Audio Roundup 2019:28

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by Joel Rich

Minhag is one of those Humpty Dumpty words ([like Chazakah?] “When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘It means just what I choose it to mean—neither more or less.”  “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be the master—that’s all”).
This point was driven home to me by a shiur (way too long to summarize maareh mkomot available) I put together on the minhag of some women not to do mlacha (“work” TBD—another Humpty Dumpty word?) on Rosh Chodesh.  The Yerushalmi (Taanit 1:6) is the only Talmudic source specifically mentioning this practice in a list of practices some of which are considered “minhagim” and some not.  [I assumed the practical application is whether one needs to be matir neder to stop].
In comparing this practice with mlacha on chol hamoed and during Chanukah candles, I reached the following tentative conclusions:

1. There is not always a strong mesorah for the source of minhagim.
2. Later, authorities use what data they can collect related to the specific minhag to establish a narrative for the original practice (which can include when and why) in order to determine current applications. I’m not sure how much they take into account alternative possible narratives.
3. The narratives may also be impacted by a desire to cohere definitions and/or rules amongst multiple tangentially related practices (e.g., mlacha, candle lighting).
4. Halachic intuition plays a very strong role in determining “good” and “not so good” minhagim. (Maybe of the nature of “what would I have seen/done if I were a poseik back when the minhag was forming?”)


From: Religion in the University
The author makes the case for religious voices in the University, but warns, “Some religious persons will refuse to engage in this grand pluralistic multifaceted dialogue: they are convinced that nothing is to be gained by listening or speaking to those outside the faith. Such people have no place in the university that undertakes to be representative; they reject its fundamental ethos. The representative pluralist university is not neutral with respect to the ethic of dialogic pluralism; it is committed to it.


Please direct any informal comments to [email protected].

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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