Audio Roundup CXXXVIII

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by Joel Rich

From a recent study (Kach mkublani mbeit avi abba):

The relentless pursuit of happiness may be doing us more harm than good.

Some researchers say happiness as people usually think of it—the experience of pleasure or positive feelings—is far less important to physical health than the type of well-being that comes from engaging in meaningful activity. Researchers refer to this latter state as “eudaimonic well-being.”

Happiness research, a field known as “positive psychology,” is exploding. Some of the newest evidence suggests that people who focus on living with a sense of purpose as they age are more likely to remain cognitively intact, have better mental health and even live longer than people who focus on achieving feelings of happiness.

From R’Amital:

In later generations, Chassidic attitudes changed, and greater and greater emphasis was placed on the idea that the Chassid is dependent upon his rebbe even regarding material matters. Moreover, this understanding has recently spread even beyond Chassidic circles. I assume that they have answers to the points raised above. In any event, the approach presented here is one that I received from my teachers: my revered master, the gaon and tzaddik, Rabbi Chayyim Yehuda Halevi, Hy”d, and from my teachers in Eretz Israel – the heads of the Hebron yeshiva, Rabbi Y.M. Charlap, ztz”l, and others.

This dependency is problematic not only for the disciple, but for the rebbe as well. It is inappropriate for rabbis to voice their opinions in areas that fall outside of their expertise, e.g., in medical or financial matters. There are times when expressing opinions in these areas can cause great damage. Many mundane matters are far removed from a rabbi’s education and training. It goes without saying that this in no way detracts from his standing.

The role of a rabbi – “Provide yourself with a teacher” (Avot 1:10) – centers on matters of Halakha and issues pertaining to Torah, the fear of Heaven and service of God. It also falls upon him to offer general guidance and counsel. But a rabbi must educate his students in such a way that they develop the capacity to decide significant issues on their own.

  • Gary Rosenblatt Dr. Erica Brown Dr. Steven Cohen Rabbi Elie Kaunfer Dr. Jonathan Sarna -Orthodoxy at a Turning Point: A National Conversation Panel #3: New Generations, Old Institutions

    Interesting discussion of a subset of one actuary’s favorite topic “Demographics is Destiny” (ask me about the implications of China’s “one child per family” policy). “New generations, old institutions” analyzes the implications of the shocking assertion that young people think they know better (or as a very wise man told me “when I wore a younger man’s clothes” (source – without google?) – “Joel, every generation thinks they discovered sex for the first time”) and the implications for established institutions (which don’t go away by themselves).

    Are the youngin’s selfish for forming new institutions? Who will provide the vision, who will pay for them now and in the future? Who get’s to call the tune? (Unlike “The Music Man” (I doubt anyone would get this one) – “when the man dances, certainly boys, the piper pays him” it usually works by the golden rule – he who has the gold makes the rules). This gives us managers rather than visionary leaders at the helm of our institutions. Also a lot of economic free riders.
    Some very sad thoughts/trends on baby boomer Rabbis being forced out of pulpits (I’ve heard similar about chinuch).
    Are we approaching a split in orthodoxy? Dr. Brown (Mrs. Brown you’ve got a lovely daughter?) wonders (as I do) whether we (MO?) are providing a safe space for our children (and I’d add our adults) to ask critical questions or teaching critical reasoning/analytic skills.

    Are we communicating spirituality? (me – how do we set souls on fire?)
    We (O, MO?) must be teachers to the greater Jewish community!

  • Rabbi Wannabe – “Women and Children First – Halachic Triage, Western Ethic, Neither or Both?” (Part II)

    2nd part of series. Starts with R’Moshe Tshuva on whether 2 brothers can put away Tzedaka money today for eventuality that youngest (3rd) brother will marry and continue learning (issues – brother over others, deferred compensation) then some detail on ransoming captives followed by the underappreciated (IMHO) laws of allocation of scarce town water resources. (Underappreciated because it really IMHO speaks to the fact that you can’t necessarily take halachot applying to individuals and aggregate to tzibbur – poly-sci and fallacy of composition applies!)

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha – The Starbucks Controversy

    R’Aryeh describes the issues raised by the CRC on Kashrut issues and possible leniencies. A lot depends on the facts on the ground (me – or just say can’t go into any food place that doesn’t have supervision, just like in the old country (sarcasm alert)).

