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by Joel Rich

From R’ Aviner:
Doves and Jaundice
Q: Do doves cure jaundice?
A: No.
Q: But they cured my cousin.
A: One must prove that without the dove he would not have been cured.

From Theodoric of York: [ alias Steve Martin ] Well, I’ll do everything humanly possible. Unfortunately, we barbers aren’t gods. You know, medicine is not an exact science, but we are learning all the time. Why, just fifty years ago, they thought a disease like your daughter’s was caused by demonic possession or witchcraft. But nowadays we know that Isabelle is suffering from an imbalance of bodily humors, perhaps caused by a toad or a small dwarf living in her stomach.

Question: 1. What is the reason that (some?) members of Sanhedrin must speak all languages and does it inform on requirements of knowledge in other areas (e.g. science)? 2. Is it possible for a non-specialist in our day to get enough knowledge of a specialty to speak authoritatively about it (e.g. brain/machine interface)? 3) Is using the Brisker methodology on Talmud similar to studying particle physics without the availability of a collider to test results?

  • God and science with the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Richard Dawkins and Lisa Randall

    Interesting example IMHO of extremely intelligent people talking past each other in a way much like flatlanding (my word but see
    Richard Dawkins (RD) sees life as a “magical” reality, feeling more alive knowing how things function but with no predisposition towards any eventual conclusions about “where it all came from” or whether that’s the right question (me – so who said stealing is wrong?).
    R’Sacks (R’S) thinks evolution is religiously OK, it’s wondrous how HKB”H gets things running (he’s a gardener). L. Randall (LR) asks if he’s a strategic intervener (deist) issue that you’ll only really understand what drove her question by looking here RS seems to say no or maybe meant not noticeably?
    RS – Jewish philosophy doesn’t say that by just looking at nature we can see his purposeful intervention (he’s hidden) [me – Jewish philosophy is pretty broad on this point I think]. We need to ask why we’re here (I assume LR and RD would say “why?”).
    RD – we can ask questions but low probability that current religion will eventually provide the correct answer.
    Issue – defining meaning – does the universe or humankind really have to have meaning/purpose?
    LR – psychology is not that advanced a science yet to answer these types of questions For her enjoying scientific thought/research is enough. [me – so each unit defines its own unique purpose? What mediates conflicts between units?)
    RD – we can have goals (e.g. get food to eat) without broader “purpose”.
    RS – Science vs. religion is left brain vs. right brain. Greeks wrote and thought left, Jews right. It’s a different ways of thinking.
    LR – Religion is fine for individual social/psychological purposes but for intervening (i.e. politics) not so much (i.e. it’s an individual preference but not for group decision purposes). Why are religious afraid of science? (me – I think when she thinks religious, she thinks fundamentalist).
    Moderator – perhaps euthanasia etc. LR – scientists don’t decide these issues.
    RD & LR seem to think science will eventually answer all questions. (me too – that’s when they’ll find HKB”H behind the final curtain saying “Nitzchuni banai, what took you so long?”)
    R’S – Concern that we are much like Greeks and we’ll end up nihilistic/w/o reason to live. (I imagine RD and LR would say “opium of the masses”)
    LR – Don’t worry, we don’t value science that much.
    RS – If we’re w/o HKB”H, we lose all hope.
    LR – Believe whatever gets you through the night, just use scientific method. (me – I assume she’d include behavioral economics vs. rational man!)

  • Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein-My community # 8- When did my Chumra become everyone’s business

    Tzniut in the broad form means living a private life [you mean it’s not just about clothes?? You mean not everyone needs to know my business??] (boys – lecture #? Mom – whose Bar Mitzvah remarks?) To live a life of Tzniut requires good mental health/self confidence (hmmm – who said you do what’s right because it’s right, not because they’ll honor you at the shul dinner?).
    If you take on chumrot (stringencies), announcing it to the world may imply gaavah (haughtiness – big no no).
    Why is it called “mehadrin” to hold like one opinion vs. another?
    If you need leniencies or stringencies, keep it to yourself (e.g. if you “have” to go to work early, no need to publicize to all that you know a minyan that says slichot in 4 minutes).[me-but then what fun are chumrot if you can’t tell anyone??]

