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by Joel Rich

Halakha, Reality, and the Relationship between Them by Rav Baruch Gigi

OK – I know it’s a bit long but if you have any interest in the halachic system (other than “just tell me what to do”) this is very worthwhile reading. I especially liked “A visiting twelfth-grader once complained to me that students come to a yeshiva in search of a clear and unequivocal statement that will lead them to a certain place, and he did not feel that our yeshiva was providing this. “ Rav Gigi’s answer can be found herein, my unfiltered answer would have been “The only clear unequivocal statement I can give you that will lead you to a certain place is that anyone who thinks the real world is generally amenable to clear and unequivocal statements (other than seek to do the ratzon hashem at all times and in all places) will certainly get to a certain place, but not the right one”


Question: Have you read Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow”? If yes, what are the implications for poskim in terms of their decision making processes/biases/heuristics?


  • Rabbi J Sacks -Future Tense: Where are Judaism and the Jewish people headed – Sacks-Future Tense-Where Are Judaism and the Jewish People Headed (TIM-$6.99)

    Kudos to TIM on their programming (I agree!). Lord Chief Rabbi (LCR) has a complete package of anecdotes/lines (not my style, but then who is?) and an (IMHO) all to unique message amongst orthodox rabbis:
    1. We need to have friends among the nations, don’t get caught up in the victimhood narrative.
    2. There should be no disconnect between modernity and “ancient” orthodoxy – look to Torah for wisdom, connect all “modern” issues/inventions to a Torah view.
    3. “Dignity of Difference” – we believe in Jewish particularism but don’t force it on anyone.
    4. Dealing with new atheists – not a problem because we don’t believe that science and Torah clash.(me-even if they agree, it doesn’t mean they will accept Torah)
    5. There is a disturbing trend towards extremism which must be fought(me-good luck with that)
    6. We don’t embrace all modernity (see #2).
    7. We have a message to the world – it may seem difficult to be the messenger but don’t be afraid.(me-good luck with that)
    I sometimes think of the war analogy when I hear how dangerous the outside world is , especially for those of us who work there. Each soldier may be in a safek sakkanah (possible danger) but the fallacy of composition is at work – if they all act on that fact and don’t fight, there would be no army and the nation would capitulate. I suppose it depends on your view of Jewish destiny.

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Ten Minute Halacha – Prisoner Exchanges in Halacha

    Pidyon Shevuyim – quotes R’Gil as best collection of sources! Says 10 minute halacha shiur on this is difficult – I agree. Includes a review of the traditional sources.
    My take (l’lmod vlo l’maaseh) – 1) Pidyon shvuyim sources in gemara (as R’AL notes) talk to a particular type of “business model” for kidnappers and poskim argue on how to extrapolate to other models; 2) I’d suggest reading Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast, Slow” (I don’t think he realizes he’s preaching the actuarial gospel) before taking one person’s judgment about what approach boosts morale in the army; 3) Sadly missing (IMHO) is that while halachic sources (and it’s much broader than the pidyon shvuyim gemaras) are important in providing priority guidance, IIRC the melech did not turn to Sanhedrin to get psak as to individual engagement battle plans (IIRC R’YBS suggested certain decisions were best left to the experts in the field of warfare).

  • Rav Asher Weiss -Tefilos Shabbos-Rosh Chodesh

    Early maariv on erev rosh chodesh – do you say Yaaleh V’yavo (yes – but it’s a machloket) [me – raises the question – is this a rule in maariv or are you actually turning Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday?] What if Shabbat rosh chodesh and you said regular Shabbat mussaf? R’Moshe says you would then say regular rosh chodesh mussaf. R’AW disagrees.
    Why no “Kadsheinu” in rosh chodesh mussaf?

  • Rabbi Moshe Taragin-Faith vs Covenant

    Did I ever mention that life is a matter of balance? Here R’Taragin opens with a call not to get wild and crazy in parshanut on avot but at the same time not to be fossilized (my term). He then compares parallel situations faced by Avraham in Vayera and Lech lcha and the positive difference in Avraham’s later vs. earlier approaches.

  • Rabbi Baruch Simon -Minhagim in Halacha

    Talmudic case of bnai bayshan needing to continue a “minhag” – was it due to it being a family custom or a local geographic custom?[me-when did the idea of a family minhag start?]

