Friday, April 25, 2008

Soft News Musings II

Talking Charity

  • An Op-Ed in the Forward advocates imitating the Christian practice of tithing. While the essay raises the biblical commandments of tithing produce and animals, it inexplicably fails to mention the rabbinic commandment (or custom) of ma'aser kesafim -- tithing one's income -- that is prevalent in at least the Orthodox communities with which I am familiar. However, I fully agree with the following statement that we should be discussing it even more: "Synagogues need to start talking tithe — not as a threat or as a demand, but as a goal. Talking tithe increases the chances of a person giving accordingly; discussion of tithing alone can greatly increase membership support."

  • Subways on Shabbos
    Click here to read more
  • In a recent column in The Jewish Press, R. Gershon Tannenbaum discusses the implications of a proposal to abolish subway fares (link). What would that imply about riding the subway on Shabbos? He writes:
    In the past, the majority of poskim has leaned towards disapproval... Overwhelmingly, past questions of subway, train, or locomotive usage on Shabbos were inhibited by such considerations as techum (measured distances prohibited outside a city) and ma’aris ayin (appearance of transgressing Shabbos). Should the entire NYC subway system become automated and fare-free full-time, the question of subway usage on Shabbos would be more clearly defined.
    I'm not sure that his evaluation is correct. The Chasam Sofer has a much-quoted responsum (6:97) in which he prohibits riding a train because of the issue of "shabbason". See a discussion of the literature surrounding this in R. Reuven Singer's article in The Edah Journal 3:1 (link) and my response in issue 3:2 (link). I don't see the Chasam Sofer's conclusion being revised by a contemporary authority.

  • Spies Like Us
  • The Jewish Week and The Forward ask some important questions about the recent charges of espionage against Ben-Ami Kadish, chief among them: "Why now, after all these years?" Why arrest an 84 year old man for alleged espionage some 25-30 years ago?

  • Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More