by Joel Rich
From a NY Times article, why I worry about the acculturation that affects ALL those who live in a foreign culture:
We love to hate trash talkers because that sort of attitude goes against the grain of an invented and false American modesty. At the end of the day, we are as narcissistic a culture as they come, which is why — at the end of the day — we grudgingly admire people like Sherman.
From an offline discussion of R’ Lebowitz’s placenta shiur, comments appreciated:
Listener: Your summary of R’ Aryeh Lebowitz’s shiur on placentophagy touched on a topic that I’ve wondered about for some time: the ethics of relying on, or taking advantage of, the placebo effect. May a doctor allow a patient to take a placebo that will likely have some perceived benefit, even if the doctor knows that there’s no underlying physiological effect? Does the doctor have to worry about encouraging ignorance and future effects (i.e. the “success” of the placebo might cause the patient to seek out further unproven treatments for more serious conditions)?
Me: Excellent question – one that also touches on one of my favorite topics – how much do we focus on the individual vs. the community? (example – This particular sick person was helped by the placebo, but he then tells all of his friends who then decide not to listen to their doctors who suggest a traditional treatment that did not work for the sick person but would work for them) You might want to listen to Prof. Gendler’s series and then tell me where you think halacha falls on how to evaluate such questions (e.g. is it utilitarian?).
A Young TC: This also touches on one of my favorite topics of type one and type two errors (Me – translation – do you gain more on the front end then you lose on the back end of impact on others)
- Rav Asher Weiss-Yitro
R’ Weiss analyzes the source and force of Chazal’s rule that a davar shebiminyan (authoritatively established regulation or decree) requires another minyan (a court at least as authoritative) to undo it.
R’ Weiss lists 4 cases where, notwithstanding this rule, prior regulations seem to have come undone (me – Baalei Tosfot have been the subject of much academic analysis in this regard of undoing – see Dr. Haym Soloveitchik), two in danger situations (water left uncovered and mayim achronim) and two in issur v’heter (dealings with non Jews on their holidays and yayn nesech). His theory is that they really weren’t “undone”, but were originally only based on a chashash (concern), such that once the concern disappeared the ordinance had nothing to operate on. [me – of course I suggest going through all ordinances to see if this explanation works in all cases.]
But what about the klei shir case (Tosfot says that since we don’t fix musical instruments anymore and that was the reason for injunction against using them on Shabbat, there is no prohibition to use them nowadays)?
Answers given include:
*It’s ok to undo it if the original reason is “well known” (me – problem of knowing when this is the case)
*Certain regulations (gzeirot vs. takanot) were given with reasons and thus are not subject to this rule (me – same issue as above)
*Certain regulations (gzeirot) were given to keep us away from common pitfalls, so if the pitfall no longer exists the regulation disappears
*If Chazal made an exception to rule, then we can undo it based on reason, but if their prohibition was across the board, we can’t
Even though we don’t hold like that Tosfot, it can be used in conjunction with other mitigating circumstances (e.g. medicine on Shabbat). (Me – the data still awaits a unifying theory)
- הלכות צבא #14, לכידות המחנה ומשמעותה ההלכתית, מאת הרב אביהוד שוורץ
A very thought provoking presentation on how halacha and the cohesiveness of a military group interact (me – see recent Pentagon regulations on religious head coverings, etc. – If I remember correctly, base commanders have some flexibility because of exactly this cohesion issue). In my humble opinion, cohesion has applications for general Jewish Society (and Orthodox society in particular – as in “I have a chumrah you never heard of so don’t talk to me”).
When the Torah talks about guarding ourselves from dvar ra (bad things) in the military camp, some interpret it as meaning a prohibition regarding keeping secrets, but generally it’s believed to be a warning to keep away from internal strife and lashon hara. We also see a related prohibition against taking to battle those who would cause others to be fearful and how Moshe was concerned that leaving the 2-1/2 tribes on the other side of the Jordan would cause mental anguish to the other tribes battling to conquer the mainland.
So how should the army deal with conflicting opinions on how to observe shmita or other religious sensitivities which could affect the cohesion of a mixed group of religious and secular soldiers? What about separate prayer groups for each nussach vs. all praying together?
