by Joel Rich
I’ve been listening to some interesting classes on neural networks. One of them posed a fascinating question—Is what we consider human reasoning fundamentally different from the results of big data/neural network programs, or is it really the same but our neural networks (brains) are just much bigger (orders of magnitude more neurons)? That got me thinking about how we define a bar daat which has always bothered me because of the seeming step function nature of the designation (e.g., IQ =70 Yes, IQ = 69 No).
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Why do we “ki thilateinu ata” in the bracha of rfaeinu? Perhaps looking forward to our prayer being accepted (but then why just in this bracha) or perhaps to remind us that it’s in HKB”H’s hands and not the doctors? Any other reasons?
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- Rabbi Nosson Rich- Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Pesach 434-3 and 435-1
This shiur discusses specific bdikat and bitul chametz rules.
- Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman-Chazara Shiur – Lo Tasur
This Shiur discusses three primary topics: 1.) When the Rabbis undo a Torah requirement in a shev v’al taaseh (sit and don’t act) manner, does that mean the Torah requirement ceases to exist? 2.) What exactly is a shev v’al taaseh? (not doing anything or a Lo Taaseh [a mitzvah not to do] 3.) Why can the Rabbis undo a lo taaseh but not an aseih?
- Rabbi Assaf Bednarsh-Sukkah 14 (שיעור לברכה אחרונה לשתייה)
This Shiur provides a detailed analysis of hand washing for purposes of eating. Is the requirement based on a need for ritual purity or cleanliness? What are the implications of the answer to this question? Shiur then moves on to the number of halachic meals which must be eaten in the sukkah and how much must be eaten.
- Rabbi Dovid Rosman-Custom of reciting Vaychulu and Magen Avos on Friday Night
This Shiur reviews Friday night prayers (including Vayichulu and Magen Avot) from both a halachic and hashkafic perspective.
- Rabbi Netanel Wiederblank-Osek B’Mitzvah Patur Min Hamitzvah
Why do we need a verse to teach us that if you are involved in one mitzvah you don’t have to do another (isn’t it obvious?) Perhaps it’s needed to teach us that: 1.) You’re exempt even if you could have done both 2.) It’s prohibited to leave one for the other 3.) You’re exempt even if the second mitzvah is time constrained and the first one isn’t.
One should not put oneself in a position where they must continually take advantage of this rule (me – meta halachic considerations—how quaint).
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Ten Minute Halacha – Sliding Kitchen Garbage Cans on Shabbos
Much of our “garbage” isn’t really muktzeh and moving a sliding garbage can is a move (tiltul) for a permitted use (enjoying a clean Shabbat home). Thus, there’s room to allow moving such receptacles on Shabbat.
- Rabbi Dr. Joel Hecker-Dusty Manuscripts and Brilliant Light: Reflections on Studying and Translation the Zohar
A little bit of the “traditional” history of the Zohar plus some insights into translating it.
- Rabbi Dani Schreiber-Must “Out of the Closet” mean “Off the Derech”? Homosexuality in Halacha
This Shiur provides a history of Rabbinic views on mishkav zachor plus a review of modern rabbinic thought on how to interact with individuals with such tendencies. It also discusses what roles such individuals should play in orthodox life.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich- Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Pesach 435-2 and 436-1
Do you need to make a bracha if you’ve already done bittul chametz? What if you are doing it on Pesach? What are the rules for bdika if you’re leaving the house before the 14th?
- Rabbi Hershel Schachter-The Mitzvah of Kevurah
While the burial of those executed by the court is the source of the general requirement to bury, there are some differences. Is burial required as an atonement or out of respect? What are the rules for distances from other graves? Burial practices are usually minhag and this shiur provides lots of detail including R’Schachter’s views on Kavod Habriyot and standing for those doing mitzvot. BTW – it’s good to be buried in Israel!
- Rabbi Mordechai I. Willig-The Role of Psychology in Jewish Communities
Q&A with a Rav and a therapist. Issues include:
• We are not determinists and must emphasize that we have free will to determine our individual courses in life.
• There must be a partnership between Rabbis and therapists (me – equal?)
• Too much self-esteem can turn into egotism
• We can’t just do what makes us feel good and we must look at the impact of our advice on the total Jewish social system
• Big issues: Drugs, pornography, social media pressure
• Elephant in the room—we have a priorities crisis, not a tuition crisis!
- Rabbi Assaf Bednarsh-Sukkah 16 (ליל יו”ט ראשון של חג)
What is the nature of the requirement to eat a meal on sukkot in the sukkah? (Is there a requirement for a meal or to eat in a sukkah?) What is the nature of the gzeira shava between Sukkot and Pesach/Matzah? There are lots of nafka minas based on your answers to these questions.
- Rabbi Dovi Fischer-A Comprehensive Halachic Overview Of Tefillin
A number of tfillin related issues including: Order of the parshiyot, where to place them, when to wear them, wearing them at a brit, writing rules, when to check them, when to take them off, are they muktzeh? The shiur also covers physical and mental interruption rules.
- Rabbi Nosson Rich-Mishna Berura Yomi: Hilchos Pesach 436-2
If you are leaving home less than (or more than) thirty days before Pesach, what is the impact on the requirement for bdika?
