Audio Roundup CXXXII

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by Joel Rich

Very worthwhile reading – please forward to any askanim/ gedolim/ community leaders you know.

Stability’s End

Technologies with goofy names like Twitter and Facebook are replacing political stability with a state of permanent instability.


‘Stability” has been the goal of civilized foreign policy since the dawn of the Cold War and arguably since the Congress of Vienna, which posited a framework for international relations in 1815. Stability, whose virtues are many, has had a worthy run. It’s done.

Stability is done as we have known it, at least until political leadership evolves a better understanding than they have shown during the events in Egypt of the permanently unstable world they’ve tumbled into. The man who pitched the curators of national stability into their current shocked state—evident this week in the streets of Cairo and before that in the capital of Tunisia and before that in the U.S.’s November elections—is William Shockley.

Shockley, a physicist, co- invented the transistor. The transistor replaced the vacuum tube as the central component of all electronic devices. The transistor enabled Twitter, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, an ocean of apps and the unending storm of information that blows all of us, including politicians, here and there like leaves. Why would anyone think it possible in such a world for a Hosni Mubarak to maintain stability with the methods he’s used since 1981?

The point here is not to argue again that information and communication technology (ICT) has caused another colorful “revolution.” Nor is it to overstate the power of these technologies to enable democratic reform.

My point is merely to describe what is going on in front of our faces: This new, exponentially expanding world of information technologies is now creating permanent instability inside formerly stable political arrangements.
[SNIP] Think what this means at the crudest level: Huge swaths of any wired population exist in a state of engagement. Instability. Before, stifled populations were mostly sullen. Now, all the time, they’re in mental motion.
[SNIP] Me-Or as R’RZ taught “The times they are a’ changin… you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone””

Something to say to the guy putting on tfillin at Mincha? This is not appropriate for our level. Have we already fulfilled all of the other laws?!

  • Rabbi Eli Belizon -Parshas Yisro Would Yisro’s Geirus be Accepted Today

    (me-better question – would any leaders today listen to Yitro’s advise?)
    Brief review of some of the rules of geirut (conversion) – especially geirut with ulterior motives. Can a male hemophiliac be megayer if he can’t have a brit? Can a laser be used for a brit? Does an in utero ger need a brit l’shem geirut?
    Q. How could Yitro be megayer after hearing all the wonders HKB”H did for the Jewish people, isn’t that converting with an ulterior motive? (to receive material club member benefits) A. No – since he was such a high ranking priest, he wouldn’t be switching for an ulterior motive since he had the benefits of office.

  • Rabbi H Schachter – What is a Heter?

    Starts with a plea for life insurance for mechanchim (I agree but just a quibble – term life may not just be until they can “afford” whole life).
    Summary – Hamachmir tavo alav bracha (“a blessing on your head stringent one”) is not a new idea but dates way back. How know when to hold and when to fold a chumra? Ask chachmei hamesora!
    Mishneh Brurah and Chasidei Achkenaz often tried to be yotzeh all shitot (out of love) [me – why not do this for all shitot that ever were propounded? Also doesn’t every chumrah have a flip side kulah?] Personal siyag (fences) are appropriate. CLOR for what you need. Just because something is permissible doesn’t make it the responsible thing to do.
    Rabbis can’t give a blanket heter if (most? many?) people won’t understand the limits of its applicability. Rabbis and organizations must be role models.
    R’YBS statement on brain death (me – sounded like it came when he was, unfortunately, in declining health).
    R’HS on who is entitled to an opinion (not you or me) and (indirectly) why it seems to the untutored eye that he gives different answers to his Talmidim then when he speaks in West Orange.

  • Rabbi Ezra Schwartz – Pikuah Nefesh Part 3: Regarding Non-Jews on Shabbat and Returning from Life Saving Efforts

    An analysis of the opinions on returning home on Shabbat from a life saving mission. Analysis of R’Moshe’s big chiddush that even torah prohibitions are suspended.
    Saving non-bnai brit on Shabbat is due to danger (sakanah) not eivah (poor relations). Well known Meiri and R’A Soloveitchik on why this distinction generally doesn’t apply today.
    R’Ezra – every legal system has laws on the books which are eviscerated in practice! (i.e. we know it can’t apply now, just need to construct reason).[me-hmmmmm]

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -The Mitvah of Tzitzis and Tcheles

    Detailed discussion of tzitzit/tcheilet including when requirements apply to which articles of clothing; which materials; what color is tcheilet; how many strings, knots; who can tie, what must they think, wearing tzitzit in vs. out, etc. (surprise – lot’s of differences of opinion).
    Interesting tidbit – “The mishneh brurah is machmir on everything”. Me – what were the historical, halachic, sociological, psychological, personal….reasons for this approach? Why did the next generation (of Yeshiva world) leadership embrace this approach? Can it change?

