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by Joel Rich

From The Economist:
In the rich world the modern economic problem, the Skidelskys say, is how to live well amid plenty, not how to survive amid scarcity. Yet the West still chases slavishly after ever-higher gross domestic product, a purely material measure that takes no account of the blessings of nature or leisure. Humanity has become insatiable, in short. It is time to stop and rediscover the “good life”. This they identify with a list of “basic goods”: health, security, respect, “personality” (autonomy, if you prefer), harmony with nature, and leisure. [me – What would we put on this list halachically? And, in what priority order?!] You might expect the Skidelskys to make common cause with those economists who believe that maximizing “happiness” should be the goal of public policy. Not a bit of it. What makes people happy, they argue, is not necessarily good. They have little time for statistical measures of happiness – or the pursuit of any single metric. That would imply that the elements of the good life could be traded off against each other, which they deny. Nor do the Skidelskys ally themselves with environmentalists. Greens reject growth because they believe it cannot be sustained without wrecking the planet. But what if it can? Better, say the Skidelskys, to pursue the good life for its own sake. [me – Kach mkublani mbeit avi abba Zll”hh – “Do what’s right because it’s right, not because anyone will honor you at the shul dinner”]

I heard a shiur recently in which the comment was made that “some” explain that R’ Yochanan Ben Zakkai cried on his deathbed because he was unsure whether he had done correctly in asking for Yavneh vs. Jerusalem. I heard this from R’YBS, does anyone have any earlier sources of this approach?

  • Rabbi Ari Kahn-Rabbi Tzadok; Feeling the Pain of the Community

    See Gittin 56 – (Q) R’Yochanan Ben Zakai (R’YBZ asks for 3 things – (i) Yavneh; (ii) R’Gamliel “dynasty” – which were both national, so then how does (iii) R’Tzadok’s health fit in? (A) He was like representative – fasting for 40 years prior to destruction.
    Some very interesting issues and history with regard to Marta bat Baytus (as in Baytusim) contrasted to R’Tzadok (as in tzadokim).
    Need more focus on Tzibbur (community).
    I gave a shiur on Tisha B’av comparing the versions of the R’YBZ story in Gittin vs. Eicha Rabba vs. Avot D’Rabbi Natan. Interesting is the treatment of asking for Jerusalem (see Eicha Rabbah) and (to me) why the Bavli treats asking for Jerusalem as a bridge too far vs. asking for Rabban Gamliel dynasty as not being a reach. Also, the Avot D’Rabbi Natan 3 requests being all “religious” vs. national. Lots to discuss (but not in the beit medrash?!).

  • Rabbi N Kaplan-divrei chizuk on gzeiras giyus in eretz yisroel

    Calls for 3 days of learning due to the possibility of a draft explained (pretty ironic – back in the day there were draft dodger yeshivot(as) – I could name names but loose lips sink ships). Original leaders of Israel agreed (even though they were “soneih daas”) to allow yeshivot and girls (I assume this was draft/national service?). Now that they want to change the arrangement, the entire people are in danger since it’s only the yeshivos learning that saves them.
    Money quote “the 7 million yidden in eretz yisrael live bzchus they were maskim – baal korcham but they were maskim – their kids die and these kids are learning”.

  • Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld-Rav Aharon Kotler

    Great interview with R’Fabian Schonfeld –
    *how R’YBS asked R’FS to be a collector for Chinuch Atzmai (for R’A Kotler)
    *how important it is to have your kids see Gdolei Yisrael
    *why R’AK told someone not to continue attending R’YBS shiur
    – R’AK was anti-college – bittul zman (waste of time) etc.
    – If you see R’YBS, you’ll think he went to college and was a gadol, so I can do the same
    – R’YBS would have been a greater gadol if he hadn’t gone to college (Hmmmmm-Rambam?)
    * R’AK – allowed his students to teach in conservative Talmud Torah’s (but not take pulpits) to influence youth – as long as you could teach whatever you wanted (me – no monitoring of curriculum or as long as you didn’t get caught even though you were told what to teach?
    * R’Yoel Schonfeld (R’FS son) education history – sounds like MTA class of ’69 – some very, very bright guys (present company excluded, but I would love to know what ever happened to Sidney Markowitz) – but I don’t remember a Yoel in my class, but there was a Joey – must be just a coincidence)
    * R’AK wanted Agudah to leave government in Israel but they refused! (hmmm – hard to believe they would not listen to such a gadol)
    * R’YBS went to funeral of R’AK but they didn’t allow him to eulogize
    * death of righteous is an atonement because when you hear eulogies it leads to repentance
    * story of R’AK’s sister (math professor) who tried to talk him out of Yeshiva, yet he visited her weekly in old age home (she had raised him)

  • Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb -What is Sinas Chinam and What Can We Do About It?