  • Rabbi Azarya Berzon -Rambam Hilchot Tefillah: מצוות עשה להתפלל בכל יום – Some Insights from the Rav

    Focus on defining prayer as a time bound mitzvah – can you define time bound mitzvot (as some say the Rambam does) as ones where there must be a specific time period where you can’t fulfill it (and thus prayer would not be time bound).
    R’Berzon thinks not.

  • Rabbi Ezra Frazer -When Did the Purim Story Happen? Chronology, Aggadah, and a Modern Orthodox Educational Challenge

    Issues with the traditional rabbinic history of Purim/Temple destruction and generally accepted historical dates. One approach is to just teach traditional approach (as we might Talmudic passages on health issues) but in a Wikipedia generation this may not lead to the desired result (me – especially to those who can’t/won’t bifurcate their minds!). The other is to teach based on medrashic/commentary approaches which deal with these issues but are more complex.

  • Rabbi Dov Linzer-Marital Sex: Halakhic and Ethical Parameters

    Are marital relations a hechsher mitzvah (preparatory for a mitzvah) of pru u-rvu or an independent value? A number of implications of this differentiation.

  • Moshe Kahn-How Should We Be Guiding Couples on Birth Control Issues?

    May one delay having children? Should you ask a rabbi? Should he express an opinion?
    There are a number of possible issues (e.g. zrizin makdimim [do a mitzvah ASAP] etc.) Sources on deferring doing mitzvot in general as well as marriage (and marriage to non-fertile).
    R’ Kahn thinks Rabbis shouldn’t get (too?) involved.

  • Chief Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks -Free Will and Divine Foreknowledge

    14th principle of Rambam is freewill. R’Sacks discusses a number of approaches to the freewill/predestination conundrum.
    He explains the Rambam’s approach to this conundrum as predicting vs. deciding, inside vs. outside (HKB”H knows how he created us).
    Nice mussar on being the inheritors of torah and Chochmah (since our numbers are less than rounding error in the Chinese census, don’t worry about the size of MO, worry about the quality of your avodat hashem in all realms [I might be making that last part over in my aspirational state]).

  • Rav Amnon Bazak, David Landes and Rav Daniel Rhein-Harav Amital Legacy Symposium

    Remembrances of what made R’Amital special and a personal history. Be normal!

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Introduction to Sefer Vayikra

    A number of areas of halacha have their own special sets of rules. Kodshim is an example.

  • Rabbi Assaf Bednarsh -Machsahva 14 – Emunah 01

    Is emunah belief primarily tradition oriented (me – revelation) or philosophical proof (me – reason) oriented? Some rishonim reviewed; especially the Rambam.

  • Dr. James Diamond -Medieval Jewish Thinkers: Ramban

    Interesting start to a series on the Ramban – contrasting with the Rambam as a counterpoint (Dr. Diamond believes they are almost as believers of different religions in belief even though both subservient to halacha). Geographical/philosophical background – Ramban situated between Andalucia (influences = Rambam, Moslem, “light” ages, philosophical tradition) and North Spain (influences = Rashi, dark ages, Christian, non-philosophical).
    In parshanut he really was more in contrast to Rashi than Rambam.
    Examples of Ramban vs. Rambam (rationalist vs. mystic, explaining Karbanot and the sair l’azazel).
    Great comment on current urge to flatten (i.e. soften differences so every one agrees with me) vs. sharpening points of disagreement. (Me – the source data doesn’t really seem to support flattening – unless you really believe that chasurei mechsara was literally true vs. a way to cohere older text with desired halachic result.)

  • Dr. Sharon Flatto -Women’s Beit Midrash Meeting the Messiah – An Ongoing Hassidic Quest

    Review of Chassidic (original Chasidim as defined in Talmud and then the “revolution” of the Baal Shem Tov) history. How and why it grew into a mass movement – was it 1) anti messiamic shabtai tzvi issue); 2) revisionist messianic; 3) sociological – anti-intellectual elite; 4) anti parnas dictatorship; 5) all the above?
    Then an analysis of a letter of the Besht regarding mashiach and how everyone interprets it as their philosophy requires.