  • Rabbi Adam Mintz – Did Persian Culture Influence the Babylonian Talmud?

    Series based on Dr. Yaakov Elman’s pioneering work – how did Persian Empires’ (and there were several) culture impact the Jewish community and halacha. Different communities had differing levels of acculturation (Mechoza = Teaneck, Pumpidita = Lakewood?)

  • Rabbi Aharon Kahn -Sichos Mussar: Kol Haschalos Kalos

    All beginnings are difficult? Not really, if you buy into the entire torah package in which torah (this was for talmidim in learning) is life itself (olam habah is a guteh zach, learning torah is a besser zach!). Perhaps that’s why malach teaches baby pre-natally – so learning really isn’t a true “difficult” new beginning.

  • Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff-2011-01-24 JH 17 – How do we relate to YCT

    Answer: Not well (but time will tell!) R’Rakefet sees a replay of JTS’s slide away from Orthodoxy. He warns that the toshav not be impacted by the ger (me – imho an oversimplification of the famous R’YBS dvar torah – the ger is informed upon by the toshav, but like gravity between 2 massively unequally matched objects, the toshav is ever so slightly impacted by the ger).
    The swing to the left is likely a reaction to the swing to the right (me – Newton’s third law). I agree with R’ARR’s rant about YU’s old beit medrash – how these newbies “asher lo yadu et Yosef” face every direction.
    The big 3 (hat tip – the “Big D”) for this generation – feminism, homosexuality, pluralism.

  • Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff -2011-01-17 JH 16 – The Mindset of an unobservant Jew

    R’Rakefett’s extended thoughts on relationships with the not yet religious. Some interesting takes on Chabad’s market value proposition as well as on converts.

  • Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky -Talmud Torah Mechilas Kavod

    Two dinim (surprise!) in kavod for rav – (i) Talmid chacham vs. “average” rav; (ii) does the kavod belong to the rav or the torah; (iii) is it primarily based in man – man or man – God relationship; (iv) is mechila (waiver) a true exemption or merely a method of defining appropriate vs. excluded respect.

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes -Parshas Beshalach Hiddur Mitzvah More than meets the eye

    Hiddur (beautifying a mitzvah) – must it be in the object of the mitzvah (e.g. Etrog?) or extend to ancillaries (e.g. Tallit [not tzitzit themselves?] or extend to the halachot of the mitzvah (very Brisker) or our attitude to the mitzvah?
    [me – I never got the spending quite a bit more on the etrog box than on the etrog, or on the silver on the tallit than on the Tzitzit].
    Interesting psak that perhaps the more beautiful part of the cover of a sefer torah should face in towards the sefer! [me – but who would see your name on it???]

  • Rabbi Ezra Schwartz -Pikuah Nefesh Part 2: Risk and Changing Times

    Q. How do you define a significant danger for halachic purposes?
    A. Not easily!
    Examination of Talmudic cases defining the concept of “shomer psaim” (HKB”H protects “fools”). What do we mean when we say we don’t follow the majority by danger? (i.e. if majority feel no danger but you do, you can act on it). Binyan Tzion – That only applies when the danger is immediate. R’Ezra wonders how that coheres with the famous R’Salanter cholera/Yom Kippur/eating story (me – perhaps sakana that’s very matzui is different).
    General issue – is danger a function of what the individual feels, society defines or experts think? What about where concerns have changed since Talmudic times?
    The old 1/1000 rule posited (but who provides the statistics???)

  • Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner -History of Jewish Publishing: The Battle over Rav Meir of Padua’s edition of Mishneh Torah

    Printers competition in Italy leads to a famous tshuva from the Rama, the burning of the Talmud, the prohibition of printing certain works and the S’A becoming ascendant in Italy [me – that whole IP non-competition halacha has an interesting evolution].

  • Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb – Cooking and Eating Meat and Milk: What’s the Main Prohibition?

