Received concerning an earlier query: “At the early minyan in my shul in Teaneck, the guy who leads slichos starts davening as well. Usually, he gives up the amud after Rabbi Yishmael or Yishtabach (if there are aveilim), but if the Shatz (I can’t imagine this happening) wanted the amud for all of shachris, notwithstanding the aveilim, we would let him keep it.” Question: Is the amud something that one who has a higher level requirement for, should give up?
What is the earliest example of halacha responding to changes in technology (meaning a specific discussion of how to apply exiting halachic constructs to a new technology ,e.g. corrective lenses for a torah reader-is he able to perform as a reader who can discharge the obligation of parshat zachor for a community?)?———-
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha – Closing Up Windows in Construction and Tzava’as Rabi Yehuda Hachasid
The tzavah (ethical will) of R’Yehudah Hachasid – how should we relate to some of the “stranger” provisions? If we think we understand the reasons for some of the “recommendations”, can we reach decisions on current applicability based on those reasons? Should we just assume that if you don’t worry about such things you’re OK? [me – does HKB”H want you to worry about such things?]
- Rabbi Nosson Rich–Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 315-4
Putting together a bed on Shabbat and other issues of making an ohel (tent).
- Prof. Steven Cohen – Pew Study
Review of the specifics of the Pew study focusing especially on the orthodox world’s statistics. Identifies lacunae in data and underlines need for Orthodox engagement in the Jewish world. Orthodox were consciously oversampled by the Pew organization. Interesting question – is zip code a better indicator than upbringing for intermarriage?
- Rabbi Michael Siev-Five Minute Halacha – Kaddish: Yisgadal vs. Yisgadel and Bowing
A quick review of the proper phrasing and pronunciations for Kaddish.
- Dr. Jacques Berlinerblau, -Can the Jewish People Survive as Secularists?
Pre-Pew study talk tracing history of Jewish American secularism. Some interesting discussion of possible future directions for both secularism and orthodoxy. Some scary parallels between orthodoxy and other “extremist” movements.
- Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein -Being Normal # 6- Three Perspetives of Rav Ovadia Yosef z”l
In addition to everything else:
*he was from the people and never left the people
*he felt total empathy with each individual in front of him
*he had the total courage of his convictions
- Rav N Kaplan – Shiluach Hakan
Detailed technical analysis of specific details of the mitzvah of sending the mother bird away.
- Rabbi Baruch Simon -The Father’s Obligation in Pru Urvu
Starts with analysis of when grandchildren can “take the place” of children for the mitzvah of pru u’rvu. Moves on to discussion of IVF and whether one gets mitzvah of pru u’rvu (he thinks yes) and whether one is required to use IVF for mitzvah (he thinks no) based on R’Moshe’s position that the mitzvah is to try to have children (not necessarily to have them) [me – if no danger and cost $.50 would he still say this?] If a woman has no eggs and wants to do IVF, discussion of the best source for eggs taking into account a number of halachic and hashkafic concerns.
- Professor Kagan-Lecture 7 – Plato, Part II: Arguments for the Immortality of the Soul
Plato’s arguments for the immortality of soul [recent studies concerning on-line courses have shown issues with dropouts – please add me as a statistic for this course].
- Rabbi Ian Shaffer -Megillat Esther #1
Introduction to series on Mgilat Esther. Focus in introduction is on the historical timeline and R’B’Lau’s approach concerning Mordechai and Esther’s cultural and philosophical leanings prior to the crisis (hint: it isn’t your father’s medrash).
Rabbi Jonathan Bienenfeld -“I’m Just Trying to Save Your Soul!”: Conversations with a Missionary
Sounds like a class given to H.S. graduates who will be headed off to secular college. Analysis of claims made by missionaries based on Tanach.
- Hershel Shanks-Recent Controversies Concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls
History of the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls and their interpretations (and debates thereon, including what was going on in Qumran). Discussion of the “development” of the texts as well as of rabbinic Judaism.
- Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner -Chabura in Pischei Choshen: Lending, Part I
Circumstances where there is no bracha made include:
1) There’s no action involved (e.g. shmitah)
2) The result is not totally dependent on the doer (e.g. extend a loan)
3) Something must be accepted by other parties (e.g. justice)
4) The “mitzvah” being done is based on a sin (e.g. returning robbery)
5) It’s not really yours (e.g. challah)
6) Negativity involved (e.g. someone must be sick to do bikur cholim)
- Rabbi Nosson Rich–Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 315-5
More Shabbat issues concerning temporary ohel (tent) [e.g. propping up a book with other books]. Are umbrellas really a problem? Yes, but maybe only because that’s the accepted practice.
