Latest Essays


Along the lines of bizarre questions, R. Shmuel Wosner (Shevet Ha-Levi, vol. 10 no. 163) was asked the following question by the principal of a seminary in Israel. The principal had instituted punishments for students caught cheating and parents had objected to this, labelling it wickedness (rish’us). Obviously searching for a higher authority to defend his stance, the principal asked ...

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Habad Messianism II

In honor of the Rebbe’s upcoming tenth yahrtzeit, the entire book Can the Rebbe be Moshiach? has been posted for download. Like all e-books, it does not feel the same on the screen or in an unbound printout.

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The Haredization of American Orthodoxy IV

R. Shlomo Riskin adds his voice to the discussion. However, his only real point on the Haredization of Orthodoxy is that he considers the move to stronger halakhic observance to be not a Haredization but a renewal and re-invigoration of Modern Orthodoxy. (He also throws in a shtukh to Haredi women who wear wigs.) He then goes on to define ...

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The Camel, The Hare, And The Hyrax III

R. Nosson Slifkin, author of The Camel, The Hare, And The Hyrax, has posted online an interesting correspondence between him and R. Zushe Blech on the thorny subject of R. Slifkin’s book, the signs of kosher animals. (While we’re on the subject, the website also has a nice letter from a reader about how the book “given [him] new found ...

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Administrative Notice: Retraction

In an earlier post, I had stated that R. Yehuda Henkin is “associated with Feminist Orthodoxy”. R. Henkin has informed me that this is an entirely incorrect description. Additionally, he has no connection to Edah, JOFA or Chovevei Torah. Nor does R. Henkin endorse the le-khat’hilah establishment of women’s prayer groups. I apologize for the misinformation and hope that R. ...

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David and Bassheva II

I In the comments section, anon raised the point that David clearly violated the prohibition of lo sasur aharei… eineikhem by watching Bassheva bathe. However, it could be that he unintentionally saw her. A bigger question, though, is that according to the Rambam a man is biblically prohibited from sleeping with a woman who is not his wife with improper ...

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Useless Torah Trivia

Who would have expected R. Yosef Kafah, the modern Yemenite scholar with very strong Maimonidean beliefs, to quote approvingly a typical Hungarian scholar? Yet he does so and, to the best of my knowledge, only once. In his Collected Writings, vol. 3 p. 1427, R. Kafah cites approvingly an halakhic ruling of the Hungarian-American scholar R. Moshe Stern, the Debreczyner ...

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The Year of the Redemption

R. Shmuel Wosner is a leading posek in Bnei Brak who has published 10 volumes of responsa, titled “Shevet ha-Levi.” I do not know why, but he will not only answer bizarre questions but will publish them along with his answers (although he never answered my letter about the status of Habad messianists). R. Wosner (vol. 10 no. 1) was ...

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David and Bassheva

The Gemara in Shabbos 56a relates the following: R. Shmuel bar Nahmeni said in the name of R. Yonasan: Whoever says that David sinned is nothing but mistaken, as it says “And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him…” (1 Shmuel 18:14). Is it possible that a sin came to his hands and the ...

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Understanding the Patriarchs II

(The first post on this subject is here.) I found, online, an article mentioned in one of the comments recently: Imitate the Ramban, Not the Professors: An interview with Shalom Carmy from Hamevaser, vol. 38 no. 1 One reason that people shrink the larger than life personalities of Tanakh to pop-psychology size is that they are accustomed to treat themselves ...

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