard criteria conform to the halachah…”], earlier on p. 2 R. Soloveitchik explains that a brain dead patient is [according to R. Soloveitchik’s reading of Rambam] semi-alive and semi-dead. So, maybe R. Aharon Soloveitchik held that a brain dead patient is “safek alive” after all.

  45. Rabbi Slifkin,

    In a comment on January 13, at 7:05, in response to this:

    Is it your position that one who has lost his ability to choose has been demoted to an animal, and we can harvest organs from Alzheimer patients?

    You said:

    There are other factors involved there, such as the need to have a “lo plug” about humans.

    A careful reading of this comment, combined with your latest post, yields that I am not misrepresenting your position. You accede that such a person is essentially an animal (=has a nefesh with no neshama), and, in your latest post, you stated that you strongly believe that Chazal would have permitted killing a nefesh to save a neshamah.

    The “need to have a lo plug about humans” is something Chazal never said, and if you think Chazal would have said it, your statement that you strongly believe Chazal would have permitted it is incomprehensible.

    Meir Shinnar,

    but note that relationship between venous blood and arterial blood was not understood – and hadam hu hanefesh, and issues of a habura, applies just as much to venous blood as to arterial blood. One can’t learn the importance of circulation from this

    I do not understand why not. If they thought all blood was under hadam hu hanefesh, but, instead of realizing that the heart was involved in it all, thought that the heart was responsible for arterial blood and the liver for venous blood (as per Galen), how does this prove that hadam hu hanefesh is not a Sinaitic principle?

  46. There is a passage in the Reifman piece that cuts across many of the discussions here (not just this one):

    “The polemical tenor of the debate has often led to sources being cited as unequivocal support for one side or the other without a full accounting of how those sources are being understood. We need to develop a more heightened awareness of the hermeneutic process—an understanding that texts do not simply ‘read themselves’, that sources and data invariably present multiple interpretive possibilities—and we need to be both more self-conscious and more transparent about the reasons we reject some interpretations and accept others. There is, of course, nothing terribly innovative about such an approach: to read a well-crafted responsum is to see the painstaking care with which a posek weighs a number of potential readings of a particular passage before arriving at a final, authoritative interpretation. But without the weight of a posek’s mantle on one’s shoulders, the self-conscious mode of analysis I have described leads one to view meaning in terms of greater and lesser possibilities rather than firm conclusions. One learns to accept the fact that no one interpretation can lay an exclusive claim to truth, and that the best one can do is to build a case for one’s analysis that others will find convincing.”

    Is this an acceptable assertion to the (R. Brill definition) Centrist Orthodox philosophy? [Just trying to understand]

  47. Hello.
    I have not had the opportunity to read through the discussion here, but it caught my eye that R’ Spira indicates that he believes that there is a mahlokes between Dr. Avraham and RSZA.

    This cannot be, as Dr. Avraham considers himself “a postman,” not a Rav. Not only that, but every word of Nishmat Avraham was reviewed by Rav Neuwirth and all representations of RSZA’s views were proofread directly by RSZA.

    I did not check the details, but the more likely explanation is that there is more than one interpretation of what RSZA might have said or meant (I’m just guessing here.)

  48. Dr Stadlan – I took the reference from here: http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/77671/1/eytansht.pdf

    Going back to the conceptual problems with a cardio-pulmonary definition of death, according to R. Bleich, if somebody connected to a heart-lung machine underwent brain death, would it ever be permissable to turn it off? TO the extent that R. Bleich is OK with defining somebody connected to such a machine as alive in general, and that brain death is not death, why should that person not be alive as long as the machine is operating? Also, if I took a heart from a live human being (or even a brain-dead one), and inserted it into a recently deceased corpse, and was somehow able to connect up all the arteries etc. so that the heart itself was acting in a normal manner, and there is therefore both circulation and a beating heart, would R. Bleich consider this corpose to be alive again?

  49. anonymous- excellent questions. We seem to be waiting for answers from R. Bleich.
    thanks for the source

  50. I don’t understand the questions. R. Bleich writes explicitly: “Thus, a patient sustained on a respirator must be deemed to be alive by virtue of the presence of spontaneous cardiac activity. Moreover, even minimal respiratory capacity is, per se, a sufficient criterion of life, even though utilization of a respirator is necessary to provide an adequate intake of oxygen. Accordingly, a respirator may not be removed lest this act itself hasten the demise of the patient.”

  51. But here there is no cardiac activity – there is a machine – we are talking about where there is no heart. All you have is (in effect) a corpse, with a pump pushing blood around, and the person in brain-dead. Does is really seem sensible to consider such a person alive. How is this in any way faithful to the original criteria propounded by Chazal and the Rishonim – R. Bleich is stuck because the Chasam Sofer mentioned circulation, which now has to be zealously defended as a traditional criterion (despite the fact that it never appears in Torah sources before the early 19th century) even when the heart is absent.
    And the result of the second question is that you are conceding that a completely dead corpse has been brought back to life simply because you have attached a pump (in this case made of biological material) to it.

  52. I’m no expert but my understanding of R. Bleich’s position is that such a person is dead because the circulation is not even minimally independent, which is required as indicated in the passage I quoted earlier.

  53. I hope this comment is not rejected out of hand, but something that someone wrote up above gave me a new idea.

    If it is true that only brain death is true death, then I wonder about the large number of reports of “near death” experiences where people experience a “returning to the body” after they “Come back to life.”

    Presumably, this is 100% impossible according to those who argue that the soul leaves the body with brain death and brain death only.

  54. Does that mean that an unconscious person on a heart-lung machine is dead too – there’s no independent circulation there either?

  55. Anonymous: Does that mean that an unconscious person on a heart-lung machine is dead too – there’s no independent circulation there either?

    Is it because he can’t have independent circulation or he can but isn’t because he is connected to the machine?

  56. No, he cannot have independent – he has no heart. But people can live like this for a while with a fully functional brain – are such people alive or dead?

  57. Sorry, I meant to write that he cannot have independent circulation.

  58. Also, in the second case of the corpse with a heart attached to it – the circulation IS independent as far as R. Bleich’s criteria are concerned (As R. Tendler notes you can keep a heart beating on a lab bench – here you have inserted it into a body again, and its ‘autonomous’ movement is causing circulation. Why should the corpse then not be deemed alive again?

  59. I believe R. Bleich holds that if cessation of both respiration and circulation is irreversible then such a person is classified as dead. I could be mistaken but that’s what I understand.

    But if the cessation is reversible then the patient is still alive. He writes: “It must also be stressed that only the irreversible cessation of respiratory and cardiac activity constitutes death. A patient who has experienced heart failure but who may be resuscitated is not yet dead. Were this not the case, it would lead to the conclusion that
    a patient undergoing open-heart surgery is actually dead during
    the period of time in which his cardiac and respiratory functions
    are taken over by an artificial apparatus. Even more absurd would
    be the inescapable inference that a doctor who resuscitates a patient has resurrected the dead! It is thus obvious that only irreversible cessation of respiratory and cardiac activity constitute the criteria of death.[6]

    [6] See Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, Ba’ayot ha-Zman be-Hashkafat haTorah, p. 69; and R. Eli’ezer Waldenberg, Tzitz Eli’ezer, no. 25, chap. 4, sec. 5.”

    The quotes are, by the way, from chapter 31 of his Judaism and Healing.

  60. Anonymous: Also, in the second case of the corpse with a heart attached to it – the circulation IS independent as far as R. Bleich’s criteria are concerned

    I find it hard to understand how that circulation is independent but I make no claim to expertise.

  61. The heart is beating of its own accord. That beating is powering circulation in a corpse that you have just dug up from a kever (let’s say it was buried yesterday). Ergo, according to R. Bleich’s criteria, the corpse is now alive.

  62. “There is a halakhic question with consulting the theology of JTS…”

    R. Spira, I was intrigued by your comment. I had not realized that JTS still has that much power. Specifically, according to this shita is there a halachic problem consulting Rabbi Shaul Lieberman’s scholarship, for example?

    Also, there seems to be some confusion about what exactly is heretical about JTS. As discussed in a recent thread, my memory was that it was about a view that Conservative Judaism doctrinally did not accept Torah mi’Sinai as literally the word of God, but Rabbi Student thought it was about their halachic process. Given that “Conservative” has been thrown around in the debate between RYGB and RNS — and your more explicit reference – I would be indebted for the relevant written psak to better understand the concern you raised.

  63. Shalom Aleikhem Rabbi Bechhoffer,
    I thank the Rav for the honour of his very kind words. Vihamevarekh yitbarekh.

    Shalom Aleikhem Rabbi Beckerman,
    I thank the Rav for the honour of the question and yi’yasher kochakha for the impressive reference from R. Blidstein’s article. R. Blidstein’s article is now available online at http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=28526&st=&pgnum=73&hilite=

    Essentially, I must agree with R. Halperin that a literally decapitated human being (where the cranial unit is physically removed from the body) is automatically dead, even if the circulation of the body is subsequently artificially maintained on a ventilator or on an ECMO machine. This is because the gemara in Sotah 45b equates literal anatomical decapitation with the instantaneous destruction of the human being. There, the gemara says that even though the body keeps on running after decapitation, the person died (and as a met mitzvah acquires the privilege of burial on that exact spot) at the moment of decapitation. RJDB (Benetivot Hahalakhah III, p. 109-110), RHS (in his Hebrew responsum on the HODS site, p. 14) and (lihavdil bein chaim lichaim) R. Yitzchak Ya’akov Weisz (Shu”t Minchat Yitzcak V, no. 7) had attempted to argue that even after decapitation, the person might be alive if circulation was maintained on the ventilator or ECMO machine. Alas, they have been torpedoed by Dr. Noam Stadlan’s excellent demonstration that it is impossible (barring the miraculous case of the frog in Exodus 8:2) for a living creature to suddenly bifurcate into 2 living creatures. Since human consciousness is automatically a sign of human life (as established by the gemara in Menachot 37a, particularly as elaborated by Shu”t Avnei Nezer, Yoreh De’ah 399, sec. 3), then accord to RJDB, RHS and R. Weisz it would emerge if we were to place both the head and the body on separate ECMO machines, we could now have two separate human beings. This is clearly impossible, and thus it emerges that to be a human being, one must have an anatomical reality of “rosho virubo”.

