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From a NY Times article: How Four Years Can (and Should) Transform You: Mark Edmundson’s Essays Ask, ‘Why Teach?’ (link)

When young people starting their college careers ask me what they should look for when they get to campus, I tell them: find out who the great teachers are. It doesn’t matter much what the subject is. Find a real teacher, and you may open yourself to transformation — to discovering whom you might become. This can be the great gift of a liberal education.

ME- If you can light one soul on fire in your lifetime, you will have made a difference (hat tip to Rabbi S Kovitz and Rabbi L Dulitz)


From Life In Israel:

Rav Shteinman was asked what he thinks about the necessity of getting inoculated. According to Kikar, Rav Shteinman’s responses was that people should get their kids inoculated, and the ability to heal was given to the doctors, so it is very important to heed the instructions of the doctors – if they say to inoculate, you should do so. While it is brought down that people with great faith do not need to get involved in medicine, that only applies to someone with a level of faith that is practically not present today among anybody, so we are all obligated by the passuk of “ורפא ירפא”.

Me- Fascinating that he needed to be asked


  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 308-5

    Discussion of putting covers on certain utensils on Shabbat – is it considered prohibited binyan (building)? Probably not. Perhaps makeh b’patish (finishing touch)? Perhaps. Muktzeh status of covers on a pit and needle with Shabbat uses are also discussed.

  • Rabbi Yehuda Turetsky-Can Anyone Become A Gadol? Lies, Limitations, and Modern Day Yeshivot

    R’Dessler vs. R’Schwab on whether the Torah only approach is the “only” way. I’m with the GRA on this one “according to what a person is lacking in knowledge of other wisdoms, correspondingly he will be lacking 100 portions in the wisdom of Torah”.

    Plus kach mkublani mbeit Avi Abba ZLL”HH – we can all be like Moshe, by reaching whatever potential HKB”H gave us. Where we set the bar for ourselves will impact whether we accomplish that potential.

  • Rabbi Tanchum Cohen-The Plain Truth: Honesty and Dishonesty in Every Day Life

    Review of Talmudic sources on the relative importance of telling the truth vs. other ethical priorities (e.g. humility, maintaining marital harmony). There’s a lot to consider in the trade-offs (me – truer words were never spoken, yet once one gets used to shading the truth, it can dramatically change the person – see psychology shiur above).

  • Rabbi Reuven Taragin -Ellul Zman Q&A 1: Hesder/Rabbah/Co-education/

    A bit like SMS text tshuvot – short answers to sometimes complex questions. Topics included but not limited to:
    *should we be ascetic? (no – but need to have reasonable priorities)
    *learn what you like and like what you learn (it’s an ontological truth)
    *coed learning is not for everyone, but there are reasons for supporting the approach in the appropriate situation
    *your minhagim should be based on where your family came from (did I mention there were no peyot in Suvalk?)
    *In Chutz Laaretz (outside Israel) there is no feeling of celebration on Yom Haatzmaut, so no reason to allow shaving!
    *rationalist approach to prayer can be overdone
    *how to deal with intermarried relative (with care)
    *Daat Torah = good advice
    *serving in the Army vs. learning – there’s a different calculation for Israeli’s and Americans, but it’s a big mitzvah (interesting political analysis of how the deferment situation got out of hand Israel – LW sold out for peace process)
    *Maharat et al – general rule (for all of us) is not to seek honor but just to make yourself useful and people will appreciate it (see Taragin, Shani). Our gedolim say no.
    *mixed singing of shirei kodesh – OK in the right time and place

  • Rabbi Jesse Horn-Gemara Methodology: Using the letter “Kuf” to compare things

    Discussion of one of my favorite topics – the kof hadimayon (comparative use of letter kof) – does it mean existential equality or just “somewhat like”? (e.g. Shomeah K’oneh [hearing is like saying/answering]). A number of examples and applications discussed.

  • EPIC 2020

    What will higher education look like in 2020? This presentation reminded me a bit of science fiction, but who knows. Listen and tell me what you think the implications are for Torah education? And also let me know who will instill a passion for liberal arts?

  • Rabbi Michael Taubes-Parshas Shoftim Must All Witnesses Stand in Beis Din

    Must witnesses stand during a trial? What about litigants and judges? The halacha today is that everyone sits. Discussion includes analysis of the interplay of Kavod Rav, Kavod Torah and the ability to waive these.

  • Rav Asher Weiss-Shiur Parasht Ki Seitzei

    Definition of chalot (status change based on an act). How did cherish (deaf mute) status apply in the past and how does it apply now given the change in our ability to educate an individual with such a condition? The brachot of eirusin are used as a practical application – but there is a separate issue of whom do those brachot “belong” to? [me – whoever pays for the wedding?]

  • Rabbi Ya’akov Elman -Sources & Typology of Sugyot

    Talmud Bavli isn’t homogeneous and wasn’t always interested in the final halachic outcome.
    We apply the concept of omni-significance to all “accepted” texts (e.g. Shulchan Aruch) [to me this implies that once accepted by the tzibbur, the text becomes greater than the author].
    Ocaam’s razor should be applied in the context of alternative approaches to making seemingly inconsistent sugyot cohere!

  • Prof. John Gabrieli-Science and Research

    It’s difficult to be completely scientific in psychological testing since there’s always some built in bias based on who administers the test, who we test, the test itself and the testing conditions. We do our best! Some interesting examples of “tests gone wild” (my term).

