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by Joel Rich

I often hear people say HKB”H doesn’t give anyone a test they can’t “ pass”. Do you believe that?

Do folks think that the brisker derech is the final derech? Perhaps it will run its course (I have heard some whisper it has reached the point of diminishing returns) and a new revolution will come (remember the opposition r’ chaim “the chemist” encountered and the parallels with the “outside world”)- look out -”big data” or “behavioral torah” may be coming to a beit medrash near you

  • Rabbi Daniel Stein -Chazara Shiur for 4th Year Halachah Le’maaseh

    Lots of detail on asking, hinting, etc. to a non-ben brit concerning Sabbath prohibitions. Can you ask them to prepare for after Shabbat? Can you ask them to do uvda d’chol or psik reisha? Is the prohibition based on dabar davar or just concern you might come to do it yourself? What about amira l’amira, etc? Specific issues discussed include mail, express mail, muktzeh, air conditioning and Shabbat business partnerships.
    Can you rely on leniencies to start with? (e.g. put yourself into the position where you need to take advantage of them?). I debated this with a young T.C. who didn’t see a big issue; I disagreed.

  • Rabbi Jeremy Wieder -Derech Eretz Kadma LaTorah

    Mussar to denizens of the study hall – you might learn something from others, don’t be arrogant, don’t cause profanation of the divine name and remember what goes around, comes around.

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 271-4

    Nothing may be tasted before Kiddush. What if you did?

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 271-5

    What if you forgot and began a meal or other mistakes of forgetting (e.g. ritzeih)

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 271-6

    Rules for making up a missed Kiddush, covering the challah reasons and the practical implications of the difference. What to do if the cup of wine is pagum (deficient). Does everyone have to cover the Challah or just the one making Kiddush?

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 271-7

    What if you only have one cup of wine for all of Shabbat? Various strategies for ensuring full cup and minimum drink amounts. Beginning of hand washing practice discussions.

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 271-8

    How much wine do you have to drink for Kiddush? The Nodeh B’yehuda’s famous doubling the size of shiurim.

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -OU Kosher Pre-Pesach Webcast 5773 (2013)

    Includes but not limited to:
    *Quinona?! – It’s unclear from the Rishonim how to determine new additions to the kitniyot list. Achronim list possibilities – 1) seeds look like chametz grains; 2) the processing of the seed is similar to chametz; 3) normally grown close to chametz. R’Belsky doesn’t say it’s chametz but don’t use it; R’HS would be OK with using it.
    *Cottonseed oil, peanut oil – ahhh for the old days but sorry not today!
    *Babies and chametz (no good in most cases)
    *Gebrochts – don’t use gebrochts utensils if you’re serious about non-gebrochts
    *Gluten free folks – see if you can get one kzait real matzah (should be at end of meal)
    *Peeling veggies and other anachronisms – can’t hurt and it’s only 8 days and it makes it memorable for the kids
    *Inviting non-bnai brit or non-frum – problem!?
    *Machine vs. hand shmurah – not a slam dunk
    *Coffee and coffee machines – can you use/Kosher?
    *Countertops – best to cover
    *Paper products – R’Belsky knows people would be happy if he forbid, but there are really no problems with them
    *Friends who haven’t toveiled utensils – stick to glass!
    *Chametz gamur means more than 50% chametz

  • Charlie Rose Brain Series 2 Episode 13: Public Policy Implications of the New Science of Mind -h Alan Alda, Walter Mischel , Michael Shadlen, Eric Kandel and Daniel Kahneman

    End of Season 2 – Implications of current brain research for public policy setting. Not really much in the way of solid policy but interesting summary of the current state of the interrelationship of brain (biology) and psychology research. Review of some classic experiments including kids ability to delay gratification as a marker for future success. (me – not clear that teaching kids to do this will have similar results to kids who are “natural” delayers)
    Lots on decision making from the macro human being level to that of a single neuron. We’re only beginning to understand!

  • Rabbi Tzvi Basch -Melacha before Havdala

    What is the nature of the “prohibition”(?) not doing work (or eating) until after havdalah? Technical discussion of the scope – is havdalah simply a ceremonial recognition of Shabbat being over or does the actual holiness of Shabbat continue until then or is it something in between?
    What exactly can and can’t you do before havdalah and do you need wine? Do you need a full blown bracha?

  • Rabbi Ezra Shapiro-Machshava Rishona, Machshava Sheniya: How Do We View Hashem Changing His Mind?

