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