    I think this conclusion is also supported by R. Bleich’s recent article “The Problem of Identity in Rashi, Rambam and the Tosafists” (Tradition 41:2, Summer 2008), where R. Bleich demonstrates that a human being is a human being because he was born from a human being. [The only exception to this is Adam and Eve, who were humans because of a gezeirat hakatuv. I.e. The Torah tells us that Adam and Eve were humans. But after Adam and Eve, one must be born from a human to halakhically be a human.] Childbirth is defined as either the head or the majority of the body emerging from the mother. Although one or the other suffices for childbirth, I think that’s because once one emerges from the mother, the other is sure to be delivered soon. And so, in the end, a human being needs an anatomical reality of “rosho virubo” to be a human being. This is also seen in hilkhot sukkah: one is not dwelling in the sukkah unless there is “rosho virubo” inside the sukkah.

    On the other hand, based on the aforementioned Avnei Nezer, who specifically distinguishes between humans and animals, I can see R. Blidstein’s inference from the mishnah in Chullin 117b to perhaps argue that regarding an animal, decapitation is not necessarily death, and maybe the sheep in RSZA’s experiment wasn’t really dead. [I’m not sure, though. One could counterargue against R. Blidstein that all the mishnah in Chullin 117b meant to communicate by “ad shetamut” is to die without a further act of violence from the slaughterer. But decapitation by the slaughterer certainly also confers the status of death upon the animal. Vitzarikh iyun.] If R. Blidstein is correct, then the sheep in RSZA’s experiment was not truly dead. But, ultimately, I think it will not shift the final halakhic equation. Even if the sheep experiment had never been performed, the RMF vs. RSZA confrontation over breathless circulation would be the inevitable normative halakhic conclusion. Breathless circulation is a sign of life, as per the Chatam Sofer, but the question is whether the breathing must have occurred within the past few minutes of the circulation, or whether even if the breathing occurred a long time ago we still view the circulation as a continued legal manifestation of the last breath taken (for if the patient hadn’t breathed on his own at some time in the past, he would have long decomposed since then, which is certainly proof of death, as per the gemara in Niddah 69b). This is an unresolved question which parallels the unresolved Pesach cow lactation controversy.

    For R. Blidstein, then (if I may pretend to “read betweem his lines” and extrapolate from his 1973 article to the sheep experiment two decades later) the only purpose of the sheep experiment was to emotionally assuage RSZA into allowing him to pasken that a brain dead patient is doubtfully alive, doubtfully dead. RSZA was so surprised that a brain dead pregnant lady could maintain a pregnancy that he could not believe there is even a safek to entertain a notion of brain death. But as RJDB points out in Contemporary Halakhic Problems IV, p. 326:

    “This is, however, hardly a conclusive argument for rejecting neurological criteria since the principle that biological and physiological phenomena have undergone changes over a period of centuries (nishtaneh ha-teva) is well established; see Tiferet Yisra’el, Bekhorot 3:1.”

    Thus, for R. Blidstein, the sheep experiment was more about putting RSZA emotionally at ease with concluding that a brain dead patient is safek alive, safek dead [-which I believe is the ultimate normative Halakhah] rather than about proving anything substantive.

  64. Gil’s quote from R. Bleich is interesting:

    ““It must also be stressed that only the irreversible cessation of respiratory and cardiac activity constitutes death. A patient who has experienced heart failure but who may be resuscitated is not yet dead. Were this not the case, it would lead to the conclusion that
    a patient undergoing open-heart surgery is actually dead during
    the period of time in which his cardiac and respiratory functions
    are taken over by an artificial apparatus. Even more absurd would
    be the inescapable inference that a doctor who resuscitates a patient has resurrected the dead! It is thus obvious that only irreversible cessation of respiratory and cardiac activity constitute the criteria of death.”

    I wonder if any of the earlier poskim — i.e., poskim before heart surgery or CPR — ever spoke about “irreversible” cessation. It would be illuminating to see when the first mention of “irreversible” became part of the criteria of death. If it was late, which is what I suspect, then isn’t this a case of the more we learn about biology, the more we have to refine our definition of death to fit in with current knowledge and realia. And if that is the case, then shouldn’t our knowledge of the brain also be taken into account; why stop at open heart surgery?

  65. BTW, the reason I suspect the addition of “irreversible” is late is because in the quote Gil presented R. Bleich uses language like “absurd” and “obvious” and not citations to prior authority.

  66. Until not long ago, that kind of cessation was always irreversible. One could suggest that, because of modern medicine, R. Bleich is making explicit what was always implicit.

  67. “Yated takes a stand against blogs (like Matzav)”

    Ha. What a navi sheker this man is. No, I’m not saying that Failed Messiah is a navi, butthe Nevi’im said how awful the Jews were, not how wonderful and serene and holy. In a later time it convinced the Christians. In still later times, not only the Maskilim, but also the Mochichim and Maggidim also didn’t say how wonderful the Jews were. Since Lipschutz himself finds plenty of Jews to condemn, no doubt he thinks he’s like a navi or at least a good mochiach too. Maybe there is too much negativity around, but at least we should all remove the beam from our eye at the same time.

  68. Yi’yasher kochakhem to Dr. Stadlan, R’ Anonymous and R’ Joseph Kaplan for the excellent questions, and to R. Student for the important responses. The shakla vitarya that all four of you have presented proves that there are contradictions within RJDB’s writings regarding the status of a brain dead patient who is in total irreversible cardiac failure but whose circulation is maintained through a machine (heart-lung bypass or ECMO). These contradictions require resolution.

    Specifically, in Contemporary Halakhic Problems IV, p.346, RJDB infers from a passage in IM YD 2:146 (-which I believe is a mistaken inference, and I have respectfully communicated this to RJDB, and in any event RJDB’s inference has been independently refuted by RDF and RMDT’s testimony) that:

    “Those comments [of RMF] certainly reflect a clear recognition that the primary vital force in the human organism is the beating of the heart. Other criteria must be sought and their absence is accepted as evidence of cessation of life only because, in some circumstances, absence of a detectable heartbeat is an unreliable indicator that death has actually occurred. Clearly, the presence of a spontaneous heartbeat is itself an absolute indication of the presence of life in the organism.”

    From this passage of RJDB, then, it emerges that it is only *spontaneous* heartbeat (and hence spontaneous circulation) which represents a source of life, but not circulation which is propelled by an ECMO machine.

    Likewise, in Benetivot Hahalakhah III, p. 130 (paragraph that begins “umah shekatvah mo’etzet harabbanut harasheet”), RJDB writes (without elaborating) that the poskim distinguish between a machine that artificially ventilates a body and a machine that artificially guides blood through the blood vessels of a body. RJDB is implying that a brain dead patient on a ventilator is alive because the heart beats spontaneously, whereas a brain dead patient in total irreversible cardiac failure on an ECMO machine is dead, because the circulation is propelled only by machine.

    Likewise, in Benetivot Hahalakhah III, p. 152, third paragraph, in arguing that a brain dead patient is alive, RJDB writes (-S. Spira’s translation from the original Hebrew):

    “I want to emphasize with my words that in our case [of a brain dead patient] the heart functions in an independent and natural manner, so that there should not be any error in the halakhic give-and-take. This detail is very important in our discussion over cardiac function as a sign of life, for it is obvious that an artificial function is not a sign of life. And I thank [R.] Dr. [Avraham] Steinberg for he also agreed that in this situation [of brain death] the cardiac muscle function is natural, for it is a physiological matter.”

    In these remarks, RJDB once again implies that it is only because circulation is independently propelled by the brain dead patient’s heart that the brain dead patient is alive. But if the brain dead patient’s heart would experience total irreversible failure, then even if the brain dead patient would be placed on an ECMO machine, the patient would be dead.

    However, RJDB contradicts the above remarks with his chapter regarding artificial heart implantation (Benetivot Halakhah III, pp. 111-125), which is also available in English form at http://www.hods.org/pdf/Artificial%20Heart%20Implantation.pdf
    There, RJDB demonstrates that an artificial machine which replaces the human heart, and which thereby circulates blood throughout a patient’s body, is itself the halakhic equivalent of a human heart. The clear extrapolation from RJDB’s words is that even if a brain dead patient would experience total irreversible cardiac failure, the patient would still be potentially alive if circulation could be maintained on an ECMO machine. [S. Spira’s observation: Indeed, such a bioethical position appears quite reasonable, seeing as the gemara in Niddah 69b states that only decomposition constitutes a definitive sign of human death. Thus, until a patient decomposes, the circulation could theoretically be maintained by ECMO, and maybe the patient is still alive as a matter of safek.]

  69. Doron Beckerman

    Thank you very much, Rabbi Spira. Your elucidation helped alot.

    But how do you account for the Bartenura on Chullin 9:1?

  70. Shalom Rosenfeld

    Joseph Kaplan,

    Not exactly the same, but Tosfos Bava Metzia 113b says Eliyahu (though a Cohen) could resurrect the dead because of “pikuach nefesh.” The boy was already dead — but he was in danger of staying that way!