    The two types of HKB”H’s “mind changes” I was most interested in (i) changes in mind necessitated by reward and punishment – e.g. taking kingship away from Shaul and (ii) changes in mind which seem unexplainable – e.g. medrash that HKB”H was originally going to create the world by din (judgment) but “decided” to go with rachmim (mercy) weren’t discussed.
    The type of change of mind that was discussed were basic operational (e.g., life pre and post cheit ha’egel as well as luchot shniot vs. rishonot). Maybe the message of these changes is that we need to work towards recreating the pre-sin status (as an aspirational goal even if not actually attainable).

  • Rabbi Moshe Bergman-Owning A Pet

    Can you halachically own a dog? Sounds iffy, maybe it’s ok for security purposes. Specific issues of seeing-eye dogs in the beit medrash, dog food being basar v’chalav, Pesach dog food, are dogs muktzeh and prohibition neutering.

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes -Parshas Vayakhel Pekudai The Community Eiruv What Areas are Eligible

    Eruv issues – basic definitions including rshut hayachid, rshut harabim, karmelit, tzurat hapetach, et al.

  • Rabbi Dr. Jacob J Schacter-Uses and Abuses of Kaballah

    2 person panel on Kabbalah – not really a debate. R’JJS discusses the relationship between halacha and kaballah. It should be to enhance halacha observance and give spiritual meaning.

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz =The Fifth Kos

    Lessons of Rambam’s (R’Tarfon) 5th cup at Seder. Four are Ishonot geulah (languages of redemption) and kos paroh (bracha). 5th is just lashon geulah or 5th is only kos paroh (bracha) or maybe it’s just its own thing.

  • Mrs. Rebecca Belizon -Women’s Lunch & Learn: An Overview of Shir Hashirim

    Themes of Shir Hashirim and how it differs from other sefarim in writing and halachot. Themes: 1) Rashi – historical vision of relationship of HKB”H and Jewish people; 2) Malbim – relationship between our souls and bodies; 3) Netzivot – describes the desired state for our future.

  • Rav Asher Weiss – Vayikra

    Sipur (story) vs. Zechira (remembering). Brisker Rav 1) must be Q&A; 2) start with negative (gnut), end with positive (shevach); 3) mention Pesach, matza and maror.
    R’AW 1) story formation – including miracles; 2) focus on this night; 3) must hear with ears.
    Then 2 inspirational Pesach holocaust stories.

  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter =Parsha Shiur – Vayikra 5773

    Vayikra – lots of detail on specifics of different types of sacrifices and the avodah. Also, yayin nesech and stam yeinam and yediah (knowledge) of sin and other applications.
    You really need the oral law here since the Torah is not clear on many of the details of karbanot

  • Rabbi Steven Pruzansky -Emunat Chachamim

    Some standard stuff based on lo tasur and gemara in horiyot. Psak is one thing public policy another – Emunat chachamim should elevate autonomy, not crush it.

  • Rabbi Wallerstein Shovevim.mp3

    Someone recommended this shiur to me – I’d suggest it only to those with a Kabbalistic bent – lots on the sitra achra, hotzaat zera l’vatala and who not to look in the eye(hmmm-what body part should you look at?). There’s no in between – you’re either a staff or a snake!

  • Rabbi David Hirsch -בענין אסמכתא

    Differing technical definitions of asmachta and some halachic implications based on their differences.

  • Rabbi Netanel Wiederblank -Rambam’s controversial reason for the reason for korbanos

    The Rambam discusses “reasons” for sacrifices in several places so don’t look at just one of his statements to understand his position. To say that sacrifices are part of a transition in getting closer to HKB”H isn’t such a big deal and has sources in Chazal. To say that there may be no “reason” for specific detail isn’t much different than saying the reasons are “al pi sod”. Remember as well that the Rambam planted some discrepancies in the Moreh to confuse the uninitiated and that there may be more than one reason for some things (including sacrifices).

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes -Parsahs Vayikra Women Volunteering to Perform Mitzvos

    Jumps off from sacrificial order (may women do smicha) to topic of “volunteering” and the whole mtzuveh v’oseh thing. Is it really a mitzvah when you’re not commanded and how does this tie into making a bracha?

  • 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. “I often hear people say HKB”H doesn’t give anyone a test they can’t “ pass”. Do you believe that?”

      On one particular ocassion this was a source of chizuk to me at a difficult time. I can imagine it being so again. But later vicarious experiences make me say that, chizuk aside, no.

      I think it is analogous to “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” which is not true unless you include “weakens you for years before you die” as “kills you.”

