Author Archives: Michael Broyde

Building A Better Siddur

R Michael Broyde / I confess: I like davening from the siddur on my Blackberry Bold. It has a backlit screen, the words are clear and I like scrolling more than turning pages. My Blackberry also has a chumash that automatically opens to this week’s parsha and a Shulchan Aruch that I sometimes learn from during those occasional slow moments in davening (like when they are rolling the Torah). But, lurking in the back of my mind is the idea that my e-siddur ought to be doing much more for me, and it is time to build a better mousetrap. Indeed, my Blackberry has already been programmed in its calendar function to tell me every day a lot of davening information, including the Hebrew date, whether we say tachanun today, when is sunrise and sunset, what is the Torah reading, as well as what is today’s daf. What is needed is an e-siddur that takes advantage of that information. I would like my e-siddur to do at least six things and I can project a few more into the future.

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Is New Year’s Kosher?

R Michael Broyde / A number of years ago I wrote an article addressing celebrating Thanksgiving according to halacha, which concluded that many halachic authorities accept that: 1) Thanksgiving is a secular holiday with secular origins 2) While some people celebrate Thanksgiving with religious rituals, this is unusual, and does not cause Thanksgiving to be classified as a Christian holiday 3) Jewish law permits one to celebrate secular holidays, but not with people who celebrate them religiously. The article concluded that according to most poskim (including Rabbis Feinstein, Soloveitchik and many others) Jewish law permits one to have a private Thanksgiving celebration with one’s Jewish or secular friends and family, so long as one does not treat Thanksgiving as a religious ritual or holiday.[1]Such conduct is proper in my view and I generally celebrate Thanksgiving, although as Rabbi Yehuda Henkin notes, I do so without any religious fervor and sometimes skip a year, as I did this last year, since my eldest son was married on Thanksgiving day.

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Biblical Theology of Rabbi Emanuel Rackman

R Michael Broyde / One writer asked me a question about Rabbi Rackman’s biblical theology and raised the possibility that Rabbi Rackman was a technical heretic in that he did not believe in the Torah being revealed by God at Sinai to Moses (Torah miSinai). In truth, I had never spoken to Rabbi Rackman about the issue raised by this writer, although I had myself seen the view of Rabbi Rackman and been troubled by it. In a symposium in Commentary in 1966 entitled “The State of Jewish Belief”, Rabbi Emanuel Rackman wrote

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Hair Covering By A Bride

R Michael Broyde / As is widely known (see Yechave Da’at 5:62 for a review), there is a dispute among the poskim about when a bride needs to start covering her hair. Some say after erusin, some say after nesuin, some say after yichud, and some say not until the next morning. In my reply to Rabbi Shulman, entitled “Hair Covering and Jewish Law: A Response” which was published in Tradition 43:2 89-108 (2010) I made the following claim:

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Is This Really Dialogue?

R Michael Broyde / In 2009, I published an article in Tradition Magazine explaining how one could understand the Talmud, a group of Rishonim, the Tur, the Shulchan Aruch, and the Levush to permit married women in contemporary society to forgo covering their hair. I recognized that the approach I outlined had been rejected by the Jewish law authorities of the last centuries and made clear that I was not advocating a change in the normative halacha, but merely proposing a limmud zechut for why married women did not cover their hair. Rabbi Eli Baruch Shulman published a critique of my position in a later volume of Tradition and I replied at length. Recently, the inaugural issue of the journal Dialogue For Jewish Issues & Ideas published another response to my article by Rabbi Yosef Wiener and Rabbi Yosef Ifrah entitled “Controversy or Contrivance? The Attempted Justification for Uncovered Married Women’s Hair.”

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Oat Matzah

R Michael Broyde / My view is that whether oats is one of the five grains remains a dispute between the rishonim and for matters of Torah law (and certainly for the mitzvah of matzah), one ought to be strict for both views. A survey of the rishonim and the Talmud sources makes my reasons clear. The earliest source I am aware of to discuss this topic is the Aruch s.v. שבל which quotes two views, the second of which is that שבולת שועל is oats and the first is that it is a sub-species of barley named segala. It is true that a number of rishonim adopt the second view in the Aruch, translating שבולת שועל as avina, the Latin word for oats. In that group are Rabbenu Gershom (Menachot 70b) and Rashi (Pesachim 35a and Menachot 70b) as well as many others.

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The Conduct of Children is a Message to Parents

By Michael Broyde / A few short days ago, my son Aaron Broyde graduated from קורס מ”כים, the entry level squadron commanders course in the Israeli Defense Forces — and Aaron Broyde is a wonderful source of pride and joy to his father. He joined the IDF nearly two years ago on August 5, 2009 and that too was a source of a great deal of pride and joy to me as well (link). But yet, I sit here today with mixed emotions, feeling somewhat sad, a bit embarrassed and exceptionally overjoyed. First, I am sad that I am not there with him watching and celebrating his accomplishments — I went to his basic training graduation and my wife was with him for this graduation, but I know that I should be there with him to rejoice in his accomplishments. What kind of father does not attend his son’s graduation into a squadron commander? The simple and sad answer is “one who lives very far away,” and that makes me very very sad. As my son embarks on a new and novel journey into an adventure I’ve never experienced, I am an absentee father. I recounted this to one of my friends in a similar situation, and he shared with me his dour reply — “this” he told me, “is life in the Diaspora when you have children living in Israel.” I felt like weeping.

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The Yerushalmi as a Source of Halacha

By R. Michael J. Broyde / The touchtstone document of halacha is without a doubt the Talmud; more specifically, the Babylonian Talmud (Bavli). Rif (Eruvin 27a), Rambam (in his introduction to Mishneh Torah), and Rosh (Sanhedrin 4:5) note that the basic doctrine of Jewish law is the supremacy of the Babylonian Talmud. What, however, is the status of the Jerusalem Talmud? There are, I believe, two distinctly different schools of thought. One view in the Rishonim and Acharonim posits that the Jerusalem Talmud is a very secondary document, close to irrelevant and can be virtually ignored.

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Symposium on the Ethics of Brain Death and Organ Donation: VI

Rabbi Michael Broyde / Before beginning any discussion on this topic, it is worth noting the obvious: Jewish law is made up of timeless principles and timely applications of these principles. Discussions of the interaction between timeless principles and timely applications frequently are disconcerting to Orthodox Jews because they wish for halacha to generate answers that are always timeless. In areas where the scientific and medical data is still evolving, this is virtually impossible. Hence, the word “tentative” is in the title. New data will certainly generate different answers. “Brain death” is a misnomer. Nearly everyone agrees that as a matter of Jewish law (as well as common sense), were full cellular death to take place in the brain, such a person would be dead.[1] Indeed, the common functions associated with human existence would cease after this event – which we can refer to as “physiological decapitation” – and human life would then cease.

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