  71. lawrence kaplan

    Shalom Rosenfedl: It is BM 114b. To be more precise: Tos. asks how Eliyahu, if a Kohen, could defile himself by coming into contact with the dead boy. Tos. answers that since Eliyahu was certain that he could bring him back to life it is a case of Pikuach Nefesh and would overide the prohibition of a Kohen defiling himself for a corpse. Other authorities answer that since Eliyahu could bring him back to life that showed ipso facto he was not dead, in which case there is no problem of corpse defilement! This might indirectly relate to my brother’s question about irreversibility.

  72. R. Shalom Spira – but according to both approaches presented by R. Bleich we should seemingly still consider a corpse that has had a beating heart attached to it, alive. There is autonomous circulation, and the lack of brain activity is irrelevant (let’s say there has not yet been time for total lysis).

  73. In reference to Gil’s comment, I was referring to waiting for R. Bleich’s answer regarding regarding putting a beating heart into a ‘corpse’.

    I think Rabbi Bleich’s position is somewhat nuanced. The presence of life is predicated on the presence of ‘vital forces’ or ‘motion’, of which cardiac is only one example(those who maintain that the definition of life comes directly and unchaged from Chazal will have difficulty with the fact that Rabbi Bleich’s quotes Black’s Law Dictionary as the source for ‘vital sources’. They also would be hard pressed to find this exact position in the Gemara) In fact, as quoted on page 90 of the RCA paper,

    “Of possibly even greater significance
    is the understanding of Rav J. David Bleich and Rav Hershel Schachter (mentioned in Section
    IV, Decapitation, Virtual Decapitation and Brain Death and note #71) that it is not the mere
    beating of the heart that indicates life, but that heartbeat is the primary example of vital motion in
    a living body, which is not germane in the case of a heart removed from the body. Additionally,
    the fact that fetal heartbeat begins prior to the development of the central nervous system and the
    onset of respiration might also suggest that a heart functioning as part of a living being should
    not be compared to one that has been removed, and that the lack of either brain or respiratory
    activity does not at all negate the meaning of a beating heart.”

    The major problem with this approach is that he doesn’t explain exactly what ‘vital motion’ is. Also, the diyyuk between the heart in and out of the body is counter-intuitive. In one place he says that a beating heart in a body, even without brain or respiratory activity still implies life, while a heart ‘outside’ the body does not imply life. Therefore there is something that needs to be defined that isn’t cardiac, respiratory or neurological that is identified with life, except he doesn’t say what it is or how to find it. In addition, he doesn’t define a body, so it is impossible to determine if a heart has been removed from the body.

    Rabbi Bleich is very clear that heart transplants and artificially supplied circulation count the same as circulation provided by the person’s own heart. The imprecision of his definition doesn’t allow for a determination of how long after the circulation has ceased is the person considered dead. Obviously he would say that when the ‘vital motion’ is no longer present or can return, but since we don’t know exactly what it is, there is no way to determine it. Therefore we dont know what he would say about restoring circulation to a body that had lacked circulation for 6 minutes, 20 minutes, 1 hour, 4 hours, 3 days, or a week.

  74. Shalom Rosenfeld

    Lawrence and Joseph –

    Thank you.

  75. The way brain death has taken over not just threads devoted to it but the news thread as well, I wonder if there’s any point to me commenting on other news.

  76. Lawrence Kaplan

    Nachum: I, for one, always like to read your comments, even if I disagree with many of them.

  77. R Gil-How about a link to the WSJ article re Asian parenting? I thought that many, if not all, Jewish parents also view academic excellence as very important, and limit or discourage excessive TV and electronics usage, while allowing their kids to have play dates and get togethers, especially on Shabbos.

  78. Then you should alwso link to yesterday’s NYTimes piece by David Brooks on the same subject.
    KT

  79. There was also an article on her in the NYT Sunday Style section. Don’t know if it belongs om Hirhurim, but was very interesting.

  80. “Lawrence Kaplan on January 19, 2011 at 12:37 pm
    Nachum: I, for one, always like to read your comments, even if I disagree with many of them”
    Nachum:
    I look forward to your comments on all subjects-of course we disagree about many topics.

  81. MiMedinat HaYam

    to IH:

    regarding jts — yes , they dont believe in torah mi’sinai. but then you get into issues with utj, which supposedly does believe.

    by the way, jts claims they believe in it, as an institution, but not individually.

    2. regarding the asian parenting — that’s old news. was interviewed on npr a couple weeks ago.

    and a book was written about the jewish (?charedi?) asoect of it, by chaim potok. and the school they were attending was the old bta (yu hs bb) building near erasmus.

  82. Englewood district concerned about impact of new Hebrew charter school
    ===============================
    And the Bergen County Rabbis probably more so
    KT

  83. “joel rich on January 19, 2011 at 9:19 pm
    Englewood district concerned about impact of new Hebrew charter school
    ===============================
    And the Bergen County Rabbis probably more so
    KT”
    Probably for the same reason.

  84. Prof. Kaplan and Mycroft: Why thank you!

    MiMedinat: They attend separate high schools, and Malter’s is co-ed (as we see in one of the later books, which is narrated by a female classmate of his). Later, of course, they attend YC/YU together, while his father is a (frum) professor at JTS. Of course, Potok disguises them as the “Hirsch” and “Frankel” academies and places them both in Brooklyn, but lots of people are very recognizable throughout the books.

    I’ve always found it fascinating that a book about intra-Orthodox relations could become so widely popular. Maybe people are just the same all over. (I’ve also marveled that davka the first talking movie ever was so Jewish in content.)

    Re: Schools: Joel and Mycroft: Ha!

  85. “Of course, Potok disguises them as the “Hirsch” and “Frankel” academies and places them both in Brooklyn, but lots of people are very recognizable throughout the books.”
    Of course, Potok went to YU.
    One of my electives was something similar to mid 20th century contemporary novels-Prof Linn loved to talk about his prized student Potok. Took elective because it fit into my schedule.

  86. JOEL RICH:

    “Englewood district concerned about impact of new Hebrew charter school
    ===============================
    And the Bergen County Rabbis probably more so”

    1) There is little reason for the rabbis’ concern, as open enrollment requirements mean that only a handful of frum families will likely be able to participate.
    2) If the rabbis wouldn’t have burried their heads in the sand for so long, perhaps it wouldn’t have come to this.
    3) Rather than be concerned, the local rabbis should be elated that families drowning financially and/or otherwise dissatisfied with local schooling options have another potential option. No, charter school isn’t a public substitute for day school, but instead of the rabbis worryng about a fait accompli, let them step up to the plate and make sure that kids who do go to the charter school receive an appropriate and quality supplementary limude kodesh education.

  87. Ari,
    Can you exolain 1 a bit more – how does it work?
    KT

  88. >Of course, Potok went to YU.

    And JTS.

  89. I don’t read that much fiction, but I love Potok. Although the truth is that he gets boring after a few books because they all have the same theme. “Davita’s Harp” was the only exception. Aside from the fact that the protagonist is a female, her path takes her in the opposite religious direction than that of his other (semi-autobiographical) novels.

  90. JOEL RICH:

    “Can you exolain 1 a bit more – how does it work?”

    1) Admission to charter schools is open to *all* applicants. Like a public school, there can be no discrimination based on race or religion (or hashkafah, for that matter 🙂 ). If the number of applicants exceeds the number of openings, then admission is by lottery. (Precedence can be given for those living in district or with siblings in the school, but neither is relevant in the case at hand.)

    2) Even if only Jews apply, there will large numbers of Israelis, Conservative/traditional Jews and unaffiliated Jews who apply. Particularly if the school is open to Tennafly residents (?), the Israelis there will easily crowd out the day school families.

    3) And of course many non-Jews will doubtlessly apply, further diluting any frum (or even Jewish) constituency.

    4) The approved charter school is relatively small, so taken together with nos. 1-3 above, it is possible there will not be that many day school families switching over.

  91. JOEL RICH:

    That smiley face somehow migrated. It should have been after the comment about hashkafah.

  92. MiMedinat HaYam

    in reading aboit other similar charter schools (see the njjewishnews.com website) it seems mostly cultural israelis, some soomon schechter, and some ethnic minorities go there. and undoubtedly some “weaker” ortho jews not mentioned, but hinted at in the articles there.

    my personal preference is to go all out — the local school board when led by orthodox votes (i.e., the local electorate) drastically cut funding for “public schools” till the state (and the courts) allow school board funding of non religious part of jewish day schools. with the attendant quote discrimination unquote.

    its not so unconstitutional — doing it in the day school building is legal in nystate. just extend it to nj. the discrimination aspect is somewhat problematic, constitutionally, but has some precedent. the pblm is the long , drawn out court fight, the supposedly bad pr, and the minimal loss of some control over the educational pgm.

    the internal jewish pblm is the opposition of local rabbinate (as joel rich points out) and the probable loss of secular teachers to the local union.

    and the pr fight between (weak) jewish pr, and the massive union pr (and advertising) that will come.

    dont forget, nj has the abbot duistricts — we can extend it to these types of districts.

  93. I think that the return of public school and “talmud torah” programs are/will very much be the reality in the MO world in the near future. However, Hebrew charter schools do not hold much appeal to Orthodox parents. The school day is longer and they still need to find time for real Jewish education.

    However, at Shalosh Seudos two weeks ago I was sitting across from a visitor from LA. His son was in a regular public school and I asked how many frum kids are in the school. His son immediately responded that there are 89 frum Kids (yarmulkes, tzitzis etc.) in the elementary school which serves the Pico-Robertson area.

