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by Joel Rich

The Gemara (Shabbat 146) is clear that R’Chanania held “yesh mazal l’yisrael” (certain fates can’t be changed). The Meiri on the spot says those who hold that position did so due to personal experiences and are totally wrong.
As in many cases, there are situations in Tanach and Talmud which seem to support one side or the other and the various commenters will generally highlight those sources that support their position and reinterpret those that don’t.
1) Why in such cases would either side be so sure of themselves so as not to grant legitimacy to the other side?
2) Why do we try so hard to reconcile sources (e.g. hakol bidei – all is in heaven’s hands except (a) cold and heat and (b) fear of heaven)? Why not just say chazal differed amongst themselves?

When and to whom did HKB”H give the “7 Mitzvot of Bnai Noach”? What background information, if any, did HKB”H have to give them? (e.g. if one of the mitzvoth were not to ruin someone’s hearing, would HKB”H have to explain the physics/biology of hearing?)

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 243-1

    Continuation of the five minute Mishna Brurah series:
    Summary of rules regarding the implications for the ben brit of different types of use/agreements (e.g., renting) with non-bnai brit for Jewish owned property which would then be used on Shabbat. This series is good summary information, makes you realize how hard it is to be a poseik!

  • Rav Asher Weiss-Sandy Chizuk

    Chizuk (positive reinforcement) for 5 towns. Lessons of Sandy – we can’t know why HKB”H runs the world as he does, it’s all about our acceptance, knowing you’ll get through it and realizing HKB”H is calling to you to come back. Everyone knows for themselves what they need to work on. More Talmud Torah is good! B”H no one died.

  • Rabbi Pesach Krohn – Sandy Chizuk

    Same chizuk gathering, same B”H no one died (me – I thought it a bit off key given that there were a number of deaths in the community at large, and in any event did this fact impact the message?).
    Some moving stories – message – we will emerge stronger, each should go to his advisor (rabbinic only?) to figure out what to work on but certainly we should reduce our materialism and increase spirituality. The whole geographic area is an amazing one and its generosity is now being returned. When Moshiach comes, he will start in the 5 Towns and bring us all home! [I am maskim 100%, and if he wants me to eat my srugie and wear a streimel and not read the NY Times but the 5 Towns Jewish Times, I’m good with that too, tata zisa, just let him come already].

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha – Shailos From Hurricane Sandy – Ma’aser on Insurance Checks


  • Are proceeds received for Hurricane Sandy reimbursement subject to maaser (tithe)? Certainly not if they are for bare necessities or you’re exempt from maaser due to poverty.
    Is insurance considered an investment subject to tithing? (me – if yes, then in any year shouldn’t insurance premiums be deductible from income for maaser?) Bottom line – mostly not, but it sounds like a struggle to get to an intuitive result.
    Bonus business opportunity!!! (no risk, it’s all based on an inherent economic inefficiency) Gifts received are subject to maaser if they are cash (what about gift cards?) but not if physical gift (e.g. a toaster oven – oops, I’m dating myself).
    Open a “gift shop” whose Market Value Proposition is the “donors” gift 98% of the cash they would have given to the newlyweds, and you get a list from the newlyweds of what they need and give them the gifts valued at 98% of the 98% you got. Everyone wins (except HKB”H, or is he indifferent if it’s within halacha – bring back the days of bringing crops in through the roof)!

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter-Facing Illness: The Torah Approach

