Audio Roundup CXLVIII

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by Joel Rich

From R’ Aviner:
Flag of the State of Israel
Q: Does the flag of the State of Israel possess holiness? Does one have to kiss the flag if it falls on the floor? Must it be put in the Geniza if it is worn out?
A: No. It does not contain holiness. But one must obviously treat it with respect (see Nefesh Ha-Rav, pp. 99-100. Shut Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:46. We heard from Rav Aharon Rakefet that Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein once said that he did not regret any of the Teshuvot he wrote, aside from in this Teshuvah about davening in a shul which has the flag of Israel using the term “Wicked” when referring to those who made the Israeli flag).

Here is the actual language of the tshuva (I would particularly note the closing prayer and reflect that even a gadol can use less than perfect articulation in the heat of the moment)
, ואף שאלו שעשו זה לדגל וסימן למדינת ישראל היו רשעים, מכל מקום הא לא החזיקו זה לדבר קדוש, שנימא שיהיה חשש גרירה דעבודה זרה, וידוע לכל שעשו זה לסימן בעלמא והוי זה ככל דבר חול.

ה’ וישלח לנו הגואל צדק ויערה עלינו רוח ממרום ללכת בדרך התורה והאמת לבלי לנטות ימין ושמאל.

Further on tcheilet: I’m told that the prices are driven mostly by labor and production costs, and not by materials (including the dye). Thus if they increase production significantly, they would realize efficiencies and the resulting cost savings associated with volume.

Question:Are folks aware of the tceilet issues? Rav Schachter is explicit as can be regarding his position and from what I’ve heard from many shiurim, it sounds like there is little reason not to wear them, at least msafeik that it is the real deal. So why do you think it’s not more widespread?

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik -Concepts of Jewish Education

Classic R’YBS! A beautiful retelling of a lesson from his Lubavitch m’lamed concerning Yosef’s question to his brothers – hayeish lachem av o’ach (do you have a father or brother) – of course they had a father!
Lesson that a Jew exists not just in the present but in the past and future as well, our responsibility concerning transmission of mesorah and the old father teaching the young child how to think intellectually and how to experience Yahadut [the latter he found much more challenging].

  • Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb -The Essence of Sefirat HaOmer: Time or Korban?

    Is counting the omer today a torah commandment or Rabbinic especially in the light of the Talmudic statement that it is zecher l’mikdash (reminder of the Temple). A review of halachic ramifications of this issue and the underlying issue – how close is the tie between counting the omer and the Karban ha’omer? R’YBS on the difference between zecher l’mikdash and zecher l’churban.

  • Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein-Agudot Agudot: Unity, Diversity and Factionalism

    Halachic and Hashkafic analysis of Lo titgodidu / agudot, agudot (not making subgroups). Is it duraita or drabannan? Is it to avoid disagreements or to not look like we have 2 torah’s? does it differ in minhagim and Issurin? Are these questions interconnected?
    Hashkafically – what does the ideal society/avodat Hashem look like? How do we find the proper balance between (my terms) the straight jacket of complete conformity and the hefkeirus of “do your own thing”? (BTW – thing is a great word – or as Phil Jackson might say, “We have a thing situation”).

  • Rabbi Nisson Lippa Alpert -How to Count the Jews

    Powerful Bechukotai drasha which cuts off before the end. Why does erchin (pledging valuation) follow tochecha (bad news on the doorstep)? Lesson of fixed valuations is we are all equal in the eyes of HKB”H so no need for the jealousy/pride/desire that brings sin. Why followed by temurah (no switching holiness of sacrifices)? HKB”H wants your unique kedusha (holiness) not that of your trying to totally copy someone else (me – “Every(thing)[one] is beautiful in its own way”).

  • Rabbi Elli Fischer-A Path through the Graveyard

    R’Fischer analyzes the R’Shimon Bar Yochal coming out of the cave story (33b-34a), sees parallels and differences with the Eliyahu story and draws the lesson (similar to post holocaust) of being rooted in our past but engaged in the reality of our present circumstances.

