Audio Roundup

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by Joel Rich

From a recent WSJ article
We are ruined by our own biases. When making decisions, we see what we want, ignore probabilities, and minimize risks that uproot our hopes.
What’s worse, “we are often confident even when we are wrong,” writes Daniel Kahneman, in his masterful new book on psychology and economics called “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”
An objective observer, he writes, “is more likely to detect our errors than we are.” ……Computer systems are now becoming powerful enough, and subtle enough, to help us reduce human biases from our decision-making. And this is a key: They can do it in real-time. Inevitably, that “objective observer” will be a kind of organic, evolving database.
These systems can now chew through billions of bits of data, analyze them via self-learning algorithms, and package the insights for immediate use. Neither we nor the computers are perfect, but in tandem, we might neutralize our biased, intuitive failings when we price a car, prescribe a medicine, or deploy a sales force. This is playing “Moneyball” at life.

It means fewer hunches and more facts. ….

You probably hate the idea that human judgment can be improved or even replaced by machines, but you probably hate hurricanes and earthquakes too. The rise of machines is just as inevitable and just as indifferent to your hatred.

Me-You heard it here first(maybe)-there will be psak algorithm’s driven off the sh”ut et al literature – it will be interesting to see how we react

R’ H Maryles said: -“But the difference between Sarid and me is I realize that there are good answers to questions like these. God loves the Jewish people. We are His chosen ones. He would never harm us in any way unless we deserved it. And sometimes not even then, which is in part what Teshuva is all about. God is gracious and merciful; slow to anger; full of kindness and truth.”
I think this is backwards, isn’t it actually God is gracious and merciful; slow to anger; full of kindness and truth. God loves the Jewish people. We are His chosen ones. He would never harm us in any way unless we deserved it. THERFORE I realize that there are good answers to questions like these(i.e. we interpret the particular in light of our general approach).

  • Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein-Hashkafa – Going into Chinuch

    I wonder if my life would have been different if I had heard this sicha in 1972. It’s like being in a time warp as R’AL describes how the counterculture may have shaken the “grey flannel suit” mindset.
    Describes a time when there weren’t enough Rabbis for the pulpits, teaching positions even in the NY area. Discusses reasons for this shortage and hopes that general job market issues wouldn’t be the driver to get more applicants (ouch). It also is clear that other $ opportunities draw people away (et chatai ani mazkir hayom?).
    Those who can go into the Rabbinate should! There are challenges but overwhelming benefits, and you may have a duty to your community.
    Then some priceless words on the YU PR machine.

  • Rabbi Moshe Taragin-Three differences between Greek civilization and Judaism

    As Dr. Lisman used to tell us, “Yafutei shel Yefet beoholei Sheim”. Beauty, talent, etc. has to be viewed through a moral (Torah) lens. Science can take away from belief by making you feel “in control”. Remember, you can’t prove everything intellectually – you’ve received a gift (me – really a morasha/heirloom to be transmitted from past to future generations).
    Nice riff on statistics – but I must tell Rabbi T. the truth is that actuaries have not established human behavior, they just measure it..

  • Rabbi Mordechai I. Willig -Evolution & Change in Halacha: Intro (Part 2) and Measurements

    Discussion of why Amoraim couldn’t (or wouldn’t) disagree with Tannaim and implications for later authorities disagreeing with earlier ones. Turns into a discussion of whether a later rabbinic authority can disagree with “the gedolim”? Then a discussion of the evolution of measurements over time and practical applications for Matzah.

  • Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman-Me’amer Halacha Li’Maaseh

    Technical (e.g. makom gidulo, need to actually tie?) and practical halacha on the melacha of maamar (gathering?)

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Ten Minute Halacha – Carpet Sweepers

    Review of possible issues and why many authorities are stringent not to allow use on Shabbat (but, of course some allow).

  • Rabbi Steven Pruzansky-Lemon v Kurtzman The Law and the Law The Torahs View on Religion in the Public Sphere

    Cases involving the possible conflict between the establishment of religion clause and the freedom of religion clause. Rabbi Pruzansky has a strong opinion on the constitutionality of the government paying for private schools’ secular studies, the entanglement test and the wisdom (or lack thereof) of the Supreme Court. Also, on public displays of religion.
    He asserts that in a Torah state there would be tolerance and respect for other religions (e.g. Meiri’s position).
    Interesting further assertion re: Torah law being process based (i.e. let chips fall where they may) vs. secular law being results based (i.e. supreme court watches the election results).
    IMHO these two assertions may be an over reach.

