Guest Posts

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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The OED and Rashi

by Prof. Shalom Karni / In its latest supplement, that venerable authority on the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), gives legitimacy to several Internet-born acronyms. Among them are WAG (wives and girlfriends, when referring to the entourage of celebrities), LOL (laughing out loud), and OMG (Oh my God). True to its meticulous search for sources, the OED mentions that the acronym OMG was first used in 1917—some time before the Internet—by a British naval officer.

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Coercing a Divorce

A religious court is only allowed to force a man against his will to divorce his wife in specific situations. The exact parameters carry tremendous weight, because an improper stringency will trap women in potentially extortionary situations and an improper leniency will invalidate the divorce and render any future children illegitimate. In this essay from Kol HaRav (link), R. David ...

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The 'Polite' Imperative

by Prof. Shlomo Karni / In several places in our Bible, the Hebrew imperative is followed by ‘lecha’, ‘lach’, or ‘lachem’, as appropriate. We examine here four typical examples: ‘Lech lecha’ (Gen. 12:1), when God commands Abram to leave his homeland and go to the Promised Land. ‘Lech lecha’ (Gen. 22:2), when God orders Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. ‘Shuvu lachem’ (Deut. 5:27), when Moses tells the children of Israel to return to their tents. ‘Lech berach lecha’ (Amos 7:12) when King Amaziah tells the prophet Amos to go away to the land of Judah. (Other examples include Gen. 22:5, Gen. 27:43, Num. 13:2, and S. of S. 1:8, 2:13.)

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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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