    Lots of issues and responses from R’Schachter & R’Belsky, many of which I’d be hesitant to act on without further clarification (bonus points – guess who said each!).
    *rules on permitted transportation and operators (if any) to come home from hospital on Shabbat or Yom Tov – key issue – is it for health or convenience?
    *It’s important (required) to be healthy, but you can’t exercise for healing on Shabbat (BTW be at least as careful with weight as you are not using the same fork for fish and meat!)
    *Wheelchair ok on Shabbat if occupant pushes it, crutches too, but only if you need them all the time.
    *Danger to a limb – given the interconnectedness of the body, we generally allow Shabbat rabbinic prohibition to be overridden.
    *Needed medication – carry in non-normal manner if no other way.
    *General rules on permitted medication on Shabbat, also consider mixing in medicine to “normal” food before Shabbat for Shabbat use, if needed.
    *Medicines with taste added (non-kosher) are a big issue.
    *Catheter issues – generally not a problem for davening.
    *Sakkanah (danger) rules – go by current knowledge, not by that of Talmud.
    *Choleh shein bo sakanah (ill but not dangerous) is generally defined as not being able to function normally.
    *Gosses (on death’s door) – of course you can try to do CPR if it might help (even a kohein can do it).
    *When to put someone in hospice? Get a second opinion!
    *Violating Shabbat for someone in a severe depression – only if really suicidal.
    *Always due tshuva (repent) [could’ve stopped right there] when ill, don’t worry about making a one to one correspondence between an illness and a particular sin.
    *Energy/life force healing is like going to a bad witch doctor.
    *Hurricane Sandy issues: 1) need to balance chesed (loving kindness) with halacha (e.g. Kashrut, tzniut and family harmony); 2) how to prioritize giving and taking charity in this circumstance; 3) words of encouragement – always be thankful for what you have, never stop praying.

  • Rabbi Dr. Binyamin Lau -Those Who Remember Shabbat But Do Not Observe its Laws: On Sociological Categories in the World of Halakha

    Various approaches throughout halachic history as to how to relate to our not yet frum brethren. Looks at evolution of tinok shenishba (child taken captive) concept (can anyone who has knowledge of Judaism “really” be a tinok shenishba?). Interesting approach of R’OY concerning “zochrei Shabbat” – Those who violate the negative prohibitions but recognize the positive of Shabbat.
    Bottom line – we are one, “come on everybody, love your brother”.

  • Rabbi Etan Schnall -Kever Rochel: Paradigm or Paradox?

    Historical debate about the actual location of Kever Racheil and discussion of the promise that it will always be there. Tshuva of R’Moshe concerning why it’s proper to have a grave marker even though the money could have been spent on charity – since the grave markers have become accepted as kavod (respect), it should be done (and, of course, my question – how did it become accepted if the preference should be for the money to go to charity).

  • Rabbi Dr. Richard Hidary -The History and Mystery of the Crown of Aleppo

    Very interesting discussion of the history of the Aleppo Codex and some of the features that make it unique. The discussion over ownership (Jewish people? Aleppo residents?) reminds me of Alec Guinness in the final scene of “The Bridge Over the River Kwai” – “What have I done?” Most important lesson – trust but verify (who knew that someone did the Rambam “a favor” and changed his psak of 67 lines per page (as in the codex) to 71 lines (as in our sfarim) by simply “fixing” the text of the Rambam!)

  • Rabbi Adam Mintz-The Delayed Burial Controversy – 1772

    Fascinating detail of the R’Mendelson/R’Emden controversy over the Duke’s proposed rule of no burial for 3 days due to latest medical knowledge implying one couldn’t be sure of death till then(source of saved by the bell industry of that era). R’Mendelson’s letter defending Jewish practice was politically necessary even though he really held immediate burial not to be essential! Basic issues – 1) How does halacha deal with medical scientific advances?; 2) Can we relitigate halacha (vertical view) or are we tied to “universal” practice (horizontal view)?

  • Rabbi Adam Mintz-Jews and the Seventeenth Century Polish Fairs: The Interplay of Halkahah and Relaity

    Interesting analysis of Polish Jewry vs. German based on differing host societies. The Polish economic and cultural situation (wine and beer the only available drinks and big business) led to an important wine based trade. This led to the Rama’s famous reponsa on Moravian wine (it’s OK) even though the Jews of Moravia drank stam yeinam! (Later “reversed” by the Bach.) Maharam m’lublin had a lenient response as well.
    R’Mintz felt this was because there were no alternatives, the rabbinic authorities preferred to make stringent rules and then relax them for specific cases so the perception of rabbinic autonomy would be preserved.