  • Rabbi Shalom Hammer -Pesach: Judaism’s Opposition to Wasting time

    No boys, I did not pay for this shiur! 3 examples in Torah where “sitting” = “hanging out”, led to violations of “the big 3” (hat tip – Bid D). You must have goals (even if not learning related!) never sit still.
    Bikesh Yaakov leishev bshalva!!!!!!

  • Rabbi Yehuda Parnes- Making the Best Use of Our Time

    Rambam’s ideal day included working for 3 hours to support your family – you could do that today (not sure when this shiur was given), electricians do!
    Synthesis is dead because western culture is bankrupt. So now it’s Torah U’Parnassah (TUP) [me – he didn’t actually use this expression] and even the Brisker Rav was fine with college [he knows the person who asked] as long as you don’t take any courses with heresy in them [me – I’m guessing this doesn’t appear in his biography].
    Problem with TUP is that professionalism may overpower spirituality – you think YU is bad, wait for grad school! His solution – you have to gear your thrust – be a ben torah and an honest practitioner of your trade (but not a gadol in your trade).
    [Me – the dynamic balance – boys – what # lecture is that #1 or #2?]

  • Rav Soloveitchik-Tefilla

    Avodah shebaleiv means sacrifice of the heart to HKB”H. It is a metaphor for total subservience to HKB”H and his commandments. There really is no prayer without kavannah (intent).

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Inyanei Milchama

    Long summary because this is an issue my Shabbat learning group is currently studying!
    Mashuach Milchama (Cohain who gives speech to troops) requires anointing. Sefer Chashmonaim says Judah Macabee was mashuach milchama. Minchat chinuch asks how could that be if anointing oil was hidden prior to end of 1st temple. It’s also clear from the gemara in Yoma that there wasn’t ribui bigadim (investiture used for cohain gadol after no oil – just wearing the special garments) [me – there are opinions that there were examples of ribui bgadim even when there was anointing oil].
    Minchat Chinuch posits he wasn’t “real” mashuach milchama it was just an honorific title. Kovner Rov posited maybe Yoma meant only for sacrificial stuff but when asking urim v’tumlin he did put on bgadim (even though urim v’tumim weren’t answering by then).
    R’Moshe Soloveitchik posited (unclear from the gemara if this works) that Kohain Gadol could also give speech to troops thus maybe Yehuda did both (mussar – he was titled mashuach milchama and not Kohain Gadol since the latter was bought and sold by his time but the former needed someone righteous who could ask soldiers if they had sinned).
    R’HS says could be a number of Cohanim Gedolim at the same time only one could do avodah on Yom Kippur (me- not so clear, at least about having 2 anointed ones).
    Then some discussion of Milchement Mitzvah (must war) rules.
    R’Zevin is said (some disagree) to have given psak allowing Warsaw ghetto uprising (since they would die soon anyway) [me – the “suicide” issue].
    How could you have milchemet rshut (allowable but not required war) in 2nd temple times without urim v’tumim or have a melech w/o navi? Perhaps you only need them when they exist? (me – like converts not needing sacrifice? So are there examples where we don’t continue certain mitzvoth because we are lacking something?)
    R’Chaim differentiated between minui (naming) of kohain gadol vs. kedushat (holiness) of kohain gadol. R’Chaim says certain rules apply due to minui (which can be reversed) and some on Kedusha (which can’t).
    Famous Rambam on shevet levi exemption from draft is not accepted l’halacha; Rashi in chumash who says they were drafted is accepted. The exemption for talmidei chachamim is limited.
    Can Cohanim be drafted?
    Cheshek shlomo at end of Vilna Shas explains his editing. Family tradition is he did it from memory (R’HS – that’s why there are some samech shin switches not found in other editions).
    There are some rabbinic leniencies for an encampment of soldiers. How many do you need? A number of opinions, 10 seems accepted. Chazon Ish says must be in an area of about 70 by 70 amah square (R’HS was surprised – this is based on a rule about city geography). Later authorities pick this up re: how close people in a field must be for a minyan, as well as who can be counted for the 10.
    “Leniencies” as to what soldiers can eat and closes with the Volozhin/Maskilim skit with the Netziv’s rejoinder – “we won”.

  • Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer-Sin: Adam and Eve – Man’s Curse and the Curse of Idle Time

    Watching sports keeps people from other aggressive actions when they have so much free time (part of longer discussion of sin of Adam/Chava). Of course we know there’s better things to spend time on.