  94. MiMedinat HaYam

    “and undoubtedly some “weaker” ortho jews not mentioned”

    I’m sorry i don’t live up to your standard of ortho

    “its not so unconstitutional — doing it in the day school building is legal in nystate.”

    Please elaborate

    “the probable loss of secular teachers to the local union”

    1) Charter school teachers are not unionized. That’s one of the beaughties of a charter school.
    2) Many day school teachers don’t have the necessary credentials for charter/public schools

    “my personal preference is to go all out”

    aside from the very real PR you brush aside, it is in your benefit to have a properly funded public school system whether you use it or not.

    “the discrimination aspect is somewhat problematic”

    Somewhat?
    And it’s not just a matter of discriminating against non-Jews. What about patrilinially defined Reform Jews, or the child of a Conservative giyoret? Or simply a kid from a family that isn’t frum enough to satisfy the school? Or is Sephardi? Etc.

  95. R’ IH,

    Thank you for patiently waiting for me to respond to your question on Jan. 18 at 11:06 a.m. regarding the halakhic issue of consulting JTS. The answer is found in the following article by RJDB –
    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/735669/Rabbi_Dr._J._David_Bleich/Parameters_and_Limits_of_Communal_Unity_from_the_Perspective_of_Jewish_Law
    There, in footnote 8, RJDB cites all the relevant responsa from RMF. Moreover, an in-depth treatment of the first of those responsa by RMF is offered by R. Yom Tov Halevi Schwarz (where he presents the case that one should be even more stringent than RMF) in the latter’s Ma’aneh La’iggerot, no. 169. The volume of Ma’aneh La’iggerot is available online at
    http://www.israel613.com/books/MEANE_IGROT-H.pdf
    There is also a responsum by R. Ovadiah Yosef in Shu”t Yabi’a Omer X, in the Yoreh De’ah section (in Hilkhot Talmud Torah) dealing with JTS. Hopefully, JTS will be inspired to self-transform into an Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva.

    R’ Anonymous,

    Thank you very much for providing us with the link to the paper by Eytan Shtull-Leber. As an update to my comment on Jan. 18 at 1:32 p.m., I offer another source where RJDB seemingly indicates that even if a brain dead patient has experienced total irreversible cardiac failure, he is still alive if his circulation can be artificially maintained by a pump (such as ECMO). Admittedly, this source was not written by RJDB, but rather it is the transript of the President’s Commission where RJDB and RMDT testified in July 1980.

    “Jewish writings do not deal directly with “brain death”, but contain passages susceptible to opposing readings. Rabbi Bleich interpreted Jewish law to require a cessation of corporal blood flow, whether or not spontanous, as a prerequisite for determining death; Rabbi Tendler said that the Jewish tradition would recognize complete cessation of brain function as “physiological decapitation” and hence accept it as a basis for declaring death.”

    [S. Spira’s observation: R. Bleich refers to circulation, whether or not spontaneous.]

    The above excerpt is freely available from the report which is online at http://www.hods.org/English/h-issues/documents/DefiningDeath-PresidentsCommission.pdf
    It’s on p. 11 of the document (which by computer access is on p. 23 of the PDF).

  96. R. Spira: many thanks for the mareh mekomot which lead to RMF. Your diligence is very highly appreciated. I am most curious to read them because my father z”l had regular contact with both RMF and Rabbi Shaul Lieberman when I was a kid. And, of course, there is the famous story of Prof. Chaim Dimitrovsky that is recounted in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saul_Lieberman.

    Incidentally, Dr. Dimitrovsky, Dr. Gillman and Dr. Schmelzer — all affiliated with JTS — used to daven Kabbalat Shabbat with us at Rabbi Gershon Zaks’ shul on 103rd Street in those gentler days. And Professor Samuel Atlas of the Hebrew Union College davened with us in Rabbi Moshe Steinberg’s shtiebel for Shabbat Shacharit (where he, Rabbi Samuel Baskin and my father would invariably be engaged in learning as much as in davening). Some time ago, I also found a monograph of Prof. Atlas amongst my father’s papers – it was published by Mossad ha’Rav Kook.

    And my sister has fond memories of Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel as the candyman at the Gerrer shteibel (I think it was) on 101st Streets.

    Jews are more complicated than the denominational labels we have put on them in modern times… 🙂

  97. Rabbi Cherlow comments about the “human rights” organizations that actually are there only to delegitimize Israel is very sad.
    And then to compare them to our Neviim,Prophets is beyond comprehension.
    How also can the KNESSET LEGISLATE WITHOUT GETTING THE FACTS?

  98. IH: your biographical data is intriguing. But there’s on problem; we (or at least I), don’t know who you are. (From a former West Sider.)

  99. Joseph Kaplan: the point was not biographical hints, but that there was a gentler time when learned Jews were valued by what they knew, irrespective of how they affiliated. The recent interview with President Richard Joel shows YU heading in the wrong direction in this regard.

  100. IH: The good old days weren’t so good. Just ask R. Hillel Goldberg about the scandal surrounding YU students going to help after the JTS library fire. I don’t recall hearing about Prof. Lieberman ever coming to YU to speak.

  101. 1. This is why I hate drashos. R Willig tesla us that the Chazon Ish pointed out that Halakha determines what is ethical, disregarding the fact that you will be hard-pressed to find a single authority besides the Chazon Ish that held this way, and you’ll also hit a wall with a number of Chazals, and that the Rav believed exactly the opposite. Now I’m sure R Willig knows this, I’m sure he wasn’t trying to manipulate anyone, and I’m sure no one will be “brainwashed” by what he said. But the format of the drasha allows for ambiguity between irrefutable facts and extremely-difficult-to-maintain opinions, and between actual Jewish dogma and ideas that we only take seriously because they’re good musar; and those ambiguities can lead to a lot of confusion without any accountability.

    2. I have a hard time believing that Orthodoxy retained only 42% of it’s members. Perhaps the study was done on an out-of-town community or something? Just over the limited span of my own memory, I can see the huge growth of the community in the NY area.

  102. IH:

    IH:

    “Just ask R. Hillel Goldberg about the scandal surrounding YU students going to help after the JTS library fire.”

    What it really considered a scandal?
    (The JTS rare books room has a visitors’ ledger from that period that includes signatures of all the volunteers who helped out after the fire, including YU students whose names we would all recognize.)

  103. “R Willig tesla us that the Chazon Ish pointed out that Halakha determines what is ethical, disregarding the fact that you will be hard-pressed to find a single authority besides the Chazon Ish that held this way, and you’ll also hit a wall with a number of Chazals, and that the Rav believed exactly the opposite. Now I’m sure R Willig knows this,”

    You beat me to the punch-certainly RAL is the most prominent of the Ravs talmidim who clearly disagree with R Willig-see eg RAL “Does Jewish Tradition Recognize an Ethic Independent of Halacha”?

  104. Rabbi Student: you are right that the good old days weren’t as good as they could have been; but, they are getting worse and not better.

    If nothing else, at a time when Jews are walking away from the denominational affiliation and its polarizing politics this is reckless behavior from my perspective.

    The YU vs. JTS duopoly days are long gone — it’s like arguing a few years ago, le’havdil, about whether LPs or CDs are superior when the world was clearly marching to iPods.

  105. ““Just ask R. Hillel Goldberg about the scandal surrounding YU students going to help after the JTS library fire.”

    What it really considered a scandal?”

    Not by most people-there were those who treated it as a scandal but my recollection is that more treated it as a kiddush hashem.

  106. >Just ask R. Hillel Goldberg about the scandal surrounding YU students going to help after the JTS library fire.

    The scandal was that they asked. After all, Dr. Belkin clearly felt they were being shotim for asking as evidenced by his response, which they took literally.

  107. Incidentally, Rabbi Student, your switching my “Rabbi Shaul Lieberman” to “Prof. Lieberman” is disrepectful to one of the Gedolai Torah of the 20th century and further illustrates my point.

    From the Wikipedia summary (you can validate across other sources):

    “In 1940 he was invited both by Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner to teach in the Orthodox Yeshiva Chaim Berlin, and by the JTSA to serve as professor of Palestinian literature and institutions. Lieberman chose the offer by the JTSA. Lieberman’s decision was motivated by a desire to “train American Jews to make a commitment to study and observe the mitzvot.” {Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox} In Chaim Dalfin’s Conversations with the Rebbe (LA: JEC, 1996), pp. 54–63, Prof. Haim Dimitrovsky relates that when he was newly hired at JTSA, he asked Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn of Lubavitch whether he should remain in the Seminary, and the response was “as long as Lieberman is there.” In 1949 he was appointed dean, and in 1958 rector, of the Seminary’s rabbinical school.”

  108. R’ IH,

    Thank you for your kind words. Vihamevarekh yitbarekh. Thank you as well for the fascinating insights from the personal experiences of your father zatza”l and (yibadel lichaim) yourself. Certainly, the case you are presenting greatly strengthens the position of RMF to be milamed zekhut. However, as we see, R. Yom Tov Halevi Schwarz does not agree with RMF. I claim no expertise to this discussion between Gedolei Yisra’el; I can only present the two sides.

  109. IH: Everyone called him Professor. In the relatively recent edition of Greek in Jewish Palestine/Hellenism in Jewish Palestine, there is a sketch of him by Mrs. Zlotnick titled, if I recall correctly, “The Professor”.

