by Joel Rich
Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and give some marketing advice to whomever came up with Torah U’Mada (or avodah or im derech eretz). I’d just call my philosophy (or movement) “oraita” as in “histakel b’oraita u’bara alma” to make the point that it’s a holistic view of all of HKB”H’s creation centered on the Torah, which was the blueprint for creation.
The Birkan Mesorat Harav is a nice addition for the library. (He had me at “We see the Creator in the twinkling star, the rush of the tide, in every phenomenon which has been explained to us or which science does not understand and will never understand.”) The English translation with The Rav’s insights will enhance the birchon experience.
From “the essence of Shabbat Eve” to Havdalah and beyond, the Birkon Mesorat Harav provides some choice insights from R’Soloveitchik on man’s relationship with HKB”H, the unique nature of Shabbat and the distinctiveness of the Jewish people.
The notes help one appreciate the Shabbat Zmirot, Birchat Hamazon as well as marriage, brit and pidyon habein. Also included are Rav Soloveitchik’s personal practices as well as longer essays on the meaning of Birchat Hamazon, Zimmun and Kiddush as well as a number of subtle halachic insights on related topics. Pretty ironic though the the Rav didn’t do zmirot! (or, IIRC not until his grandchildren made him).
This is a great opportunity to see new meaning in some of our ongoing practices.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Rosh Hashana 587-2
More on the rules of hearing an echo vs. the actual sound of shofar. Must all of the sounds be heard in a state of obligation/intent? Should you bring kids to shul to listen to the shofar blowing?
- Rav Asher Weiss-Hagba & Glilla
HKB”H reveals his will to us in a number of ways, not just through mitzvoth. R’Weiss (and this is one of his favorite approaches) discusses ratzon hatorah and gives a number of examples.
The Halacha is that the Torah should be lifted so all can see it. Pointing at the Torah has little in the way of sources but one should bow towards it (unclear why most are unaware of this). Is the reason for this practice simply kavod hatorah (respect), or is it the culmination of the torah reading? Some possible halachic implications of the answer to this question include whether the magbiah (lifter) must keep the Torah open to the parsha just read. Perhaps the importance of hagbah is related to the fact that the mitzvah is done physically.
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -From The Rabbi’s Desk – Proposing on One Knee, Birthday Candles
Chukat hagoyim (ways of the non-believers)—Maharik, Gra et al. Does it have to do with what others will think? How totally divorced from the original source has the practice become? Most think birthday candles/cakes are okay, R’Lebowitz still doesn’t get why yoga is OK (me – because “everyone” does it).
- Rabbi Michael Taubes -Insights from Rav Soloveitchik on the Musaf of Rosh HaShanah
R’YBS on the structure of Rosh Hashana Musaf and the 10 verses (1+3+3+3) in each section representing a statement of the theme and proof texts for each section. Shofar blowing is an integral part of prayer!
- Rabbi Steven Weil-Ethics of War
Understanding the psychology of the connection of the first two mitzvoth in Ki Teitzei.
- Rabbi Jonathan Ziring-Waiting for the Rabbi
While the essential halacha seems to be that one shouldn’t wait for the Rabbi to finish his personal shmoneh esrai before beginning the repetition, the actual practice is that the congregation generally does wait. It’s not for reasons of respect but for other technical reasons (but the Rabbi should be sensitive to the congregation and not make them wait too long).
- Rabbi Michael Rosensweig -Hashkafa – Shaare Teshuva 1
The Rambam in hilchot tfila/tshuva focused on the reflection of the natural ahavat Hashem (love of HKB”H). Everyone later was a reaction to the Rambam’s approach. Rabbeinu Yonah felt that tshuva is a more unnatural part of the fabric of life.
- Rav Nissan Kaplan- Ki Tzeitzei
Ki Teitzei – our war is against the yetzer hara (evil inclination). The key to tshuva is talmud torah. HKB”H doesn’t give us a nisayon (test) we can’t meet(me-lot’s to discuss here). Each nishama is important. Parents must stand together
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha – Honoring In Laws
What is the nature of the obligation to respect in-laws (especially in relation to parents)?
- R’ Ron Yitzchak Eisenman:-Chesed: Small Acts Make a Big Difference
Presentation on the importance of chesed given to a YU student audience.
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -From The Rabbi’s Desk – Secret Philanthropist
There are pros and cons to anonymous giving (me – I haven’t exactly noticed a tendency for people not to want to see their names up in lights.)
- Rabbi Azarya Berzon -Methodology of פתוחות וסתומות & the principle of מצוה גוררת מצוה
Connection between shiluach hakan (sending away mother bird and taking the eggs) and maakeh (fencing in the roof). Maakeh = Zrizus = lots of preparation. Shiluach = Zhirut = in the moment.
Tshuva parallels the koshering process (rinse and heat) but on Yom Kippur start rinsing and HKB”H does the rest.
- Rabbi Hershel Schachter-Inyanei Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur
Random selection of Rosh Hashana topics (too many to discuss here) including:
• Shofar before or after L’dovid
• Mishna Brurah didn’t reflect European Yeshivot practice
• First night forgetting hamelech hakadosh rules
• Changing brachot (e.g., oseh hashalom) should generally be avoided
• Saying zachreinu et al with chazzan (good or bad?)