  • Rabbi Dr. Richard Hidary – The Smallest Sukkah and the Sukkah on the Roof: Two Sugyot on the Symbolism and Halakhic Deveopment of Sukkah

    Manuscript evidence concerning Rambam’s position on an issue – where Shulchan Aruch quotes the “now obvious” interpretation as a yesh omrim, we should now use that interpretation.
    Some interesting archeological finds (temple scroll) and implications – parallel between sukkah and altar.

  • Rabbi Uri Orlian -Halachos of Bikur Cholim

    Good introductory summary shiur.
    Why no bracha on this mitzvah? 1) it’s a interpersonal mitzvah and in such cases the recipient may not accept the offered service and then it would be a bracha l’vatala ; 2) it’s a humanitarian mitzvah and thus doesn’t “separate” us from non-bnai brit(i.e. you can’t say asher kidshanu bmitzvotav); 3) no set time; 4) we don’t want to seem happy by saying a bracha on his illness 5) don’t view recipient as a “cheftza shel mitzvah” (an object for us to practice mitzvah on).
    Bikur means to investigate. Today the primary purpose is to pray with and look after the emotional health of the choleh if the physical issues are being taken care of [focus on choleh!] Why use mother’s name? It’s so important we need surety [me – R’YBS had a minhag to use father’s name IIRC!]

  • Shay Schachter -E-Commerce On Shabbos Part 1 – E-bay and Amazon

    Part I of an analysis of e-commerce . Primary focus here is on the status of deferred execution – is it associated with the time the eventual action was originally set in motion or when the act occurs (the whole time/space continuum thing). The starting point for any analysis is understanding the reason for and scope of the prohibition of commerce in general on Shabbat (Duraita [dabar davar] or Drabannan [maybe you will come to write]).
    Interesting throw-ins re: 1) giving gifts on Shabbat (may be okay in a mitzvah situation); 2) marit ayin (may not be an issue if the similarities is to a rabbinic prohibition and done in private); 3) R’Moshe says there is no bracha on tvilat keilim if it is purchased from a company (which has no halachic standing in contrast to an individual) [me – so if you steal from them it’s not stealing?].

  • Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein-My community # 11-DO you even ASK the question of bad things happening to good people 9

    When bad things happen to good people – do we say we don’t understand and we don’t ask why or we don’t understand but we can ask why? Answer next week.

  • Rabbi Dani Rapp-Magic and the Supernatural 10

    Magic – Classic Rambam (it doesn’t exist) and Ramban (then what were the torah and chazal talking about?). Contemporary opinions on magic shows, acupuncture and kabalah. [me – any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic]

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-By Way of Introduction: Beis Yosef and Shulchan Aruch

    Introduction to why R’Yosef Karo (R’YK) wrote the beit yosef and his process for psak. R’YK used the Tur as a starting point since the Tur quoted a number of sources(vs. Rambam). R’YK was concerned that alternative opinions be understood.
    R’YK wrote the Shulchan Aruch as a summary/kid’s version! [another great example of HKB”H’s dry sense of humor].
    Money quote – the less people know, the more books are written IMHO this wasn’t a positive!

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Electricity on Shabbos

    Electricity on Shabbat (and Yom Tov) branches into a discussion of a number of Shabbat issues.
    Lots of discussion of gramma (causation), eino mitkavein (not intentional), psik reisha (forced result), av vs. toldah.
    Most interesting arguments over gramma (perhaps only if delayed time impact) and is psik reisha dependent on doers intent for the specific result?

  • Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky -Hagdaras Avos and Isurim DeRabanan Behilchot Shabbos t

    Introductory discussion of source and meaning of distinction between av (primary) and toldah (derivative) and understanding that on Shabbat rabbinic prohibitions may have extra importance due to requirement of Shabbat of a general command to “rest”.

  • Rabbi Yehuda Balsam -Why do we learn Talmud Bavli

    Why would we follow later authorities (e.g. Bavli lasted longer) when earlier authorities were greater? They saw all the earlier opinions and understood them or perhaps because they recorded the “accepted” practice.
    Rif says [editors of?] the Bavli had the Yerushalmi (me – is this agreed to by academics?)
    Rabbeinu Tam – learning Bavli gives you a balanced diet of mikra, mishna and gemara.

  • Rav Nissan Kaplan- nine days kria at kosel

    Kdarko bakodesh R’Kaplan reports the position of the gedolim on contemporary issues related to the 9 days. A number of interesting details – can an Ashkenazi give his clothes to a Sefardi to wash if not shavua shechal bo? Can you be a mashgiach in a meat restaurant during this period? Why don’t people tear kriah for Arei Yehudah? Me – how did the “modern” approach of showering every day invade traditional homes? How does halacha adjust to changing society norms? (e.g. not wearing the same shirt for a week)

  • Rabbi Jeffrey Saks discusses Rav Moshe Weinberger’s new edition, translation and elucidation of Rav Kook’s “Orot HaTeshuvah”

    Interview concerning the first volume of an English translation and commentary/mussar. Focus on the need for positive educational messages and opening the thought of R’Kook to the English speaking world.

