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by Joel Rich

Hmmmm-I thought the company line was that science and religion speak to different realms – did I miss an update memo?
History Channel 2:
Proving God
For centuries, science and faith have been polarized on some of the most fundamental questions in the universe, sometimes with deadly consequences. But as mankind seeks to answer the ultimate question–whether God exists–religion and science have joined in an unlikely alliance. Can new scientific discoveries and digital age technology reveal tangible proof of God? From the far reaches of the cosmos to the inner working of the human mind, scientists and believers around the world are using science to open new frontiers in this ultimate quest.


From R’ Aviner- I have a lot to say on this topic, but I’ll limit myself to rejecting what I call the “X learned in Lakewood for Y years and then went to Harvard Law” argument, IMHO this is as much a problem as the “Daryl Dawkins (OK I’m dating myself but substitute anyone you want and any level of education you want) never studied or went to college and succeeded as an NBA star, so will I”:
We are not against secular studies. We are in favor of them. Yet yeshiva elementary school and high school should be devoted to G-d alone. Secular studies are not what children are about. Holiness is. Good character, a good heart, fear and love and devotion for G-d…………………

One might ask: At age twenty-five one should start studying secular professions? So suddenly? This is an appropriate remark in relation to anyone who has never learned anything, and his brain is rusty. Yet we are talking about people who have studied the Talmud, which is the profoundest field of knowledge there is, more so than any secular field.
For such people, secular fields are child’s play. Look around and see for yourself. At Machon Lev (The Jerusalem College of Technology) they opened a preparatory “Mechinah” for youths who have studied in Yeshivot Ketanot and have never touched secular studies. In one year, studying secular studies only half a day, they all passed their matriculation exams.


  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Tosefes Inuy – Halacha and Mussar

    Gemara learns eating on erev Yom Kippur and tosefet Yom Kippur from the same pasuk. Rambam discusses (it’s a long derivation) the contrast of eating and fasting to demonstrate it’s all for the sake of heaven. This is followed by a bunch of applications of this distinction.
    Then discussion of classic debate about turning Friday afternoon into Shabbat (do you really do that or are you just accepting some limitations).
    Mussar – don’t compete on how early you get out of Shul, look at yourself as others look at you (cue Robert Byrnes – Would some power the gift to gie us to see ourselves as others see us) and infuse all activities with holiness (but realize they are not at the same level as learning, etc.).

    Two comments –
    1) It is a running discussion in my learning group that I always say I am trying to figure out what God wants me to do and they always say God wants me to figure it out for myself. I agree but tell them that he left hints throughout the Talmud and that is what I am trying to figure out.
    2) Rabbi Lebowitz makes the point with regard to levels of holiness. Maybe it depends on the audience being addressed to, but it would seem to me that infusing all these activities with holiness is not really the main point-although it is certainly true. The point is that learning is a requirement when not involved in any of the other requirements of life. So, the real test is what one does in the time that they are not being called upon to make a living, etc. Thought experiment – One has an individual who was born (see recent daf yomi – brachot – 55) who was born with the ability to interpret dreams. He can earn full week’s worth of compensation in 15 minutes a day of dream interpretation to the stars. Would HKB”H prefer he not make a living that way and learn all day and rely on the charity of others?

  • Rabbi Michael Rosensweig-On the Nature of the Issur Ribbis

    Part I of an “introduction” (a mere 2-1/2 hours) to the prohibition of interest. Is it:
    *on the borrower, lender or both
    *a type of prohibition against stealing or an act of kindness
    *subject to waiver
    *only in a case where collection is demanded
    Philosophy: This sits at the intersection of orach chaim and yoreh deah – it’s monetary but also about the Jewish family.
    Worth listening for: R’MR’s comment on a statement that sounded very “Riverdalian”.

  • Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz -OU Wine and Grape Juice

    A video including everything you need to know about practical wine production and the process needed for keeping it all Kosher.

  • Shay Schachter-Rosh Hashanah: Sweeter Than Honey

    Why are milk, eggs and honey allowed given they come from live beings? [gotta love the ducking of the issue that dvash (honey) in the verse quoted is not bees’ honey] Then discussion of issue of brachot said when eating the various simanim on Rosh Hashanah.
    I hadn’t heard of the minhag that women should bring salt to the table (in remembrance of Lot’s wife).
    Then on to the question of viewing the salt on the table as a stand in for practice at the altar vs. making the bread better tasting. Dipping the bread in salt is kabbalistic.
    Nice close on why not dip Challah in both honey and salt on Rosh Hashanah – salt is preservative and we don’t want to preserve old ways – honey is total absorption to change.

  • Rabbi Netanel Wiederblank -Free will and teshuva

    Trying to understand free will – examples both ways concerning the interaction of free will and personal and community destiny. Usual answers to hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Best advice from R’YBS – don’t focus on why, just on what HKB”H wants of you (me – but then see spirituality shiur – point made by the organizer that he needs to know a lot of why’s).

