by Joel Rich
I hear a lot of discussion about spirituality in religion. I think R’A Lichtenstein’s piece from the Orthodox Forum (Law and Spirituality: Defining the Terms http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/725795/rabbi-dr-aharon-lichtenstein/law-and-spirituality-defining-the-terms/) makes a very important contribution to the discussion. I would summarize it as saying one should seek to daven like a chasid in the context of learning like a Litvak. The final line is “It is our mission to assure that legists and spiritualists both pray—on time.”
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If Nimrod was the first king, was there private land ownership before his time. If yes, how was it established halachically (i.e., 7 mitzvot-wise).
- Rabbi Yona Reiss -Response to Tripartite Solution for Agunos
Why R’Broyde’s three- solution to the agunah issue part [(conditional) kiddushin, authorization for divorce and afkinhu (rabbinic power)]doesn’t work.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Chanuka Siman 671-4
Discusses when to light the menorah on erev Shabbat in shul as well as lighting at more than one entrance of your home in order to prevent suspicion of not lighting at all (and what about if you’re not home?)
- Rabbi Michael Taubes -Parshas Vayeitzei Davening Maariv Before Dark
Various opinions on the best time to daven maariv and/or say kriat shma. (Me – how much of “accepted practice” is based on practicalities of getting a minyan).
- Rabbi Yaakov Siegel-Could it be that everything in my life is random?
Rambam’s approach to hashgacha (HKB”H intervenes as a function of the level of the individual) isn’t well accepted today (except by me?)
- Rabbi Jason Weiner-Mental Illness and Halacha
How much leeway does halacha allow for treating mental health issues? The mental health community follows poskim who give high priority to restoring mental health vis-à-vis other prohibitions. Specific discussion of OCD health (our %’s are no different than other subgroups), anorexia, and who may treat whom.
- Rav Asher Weiss-Mora Mikdash
The concept of mora mikdash (awe of the Temple) dates back to Avraham. Is it related to the Temple or He who resides there? Is it linked to the holiness of the Temple? How does it play out today in synagogues or study halls?
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz -Benefiting From A Miracle
Attempt to reconcile various Talmudic sources on whether one can benefit from miraculous products. Perhaps different types of miraculous interventions or different venues are the best explanations?
- Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein -Code and Reality #9- Chazzan’s Repitition…when NOBODY understands what he’s saying
If the Tzibbur isn’t listening or doesn’t understand the chazarat hashatz, it’s an issue (bracha l’vatalah . . . )! The Rabbi should give out a summary of the meaning of the brachot! Also covers why using local language isn’t a good idea.
- Rabbi Zvi Ralbag-JH176-The Geonim Spread of Torah
Gaonic enactments were widely accepted, even against the gemara. Examples and insights into gaonic responsa.
- Rabbi Shay Schachter -Affixing an Atara on a Tallis
Parts of the mishkan needed to always be reassembled in the same spot because different areas had different levels of kedusha (holiness). Does this concept carry over to Talit or other applications (e.g., seats closer to aron kodesh)?
- Rabbi Jonathan Ziring -Arguing with G-d 5: Hannah- Twisting G-d’s Arm?
Analysis of the story of Chana—Does HKB”H change his mind? Was Shmuel more like Eli or Chana?
- Rabbi Nosson Rich -Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Chanuka Siman 671-5
Nowadays, even with two home entrances, we light one Menorah. Lots of opinions on the best time to light under various circumstances (e.g., wife not home, davening at shkia minyan).
- Rabbi Moshe Sokoloff -Halachot of Davening Vasikin
When is the best time in the A.M. to say kriat shma? How important is vatikin when compared to other timing priorities? Since vatikin is mentioned in the gemara, why don’t more people do it? [Me – because of the invention of the electric light?]
- Rabbi Chaim Brovender-The Ups and Downs of Religious Experience
Yaakov wasn’t “demoted” by leaving Israel. Lessons from Yaakov’s maariv—bring light to the darkness. Other parsha insights including the message of Yaakov’s ladder.
- Rabbi Yoni Levin-Marriage and Divorce – Is It Unique to Jews?