  • Sichot Harav Aharon Lichtenstein #7, Eretz Yisrael Kahal Yisrael Part 2

    Cohesion of kahal in Israel drives its preeminence in matters of the general kahal. In a Jewish state the dual identity dialectic is integrated so there is no split as there is outside of Israel.

  • Rabbi Josh Flug-Building and Funding Community Institutions

    Models of funding various community needs based on Talmudic sources. Generally either membership based (e.g. head tax), fee for service based (e.g. pay per view) or wealth based (e.g. % of some value). Those areas were not based on a head tax, generally based on who will benefit most or have highest likelihood of loss. (ex’s – chazzan, school, watchmen).
    Interesting Trumat Hadeshen re volunteers: If it’s something everyone can do (e.g. Kiddush clean up) then community can’t force those who want to volunteer to pay for a professional service. If it’s not something everyone can do (e.g. bookkeeping), community can’t force others to do it (but they should volunteer).

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Sanhedrin Shiur 47 – The Meaning and Impact of Dreams

    Based on R’Asher Weiss (Minchat Asher) – a number of reconciliations of conflicting sources in Talmud concerning the meaningfulness of dreams. How do we treat dreams? Answers range from generally ignore them to take them very seriously (maybe a function of topic/type of dream). (I generally go with the rationalist approach, it goes according to how you interpret them).
    Then a discussion of halachic decisions seemingly based on dreams. Later authorities seem to discount and give rationalistic approaches (me-it would be interesting to correlate historically and see if it is a chronological thing).

  • Rochi Lerner–Keeping The Faith – Part I

    Anger can hurt your faith. The Rav on the difference between mood as a transient response to external factors that we haven’t made sense of, and permanent character into which we assimilate all experiences and emotion. So how do we do this in a positive manner? Orient oneself with HKB”H (me – make your will his will – easy to say, not so easy to do).

  • Rochi Lerner-Keeping The Faith – Part II‎

    Life is not fair (Kach mkublani mbeit avi abba – just worry about what you do, HKB”H grades you on your efforts, not the outcomes!). Be process oriented not outcome oriented because we’re not really equipped to do proper outcome assessment.

  • Rochi Lerner-Keeping The Faith – Part III‎

    Kol d’avid rachmana l’tav avid – not everything that is good for you feels good. We have free choice, but we are vulnerable because there are many things we don’t control.

  • Rochi Lerner-Keeping The Faith – Part IV

    I. This vulnerability ties (per the Rav) to the whole Yom Kippur/Tshuva thing – why the lottery for which goat goes where? Life is actuarial capricious and this causes vulnerability which can relate to our sins.
    Vulnerability should make us humble (me – the challenge to Adam I in our time, realizing how much we’ve learned yet how vulnerable we remain).

  • Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein -Radical is radical…even if it is in the name of holiness

    Radical behavior can’t be supported or soft pedaled even if it is religious based. Surprise – he’s talking within the dati leumi community!

  • Rabbi Menachem Leibtag-Chidushim on Rosh Chodesh from Bamidbar to Chagai to the Siddur

    “New method” for studying Tanach is really just using common sense. BTW – first learn the “old way” (Chumash with Rashi, etc.)
    Example from text of Rosh Chodesh davening – the authors of the tfila knew Tanach and used it well. This is illustrated by Rosh Chodesh tfila and allusions to atonement and remembrance (Rosh Chodesh – regular preventative atonement medicine vs. emergency treatment). There’s a tie between natural cycles and our observances tied to them as well as the messages therein.

  • Rabbi Mordechai I. Willig-The Eternal Torah, ‘Old, old, old ,old’, conservative with a small ‘c’

    Mussar at some Israel gap year program? Importance of Torah Shebal Peh and Mesorah. Ties in Menashe and Efraim and Yaakov’s blessing. Only accept change from one who doesn’t want change for the sake of change = chochmei hamesorah etc. (me – I didn’t realize the world was so binary).

  • Rabbi Yonah Gross-History and Sources of Chanuka Gelt, Gifts and Gambling

    Possible historical Jewish sources (me – sounded like limud zchut) for Chanukah presents and gelt. Gambling harder to defend.

  • Rabbi Moshe Taragin/Before the Long Night Begins: Chanukah’s gift to Jewish History

    Chanukah miracle occurred shortly (200 years) before the end of prophecy/miracles and the beginning of the long exile (and those 200 years were no picnic). This was to prepare us for exile with a message emphasizing:
    *mesirat nefesh (need to sacrifice for the cause)
    *national energy drives a blossoming of torah
    *one last taste of malchut (sovereignty), no matter if flawed.
    Then some nice mussar on falling in love with Talmud and eretz yisrael with Jewish sovereignty.