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes -Parshas Nitzavim Piyyutim During Slichos and on the Yomim Noraim

    History of slichot – Talmudic references refer to psalms said at fasts for lack of rain. Sources for slichot in Elul or 10 days of repentance are from gaonim/rishonim. Another major source is medrash about HKB”H doing a demo of how to entreat him (HKB”H) for Moshe Rabbeinu.
    Piyutim came later (and continued to be written over time – so need to differentiate). Ibn Ezra was against them – they are hard to understand and it’s hard to have proper intent. (me – I was taught to try to focus on 13 midot and model them in life). [me – Does anyone say the 13 midot in the Elul slichot word for word together as a congregation as it says in the instructions?]

  • Rabbi Ari Kahn -The Messiah

    If Adam hadn’t failed (by eating the apple (or wheat…)), there wouldn’t be a Jewish people. We pray for mashiach (even though we won’t be as special when he comes) because that’s humanity’s destiny. Then comparison with other religion’s take on things (hameivin yavin).

  • Rabbi Etan Schnall -License to Kill? Exploring the Limits of Free Will in Tanach, History, and Halacha

    Philosophically, can a person really “decide” to kill someone (or a non ben brit or an animal?) who otherwise wasn’t destined to die? Sources both ways plus an in between position. (Cue – John Lennon – Whatever gets you through the night)

  • Science vs. Religion – The Chief Rabbi’s BBC Rosh Hashanah programme

    A slickly produced video where the CR finds common ground with 3 atheists; even Richard Dawkins! (even though RD holds reason must trump faith) and proves the importance of having conversations.

  • Rabbi Nachman Cohen -Blowing Shofar on Shabbat: Historical Basis for Rabba’s Decree

    Interesting discussion of “gzeirah d’rabbah” (rabbinic ordinance to not blow shofar on Rosh Hashanah that falls out on Shabbat due to fear someone will carry shofar in public domain on Shabbat in order to learn how to blow). Doesn’t that seem a far-fetched concern? On top of that the Yerushalmi gives an unrelated scriptural reason for this non-blowing and never mentions the carrying concern!?
    There was a gzeirah introduced by Nechemiah for certain non-carrying in the home, so apparently the carrying on Shabbat thing was a particularly thorny issue. However, people got the message so Nechemiah’s broader ordinance was reversed but perhaps they kept the shofar one (and other holiday ones like it) as a reminder how important the Rabbis considered the issue – that they were concerned even for a rare case.
    So why don’t we blow Shofar on Shabbat? Perhaps message is that during week we blow to remind ourselves that HKB”H is only recognized by the world as a mosheil (ruler by force) so during the week we must seek him as melech (king by acclimation), but on Shabbat he is recognized as our true melech. So then why blow in Mikdash on Shabbat? In inspirational realm (philosophically, represented “physically” in mikdash) there is no rest for us in trying to understand HKB”H to the extent possible.

  • Rabbi Yaakov B. Neuburger -Metzizah B’Peh

    Good discussion of halachic and medical issues from the last time the metzitzah b’peh controversy was hot. Halachic review starts with the Talmudic concerns (antidote to some danger) and later approaches of the Tifferet Yisrael, Chatam Sofer and R’Hirsch and where they fell out on the philosophical and practical issues regarding changing perceptions of the efficacy of MB”P as a treatment (and as a Kabbalistic “requirement”).
    Then a presentation of the medical history and current events plus a rebuttal of the concerns (if you haven’t been following the debate, this will pretty much bring you totally up to date).

  • Rav Schachter – Kashrus and Shabbos for the Traveler

    Advice to Rambling Man (and woman) – cue the Allman Brothers. Issues include:
    *priorities and algorithm in where to light Shabbat candles (lighting 100 in the lobby is never the answer).
    *covering challah (and everything else) for Kiddush? [depends on if covering is to keep the challah from embarrassment or to “cover” the halachic issue of Kavod Shabbat].
    *camera to allow you to buzz in – problem!
    *elevator operator – you can’t put yourself into the position of needing this on an ongoing basis [should Manhattanites move or is bdieved ok?] *if hotel has permanent residents as well as guests, there’s an issue for needing eruv to carry in the halls!
    *restaurant in non-Kosher hotel usage – you’ve got to be kidding (then specific details)

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Inyonei Yom Hakippurim

    Introduction to minhag types and various underlying theories and definitions with examples. Then on to bracha of l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat – perhaps established as response to Karraites!
    Why eat on erev Yom Kippur – Is it preparation for fast or transference of a yom tov to the prior day – implications for eating night before and for slichot.
    Kol Nidrei text explained (BTW – 3 times is usual rabbinic formula when item established karaites).
    Other issues include:
    *Shehechiyanu and exempting others
    *Inuyim – Duraita or Drabanan
    *Illness and eating on Yom Kippur.
    Could have used more detail – why weren’t concentration camps considered shaat hashmad?