    2. Yes, I also suppose it depends on how you define pass (e.g. maybe in some cases lo aleinu just surviving is passing)

    3. actually, on second thought, in most situations it is at least conceivable that the person could have “passed” better. but the implication of negative judgment for someone who doesn’t “pass” a lo-aleinu situation is troubling. i mean, to skip all the intermediate examples: holocaust.

    4. r’ emma,
      exactly. I think that may be why R’YBS and others referred to it as hester panim/sui generis.

    5. Ye’yasher kochakhem R’ Joel Rich and (R’) Emma. See also the gemara in Avodah Zarah 3a: “The Holy One, blessed be He, does not come with a libel against His creatures”.

    6. I’ve heard Rav Reisman quote the צדקת הצדיק that Hashem does give tests beyond a person’s capabilities (vs. the Ramban)

    7. Shades of Gray

      “I often hear people say HKB”H doesn’t give anyone a test they can’t “ pass”. Do you believe that?”

      R. D. Eidensohn just posted about it on his Daas Torah Blog(“Is a person tested with a task beyond his ability? Two opposing views”).
      I posted a comment there re R. Tzadok on the subject.

    8. Shades of Gray

      (From the other thread):

      ר’ צדוק הכהן מלובלין (צדקת הצדיק אות מג): פעמים יש אדם עומד בניסיון גדול כל כך עד שאי אפשר לו שלא יחטא כדרך שאמרו (ברכות ל”ב א) מה יעשה הבן וכו’ ובזה הוא נחשב אונס גמור דרחמנא פטריה. וגם בהסתת היצר בתוקף עצום שאי אפשר לנצחו שייך אונס [ואם ה’ יתברך הסיב את לבו הרי אין חטא זה חטא כלל רק שרצון ה’ יתברך היה כך] ועיין מה שאמרו (כתובות נ”א ב) גבי תחילתו באונס אפילו צווחת לבסוף שאלמלא מניחה היא שוכרתו מותרת לבעלה, מאי טעמא יצר אלבשה הרי דזה מיחשב אונס גמור אף על פי שהוא מרצונה מכל מקום יצר גדול כזה אי אפשר באדם לכופו והוא אונס גמור ואין בזה עונש אף דעשה איסור כיון דהיה אנוס. אבל האדם עצמו אין יכול להעיד על עצמו בזה כי אולי עדיין היה לו כח לכוף היצר [וכמו ששמעתי בזה מענין זמרי שטעה בזה]:

    9. The answers that are heard/accepted are primarily the voices of people who have retained their belief, but, we have no way of knowing the percentage that comprises of those so “tested” or those who do not survive at all.

    10. “by Joel Rich

      I often hear people say HKB”H doesn’t give anyone a test they can’t “ pass”. Do you believe that?”

      Assuming God gives normal people “tests” -or are tests what naturally occurs in our life. Does God intervene in normal peoples lives-I doubt the Rambam would agree to that.

      “look out -”big data” or “behavioral torah” may be coming to a beit medrash near you”

      I’d be curious to read some torah with that analysis.

    11. r’ mycroft,
      me too – but most of what I’ve seen is anecdotal (e.g. a rabbi almost ate dairy bread that his wife left out therefor it’s a no no)

    12. I think that there are two separate ideas being expressed by the sources, ideas which are paradoxical but still both true. Firstly, the judgement of HKB”H is perfect; he is Dayan ha-Emet, and so He will never impose an impossible test on His creatures, as per the gemara in Avodah Zarah 3a. On the other hand, when a sinner wishes to repent, the Oral Torah has all sorts of defenses to exonerate him, à la “mah ya’aseh ha-ben ve-lo yecheta”, as per the gemara in Berakhot 32a (quoted by R. Tzadok ha-Kohen of Lublin). Indeed, these are twin themes of the High Holiday liturgy; the perfection of the Heavenly judgement, and the merciful flexibility of the Heavenly gates of repentance.

    13. Sorry… speaking of repentance, I have to apologize for misquoting Berakhot 32a. The actual phraseology is “mah ya’aseh oto ha-ben she-lo yecheta”. Thank you.