    What is the relationship between the 3 levels of prohibitions of mixing milk and meat? Is it in the nature of siyag duraita (a torah precautionary rule)? Some practical distinctions.

  • Rabbi Assaf Bednarsh – Machshava 10 – bechira chofshit

    Review of historical rabbinic opinions on the extent of free will we have – pros and cons of each approach discussed.
    Interesting cognitive dissonance approach of the Chovot Halvavot – you should feel you have bechira but from bitachon approach believe HKB”H has complete control.

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes -Parshat Mishpatim Bribing Public Officials

    Bribery is prohibited (generally)! The primary prohibition is for bnai brit judges. This is extended to bnai brit leadership in general. Is it the bribee who is culpable? The briber? Both? What about bnai brit bribing non bnai brit justices? How about bribing them to just do what they’re supposed to? How does this interact with Dina D’malchuta? [me – Don’t forget the 800 lb. gorilla – chilul Hashem!]

  • Rabbi Ari Kahn-Will the Real Adar – please stand up the status of Adar rishon

    Is Adar Alef really Adar or just a month gap filler? Traces history from Talmud and Rishonim to current day. Implications for Yahrtzeits, bar mitzvah’s, tachanun, mitzvat hayom. Practical applications in differing cases not always philosophically consistent (surprise!). Is there a neder component to established halachic practices which might “override” the philosophically “correct” practice?

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha – Sonogram for Kohein’s Wife

    A lot of technical detail/complex issues to try to cover in 10 minutes. The upshot is even if the baby is a male cohen he is allowed to be born in a hospital!
    Some interesting broader issues – 1) when you have a sfek sfeika (double safek) and you can clarify (i) one or (ii) both – must you? (anyone remember my MRI of beef cattle question?); 2) how much of a doubt (leidat hasafek) do you need to qualify as a safek?

  • About Joel Rich

    Joel Rich is a frequent wannabee cyberspace lecturer on various Torah topics. A Yerushalmi formerly temporarily living in West Orange, NJ, his former employer and the Social Security administration support his Torah listening habits. He is a recovering consulting actuary.


    1. “Microsoft, an ocean of apps and the unending storm of information that blows all of us, including politicians, here and there like leaves. Why would anyone think it possible in such a world for a Hosni Mubarak to maintain stability with the methods he’s used since 1981?”

    2. “Interesting tidbit – “The mishneh brurah is machmir on everything”. Me – what were the historical, halachic, sociological, psychological, personal….reasons for this approach? Why did the next generation (of Yeshiva world) leadership embrace this approach? Can it change?”
      The mishneh berurah died before I was born-yet when I was in YU I don’t recall the MB being the center of everything-I remeber learning Chayei Adom, Aruch Hashulchan too-the acceptance of theMB is probably greatly the influence of Lakewood-RAK treated the MB as binding. Not so sure the rest of NA OrthoJewry treats it as such.

    3. Something to say to the guy putting on tfillin at Mincha? This is not appropriate for our level.

      I usually assume that the person was unable to put on Tefillin earlier in the day, and there is a logic to putting them on for mincha vs just stam for a couple minutes.

    4. R’ Shasdaf,
      I was referring to those who do so everyday.

    5. R’Mycroft,
      I was referring more to the being concerned for minority stringent opinions.

    6. The Chazon Ish first put his impratur on the Mishna Berurah.Followed by the Litvishe Yeshivos including R.A.Kotler

      I will go out on a limb and say this has been a major influence on th “new chumra a day movement.”
      These generally are not life and death issues anD a decision needed to be made one way or the other.You can’t satisfy every SHITA.

      I will carefuly go a step further.Someone who is known as the Tzaddik and is so meticulous as ex. with seforim on lashon hara

    7. With regard to Rav Shachter I was surprised at his discussion.
      The topic was”WHAT IS A HETER.”
      However his main discussion was about”HAMACHMIT TAVO ALAV BRACHA.”
      This is without even discussing all the nuances of when it is applicable..Especially including the imporant one you brought up,that when you are machmir in one area you may be causing a kula in another area..

      Joel keep up your great roundups and important comments.

    8. R’DY,
      I’m not sure either but defacto that’s my impression.

    9. rav schachter did not choose the topic. the ou gave him the topic and he understood it as he saw fit.

    10. Anonymous-That seems correct.
      They gave him a topic about What is a HETER and he decided to talk about chumros without discussing a differential diagnosis of the different kinds of chumros and their consequences.

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