Audio Roundup

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by Joel Rich

For those of you who remember our train (apparently trolley in the U.K.), ethical dilemmas (see link) a study was recently reported in “The Economist”:

Dr. Bartels and Dr. Pizarro then correlated the results from the trolleyology with those from the personality tests. They found a strong link between utilitarian answers to moral dilemmas (push the fat guy off the bridge) and personalities that were psychopathic, Machiavellian or tended to view life as meaningless. Utilitarians, this suggests, may add to the sum of human happiness, but they are not very happy people themselves.
That does not make utilitarianism wrong. Crafting legislation – one of the main things that Bentham and Mill wanted to improve – inevitably involves riding roughshod over someone’s interests. Utilitarianism provides a plausible framework for deciding who should get trampled.
[me – interesting to think about what framework the Chazon Ish was considering halacha to follow. Are the Horiyot priorities in some way utilitarian (maximize mitzvot?)]

“I have no doubt that God spoke during the Holocaust,” (Rav)Amital said, “I simply have no idea what He was trying to say.” (Me- Baby I’m amazed how many people have a direct line to know what HKB”H is saying to others)

  • Rav Soloveitchik-Jewish Holidays

    Classic hashkafa/halacha that makes torah (for me) a seamless web. Here R’YBS discusses time as having attributes rather than just being a coordinate system. The “kdushat hayom” (holiness of the day) expresses itself through a prohibition of work since the day is dedicated to the notion of HKB”H as master of the universe (some discussion of tzimtzum) so we cease our mastery. Also discussion of redemptive nature of work (me a’la Maynard G. Krebs – work!) and its potential for forming communities [not as in – nebech, he works for a living).

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Inyanei Rosh Hashanah

    Lots of ground covered (surprise). History of two day issue – one rosh chodesh the witnesses came late in the day and the Levites said the wrong shir shel yom (or none at all). [R”HS points out that shir shel yom does not impact the acceptability (not meakev) of the sacrifice (so not clear why this required a fix?)]. That’s when they established rule not to accept witnesses in the pm.
    Rosh Hashanah would be an issue anyway since before fixed calendar they would’ve not done mlacha on the first day which could have been Rosh Hashana, then, if the Rabbis then said the next day was Rosh Hashana (and not the first day), the following year people would work on 1st day.
    Then lots of discussion of which day is really holy and implications.
    Shehichyanu of new suit / fruit – problems with both (isn’t it an interruption (hefsek), do we really make shechiyanu on these today?).
    Physical shofar requirements, when and what to blow?
    Zrizin (alacrity) takes precedence over b’rov am (big crowd) except for shofar (we don’t do at shacharit) because of a government edict which could reoccur (me – occams razor wouldn’t have yielded this reason – turns out there’s lots of interesting discussion (see especially chatam sofer) on this issue in Rosh Hasham.
    100 kolot – some say from Sarah, not Sisra’s mother.
    Tosefet Shabbat/Yom Tov – 30 minutes before shkia.

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Inyanei Rosh Hashanah #2

    A large range of yom tov issues. Ochel nefesh (allowable activity to prepare food on Yom Tov) allowances – scope and reasons. Eruv tavshilin rules – what and when – more to it than you think. Gas and electric stove issues (no discussion of “purported” “Shabbat mode”).
    Kohanim duchening – beginning of what could have been an even more interesting discussion. 1) The “minhag” of the kohanim covering their hands was well after Talmudic times (me – what changed?); 2) S”A “did away” with the takanat rabbanim regarding kohanim with hand blemishes only duchening in limited circumstances. R’HS (mishkehot yaakov) says it’s “implicit” that when a takanah is to “uproot” a torah mitzvah, that it’s considered a case of “the reason being stated” (and thus, if the reason is gone, the takanah falls without another beit din) [me – see the recent Journal of Halacha & Contemporary Society] [me – Sometimes I feel like I’ve been tied to the whipping post – explaining why some takanot can fall away and others can’t; it sometimes seems like an X + 1 degree function fitted to X data points] Rules of cohain as a shatz for mussaf when duchening (in eretz yisrael [duchen every day] the issue seems settled differently. (R’Ozer – another reason for aliyah!))
    Don’t say those extraneous psukim during duchening – most hear whole thing from Cohanim [similarly by modim drabannan (me – what percentage of people hold by this?)].
    Kahal shouldn’t say “am kdoshecha”, and bracha shouldn’t change (oseh hashalom, sheotacha lvadcha) and shir hamalot mimamakim is a hefsek [hmmm – logically consistent, seemingly strongly grounded; but almost universally ignored – the power of mesorah!]

  • Rav Asher Weiss-Prayers of 10 Yemey Teshuva

    R’Asher discusses the sources (e.g. takanah [& when made], minhag, etc.) for the additions of asseret ymei tshuva that we make to the amida. The Gaonim rejected additions in first and last 3 brachot (no requests allowed) but rishonim accepted them (hmmm – who came 1st?). Why: 1) requests for tzibbur (community) allowed (importance); 2) asset ymei tshuva are different (me – defcon 5); 3) spiritual requests allowed. (me – parnassah tova?)

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes -Parshas Ki Savo The Nature of Birchos HaMitzvah

    Birchas Hamitzva – Agricultural gifts as a source?
    Importance of prayer of community. Need for permission to pray? R’YBS – Vidui means honest accounting (not confession). Lo Shachachti – might be source of birchat hamitzvah as duraita!

  • Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff – Step by step: The Dawn of Redemption!