Rambam vs. others as to whether non-bnai brit have kiddushiin (marriage) and/or Geirushin (divorce) vis-à-vis themselves and us.
- Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb -Structured and Spontaneous: Finding the Right Balance in Our Tefillos
Why the need for fixed prayer? We’d be lost without it, and it’s uniquely invested with Chazal’s language and philosophy. It allows us to connect to something greater than ourselves and perfect ourselves through repetition. [Me – paging Malcolm Gladwell.]
- Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Chanuka Siman 671-6 and 672-1
How long must Chanukah candles burn? What’s better—oil or candles? (You may be surprised at the answer!)
- Rabbi Mordechai I. Willig-Parshat Vayetzei – Elu v’elu and pesak
Eilu V’eilu, Lo Tasur et al.
- Rabbi Jason Weiner-When Halacha and American law conflict
Defining death criteria is a religious issue, determining if they’ve occurred is a medical one. Also discussed—organ transplants and physician-assisted suicide. Some interesting chaplaincy stories included.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Chanuka Siman 672-2
How late can you light the menorah? Must you wake folks in house up? Olive oil is best but can you use electric lights in a pinch?
- Rabbi Yehuda Turetsky -Kiddush Hashem: Rambam, Maharal, and Rebbe Nachman
Rambam sees Kiddush Hashem as flowing from Ahavat (love of) Hashem. There’s a more stringent definition of Kiddush and Chillul Hachem for leaders (which we all should strive towards). The Maharal recognizes that it may differ by individual (and their individual tafkid [role]) and such actions may change you as an individual as well.
- Rabbi Hershel Schachter-Chayei Sarah 5777
Is it really true that the heavenly court doesn’t punish before the age of 20?
Is the requirement to bury the dead a rabbinic or Torah one? Is burial for the honor of the dead or the living? What is the requirement for a eulogy?
What is the requirement for a Jewish cemetery/grave? Shidduchim—if the shidduch isn’t working, don’t push it and always look for a baalat chein(eidel meidel?)
Also includes sources on covering the Callah’s face.
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-From The Rabbi’s Desk – Questions That Emerged From The Recent Fires in Israel
R’Lebowitz already covered the ketubah issue, now on to the other Israel fire issues.
• What must you save? Must you lose money to save sefarim? (The general rule is save what you can—light and quick).
• Hashkafic lessons—keep Shabbat, learn at night at home, work on Tznuit and Shalom bayit. (always work on yourself, know priority order!)
- Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Chanuka Siman 672-3 and 673-1
Most poskim prefer oil to wax candles. What type of oil is preferred? Why is it forbidden to make use of the light of the menora?
- Rabbi Shmuel Weinberg-Heter Iska
Some poskim hold you must understand the heter iska (interest workaround) in order to use it. Summary of underlying lomdus of the heter iska.
- Rabbi Netanel Wiederblank -Machshava 1: Why learn machshava
Philosophy can help our relationship with HKB”H and is an important part of Talmud Torah (which will be deficient without it). It can bring you to yirah (awe?) and ahavah (love) of HKB”H and can help us understand mitzvot, and wisdom. It’s always better to deal with from the insider view (rather than from an outside challenge). But remember that halacha is really the key!
- Rabbi Netanel Wiederblank -Machshava 2: Two Perspectives on Rambam’s Attitude Towards Greek Philosophy
What was Chazal’s attitude toward philosophy? Why is there no overt discussion of philosophy in the Talmud? What is the role of “outside” philosophy in Jewish philosophy? Analysis of the Rambam is front and center.
- Rabbi Jonathan Ziring -רב מלמד – הכשרת כלים 3
Has metal’s absorption of taste changed over time? Does it matter or are the rules of halachic taste invariant? If one says stainless steel doesn’t absorb taste, then all the rules of davar charif will go out the window!
- Rabbi Efrem Goldberg-The Sandwich Generation: Conflicts and Coping Skills
One should focus on the rules of kavod av on how modeling this will have a positive impact on children. You have to take care of yourself. Some specific examples provided.
- Rav Nissan Kaplan-Chanuka Makom Hadlaka
Lighting menorah inside vs. outside—practical applications, especially for bnai Yeshiva.
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