Audio Roundup

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by Joel Rich

Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin asked his teacher, the Vilna Gaon: “Perhaps I should put on Rabbenu Tam Tefillin….. The Vilna Gaon said: “Why are you asking specifically about Rabbenu Tam Tefillin? There are twenty-four [some say: sixty-four] different opinions on the proper way to make Tefillin. Are you going to put on twenty-four [sixty-four] different pairs?!” Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin said: “But Rabbenu Tam Tefillin is special and perhaps they will ask me in the World to Come: why didn’t you put them on?” The Vilna Gaon responded: “We do not fulfill Mitzvot for the sake of the World to Come, we fulfill Mitzvot for the sake of serving Hashem.”
Me- 1. How does the response tie into the question?
2. Was the Gaon talking about the general approach of trying to fulfill every opinion?

Question: An individual knows they cannot control their addiction [please don’t respond by rebutting the premise] to a particular sin which is punishable by death. There is a treatment that results in breaking the addiction in X% of cases but results in death in (100-X)% of the cases. What are the parameters of X in which the individual is halachically 1) required; 2) permitted; 3) neutral; 4) discouraged; 5) forbidden to undertake the treatment?

  • Rav Asher Weiss “Toldot ” ” Ne’emanut B’kashrut

    When is someone’s factual representation believed if they are not dati? The Rishonim give a number of situations including (me – is it either/or?) (i) when they don’t know why you are asking for their statement; (ii) when they are worried about their professional reputation and/or (ii)(a) it’s something whose falseness could be uncovered.
    The primary issue today is when rabbis need a doctor’s opinion where these reasons don’t seem to “work” – yet we still seem to accept their representation.
    A few other interesting points:
    *R’Moshe’s tshuva about relying on (at least for yourself) someone you “know you can trust” even though he’s not frum
    *The Klausenberger stated doctors must be wrong about genetic issues with first cousins marrying – since Chassidic rabbis did it a lot
    *R’Weiss isn’t really bothered by pilpul like questions on the Avot’s actions – it’s just drush, we really don’t get it about what applied to them (e.g. what it means that they kept all the Torah)

  • Dr. David Pelcovitz -Dealing With Emotional Trauma – Hurricane Sandy and Rocket Attacks in Israel

    Interesting group therapy session for a community hard hit by hurricane Sandy.
    *It’s ok to express your emotions
    *It’s ok to take care of your own needs first (put your own oxygen mask on first)
    *Building resilience is important – it’s ok to be down but eventually need to be optimistic
    *Women and men generally react differently – need to work it out and give each other space
    *Lots of insights concerning PTSD and how kids react to events like these
    *How do you deal with living here and having kids (grandkids) in Israel in times of stress. [me – thank HKB”H that your kids are doing the right thing in the face of many incentives not to]

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes -Parshas Lech Lecha Tefillin Straps

    Tracing the halachic history of black tfillin straps (it’s complex!). While there is unanimous consent that practice follows only blackening one side, lately there’s been a trend to follow the Ramban’s approach of blackening both sides. I’d love to see a halachic/sociological analysis of the reasons for this trend (I could supply some theories – what would yours be?)

  • Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein-Handbook on Chumras

    Sources on the advisability of chumrot (stringencies). In general: 1) Be sure your stringency doesn’t cause the loss of other mitzvoth (e.g. don’t tell your parents they are deficient for not holding your stringencies); 2) Don’t require others to live by your stringency; 3) Don’t be stringent just so you can tell others how stringent you are; 4) Don’t use stringencies to separate within the nation.

  • Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein -Modernity in Judaism A

    Reflections on tomorrows (me – as in “tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow” or as in “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace” – immediate, intermediate, escatological tomorrows and where current religious Zionist and chareidi communities fall short in their practice of tomorrows. Some interesting Q&A on LWMO, Chevron (ir haavot) and other miscellaneous topics.

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz/Ten Minute Halacha – Shailos From Hurricane Sandy-Flashlights on Shabbos

    Is there an issue of standard muktzeh for incandescent bulb flashlights? (R’HS – no, most others – yes). LED light? [most say no]. What about kli shemelachto l’issur [tool always used for a non-shabbat permitted use] (No – seeing is a permitted use).
    Maybe need to tape the off/on switch. What about coal miner hat/light? (probably ok (I think it is a fashion statement!)).

  • Rabbi Elchanan Adler -Weekly Halacha: Are goyim obligated in kibbud av va’em?

    Does non-ben brit have a “mitzvah” of Kavod Av? Probably “at some level”. (I love that term almost as much as “there’s an inyan”.)

  • Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein -In war-Should I daven for all the soilders or just for my friend?

    Why do we mention both the individual and the entire community in a misheberach? As R’YBS taught, we are usually better able to relate to community suffering through a personal feeling engendered by our feeling about an individual’s suffering. (Me – one death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic.)

  • Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky -Shas Topics: Shlichus Part 5 – Zachin L’ Adam – Shelo Befanav

    Does zocheh l’adam (you can acquire something for someone without him knowing it) work through Shlichut (agency) or some unique halachic process? Implications

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Insights into the Laws of Muktzah

    Excellent introductory presentation on the basics of muktzeh. BTW, R’HS holds that Talmidei Chachamim should know Torah Shebichtav (written law)!

