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by Joel Rich

From a Recent Issue of “Conversations” (written by a lay person) -Please react?
The emergence of the “professional rabbi” in combination with other flatteners detailed below is probably the most important factor. The Sephardic tradition as detailed by Maimonides calls for community rabbis to serve the local community while pursuing their own professional or commercial career goals. Accepting fees for formal positions as “judge” or halakhic decisor was frowned upon. Yes, valid arguments against that position are made for today’s rabbinic leaders, especially in a world that is increasingly specialized. However, Maimonides’ point needs to be understood. The politics of deciding how to apply law need to be removed – decisions have to be rendered with complete INDEPENDENCE. The current legal decisions of the “professional rabbi” are not and cannot be free of political considerations. The dictates of serving synagogue boards as well as of supporting large yeshiva study centers promotes the practice of what we can label “political/commercial rabbinics” rather than practical rabbinics. Halakhic decision making becomes hostage to the necessity of maintaining crowd/communal popularity and raising money for rabbinic institutions to sustain salaried rabbinic positions rather than what may be necessarily “legally correct.”

From R’ Aviner
Segulah for Shalom Bayit
Q: Is there a good Segulah for Shalom Bayit?
A: Help your wife wash dishes
Q. No I meant something requiring minimal investment of time or resources (OK I made that up)

  • Rabbi Nachman Cohen-Shavuot is over: Now what?

    R’Cohen is the author of several sfarim looking at talmudic authorities and how their weltanschaunes informed on specific halachic positions. Here he focuses on Reish Lakish and Rav Yochanan and gives examples how their views of the relative primacy in their day of Sinai (tradition of knowledge) vs. oker harim (intellectual acuity) impacted their Torah interpretations (great example – when did Avraham discover HKB”H).
    I resonated to the question that intrigued him – why does an authority pick one of two positions if neither is totally compelling? His answer to specific players and their prime values in this shiur is interesting, but what intrigues me is how did each pick their prime values? DNA? Tradition? Society?,,,,,,,,,

  • Rabbi Jeffrey Saks-Shaul Stampfer and the History of Jewish Education

    Interview concerning scholarly tomes on history of chedarim (lower schools) and Yeshivot in Eastern Europe.
    *most Cheder graduates couldn’t make a leining (learn Talmud on their own)
    *our approach is to encourage questioning the teacher vs. western which is to just listen
    *economic analysis informed for him which questions to pursue
    *nostalgia is great but can keep you from learning valuable lessons (e.g. Volozhin was continually innovating!)
    *Russian government was concerned that internecine rivalries within Volozhin Yeshiva would breed general rebellion against authority and thus acted to encourage closure (through introduction of expanded secular studies)
    *Netziv was ok with secular studies before or after learning but government continued to move the goal posts to get the Yeshiva to close
    *Jewish divorce rates in Europe were 30+% – since women were working outside of home, if unhappy, they could just leave!
    *Volozhin was a small Yeshiva
    *putting commentaries on the side of the page was copied from non-bnai brit!

  • R Pesach Krohn-Assifa comments

    Two minutes of comments on the Assifa – it was a big Kiddush Hashem. He singles out anonymous blog commenters (phew! I always use my name!) for cheirem since they cause dissension by criticizing daat Torah. Me – Does anyone know if they did chazarat hashatz at mincha and it couldn’t be heard, or did they skip it?

  • Rabbi Michael Rosensweig-71- ממאנת

    From R’MR’s daily RIETS shiur – I’m listening for his take on retroactivity within halacha. The specific application here is miyun (young girl “rabbinically” married off by mother/brother in absence of father can later renounce “marriage”). Question is what is the nature of this marriage (compared to “normal” kiddushin)? What is the nature of renouncement (compared to death and divorce)? Lots here of Yibbum/Zikah which was not my main interest. Stay tuned.

  • Rabbi Zupnik – When Does Morality Extend Beyond Halacha – Delivered May 31 , 2011
    Outside world questions whether morality defines legality or vice versa. In our world people sometimes quote the Chazon Ish as saying that halacha “defines” morality, but they forget he wrote l’famim (sometimes).
    Pirkei Avot lfnim mshurat hadin…these do define morality (mentchlichkeit) but you can’t halachically enforce it. Remember that kdoshim tihiyu (be holy), v’asita hatov (do what’s right and just) are mitzvoth – challenge is the boundaries aren’t as clearly defined as some others.
    Nice insight – related to if Ramban holds prayer is not a Torah command, how can Pirkei Avot say the world rests on 3 things, one of which is prayer? (me – even Ramban agrees in time of need it’s a Torah command and R’Chaim used this concept as a proof the Rambam was right!). It may not be a (the most important) mitzvah but it’s about our relationship with HKB”H.
    R’Zupnik struggles with this. Closes with R’Elchanan on why do we listen to Chazal? Because we know what they say is the ratzon haborei (God’s will) [me – much like R’Asher Weiss’s Ratzon Hatorah].
    One issue – R’Zupnik twice said we don’t learn from Western society. IMHO this was semantics – IMHO we do often learn within parameters of halachic acceptability, it’s just a question of how we assimilate it (e.g. Rambam – how often women go out) .
  • The Charlie Rose Brain Series 2: Neurological, Psychiatric and Addictive disorders with Eric Kandel of Columbia University, Gerald Fischbach of the Simons Foundation, Cornelia Bargmann of Rockefeller University, Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Thomas Insel of the National Institute of Mental Health

