by Joel Rich
About 50 years ago if I recall correctly I heard R’ N Alpert ZT”L say that the reason we don’t say a bracha sheasani yisrael is that HKBH can only give us the opportunity to be so but it is up to us to make ourselves so.
It has stuck with me a long time.
Thoughts on the following as applied to Rabbi JB Soloveitchik?
James Gleick-“There are two kinds of geniuses: the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘magicians’. An ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they’ve done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. Even after we understand what they have done it is completely dark. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest caliber.”
The Feynman Algorithm:
Write down the problem.
Think real hard.
Write down the solution.
The Feynman algorithm was facetiously suggested by Murray Gell-Mann, a colleague of Feynman, in a New York Times interview.
- Rabbi Hershel Schachter-Dinei Hafrashas Challah
Taking challah applies on a torah basis only to dough made in Eretz Yisrael thus there are many leniencies outside Israel (me – another reason for aliyah). It’s only on dough that could turn into hamotzi. A number of interesting issues discussed including: Brachot should be in biblical) Hebrew; Maharam mrutenberg and chasidei ashkenaz began the practice of being chosheish for minority opinions even in cases where there’s a clear psak (MB did this on steroids a new strain of psak); Rice/Tcheilet – can you reconstruct a tradition based on archeology or linguistics; Machloket in mtziut and defining oats (British vs. other).
- Rav Asher Weiss-ברכת שהחיינו ברואה חבירו ובחיסון הקורונה
No shechiyanu on taking the vaccine but definitely be thankful. Provides analysis of the “requirement” of shechiyanu – is it chova or a reshut (meaning if you don’t say it, there’s no punishment). If it’s the latter, it may be better not to say it (different from safeik brachot, lhakheil – but it sounded similar to me)
Interesting explanation of Yaakov’s long response to Pharaoh’s simple, “how old are you?” question. I always imagined Pharaoh thinking to himself, I was only trying to be polite.
- Rabbi Moshe Sokoloff-Common Bassar B’Cholov Issues In The Kitchen
What are the “reasons” given for the prohibition of basar vchalav? There are some rational reasons given but others say it’s a chok. Some basics discussed including duraita vs. drabanan and the implications thereof.
Then some Chanukah issues including: lighting in a room with an oxygen tank(don’t); Lighting elsewhere when you intended to sleep over and then had a change in plans; Coming home late and kriat hatorah.
Do we view our standing with HKB”H as a net/net calculation (mitzvoth vs. aveirot) or do we get gross reward and gross punishment [majority opinion is the latter] We need to overcome our reticence and reach out to others in hard times.
- Rabbi Mark Glass-How Jewish is Rambam’s Jewish Philosophy? (Rejecting Rambam #1)
There really wasn’t any philosophy much before Aristotle. The Muslim world wrestled with reason and revelation. The Rambam would reinterpret revelation to square with reason, this made him controversial.
- Rabbi Jonathan Ziring-Who was Yehoshua ben Gamla?, Yoav’s Reaction to Pedagogical Errors
Continuation of the analysis of class size, commuting and communal educational responsibilities. Concludes with an analysis of the obligation to provide special education.
- Rabbi Jonathan Ziring-Takkanat Yehoshua ben Gamla (3): Commuting and Special Education
How do we reconcile the data concerning Yehoshua Ben Gamla’s positive and negative personality traits?
How do we understand the medrash concerning Yoav’s interaction with his underperforming teacher?
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Ten Minute Halacha – Finding a Passul Letter in a Sefer Torah a While Later
You know there’s a mistake in the sefer torah but don’t remember where, can you assume the error you find now is the same one? It depends on how strong the chazakah is that this sefer torah is well written (me – sounds like there should be a number of factors considered, but I’m only a poor country actuary)
- R’Reisman Eretz Israel
The more kadosh (holy) something is, the more charev (destroyed) it can be. It seems that the greater potential energy can be released in kinetic energy in either a positive or negative direction.
- Rabbi Netanel Wiederblank-Rambam’s Complex View on Hashgacha part 1
Part of a series. The Rambam in one place explains the problem of theodicy based on hashgacha pratit acting in relation to how much connection you have to HKB”H (else you’re left to nature). Elsewhere he explains evil can happen but the proper thinking individual will feel no pain.
- Dayan Yehoshua Pfeffer and Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein-Panel Discussion – Asara B’Tevet – Then and Now
We’ve seen some improvement but all sectors could continue to improve. We need to be careful with absorbing outside culture. We should be proud of our particularism but still have positive relations with travelers who may be heading in a similar direction.
- Rabbi Doniel Neustadt,Ralph Hertzka,Rabbi Ari Wasserman-12/26/20 – Show 303 – Secular Holidays in Halacha
All the usual holiday issues: Lo tchanein; Gifts (employees, service providers, suppliers); parties; sharing food/liquor…
- Rabbi Barry Dolinger-On Science & Religion – A Friendly Relationship\
Science and torah – a historical view plus insights from modern social science (J. Haidt et al) into our spiritual relationships
- Rabbi Assaf Bednarsh-Pesachim perek 1 shiur 30 (בעלות באיסורי הנאה, מקדש באיסורי הנאה דרבנן)
Finishing up the status of chametz as an issur hannah vs. other issurei hannah and moving on to why kiddushin doesn’t work with an issur hanaah drabanan.