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-In Case This Shiur Puts You To Sleep – The Beracha of Hamapil
Exactly what type of bracha is Hamapil and why don’t some people say it? No good reason!
- Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky-Ethics of End-of-Life Care, Part 1
Part of an ongoing series, focus here is on trolleyology, triage, and the infinite value of life.
- Rabbi Daniel Hartstein-From Williamsburg to Bergenfield: Defining Tznius Today
Community standards can make a difference as to whether there is a violation of tzniut rules in certain situations. In general we need to find a balance between complete isolation and complete integration.
- Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein-Shema on Time VERSUS Minyan-What TRUMPS what?
Are birchat kriat shma part of the mitzvah of kriat shma or of tfila? R’YBS held the former and therefore would require you to prioritize saying kriat shma with its brachot on a timely basis over praying with a minyan. Others disagree.
- Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner-Mental Health: Week 2: Addiction
Judaism believes in free will, addiction is giving up free will. The twelve steps have parallels with Jewish approaches (such as tshuva [repentance]).
- Rabbi Avishai David-Rabbi David Parshas Chayei Sara
Efron represented taking (ntilah), Rivka represents giving (ntnah). We should be bsimcha, and remember that what is really ours is what we give others.
- Rabbi Aryeh Klapper-Mental Health in Halacha-
What is the nature of commandedness for someone who is not psychologically capable of receiving commands? What’s the nature of commandedness in general? (metaphysically or socially)?
(Interesting – I circled The Minchat Chinuch as well a while back where he says a katan is really a bar mitzvah, just not one with deah yet to be mtzuveh.)
How we view these questions will inform on how we treat such individuals.
- Rabbi Hershel Schachter-Berachos #31 16b-17b – VeKidashto, Avos HaOlam, Techinos of the Amoraim, Mitoch Shelo Lishmah, Yuhara
Gemara shiur touching on: volunteering for aveilut, kdushat kahuna and keeping yuchsin in general, hesped for slave/nonJew, converts saying avoteinu, need to give over Torah to as many as possible(shouldn’t be said-really was reference to Talmud as tfilat rav), prayers of amoraim, begin and ending of shmone esrai – [hashem sfatai], pearls of wisdom of amoraim and yuhara (religious arrogance).
- Rav Asher Weiss-כניסת כהנים למערת המכפלה
Kever Rachel’s layout has an impact on the ritual purity issue that will determine whether Cohanim can go in. There are lots of technical issues to discuss. Also some important mussar on proper derech eretz.
- Rabbi Tzvi Sinensky-The Ethics of End-of-Life Care, Part 2
Shiur provides a continuation of a discussion of triage/priorities issues. Focus here is on how we deal with a goses (individual on death’s door). Life is a very high priority but it may be trumped (e.g., yehareig v’al yaavor).
- Rabbi Shay Schachter-When Can a Later Beis Din Repeal the Ruling of an Earlier One?
R’S Schachter summarizes R’H Schacter’s positions concerning under what conditions earlier halachic decisions can be reversed by later courts/poskim. [IMHO It’s not a clean algorithm.]
- Rabbi Yonatan Shai Freedman-Hecha Kedusha – The best way to do what we shouldn’t be doing
This Shiur begins with an analysis of why we say silent shmoneh esrai and chazarat hashatz (rational and mystical reasons as well). Then it moves on to “heicha” (half?) shmoneh esrai:
• Source (gaonim)
• When it can be said (philosophically & historically)
• What you should do if it’s being said in an inappropriate (to you) situation
• How to say it if you are not the Shliach Tzibbur (all with shatz vs. wait for kedusha and then say all) [R’YBS said the former.])
- Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky-Must Alexa Keep Shabbos? Hilchos Shabbos for the 21st Century
R’Sobolofsky traces the prohibition of eish (fire) and other possibly related Shabbat prohibitions from the dawn of mankind to electric lights to Alexa. (Me – while Tosfot’s approach that speaking (akimat sfataim) which results in a physical action (e.g., chasimah) is considered a maaseh (positive action), it doesn’t deal with BCI (Brain Computer Interface) issues.)
- Mrs. Lynn Kraft-Women and the World of Talmud Torah: Evolution and Engagement, Part I: Foundations
This Shiur reviews the basic Talmudic sources concerning women’s Torah learning. Bottom line—each generation needs to figure out what’s right for them.
- Rabbi Yehuda Turetsky-Why Learn Gemara? Rav Lichtenstein, Rav Shagar, and the Challenge of Today
For R’Lichtenstein learning gemara allows us to enter the world of Chazal and have a dialog with HKB”H. The focus is all internal to the Talmud. For those who it doesn’t grab, we can focus on more direct practical halacha.
For R’Shagar, learning gemara relates to its meaning in life and then makes it more relevant to all. R’Lichtenstein would see this as too self-centered and moving away from commandedness.
- abbi Assaf Bednarsh-Sukkah 17 (תשלומין לסעודת יו”ט)
Continuation of Talmud Sukkah’s discussion concerning making up Sukkah meals—what is the nature of hashlama (make up)? Also an interesting discussion of the nature of Shmini Atzeret (even informs on what name we call it in yaaleh v’yavo). Then moves on to how nikkar (obvious) it must be for a meal to be a hashlama and not a prohibited addition (b’al tosif).
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