Audio Roundup

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by Joel Rich

I came across this post of “The Curious Jew” too late to engage in the blog’s discussion, but I’m curious (pun intended – not yellow) as to your take on 2 statements:


(1) I do not see Torah, Talmud or Halakha as a male-dominated system that privileges males. I believe that our Tannaim and Amoraim were vessels for the halakha rather than the creators of it; thus, they carried and passed on a tradition rather than creating it based on their own biases and prejudices. (See more on this by clicking this link).

(2) I see Judaism as something that I strive to live up to, not something that I can change because it is not working for me. Thus, the idea that research points to women focusing more on connectivity and thus needing a type of holiness that doesn’t center around separation doesn’t hold weight for me. Judaism for me is the standard; I am not the standard. It’s the same way that my father taught me to learn Rashi. I was never to say “Rashi is wrong,” rather, I was to say “I do not yet understand Rashi.”

With regards to statement (1) -Do you think this is an accurate statement? Does the Boolean choice of vessels versus creation cover all possibilities (i.e. is there a middle ground between creating [assuming Chana meant creation ex-nihilo] and passing on a tradition)? If so, how much of the corpus thousands of years later is the original? How is the corpus modified, consciously or unconsciously, by the transmitters?

With regard to statement (2)-Similar Boolean issue – I don’t see “Rashi is wrong” and “I do not yet understand Rashi” as mutually exclusive and exhausting all possibilities. I was taught (and teach) to say “I don’t understand Rashi” as a matter of respectful form, however, my goal is to understand Rashi (why he said what he said) but to also determine based on all the opinions whether I think the weight of evidence is with Rashi. (or is that “I understand Rashi but respectfully disagree”) In any event, is the issue really holding “Judaism” as the standard, or how does that timeless standard apply in our time?

In shiurim I’ve given I’ve had to sometimes differentiate between rov (majority), miyut (minority), miyut hamatzui (material minority), miyut sheino matzui (nonmaterial minority) , batla dayto (halachically nonexistent minority)
I thought this court case would be of interest to those who are looking for a real life example of the last status.

But in a curious instance of mistaken middle-fingered intent, Officer Insogna suggested in a deposition that he saw the finger as a potential call for help and followed the car because he thought Mr. Swartz “was trying to get my attention for some reason” and because he “wanted to assure the safety of the passengers.”

Thomas K. Murphy, a lawyer representing the officer and a sheriff’s deputy who was also sued in the case, said that Mr. Swartz’s gesture toward the officer was not common for their community and that Officer Insogna “had a concern and decided he should act on the concern.”

“This is St. Johnsville, New York,” Mr. Murphy said. “Not the Bronx. Not Manhattan. It’s a sleepy little town.”

Indeed, Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the New York Police Department, suggested that if its officers “locked up everyone who gave the middle-finger salute, traffic would grind to a halt.”

According to Mr. Swartz’s account, Officer Insogna appeared behind them as the couple arrived at a relative’s house. There, Mr. Swartz got out but was ordered back into the car by the officer, who said he was making a “traffic stop.”

After more officers arrived, Mr. Swartz was arrested after muttering to himself about his own behavior, the ruling said.

The charge was later dropped.

The 14-page opinion, written by Judge Jon O. Newman for a three-judge panel, expressed skepticism at the officer’s explanation of why he had followed the car.

“Perhaps there is a police officer somewhere who would interpret an automobile passenger’s giving him the finger as a signal of distress,” Judge Newman wrote.

“But the nearly universal recognition that this gesture is an insult deprives such an interpretation of reasonableness,” he added.