  110. “The scandal was that they asked. After all, Dr. Belkin clearly felt they were being shotim for asking as evidenced by his response, which they took literally.”

    i don’t understand

  111. Gil, please, as the “yeshivish” say…

  112. R’ IH,

    As a tanya dimisa’ya lakh (-and, once more, thank you for your very kind accolades), I was privileged to attend YU’s Azrieli school from 2004-2006. One of my excellent instructors there was (and is) R. Chaim Feuerman, who himself studied at both JTS and Yeshivat Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin. My interpretation of this phenomenon is that hopefully JTS will self-transform into an Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva.

  113. I apologize if I offended you. While this is an Orthodox blog, we want our non-Orthodox brothers and sisters to feel comfortable here.

  114. Any comments about Dr Salamons article?

  115. >i don’t understand

    Students: “Dr. Belkin, should we help save 500 year old Rashbas?”

    Belkin: “Sigh. Go ask Dr. Lieberman the shayla.”

    Students: “Rabbi Notorious Orthodox Turncoat According To Our Hashkafah, may we know the din, may we help save 500 year old Rashbas?”

    Lieberman: “Yes, of course.”

    ====

    The whole thing was absurd. In their defense they were 18, 19, 20 year olds. And of course that they thought that it might be the right thing to do is a little better than those who didn’t think it was the right thing to do, but the entire scenario shows what the adults involved thought (at least Dr. Belkin).

  116. Gil, you didn’t offend me; you offended your oft stated principle of respect. Through Centrist (formerly Yeshivish) Orthodoxy’s deligitimizing views that do not accord to your conception of “daas torah” you have become a victim of what the British aptly call “negotiating with one’s self” which is evident when you get snarky instead of responding on point.

    Shabbat Shalom

  117. re: r’ willig – it is not surprising to quote the chazon ish’s torah who was a gadol but strange if you adopt the hashkafa of one of the most anti modernity (and anti brisk learning) person in the last 70 years if you are a posek for the mo community. to say that only halacha is by definition determines what is ethical (and i assume also moral) flies in the face of the hashkafa of most of the mo community (as noted above by others the rav and rav aharon l).

    is it no wonder that many in the mo community look at those with this haskafa with a “jaundice” eye with regards to their psaks on ethical/moral issues (including bsd and organ donations). is it a matter of time before they look elsewhere for their psaks and the followers no longer follow – or question – in other areas as well?

    jon_brooklyn :r’ shimshon r. hirsch also viewed our religion immune to outside moral perview. that only hashem determines what good – for us humans- is by stamping as being good or bad.

  118. “entire scenario shows what the adults involved thought (at least Dr. Belkin).”

    I’m feeling very dense right now, because I still don’t understand. Please spoon feed it. Thanks.

  119. >jon_brooklyn :r’ shimshon r. hirsch also viewed our religion immune to outside moral perview.

    He may have said it, but his actions belied it. He may have worked to portray Orthodox Judaism in a modern idiom for the good of Judaism itself, but at the same time, he supported emancipation, and knew full well that this could only come about with his aesthetic changes and modern interpretation of Orthodox Judaism – that is, by allowing the goyim to see Judaism as moral (he hoped).

  120. R’ IH,

    The issues you raise are significant, but – in all fairness to our Rosh Yeshiva R. Student – there is a halakhic case to be made that affiliation with a heterodox institution is prohibited, pursuant to the responsum of R. Moshe Stern in his Shu”t Be’er Mosheh VIII, no. 3. I think that our Rosh Yeshiva R. Student is therefore “acting in a highly responsible manner” (to quote RJDB in Contemporary Halakhic Problems V, p. 192, in an entirely different context) by recognizing the existence of a halakhic question, and saying it requires further resolution. We know that there are people reading this conversation who may have influence with the present leadership of JTS. Our Rosh Yeshiva R. Student wants to communicate the message to the JTS that the time has arrived for JTS (like all humanity) to embrace Orthodox Judaism, as it says “umal Hashem E-lo(k)ekha et levavkha vi’et levav zar’ekha” (Deut. 30:6).

    Of course, the self-transformation of JTS into an Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva would flood the market with Orthodox rabbis and (pursuant to the economic principles of supply and demand) Orthodox rabbis would immediately lose their salaries. But that’s perfectly okay; Orthodox rabbis serve the community joyfully for the sake of Heaven, and they would welcome the universal embrace of Orthodox Judaism as cause for enormous celebration.

  121. Re JTS fire.

    I was in YU at the time. I and a large group of my classmates went to help. We didn’t ask Dr. Belkin, we didn’t ask R. Lieberman, we didn’t ask Hillel Goldberg and had no idea he was asking anybody. We simply knew it was the right thing to do and we did it. Scandal?? Ridiculous! It is one of my warmest memories of my days at YU.

    And my warmest sub-memory of that day. We went in the morning and when lunchtime came, we were offered a complimentary meal at the JTS cafeteria. Some of the guys began to question whether we could eat there. So one guy, universally respected by all his classmates (and teachers and rebbeim), a serious talmid chacham then and a well known Rosh Yeshiva now (I’m a bit reluctant to mention his name w/o permission although my gut tells me he wouldn’t mind), said: if Rav Shaul Lieberman eats here, it’s good enough for me. So we all ate.

  122. R’ Ruvie,
    Given that much of the MO (or whatever you want to call it)rabbinical leadership seems (I say seems because I’m basing myself on my own anecdotal observations) to sense that the greatest threat is from the LWMO (or whatever you want to call it) concerns for issues that they (MO rabbinical leadership) deem to be extrinsic to the halachic system, it would not be surprising to see an emphasis on the “the halachic system defines itself” approach as a way to exlude those concerns. Certainly in a short dvar torah.

    KT

  123. JOSEPH KAPLAN:

    “I’m a bit reluctant to mention his name w/o permission”

    All the names are listed in the visitors’ ledger that is stored in the rare book room and available for all to see.

    R. SPIRA:

    If JTS contiues on the path it is on it will merge with HUC. The chasm between it and YU is wider than ever in its history. This of course assumes that JTS doesn’t collapse financially first.

  124. joel – understood. but the cost they do not realize is the followers – as well as other yu rabbis as seen by “the statements”- not caring for their opinions and/or questioning everything they say (which is more likely). this will create a vacuum in the mo community for real halachik leadership the can trust. also, disturbing that this a charedei hashkafa counter to the rav’s thinking in which he was a student of.

    it is a shame that in america – a country of capitalism – that only one institution has a monopoly on the mo community. as oppose to israel where one sees a more vibrant mo leadership – also with different stripes for different types.

    s. – just pointing out that the chazon ish was not a lone voice in his view of halacha and ehtics/morality and its a very strong voice in our religion but it should be said not the only voice.

  125. The same guy – David Greenfield – said both:
    “Public school is not an option”, and
    “We have to challenge the absolute wisdom of past practices,”

    – anyone see the irony?

  126. R. Willig wrote: “Only by learning Torah can one acquire good character traits.” Does this mean that a non-Jew (or Jew) who doesn’t learn Torah can’t have good character traits? If not, what does it mean?

  127. BTW, R. Willig, who is one of my classmates and a friend, is not the Rosh Yeshiva I was referring to in my JTS fire comment.

  128. Back when, I too went down to JTS after the fire but my memory is apparently not as keen these days as Joseph’s so I don’t really recall who else was there at the same time. My memory is mostly of sitting for hours carefully separating pages that had been drenched with water. It was pretty boring and doubtless I was too young to be caught up in any intellectual passion that such a rescue effort might perhaps have inspired in my fellow volunteers. I do not recall signing any ledgers that were said to contain the names of all the volunteer workers, but perhaps I did – as I said my memory of the details are a bit dim. However I am quite certain I was unaware of any alleged YU organizing activities by H. Goldberg (whom I did not know, indeed had never heard of), any approaches to R Belkin with JTS doubts or any of the details supposedly describing the “back story” of YU student involvement in that episode. Since Goldberg or others may have reported such I do not for a moment question their veracity, only the suggestion that they were describing the full story – or perhaps even the main story. Nevertheless, whether a mere side show or something more, it is an interesting vignette of which I was unaware at the time.

  129. Modernity is the opposite of mesorah, and “modern Orthodox” is actually an oxymoron, Weinreb said.

    “Mesorah is the business of preserving the culture of one’s group,” he said. “We’ve suffered worse insults than being called old-fashioned and obsolete.”

    ===============================
    Really? From the former executive vp of the OU? Was he wearing traditional cultural Jewish clothing of Moshe Rabbeinu?
    KT

  130. “Modernity is the opposite of mesorah, and “modern Orthodox” is actually an oxymoron”
    Certainly that statement would not be agreed to by many MO-including those who are not fans of the LWMO.
    “Really? From the former executive vp of the OU?”
    The OU for decades has not been a MO organization-it is an umbrella org-many of their paid employees are far from MO.

  131. MiMedinat HaYam

    “its not so unconstitutional — doing it in the day school building is legal in nystate.”

    Please elaborate
    answer: recent court decision in nys. those trailer homes / busses are not legally required, but the bus company that rents them to the bd of ed (dept / sorry) get $50,000/yr for it, so its worth it to pay offappropriate city officials; a whole other story that undoubtedly would be multiplied if this idea goes through)

    “the probable loss of secular teachers to the local union”

    1) Charter school teachers are not unionized. That’s one of the beaughties of a charter school.
    2) Many day school teachers don’t have the necessary credentials for charter/public schools
    answrr: exactly my point. and dont worry, the union is just itching to get them, and / or disqualify non members.

    “my personal preference is to go all out”

    aside from the very real PR you brush aside, it is in your benefit to have a properly funded public school system whether you use it or not.

    answr: properly funded, or properly waste of tax funds?