- Shay Schachter-Sandek at a Bris
Discussion of medrashic source for the role and importance of a sandak (this is listed as a mitzvah one should pay for – it would be nice to have an overarching theory of what mitzvoth one should pay for). Rationalizations of current practice not to follow comparison to ketoret (i.e. once per lifetime) and why it doesn’t seem to lead to the promised wealth (similar to promise by ketoret).
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Ten Minute Halacha – Saying Vayechulu With Two People
Why do we say Vayichulu on Friday P.M. after the maariv amidah? Either due to a lo plug that we wouldn’t have said it on a Friday P.M. which was also Yom Tov and so need it then, or to help those who didn’t know it by heart. Saying it is important based on us becoming a partner with HKB”H in creation. Then tracing the expansion of saying it as being somewhat edut (testimony) up through Mishneh Brurah requiring it to be said with someone else since testimony requires two. [Me – but where did he get it from to be mchadeish this). It’s an Inyan?
- Rav Asher Weiss-Parshas Lech Lcha
Understanding the essentials of the mitzvah of brit milah in all its aspects. (me – as Uncle Moishy says, “It’s a big mitzvah!”)
- Professor Menachem Kellner-How Twentieth Century Rabbinic Figures Use and Misuse Maimonides – Audio
The Rambam’s main contributions were the codification/democratization of halacha and defining Jewish philosophy. He was a naturalist who demanded concrete behavior to serve a higher philosophical need. He streamlined Judaism and was able to defeat those who believed in HKB”H having physical characteristics but also established dogma. He lost the battle against the Zohar as well as his battle for educational reform as defined in his introduction to the Mishna Torah. He was a universalist.
An extended discussion of the Rambam’s position on anyone being able to be a member of Shevet Levi.
- Rav N Kaplan – Mechikas Hashem
Detailed discussion of specifics of erasing HKB”H’s name. The definition of erasing is different from that used for the Shabbat related prohibition.
There were various heteirim for not being concerned about scrolling down on a computer screen so that HKB”H’s name “disappears” (is erased?). The careful ones leave the screen on until it darkens itself! Most of those leniencies can’t be applied to electric ink (e-readers) [me – could it be that sociological considerations will prevail?]. You can listen and then google electric ink to see if you think R’Kaplan’s description is on target.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich–Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 315-7
Ohel aray (temporary tent) issues including hanging talit and beds.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich–Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 315-8
More Shabbat hangings/tents including parochet, awnings drawers and shelves.
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -By Way Of Introduction – Orchos Tzadikim
Discussion of purpose and direction of mussar and why R’Lebowitz chose this particular sefer as his mussar book. All ethical attributes can be worked on and have a purpose – you got to know when to hold them, when to fold them.
- Rabbi Netanel Wiederblank-Torah as the portal to understanding God
Relationship of Rambam and Kabbalah, Halacha and Kabbalah, intellect and chesed/mishpat. It’s complicated!
- Rabbi Mayer E. Twersky -Rav Ovadia and The Importance of Gedolim Stories
Gedolim stories are important so we can appreciate their dedication and greatness of spirit which will inspire our confidence in the mesorah.
- Susan Greenfield, David Papineau, Neil Johnson – Chaos Theory
There seems to be a bit of a disagreement amongst the speakers – is life deterministic or not? Is chaos theory as inherently uncertain as quantum mechanics or is it just that we’re not smart enough yet to figure out the underlying deterministic rules?
- Rabbi Hershel Schachter-Be’inyan hachana l’chol
Defining prohibited preparations on Shabbat. Mostly deals with less usual situations such as Shabbat into Yom Tov or for following Shabbat.
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Ten Minute Halacha – Pregnant Women Going to a Cemetery/Funeral
No real halachic source for pregnant women not to go to cemetery but lot’s of guesses as to why this practice exists. [Me – how about chukat hagoyim???]
- Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky -Electrical Appliances and Devices on Shabbat and Yom Tov
R’Sobolofsky reviews the basics of electricity and lights on Shabbat and then goes on to practical issues of sensors, refrigerators, ovens (including “Shabbat mode”) and videos. Key issues are:
*Rabbinic or Torah prohibition
*Eino mitkavein (intent for result)
*mlacha sheino tzarich l’gufa (normal mlacha result isn’t your primary concern)
*psik reisha (you know result must occur)
-d’lo neicha leih (but you don’t want it)
*grama (indirect causation)
Interesting to listen to the interaction of theoretical halacha and practical reality.
- Dan Dennett: The illusion of consciousness
Really more about how our brain works with sense of sight (not overly detailed).
- Jill Bolte Taylor: My stroke of insight
A brain researcher who survived a stroke explains left vs. right brain functions and the lessons she learned from her stroke.
- Antonio Damasio: The quest to understand consciousness
There’s a specific portion of the brain stem which seems to house consciousness!
Please direct any informal comments to [email protected].