  • 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. “Chanukah miracle occurred shortly (200 years) before the end of prophecy/miracles ”
      Really-Chanukah story is after the end of prophecy-Malachi was a few hundred years BEFORE the Chanukah story.

    2. Malachi c. 450 BCE, Chanukkah 164 BCE. The last book of Tanach, Daniel, is usually said to date to about 167 BCE- or at least its verifiable neuvot end then.

    3. Ye’yasher kochakha R’ Joel Rich.
      Regarding the lecture of R. Pruzansky (who is a tzaddik gammur): the Mei’ri is discussed by R. Bleich in Tradition 44:2 (Summer 2011).
      Yes, 100% – we need to be nice to all Noahides, and give them charity, as per the gemara in Gittin 61a. If necessary toward achieving the goals of that gemara, I would even be in favour of closing all kollelim and redirecting the money towards tzedakah to Noahides, notwithstanding R. Ovadiah Yosef’s endorsement of kollelim in Yabi’a Omer VII, Yoreh De’ah 17. [R. Aharon Lichtenstein grapples with this problem of limited resources in his article “Jewish Philanthropy – Whither?” in Tradition 42:4 (Winter 2009)] However, under no circumstances can Jews abandon belief in the exclusivity of their faith, as per R. Soloveitchik’s article “Confrontation”. It is better to have a Klal Yisrael that is full of amei ha’aretz who have never gone to kollel but who are at least faithful to Jewish theology. Freedom of religion, recognized by the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, allows us Jews permission to believe that our faith is exclusively true. Again: precisely because we possess the true faith, we must bend over backwards to be extremely altruistic and kind to all human beings.

    4. And see IM YD 3:43, where RMF confirms my thesis.

    5. R’SS,
      The philanthropy question has been on my mind for quite some time – the parameters are still unclear to me. R’ HS has spoken about this quite a bit and seems to have a theory based on the level of support others give to general causes (e.g. poverty, certain illnesses) but there is no clear algorithm.

    6. R’ Joel Rich,
      Thank you. Much appreciated.

    7. Re Kahneman – R’ Joel, I thought about you when I read his book.

      Intuition is very important in Psak, see Nefesh Harav page 42 – the Rav said great poskim had an intuition in psak…once the Chasam Sofer was asked why he wrote a teshuva so hurriedly that his proofs were not so strong, he said his main part of his psakim were his intuition.

      R’ HS cites a letter by the Rav to Dr. Belkin (now published in Community, Covenant and Commitment, page 24 “The halakhic inquiry, like any cognitive theoretical performance, does not start out from the point of absolute zero as to sentimental attitudes and value judgements. There always exists in the mind of the researcher an ethico-axiological background against which the contours of the subject matter in question stands out more clearly. In all fields of human intellectual endeavor there is always an intuitive approach which determines the course and method of the analysis.

      Of course, Kahneman would say it’s not always right, but for the great poskim, we are dealing with people whose system 2 is so robust it does strongly affect the intuition of system 1.

    8. r’shasdaf,
      ty, i’m honored! imho one of the main points was to be aware of the systems and when you are using each and why and how to determine when to not go with your original approach.
      i often think of that quote from r’ybs – imho emet l’amito, and i don’t object to that, just to pretending it’s cut and dry.

    9. “Nachum on January 13, 2012 at 8:19 am
      Malachi c. 450 BCE, Chanukkah 164 BCE. The last book of Tanach, Daniel, is usually said to date to about 167 BCE- or at least its verifiable neuvot end then.”

      In my dating I follow tradition to the extent that Daniel is from the time period where it represents itself to be from-I do not date from Bible critics eg Kohelet not written by SHlomo etc but in 2nd Commonwealth.On the other handI do not follow dates of 420 BayisSheini-there are many who don’t follow that date.

    10. “. we interpret the particular in light of our general approach).”

      doesn’t everyone do that.

    11. “Interesting further assertion re: Torah law being process based (i.e. let chips fall where they may)”
      not so sure it may be an oversimplification-but worth a serious discussion

      ” vs. secular law being results based (i.e. supreme court watches the election results).” or the Supreme court determines election results depending on whom they prefer see eg Gore v Bush.

    12. “. we interpret the particular in light of our general approach).”

      doesn’t everyone do that.
      but if you look at r’hm’s statement, imho he articulated the reverse

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