    “the discrimination aspect is somewhat problematic”

    Somewhat?
    And it’s not just a matter of discriminating against non-Jews. What about patrilinially defined Reform Jews, or the child of a Conservative giyoret? Or simply a kid from a family that isn’t frum enough to satisfy the school? Or is Sephardi? Etc.

    answer: or the kid in my shul whom the local yeshiva wont let in cause he’s l-d (and the son of an O giyoret, but thats supposedly another story.) yes, its a pblm, but i am specifically advocating de facto (legally recognized) discrimination in the cases you cite. the political reasons (as opposed to other reasons) are there, so as to ensure proper funding to (completely) secular schools. the reasons are not for purpose of discrimination, but for purpose of politics / ensuring funding. and it would be religious discrimination, not racial discrimination (though disparate impact issues will arise, as will sex discrimination in programming.)

  132. Ruvie: the Chazon Ish had a much stronger view than that. He was saying that the Halakhic IS the ethical, and that ethics inevitably reduces to Halakha. He was attacking musar more than anything else. Do you think RSRH’s views, taken to their logical conclusion, are anti-musar?

    But my main point was that drashos are silly, because they allow someone to portray a strained, extremely rare (call it one authority or two authorities) view as an ikar emuna, and remain perfectly justified in doing so.

  133. Mechy’s description of what we did there is completely accurate; very important and very very boring. I just told my brother that I regret not writing down which books I worked on but, quite frankly, that was the furthest thing form my mind then. And I hope Mechy will excuse me, but I don’t remember that he was there. Indeed, i don’t remember anyone else who was there other than the now-RY who I mentioned earlier (Mechy; you should be able to figure out who that was). But what’s important is that our 45+ years memories are in agreement that whatever R. Goldberg was doing, it really had no impact on many who went down to help who didn’t need anybody’s hasgacha to do what was so obviously the right thing to do. Certainly one of my classes finest hours at YC.

  134. jon – agree on the drashot and that the chazon ish was very anti mussar. i fond it ironic that a yu rosh yeshivah (as well as a posek for the mo community) hashkafa is more attune to the chazon ish and less to the rav. and i agree the chazon ish took the submissiveness to a more extreme view than srh. i was just trying to point out that others – as well as chazal – do have a view that whatever hashem commands us is by definition ethical and moral (and halacha by that extension).

  135. Hirhurim: The good old days weren’t so good. Just ask R. Hillel Goldberg about the scandal surrounding YU students going to help after the JTS library fire. I don’t recall hearing about Prof. Lieberman ever coming to YU to speak.

    R. Carmy invited Halivni to speak at YU.

  136. R. Spira: Shavua Tov. Your ahavat yisrael shines through the pixels on our screens, but I urge you to apply it broadly without delegitimizing anyone honestly committed to the future of Judaism — regardless of whether you agree with their particular derech , or not: וְכָל-נְתִיבוֹתֶיהָ שָׁלוֹם. For me this is an upmost principle. [FWIW, the last time I was at JTS was over 25 years ago.]

    As a reminder, less than 100 years ago, the martyred Gadol Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman (among others) thought that RIETS was beyond the pale of Orthodoxy. So, halachic precedents that leads one to delegitimize JTS could also be used to delegitimize RIETS.

    Finally, as I was studying today’s exquisite haftarah, I looked something up in the blue Soncino Hertz chumash that was the mainstay of most Modern Orthodox shuls when I was growing up. It is chock full of commentary from Conservative and even Reform thinkers, so I guess they can no longer be owned by Orthodox Shuls or Jews. 🙂

  137. Tangentally, today’s haftorah had the unique mem-sofit (or satum) in the middle of the 1st word of Isaiah 9:6 that is famously explained in Sanhedrin 94a:

    דרש בר קפרא בציפורי מפני מה כל מ”ם שבאמצע תיבה פתוח וזה סתום וכו

    When I was learning this recently, I was curious whether the Qumran Isaiah had the mem patuach or satum. You can see for yourself at http://mordochai.tripod.com/qumran_isaiah.html#top (column 8, end of line 24).

  138. >The OU for decades has not been a MO organization-it is an umbrella org-many of their paid employees are far from MO.

    Rabbi Weinreb is certainly MO by almost any criterion you can think of.

    IH, re the Hertz Chumash, boy you don’t want to go there. Are you really unaware of how much it was hated by RW Orthodoxy? I know someone whose rebbe in Chaim Berlin took his copy and threw it in the garbage.

    also see these

    http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2009/06/rabbis-dessler-hertz-schechter-and.html
    http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2009/01/yeshivish-joke-at-r-joseph-h-hertzs.html
    http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2006/06/jewish-observer-targets-hertz-chumash.html

    If you think about it, it is pretty remarkable that for many decades Reform, Conservative and Orthodox shuls all used a Chumash which vigorously promoted Torah min hashamayim and observance.

  139. “>The OU for decades has not been a MO organization-it is an umbrella org-many of their paid employees are far from MO.

    Rabbi Weinreb is certainly MO by almost any criterion you can think of”

    NO contradiction between the statements.

  140. 1) WADR to those bashing R’ Willig, I believe R’ Willig’s quote from the Chazon Ish is consistent with the Rav and RAL. R’ Willig’s point is that anything that is halachikly mandated is ethical by definition. Whether or not there is an ethic that is outside halacha, halacha is still ethical. Is mechias amalek immoral? If so, does that mean you reject and would refuse to do the mitzva as immoral? I believe R’ lichtenstein’s point is hat we can judge non-halachik actions as immoral based on an independent ethic.

    2) R’ Weinreb’s comment on modern and mesorah as opposites is entirely consistent with the Rav’s philosophy, which was based on dialectic. Modern and mesorah are conflicting attitudes and need to be synthesized or struggled with. Anyone who does not feel this tension is either not fully Orthodox or not fully modern.

  141. Former YU -““Mesorah is the business of preserving the culture of one’s group” Do you believe the culture of today’s orthodoxy (any segment) is the same as in the time of Moshe rabbeinu? the amoraim in Bavel? The chasidei ashkenaz?

    KT

  142. Joel,

    I think you misunderstood my point and R’ Weinreb’s. Preserving any aspect of culture be it beliefs, values or mode of dress as a independent value is diametrically opposed to the philosophical underpinnings of modernity, which are based on looking to the future as progress and rejecting anything from the past that is inconsistent with “modernity”. You are right that many aspects of our culture (dress, language, music etc..) are distinct from Moshe Rabbeinu, bavel and Chasidei Ashkenaz but we do try to preserve their beliefs and values and even some aspects of the culture. The proposed “synthesis” of Modern Orthodoxy is to take the old beliefs and values and make it meaningful in a world that is “modern”. That is definitely a struggle, whether from a scientific perspective, a historical perspective, or a philosophical perspective.

  143. “Is mechias amalek immoral?”
    Not moral in the normal sense of the term-BUT as believing Jews we do mitzvot even when they go against normal moral sense. Thus, forgetting abouyt the problem since the nations were mixed up-but certainly mechiat Amalek is a mitzvah and Saul lost his meluchah for not following the mitzvah. Even if Shaul was otherwise a zaddik he lost his kingship for not following what God commanded of him in matters of state -contrast to David who kept his kingdom despite sinning in arranging the death of the huisband of a beautiful women who he saw nude on neighboring property.

    ” If so, does that mean you reject and would refuse to do the mitzva as immoral?”
    Gods specific commands override oursense of morality

  144. “Modern and mesorah are conflicting attitudes and need to be synthesized or struggled with. Anyone who does not feel this tension is either not fully Orthodox or not fully modern.”

    Rabbi Joel Roth (of JTS) seems to echo the same point in this quotation from his 1987 article on “Halacha and History”:

    “Among normative Jews of the past, the challenges of ‘modernity’ were met by Judaizing modernity. That process took place primarily through demonstration of the possibility of incorporating new ideas or ideologies into Judaism without undermining the inviolable primacy of the halakhic system.

    […]

    It is the responsibility of halakhists to Judaize modernity halakhically in a cogent and defensible way (that is without allowing themselves to fall into the pitfalls that result from confusing history with halakha). And it is the responsibility of apologists (in the very best sense of that word) to provide the ideological and philosophical underpinnings that will allow a modern Jew to meet the challenges of modernity by Judaizing modernity, without falling into the pitfalls that result from confusing Judaizing modernity with modernizing Judaism. But both halakhists and apologists must remember that in those functions they are not, and ought not to be, dispassionate students of history. They are instead active and passionate participants in the ongoing and normative process of Judaizing modernity authentically, both legally and intellectually.”

    Am I missing something in thinking these 2 approaches (as written) concur?

  145. “God’s specific commands override oursense of morality”

    Of course this is true, but AFAIK we have always found a way to resolve the seeming contradictions when they have occurred through interpretation and jurispudence: e.g. Amalek and Ben Sorer u’Morer come to mind.

    Can you think of any historical examples where the halachic interpretation of God’s specific commandments was in conflict with the assessment of morality?

  146. IH,

    1) Yes, I think you are missing something. The statement of mine you quoted says nothing about whether or not you should try to synthesize or if it is even possible. For many, I believe for most, the decision or the reality is to not be fully modern. I think that was Noah Feldman’s major complaint. He was taught to be fully modern and when he took that literally he was shunned by the community.
    Also, I am not sure what Joel Roth means by “Judaizing modernity”. I believe that in Modern Orthodox hashkafa modernity is viewed as the existential reality and Modern Orthodoxy lives a fully Judaic life in that reality. Think, Teaneck or Woodmere as a “modern” shtetl complete with daf yomi, little league and no driving on Shabbos.

    2) I am curious how Mechias Amalek has been resolved w/ “morality” through interpretation or jurispudence in your mind. What about homosexuality?

