by Joel Rich
From R’ A Lichtenstein with regards to changing attitudes towards “Family Relations” is his trust well placed? How would we know?
Assuming these facts to be correct – as regards my own spiritual environs, I can attest directly – we ask ourselves: How and why do we depart from positions articulated by some of our greatest “from whose mouths we live and from whose waters we drink” and, is this departure legitimate? Are we victims of the Zeitgeist, swept along by general sociohistorical currents? Do we tailor our attitude on this issue to conform to appetitive convenience and erotic desire? Have we, in this case, adopted a self-satisfying posture of facile world-acceptance clothed in culturally correct garb?
To the extent that I am capable of candid self-awareness, I trust these questions can and should be answered in the negative. Our commitment to sexuality, properly sanctified, redeemed and redeeming, does not derive from libidinous passion but is, rather, grounded in profound spiritual instincts.
Again from R’ AL (get the book!) –Me- How much Torah is based on assuming there is “ a single and overriding phalanx of constricted guidelines.”?
“And let me say that the overall thrust of this chapter is to determine how one best attains his perfection with regard to Torah. For after it has been explained, in prior chapters, that the perfection of man and his ultimate purpose consists in the acquisition of Torah and its realization, we still need to determine whether the most essential is the probing and knowledge of Torah or its realization and the performance of mizvot. Hence we encounter here the views of these noble persons, each in accordance with his theory and perception.” – Abravanel
This perception should neither surprise nor alarm us. While some bnei Torah, fully acculturated to the welter of mahloket at all level of halakhic discourse, prefer to imagine that in the area of emunot ve-de’ot – or even of mahshavah generally – comity and unanimity are de rigueur, the distinction belies both theory and fact. Surely there is no reason to entertain it with respect to our particular topic. Even the advocacy of seemingly diverse values can be readily and variously understood. Given the prevalence of controversy as a staple of rabbinic discourse, it can be obviously contended that the variety confronted in Avot ought best be perceived as an exemplar of this characteristic, which at times constitutes a dispute over a relatively local issue, and at other times may emanate from conflict over fundamental Weltanschauung. In its more extreme formulation, this interpretation would hold that concomitant negation of another, and vice versa. A milder version could be content with controversy over priority and emphasis. In either case, however, the reader or the student is encouraged to regard his endeavors in sifting the texts as a selective quest for a single and overriding phalanx of constricted guidelines.2
There was much admiration for the Jews in the ancient world. They were viewed as a large population which had wisdom, philosophy, loyalty and good leadership? (me – just like today)
Interesting that this showed up on YU TORAH the morning that I was doing a shiur on “IVF, PIGD, sex selection and designer babies”. A good review of the issues, although I wouldn’t have gone so far as to say that “halachically you are absolutely allowed” since there is not 100% unanimity
For those of you who couldn’t attend my shiur, and more so those who did, you may find this mp3 of interest. The speakers’ update (it just appeared on YUTORAH) on reproductive/genetic technology is fascinating and it’s amazing how the field has evolved over a period of a few short yars. Unfortunatley the rabbinic member of the panel couldn’t make it so it’s a bit light in that area. One of the speaker’s mentions rabbinic opinion that intervention is required of parents in certain cases – I have not seen such an opinion in writing.
Case study of what you could do if bein hashmashot you realized the chulent pot wasn’t switched on. Requires a goy plus knowledge of where the circuit breakers are. (I’m still not sold on the proposed solution)
Analysis of historical anti-Semitism. Sometimes it was government sponsored for political or personal reasons (usually short lived), sometimes from the masses (usually based on perception of favored treatment/status) and sometimes from the intellectual class.
How does halacha view corporations? Not much in the way of models from Chazal (me – tzibbur may be one?). “Ownership” of an object is a bundle of rights (1) to get profits; (2) to control use; (3) to transfer object to others; (4) to have liability for damage. In a corporation the shareholders, directors, officers and board retain some of these. So are shareholders, owners, lenders or something else and for what purposes? (i.e. does chametz/b’al yeraeh have a different ownership threshold then ribbit or ethical investing?).
My favorite Shach on Dina Dmalchuta applies to transactions when halacha is silent (can halacha ever be truly silent? is one of my favorite meta questions).
What to do with bad news on your doorstep? (cue – Don McLean, American Pie)
*Integrate the past pain in your life into the good times
*Narratives are important – tell your story
*Turn fate into destiny – give it meaning
*Coping comes in many flavors – choose your own
(Hebrew) Discussion of R’Chaim’s Brisker derech (approach) to learning. Include examples of categorization and the interplay of halacha and mtziut (facts on the ground).