  • Ms. Elana Flaumenhaft -No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: A Study Yiftach’s Vow to Hashem

    Review of Yiftach and sacrificing daughter story – why of all the inappropriate vowers (e.g. Eliezer saying “He’ll marry the first girl” [anyone remember the musical Fiorello?]) was he singled out for the bad answer/result? Did he actually sacrifice her or send her to a nunnery (“Get thee to a nunnery” – any non-Google takers for a cite?)? If he did sacrifice her, why didn’t anyone stop him? Perhaps Yiftach bdoro but he was uninformed in this matter (i.e. the halacha was he didn’t have to sacrifice her)

    2 lessons – don’t think you know everything and watch what you say!

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha – Leaving Exposed Onions and Garlic Overnight

    R’ Frost’s book says no peeled eggs etc. if left overnight, no exceptions! The gemara does mention this (along with some other items that some might describe as “heebie jeebie” (תלמוד בבלי מסכת נדה דף יז עמוד א

    אמר ר”ש בן יוחי: ה’ דברים הן שהעושה אותן מתחייב בנפשו ודמו בראשו: האוכל שום קלוף, ובצל קלוף, וביצה קלופה, והשותה משקין מזוגין שעבר עליהן הלילה, והלן בבית הקברות, והנוטל צפרניו וזורקן לרה”ר, והמקיז דם ומשמש מטתו. ) here’s a good article I once read on the topic, R” Aryeh summarizes a lot of the points link.

    Interesting to me is we don’t dream of following medical advice in talmud that doesn’t work, I suppose the difference here is “it can’t hurt” even though in this case all the major rishonim seemed OK with not mentioning it!

  • Rabbi Gottesman -interpretation of halacha, abuse

    General theory – Halacha and secular law really don’t much conflict on reporting abuse. Review of basic sources on msira (handing over suspects to government). Discussions of “senior poskim” on the issue. Sounded to me like the real issue is when is there certainty and when is there reasonable suspicion (raglaim bdavr) . Lack of clarity imho between the “normal” powers of beit din and the powers taken on by them (or other authorities?) when there is no melech. Their thrust seemed to be you almost always need to ask an “adam chashuv” before acting. For another opinion on the matter-see this video link

  • R’ Shafier of The Shmuz -Teaching Yiras Shmayim in the Classroom -Address to the 55th Torah U’ Mesorah Convention

    R Shafier started working on hashkafa for those who were in a Yeshiva for working men (or something like that) and only later found out that our best and brightest don’t know much about bitachon, emunah or history (ok I added history-hat tip Herman’s Hermits). Need to teach yirat shamayim to adults as well – not just “plain” limud torah (sounded at one point that he was aghast that a young women asked what did Moshe really get at Sinai – it’s actually a good question for discussion-the gemara does)

    Our responses need to be relevant, real and resonant (R’ Shafier gives examples – truthfully I think they are audience based so his didn’t really resonate with me)

    Scariest (to me) comment – families punt on this and expect Yeshiva’s to teach yirat hashem.

  • Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein – short Mincha- When do I start my silent Amida?

    Review of original takanah for reptitioion of shmoneh esrai and current reasons. Then discussion of where you should start if you are not the shatz and are catching up or (in the very, very, very unusual situation of a legal “heich kedusha”)

  • Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff – JH 28 – Dual Loyalties

    Appreciation of Eim Habanim Smeicha. Discussion of how to talk to Jews who have not yet made aliyah – who don’t understand what it means to be a total Jew and part of a nation. Some discussion of holocaust issues and then a strange quote from “Echoes of the Nightingale” on not making aliyah.

  • Rabbi Azarya Berzon/When Does Confession Weigh in as Evidence in Jewish Law?

    On the eve of surgery with a 90% mortality rate, a man confesses monetary and relationship sins to his rabbi. He (the patient :-)) survives! Can/should a court act on the rabbi’s later testimony?

  • Rabbi Yoni Levin -Eliayahu HaNavi: Man or Malach?