    The physical brain and the “mind”. Some issues can be linked to specific irregularities in the physical brain, others to the interaction of circuits. Addiction (and therapy in general) cause structural changes in the brain and this treatment has a long tail and needs to be multipronged.
    The confluence of genetics, life experience and environment all impact the minds development, some of the networks don’t mature till early 20s (explains teenage risk taking!).
    “Intelligence” in middle class is 50/50 nature/nurture but in lower class it’s 10/90!!! (Me – real public policy issues)

  • The Charlie Rose Brain Series 2: Consciousness with Nicholas Schiff, Timothy Wilson, Patricia Churchland and more on Dec 5, 2011
    Consciousness is not so pashut! There are levels of awareness and then there’s the interaction of the conscious and subconscious where a lot of the work and integration is one. Conscious can only focus on one thing at a time!
    Ties in beautifully with Kahemann’s “thinking fast, thinking slow”.
  • Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein -Q&A 5772 #2 – Final Shiur in Gruss

    1. Changing practices over time
    2. Internet – exposure to temptation issues
    3. Approaches to teaching kids of HKB”H existence
    4. What to consider in voting in U.S. elections
    5. Army issues (Kol Isha became a big issue lately but it’s a subset of a much broader issue).
    Closing thoughts on his career and YU.

  • Shay Schachter -Akdamos: The Author’s Story & Style of Writing

    History of Akdamos, including its authorship by a Rishon. The whole issue of angels and (not) understanding Aramaic is an interesting issue. Anyone know of any academic work on this?
    There’s a fascinating medrash (I didn’t know there were “medrashim” about rishonim) about the authorship including a trip over the Sambatyon.

  • Rav Asher Weiss – Geirus

    Geirut (conversion) involves kabbalat mitzvoth. Is the rejection of a convert who doesn’t accept one particular mitzvah a rabbinic or Torah rejection? Analysis of Talmudic sources.
    R’AW thinks bottom line is taking upon oneself to be a good Jew with emunah (belief) and sincerity (this is the difference between a ger toshav and a ger tzedek). R’AW also thinks if one knows one can’t keep a particular mitzvah, he can still be a ger, as long as it isn’t a major one.
    We all should be geirim! (Continual complete acceptance of HKB”H and mitzvoth)

  • Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Woolf-The Rav on Matan Torah

    Some classic insights from R’YBS including:
    *Jewish conception of retroactive time (I’d call it controlling the arrow of time) [examples include: tshuva, yitziat mitzraim] *Women’s Torah learning
    *HKB”H as source of natural and moral law

  • Rav Asher Weiss-Prohibition of Bitul

    R’Weiss lays out the basic rules of bitul (non-materiality) in kashrut situations and then moves on to ein mvatlin issur lchatchila (you can’t purposely before the fact take advantage of non-materiality).
    Is this rule rabbinic or Torah based? Is it a general rule in all mitzvoth (no). Even if “only” rabbinic, it’s gnai (embarrassing) to take advantage of as it is a “ratzon hatorah” (classic R’AW) issue not to do so. Then some specific applications in modern kashrus industry.

  • Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb -Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery

    Similar to R’HS shiur. (link). Issues include:
    *improving on HKB”H’s work
    *males imitating opposite sex
    Review of Rambam and various contemporary poskim (FWIW I think R’Moshe assumed the shomeir ptaim as a given for the “societal acceptance” hurdle that allows us to do anything with some danger [e.g. drive a car]).

  • Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb-Aseres HaDibros: Custom and Controversy

    Starts with the Talmudic proscription of saying asseret hadibrot (10 Commandments) in prayer due to minim’s interpretation as this being all that was important. Is not saying asseret hadibrot applicable in all situations? Then extension to standing for reading of asseret hadibrot and several explanations of why it’s ok – including the well- known R’YBS taam elyon as a reenactment of receiving the Torah.

  • Rabbi Hayyim Angel -Rabbi Hayyim Angel The Chosen People in an age of Political Correctness

    Non bnai brit are to bnai brit as bnai brit are to kohanim (i.e. hereditary considerations but not better – just different roles).

  • Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky -Kahrus How does Rov Work

    Review of the detailed kashrut issues of beriah (whole organism) moving on to ein mvatlin (a popular topic this week) rov and miyut hamatzui (drabannan).

  • Rabbi Baruch Simon -June Zman: Inyanei Avoda Zara – 1. Isur lehikanes le’knesiya

    First in his June Zman series – focus on avodah zara. Beginning analysis of Talmudic sources concerning entering house of avodah zara and some responsa concerning extenuating circumstances.

  • 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. “Jewish divorce rates in Europe were 30+% – since women were working outside of home, if unhappy, they could just leave!”


    2. Did R’ Aviner mention dishwashing davka or did he mean helping out in general. I hope it’s the latter because washing dishes is one of the chores I dont do.

    3. “Closes with R’Elchanan on why do we listen to Chazal? Because we know what they say is the ratzon haborei (God’s will)”

      We listen to Chazal because if we don’t we have hefkerus-there has to be an authority-it does not mean that HKBH would have decided the issue the same way but lo bashamayim hi we have to listen to chazal.

    4. R’DT,
      Sorry, it’s a direct quote! but I’m guessing he meant it as an example.

    5. R/Mycroft,
      Agree, perhaps that is what he meant – or that the primary will of HKB”H is we follow chazal (nitzchuni banai etc.)

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