Audio Roundup Special: Agudah Yarchei Kallah

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by Joel Rich

I previously reviewed the preparatory shiurim for the actual Agudah Yarchei Kallah on Pikuach Nefesh/Shabbat.  Here are the English shiurim which have been posted on the internet.     

HaRav Asher Weiss-Shiur Hakdama

        R’Weiss delivers the introductory shiur to the Agudah Yarchei Kallah.  Worth listening even for just the opening message—there is no such thing as free time!! (Kach mkublani mbeit Avi Abba).  A really needed message in our times IMHO.

        The main body of the shiur makes the point that there is no practical difference whether one holds hutrah (the violation does not exist) or dchuya (violation exists but is pushed off to an extent in the case of pikuach nefesh (life endangering)) on Shabbat.  R’Weiss analyzes whether Shabbat and other prohibitions are subject to the same rules when there’s pikuach nefesh.  There are issues where we must determine how far Chazal went in allowing prohibitions to be done/when is it better to use a non ben brit or a different method.

RABBI ELIEZER GEWIRTZMAN &RABBI BENZION LESER -Chayim Aruchim Symposium, End-of-Life Care in Today’s Environment

        End of Life situations all require a poseik who understands both the halachot and the particulars of the situation.  Poskim differ on specifics, R’Gewirtzman’s position is generally in favor of treatment except for a goses(TBD) where one is treating the underlying cause (e.g., if a cancer patient is having trouble breathing due to the cancer, not due to a secondary infection).

        Rabbi Lesser explains that the current health system has a bias against extending treatment and thus DNR/DNI(Do not resuscitate/intubate) may become DNT (do not treat)-examples are provided. The Chaim Aruchim hot line is an important resource when the time comes.

HaRav Asher Weiss- Shiur Halacha

        Two major changes have greatly impacted halacha in our modern world: 1.) Medical technology advances 2.) Need for halacha to deal with macro institutions (e.g., large hospital, Jewish state).  Interesting presentation by Shaarei Tzedek leader on running a halachic hospital.

Chazal did not speak in statistics—miyut hamatzui means a not surprising event.  Defining sakana (danger)—it’s not always pickuach nefesh.  Lots of EOL(end of life) issues, we pretty much ignore the Talmud’s priorities list in triage.

RABBI DR. AVRAHAM STEINBERG-Genetics and Stem Cell Research in Halacha

        Rabbi Dr. Steinberg reviews the current state of medicine and halacha with specific focus on PGD/PGS( Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis/Screening) and stem cell research.  There are those who say anything new is forbidden, others who say if it’s not specifically forbidden it’s OK.  R’Steinberg doesn’t view the  “playing God” concern as overriding but there’s a limit (e.g., designer babies).

        Most interesting to me were comments about how R’YSE’s approach to psak in his later years was very terse (mutar/assur) and it was up to everyone else to figure out the basis for his decision.

HARAV YOSEF HOFFNER,HARAV HILLEL DOVID GELLER-Ethical and Halachic Dilemmas in Medicine

        Practical psak cases including who can drive whom to and from the hospital or home on Shabbat, who can refuse treatment and when; why yissurin (pain) can be good for you; when can you be treated on Shabbat in order to get “the best” doctor . . .


        No pain, No gain! Yarchei Kallah participants are the best.


        Studies in Yehareig V’al Yaavor (give up your life cases)—can you volunteer to give up your life?  What if it’s only safeik (doubtful) danger?  What types of ones (overwhelming force?) are considered not your actions?  Can suicide ever not be considered killing but rather an act of glorification?

        Apparently R’Kaplan was asked by R’SZA about what he would do in a case of trolleyology!  Unfortunately, no answer was provided here.


        Detailed analysis of hakal hakal (use the method with the less severe violation when Shabbat “violations” are halachically mandated).  Is severity measured by the severity of the punishment of the violation (eichut) or the number of violations (camut)?

HARAV YOSEF ELEFANT-Shiur Iyun -English Track

        Yehareig V’al Yaavor has two paradigms—an outsider’s death threat and an internal health threat.  Would the exception of karka olam (passivity) apply in the case of health threats?  Do we look at the issue from a consequentialist’s viewpoint or a deontological one? (My terms, not the Shiur’s.)


        This Shiur reviews the issue as to why the gemara questions Esther’s actions with Achashverosh as public vs. as forbidden sexual relations.  Specific issues covered include hanaat atzmo (his personal benefit).

        Does a non ben brit have a requirement to glorify God’s name? Are there practical differences between an action driven by “vchai bahem” (you shall live with them) of versus by ones (force majeure?)?


        A very technical analysis of the source hekeish for the big 3—how does the rule of hekeish work?  Includes what R’Sobolofsky would call a razzle dazzle R’Chaim.


        When can/should/must you put your life in danger in order to save someone else’s?

HARAV MEIR TZVI SPITZER-Shiur Iyun—English Track

        The S”A seems to allow you to do on Shabbat anything you would do during the week for a choleh sheyeish bo sakanah (life threatening illness) [e.g., not chulent].  The mishneh Brurah is more stringent (How does he go against the S”A?)

About Joel Rich

Joel Rich is a frequent local lecturer on various Torah topics in West Orange, NJ and supports his Torah listening habits by working as a consulting actuary.

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