  • 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.

    9 comments

    1. A number of the links are broken.

    2. r’skeptic,
      I just clicked on them and they went to the proper pages. Let me know which and i’ll put them in comments section
      KT

    3. I still don’t get how in the world you have time to listen to all these wow

    4. R’A,
      kach mkublani mbet avi abba:
      If you can fill the unforgiving minute
      With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
      Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
      And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!
      KT

    5. “an (IMHO) all to unique message amongst orthodox rabbis:
      1. We need to have friends among the nations, don’t get caught up in the victimhood narrative.
      2. There should be no disconnect between modernity and “ancient” orthodoxy – look to Torah for wisdom, connect all “modern” issues/inventions to a Torah view.
      3. “Dignity of Difference” – we believe in Jewish particularism but don’t force it on anyone.
      4. Dealing with new atheists – not a problem because we don’t believe that science and Torah clash.(me-even if they agree, it doesn’t mean they will accept Torah)
      5. There is a disturbing trend towards extremism which must be fought(me-good luck with that)
      6. We don’t embrace all modernity (see #2).
      7. We have a message to the world – it may seem difficult to be the messenger but don’t be afraid.(me-good luck with that)”
      Al regel achat his general message is not unique-I have been exposed to similar ideas by some Orthodox Rabbis.

      .” Each soldier may be in a safek sakkanah (possible danger) but the fallacy of composition is at work – if they all act on that fact and don’t fight, there would be no army and the nation would capitulate.”
      Precisely the problem that Israel has the way it deals with hostage situations and frankly its ethos that the purpose of Zahal isto make sure soldiers don’t get killed.

    6. “and frankly its ethos that the purpose of Zahal is to make sure soldiers don’t get killed.”

      Really?? THAT’S its purpose?? I always thought its purpose was to protect Medinat Yisrael and its inhabitants. If you’re right, it’s done a lousy job; if I’m right, it’s done a very good job (not perfect — who is?) at a tremendous sacrifice for which we should be grateful.

    7. “Joseph Kaplan on November 13, 2011 at 7:42 am
      “and frankly its ethos that the purpose of Zahal is to make sure soldiers don’t get killed.”

      Really?? THAT’S its purpose?? I always thought its purpose was to protect Medinat Yisrael and its inhabitants. If you’re right, it’s done a lousy job; if I’m right, it’s done a very good job (not perfect — who is?) at a tremendous sacrifice for which we should be grateful”

      Joseph Kaplan:
      I used my words advisedly-obviously that is not the official mission from http://www.idf.il/1497-en/Dover.aspx “IDF Mission
      To defend the existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Israel. To protect the inhabitants of Israel and to combat all forms of terrorism which threaten the daily life” of course if one has as one of the basic points of its main doctrine “Very low casualty ratio”-one can see what I mean.

    8. “Joseph Kaplan on November 13, 2011 at 7:42 am
      “and frankly its ethos that the purpose of Zahal is to make sure soldiers don’t get killed.”

      Really?? THAT’S its purpose?? I always thought its purpose was to protect Medinat Yisrael and its inhabitants. If you’re right, it’s done a lousy job; if I’m right, it’s done a very good job (not perfect — who is?) at a tremendous sacrifice for which we should be grateful”

      I used my words advisedly-obviously that is not the official mission of the IDF from http://www.idf.il/1497-en/Dover.aspx “IDF Mission
      To defend the existence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state of Israel. To protect the inhabitants of Israel and to combat all forms of terrorism which threaten the daily life” of course if one has as one of the basic points of its main doctrine “Very low casualty ratio”-one can see what I mean.
      In practice certainly for decades Israel seems to be more interested in minimizing soldier casulaties than winning wars-note Israels success in military actions for the last quarter of a century has not been exceptionnel.

    9. “In practice certainly for decades Israel seems to be more interested in minimizing soldier casulaties than winning wars…”

      The use of the word “certainly” does not make it certain at all. The fact that it also strives for a “Very low casualty ratio” does not mean that it is more uninterested in that than in its main mission of protecting the state and its inhabitants. ButI guess I should be happy that you didn’t blame it on money.

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