Audio Roundup CLVI

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by Joel Rich

One of the members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of the United States told me recently that the gedolim cannot even discuss questions surrounding poverty because if they did the “street” would just label them fake gedolim. (See J. Rosenblum Cross-Currents 12/13/2009)

When I was back there in seminary school (somewhere between the ages of 14 and 21), I was at some point bowled over by the whole Brisker/dynasty of the mind thing – although I’m not sure whether it was bound up in the whole Stuyvesant/Ivy League thing as well. Having worshipped at the temples of beauty, coolness, rock and roll and athletics (in no particular sequence), I was pretty sure this was the real thing (after all, what else could explain marching against bombing Cambodia one day and RIETS splitting off from YU the next).

It was only later that I realized Mark Twain had it right: When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.

There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then – and I think William McGurn was channeling Avi Mori Zll”hh:

That’s an old-fashioned word, courage.

In my own career, I have known many smart people: those with Nobel Prizes, who teach at the world’s leading universities or run the world’s most dynamic businesses—in short, people with intellectual firepower that would light up the sky. In my life I have also found what I suspect most Americans have found in theirs: The ones you come to respect are those you know will stand up when you need them.

Many years ago in his autobiography “Out of Step,” the philosopher and Cold Warrior Sidney Hook related how the 1960s surrender to student radicals by university administrators and faculty—people who knew better—led him to revise his belief that “intelligence was the supreme virtue.” His mistake, he wrote, had been to take “for granted the operation of moral courage.”

My “acid test” (pun intended) – is this someone I’d want to have my back in a bar room fight? (hint – the best candidate is not the one who is the biggest genius… rationalization)

For those of you (actually IIRC it’s all of you) who have failed to comment on my aphorism “All facts are theory based”, I want to point you to a new book – The Believing Brain,” by Michael Shermer (he was mchavein to me :-)) in which “he brilliantly lays out what modern cognitive research has to tell us about his subject—namely, that our brains are “belief engines” that naturally “look for and find patterns” and then infuse them with meaning. These meaningful patterns form beliefs that shape our understanding of reality. Our brains tend to seek out information that confirms our beliefs, ignoring information that contradicts them. Mr. Shermer calls this “belief-dependent reality.” The well-worn phrase “seeing is believing” has it backward: Our believing dictates what we’re seeing.”

Of course he includes religion in a way most of us would not appreciate, to a believer the question imho is why did HKB”H create us this way.

  • Eli Weber -The Role of Morality and Ethics in Halacha

    There was little formalization of dogma till the time of the Rishonim. [me – because then we were seriously debating competing belief systems?] Issue of doing mitzvot out of obligation vs. making HKB”H “happy” (focus on latter).

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha – Does Closing the Door Help Save Yichud Problems?

    Summary of halachic status of yichud with different categories of nashim. R’Lebowitz offers a possible leniency in certain circumstances for housekeepers; which didn’t blow R’HS away. [me – the halachic and [IMHO perhaps more importantly] hashkafic ramifications of housekeepers are vastly underrated – for leniencies is necessity the mothers of invention? How do we define necessities?]

  • Rabbi Eli Baruch Shulman -Pilegesh b’Givah and the Murder of Leiby Kletzky

    Analysis of Pilegesh B’givah story and what it says about a society. If you see something, say something! [me – I specifically did not listen to the video purporting to link of horrors of recent events in NY with recent NY legislation – some people are more in touch with “the hashgacha” than I and apparently know the “daat elyon”]

  • Rabbi Aryeh Klapper-Is there a Modern Orthodox way to Learn Gemara?

    Is there an M.O. approach to learning Talmud? If yes, what is it? Lots of possibilities – not just Brisk’s learning for learning’s sake, maybe to know the mind of HKB”H?
    “Halachic Man” is R’YBS’s modern rationalization of an existing methodology which previously had not been self aware.
    Are we focused on the method of learning or the purpose? What is our relationship to the text – is it to be part of tradition or to position ourselves to create new traditions? [i.e. focus on creating the Jewish future J] Perhaps M.O. should focus on advancing all (torah & secular [me – where is the boundary?]) knowledge? Recognize that the attainment of truth requires both reason and revelation and that we are all capable of error (and not be overwhelmed by the charismatic individual).

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes -A Proper Hesped Exaggerating the Niftars Qualities and Ignoring his request

    The S”A says you can exaggerate in a eulogy (but just a bit) and you must follow the directive of the deceased not to be eulogized. Why do we allow any “sheker” and why do we ignore the desire of a gadol not to be eulogized? General answer – have to recognize what we’ve lost – probably more than we know (me – apply Kentucky windage to the eulogy) – especially a gadol who belongs to all Klal Yisrael.

  • Rabbi Yonason Sacks -Bracha Achrona

    Analysis of complex bracha achrona issues (e.g. combining liquids and wine amounts).

  • Rav Alex Israel – War Ethics

    What is the binding thread of the seemingly disparate topics covered in this parsha? Unity of the people, how they fight HKB”H’s fight and how to show appreciation when doing so.

  • Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg -2. Chazon Ish – Emunah, Bitachon and More – Perek 1, osios 3-5 @ Mesorah

    Part of a series – IIUC the gist of this was how the human body and world around it works so perfectly that it all leads to emunah (faith).