  • “Hitler’s Pope”: Pius XII did too little too save the Jews from the Holocaust

    An Intelligence2 debate over whether Pope Pius did enough to save the Jews in WWII. Definitely sounded like each side was talking about a different person!

  • Chief Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks -Reconciling Jewish Pride and Choseness with Diversity and Pluralism

    In his usual engaging style, CR Sacks discusses why:
    *We don’t accept the world as is but struggle to make it as it should be
    *The concept of tzedakah is charity and justice in one
    *Shabbat is so important socially
    *We have a sense of humor
    *We need the “Dignity of Difference” – it’s a plural world and everyone can contribute
    Closes with an impassioned plea for an orthodoxy that takes its message to the world rather than circles the wagon. (Can you say “swim against the tide”?)

  • Rabbi Yosef Carmel -Separation Between Church and State in the Kingdoms of King David and King Solomon, and Today

    Starts off with political history of David’s Kingdom. General thesis is need to separate church from state but religion should have spiritual influence on state. (Not a lot of specifics on how to navigate this dialectic.)

  • Rabbi Yaacov Haber -Black Magic & Witchcraft in Judaism

    There are only boogeymen if we invent them for ourselves (i.e. it only affects us if we let it affect us).

  • Rav Asher Weiss-Vayeishev 5773 English Haro’eh Ner Chanuka

    Is the nature of the birchat hariah on Chanukah (bracha upon seeing candles) that of 1) lighting; 2) seeing; 3) specific time of lighting? Review of who holds what and possible implications.

  • Rabbi Adam Mintz-Private Minyanim in Galicia, 1789-1848

    History of government recognition (“toleration”) of Jewish community in Galicia in late 1700’s. This process included recognition of community shuls and requirement of permission for private minyanim. Review of history of requests for permission lead Rabbi Mintz to conclusion that there was class based dissension in the Jewish community, the upper class wanted separation to do their “own thing”, Nodeh B’Yehuda opposed. Lesson – government “control” in this case allowed flourishing of multiple minyanim (me – lesson – beware when you invite/allow the government in; they usually have a different agenda).

  • Rabbi Adam Mintz-The End of the Rabbinic Herem in Hamburg 1731-1781

    1700’s secular authorities (Hamburg Senate) ruled against beit din and stated they could not force divorce in a case of adultery. It didn’t matter since community (social) enforced it anyway. Eventually the “right” to put someone in cherem became subject to the secular senate’s approval. All this is really due to integration (on a practical life basis) in the general community.

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 242-2

    Some differences between partial non Bnai Brit participation in bath houses versus fields – based on how used and paid for.

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 243-2

    What’s the deal with giving a non ben brit something to work on over Shabbat. It’s a function of the nature of the commitment (hours or piecework) and how obvious it is on whose behalf they are working

  • Rabbi Yaacov Haber -Jewish Adoption

    It’s a mitzvah to take care of the orphan. Socially, people aren’t sure how to deal with it. Discussion of bnai brit vs. non-preference and natural parents issues. (me – I have some pretty extensive source sheets if anyone is interested in more depth).

    Question: A non ben brit child is adopted and only finds out this is the case at age 80 at which point he renounces. He was one of the only two witnesses at a divorce. Are the children of the second marriage all mamzeirim retroactively? Today?

  • 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. The gemara is Shabbos 156a

    2. Yup- I try to see if anyone is reading my posts (and is ayen sham)

    3. Is it mutar to knowingly give false information in order to see if people are paying attention?

    4. Probably not – I was just kidding – I’m cutting my proofreader’s pay in half!
      I do sometimes wonder how many people read these.

    5. They are the highlight of my early Friday, really. I’ve downloaded over 8GB of shiurim from the internet, over half of which are directly from your columns.

    6. R’LL

    7. “(BTW be at least as careful with weight as you are not using the same fork for fish and meat!)”

      I agree but see:

    8. r’ mycroft,
      yup, I just hope people read the details about obesity and fat in the wrong places.

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