Review of the various opinions on army service for Torah learners – all the usual suspects (me – but IMHO it’s really a meta issue with micro halacha brought to bear in service of an “intuitive” psak).
Review of an issue which has impact on a number of situations – is there a requirement, preference, or neutrality for standing for your own (or someone else who is performing for you) bracha (blessing) or mitzvah (is m’hechel chermeish by omer a prototype?). Impacts megilah, tzitzit, birchat hatorah, etc. and there are many moving parts. One example – kiddush requires a setness (kviut) so maybe all that is needed to do is all participants do the same thing (sit or stand).
Nicely practical shiur with clear source explanation on challenges in buying chametz after Pesach. Issues with Jewish owned stores (obvious), distributors (not so obvious) and timing of when chometz was where. Workarounds discussed but there are many issues (sounds like some – it’s ok for “others” but not for you). R’YBS was against “phony” Pesach sales.
Most important take away – if you are in violation of a negative commandment with an action (e.g. hugging your girlfriend?) you are not an acceptable witness e.g. for a wedding (wonder whether this issue was raised in the Rabbi Schwartz’s rabbinic search process?).
Classic – “is Shechita a mitzvah or a matir?” type analysis. Then discussion of the heilige (my joke) zebu. Two interesting (to me) points: (1) R’AW states that lack of a mesorah on a particular animal in a particular area is not a problem if that animal were not native to that area; (2) How do you define species??? (me – aren’t all those categorizations man made?). Then some thoughts on another one or my favorites – Timtum haleiv (someday I’ll get clarity on how this works “outside” of halacha!)
Original plan for mishkan “worship center” (my term) was not as a permanent palatial space since the Shechina was to be fully integrated with the people. After the sin of the golden calf, everything changed and the shechima would only be in mishkan. Also, some other mitzvoth and restrictions were “added” because when you’re at a low level, you need more “tikkun”. (me – so people who are always looking for chumrah…)
Nice analysis of the force of “Rabbinic” mitzvoth. Rambam’s formulation as to why they aren’t “bal tosif” (forbidden additions) – (i) Rabbis were always clear that the additions were rabbinic; (ii) Rabbis always explain what Torah issue is being protected. Rashba/Ritva/Chachmei; Sfarad say Rabbinic promulgations are an exception to baal tosif (explains Ritva’s famous asmachta = HKB”H put it there to use if Rabbis wanted to). Rambam says the “cheftza shel tora” is the subject of bal tosif.
Analysis of differing punishments depending on individual’s marital status based on theory that punishments may be categorized as to repay loss, make up for lost honor or as an atonement.
Introductory shiur from a (Hebrew) series on mishpat (justice) – halacha and Israeli law. Here an example of intraction where halachic principles regarding the testimony of gamblers was woven into a civil court lawsuit.
What kind of bracha is it? Where does it rank priority-wise vs. other brachot? When should it be said (time wise, material wise?)
1st in a series – mixes Hebrew and English. Why we learn Avot between Pesach and Shavuot and what was the perceived intellectual level of the text. Key message this week – Torah learning is not just an intellectual undertaking but an experiential one as well.
Story of Yosef and brothers – He told them dreams because he was disturbed by the dreams, their interpretation (will you rule over us) sealed it (dreams go after their interpretations). A melech (king) is really a servant to the people, a mosheil (ruler) is hated.
Must look at Jewish responses in context of what they knew then, not what we know now. Resistance came in many forms – active and passive, staying alive, recording the actions, defiance – religious and secular.
Today’s menu includes Kashrus and tangents galore:
*Defining behaimah and chaya (halacha and practical) [me – hey my rabbeim used these interchangeably about us!] *Zebu
*Birds needing tradition of kashrut (sfard vs. ashkanaz)
*Mikveh – for prayer, for Yom Tov, for Shabbat
*Bugs in the water (not blood on the tracks – so Bob Dylan can rest easy)
*Food ritual impurities
*Mikveh construction and water
*Missing letters in Sefer Torah
Different interpretations of “btzedek tishpot amitecha”:
All litigants to be equal before a judge; (2) Judge if you are able; (3) Judge a talmid chacham first; (4) In a jump ball case, give the ball to the talmid chacham; (5) Judge all others favorably (then discussion of practical parameters and limitations on #5)
Examples of mitzvoth where dibbur (spoken articulation) may be required or not, and why/how.