Guest Posts

Pharisee Sects and Edgar Allan Poe

R Yitzchok Tendler / It comes as no surprise that America’s writers and poets of the 19th century touched heavily on Biblical themes. They were, after all, overwhelmingly Christian. Far more surprising, and scarce, are instances of their references to Rabbinic Literature. In this regard, a relatively obscure short story by Edgar Allan Poe, A Tale of Jerusalem, stands entirely in a league of its own. The breadth of familiarity with Rabbinic Literature and Temple protocol, the extent to which this narrative is so replete with abstruse Talmudic references, is, frankly, astounding. Poe goes far beyond mere Talmudic reference; he actually adopts its idiom and syntax, employing free use of Hebrew and Aramaic to color his characters.

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Shaving on Chol HaMoed

R Michael Broyde / I first gave this shiur twenty years ago in Congregation Beth Jacob in Atlanta on the Shabbat after the Rav died, which was the day before his funeral on Sunday, Chol Hamoed day 4, Pesach 1993. Given the Rav’s landmark work in matters of hashkafa, it is easy to overlook his contributions to contemporary halacha, and I hope that this piece, and the few that I hope will follow (one on the unique view of the Rav concerning a missed yaaleh veyavo) will do a bit to share my view of the Rav as an innovative halachic authority. Although I was privileged to sit in the Rav’s shiur at YU the last 18 months that he gave such a shiur, the truth is that I did not learn much from shiur, as I had a hard time understanding much of what the Rav said.

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When "This" Is Not "This"

Guest post 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). The demonstrative term “this” in Hebrew is זֶה for masculine singular, indicating: someone/something near or far: (זֶה סֵפֶר תּוֹלְדֹת אָדָם (בר’ 5:1 (וְזֶה ...

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Matzah and Maror: The Unity of Opposites

Guest post by R. Yosef Zvi Rimon R. Yosef Zvi Rimon is a Ram in Yeshivat Har Etzion and a neighborhood rabbi in Alon Shvut. This excerpt is from the recently published English translation of his Shirat Miriam Haggadah for Pesach The Rishonim differ as to how to interpret “the expression ‘It is because of this’ can only be said ...

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Partnership Minyanim VI

R Barry Freundel / As the discussion has gone on concerning my analysis of Partnership Minyanim in halakhah I find the critics going further and further afield to try and challenge what I wrote. These arguments tend to share some troubling common characteristics. They misstate what I have written The cite me as saying things that others have written They challenge peripheral issues with an approach that seems to say that any flaw anywhere in my argument means it all falls, when I was at pains to show multiple arguments that each stand alone They draw parallels where none are warranted They present sources that support what I am saying as if they actually present a challenge I do not know Chana Luntz and I don’t mean to be unkind, but her post on Avodah (link) does all of these things and more; while being written in an English that is often difficult to understand. Let me begin by again stating the purpose of my article because much of what she claims that I didn’t cite simply is beyond the scope of what my goal was in my article. I wrote an article about Partnership Minyanim (a new phenomenon in the Ashkenazi community where women lead things like Kabbalat Shabbat, Pesukei Dezimra etc. but not Maariv), and about why I believe that these services are halakhically unsustainable within our community. I first challenged those few halakhic defenses of Partnership Minyanim that I have read or heard and then provided many additional sources to challenge the practice. Inter alia I did discuss the custom of some communities that allow male children to lead Pesukei Dezimra and Kabbalat Shabbat because that practice does potentially challenge my conclusion and I then provided answers to that challenge. That is the totality of what this article required for its purposes on this last subject, and as such I did not write the definitive discussion of children leading any and all parts of davening as found in halakhic literature.

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Partnership Minyanim V

R Barry Freundel / I have not had a chance to thoroughly review the last week or so of posts about my article, but I have seen and been told about several of them and particularly about some recurring themes in them. I intend to respond to three of these here and hope in the next week or so to read through the rest and see if they need a reaction. Prior to the specifics, a general comment in reaction to an ethos spread by the internet age that is profoundly troubling precisely because it reflects the glorification of a lack of seriousness, and that has been evident here.

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Secular Talmud II

R Alan Haber / Dr. Ruth Calderon’s inaugural address to the Knesset last week has gone viral on YouTube. Nine days after being posted, it has already received close to 180,000 views.[1] The speech is entirely in Hebrew, and there are no subtitles on the video. I therefore deduce that the great majority of the 180,000 people who watched it were Israelis. It’s worth asking what it was about this speech that Israelis found so remarkable. When I ponder that, I come to very different conclusions than those expressed in Gil’s post earlier this week. I am not going to argue with Gil’s impressive analysis of the Talmudic sources regarding a talmid she-eino hagun and learning she-lo li-shmah. I believe that his interpretation of those sources is absolutely correct. But applying them to this case shows a misunderstanding of contemporary Israeli society.

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Justice Menachem Elon זצ"ל

R Michael Broyde / Israel, the land and the nation, lost a giant this past month. Justice Menachem Elon was a monumental talmid chakham who served on the Israeli Supreme Court from 1977-1993, and as its Deputy President from 1988-93, bringing a deep Torah viewpoint to the highest tiers of the Israeli judiciary. Born in Germany in 1923, his family fled a year before the Nazis rose to power, making their way to Israel in 1935. He studied in the Chevron Yeshiva where he was known as an illuy, a young genius, and was eventually ordained. He earned his law degree from the Tel Aviv School of Law and Economics in 1948 and served as military prosecutor of the 9th Brigade during the War of Independence.

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Unmasking An Odd-Sounding Purim Custom

R Akiva Males / The following little-known story is related about the famed R. Moshe Isserles (Ramo). Ramo passed away on the thirty-third day of the counting of the Omer (Lag Ba’Omer) in Cracow, Poland. As such, one of his eulogizers thought it fitting to share thirty three praises of Ramo with those in attendance. After listing thirty two of his meritorious attributes, Ramo’s eulogizer struggled to think of one last appropriate accolade. Finally, an elderly member of Cracow’s Jewish community came forward to offer one final praiseworthy custom of their beloved rabbi: Each year on Purim afternoon, Ramo would disguise himself in a costume and go from house to house summoning everyone to return to the synagogue for evening services.

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Partnership Minyanim IV

R Barry Freundel / At the end of my last post on this subject I indicated that I would only be back to discuss this issue on the blogs if something dramatic occurred. Dr. Lawrence Kaplan approached me off line and indicated that there was something dramatic that he had found and that he had posted on Hirhurim (Torah Musings). Before I turn to what he writes a bit of an apology to my friend Rabbi Mathew Hoffman whose title I left out and whose name I misspelled in my last post. I am truly sorry. Returning to Lawrence Kaplan, he claims to have found (in opposition to my view) a posek who sees the content and not the presence of ten men as defining tefillah betsibbur. He writes that this posek is none other than: Rav Soloveitchik. He continues: “I refer you and the readers to his essay 'Be-Inyan Pesukei de-Zimra,' in Shiurim le-Zekher Abba Mari, Z’L Vol. 2, p. 23. There the Rav states that it is only by reciting a text that requires a tzibbur, namely ten men, for its recitation that a group of yehidim are transformed into a tzibbur. This is why, the Rav explains, kaddish is recited after pesukei de-zimra. So, for the Rav, the fact that, say, 200 men are gathered together in shul and are reciting pesukei de-zimra together does NOT make them into a tzibbur. They are a group of yehidim until the Hazan recites the Kaddish.”

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