  • Rabbi Shalom Rosner -History Of Halacha

    A very basic, high level history of halacha (e.g. pre churban, mishna…gaonim… (you get it)). Focus on sealing of misheh and gemara.

  • Dr. Shnayer Leiman -Kutzo shel Yud

    A story of a poem – “Kotzo Shel Yud” from 19th century. A.D. Gordon wrote about a woman’s lot in Europe and a particular agunah case caused by a strict Rabbi. What were his sources? Did it refer to a specific Rabbi?
    Money quote – “You’re a Jewish poet, what century did you live in?”

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter-Torah Mi Sinai: A Definition

    From 1993! Explanation of how written Torah was put (as directed by HKB”H) together from 3 source documents (Sinai, traveling dictations, arvot moav directions). Torah Msinai really means we should learn it with same drama as when it was given at Sinai. Then explanation of Rabbinic role, especially after loss of Sanhedrin (Rabbis are still trying to figure out brain death was an interesting example!).

  • Rav Kaplan-Nitzavim

    Receipt of covenant is both an enabler and a requirer (i.e. you can’t opt out of reward and punishment). Then focus on taking care of each other and mussar on learning.

  • Rabbi Reuven Brand -Introduction to Spirituality

    Spirituality is all about mindfulness. Brief introduction to program.

  • Rabbi Reuven Brand -Spirituality Panel Discussion

    Panel discussion. Cynicism/sarcasm is the enemy of spirituality. So what works? Cultivate an awareness of HKB”H, especially in kids (have them tell you each day of an example of Hashgacha pratit in their lives).
    Life in Englewood is extraordinarily comfortable, they must learn sacrifice is inspiring.
    We must show our kids our emotional connection to HKB”H (he’s real to us). Story of how an abusive teacher made HKB”H real to one of the speakers. (hmmm)
    Me – 1) I’m not sure I would use Englewood as my jumping off point for identifying root causes of spirituality issues for Klal Yisrael.
    2) Made it sound like if your parents aren’t good role models, you’re in deep trouble (but of course we all have free will). IIRC R’YBS had a similar comment, but it’s still disheartening to me.
    3) So if your kids hashgacha pratit moment is negative (e.g. classmate severely injured) what do you say (or am I being cynical?).

  • 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.

    12 comments

    1. 1-Is revealing tangible proof of G-d’s existence “the ultimate quest”? I really don’t see the nafka mina. Belief in Hashem will always remain just that-belief. Science is not part of the equation.
      2- I agree with R’ Aviner that the purpose of elementary and high school education should be building character according to Torah values. The fact remains however that for many who later want to pursue a career the lack of any general education is a problem. My son in law who learned in a Yeshiva ketana had to struggle with English when he later wanted to earn a higher academic degree. He felt that it was unfair that he had to start with no background in math and English.

    2. > Does anyone say the 13 midot in the Elul slichot word for word together as a congregation as it says in the instructions? <
      All we can do is try, but it helps when the SHaTZ provides well-paced leadership (ditto at my Firm's RaMA-sha'as-had'chaq Mincha minyan, where all are also directed to initially daven "milah b'milah" [SA OC 124:2]).

    3. > Explanation of how written Torah was put (as directed by HKB”H) together from 3 source documents (Sinai, traveling dictations, arvot moav directions). <
      What about pre-Sinai narrative (coded into Seifer B'reishis)?

    4. > Torah Msinai really means we should learn it with same drama as when it was given at Sinai. <
      I thought it meant we should treat it with the seriousness/q'dushah of what we heard at Revelation (if not actually consider it part and parcel of Revelation)?

    5. r’dt,
      1.not sure there is a practical one
      2. that’s exactly the kind of case I was thinking of
      KT

    6. r’mp,
      we try – sometimes it works but mostly it seems people rush through! As to heicha, it seems like most people don’t even try.
      kt

    7. r’mp,
      he doesn’t mention it but I assume it could have been part of any of those texts.
      kt

    8. r’mp
      i only quote what i hear 🙂
      kt

    9. On the other hand, I attended public school, entered a (right-wing) yeshiva in ninth grade, and in a matter of months was up to speed in Talmud. (I had already learned to read Hebrew and had studied Chumash and a bit of mishnayos.)

      The lessons: (1) Smart people can use their intelligence for a variety of purposes; (2) the best method of learning is total immersion: and (3) most students use only a small part of their ability, making it possible for the highly-motivated to catch up.

    10. R’ Anon,
      True but I would add that for the not smart people they may dig a hole too deep to climb out of.
      KT

    11. Were you able to hear the whole shiur of Dr.Leiman? It ends in the middle by me.

    12. R’Benny,
      I think that’s as much as they got
      KT

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