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Speaking of Torah Musings?

The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.

Julius Caesar: Act 3, Scene 2
From a Pension Article

ERISA and Sharia Law

ERISA places duties on the plan fiduciary to diversify plan assets. How does a Muslim fiduciary tread cautiously so as to satisfy both the diversification requirements and Islamic Sharia law? (Hmmmm- any responsa on this?)

The third principle is creating harmony and cooperation between members of society because Islam unequivocally rejects the creation of societal or economic classes. [Hmmmmm-Qatar?]

Under ERISA, the conversation around investment selections is financial and objective, while under Sharia the assessment is financial, objective, and moral. This fundamental difference may cause a Muslim fiduciary to select an investment with moderate to low financial returns in lieu of an investment with similar risk but higher return. If this scenario were to occur, it is clear that it would be a violation of ERISA’s fiduciary duty.
[Hmmmmm-Dina Dmalchuta?] ———

  • Eli Weber -The Great Tanach Debate Part I History of Tanach Study

    Interesting introduction to the “modern” study of Navi which may be defined as intense (similar to the way Talmud is studied) and using literary (and archeological, etc.) tools (this is the controversial part to some).
    In Talmudic times Tanach was clearly well studied, but in the times of the Gaonim there was a dispute as to whether to continue extensive study due to the theological battles with the Karaites – are you better off studying the simple text with medrash to battle them or just de-emphasize the study of text so people won’t be bothered by questions? (the latter won)
    Rashi began a revitalization of textual study and a number of commentaries were written due to the battles with non-bnai brit. The same type of retreat occurred when biblical criticism became in vogue and again with the return to Zion (being led by non-religious Jews quoting Tanach).
    When the ‘67 war resulted in the feeling of miraculous deliverance of where Tanach actually happened, there was a groundswell for Tanach study in the Dati Leumi community.

  • Eli Weber – The Great Tanach Debate Part II

    Part II discussing approach to biblical personalities – (i) “traditional” black and white; (ii) Apikores – they’re just like you and me; (iii) they’re great but human.
    Examples of Esau, Bilam, Noach, Avraham, David. Key is how we deal with their fallibility – do we use it as an excuse for our own failures or a lesson in overcoming/repentance?
    I wish he would have answered why he felt Rashi consistently picked black & white medrashim rather than taking a more nuanced approach.

  • Eli Weber – The Great Tanach Debate Part 3 Repetition Contradiction and Self Confidence in Learning Tanach

    So what’s it all about? 1) need real breadth of knowledge of Tanach; 2) Must ask real questions including inconsistencies, duplications, human interest.
    As long as there’s no halachic implication, we have full freedom for creativity within hashkafic guidelines!
    Discussion of R’Breur approach.

  • Professor Szelényi –Lecture 6 – Rousseau on State of Nature and Education

    Fortunately Prof. S heard my complaint and came back to trying to explicate the general will. It’s where the common good may not be the sum of the individual good (e.g. inoculation for disease) and comes from “the lawgiver” (intellectual elite?). Not clear how to know/pick lawgivers or what the source is of their authority (me – R’YBS – “a clear and logical mind”?).
    Education theory – man is born good but society corrupts (e.g. makes him fear death). Thus we need negative education to rid him of that and turn him into a citizen (in contrast to the bourgeois who is out for $ and self; a citizen cares about the collective). Education is about how to think, not training. Love and pity are main motivating forces [me – it’s very interesting to reflect on how and which of these ideas resonate in classic Jewish thought (including mussar)]

  • Professor Szelényi -Lecture 7 – Mill: Utilitarianism and Liberty

    The basis of neoclassic economics, a clear and consistent application of Smith and Bentam.
    Individual liberty is the key, but we also look at the quality of happiness as well as the quantity of happiness because each individual has different preferences.
    There can be differences between legality and justice as well as between expediency and justice. The rules of justice are: 1) you can’t deprive an individual of liberty or property; 2) there should be no privileged individuals; 3) everyone should get what they deserve (need); 4) no breaking your word; 5) no partiality in justice.
    He emphasized self- development, freedom of expression and the need to defend the rights of the individual/minority.

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 305-2

    Rules concerning milking a cow on Shabbat to avoid it being in pain.

  • Shay Schachter-May One Make a Breakaway Minyan?

    1) Say amein at the right time (not too soon, not too late, but “just right”)
    2) If you’re outside the room where a minyan is taking place, some hold you may as well stay home (i.e. it doesn’t count for you as tfila btzibur)
    3) Breakaway minyanim are generally frowned upon (vs. Rama)
    4) It is better to pray B’rov am, with a large group (per R’Asher Weiss) includes instances or – i) many people involved in doing an individual piece of a mitzvah; (ii) one person does mitzvah for many; (iii) one person does his own mitzvah, many watch

  • Rabbi Ezra Schwartz – Tzedaka as a Neder and as a Monetary Obligation

    Tzedaka nedarim (vows) – when are they binding? Does thought alone count? How quickly must they be fulfilled?
    Interesting sidepoint – R’YBS (quoting R’MS) said that those going out for Yizkor did so to avoid having to make a pledge, since when others are pledging, you should do so too.
    There are differences between commitment to pay to an individual in need vs. to a collector.

  • Discussion of Halakhic Solutions Panel with Rabbi David Bigman, Dr. Rachel Levmore, Professor Berachyahu Lifshitz, and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. Moderated by Professor Moshe Halbertal

    R’Bigman reviewed current situation in Israel and in Galut, the classical approaches to agunah issues and then some short-range limited solutions where some groundwork has already been done. They must be implemented by new batei din which are recognized by other batei din as serious, even if they don’t agree with their final halachic conclusions.
    Dr. Levmore discussed her experience in 3 cases with the rabbinical courts. Bottom line was the need to be very strategic in your approach and try to use technical and narrow approach with very sympathetic circumstances. Batei din are very concerned about the downside from an existential viewpoint of allowing an eishet ish (married woman) to remarry.
    R’Lifshitz suggested using the legislative power of the Knesset to uproot the $ value of the Kiddushin. Also spoke about prenups.
    R’Riskin spoke emotionally that change will come because it must – if not, it’s a big chillul hashem. Need to take into account darkei shalom/tikkin olam. He gave examples where great Rabbis had done this, now we have a “rabbinic won’t”. Sounded like he wanted to set up separate batei din (Beit Hillel) to move forward.

  • Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky-Ir Hanidachas: Practically Irrelevant, Hashkafically Indispensable

    Drosh v’kabeil schar (Iearn and receive award), examples include Ir Hanidachat, Ben Sorer U’moreh – what’s the message? 1) Talmud Torah as an end to itself. Drosh implies an intensive search; 2) They involve tremendous destruction that starts out small (addictions are this way) – followed by R’Sobolofsky’s strong statement against alcohol usage.
    We need to maintain our closeness to “Hamakom” – the beit hamikdash, eretz yisrael; even if we are not physically there!

  • Shay Schachter – Is It Permissible to Recite Tehillim For a Choleh?!?

    All the sources (see Shevuot 15b) seem against saying tehillim except for general future welfare or deathly ill individual, so how come everyone does it?? To be continued.

  • Shay Schachter – Refuas Hanefesh, Refuas Haguf

    So what’s the justification for saying tehilim for ill people? 1) maybe the issue is if you only say tehillim and don’t make any hishtadlut (normal nature) efforts; 2) maybe it’s ok if you view it as Torah learning with an inspirational component which, as a side benefit, might heal someone. (Anyone want to guess at how many people look at it this way?)

  • Rabbi Gross – Was Malchus Chashmonaim Good for the Jews

    Brief review of Rambam and others on the Chashmonaim. Chashmonaim rule was viewed as anywhere from a bad thing to a good one.

  • Professor Benjamin Brown – The Life of the Chazon Ish

    Interesting summary (I assume) of Dr. B. Brown’s book on the Chazon Ish. Includes a fairly detailed biography (personal and intellectual). Key was his overriding focus on building a chareidi educational, religious and cultural infrastructure at the local level. While he’d likely be pleased with the current Kollel structure, he was focused on the elite Torah scholar.

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich – Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 305-1

    Parameters of prohibition of Sabbath animal (and car?) riding. How much of an animal’s pain do we take into account in Sabbath workarounds to relieve the animal of pain?

  • Professor Szelényi -Lecture 8 – Smith: The Invisible Hand

    Adam Smith wrote 2 major works – 1) Theory of Moral Sentiment and 2) Wealth of Nations. There’s a big debate whether and how to reconcile “Adam I” and “Adam II”.
    In (1) he talks about sympathy/helping (an inner voice) hand as a driving factor/motivation. Here the invisible hand is HKB”H who directs us to balance between passion and sympathy. The individual is the best judge of his needs, etc. Labor creates value and in the natural state is the only source of value but now so do capital and property. In (2) the invisible hand is the marketplace.

  • Rav Herschel Shachter- Daat Torah

    R’H Schachter on how the halachic process doesn’t change but when facts change, so do halachic results. Goes through quite a few examples where things have/should change. Vintage R’HS.

  • Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff -The Contemporary Religious Situation in Israel-Change within the Chareidi World

    The times they are a changin’! In a good way.

  • Professor Szelényi -Lecture 9 – Marx’s Theory of Alienation

    History (Part 1) of Marx’s evolution in thinking (this will take a few classes). Building blocks include idealists (ideas drive development) vs. materialists (material circumstances drive developments). He focuses on critical theory (consciousness is subject to critical scrutiny) and alienation (when there’s a distance between us and the products we make, others humans, etc.). He viewed commercial society, not thought, as the primary source of alienation and the proletariat as the primary way to minimize alienation.

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 305-3 and 306-1

    Rules concerning lending an animal to non-ben brit over Shabbat vs. leaving it with him to watch. General rules of doing otherwise permissible actions on Shabbat in preparation for after Shabbat. (me – these rules need a lot more PR, IMHO)

  • Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein – The Rabbi – Spiritual Leader or Religous Services Giver

    Chief Rabbinate’s goal should be to bring all Jews to see the simcha/beauty of avodat hashem, not just to process marriage certificates and provide Kashrut supervision.

  • Professor Szelényi -Lecture 10 – Marx’s Theory of Historical Materialism

    Another Dialectic! Marx I (the humanist) evolved into Marx II (the one you know!). I like Prof. S because here he admits he blew the last lecture and went back and re-explained alienation (before there was physical there was spiritual) and now I see where R’YBS got the whole subject/object thing (nisa vs. nosei is a huge Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur theme for me).
    Engels thought the government would express the general will, Marx had the proletariat in that role – emancipate and create a good society [nothing to lose but their chains!]. Theory must lead to action, we can change the world!
    Come the revolution comrade, we’ll all be eating strawberries! Make love, not war! Girls say yes to boys who say no! We want unlimited cuts and pass/fail! [oops – sorry about the flashback]

  • Professor Szelényi -Lecture 11 – Marx’s Theory of Historical Materialism (cont.)

    Marx evolves – We can change our circumstances. More on subject (us/consciousness) and objects (things around us) – Truth is an interaction between them (i.e. it’s not just us reflecting what we perceive). It’s about becoming, not being.
    We can describe history by the modes of production as they evolved – your class defines your interests and ideas.

  • R. Ilan Meirov – Halachot of Sleeping

    Some kabbalistic stuff on when and how to sleep. If you sleep 6-8 hours, you’re good (doctors agree!) but if you sleep less to learn you’ll be fine (me – it doesn’t always help your ability to focus).
    Then on to the pre-sleep bracha of hamapil – with or without shem & malchut? Very strange historical pattern as to actual practice on this question– Yes, No, Yes?

  • Rabbi Yaakov Werblowsky – Parshas Va’eschanan – How far does one have to go to fulfill a mitzvah and the mitzvah of ahavas hashem

    Starts with tzedakah thoughts, primarily about giving more, then onto describing ahavat hashem.

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes – Parshas Eikev – Chatzitzah by Tefillin

    Sources on chatzitzah (prohibited interposition) are primarily from bigdei cohanim (priestly garb).
    The gemara doesn’t discuss the issue regarding tefillin but the rishonim do. Perhaps differentiate between shel yad (arm) and shel rosh (head). The straps may also be a separate issue.

  • Professor Szelényi –Lecture 12 – Marx’s Theory of History

    Continuation of his thought evolution. Beginnings of a theory of history. Capitalism may be effective but will conflict with methods of production. Marx came to a dead end with his initial attempts at a theory of history.

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich – Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 306-2

    Getting an animal back inside the tchum (Shabbat boundary) on Shabbat. When can you prepare on Shabbat for after Shabbat?

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich – Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 306-2

    Receiving compensation for labor on Shabbat. When and how can you do this?

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich – Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 306-2

    What does it mean that if you are paid for Shabbat labor you will not see a siman bracha (blessing)? Divrei mitzvah (charity, shidduch, public issues) may be ok.

  • Professor Szelényi –Lecture 13 – Marx’s Theory of Class and Exploitation

    Now on to the Marx most are familiar with – Das Kapital and his theories on class, exploitation and the labor theory of value.
    He explains in detail how Marx saw capitalism as exploitive and missed that the middle class wouldn’t disappear.
    Sounded a lot like Marx had an agenda and tried to fit theory to it (hmmm – any in reflection in orthodoxy?)

Please direct any informal comments to [email protected].

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.

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