- Dr. Chanan Gafni-The Origins of Academic Jewish Studies-Part 1
First in a series. What differentiates academic Jewish studies from traditional ones (approach to texts, attitude) the critical approach to texts differs from the traditional approach in motivation, cannon and approach (time, context, need to harmonize). The streams of Judaism each had their own biases in regard to analysis and application.
- Rabbi Avishai David-Vayigash – Yosef Hatzadik-The quintessence of seeing only the Ratzon Hashem
We can learn from Yosef’s life that all is from HKB”H, all that HKB”H does is for the good and all the Jewish people are one unit. Yosef was the epitome of not taking revenge.
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Rav Moshe Feinstein and His Halachic Adversaries – Rav Pinchas Teitz and Blended Whiskey
Some biographical information concerning R’Teitz and his relationship with R’Moshe. R’Teitz was very stringent about blended whiskey (and single malts depending on the cask) whereas R’Moshe was lenient (because “everyone” was drinking these anyway).
- Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff-The Conflict over the Yeshiva College Presidency, Rav Eliezer Melamed, Agudath Israel and the World Zionist Congress Election
History of the race for YU presidency after R’Revel died. Also discussed, why chareidim should be involved in the WZO.
- Dr. Chanan Gafni-The Origins of Academic Jewish Studies-Part 2
In which institutions did Jewish studies evolve and how were the results communicated. Should such studies be viewed as a destructive (decent burial) force or a productive maintenance of a connection with Judaism?
- Rav Hershel Schachter-Halacha’s Traditional Approach to Vaccines and All Medical Issues
We follow the majority of Doctors (in their area of specialty) so take the vaccine! Remember to be makir tov to the US government and not sue them! Dina Dmalchuta is serious halachic stuff.
And he was assured that the vaccine he got was provided under appropriate government authority or else he wouldn’t have taken it.
- Rabbi Beni Krohn-“Take Me With You!” Yosef’s final attempt at closure with his brothers
Yosef was a paradigm of a Jew in galut. There’s a message in that he had to ask his brothers to be sure his bones were brought home and in why Moshe (descendent of Levi) was the one to do it.
- Rabbi Jonathan Ziring-The Nature of Language in Mitzvot\
When must specific words/text be used in halacha and when are other languages ok? It may turn on whether ritual is required or simply efficient communication but Hebrew is intrinsically OK.
- Rav Ahron Lopiansky-The Torah Approach to Living in Galus and Dealing with Secular Governments
Improper efforts (hishtadlut) are not good. Don’t provoke your hosts!
- Rabbi Moshe Taragin-Pre-Shiur Conversations: Modern Orthodoxy Identifying With Pre-WWII Rabbis
We are all “modern” orthodox but some are more quickly adaptive than others. We seek to be ultra-orthodox and thus relate to all torah scholars past any present. Changing times demand changing responses (me – and the times they are a changin)
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Ten Minute Halacha – Hatafas Dam Bris
What is the status of a physically kosher brit done before 8 days? When is hatafat dam brit required in general? There are public policy issues involved in agreeing to do a hatafa on the eighth day if parents had decided on doing a “brit” earlier in the hospital.
- Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz-Topics in Kashrus – Wine and Other Alcoholic Beverages
Stam yainam is forbidden due to chatnut (inter), it was expanded due to yayin nesech concerns (and thus issur hanaah).
Mvushal (cooked – TBD) only helps for Jewish produced wine. The concern is contact with the wine itself but the prohibition was expanded to pouring as well.
Also discussed – status of public Sabbath desecrators, blended wines, whisky et al.
- Rabbi Shay Schachter-The Eternal Relevance of Torah Values
Torah is eternal; the communication style may change over time to meet the eternal goals.
- Rabbi Hershel Schachter-Dinei Mezuzah
Practical mezuzah issues including: Level and timing of requirements (own vs. rent; Israel vs. Ch”ul; Duraita vs. Drabanan); Size of room; Which side of door?; Positioning et al
- Rabbi Jonathan Ziring-“Hit With A Shoelace”: Did Chazal Really Allow Hitting Children?
When the gemara discusses hitting younger students, is it saying that’s the existentially correct approach or just an option with the final word being given to what works best? Interesting differences of approach between the Sridei Eish and R’Dessler. (Me – but really, what’s the matter with kids today [HT – Bye Bye Birdie])
- Rabbi Hershel Schachter-Hilchos Sefer Torah
Sefer Torah writing rules review including: Parchment; Ink; Script and stitching. Also covered: Writing shira; in partnership; Pzuah daka; Hazmana (i.e. even though klaf not used yet it has kedushat sefer torah).
Please direct any informal comments to [email protected].