No real answers but excellent questions!
- Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 326-5 and 327-1
Washing and drying and related hair pulling issues on Shabbat.
- Dr. Avraham Steinberg =The Relationship Between Science and Torah in the Writings of Rav Herzog
Review of some Torah only sources and Tora Umada sources. It’s eilu v’eilu and up to each individual to see which approach fits them best.
- Prof Tamar Gendler,-phil 181: Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature– -Lecture 19 – Contract & Commonwealth: Thomas Hobbes
Consequentialist utilitarian philosophy means a focus on the greatest happiness within the system regardless of the individual’s motive. Prof. Gendler then uses a Sheva ben Bichri question (give us one of you or we’ll kill all of you) to see if anyone would feel guilt at being a utilitarian [my usual question – who says tzvei denim must be mutually exclusive criteria?].
Kant thought virtue theory was bogus (me – sounded like al yithalel hachacham behechmato), “Virtues” are a means to an end. Moral actions must be done from duty, for the right reason, and from “The Law”. “The Law” will come from the categorical imperative to be discussed.
- Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner – Teeth and Torah: Dentistry in Tanach and Talmud
Interesting review of teeth and related items mentioned in Tanach and Chazal.
- Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner -Controversial Talmud: A Panel Discussion
A panel discussion dealing with questions of seeming ethical inconsistencies, between “Modern Western Society” and Talmudic passages in the areas of:
*freedom of religion
Speakers either minimize the differences (including showing differing statements of Chazal) or explain that such inconsistencies exist due to differing ethical approaches.
- Prof Tamar Gendler,-phil 181: Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature-Lecture 19 – Contract & Commonwealth: Thomas Hobbes
Hobbes’ social contract theory – state is advantageous for all of us (this sounds like Avot 3:2).
- Rabbi Yonason Sacks -Special Shiur in Mevaseret: HaMotzee Meichaveiro Alav Hara’aya
Hamotzi meichaveiro alav hara’ya (is this similar to “possession is 9/10ths of the law”?) analyzed in detail. Is it birur (a rule which tells us with certainty who it belongs to) or nihug (a rule which tells us how to act in this situation without existential clarity)?
- Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 327-2 and 328-1
Rules related to bathing in hot water on and right after Shabbat.
Shabbat anointing with oil and other applications related to possible perceived medicinal treatments.
- Rabbi Michael Taubes -Parshas Beshalach Shalosh Seudos Shabbos
A review of a number of Shalosh Seudot issues including:
*Torah or rabbinic requirement?
*Is it necessary to make Kiddush or drink wine?
*Does it need bread or mzonot?
*Can we learn Torah instead and when should a Rabbi’s afternoon shiur be given (and when can you duck it?)?
*Are women are required to have Shalosh Seudot?
- Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik -Prayer as a Philosophy
How does prayer work? It changes us! R’ Yosef Dov Soloveitchik ties together the halacha that we are someich (connect) geulah (the bracha of gaal yisrael – redemption) and tefila (prayer – Shmoneh Esrei) and the workings of prayer to teach the lesson that we gain historical/covenantal/destiny relevance through prayer. He then adds the connection of these to education.
When we suffer, we identify a need which leads us to prayer.
- Dennett & Gendler on Thought Experiments & Arguments
Some real highfalutin philosophical talk about one of the basic tools in learning – thought experiments. Certainly makes the point that talking to someone intelligent gets the creative juices flowing!
- Rabbi Ezra Schwartz – Shinui Makom
Rules for bracha rishona and achrona when you change locations en medias res (in the midst of the action). Much more complex than when I was taught the rules.
*Did you have a set place when you started eating?
*Were you continuously eating?
*What were you eating?
*How attentive were you and what defines attentiveness?
- Prof Tamar Gendler,-phil 181: Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature– Lecture 20 – The Prisoner’s Dilemma
Prisoners’ dilemma analyzed – how can we get cooperation between parties where all will be better off in total if they cooperate, but each individual has incentives not to not cooperate if the others won’t. The answer is either internal or external reward shifting is called for; note the need to have an enforcement mechanism for agreements to work which ties back to Hobbes’ rules for the social contract.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 328-2
Putting oil on one’s foot on Shabbat – is there a problem of working the leather if you put on a shoe first or after? He then begins the rules of taking medicine on Shabbat depending on relative severity of illness.
- Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot-Pshuto Shel Mikra?
Tracing of what the phrase “pshat” actually meant to different generations of commentators from Talmud through Ashkenazic diaspora.
- Dr. Jill Katz – Was a Jew During the Time of the Shoftim?
My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” – Forrest Gump. The hardest part of my job as an audio reviewer (other than dealing with all the fan mail I get) is deciding what to listen to. When I started listening to tapes (just after the invention of electricity), there weren’t an awful lot and they cost money! Now there’s a ton of free information out there requiring serious triage.
Anyway, I thought this would be a shiur on whether they required kabbalat mitzvoth for conversion in the time of the Shoftim. Turns out to be an interesting presentation of the economics, government, and culture that was extant in the fertile crescent (really Egypt & Israel) just before and during the time of the Shoftim. Describes the pressures that pushed us from a purely agricultural model to a more “modern” state. I couldn’t help but think of the Rav’s explanation of Joseph’s dreams as moving from a nomadic family of shepherd’s to a more settled nation.
- Rabbi Eli Belizon -These Rabbinic decrees are outdated! Can we just get rid of them?
First part of an explanation of why the Rambam holds that we need a greater beit din to undo takanot (established regulation). A review of Rashi, Tosfot, Rambam and Raavad related to the issue.
- Rabbi Reuven Taragin -Chinuch in the Modern World
Educators today need to value their students in order to impact them.
- Rabbi Azarya Berzon -Parshat Beshalach: The Hashkafa and message of “Manna”, and why do we recite Parshat HaMan?
Understanding the relationship between parshat haman and Shabbat and why we should say it daily (recognition that our daily sustenance is dependent on HKB”H) or at least understand why its lesson should be on our minds.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 328-3
Internal organs diseases on Shabbat. Where do teeth fit into this calculation?
- Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Shabbos Siman 328-4
Discussion of exactly which needs of which ill people can be met on Shabbat.
- Prof Tamar Gendler,-phil 181: Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature– Lecture 22-Equality II
On to Nozick’s attempt to justify how to define a state – he is much less into redistribution than Rawls.
- Rabbi Hershel Schachter – Kiddush v’havdalah
Analysis of Kiddush and Havdalah requirements, issues include:
*Torah or Rabbinic?
*Differences between Friday night and Shabbat Kiddush (bread, makom seudah)
*Why isn’t havdalah said before sfirat haomer? (no answer)
*Why don’t people say Kiddush Friday night right away? (they don’t know they should)
*The nature of early Shabbat
*Shalosh Seudot cup of wine usage ( and shkia issue for last sheva brachot)
*Women’s chiyuv and yatzah/motzi issues (who can do for whom)
- Rabbi Moshe Taragin-Stretchers and Dividers
We are always lfnei Hashem (in front of HKB”H). We must find the proper balance between dividing ourselves from the world around us and integrating ourselves into it.
- Rabbi Jeffrey Saks – Halakhic Man (Part 1)
The first in a series discussing R’ Yosef Dov Soloveitchik’s “Halachic Man”. Includes a background on R’ Yosef Dov Soloveitchik and his style (typological). Discusses the dialectic between cognitive and religious man.
Unfortunately he did not quote my anthem (apologies and hat tip to Dickey Betts and the rest of the Allman Brothers) – “Lord I was born a halachic man, trying to make a livin’ and learnin’ the best I can; And when it’s time for leavin, I hope you’ll understand, that I was born a dialectin’ man”.
- Prof Tamar Gendler,-phil 181: Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature– Lecture 21-Equality
Focus on Rawls (not Lou). If we agree on a “state” that yields a cooperation dividend, how should it be divided given that the division itself could cause conflict? Rawls feels the distribution should be the one you would come up with if each of us chose on the basis of free, rational self-interest, if we were all equally situated. I especially like the “veil of ignorance” (dai lchacimah bremiza).
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