    Differing definitions of Sinaat Chinam (baseless hatred) for which temple was destroyed. 1) general baseless hatred; 2) hatred of the average Yussie for Rabbinic class; 3) Netziv – hatred for anyone who doesn’t believe exactly as I do.
    R’Gottlieb believes superficiality in religious belief and practice leads to intolerance (I agree). Nice riff on bchol levavcha and bchol meodecha – we’re quick to be unified in the face of death but we need to be more unified in everyday life.

  • Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb -Is “Nachem” Still Relevant After the Six Day War?

    A good review of the various positions on whether the facts on the ground in Jerusalem should be reflected in the text of “Nacheim” said on Tisha B’av.
    Starts with charting the history of the text (clearly text wasn’t carved in stone).
    What would be the trigger to not saying this text at all? Jewish sovereignty? Jewish settlement? Rebuilt temple? The Gedolim say so?
    Interesting point that if saying Nacheim is required because it’s “mein hameora” (reflection of the day), why do we only say it at mincha (question was better than answer).
    Real challenge is it requires a very strong pair of “halachic glasses” to look at the text and not feel you are “doveir shekarim” (cognitively dissonant) or perhaps most just don’t think about it.

  • Rabbi Ezra Schwartz -Halachic Men Part 2

    So the S”A was composed and many opposed it!? (I’m shocked) either because they were against codifications (vs. the individual initiative approach) [BTW, codification was happening in the world in general] or codifications without associated logic.] One complaint was not following dialectic poskim (Ramban, Tosfot) or latest poskim (Rama). Seems like S”A wanted unified practices whereas Rama liked local variations. (me – WADR to the 12 gates argument – AIUI there is no historical record of this type of prayer variation within pre-destruction Israel).

  • Rabbi Ezra Schwartz-Bikur Cholim in Extraordinary Circumstances

    Trying to understand what it means that a “ben gilo” visiting an individual who is ill takes away 1/60 of the illness. Is “ben gilo” someone similar in age, astrological sign or friendship? Should you visit an enemy who is ill – generally not due to others perception that you may be gloating.
    May you put yourself into potential danger to visit? Generally, no (it’s obviously a function of the level of danger) but those who are paid can do so. Visiting on Shabbat – careful balance with oneg (joy of Shabbat).
    Misheberach on Shabbat – very problematic, but a Rabbi who tries to stop it could be lynched [even in daat Torah communities???].

  • Charlie Rose Brain Series 2 Episode 8: Parkinson’s Disease and Huntington’s Disease

    Description of biology and experience of Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease – it’s a protein folding disease.

  • Charlie Rose Brain Series 2 Episode 9: Multiple Sclerosis

    Description of biology and experience of MS – it’s an auto-immune disease. Money quote “what evolution has been cleverly able to do” (I’d cue – “I once was lost” but then I’d be accused of listening to music).

  • Dr. David J. Schnall-Sociological Trends Impacting the Orthodox Community

    I felt need for a statistics surge even if it’s old (early 1990’s) survey. Depressing demographics on intermarriage, BT’s vs. otd’s, wealth, synagogue adherence….. Would be interesting to get a detailed update but, of course, we don’t have great data (if we measured we might have to try harder to fix?)

  • Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner -A Groundbreaking Approach to Geulah

    Need to avoid complacency and inertia and as individuals improve our relationship with HKB”H in our own unique way. (Einstein – “Insanity = doing the same thing over and expecting different results.” Please apply to bringing mashiach)

  • Rabbi Azarya Berzon-Sichat Mussar: Setting our priorities & our illusionary world

    Do what’s right; don’t focus on honor but rather on the appropriate spiritual priorities.

  • Rabbi Azarya Berzon -Sichat Mussar: the Individual and his uniqueness & his relationship to the community

    The old individual/community dialectic issue (today-too much focus on the former, not enough on the latter). Need for kiruv in particular and unity in general.