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Hilchos Siddur Kiddushin

    Another classic R’HS data dump. Included:
    *Wedding invitations and issues concerning use of scriptural passages, block Hebrew letters and/or ktav ashurit [Torah type font]. (It seems the “halachot” here are more honored in the breach.)
    *Reading ktuvah during wedding ceremony as a “diversion” between erusin and nesuin (no mention of monkeys’ reading)
    *We specifically use shaveh kesef (not cash) for kiddushin as an exclusion to the Karaites’ position
    *We give ring first (before hareiat) but halachically it’s not necessary (asukim b’inyan is sufficient)
    *Lots on “eligible” witnesses (how define “unrelated”, why run of the mill tax cheats may be OK)
    *Mesader Kiddushin picking (should be someone who really knows rules, not a relative. Should be the one who most of audience would have picked [very interesting discussion!)] *Why do ashkenazi witnesses sign ketubah before the actual chatan commitment to the kallah (hodaat bal din)
    *When does Nissuin actually take place and implications
    *GASP!! The minhag in Europe (the alte heim) was for the chatan to take the kallah by the hand or arm after the ceremony (Ki Yikach!)

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha – Computer Checking Sifrei Torah, Tefillin and Mezuzos

    R’Lebowitz opens my Pandora’s box! Must or should computer checking be done on all sifrei Torah? [yes, because in someone’s test a large % failed even though prior check by human]. Mezuzot or Tfillin [no – since less text].
    Why Pandora? Because while I agree that technology should be used, it reopens the question IMHO of reviewing all rovs, chazakot, miyut hamatzui’s and the efshar/varer’s thereof! (Anyone remember my cow MRI hechsher?)

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 248-4 and 249-1

    Continuation of leaving on trip within 3 days of Shabbat – that rule generally applies to pleasure trips, not others.
    There used to be a concern of arriving somewhere just before Shabbat due to the hosts sudden need to prepare food might yield Shabbat violations. This is no longer a concern, but there is a general concern for delays in trip which might yield chillul Shabbat (e.g. accidents on the GW Bridge of winter Fridays).

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 249-2

    No big meals on Friday before Shabbat – concern is demeaning of Shabbat meal and/or demeaning Shabbat in general.

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 249-3

    Even not a big meal should be avoided after 9½ halachic hours – general rule-know yourself whether it will cause a demeaning of Shabbat issue for you. Fasting on Friday?

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 249-4

    More on fasting on Friday – what time do you stop? (Me – do most people know, [should be told?], that the first time they do something may set future requirements? Can one make a general declaration that this is never the case for them?)

  • Rabbi Jeremy Wieder -The Origins of Kri and Ktiv and the Integrity of Tanach

    Excellent introduction to the “baalei mesorah” and historical question of transmission of specifics of Tanach text including sentences, chapters, parshiyot, paragraphs, aliyot, pronunciation, spelling…..
    Of particular interest are examples where Talmud clearly had different text (e.g. spelling) then we have today and how halachists said we should change our text to match Talmud’s (when the Talmud reached a halachic result based on the text), but the sofrim (me – guild, as in chazanim) won’t do that.
    Hashkafically (my take) don’t worry about “original intent”, it’s the process (e.g. Talmud records 2 out of 3 rule used for text based on 3 Torah’s in the mikdash) that HKB”H gave us.

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes -Parshas Vayechi Saying Tehillim for the Sick

    Praying/saying Tehillim for those who are ill. Examines sources seemingly pro and con – really, it’s the merit of Torah that is key.

  • Rabbi Rabbi Steven Pruzansky -Segulas and Superstitions The Rise of Mysticism in Jewish Life

    Mystics/miracle workers are charlatans. Do your best and use Tfila, Tzedaka and Tshuva.

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 250-1

    The requirement to prepare early on Friday for Shabbat is based on the manna. Part of the reason is that it is most obvious that you are doing it for Shabbat (vs. doing on Thursday). Good idea to say l’kavod Shabbat on all your preparations.

  • Rabbi Jeremy Wieder-The Origin of Torah Sheba’al Peh and the Mesorah of Machlokes

    Some detail on origins of machloket in Talmud (can’t those Rabbis ever agree?). Rambam – there’s flexibility built into system [Rabbis determine some “Torah” rules] but deliberation process broke down somewhere along the line. Gaonim – transmission errors occurred (me – slip sliding away – cue Paul Simon).

