Guest Posts

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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The Retelling of Matan Torah

by Eli Clark / Why is there so little Tanakh study in the Orthodox world? If you read Kinot closely, you should have noticed the authors’ comprehensive knowledge of Tanakh. Who has that kind of knowledge today? Very few Gedolim in recent times studied Tanakh seriously. The most recent running commentary on Nakh from a recognized Gadol is that of Malbim, which was published in 1867. That situation is starting to change in Israel, where Herzog College (next to Yeshivat Har Etzion) has led a resurgence in high-level Orthodox Tanakh study.

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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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A Jewish Educator’s Guide to Facebook Interaction

Jonathan Burg / My older brother is a religious educator to a teenage audience from what is popularly known as a “Modern Orthodox” background. As a good educator, he walks a fine line between being his students’ friend and being a role model/religious leader. He not only teaches his students in the classroom, but has them at his house on a very regular basis. This is a pretty regular practice in this style of yeshiva-school system. In the educator’s view, he isn’t just teaching his students how to practice judaism but how to live like a Jew (living a proper, moral lifestyle with a strong emphasis on family and religious devotion).

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In Every Season

The Torah refers to itself as a poetic song – shirah. David HaMelech released his life work of poetry for all to learn from. Shlomo HaMelech composed a book of wise advice and mussar in poetic form. Our prayers are poetry, particularly the beautiful slichot, kinot, and yotzrot. Rabbis, commentators and thinkers once wrote in poetic style. It is safe to say that this is generally no longer the case. It is a rare surprise and pleasure when a frum Jewish man writes a book of poetry. It is even better when the poetry collections are outstanding, like those of David Ebner, Aaron Bulman, and Samuel Adelman. Add to the list of brave frum poets the name Yossi Huttler.

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Two Types of Orthodox Judaism

Guest Post by R. Yonatan Kaganoff Rabbi Yonatan Kaganoff served for many years as a Rabbinic Coordinator in the OU’s Kashruth Division and was the founding Online Editor of the journal Tradition. He has semikhah from RIETS, studied Jewish philosophy at the Bernard Revel Graduate School and serves on the Board of Advisors of K’hal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights. ...

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British Chief Rabbis Who Never Were

The mainstream Orthodox community in Britain is starting the process of finding a new Chief Rabbi, to replace Lord Sacks who retires in 2013. The job only comes up every 20-30 years and a new Chief Rabbi is usually 40-50 when he takes office, so many potential Chief Rabbis are disqualified by being the wrong age when the post is available. Usually when the office does become vacant there are a number of realistic candidates, and it’s interesting to speculate about the might-have-beens. When R Nathan Marcus Adler became Chief Rabbi in 1845 another candidate was R Samson Raphael Hirsch. In fact R Hirsch was at one point agreed upon as a compromise candidate. If R Hirsch had gone to London instead of Frankfurt both Anglo-Jewish and German-Jewish history could have been very different. R Hirsch would never have become involved in the question of Austritt – it simply was not an issue in London where the Jewish community was not a state institution but a voluntary association. Without R Hirsch in Frankfurt German communities might have remained united and R Hirsch would be known primarily for his commentaries, philosophy of mitzvot and Torah im derekh erets.

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A Midrash and a Modern Hebrew Colloquialism

by Prof. 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). In the story of Jacob and Rachel, he falls instantly in love with her and tells her father Laban, “I will serve you seven years ...

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"Half Shabbos" and the Orthodox Teenager

Guest post by Douglas Aronin / A few months back, I saw a cartoon that has made the rounds in Jewish circles. It pictures a chassidic-looking man talking into a cell phone, with a caption that reads: “Remember, if you need anything, I’m available 24/6.” That cartoon, and particularly its caption, stayed with me because it says so much with so few words. More than anything, it speaks volumes about how countercultural traditional Shabbat observance...

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When Life Changes and Language Doesn’t

When physical circumstances change, the applicable halakhic rules often change as well. Many basic aspects of daily life (clothing, food, hygiene, commerce, transportation) have changed dramatically since the time of the Mishna, and these changes are often reflected in Halakha. Sometimes, however, the reality of change is obscured by the language we use. Halakhic texts continue to use words and phrases over centuries or millennia, even though the objects described have changed over time. The question is whether the applicable halakha should also change. A few examples

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