  147. former yu – “to those bashing R’ Willig, I believe R’ Willig’s quote from the Chazon Ish is consistent with the Rav and RAL”

    please read or re-read “does judaism recognize an ethic independent of halakhah?”(modern jewish ethics 1975) article written by ral – he rejects the chazon ish’s quote of “halakhah that defines the proscribe and permitted of ethical thought”(hazon ish: emunah u-vitahon) with a “sometimes but,evidently, not always” answer. he continues to say why.
    if you believe that anything that is halakhic mandated – like those who believe in not giving but taking organs from bsd people – is by definition moral/ethical then you do not believe there is an independent ethic which ral states that there is.
    so in th

  148. Former YU: On Amalek, a reasonable summary is http://tinyurl.com/62coupt. On homosexuality, it is not clear to me what you think the halacha/morality contradiction is – can you elaborate?

    On “Judaizing modernity” vs. ““Modern and mesorah are conflicting attitudes and need to be synthesized or struggled with. Anyone who does not feel this tension is either not fully Orthodox or not fully modern.” I think you are projecting in much beyond the words and also a “yeshivish” interpretation of Modern Orthodoxy rather than, say, the Rabbi Lamm or Rabbi(s) Lookstein hashkafa which is more recognizable to me as the Modern Orthodox world of the 1970s in which I grew up. But, I have not read more of Rabbi Roth’s view beyond this one essay. I suppose I will need to read his book (The Halakhic Process: A Systematic Analysis) at some point.

  149. Ruvie,
    I have re-read RAL’s article just to make sure, but you and many other commentators obviously have not or did not understand.
    Here is a summary and below I will explain in more detail. First, RAL’s article deals with Jewish “ethical” principles beyond halacha (like, lifnim meshuras hadin). Second, in the article RAL quotes that Chazon Ish favorably as a basis for his thesis. Third, RAL rejects secular definitions of “ethical” that try to override halacha.

    1) Let me briefly summarize the article (which is hard since it is not an article that should be summarized in 2 sentences). RAL’s point is to identify how supra-legal concepts like lifnim mishuras hadin relate to halacha. He writes that if halacha means the general system of how a Jew should act then they are definitely part of halacha. However, if you have a strict definition of halacha as din (meaning what has been written down allowing for no subjective circumstances) then you must recognize there are extra-legal “ethical” concerns that are not merely pietistic. One example he gives is “kofin al midas sdom”. This refers to a case where you benefitted from someone else’s property w/o consent and there was no loss (zeh nehene v’zeh lo chaser). The gemara says it is midas sdom for theowner to request payment. That is an ethic outside of strict halacha.

    2)You take only half of RAL’s quote of the Chazon Ish. RAL uses the Chazon Ish as a SUPPORT to reject R’ Meir Kahane. You left off the first part of the Chazon Ish, the part that forms the basis of RAL’s “sometimes, but not always”. The first part of the Chazon Ish’s sentence is “Moral Duties sometimes constitute one corpus with halakhic rulings…”. RAL is medayek “sometimes, but not always.”

    3) A final quote from the article. “Any ethic so independent of Halakhah as to obviate or override it clearly lies beyond our pale.” So, if halacha mandates something, any “ethic” that tries to override that is “beyond the pale”.

  150. IH;
    1) That article on Amalek is so convoluted as to be laughable. The bottom line is that every halachik source holds that there is a Torah obligation to kill every man woman and child from amalek. We may not know who they are today, they may not exist after sancheirev, but the Torah clearly advocates that at some point in time the Jewish people were obligated to commit genocide.

    2) Current thought is that it is immoral to deny an individual the opportunity to have sexual relations with the person of their choice man or female if there is no worry about abusive or damaging relationships (to distinguish incest).

    3)That quote was mine, so i do not know how I am reading too much into it. The concept of struggle and synthesis in Modern Orthodoxy was part and parcel of every torah u’madda lecture at YU during my time and integral to the Rav’s philosophy. Issues like homosexuality demonstrate the struggle. Actually, it is quite interesting to see how the modern morality regarding homosexuality has changed in the last 30 years and how that might affect the MO approach. R’ Lamm does not have a very “modern” view of homosexuality. “Modernity” is a constantly changing and evolving value system so it is hard to not see a struggle with a value system that hopes to remain at least relatively constant (even acc to R’ Lookstein and Lamm).

  151. “please read or re-read “does judaism recognize an ethic independent of halakhah?”(modern jewish ethics 1975) article written by ral ”

    RYBS I believe felt that for an ideal following Halacha is a necessity but not sufficient-thus per RYBS “Halacha is a floor not a ceiling”

  152. Former YU: “The Chazon Ish (Emuna Ubitachon Chapter 3) emphasizes that halacha determines what is ethical behavior.”

    Do you think that that view is consonant with the Halakhic Man’s view? If so, you have not read the book. Similarly, the WHOLE POINT is that RAL holds differently than the Chazon Ish – yet R. Willig is using the Chazon Ish to form his drasha, with a moral message different than what would have emerged had he used RAL’s views.

    Bottom line: you, like R. Willig, will have a very hard time arguing that the Chazon Ish can be legitimately represented as a universally-accepted Halakhic hashkafa.

  153. “Similarly, the WHOLE POINT is that RAL holds differently than the Chazon Ish – yet R. Willig is using the Chazon Ish to form his drasha, with a moral message different than what would have emerged had he used RAL’s views.”

    I believe that RYBS also held differently than what R Willig seems to state as his beliefs.
    How many current RY or past RY in YU ever held RYBS views on hashkafa?

  154. What’s most interesting to me about Amalek is that it, as many other halachhot that raise morality issues, has been, in effect, written out of the law books by the rabbis. Doesn’t apply any more. Ir Hanidachat and ben sorer u’moreh? Purely theoretical. Child marriage? Remember what happened a few years ago when some said he had betrothed his young daughter? Everyone went through the roof. And does anyone really think that if we instituted a halachic judicial system we’d treat rape as a civil rather than criminal offense? I understand that the reasons given why these laws no longer exist in practical terms was not that they do not meet our standards of morality. But I wonder.

  155. Rav Willig’s position is related to the Hazon Ish, in equating morality with halacha. however, he seems to go much further – not only is what is moral defined by halacha, but
    “Only by learning Torah can one acquire good character traits”
    Is there any previous source for such a radical statement (which seems to forgettall of hazal about haside umot haolam etc)???

  156. “Current thought is that it is immoral to deny an individual the opportunity to have sexual relations with the person of their choice man or female…”

    I don’t think that reflects reality (e.g. the significant opposition to same-sex marriages across the US). I think what has changed is a recognition of the immorality of denying the civil legal benefits of heterosexual domestic-partners to homosexual domestic partners. This does not concern halacha.

    It seems to me the test for halacha and morality will only come if (when?) there is discovered to be significant mainstream acceptance of scientific evidence of a biological/genetic predisposition to homosexuality. Then, there will be a moral quandary that halacha will face.

  157. R’ IH,

    Thank you for your very kind words. Vihamevarekh yitbarekh. Indeed, you are correct: the very responsum of Be’er Mosheh I cited specifically identifies Yeshiva University as an institution where the author is concerned with its halakhic status.

    Since I myself was privileged to study at Yeshiva University, while there I asked HaRav HaGa’on RMW what could be rectified at Yeshiva University to satisfy the concerns of the Be’er Mosheh. [Parenthentically, in that conversation, RMW told me that he and (lihavdil bein chaim lichaim) my teacher R. Joshua Shmidman of blessed memory (who lived in Riverdale before moving to Montreal) had both consulted with the Be’er Mosheh when they were contemplating constructed the eruvei chatzeirot network that encompasses Riverdale. Thus, RMW appreciates that the Be’er Mosheh is an authority of stature whose ruling must be satisfied. {Incidentally, in that consultation, the Be’er Mosheh advised them not to rely on an eruvei chatzeirot network in Riverdale, but that’s a different topic beyond the scope of my current comment.}]

    HaRav HaGa’on RMW graciously answered me that my question was deserving but that such an important question belongs under the sovereignty of the Mashgi’ach Ruchani, HaRav HaGa’on R. Yosef Blau, and so I should consult with the latter. I did, and R. Blau very patiently discussed the responsum with me at length. The conclusion of that conference was that Yeshiva University is indeed a most righteous institution but that a meaningful rectification that could be rendered – which would presumably satisfy the Be’er Mosheh – would be the elimination of secular music from the Wilf campus athletic centre. R. Blau is a tzaddik gammur and he made good on his promise; I am told by reliable sources that there is no longer any secular music played in the athletic centre. I believe that the Be’er Mosheh is now “shepping nachas” in Gan Eden that his responsum led to an improvement of halakhic observance at YU.

    So this is precisely what JTS needs to do. It would benefit from consulting with a Mashgi’ach Ruchani on what can be done to transform itself into a fully Orthodox institution.

  158. I agree with former YU. If one read Halachic Man and Emunah UBitachon carefully, I think that the reader will see the view that the Halacha and TSBP is viewed as the starting point for anyb discussions of what is the Jewish view on any subject, as opposed to the views of the Baalei Musar.

  159. R. Spira – with the utmost respect, I do not think secular music in the Wilf campus athletic center was the cause of Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman’s decision that RIETS was beyond the pale of Orthodoxy.

  160. Former YU wrote: “Current thought is that it is immoral to deny an individual the opportunity to have sexual relations with the person of their choice man or female…”

    IH responded: “I don’t think that reflects reality.”