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Hilchos Bishul Akum

    Detailed discussion of ins and outs of bishul akum and pat akum. What’s preferred, allowed, forbidden. A number of “questionable” leniencies mentioned. Interesting to me was the practice in “the alte heim” to use tziruf (linking) of two “not accepted” leniencies to result in an “accepted leniency” as well as the thought process (or lack of) in extending the original reasoning to other cases (e.g. factories producing mass quantities – cue the coneheads re: consuming).

  • Rabbi Avi Billet -Yarzeit Customs and Observances

    An introductory review of various yahrtzeit practices and a laundry list of explanations (descriptive IMHO, not prescriptive). Includes lighting candles, kaddish, fasting, visiting graves and leading services. General rule – bring illumination (physical and spiritual) to the world, it will redound to the credit of the departed (me – and you).

  • Charlie Rose Shakespeare Series: Why Shakespeare?

    What made Shakespeare great? His talent, the crossroads of history that he appeared at (end of middle ages, beginning of rationalism, etc.) and his ability to use language to help us access deep feelings.
    Then a visit to the friend of my youth (we were introduced by the Bid D with a little help from his friend – Mr. Kitteridge [who we called the non-Jewish Rashi]), Hamlet – the eternal seeker of his place in the world. He gave a new meaning to “dmut dyokno” (seeing his father’s image).

  • Natan Farber -Honoring One’s Grandparents

    A review of the basic sources concerning the halachic status of respect for grandparent vs. parent. (I have extensive maareh mkomot on the topic if anyone is interested. My bottom line – as a parent – I always demanded my children respect me by giving my parents greater respect than me!)
    Two interesting points: 1) R’Billet quotes a source that my “least favorite” R’Yaakov story (airplane/your grandkids think we’re descended from monkeys) was with a granddaughter not a grandson (paging R’Rakeffet?); 2) R’Elchanam quoted as saying if Darwin had ever met the Chofetz Chaim, the Darwin wouldn’t have believed in evolution. (Really?)

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Hilchos Yichud and Yichud Hashem

    A quick thought on Yichud Hashem (monotheism, HKB”H is only address for our needs) and then on to detailed history and review of hilchot yichud (seclusion).
    R’HS’s take (not surprisingly) is that given the times we live in we need to add ounces (not pounds – because it won’t work) in chumrot in this area (me – this imho explains the context of his famous [at least to IH] separate bus seating remark).

  • Rabbi Ephraim Kanarfogel-Asceticism in Halacha

    Ramban – it is praiseworthy to take on Nazerite/ascetic type restrictions. Rambam – it’s only praiseworthy when it’s in response to a particular challenge you have (e.g. don’t randomly take on restrictions, but if you’re by nature a big baal gaavah (haughty), try to never have your name mentioned in public)

  • Rav Mayer Twersky-Chinuch Habanos: What Should We Want for Our Daughters?

    Girls education varies by the community. The importance of their role and of tzniut (realizing you are always before HKB”H) can’t be understated.
    Time constraints vary by age and stage so there’s no reason women shouldn’t pray b’tzibbur when it’s not at the cost of other priorities – same thing with learning (me – time is our most precious resource, and our most perishable).

  • Rav Mordechai Willig-The Best of Times, The Worst of Times: Dealing with the Spiritual and Material Gaps in Our Community

    Everyone has their own level of spirituality capability. Chesed is very important, conspicuous consumption isn’t (me – good luck with that one!). Give of your time, kiruv is important but so is your own family.

  • Rav Asher Weiss- Vayichi-Bad Intentions Good Results

    When one has intent to sin but accidentally doesn’t (i.e. thinks he’s eating treif but eats kosher), what is his status? Does it depend on whether it’s intrapersonal where we focus more on result but between man and HKB”H we would focus more on intent? Or maybe it’s a sin, but not a “complete” one. Are you a culpable accomplice if you “assist” someone in this act? Possible applications.