    Varying sources on whether Eliyahu ever died and implications with regard to his personal status (e.g. could his wife remarry) and halachic status (e.g. is he able to give psak or is he forbidden due to “lo bashamayim he”).
    Some answers include 2 different Eliyahu’s (like my favorite 2 rav kahana answer!) and sometimes he is a person and sometimes not. (Was he really a Kohain, can he really fly?).

  • Rabbi Daniel Whitman -Issur lamad chochmas Yevanos & chiyuv lilmod torah

    Analysis of the various Talmudic sources on the requirement of Talmud torah. Are they just applications in differing circumstances or truly differing opinions? Is there just one mitzvah or two (learning, knowing all of torah)?

  • Rabbi Michael Rosensweig -The Relationship Between Torah Shebichtav & Torah Sheb’al Peh

    Ties together Shavuot, Torah Shebal peh and torah shebiktav. Sources on relative importance of each and bottom line message that Biktav is minimum, she baal peh is man’s involvement.

  • Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner – Business Ethics: Jewish Internet Etiquette

    Can you read someone else’s email? No (general privacy/tzniut and some other specifics)
    Can you fax something to someplace where it is already shabbat? Generally yes (unless you are a talmid of R’HS-based on a new girsa in the Rambam-thoroughly modern!)
    Should you use a salutation? Yes (imitato dei)

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes – Birchas HaMazon How Full is Full

    Review of issues with regard to the Torah and rabbinic requirementsa for birchat hamazon.

  • 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

      Get thee to a nunnery — Hamlet to his girlfriend Ophelia. Have you seen the Malbim’s take on Yiftach’s daughter? Genius.

      IIRC hearing from Rabbi Rakefet, the word R’ Moshe regretted was not “reshaim” but referring to the state as “ha-arurah.”

    2. The flag has no intrinsic holiness of course. However we can learn of the importance of flags from the flags of the tribes of Israel as related in the beginning of Sefer Bamidbar. In the Midrash Bnei Yisrael saw the flags of the hosts of angels at Sinai and decided that they wanted these symbols that would express the special nature of each tribe. The flag of the State of Israel represents the inner nature of the state. In the words of HaRav Kook ZTZL-Medinat Yisrael is the basis of the presence of Shechina in this world.
      R’Aviner also points out that one of the meanings of the word “ness” is a pennant or flag.
      For the inner significance of the magen David see Maharal in Netzach Yisrael and Franz Rosenzweig in “Die Stern der Erloesung”

    3. Is there a particular reason that R. Gottesman’s talk needed to be included in the audio roundup, besides from informing us what not to think about this issue. Aguda’s position is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place – this whole ‘adam chashuv’ business is beyond a joke. Look at the letter signed by the gedolim in favour of Elior Chen. Most anashim chashuvim know nothing about this issue, and many seem to have a pretty strong track record of getting it exactly wrong. This is not a ‘legitimate perspective’, unless you are willing to legitimate more children getting abused and more abusers getting away with it.

    4. R’Anon,
      Personally I was struck by the implication of the low level of doubt needed to require a “shailah”, and also wondered what additional information a “posik” gets to make the decision instead of the individual. To me it’s symptomatic of the “always ask the rav” syndrome (perhaps as an overreaction to the never ask syndrome percieved in others?

    5. Re tcheilet issues-AIUI there are three major reasons given not to wear tcheilet.
      1-The lack of unbroken tradition and unwillingness to use modern research to renew the tradition. This is a legitimate halachic question and was the reason the Briskers and RYBS did not accept the Ruzhiner’s tcheilet and the same logic would hold for the modern tcheilet.
      2- Yuhara (arrogance)R’Aviner and many others hold that until gedolei hador decide to wear tcheilet,it would be arrogant for amcha to wear it.
      3-Chesron Kis (great expense). It was the position of R’Mordechai Eliahu ZTZL and reportedly R’Elyashiv SHLYTA that as long as there is safek about the new tcheilet we can’t burden all of amcha Yisrael with the great expense(about 200 shekels for a set).
      In recent shiurim RHS has answed fully all three of these questions and emphasized that wearing tcheilet is a no loss situation. Even if it turns out that the new tcheilet isn’t genuine the wearer is yotzei and the tcheilet is in no way possel. In Israel gedolim like R’Simcha Hacohen Kook and R’Dov Lior wear tcheilet. The Chareidim (except for Braslavers and Ruzhiners with their own tcheilet)are as usual afraid of anything new (chadash assur min haTorah). The Ruzhiner said in his time that the rediscovery of tcheilet is a harbinger of the coming of the Mashiach. If the new tcheilet is genuine it fits in with the many other signs that we are in the period of atchalta de-geulah, the beginning of redemption.