  • Rabbi Yaakov Werblowsky =The Din of 12 Months and Issurei Simcha

    The longer mourning period for a parent is primarily a function of Kavod Av (respect for parents). What if a parent would have been (i.e. was never asked this specific question while they were alive) mocheil [waived rights] such as for being honored at a shul dinner? (enter sarcastic comment here).
    Technical discussion of defining “simchat mreiut” (friendly gathering?) for purposes of avoiding such while in mourning.

  • Shay Schachter -Is It Better We Don’t Know?

    Some thoughts on giving reasons for mitzvoth plus some stories of how halacha sets reality (me – like the observer in the dual slit experiment?). I never really “got” the story concerning determining where geographically to have surgery based on differing local accepted practices within hilchot treifot – seemed to me it would only work if the surgeon and/or patient and/or surgical tools were 2000 years old (since that’s the reality the laws are based on per the Chatam Sofer).

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 308-6

    Muktzeh on Shabbat is a tough topic! Specifics here include drying poles, dangerous materials in the public right of way and can you “fix” things (e.g. reattaching a leg that came out of a table).

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 308-7

    What ladders can you use on Shabbat?

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 308-8

    More on muktzeh – some items need to be specially set aside for Shabbat use.

  • Prof. John Gabrieli–Brain I: Structure and Functions

    Operating principle – “Your mind is what your brain does”. Detailed discussion of what we know of how the brain operates. It’s a lot more than we knew, but there’s a long way to go.
    Explores distributed vs. local processing in the brain and how we think (my pun) the brain connections work.

  • Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky-Accepting Malchus Shamayim in Davening

    Topics include:
    *Malchiyot, Zichronot and Shofrot – what is the requirement?
    *Insertions for asseret ymei tshuva
    *If in a bracha you leave out or substitute for HKB”H’s name, must you repeat the bracha?

  • Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff -The Contemporary Religious Scene in Israel

    R’Rakeffet pulls together his demographic projections and analysis of historical Hegelian synthesis/antithesis to demonstrate it will all be good.

  • Shay Schachter-Interruption Between Tefillin Shel Yad & Shel Rosh

    Take wearing tfillin seriously, they should impact you while you wear them.
    Q. Why is one prohibited from talking between putting the head and arm tfillin on? A. It shows action and mind must be united.
    Then questions of kissing tfillin, answering brachot, putting on jacket, etc. between putting the head and arm tfillin on. (Me – if prohibited break (hefsek) is the issue, would it not apply if you were putting them on before the Zman (earliest tim)? ISTM the gemara doesn’t differentiate.)

  • Rosh Hayeshiva Harav Mordechai Greenberg, shlita-Charity for people who are not honest (Baba Batra) (H)

    Analysis of the mitzvah of Tzedaka – is it result oriented (totzaah?) or process oriented (maaseh?) or both? Some mussar on how tzedaka should impact the doer tied into a lesson for repentance.

  • Prof. John Gabrieli–Brain II: Methods of Research

    Interesting review of current testing techniques for brain studies and the difficulty in proving causation vs. correlation. I do think you can change your brain and this gives new meaning to the Chazal’s adage, “If you leave me for one day, I will leave you for two”.

  • Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg-Choshen Mishpat (H)

    Detailed discussion of adam hamazik (human responsibility for damages) – when is the result legally attributable to the individual for the purpose of establishing liability.

  • Rabbi Ari Cutler, Rabbi Yigal Chabshush -Iyun Tefillah- Shiur 1- Introduction

    First in a series on identifying barriers to effective prayer and how to try and overcome them.

  • Rabbi Moshe Taragin -Lifting Religion !!

    Mussar related to your Torah personality:
    *You must value it internally (make it integral to your life)
    *Torah impacts our history
    *The most important thing to you should be how Torah is perceived by others based on your actions

  • Prof. John Gabrieli–Vision I

    Vision is not simply a video camera but rather an amazing interpretive system focused (my pun) on answering two questions: What and where? Detailed description of the biology of the system and what we currently understand as to how it works.

  • Rosh Hayeshiva Harav Mordechai Greenberg, shlita-Talmud Torah in Mishnat Rav Kook(H)

    The Mitzvah of Talmud Torah has both a practical (what is the halacha?) and Sgulah (treasure in an existential sense) basis. It is a spiritual food which sustains our souls, and it intrinsically strengthens us – so it’s not supposed to be easy work!
    There is also a national soul that we are all part of and that both strengthen us and from which we draw sustenance.

  • Rabbi Yaakov Ariel-Beit Shemesh and Schism in the Torah World(H)

    Torah addresses all facets of life in all ages (R’YBS). Making it work in Israel today!

  • Rav Asher Weiss-Malchuyos Zichronos & Shofros & Geder Asmachte

    Zichronot, Malchiyot and Shofrot when combined with shofar blowing are a Torah requirement – when not, they’re Rabbinic. Then an analysis of whether you would need to repeat the blessings if you talked between the standing and sitting shofar blasts (tkiyot mumad and myushav). The Ritva’s position that asmachta (Chazal referencing a verse for a Rabbinic requirement) is higher than a plain Rabbinic enactment is not unique to him.

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 308-9

    Discussion of items which are muktzeh due to no normal Shabbat use (e.g. rocks). Must you permanently set them aside for use prior to Shabbat in order to use them or is just setting them aside for one Shabbat sufficient? Is setting aside accomplished by thought or deed?
    Specific cases will often be a function of local circumstances (e.g. is it the norm to use a rock as a door stop?).

  • Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 308-10

    Discusses the rules of removing unwanted leftover bones from table on Shabbat. Muktzch status of animal food, which may be handled on Shabbat, will be a function of what animals and foods are usually found locally.

  • 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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