  • 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. RE holding hands after the chuppah, is this not the practice in america? In england this is still common across the spectrum.

    2. Taking the callah by the hand is done in the Satmar community as well. Very much in the style of the alte heim, it’s the only time you’ll see a physical display of affection from a chosen and callah in the Williamsburg Chasidic community.

    3. Shalom Rosenfeld

      Chazzanim/sofrim guild — there’s a talk on shechitah (Rabbis Genack and Mandel) where Rabbi Genack says something to the effect of “well that’s the way today’s shochtim do it.” Same idea.

      MRI shechitah — there’s some medrish out there someplace that for parah adumah, an anan hakavod stood in front of the cow and enabled (Moshe? Elazar?) to see into its vital organs.

      And certainly you’ve heard the story of the Volozhiner talmid who got drunk on Purim and said some horrible things to the Netziv; the next day he apologized, “rebbe, I know they say ‘what’s deep in the lung comes out on the tongue’ [translated from Yiddish], but that wasn’t the case here, I really didn’t know where those things I said came from!” Netziv — “I’ll prove ‘lung comes out on tongue’ isn’t universal; why don’t we give the cow some liquor before shechitah and then just check its tongue? That rule doesn’t apply to livestock.” (Ouch.)

    4. I guess not everyone got the memo that PDA’s (personal desk assistants and public displays of affection) are out of style! 🙂
      I’m comforted by my Bubie’s z”l insight – “the tide goes in, the tide goes out” especially when paired with Warren Buffet’s favorite, it’s only when the tide goes out that you know who’s wearing a bathing suit (lightly edited)


    5. Shalom Rosenfeld

      … and yet, according to RARR shlit’a, R’ Elchanan Wasserman went bezerk when the groom kissed the bride at a wedding he officiated in NYC (“l’einei kol yisrael” means the end of the Torah!)

      Was your “really” questioning that Darwin would have said differently (I share your skepticism), or that R’ Elchanan said so (which, given personalities, I find entirely plausible).

    6. R’SR,
      The former. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how fascinating I find the human mind. Given that R’EW believed iiuc that it’s “natural” to believe in HKB”H from a very young age and anyone who doesn’t ,it’s only because of his yetzer hara – then believing that Darwin would have changed his mind is not surprising.

    7. reb joel – “I believe that our Tannaim and Amoraim were vessels for the halakha rather than the creators of it; thus, they carried and passed on a tradition rather than creating it based on their own biases and prejudices”

      its rarely either or. its complicated and probably both modes are working at the same time. why can’t people just say i don’t know but there is evidence for both. only zealots (or simpletons) believe in either or scenario. do we really know anything with certainty in the modern era?

    8. “chatan to take the kallah by the hand or arm after the ceremony (Ki Yikach!) ”
      does RHS say “ki yikach”?

      I have to say that “the chattan takes the kallah by the hand” already has a very different resonance for me than “the couple holds hand,” and connecting the former to being “taken” only stregthens that…

    9. r’emma,
      Yes, I’m pretty sure that was a direct quote. I do take your point. Since we’re chatting here on the audioroundup where it will likely go unnoticed, I won’t go through the usual discussion (some might say apologetics) and I do understand the cognitive dissonance one might feel between worlds.

    10. r’ ruvie,
      I agree which is why I made the point about Booleanism (I think I just made that up). I would say however (see last week’s roundup) that sometimes the conceptual range on a point is so broad, that it is hard to see it as a mesorah that got out of hand but rather some very smart people grappling with text and/or lack thereof. It’s hard imho to grapple like that without at least subconciously affecting the final product.

    11. “Since we’re chatting here on the audioroundup where it will likely go unnoticed, ”

      Which is sad-I have followed the audioroundup even when my internet access was dialup-ie when I almost never listened to audio. I find Joel Rich’s posts very worthwhile of discussion and wish they had a higher profile.

    12. ty mycroft

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