    Unfortunately IH, you need the “reality check” mentioned in the following report:

    A 2003 study done for the federal National Survey of Family Growth (published in the January/February 2007 issue of Public Health Reports) found that a staggering 95% of Americans (91% of men and 85% of women) have engaged in premarital sex. “‘This is reality-check research. Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades,’ says study author Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute.”

    I believe that this is what Former YU was referring to as a current (historical) example where the halachic interpretation of G-d’s specific commandments (against znus and pritzus) is in conflict with an almost universal acceptance of these attributes as completely “moral.”

  161. R’ IH,

    Thank you for your kind response, which correctly summons me to elaborate further. R. Elchanan Wasserman was reacting to North America before WW2, when North America was very different than the post-WW2 period. As RJDB writes in his introduction to Contemporary Halakhic Problems IV, p. xviii-xix:

    “Partially as a result of improved economic conditions, partially as a result of a process of communal maturation and partially as a result of an influx of immigrants to whom a traditional way of life was still a living memory, the spiritual health of the American Jewish community has taken a marked turn for the better during the post-World War II period… All of us who were raised on these shores are “ba’alei teshuvah”…”

    Thus, it is a great sanctification of the Name of Heaven that – despite its humble origins – RIETS has now become a fully Orthodox institution. [Regarding the importance of avoiding secular music, this emerges from the gemara in Chagigah 15b, four lines from the bottom.]

  162. “with the utmost respect, I do not think secular music in the Wilf campus athletic center was the cause of Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman’s decision that RIETS was beyond the pale of Orthodoxy”

    Of course, when I went to YU there was no athletic center on what was then called Danzinger Campous-a fortiori there was no athletic centre during the time of REW.

  163. “I believe that the Be’er Mosheh is now “shepping nachas” in Gan Eden that his responsum led to an improvement of halakhic observance at YU.”
    or whatever happens to those like REW and RAK who bring kanaus and nt necessarily intended by them but did bringmore sinas chinam to NA Ortho Jewry.

  164. As RJDB writes in his introduction to Contemporary Halakhic Problems IV, p. xviii-xix:

    ““Partially as a result of improved economic conditions, partially as a result of a process of communal maturation and partially as a result of an influx of immigrants to whom a traditional way of life was still a living memory, the spiritual health of the American Jewish community has taken a marked turn for the better during the post-World War II period”
    Int3ermarriage rate has skyrocketed since WW11

  165. “a staggering 95% of Americans (91% of men and 85% of women)”

    That doesn’t make sense. The overall percentage must be between the percentages for each group. What is the real number, or numbers?

    (I’m sure it’s still high though)

  166. >R. Spira – with the utmost respect, I do not think secular music in the Wilf campus athletic center was the cause of Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman’s decision that RIETS was beyond the pale of Orthodoxy.

    In a way non-sequitur is the most ingenious sort of response to attacks like those of the Beer Moshe et al., which themselves are non-sequitur.

  167. 1) I did not quote the Chazon Ish. I only cited RAL’s article who quotes the Chazon Ish. RAL quotes the Chazon Ish approvingly in his article, as I noted above in my comment to Ruvie at 1/23/10 at 12:56 am.

    2) I did not mention same-sex marriage, only homosexual activity or promiscuous sexual activity. Marriage is a different issue. Also, contrary to your assertion the vast majority of science states that it is genetic.

  168. “mycroft
    or whatever happens to those like REW and RAK who bring kanaus and nt necessarily intended by them but did bringmore sinas chinam to NA Ortho Jewry.”

    since no one else will, allow me to register my protest over the bizui talmidei chachomim expressed by the anonymous mycroft.

  169. Shlomo (@ 1:01 p.m.)

    see the following for the statistics:

    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/2007/01/29/PRH-Vol-122-Finer.pdf (scroll down to the paragraph entitled “Results”)

    and also

    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nsfg/abc_list_p.htm (scroll down to the bottom of the page)

  170. Shua Cohen – I’m not understanding your point. What evidence is there of a view that a religious system that prohibits pre-marital sex (be it Jewish, Christian, Muslim) is viewed as immoral by its adherents?

    Former YU – if you could provide a reputable source for “the vast majority of science states that it [Homosexuality] is genetic” I would be interested. AFAIK, there is conjecture this is the case based on various observations, but no scientific hypothesis (i.e. what is often mis-called “scientific proof”) as of yet. If/when there is, I believe there will be a gut-wrenching halachic dispute within Orthodoxy on the issue that will make the BSD Organ Transplant issue seem like a tempest in a teapot.

  171. “Mark on January 23, 2011 at 2:42 pm
    “mycroft
    or whatever happens to those like REW and RAK who bring kanaus and nt necessarily intended by them but did bringmore sinas chinam to NA Ortho Jewry.”

    since no one else will, allow me to register my protest over the bizui talmidei chachomim expressed by the anonymous mycroft.”

    I simply stated a fact that it is obvious that REW and RAK were greatly responsible for the rise of Kanaus in North America. I stated it was not necessarily intended by them to increase sinas chinam-but no one can deny the impact of their actions. There are those who believe what they accomplished was worth the negative side affects-others may disagree. This has nothing to do with their personal zidkus.

  172. IH wrote: “I’m not understanding your point. What evidence is there of a view that a religious system that prohibits pre-marital sex (be it Jewish, Christian, Muslim) is viewed as immoral by its adherents?”

    I wrote in support of Former YU’s contention (if I understand it correctly) as follows:

    Since an individual’s freedom to avail oneself of the “opportunity to have sexual relations with the person of their choice” is MORAL (pursuant to the value system of the vast majority of people, as indicated by a 95% rate of premarital sex), then any code which seeks to deny/denigrate/limit/proscribe such behavior is, therefore, “immoral,” in that such a code seeks to deny people their legitimate and morally upstanding rights.

  173. Crediting them for Kanaus is fine but associating them with what you claim is the resulting Sinas Chinam is beyond disrespectful. I have no desire to argue this point either. I could not allow your comment to pass without a protest of some sort so I registered mine.

  174. “Crediting them for Kanaus is fine but associating them with what you claim is the resulting Sinas Chinam is beyond disrespectful.”

    I have never stated that REW or RAK wanted the resulting Sinas Chinam-I have just stated it has been a result of their actions.

  175. “Since an individual’s freedom to avail oneself of the “opportunity to have sexual relations with the person of their choice” is MORAL (pursuant to the value system of the vast majority of people, as indicated by a 95% rate of premarital sex)..”
    Actually, alot of these people suffer from varying degrees of cognitive dissonance and would consider themselves, on some level, sinners, rather than “moral.”

  176. IH:
    Have you looked into the homosexuality issue or did you just decide that any evidence is anecdotal?

    Please see PEDIATRICS Vol. 113 No. 6 June 2004, The Journal of the American Association of Pediatrics, available at http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;113/6/1827#R8

    I will include the relevant quote:
    “The mechanisms for the development of a particular sexual orientation remain unclear, but the current literature and most scholars in the field state that one’s sexual orientation is not a choice; that is, individuals do not choose to be homosexual or heterosexual.”

  177. Former YU: it is not my field, but I do keep current on significant issues such as this. I see no contradiction between my statement and your relevant quote.

    I repeat: AFAIK, there is conjecture this is the case based on various observations, but no scientific hypothesis (i.e. what is often mis-called “scientific proof”) as of yet.

  178. Lawrence Kaplan

    Rabbi Spira: With all respect, you are dreaming in technicolor if you think that the Beer Moshe “would be shenig nachas in gan eden” of he knew about the (alleged) halakhic improvment YU. The Shut of the Beer Moshe IIRC, views YU as completely treif. Any halakhic inprovement, if anything, would in his view make things worse, since it might mislead the unwary into thinking that in its revised version it might be kosher.

    The idea that because Rabbi Stern was expert in Eruvin and was consulted as such by RMW and Rabbi Shmidman we have to be hoshesh for the teshuvah in question, a teshuvah based on pure extremist ideolgy and containing, IIRC, a not too subtle disgraceful jab at the Rav– is absurd and insulting.

    Why don’t you translate the teshuvah in question and and let the readers judge for themselves?

  179. Shalom Spira, I am in awe that you could write something like that. For those who want to see the teshuva in translation, consult R’ Lamm’s Torah UMadda, now out in a new edition. For those who want to see the original, you can visit the YU Beit Midrash. (For your assistance, there’s a concise reference on the inside front cover to guide you and the words “Yeshiva University” are underlined within. That’s all.)

    As a small pointer to those who think that Shalom isn’t smokin’ the wacky tabacky, R’ Stern actually uses the word “stinky” (in Hebrew) to describe YU.

  180. “Doesn’t apply any more. Ir Hanidachat and ben sorer u’moreh? Purely theoretical. Child marriage? Remember what happened a few years ago when some said he had betrothed his young daughter? Everyone went through the roof. And does anyone really think that if we instituted a halachic judicial system we’d treat rape as a civil rather than criminal offense? I understand that the reasons given why these laws no longer exist in practical terms was not that they do not meet our standards of morality. But I wonder.”

    Shows that what Jesus said was true (or seemed to be saying): religious teachers take the law and twist it to conform to their own traditions (or rather: the traditions of their followers). Almost all preachers do this, weather Jewish or Christian (Muslims do this too).

    The fact of the matter is that there is no prohibition on marrying off girls young and the rape of a young maiden just requires that the man marry the sweet girl, not divorce her, and pay her father money. The ideas in the law are clear: woman was made for man.

    Todays idea is that woman was made for herself and man was made to serve her or just get out of the way. That is why men do not marry females so much anymore and why men have no will to help or fight for their countries often (their countries have turned against them and are at war with what is best for men and also what was written in the law).

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