    6. R’dt
      generally agree- although as I’ve mentioned- 200 shekels is probably less than a year’s worth of chalav yisrael vs. chalav stam. and if I put my sociological hat on, I’d venture there’s less yuhara in tcheilet than in putting tfillin on at mincha.

    7. RJR- I agree with you on yuhara. As I’ve told you the fact that I know people who are anavim by any standard who wear tcheilet convinced me that yuhara is a non-issue. Another example is tefillin of Rabbenu Tam. The problem of yuhara is mentioned by the Mechaber andsay,30 years ago very few put on RT and then only betzi’na. Today we have bar-mitzvah boys putting on RT. Here in Israel it is very common especially among Sefardim and Chabadnikim to put on RT befarhesia. This shows what R’Dov Lior said in response to R’Aviner; that yuhara is a subjective concept and depends on the mindset of both the wearer and the onlooker.

    8. Is Rabbi Frost a Reform rabbi? The Shulchan Aruch and all the great poskim from previous generations never required us to be concerned with peeled eggs. If the Shulchan Aruch doesn’t mention it, that means he didn’t consider it a chiyuv. So how can a contemporary rav claim that we are obligated? How is that not Reform Judaism? Doesn’t Torah Judaism follow the Shulchan Aruch?

    9. r’sr,
      i’ve heard a number of explanations of this trend (at least) 1. we live in a materialistic, pritzut filled generation so more chumrahs are needed 2. what could it hurt to always be machmir 3. really hkb”h wants us to be machmir, he just doessn’t force it 4. no one ever was accused of not being frum for being machmirkt

    10. Shalom Rosenfeld

      Just to clarify: “SR” 7:29AM is someone other than me!

    11. But you quoted R. Frost as saying it was an obligation, not a chumra? That is Reform Judaism.

    12. >what could it hurt to always be machmir

      This is a tired debate already, but isn’t the issue pushing boundaries? This isn’t necessarily the best example, but take the yarmulke. It is clear from early sources that there is absolutely no chiyuv to cover the head. Even after the Shulchan Aruch (who says you need to do it to walk 4 amos – which is still more lenient than the common practice now) you have the Maharshal who says there is no chiyuv whatsoever and the Gra who says that it is midas chassidus to cover when making a beracha! But nowadays the question is, am I *allowed* to not cover it in my work? Or it’s frowned upon to sleep bareheaded, etc. This is the same thing which has happened with countless practices, the addition of tefilos, kashrus, etc. Things for the most part move in only one direction – stringency. Doesn’t this alienate those who are far from observance? They can’t see observance as something that is really possible for their lives. So the flipside of chumra-creep is that most of the Jews in the world cannot possibly look at their religion as something that is doable, while in their earlier, more basic, pristine form many observances are really quite simple.

    13. SR: Yes, that must be Reform Judaism because Reform is really big on halachic obligations.

    14. There is a basis for being machmir lechatchila. The midrash on the parasha tells of the angels who complained to Hashem about the nesiat panim in birkat cohanim,that it implied giving special consideration to Am Yisrael. Hashem replied how could He not give them special consideration. They are commanded “You shall eat,be satiated and bless…” but they are machmir to make the blessing even on an olives bulk of bread. Another example is bnot Yisrael who took it upon themselves to keep 7 days of tahara if they see even a drop of blood the size of a mustard seed. Of course there is a limit, we are not required to be chassidim shotim. But in general “hamachmir tavo alav haberacha”.