  • Rabbi Larry Rothwachs – Insights into Shemona Esrei: Bracha #2 – gevuros

    Review of 2nd Bracha (gevurot) with focus on theme of techiyat hameitim, repentance and HKB”H’s providence.

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Minute Halacha – Visitors Keeping Two Days of Yom Tov in Israel

    Quick summary of the major opinions on how a denizen of the exile relates to the 2nd day of Yom Tov in Israel. It’s complicated!
    R’HS has an interesting opinion on large group travel to Israel and lo titgodidu suggesting they should all follow the same practice). [me – and this doesn’t apply on the macro basis (to all “foreigners” in eretz yisrael) because?]

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha – A Woman Becoming a Shul President

    Quick discussion of the Rambam’s unique expansion Melech v’lo malkah to all positions of “srarah” (authority?). Actually definition of Srarah is half the issue! R’Aryeh focuses on R’Moshe tshuvah (they can’t even be board members). R’Aryeh himself is generally (yeah – I remember the co-ed discussion J) concerned with the impact of intermingling [me – ok, but remember there’s an opportunity cost as well which must be balanced against the benefit if the prohibition isn’t iron clad].

  • Professor Jerome Chanes -eligion and Politics: A Historical Perspective

    Interesting review of history in U.S. of church/state separation theory and case histories. Extremely important point as to whether people (you, me…) who identify themselves as “believers” actually see belief as central to their existence (if not, church/state separation goes down much more easily).

  • Rabbi Yona Reiss -Halakhic Perspectives Towards Non-Observant Jews

    There are two philosophical approaches to dealing with not yet religious brethren: 1) Yisrael af al pi Shechata Yisrael hu (a Jew even if he sins is still a Jew); 2) dino K’akum (he’s treated like an idol worshipper). More recently we have: 1) the Binyan Tzion – treat them like a lost child vs. 2) the munkatcher – distance them. Then some discussion of R’Moshe’s tshuva on whether to accept testimony from them on marriages that were later dissolved without a Jewish divorce and R’YBS on cooperation vis-à-vis the outside world.

  • Rabbi Netanel Javasky- Limitations of Redeeming Captives

    Summary of the sources on Pidyon Shvuyim (redeeming captives) and extension of R’Shaul Yisraeli to captured members of Tzahal.

  • 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. Shalom Rosenfeld

      “When I wore a younger man’s clothes” …

      Um … RICHARD Joel, right? 🙂

      Lo sisgodedu is only applied at the level of a big bunch of people you’d see in one place at one time (e.g. who’s wearing tefilin this morning in shul? What the shul next door does — or even what they’re doing down the hall — isn’t my problem). Moving beyond that to the community level is “makom shenahagu”, but we don’t go beyond that and demand everyone do the same thing — well actually they should all do MY thing, of course …

      Women, shul board, and opportunity cost — he mentioned R’ Moshe’s caveat? If it’s between a shomer-shabbos woman and a non-shomer-shabbos man, make the woman the shul president!

    2. Rav Willig, in a recent shiur, quoted Rav Kahn and argued in extremely strong terms against his idea of not consulting rabbonim. Rav Simon, who is known to be very lenient in this area, is liberal in his approach to family planning but also believes that these decisions need to be made in close consultation with a Rav.

    3. R’SR,
      Of course on chol hamoed it happens all the time in the same minyan 🙂
      It was a quick shiur, so no. But ooh it makes me wonder, what delta in frumkeit would be the baseline ?

    4. R’Talmid,
      the interesting study would be how different are the results and what are the determinative factors (a nice way of saying is the consultation basically pro forma)

    5. for Rav Simon – largely yes it is pro forma (and just to be involved enought to make sure it doesn’t go on unnecessarily for years. For Rav Willig – most certainly not.

    6. Shalom Rosenfeld

      If you’re telling couples they have to ask a rabbi complicated, life-altering questions like this, let’s just hope there are enough competent rabbis out there.

      Pro forma or not, it’s a good way of a couple getting a “checkup” and private consultation with the rabbi; also important as a good rabbi can anticipate some related halachic questions (vestos, shabbos, etc). and even hashkafic/relationship ones.

      How many lives have been saved by the doctor who noticed something that wasn’t the patient’s reason for coming in?

    7. R’SR,
      Ironic-that comes back to R’ Amital’s statement in my opening.

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