Guest Posts

Entry into a Church

R Michael Broyde / You asked me a very good question, and I take pen in hand to write you a reply. You asked whether my article from a few years ago, in which I noted that I thought that a communal leader may enter a church for the sake of hatzalat yisrael (the long term saving of Jewish lives, even when no specific life in in danger now)[1] , is consistent with the views recently expressed by our mutual teacher Rabbi Bleich שליט”אin his excellent and thoughtful analysis in Tradition regarding the entering of churches more generally (“Entering a Non-Jewish House of Worship” Tradition 44:2 73-103, 2011).[2] Indeed, a number of people have asked me if my analysis is consistent with what Rabbi Bleich put forward, and that is a tribute to his greatness as a teacher and as a scholar. Inconsistencies between my views and Rabbi Bleich’s should always be resolved in his favor, as the poskim clearly state, that disputes between a student and a teacher are always resolved in favor of the teacher; see Sanhedrin 110a. Su

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Compact And Rich

Prof Shlomo Karni / Lexicographers and linguists tell us that Biblical Hebrew has some 8,000 words in all –small by comparison to, say, Shakespeare’s English (around 20,000), or modern English (450,000). Despite such compactness, Biblical Hebrew has numerous rich lodes of words which are specifically unique to one – and only one – idea (noun, verb, etc.) on the one hand, and several synonyms on the other. Let us list just a few examples

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Selling to Buffett

R Jon Gross / “There are Jews in Nebraska??” That is the first question that every Jew from Omaha is asked when they travel outside of Omaha.The second question is always, “Do you know Warren Buffett?” It never fails. As the chief Rabbi of the state of Nebraska people also asked me things like, “does he come to shul?” and of course, “Can you get him to give money to the shul?” I have to admit, it got to me. I started to think that there was something wrong with me in that I had not established a solid friendship with one of the richest and most sought after people in the world. After all, he does live in the same city as me. And why isn’t he one of my donors? He has plenty of cash, surely he could spare a few bucks for Beth Israel Synagogue!

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Compassion for All Creatures

R David Sears / “God is good to all, and His mercy is upon all His works” (Psalms 145:9). This verse is the touchstone of the rabbinic attitude toward animal welfare, appearing in a number of contexts in Torah literature. The Torah espouses an ethic of compassion for all creatures, and affirms the sacredness of life. These values are reflected by the laws prohibiting tza’ar baalei chaim (cruelty to animals) and obligations for humans to treat animals with care. At first glance, the relevance of the above verse may seem somewhat obscure. It speaks of God, not man. However, a basic rule of Jewish ethics is the emulation of God’s ways. In the words of the Talmudic sages: “Just as He clothes the naked, so shall you clothe the naked. Just as He is merciful, so shall you be merciful…”[1] Therefore, compassion for all creatures, including animals, is not only God’s business; it is a virtue that we, too, must emulate. Moreover, rabbinic tradition asserts that God’s mercy supersedes all other Divine attributes. Thus, compassion must not be reckoned as one good trait among others; rather, it is central to our entire approach to life.

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“To Be” Or Not “To Be”

Prof Shlomo Karni / The verb “to be” (root: ה-י-ה or ה-ו-ה ) is among the most common in the Bible, as it is in other languages. Yet, it has several singular properties in the present tense of the frequent ‘simple’ stem (בִּנְיָן קַל, פָּעַל). We examine a few of those here. (A discussion of the forms and meanings of tenses in the Bible, especially the ‘exchange’ of meanings among the past, present, and future tenses — as compared to Post-biblical and current meanings— is found in, e.g., [1], [2], [3].)

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Who Is Poor On Purim?

Dear Rabbi Broyde, Here is my situation. I live in a well to do area and I am, by communal standards, very poor. We have nearly a baseball team of children all under 20, one of who has always been ill, and I work at a fine job that pays much less than most people in our community earn. Our home is somewhat run down as we cannot afford to maintain it, and many of the things that other children have in the community, my children do not have (but want), most of which are toys and luxuries but some of which we would like to have, also. So, we all share two cell phones, we almost never eat red meat, have no cable television and borrow our neighbors’ Wi-Fi for internet use on our only computer.

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Fossils and Faith

Prof Nathan Aviezer / I recently became aware of an essay by Mark Perakh, devoted solely to the theme that my book, In the Beginning, is total nonsense. Perakh’s essay, bearing the sarcastic title “The End of the Beginning,” is riddled with errors. Indeed, every page of his essay contains blatant errors, false claims, and illogical conclusions, as will now be shown. Before beginning my detailed critique of Perakh’s essay, there is a very important point to be made. In my books, I never bring any scientific facts or scientific arguments or scientific conclusions of my own. I always quote the leading scientific authorities. Therefore, when Perakh claims that my scientific discussion is all wrong, he is really asserting that the world-famous scientists whom I quote do not know what they are talking about. The reader should have no difficulty in choosing between accepting Perakh’s claims or accepting the scientific statements of Nobel Prize winners and scientists at the world’s most distinguished universities.

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The Fanat in the Hat

R Eli Clark / I sat there with Sally. We sat on the bus. We sat there together. No one made a fuss. Then who came aboard? The Fanat in the Hat! And he said to us, “How can you sit like that? “You know it is wrong To sit next to each other.” I said, “She’s my sister, And I am her brother.” He pointed at Sally, “Go back there to sit. If you stay in front, I think I will spit.

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Summoning the Will Not to Waste

R Yonatan Neril / The commandment of Bal Tashchit–do not destroy or waste–has long been considered central to a Jewish environmental ethic. Indeed, Rabbi Norman Lamm understands it to be “the biblical norm which most directly addresses itself to the ecological situation.”[2] What is the basis for the commandment not to waste? We will explore how the Jewish tradition widely forbids wasteful acts, how wasting contributes to degradation of the planet, and how not wasting can help us improve our lives both physically and spiritually.

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Blood L’Mehadrin

Leah Cypess / Evidence in State v. Bentley Extracted from the hard drive of Simon Bentley Dear Rabbi Friedman, ​Thank you so much for your inspiring presentation at the Association of Orthodox Vampires retreat last weekend. I enjoyed all the lectures and discussion groups, but I found your speech, Sucking Away Blood, Not Faith, particularly relevant to where I am in my journey right now. I completely agree that Moreh Nevuchim has already laid the groundwork for dealing with the challenge vampirism presents (or rather, is perceived to present) to emunah. I was especially grateful for your lucid explanation of the cross/holy water issue. I wish there had been some more technical discussion of the relevant halachic issues, but aside from that, the weekend was everything I could have hoped for and well worth every cent I paid. I wanted to express my heartfelt appreciation.

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