The Fall 2011 issue of Hakirah (no. 12) is out:
- Letters to the Editor – A very lively discussion! 1) Dr. Bernard Fryshman questions Hakirah’s existence in that it causes people with simple faith to ask difficult questions. The editor responds at length that this is precisely the journal’s goal and it is a good thing.
2) R. Abraham Kelman questions articles about women rabbis because its institution is universally condemned by Orthodox authorities, was the beginning of a major decline in the Conservative movement and is unnecessary. Rabbis Broyde and Brody respond that halakhah is determined through sources and not votes, the Conservative movement is irrelevant and maybe it is necessary — none of us really know. (I agree with R. Kelman on all three issues — halakhah is decided by posekim, not journal articles; the Conservative movement may have been different but the similarities in intent and goals with today’s feminist activists, their protests notwithstanding, are sufficiently strong to make the historical precedent relevant; and the community at large doesn’t need women rabbis).
3) R. Nati Helfgot writes that, contrary to the editor’s claim that the ordination of women rabbis “met with universal condemnation from all branches of Orthodoxy,” the IRF put forth “a highly nuanced position.” The editor responds with surprise that an Orthodox rabbinic body would issue such a statement, declares that no major posek sanctions women rabbis, and “should this line ever be crossed the term Orthodox will become an issue of debate.” I think they delicately understated the repercussions of crossing the line.
4) R. Dov Frimer quotes a number of sources that permit married women to go around with uncovered hair. The editor responds at length why this view is not accepted in practice.
5) R. Eli Schochet agrees with R. Asher Benzion Buchman’s critique of Prof. Menachem Kellner’s understanding of the Rambam. “Rambam, in many respects, was as much of a ‘mystic’ as he was a rationalist.”
6) Marc Stern corrects a misstatement about the Orthodox Forum book on Tikkun Olam. Mitch First thanks him and makes two other corrections/additions to his article.
7) Drs. Epstein, Dickman and Wilamowsky evaluate a reader’s suggestion of a different way to explain the complex Gemara on property assessment they addressed in their article.
- A Discussion with R. Shmuel Kamenetsky on “SSA” by Arthur Goldberg – A long discussion that places R. Kamenetsky firmly against gay identity and in favor of “conversion therapy” (or an equivalent).
- Why the Recent Modern Orthodox Rabbis’ Statement on Homosexuality is Unhelpful by Dr. Joseph Berger – A psychiatrist declares that “conversion” of a homosexual through psychotherapy is sometimes possible and there is no evidence that it is harmful.
- Feminism and Changes In Jewish Liturgy by R. Aryeh Frimer – Full text here and discussion here: link.
- Tenure Rights of an Employee and Rights to Severance Upon Termination or Non-Renewal of a Labor Agreement by R. A. Yehuda Warburg – Pesak of a beis din regarding a yeshiva rebbe who stole from the yeshiva and was fired. He argued that his termination is against halakhah because R. Moshe Feinstein requires all terminations to be approved in advance by a beis din and he demanded, if not reinstatement then severance. Beis din ruled that R. Moshe Feinstein’s is a minority view and he doesn’t get severance for many reasons, including that the stole from the yeshiva!
- Honoring Abusive Parents by R. Mark Dratch – Rema exempts people from honoring a wicked (rasha) parent. Since a physically or sexually abusive parent is wicked, a child is not obligated to honor, mourn or recite kaddish for him. I would have appreciated more substantiation within halakhic literature of the claim that an abusive parent is classified as a rasha.
- Legislating Morality: The Prohibition of Lashon Hara by R. Asher Benzion Buchman – According to the Rambam, lashon hara is not a set of laws but avoidance of the character trait of “gossiper”.
- Abraham ibn Ezra’s “Yesod Mora” by R. H. Norman Strickman – A thorough overview of Ibn Ezra’s philosophy on a wide variety of topics as it emerges from this book, particularly on reasons for various commandments but also on much more. Many similarities between Ibn Ezra’s and Rambam’s approaches, perhaps indicating that the latter was influenced by the former. A noteworthy difference is Ibn Ezra’s acceptance of astrology and Rambam’s rejection of it.
- “The Scholar Rabbi Levi” — A Study in Rationalist Exegesis by Yitzhak Grossman – A useful collection of Ralbag’s unusual, one could say radical, interpretations of the Pentateuch. This might be called A Yeshiva Guy Discovers Ralbag. The article, written by a Lakewood Yeshiva student, is thorough and thoughtful but I think most important in that it truly represents Hakirah’s goal of opening wider vistas of Jewish thought to the closed world of the “black hat yeshiva” (for want of a better term).
- A.A. Fraenkel’s Philosophy of Religion: A Translation of “Beliefs and Opinions in Light of the Natural Sciences” by Dr. Meir Zelcer – An overview and translation of a 1930 essay by a Hebrew University Math Professor reconciling Torah and science. This is historically important because while his ideas are now old hat, he seems to have preceded many others in proposing them.
- Tefillat Shav: The Limits of Prayer as a Means to Understanding its Transformative Nature by Dr. Ari Bleicher – A literary analysis of the chapter in Shulchan Arukh discussing prayers in vain (Orach Chaim 230). Very creative and interesting but I’m not convinced by the underlying premise of literary unity in this highly eclectic text.
- Review Essay of R. Nachum Rabinovich’s Studies in Maimonides by Prof. Avraham Feintuch – R. Rabinovich is in the process of writing a comprehensive commentary on Rambam’s Mishneh Torah — Yad Peshutah. This book sets forth R. Rabinovich’s principles in understanding Rambam’s words and identifying his sources. It is remarkable both in its very publication — who else among rabbinic commentators has done so? — and its originality. This article gives many examples and highlights from the book.
- Moshe’s Mission to Pharaoh in Light of Rambam’s Hilchos Teshuvah by R. Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg – Rambam gives a general explanation of Pharaoh’s inability to repent in Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Teshuvah 6:3. R. Herczeg reads the entire story carefully and explains it using Rambam’s ideas. However, his usage of a midrashic/mystical distinction between a Jew’s and a gentile’s repentance gives me pause. I am not convinced the Rambam would accept the distinction.
- Who Can Discern His Errors? Misdates, Errors, and Deceptions, in and about Hebrew Books, Intentional and Otherwise by Marvin J. Heller – A collection of unrelated printing errors, mistakes and forgeries that includes a good deal of history of how books were published. Serves as a warning to check your sources carefully.
- The Relationship Between the Words of the Sages and the Discovered Science (Hebrew) by R. Gedaliah Aharon Rabinowitz, the Monastrisher Rebbe – Goes through most of the standard sources, some contradictory, and tries to reconcile as many approaches as possible. Somewhat radical in that he accepts the possibility that the Sages of the Talmud were mistaken in science, or at least — an idea I’ve never seen before — were unable to rule based on prophetic knowledge of science and were forced to rely on the science of their times. Also allows for acceptance of evolution. Concludes by quoting the Ramak that one is not a heretic by following a view among the Sages (including the Rambam). Given the controversy over such matters in the past ten years, quite an important article and statement.
- Can A Prophet Innovate A Rabbinic Mitzvah? A Halakhic Explanation and Its Implications in Rambam’s Thought by Eliyahu Krakowski – Connects the issue of whether a prophet can create a rabbinic mitzvah with the nature of the prohibition to add to the Torah and explains various passages in the Rambam.