  • Rabbi Yoni Levin- Mashiv Haruach u’Morid Ha: geshem or is it gashem?

    Gashem vs. Geshem may be derivative of whether “mashiv haruach umorid hage(a)shem” is viewed as a praise of HKB”H (in which case it fits in the theme of the first 3 brachot and thus would be geshem since part of a broader sentence) or an appeasement prior to a request in which case it really would be gashem as a separate addition/thought.

  • Rabbi Ari Kahn-Marchesvan in Halacha and Aggada

    A nice yahrtzeit drasha for a woman who never spoke during tfila and cared for every child in her school, much like Rachel Imeinu is considered “mother” by all Jews. We will have a holiday in “Mar Cheshvah” in the time of the third temple.

  • Rabbi Ari Kahn-Truth takes a beating

    Classic issue of how could Moshe break luchot (tablets) given by HKB”H? (Many answers given by commentaries) Posited here: Just like HKB”H (according to the medrash) “threw emet (truth) to the ground in favor of shalom (peace)” so to Moshe (Imitato Dei) broke ruchot saying man can’t live on the level of pure din. This approach connects the beginning of the torah to the end.

  • Rabbi Ally Ehrman -Talmudic Methodology Series: The Differences Between The Talmud Bavli And Yerushalmi

    Comparing Talmud Bavli (B) and Yerushalmi (Y). B is more interested in building halachot, Y more in distinctions in “lomdus” (1st principles). Comparative examples of specific cases.

  • Rabbi Hanan Balk-Talking on Shabbos: Less is More

    Difference of opinion – Rashi and Tosfot defining forbidden talk on Shabbat; Rashi – business related Tosfot – don’t talk much in general and be focused. (me – we’ve discussed the testimony of your Shabbat table before?).

  • Rav Weiss – Mchayil el chayil

    Building Sukkah right after Yom Kippur – mitzvah or midat chassidut? (a nice thing to do) Is starting the mitzvah enough or must you complete it that night? Yerushalmi seems to many to imply that building sukkah is a positive commandment but R’AW thinks Yerushalmi generally thinks you make a bracha on a hechsher mitzvah (preparatory action for a mitzvah). Analysis of line between hechsher mitzvah and mitzvah – in case of Sukkah it’s 2 independent actions versus putting on tzitzit where it’s one.

  • Rabbi Aharon Kahn -cohanim b’zman hazeh

    Once a Kohain is ritually impure due to contact with dead, is there any prohibition of further impurity? This makes a difference for med students and pulpit rabbis. Differing understanding of a Talmudic statement analyzed (it is permitted or just a differing level of prohibition). As usual CLOR.

  • Rabbi Edward Davis -The Rabbi’s Role in the Community

    General rule for Rabbis is to meet individuals (whether in organizations or politics) and reach out on a personal level and then you can have impact (did sound a bit manipulative, but I guess we all are at some level).

  • 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. “R’S – Concern that we are much like Greeks and we’ll end up nihilistic/w/o reason to live. (I imagine RD and LR would say “opium of the masses”)”

      I think what bothered me the most about CRJS’s comments was that he made religion sound like the medieval philosophers’ utilitarian thing – more about society than [serving] God per se; and not like the modern philosophies of J that I’m used to seeing from RSRH, RYBS & friends, where the man-God relation as such is paramount. I’m interested in seeing his book once it crosses the pond.

    2. Re: converts and sacrifice – but that’s just deferred; it doesn’t make sense to say deferred by milchamah.

    3. R’Yitz,
      I agree with your thoughtd on R’JS’s remarks, but also wonder whether they were the classic reed vs. his real convictions.

    4. Re jaundice, Dr. Fred Rosner wrote an interesting article about it (New York State Journal of Medicine, vol 92. no. 5) claiming/ proving that it first appears in a Jewish book in the late 19th century.

      Also see this

    5. Rosner reprinted his article in Jewish Bioethics p. 59.

    6. “Rambam’s ideal day included working for 3 hours to support your family – you could do that today (not sure when this shiur was given), electricians do!”

      Then why isn’t Rabbi Parnes living an ideal Jewish life as electrician who is only available for three hours a day?

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