• When during services to make a brit on Rosh Hashana
• Duchening and modim rules for the congregation
• Kol nidrei text
• Women going korim
• R’YBS on oshek yadeinu – it’s about stealing from HKB”H (the resources he gave us)
- Rabbi Moshe Sokoloff-Understanding Hatoras Nedarim & Other Halachos of Rosh Hashonah
Sources concerning fasting or erev Rosh Hashana and different practices/specific applications. Why do we say tachanun at selichot on erev Rosh Hashana even after dawn, but we don’t say it at shacharit? Lo plug from the original practice! (Wow – this would be a great topic in general—when do we or don’t we change practices based on changing circumstances).
Continues with discussion of other practices such as mikveh and cemetery visits. How “real” is the hatarat hedarim we do (e.g., who can sit on “court”)? Also discusses R’YBS practices and women’s requirement?
- Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Rosh Hashana 588-1
Discusses proper tkiat shofar and why we blow and when. Can you eat before tkiot? Then, discusses some specifics concerning tkiot rules.
- Rabbi Yosef Bronstein -Rav Kook, The Rav and The Rebbe #4 – Who Was Rav Kook And How Did He Do Jewish Philosophy?
R’Kook didn’t provide sources for his writings because they were usually indirect and wouldn’t satisfy his detractors anyway. He was a true genius, so there are sources for all, often found in his allusions, but you need to be a genius to get them all. Discusses strategies he used to articulate his collage of experiences.
- Rabbi Evan Hoffman -Ze’ev Jabotinsky
Rosh Betar from his cosmopolitan Odessa roots to his death at Camp Betar. Certainly some things your average tiron doesn’t learn. Interesting story of the klaf he picked up after the Kishenev pogrom and carried with him the rest of his life.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Rosh Hashana 588-2 and 589-1
Starts with muktzeh status of shofar on Rosh Hashana that falls out on Shabbat. Why didn’t chazal ban blowing or regular Rosh Hashana due to klei shir (rabbinical ban of playing instruments on holidays)? Chazal can’t uproot something which is mfurash (specifically mentioned) in the Torah. What if you blew it on Shabbat, do you get mitzvah (very complex discussion, not for here!)?
Who can blow? Who is exempt from the mitzvah? Status of 13 year old, women . . . What intent should blower have?
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha – Davening Out Loud
The majority of sources support quiet prayer but there may be reasons, especially on Yamim Noraim (high holidays), to pray a bit louder (since text is not as habituated or because you really mean it) [oops, that was my self-targeted sarcasm].
- Rabbi Steven Pruzansky -The Torah State, Part IV: Social Justice
Wealthy must feel poor are their equals and not provoke jealousy. Tzedaka is a right of the poor. Will there be poverty in the time of Messiah? Social services include alleviating poverty and providing medical services and Jewish society has done this over the years. Those with special circumstances (widow, etc.) are given special attention by the Torah. Family issues are also central to our priorities.
- Rabbi Avishai David -Inyanei Birchas Hashachar part 1
Interesting story about the Rashbam’s pshat that got his commentary censored to an extent. Some discussion of making 100 brachot and should birchot hashachar be said standing or sitting?
- Rabbi Steven Pruzansky -The Torah State, Part V: Culture
Is there room in Yiddishkeit for general culture? Some say not, but generally, yes, within the framework of Toah (see R’Kook et al). Specifics of music, history, art, and literature discussed.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Rosh Hashana 560-1
Discussion of the tekiot plus the specifics of the sounds.
- R. M. Rosensweig- The Impact of Yom Kippur on the Rest of the Year as Reflected in Halacha 9-18-16
Yom Kippur is “achat bashana” (a one in the year day). This can mean the unique day or part of the calendar. R’Rosenweig sees elements of both in Yom Kippur’s being a linchpin for the rest of the year. Several examples whose message AIUI is that the mitzvoth (and changes) of Yom Kippur impact on us on the day and for the rest of the year (raise the level of your game).
- Rabbi Jonathan Ziring -“He Who Answered Our Father Should Answer Us” -Selichot
The Mi Sheanah’s (he who answered) in slichot are about turning to HKB”H for our relationships (not for always getting a yes answer) and for recognizing others being torn between commitment to HKB”H and what they want.
- Rabbi Yehuda Turetsky -Yeridas HaDoros: Appreciating the Uniqueness of Our Generation
Discusses different understanding of yeridot hadorot (decline of generations) plus some thoughts about the current generation in which 1) all we do is more valuable, 2) we can do tshuva for all our sins, 3) the physical return to Israel is key.
- Rabbi Jonathan Ziring -Onaah of 1/6 (2)
Continues the analysis of onaah (rules of overcharging). Are they an example of where the Torah gave Chazal the ability to set limits and once set they become fixed? Perhaps they can be reevaluated as times and cultures change? Does Onaah apply in current free markets? In government regulated markets? Is it a function of both % and absolute $ (as the human mind works when considering materiality?)
- Mr. Dovid Lichtenstein -A Matter of Life or Debt: When Is It Kosher To Steal?
Appreciated R’Lebowitz’s pointing out that all of us can raise our games even if one is not a superstar. Mostly a technical discussion of whether one may violate prohibitions between man and man in order to save one’s life.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Rosh Hashana 561-1 and 562-1
Discussion of Mussaf Rosh Hashana text plus related shofar blasts.
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Ten Minute Halacha – Listerine Strips (Pocket Packs) in Halacha
Are Listerine strips considered food or mouth wash? Does it make a difference what you consider them or only what halacha considers them [a great general question]?
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