Guest Posts

On Jacob’s Blessing to Joseph

Prof Shlomo Karni / In Genesis 49:22 we find the expression בָּנוֹת צָעֲדָה which is problematic in that the subject is feminine plural, while the verb is feminine singular. A majority of the English versions read, with small variations, “[Joseph is a fruitful bough,] his branches run [over the wall.]” We are interested here in the פשט meaning, not its דרש such as Rashi’s – “Young ladies: Each one of them stepped on the wall to admire his beauty” — nor with alternate versions, such as the JPS translation, presenting wild asses instead of branches. In any case, the mismatch in the Hebrew between subject and verb still exists.

Read More »

Reporting Abuse

R Michael Broyde & R. Moshe Soloveichik / Many years ago, I wrote an article on halachic issues related to mesirah, and I continue to get mesirah questions posed with some regularity. Some of them are complex and some are less so, but one category of them is heartbreaking – child abuse. Although I wrote clearly in that article that halacha permits one to report child abuse, sadly enough I still find that people are hesitant to actually do so. Such hesitation is mistaken, and people who engage in child abuse ought to be reported to the police. I write this brief post to bring to the attention of our community the fine video presentation of Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik of Chicago which can be found below. Members of our community should listen to his presentation. Although Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik’s views hardly needs my endorsement, I write publicly to endorse all three of his conclusions.

Read More »

Slowing Down

What is the connection between the Jewish Sabbath and the environment? In modern society, we are running, speaking, and thinking at an exceptional rate, and oftentimes we continue all week long without slowing down. Constantly doing, always mobile accessible, habitually multi-tasking. We can get so caught up in the doing that we could spend our whole lives on the go. If being too busy is a malady of modern man, slowing down on Shabbat may be a key remedy. The Torah teaches, “These are the things that the Divine commanded to make. Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have sanctity, a day of complete rest to G-d…” [1] Achieving sanctity and complete rest is the stated goal of Shabbat. Yet how can this happen? One key source may provide instruction to help us find spirituality and uplift our relationship to the created world.

Read More »

On The Prefixes ב, כ, ל

Prof Shlomo Karni / These prefixes are among the most frequent in Hebrew; yet, in some English transliterations, one often finds a prevalent error in vowelling and pronunciation. The prefix ב is normally vowel-less, בְּ , as, for instance, in Hebrew dates: , בְּחֶשְוָן , בְּתַּמּוּז בְּתִשְרֵי. But Arbor Day, in English, is quite often miswritten and mispronounced as Tu B’Shevat.” Check your favorite calendar. (Ironically, the Jewish National Fund, whose forestations work in Israel made it synonymous with this holiday, made the same mistake.)

Read More »

The Sound of Silence

R Michael Broyde / More than a decade ago, I was giving a large public shiur in a shul on a topic I had just written an article about (I think it was about celebrating Thanksgiving) and, when it was over, a person approached me, smiled sweetly, and told me that “I was much less impressive in person than in writing.” In truth, I was taken aback by the remark, but over time, I have grown to understand the truth of the observation. My primary method of sharing my understanding of many different aspects of halacha is in writing, and I do that better than I do almost anything else. The written word, I have discovered is more precise, elegant and fine tuned than any other method of communication available to me.

Read More »

Israel at 64

R Aharon Ziegler / For most of us the sixty-fourth birthday usually indicates the beginning of our retirement years. Our bodies no longer function with the vigor and efficiency that they did a few decades ago. But in terms of historic longevity of nations and states, sixty-four years is not a long time at all. So even though those of us who were then alive and remember the day of the founding of the State of Israel are now certainly older and weaker than were then, the state itself is in its youth and exuberant stage of development.

Read More »

Protesting Without Coercing

R Michael Broyde / This short article deals with one of the more complex areas of halakhah – the area of get meusah, a coerced Jewish divorce. It will focus its time and energy on the prototypical modern case of a husband and a wife who both agree that they want to get divorced but cannot agree upon the terms of that Jewish divorce and the husband is thus withholding the Jewish divorce until he receives what he wishes even after the civil divorce is over and the case is settled as a matter of secular law. [As an editorial matter, it is worth noting that this situation is readily avoidable in advance through the use of a pre-nuptial agreement like the one widely distributed by the Beth Din of America at – but we assume here that, sadly, no such agreement was used. Everyone should use such agreements!] The question that is being addressed is simple. Is there an issue of a coerced get [get meusah] in the use of social pressure – picketing, boycotting, withholding aliyot, and the like – in such a situation? The answer is fairly clear as a matter of halakhah that there is no problem of a coerced get in such a case, although the reason is not obvious to many.

Read More »

John Hick and Orthodox Judaism

Prof Yehuda Gellman / On February 9, 2012, John Hick, one of the world’s leading and most famous philosophers of religion, passed away in Birmingham, England. Hick wrote or edited scores of books and for the past 50 years or so was the center of much discussion and controversy in philosophy of religion. Hick, a Christian, defended the meaningfulness of religious language when it was under attack by logical positivists and defended admirably against the problem of evil. Most of all, Hick advanced what he called “religious pluralism,” which he said was the view that there existed a supreme reality, he called it the “Real,” that was beyond our comprehension, but which was accessible by experience under various guises. These various guises were the ways different religions thought of and addressed the Real. He taught that all religions were dedicated to self-transformation away from egoistic orientation to reorientation toward the Real. At the same time, he said, the particular doctrines of a religion were not necessarily to be taken as true, but as ways of conceiving of the Real from different historical and cultural vantage points and varying means for self-transformation.

Read More »

Afikoman For The Brain

Afikoman For The Brain or: Four Post-Seder Questions Guest post by Shlomo Karni Shlomo Karni was Professor of Electrical Engineering and Religious Studies at University of New Mexico until his retirement in 1999. His books include Dictionary of Basic Biblical Hebrew:Hebrew-English (Jerusalem: Carta, 2002). Where do you find the words וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב at the end of the sentence? Where do ...

Read More »

Second Day in Israel

R Jonathan Cohen / An ancient enactment requires Diaspora Jews to observe Yom Tov Sheni, the second day of holiday. Their conduct when they visit Israel for the holiday is a matter of debate. While many classical authorities adopted the position that visitors observe two days of Yom Tov, just as they would in the Diaspora, the Chacham Tzvi is famed for ruling that they need observe only one day. See here for an excellent exposition of this well-known dispute. Increasingly well-known is the so-called “day-and-a-half” position, whereby some observances of Yom Tov Sheni are observed, especially the prohibition of melacha, while for other purposes the day is treated as a weekday or Chol HaMoed, as the case may be. Confusingly for the would-be visitor, there are a wide range of such “day-and-a-half” positions, each with different conceptual underpinnings and practical ramifications. Some of these positions rule essentially in one direction while being stringent to take into account the other position, while others seek an intrinsic balance on a fundamental basis, ruling that one is required to literally “split the day,” observing the second day for some purposes and not for others.

Read More »

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

The latest weekly digest is also available by clicking here.

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter