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Is there application to some recent debates on Orthodox segmentation?

R. Adin Steinsaltz writes (link):

Living in an alien non-Jewish philosophical, psychological, and social milieu–as all Jews do, even the most pious–it is inevitable that we absorb its basic assumptions and that, as a result, certain of our Jewish assumptions are called into question.

(How can the Torah speak in such a way? How can such a seemingly unreasonable act be commanded?)

Yet, upon closer examination the questioner often realizes that his problem is itself simply a function of a different outlook on life, one which he has chosen to replace, and that it is not inherently insoluble.

The question may be nothing more than a reflex of a consciously discarded but still somehow deeply ingrained Marxist, psychoanalytic, or other theory, the phantom of a dead idea returned to haunt the living.

Questions grounded in one system of thought cannot be answered by another one.

For example, one who does not believe in miracles, prophecy, or Divine providence cannot expect satisfactory answers to questions about matters of Torah, where such beliefs are taken for granted and fundamental.

Careful scrutiny of the underlying assumptions behind the questions themselves may be more productive and may yield more satisfactory answers than apologetics.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “Problems of Faith” in Teshuvah: A Guide for the Newly Observant Jew by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From R’ Aviner (link – I suppose in depends on how you define err) :

Rabbis who Err

Q: Is there an obligation to believe that Rabbis do not err?
A: No. It is possible that they err. Moshe Rabbenu erred three times (Sifre Matot 31:21).


  • Rabbi Hershel Schachter -Makkos 15 – Daf 6b

    30+ years ago I decided not to listen to gemara shiurim on tape; too hard to “halt kup” while jogging or driving without a text in front of me (of course “tapes” [not an anachronism for me] were harder and more expensive to come by back then). For some reason I recently had an epiphany that if I listened to shiurim on gemara that I had already prepared for my Shabbat gemara group, I might pick up some good tidbits/insights (so it took me 30+ years to think of this, big deal, I know I’m not so smart, but I do my best to overachieve). I’ll just note those.

    The accused must not only be warned (hasraah), but must be aware of the witnesses presence (me – and witnesses must be aware of each other – any theories on why?).

    Not “accepting” eidut myuchedet (2 witnesses who saw act consecutively but not at the same time) in capital cases is a gzeirat hakatuv in the administration of punishment, not in the witnessing itself.

    When the gemara says kasha, what does it mean? Some say it’s the same as tyuvta (i.e. a strong question that is not refuted). Others hold it means there is an answer, we’re not bothering to record it.

  • The Role of the Rabbi panel -Rabbis Marc D. Angel, David Bass, Aryeh Klapper, Ronen Neuwirth.- Moderated by Rabbi Adam Mintz.

    Interesting debate – must changes in fundamental halachic practice be organic and generally not an anathema to the Orthodox community as a whole, or do we create facts on the ground (my term) for a limited segment of Orthodoxy in a revolutionary (albeit halachically acceptable in “our minds”) manner? R’Lopatin seemed fine with keeping track of those marriages which “others” wouldn’t accept and let’s do it and let the chips fall where they may! The audience seemed restless for immediate gratification and at least one speaker seemed to resonate to their frequency. Not a good day for rabbinic honor IMHO.

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 307-6

    Reading guest lists/menu issues on Shabbat could be a problem of shtarot hedyotot (every day documents?) and concern you might erase or come to use other prohibited documents. There may be leniencies for waiters, non-house holder or not reading aloud. Extension of prohibition to advertisements (me – like in parsha sheets?), mail and captions on pictures. Not much you can read on Shabbat?! (me – it would be interesting to measure compliance and/or development of leniencies correlated with observance or lack thereof)

  • Stephen Savitsky-The Origins of OU Kosher

    The life and times of Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein. “It’s a different world, Goldie!”

  • Professor Szelényi –Lecture 14 – Nietzsche on Power, Knowledge and Morality

    The issue with modernity is power and conscience, not economics (I wonder if this applies to Modern Orthodoxy as well?). We internalize reasons for our own subjugation. Most of the discussion concerned how many layers of there are criticism (e.g. I criticize my critical thinking) (me – if you have no axioms, how can you resolve anything?).