    14. and so He will never impose an impossible test on His creatures

      But what does “impossible test” mean? As we regularly daven from Tehillim:
      “לא המתים יהללו יה ולא כל יורדי דומה”

    15. R’ IH,
      Thank you for prompting me to investigate the topic further. I found that R. Yosef Ben-Arza, in his Yosef Da’at anthology of insights to the daf, quotes (in his anthology on Avodah Zarah 3a) the following remarks from Resisei Lailah, p. 142) [-more from R. Tzadok ha-Kohen of Lublin, who apparently had an affinity for this sugya]:

      “And with this mitzvah [of sukkah] there will be a birur [=clarifying investigation?] of the nations in the future, as they [the Sages] said in the beginning of Avodah Zarah that HKB”H will ignite the sun until this little bit of sukkah coverage will not suffice. And this is not considered a libel, because also with Israel it is sometimes like this: that is, also by the children of Israel, not every time that they trust in Ha-Shem Yitbarakh and take refuge in His shelter, does it ascend in their hands to be a shield over them. And the kindness of their childhood was the original acceptance and drawing after Him, even when they did not know that He would help them, and then it ascended in their hands, but if it were always like that – there would no [spiritual] advantage in their further drawing after Him. And also the nations then [in the future] will think so, and they will say ‘give us [the Torah] from the beginning and we will fulfill it!’ But originally they did not want, because they did not believe to be drawn after Him until they saw then the culmination and the good hope of Israel – how it ascended in their hands, [that’s when] they want also to fulfill [the Torah]. And then Ha-Shem Yitbarakh will show them that they are not considered ‘ha-ezrach be-Yisrael’ [the citizen in Israel] who are worthy to dwell in sukkot, for not always does Ha-Shem Yitbarakh provide complete shelter.
      And this is the distinction between Israel and the nations, as they said (Rosh ha-Shanah 4a, see there in Rashi, s.v. kan) that for Israel even if bad events occur to him, he does not object, as opposed to heathens who regret their original deeds and kick the sukkah and leave.
      But in any event, there will be also from all the nations converts and servants to Israel, for through the dimension of servitude that the servant is ancillary to the master there will be for them a reality of being ancillary to the ‘ezrach be-Yisrael’, [that is to say] those who will recognize the advantage of Israel and will want to be servants to them…”

      Parenthetically, in a lecture last year (recorded but not yet available on ) R. J. David Bleich confided that he recalls – as a student at Torah va-Da’at – that all the sermons of R. Gedaliah Schorr were based on R. Tzaddok ha-Kohen of Lublin, but that he respectfully disagreed with R. Schorr for relying so exclusively on R. Tzadok, in light of R. Tzadok’s refusal to eat in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret.

    16. R. Tzadok is hardly unique when it comes to Shemini Atzeret

    17. Thank you, R’ Anonymous, for your insightful response, and obviously it behooves me to explain myself better, in light of the insight you raise. Indeed, you are eminently correct that a significant school of opinion exists to exempt (or even prohibit) residence in the sukkah of Diaspora Jews on Shemini Atzeret, as explained by R. Jacob J. Schacter on Oct. 2, 2007, at
      R. Bleich’s objection, however, is that a countervailing school of opinion equally exists that requires residence in the sukkah of Diaspora Jews on Shemini Atzeret. Thus, R. Bleich believes that R. Tzaddok ha-Kohen of Lublin does not necessarily always express ideas that reflect the universal consensus of Orthodox Jewish tradition. R. Tzaddok ha-Kohen of Lublin is certainly one of our Gedolim, but he is not the sole voice.

      The reason I mention this consideration is that R. Tzaddik ha-Kohen of Lublin’s rendition of the gemara in Avodah Zarah 3a is highly creative. The gemara is stating – as understood in its simple form – that the judgement of HKB”H is perfect (-a well established theme in rabbinic literature; see the birkat ha-mazon text prescribed for the house of mourning by the gemara in Berakhot 46b); that He will never impose an unreasonable test upon His creatures; and that when it comes to sukkah, if the meteorological conditions are uncomfortable, one may leave the sukkah but should not kick the sukkah. R. Tzaddok ha-Kohen of Lublin is rendering a remarkable leap in his interpretation of the gemara. He claims that the gemara’s reference to uncomfortable meteorological conditions refers to the fact that not always throughout Jewish history are Jews totally protected. This is a comment with which I would personally disagree. I subscribe to the philosophy of the Haggadah “she-be-khol dor va-dor omdim aleinu le-khaloteinu ve-HKB”H matzilenu mi-yadam”. Tragically, six million Jews died al Kiddush Ha-Shem in the Holocaust, and 25,000 IDF soldiers have died al Kiddush Ha-Shem in the past 65 years, but I do not see that as a contradiction (chas ve-chalilah) to the protection that Jews have always enjoyed as described by the Haggadah. On the contrary, these tragedies themselves show the awesome power of HKB”H, as per the gemara in Yoma 69b, that He sustains the Jewish People despite its being surrounded by so many adversaries. Therefore, I felt it was important to mention the caveat that R. Tzaddok ha-Kohen of Lublin has been questioned in the past for some of his creative analyses.

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