    History of modern religious Zionism – Ger v’toshav – “modern” Zionism was impacted by nationalism around us (I’m shocked, shocked!). R’Alkalai, R’Kalisher, Chibat Tzion, etc. (Winkie – are you there? I remember it all from tironut).

  • Rabbi Yonason Sacks -Tochacha

    Analysis of mitzvah of tochacha (rebuke). Giving rebuke to Individual vs. Group – is there a difference? What about purposeful vs. accidental sinner.
    “Money” thought – while we generally don’t say darshinan taama d’kra (we use the “reason” for a mitzvah to determine its application), if the reason is “obvious” we do (Tosfot Harash). [me – now if I could only find my obviousness detector?!]

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Sanhedrin Shiur 18 – Three Approaches to Asmachta

    Analysis (from ongoing shiur) of how much “control” of the outcome one must have for the situation to be deemed an asmachta (as in asmachta lo kanya).

  • Rav Soloveitchik-Shabbat Hagadol 1,2

    There is no prayer/praise without a request. Analysis of hallel themes and message of gratitude aligned with the story leading up to it. Analysis of message of burning bush, types of wisdom and an awareness that every Jew (not just the intellectual elite) has a share in torah.

  • Dr Lawrence Schiffman/Why is there no birchat hachodesh before Tishrei

    Why don’t we “bentch” rosh chodesh before rosh hashana. Perhaps to “back burner” the normal “automatic” nature of rosh chodesh and focus on the acceptance through rosh hashana on HKB”H’s role.

  • Rabbi Gil Elmaleh -Psychology in the Torah; The Two Parts of the Nefesh

    Rambam – role of psychology is to return individual to natural/normal state of spirit/soul and through this state we can connect with HKB”H.

  • Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman -Chatzi Shiur

    Very “lomdush” discussion of chatzi shiur. Classical issues such as Yom Kippur/Shiurim, is it gavra/cheftza? Is it an independent Issur? Is it an issue of sin or punishment , etc.

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz – Ten Minute Halacha – Kittel on Yom Kippur

    Yom Kippur dress code. Is the issue one of looking like angels or to remind us of day of death? Discussion of different occasions (e.g. pesach). Take aways – women can’t be like angels (not clear why), take off kittel before going into lavatory and some chatanim don’t wear it first year (also not clear to me why).

  • Rabbi Michael Broyde – Gedalia’s Dilemma: Listening to Gossip to Prevent Harm: When is it Permitted?

    What do you do with unconfirmed information about an individual which might or might not be true, but if true, one needs to protect against? [conflicting priorities – accepting lashon hara vs. lo taamod al dam]. You must consider it? How sure do you have to be?
    Majority opinion – try to “defend” in a way where no one else impacted. Sounds like measure of whether to act is whether you believe the information is more likely than not to be true. Than some case studies.
    [me – R’YBS on Kavdeihu Vchashdeihu (future) vs. choseid bksheirm (past). I’d also think that measure would be a function of degree of possible harm (e.g. if you think it’s 49% that he’s a serial killer vs. 49% that he talks during chazarat hashatz)].

  • Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein -My community # 6 and Rosh Hashana- take pride in your past as well.

    We must take pride in our past, don’t trash parental traditions for those of outside rabbis.

  • 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. An interesting hashkafa is utilitarianism + ideology where Machiavellian end justifies the means is the norm. An example is Gush Emunim whose practical settlement policies plus deep ideological commitment feuled the movement.Here too there were cases where the good of individuals was sacrificed for the good of the movement.

    2. Shalom Rosenfeld


      Just wanted to say — bravo on your comments for this roundup.

    3. R’dt- yes, it is an interesting trade off.
      R’SR-anything in particular?

    4. Shalom Rosenfeld

      Defcon, parnasa tova, X+1 points, RYBS on work (I’d like to hear more on this hashkafic point — how was the audio on that shiur?)

    5. R’SR,
      Not bad – but that was not the major thrust-I’m pretty sure there are others where he spoke more on it.

    6. “some chatanim don’t wear it first year (also not clear to me why).”

      I have NEVER woprn a kittel-and I am mow married and have been for decades . I of course am sadly aware that eventually and it gets closer and closer like all I will have one placed on me.

    7. Ye’yasher kochakha, R’ Joel Rich.
      Unfortunately, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to disagree with HaRav HaGa’on R. Amital, zekher tzaddik liverakhah. The Ribbono Shel Olam is Omnipotent. One cannot claim that “He was trying to say” anything, a phrase that implies (chas vechalilah) an unsuccessful attempt to communicate information. Human beings are imperfect; human beings often “try to say” things, but pathetically fail, for such is the human condition. HKB”H is perfect; whatever He “tries to say”, He actually does say with perfect success. The bottom line: I agree with R. Amital that it is forbidden to attempt to provide reasons for the Holocaust, as any and all such reasons could be construed as an offense to Holocaust victims, but I also believe that it is forbidden to ascribe any imperfection (chas vechalilah) to HKB”H. Our attitude should simply be “va’yidom Aharon”.

    8. I would add that this disagreement (ketalmid ha’yoshev bakarka vedan lifnei Rabbo) is based on the principle enunciated by RMF in IM YD 3:88 where he authorizes posthumously disagreeing with the Chazon Ish. As RMF there says, it is a great honour to a deceased rabbinic luminary for his words to be scrutinized, if a sound basis for challenge has been discovered. Obviously, this principle is reserved for the most exceptional of situations.

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