  • Doug Seserman & Rabbi Aron Yehuda Schwab- Anonymous Giving

    Some thoughts on anonymous vs. identified charitable giving. Giving to an individual may be different than giving to an organization.

    I might just point out that the question asked the Rashba was where the donor had already requested prominent naming, not whether he should have asked for such.

  • Rabbi Yosef Bechhofer-Curtailing Treatment Of The Terminally Ill

    Sources on praying for or assisting in (directly or indirectly) early termination of life for “a good reason”. Many examples and technical discussion.

  • Dr. Shnayer Leiman-Torah Min Hashamayim: Recent Perspectives on the Divine Origin of Torah

    Story of a circa 1970’s discovered manuscript from R’Yehuda Hachasid and the trouble it caused due to the concern over statements there in dealing with non-Moshe Rabbeinu written letters or words in the Torah. Players included R’Moshe Feinstrein, R’YS Elyashiv and R’SZ Auerbach.

    Lots of examples cited supporting theory that the exact text we have today is likely not letter for letter the same as literal Torat Moshe.

  • Professor Szelényi — Lecture 15 – Freud on Sexuality and Civilizationa>

    Development of Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis, sexuality, ego, superego, id…. Religion doesn’t score very highly in Freud’s book.

  • Rabbi Dr. J. David Bleich -Nimtza Echad Karov O Pasul

    We know that a single karov (relative) or pasul (invalid witness) nullifies a group of witnesses but what about judges? (very technical).

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 306-4

    Try not to think about business on Shabbat.
    What Sabbath violations can you ignore for someone about to die on Shabbat? Which can you ignore on Shabbat to buy property in Israel or return a lost object?

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 306-5

    Can you discuss a potential hire on Shabbat? Can you commit to a price for an aliyah? Present a gift? Set up a transaction prior to Shabbat to occur on Shabbat? (the last is a big internet issue)

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 306-6

    Can you initiate or cancel a cherem on Shabbat?
    What types of announcements are appropriate on Shabbat?

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 306-7,307-1

    When can you sin (on Shabbat) to save others from sinning? (really succinct and well done summary IMHO) When can you “violate” daber davar on Shabbat for mitzvah purposes?

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 307-2

    Only talk about things you enjoy on Shabbat! What can you ask for/benefit from non-ben brit on Shabbat? R’Elyashiv held you can’t go out into the street to get a non-ben brit to come into your house so you can hint to him to do a melacha (prohibited activity).

  • Shay Schachter -Davening for a Choleh by the Mother’s Name

    It seems only the “Zohar Hakadosh” suggests you need to use someone’s name when praying for their health. Why do we use the mom’s name and not the father? 1) father is more likely to have fallen short (e.g. learning) so don’t want to bring him into the picture; 2) we know who mom is, father is only based on probability (rov b’eilot achar habaal); 3) because that’s the way it was originally done and we really don’t know why, so don’t try to make applications (e.g. what to do if father is Gadol Hador) based on reasons (descriptive) given later (ok – I made the last one up).

  • Rabbi Jeffrey Saks-סמכות, מחאה ומקומו של היחיד בכתבי עגנון

    A look at some themes in Agnon including individual vs. society, Rabbinic authority and the under-publicized role of the shamash.

  • Rabbi Allen Schwartz-Introduction to Tanach 2013 – 19 – Trends and Patterns

    Patterns to look for in biblical interpretation. Includes general rules and specific examples:

    • maaseh avot siman l’banim (stories are harbingers for patterns that occur in future generations)
    • mida kneged mida (tit for tat)
    • Moshe interacting with his brethren (look for lessons)
    • Wives found at well Rivka, Rochel, Tziporah (look for lessons)
    • repetitive word use (me – e.g. Sheker in Jeremiah)
    • differences and similarities in stories
  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 307-3

    Rules for giving non-ben brit money or merchandise before Shabbat which may be used on Shabbat (or not). Then discussion of allowances for Shabbat use of non-ben brit (or other rabbinically forbidden resource) in case of mitzvah or where non-ben brit does the action for his own benefit.