    15. Herman’s Hermits? or did you mean Shmuel Koch?

    16. Is “ruach raah” a halachic or a scientific/medical issue? I would argue the latter (though it’s based on incorrect science). If the SA says to avoid something because of ruach raah, we (or our ancestors who originated the custom) avoid because it is dangerous, not specifically because the SA says it’s assur. It is always possible to identify dangerous things the SA did not mention for whatever reason, but if you believe in daas torah, it is impossible for the SA to identify as dangerous something that really isn’t.

    17. R’Ang,
      as in Peter Noone (believe it or not my assistant recently when to a concert of his!)

    18. R’DT,
      but of course we also need to be sensitive to chumrot that lead to kulot (on a meta basis as well imho)

    19. RJR-Good point on making sure the chumra doesn’t lead to a kula (I’m not sure what you are referring to as a “meta Basis”
      Here is a recent example of a chumra that becomes a kula – Recently the Chareidi Badatzim on the authority of R’Avraham Rubin are trying to one-up the kashrut of the Rabbanut by checking the “tzomet hagidim”-the upper leg joint in chickens. My rebbe on kashrut R’Avraham Tzuriel gave us a long shiur explaining that IHO if you cut open their legs they should be salted again (which they don’t do) therefore the chumra of examining tzomet ha gidim becomes a kula (and perhaps even over on ikkar hadin)on melicha!
      Shlomo-IMHO ruach ra’ah has nothing to do with science or medicine. Like all of the subject of tuma and tahara it is an unknowable ‘chok” that belongs to the spiritual sphere. There remains the question of why the SA paskened some of the laws of TVT and ignored others.

    20. David – I think you misunderstand the Haredi trend to reject anything modern/new. As any reader of this blog knows, much about Haredi society was unheard of 200 years ago, and so they are not averse to new trends. What they will reject is new trends that they did not originate. If it was started in their world, by their people, it’s kosher. However, since techelet is a “Tziyoni” enterprise, even if there’s a safek mitzva d’oraysa involved (which, as stated would certainly be more worthwhile than a number of the chumras propagated), it’s passul. We just have to come up with a reason why.

      Joel – you’ve understated RHS’s claim. In his latest shiur, RHS states that he thinks that someone who does not wear techeiles should not be wearing tzitzis, as he would be in violation of bal tigra!!!

    21. David – Tumah deoraita may be an unknownable chok. When Chazal say that a particular common practice causes blindness, it sounds more like a law of nature.

    22. Shlomo-That is exactly the point. These halachot are NOT laws of nature. They are above nature,or perhaps parallel to the natural world that we experience with our senses. This goes to explain not only tuma vetahara but also segulot and mezikin, shedim and other phenomena that were part of the world of Chazal who were much more aware of the spiritual world than we are today.

    23. Rav Moshe Feinstein (I don’t have a Yad Moshe in front of me) rules that one must follow the gemaras that discuss ruach ra’a re: eggs, garlic, and onions. Was he, too, Reform?

    24. aryeh lebowitz

      Jenny – this is not a new position of Rav Schachter’s. He has published this psak in his sefer Ginas Egoz.

    25. “In his latest shiur, RHS states that he thinks that someone who does not wear techeiles should not be wearing tzitzis, as he would be in violation of bal tigra!!!”

      SO THE MECHABER, THE RAMBAM et al were not yotzei zitzit?

    26. For those interested in a written discussion of “ruach ra’a ” see
      the sefer Shmiras Haguf Vehanefesh,especially introduction ,chapter 7.
      The Rambam(melancholia) and the Meiri already understood it,as internal,as opposed to something external.
      Seeing the shadim and mazikim was the general “scientific” thought of that time.And the Rambamand Meiri were ahead of their times.See also for example Tosfos Yuma77b,s.v meshum.”no sakana in our day from ruach ra’a.”

    27. See also Peachim 112b where it is stated that Abaye chased away the mazikin.

    28. aryeh lebowitz

      mycroft – obviously they were yotzei. Rav Schachter clearly writes (based on a Biur Halacha and a Beis Halevi and Turei Even) that when one has the ability to do a mitzvah in its fullest form (b’shleimusa) but instead opts to do it in a lesser form, he is in violation of bal tigra. The Mechaber never had the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of techeiles. We do.

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