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes-Parshas Vayeira Dont Stand while You Are Eating

    Some sources on sitting vs. standing while eating and/or drinking. Sounds like the general rule is to try not to be different than everyone else [as the Japanese say “The nail that sticks up gets hit with the hammer”]

  • Rav Kaplan-Vayera

    Mussar on chessed (lovingkindness), hachnasas orchim (inviting guests) and chinuch (training)

  • Rabbi Avishai David -Weekly Halacha Shiur; Hilchos Rosh Chodesh

    Discussion of the halachic nature of Rosh Chodesh and implications of its nature on various practices.
    Interesting insight on asking the shatz to be motzi you in the bracha on Hallel on Rosh Chodesh (due to the issue of an individual making a bracha on a minhag).

  • Rabbi Moshe Meiselman-Women in Halakha

    Starts in the middle of someone’s presentation (R’Ellison(?)) which sounded somewhat on the slightly more liberal side on women’s issues, then R’Meiselman on Isha’s position, specifically in positions of power/public authority. Lays out the Rambam’s position as well as some others. Bottom line is the interplay of halacha and social reality is not necessarily black and white but it’s really a meta-issue – where is the desire for change on this issue coming from? (Blog regulars can fill in both sides of the debate ).

  • Rabbi Beni Krohn -Assisted Living or Living with Us Halachic Perspectives on Kibud Av Vem

    Discussion of child’s responsibility to elderly parents. Do you have to live close by? What if you can’t handle it? Personal service is best but there’s a dialectic, you don’t have to give up your job, etc. Bottom line – as with many issues, this is not a slam dunk and the conflicting priorities need to be measured (example given – must/can you take a parent into your home if you know it will make your spouse miserable?).

  • The Eleventh Annual Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Lecture: Professor Christine Hayes

    Very interesting academic presentation for those who like that kind of thing – presents academic theories of law (e.g. man-made vs. divine, pure truth vs. evolving approximations, etc.) and then locates approaches to Jewish law within those academic categories. Since it did not fit neatly into the Hellenist conception, three approaches developed: 1) Philo –reconcile by claiming divine law is natural law; 2) Paul – inconsistent polemic and 3) Rabbinic – don’t try to rationalize w/Greco Roman – our law is eternal and perfect yet flexible and evolving (that’s why needed theory of 2 Torah’s – written and oral). Point is perfection is not static. (Ours has great taste and is less filling?)
    Sounded like the speaker’s thesis is that the Rabbis “rationalized” a way to have flexibility and wiggle room to make halacha a lot more about evolving human logic and wisdom while paying lip service to its divine “perfection”.
    I find it interesting and informative to hear how folks from different backgrounds and professions approach the same set of facts.

  • Rabbi Netanel Wiederblank -Kuzari’s understanding of Emunah

    More on belief. Interesting insights into free will and the 10 plagues. Then moves from the Rambam (intellectual proofs of God’s existence) to Kuzari (experiential – R’YBS – does a lover ask from proof of beloved’s existence?)

  • 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. I’m not sure if you looked at the dialogue in the original. As I recall, R’ Chaim Volozhiner rebutted that tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam are mentioned in the Zohar. To which the GRA responded that they were only said for one that seeks to gain olam haba’ah through wearing them. But the most proper way of serving God is to do the mitzvot for the sake of the one that commanded them and therefore he doesn’t were tefilin of Rabbeinu Tam.

      I think that the general approach of the GRA was not to be choshesh for opinions that were in his own opinion most likely wrong. Of course the GRA was quite strongly opinionated and this applied to a quite a few things. Something that was genuinely more of a safek I don’t think he would not have a problem being choshesh for. In this respect I think the GRA departs from the rationalist epistemology that says just do your best (decide on one opinion to follow) and God will be happy with you.

    2. R’ Joel — What did you make of Prof. Hayes sourcing the Talmudic view the Avot followed the Mitzvot with Philo?

      A number of us have zero’ed in on that as an “ah hah” chidush for us. And it adds a dimension to the krumbagel “Yeshiva guy says over a vort” controversy from a couple of years ago.

    3. r’ephrayim,
      i did not look at the original. The contrast to the approach associated with the briskers (iiuc) of being chosheish for all shitot, wasinteresting. it lead me to wonder why one chooses one approach over the other.

    4. r’ih,
      it was interesting, i just don’t know if it’s true :-).


    5. While there is unanimous consent that practice follows only blackening one side, lately there’s been a trend to follow the Ramban’s approach of blackening both sides. I’d love to see a halachic/sociological analysis of the reasons for this trend

      You mean Rambam, Also the reason people wear them has nothing to do with the Rambam, its because they are black through and through so therefore you don’t have to polish them a lot. Ive heard the ability to completely make them black and black is a newer technique. But either way it has more to do with convenience then anything else.

    6. R’me,
      Correct-i am cutting my proofreader’s pay in half.

    7. In this respect I think the GRA departs from the rationalist epistemology that says just do your best (decide on one opinion to follow) and God will be happy with you.

      There is nothing more rationalist about this view. On the contrary the “choshesh” view, which leaves the question of which practice to follow unanswered since we do not possess logical evidence for either side, is more rationalist.

    8. R’HS holds that Talmidei Chachamim should know Torah Shebichtav (written law)! THIS IS A CHIDDUSH!!! WHY? wait is there anyone who argues this point?

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