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 307-4

    Don’t do calculations on Shabbat for future business transactions. What post Shabbat activities may you discuss on Shabbat itself?

  • Mrs. Rebecca Belizon -Fashion, Brand Names and Style: The Torahs Perspective on Clothing

    Clothes throughout Tanach represent the opportunity to help overcome external challenges and facilitate expressing our inner beauty. Examples discussed.

  • Shay Schachter -Should We Call Him Rabbi?

    Great ones in Talmud (and Tanach) are called by their actual names even though this generally wouldn’t be considered respectful – they’re so great everyone knows them (l’havdil – the artist formerly known as Prince!).

    Titles (e.g. Rabbi) aren’t used in divorce documents.

    Some (to me) disturbing stories of talmidei chachamim not seeing parents in order to avoid the competing respect issues.(parent vs. talmid chacham)

    Ran out of time before addressing the title (my double entendre) question.

  • Professor Szelényi — Lecture 16 – Weber on Protestantism and Capitalism

    My side-point – it sounds like all these social thinkers had serious issues with at least one parent! Weber felt capitalism was the best system, but the world/modernity still causes horrors even with that system. His theory of history is based on different types of domination (to be discussed).

    The Protestant Ethic (his book) posits that greed became an ethical imperative and that rationalism and calculation were required attributes. In order to advance to capitalism, you need both ideas (e.g. Protestant Ethic) and material conditions.

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 307-5

    When can you go to the techum (Shabbat boundary) on Shabbat to do something outside the techum immediately following Shabbat? When can you trade jobs for (with?) someone else on Shabbat?

  • הרב אשר וייס פסולי עדות

    Close analysis of the disqualifications for witnesses (karov (relative) and pasul (invalid witness)).

    Surprisingly, there’s no prohibition against not telling the truth even though it is a bad attribute – except if it causes a loss or it’s in a court process.

    A relative may be intrinsically disqualified whereas a rasha (wicked person) may require a court finding of disqualification. How is a rasha defined and may different types of reshaim have different halachic witness attributes?

    Interesting insight – Choshen Mishpat (commercial law) is usually not “gzeirat hakatuv/chok” (because the lawgiver said so) but rather usually logical.

    Witnesses issues are generally ones of presumed lack of nemanut (credibility?).

  • Rabbi Beni Krohn-R. B. Krohn Rav Dessler on Relationships 7-23-13

    There are only two types of people – givers and takers. Be a giver (me – imitatio dei). Then some thoughts on work (sounded a lot like Weber’s Protestant Ethic).

  • Rabbi Chaim Eisenstein -Makkos Biyum Ch1 #17

    Trying to make sense of the mishna on Makot 6b – how could one of two sets of witnesses be meizimed (is that a word?) if at least part of each set claimed to see each other (this is an iyun shiur).

  • Professor Szelényi -Lecture 17 – Conceptual Foundations of Weber’s Theory of Domination

    Weber’s theory of history – it’s all based on authority and different ways authority is exercised. Power is when you can force your will, authority is when you convince others to do your will. There are three modes of authority/ legitimization:

    1. traditional (from time immemorial – e.g. parent);
    2. legal-rational (because it’s the law of the land);
    3. and charismatic (larger than life figure tells you to do so).
  • Professor Szelényi -Lecture 18 – Weber on Traditional Authority

    Review of theory of domination and true modes of authority/legitimization, then on to close analysis of traditional mode and how it does not fully align with capitalism (i.e. it can reduce profits).

  • Rabbi Yonatan Emmett -Is Beit Din Stricter than God?!

    Teshuva is amazing! Why would court punish (me – between man and God?) if one had already done teshuva? 1) Some might fake it (so this is a deterrent); 2) Can’t really be sure if this individual really did full teshuva; 3) Teshuva is directly with God, doesn’t impact court (not sure I got this right, it’s a Maharal).

  • 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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