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes -Parshat Matos Observing minhagim

    Does the binding nature of minhag derive from bal yachel (taking an oath) or shma bni musar avicha (listen to your parents). Is the binding of a torah a rabbinic nature? Discussion of community vs. personal practices.
    Pri chadash says force of family practice derives from force of community practice.
    [me – still waiting to hear a clear explanation how one generation can bind another? I can see a local practice be binding locally in public from something like al tifrosh but past that it’s unclear to me]

  • Rabbi Yonason Sacks -Hafrashas Challah

    Lots of technical detail on the requirement to take challah.

  • Rabbi Yitzchak Fingerer-1967 Miracles

    The famous GRA on 1948 an some other nice stuff (me – do we appreciate the chasdei hashem?)

  • The Kotel-how holy is it? Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein

    Analysis of medrashim and poskim as to what exactly is the kotel hamaravi and some halachic implications [e.g. meilah]

  • Rabbi Shmuel Marcus -Prohibition to Cheat the Government; Prohibition to Cheat on Regents Exams

    2 responsa from R’Moshe – 1) lying about the number of students to get more $ (some things never change – see recent Shas concerns about random checks on Yeshiva attendance); 2) cheating on NY State Regents.
    Answer: NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO – it’s theft, lies, Chilul Hashem, gneivat daat….. [me – maybe if he had said a baal nefesh should be stringent we’d see more compliance?]

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha – Aufruf

    A brief history of “aufrufs” – names, timing, aliyah preference, food and symbolisms (me – many of which sounded to my untutored ear as reverse engineering).
    Most important revelation – the wise men (and women!) of Congregation AABJ&D in West Orange were mchavein to the Kabbalistic (well – at least chassidic) practice of having women only throw the candy!

  • Rabbi Dr Abraham J Twerski-ElderCare Conference 2011

    Western culture is focused on youth and productivity! Social Security, medical and long term care system getting worse (me – the pie is only so big – one needs either to increase the size of the pie or tell us whose piece should be reduced to feed others).
    Discussion of hardships of sandwich generation and how difficult shailah’s of triage in this situation are.
    If you want your kids to take care of you, be a role model to them [me – just put me in the white room with black curtains near the station].

  • Rabbi Steven Weil -The man Who Could Have Stopped The Churban

    History of Yoshiyahu (related to his eulogy kinah). He didn’t realize that Jews were still sinning, just that it was behind doors. We mourn the loss of his potential.

  • Eli Weber -The Search For a Philosophy of Halacha III Torah Shel Baal Peh

    Why couldn’t HKB”H given us a completely written rule book? 1) too much to write; 2) he knew it would be translated and misappropriated; 3) need to control halachic process (not everyone can be a poseik); 4) need incentive to remember; 5) torah is unbounded (couldn’t address every possible situation).
    Thoughts worth noting:
    (i) problem with compendiums – they give all opinions equal weight
    (ii) some say the Rambam was an elitist – somewhat true (me – somewhat???)
    (iii) TSB”P had to be written down but we pay a price in lack of flexibility (me – might be getting into the whole predestination thing – but did it “have to be” this way? Is there an antidote?)

  • Rabbi Yonah Gross-Searching for Light in the Darkness part 2 – Who Decides What? Perspectives on Divine Will

    If you think that after 1000’s of years of discussion you’re going to find the answer here to the seeming contradiction between free will and hashgacha pratit, I have a bridge to sell you! A good description of the problem!

  • Rabbi Shmuel Maybruch -Latte or Lo Sasei – Buying Hot Coffee from Non-Kosher Restaurants

    I’m shocked, shocked – someone is spreading rumors that frum Jewish homes once only had a single sink, and (perish the thought) a single oven! Next thing you’ll tell me they only had one set of water glasses?!?!?!
    R’Maybruch gives you a lot of things to think about – not so much the leniencies that might allow you to have Starbucks coffee – but the extent of the stringent positions that have developed around sinks, dishwashers, et al.
    Also, an interesting detour into kashrut hashkafa some commonly ignored (e.g. not drinking at a bar/lounge) and others not so. Also interesting why Tosfot on why liquids generally aren’t bishul Akum issue and why no maarit ayin issue at Starbucks.

  • 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. Joel-I cannot open up R.Alex Israel.Thanks.

    2. by Joel Rich

      “One of the members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of the United States told me recently that the gedolim cannot even discuss questions surrounding poverty because if they did the “street” would just label them fake gedolim. (See J. Rosenblum Cross-Currents 12/13/2009)”

      I hope that one day poor Jews who are not kollel members would be of interest to the MGH-Moetzet Gedolei Hatorah-wish also applies to Mass General.
      MGH are not necessarily gedolim some have been- some including people who I have known and liked were not gedolim by any stretch of the imagination.

    3. “after all, what else could explain marching against bombing Cambodia one day and RIETS splitting off from YU the next”
      and believing that marching makes any difference at all-that is what is nice about youth one can believe in fairy tales that marching will beat money eg RIETS splitting from YU. The Rav couldn’t beat money when that issue occured.

    4. Joel,

    5. The camboidis marcvhing did seem to impact the coubtrytM

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