  • Rabbi Azarya Berzon-Tefilla: Birchat HaShachar: Speculating on the philosophy underlying the minhag of the women to recite She’asani Kirtzono

    In morning blessings couldn’t say “sheasani” (that you have made me) in the positive since gemara elsewhere says we’d be better off not being created. Springboard to philosophical discussion of women are from Venus (grounded) and men from Mars (existential) and how that existential plays out halachically. (This will not be a popular approach in some circles.)

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes -Parshas Matos Masei Conditional Accweptance of Shabbos

    Lots of detail on need for tnai kaful (double condition) and when may not need a double condition with a specific focus on application by mitzvoth. Then application to lighting Shabbat candles with a condition not to accept Shabbat (and problem with doing that with Shabbat prayer, as well as the problem with Yom Tov candles due to need to say shechiyanu issue – clearly accepting Yom Tov).

  • To Be A Gentile In A Cruel WorldRabbi Mashiach Kelaty-To Be A Gentile In A Cruel World

    We need to be role models because everyone will eventually have to recognize HKB”H. Contains a kiruv pitch – if bnai noach saved Jews historically, how much more so should we by doing more kiruv?
    Interesting story on selling reward for mitzvah – a perennial Avodah topic – can you sell/transfer mitzvot or aveirot credits?

  • Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff -Are Religious Zionists & Chareidi Worlds Begining to understand each other- Chok Tal and the New Israeli Scene

    Ben Gurion’s motives in the status quo – unclear (me – opinions probably reflect the opiner’s world view rather than actual history). Trends in Chareidi demographics and major differences in Israel and US Chareidim.
    R’ARR’s take – Chareidi mainstreaming will occur gradually and naturally. We can all learn from each other.

  • Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb-Introduction to Kinos: Learning How to Mourn

    People feel need to get through fast but really need fast to go through us.
    When we say cause of destruction was Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred) it’s because the essence of Jerusalem/Beit Hamikdash is unity, thus lack of this unity is the cause of their destruction.
    Remember R’Kook’s lesson is that the purely righteous is to add what’s missing rather than complaining about what’s missing or who is causing it to be missing.

  • About Joel Rich

    Joel Rich is a frequent local lecturer on various Torah topics in West Orange, NJ and supports his Torah listening habits by working as a consulting actuary.


    1. Re Skidelsky book see the review by Judge Posner

      “R’YBS would have been a greater gadol if he hadn’t gone to college”
      Really-any comment by others on this statement

      Re people changing their names from their non Hebrew names to “Hebrew” names-I like that we have Gil, Joel and Steven among regular contributors to Hirhurim.

    2. r’mycroft,
      thanks for the cite.
      there was no discussion.
      same reason i didn’t wear a hat at my wedding – who i am is who i am-maybe one day if i am zoche to make aliyah i’ll drop my slave name 🙂

    3. .
      “there was no discussion.”
      I meant as an invitation for others to see if they agree with that statement-
      “same reason i didn’t wear a hat at my wedding – who i am is who i am-maybe one day if i am zoche to make aliyah i’ll drop my slave name 🙂
      For what its worth very few no my “Hebrew” name-my Rebbeim and RY called me by my “English” name. I didn’t wear a hat at my wedding nor a kitel either. For what its worth -not that I’ve been cited often in Hebrew but when I have its been by a transliteration of my English name. My ravkav has my Hebrew name-when I applied to Egged for it and showed my passport I asked did they want me to transliterate my English name or use my Hebrew name-the used my Hebrew name.

    4. “For what its worth very few no my “Hebrew””
      Which C Rose tape should I watch to understand my no rather than know?

    5. r’mycroft,
      i wish i had enough readers to get a discussion – perrsonally I disagree (surprise), I think a broad knowledge base deepens one’s understanding. of course the most effective balance is subject to debate.

    6. “joel rich on August 21, 2012 at 5:12 am
      i wish i had enough readers to get a discussion”

      I was hoping a few of Hirhurims readers who have great knowledge of the Rav would comment.
      “– perrsonally I disagree (surprise),”
      we probably agree
      “I think a broad knowledge base deepens one’s understanding. of course the most effective balance is subject to debate.”

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