by Joel Rich
Question: Bald haircuts seem popular today. Do you assume that if you see someone in your shul with one that it was done without a razor and there’s enough stubble not to be prohibited (and your eyes are bad), or that it’s the result of some drug therapy or that the LOR should make sure people know some of the haircutting restrictions?
In his second essay, “Happiness Ascendant,” Mr. Kagan virtually demolishes the popular academic effort to measure “subjective well-being,” let alone to measure and compare the level of happiness of entire nations. No psychologist, he observes, would accept as reliable your own answer to the question: “How good is your memory?” Whether your answer is “great” or “terrible,” you have no way of knowing whether your memory of your memories is accurate. But psychologists, Mr. Kagan argues, are willing to accept people’s answer to how happy they are as if it “is an accurate measure of a psychological state whose definition remains fuzzy.”
Many people will tell you that having many friends, a fortune or freedom is essential to happiness, but Mr. Kagan believes they are wrong. “A fundamental requirement for feelings of serenity and satisfaction,” Mr. Kagan says, is “commitment to a few unquestioned ethical beliefs” and the confidence that one lives in a community and country that promote justice and fair play.
Moving recounting of the efforts to settle (and resettle) the Gush Etzion area including the post-67 return ceremony including stops at the graves of the 1948 defenders and kever Racheil (who never stopped [me – stops?] crying for her children to come home).
Tosfot’s position (see Beitzah 30a) on revoking the original rabbinic prohibition on clapping/dancing/music on Shabbat (which was originally made due to possibility that one might be led to repair a musical instrument) has baffled many (general rule was can’t undo such a prohibition unless you have a “bigger” beit din; which never occurred after the finalization of the Talmud). R’Moshe basically revokes Tosfot’s revocation for “baalei nefesh” [no I won’t go into that baalei nefesh debate again – either as to what constitutes one and why would we differentiate and in which cases]. Me – most assuredly Tosfot was aware of this issue or didn’t think it was one. Life would be much easier if we knew which and why?
Excellent chizuk for those who have already made aliyah and mussar for those of us who haven’t (even though R’Gottlieb says it’s not meant as the latter, everyone has their own issues….).
Home is where you want to return, galut is only temporary and HKB”H has given us the opportunity (a la R’B Wein and Russian Jews – OK, you prayed for them so much, here they are, what are you going to do with your answered prayers?). Will you watch from the sidelines or be a player in Jewish destiny? How do you rationalize letting others do the heavy lifting?
Some thoughts on religious Zionism outside of Israel (me – see R’Gottlieb’s thoughts above) and the centrality of Israel to the Jewish people beyond its borders. R’YBS on the difference between kdushat haaretz (local application – e.g. produce) and sheim haaretz (international application – e.g. new moon).
Discussion of various textual issues in Rosh Chodesh prayers (e.g. Nishtalcha vs. Shlucha). Interesting insight from R’YBS on the concept of the defect in the moon (pgiyat lvanah)/repairing as a reference to the problem/perception of evil in the world, tied into why the blessings on bad tidings and good tidings are different if they’re both on divine emanations (it’s our perception).
Then issues of ritual impurity, brit milah cases (e.g. born during twilight) and explanation of when we say a partial day is like a full one (mikzat hayom k’kulo) – only when superimposed on calendar (like mourning) vs. pure calendar (e.g. Shabbat).
Interesting remark that while Chazal state that most women in their time had a veset kavua ( regular cycle ) there’s no historical medical record of this having been the case.
Explanation of the custom to fast on parent’s Yahrtzeit and various exemptions (e.g. day when no tachanun). Also custom of having others drink a l’chayim. So why do so many people not fast? Usual answer is we’re weaker today (IMHO sounds like an after the fact rationalization of how society changed, and common practice changed, unless it’s meant psychologically) and thus many people learn or give to charity instead.
Then various rules concerning yahrtzeit candles, visiting graves and what to do in cases of unknown date of death.
Continuation play. The chassidim have won – even mitnagdic Rabbis have become Rebbe’s (not like in the good old days (e.g. R’A Kotler).) Great story of R’Hutner and R’Gorelick (the latter had to re-exit from the former in the “proper” way).
R’ARR seems to think human beings should not be worshipped. Daas Torah in areas where one has limited knowledge – no. Experts (e.g. military) aren’t always right.
Introduction to Pirkei Avot including why it was written, why it is learned this time of year and an analysis of the first mishneh in these contexts.
Can you tell a child to do something that is halachically forbidden for an adult to do? Can you hint to them to do it? What if you see them about to do something of this nature, must you stop them?
Lots of factors to consider – age of child, type of violation, your relationship to the child. Provide historical examples where allowed due to “great need”. My favorite question – Is there timtum (spiritual stain) left on the child if he did such an action even if “permissible”?
Everything you might want to know about fish Kashrut (it’s a video!). OU position on worms controversy (they’re OK – or rather OU). Fish biology – scales of all types and sizes clarified. Tviat ayin (halachically acceptable identification by visual recognition) explained. Sushi production, smoked fish, canned (steamed) tuna, swordfish, bishul yisrael and salmon coloring issues identified and examined.
The Rambam’s goal in the Mishneh Torah was to accurately represent the entire Torah (written and oral), his organizational structure was part of this effort (me – assumedly this is the basis for lots of Brisker analysis effort based on where in the MT a particular halacha appears). His tshuvot dealt with halachic history of the past 500 years.
Why transplantation of Agudah from Poland didn’t really work so well in U.S. Cue Tevye – “It’s a new world Goldie, a new world”.
Halachic history of celebration of special days and significance for Jewish identity of Yom Haatzmaut even for non-religious. Of course, it’s hard to say there’s no historical/religious meaning to the mass return and Jewish self- rule. Then discussion of why (or why not) to say hallel.
Discussion of the interrelationship of arayot, vachai bahem and bechukotayhem – bottom line living is important but it is not necessarily the highest priority (if you don’t have something worth dying for, do you have anything worth living for?)
Discussion of R’Kook’s view of where King’s power is found when there is no King.
Moving story of a journey to Judaism by the son of a Nazi “hero”.